CANADA: World Bank gets 'spanked'

November 28, 2001


Thousands gathered from across North America in near-freezing temperatures in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, to protest the policies of two of the pillars of corporate globalisation: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

While authorities decided not to build the ring of steel which sealed off large parts of Quebec City during the April Summit of the Americas, security measures were tight during the annual meetings of the two institutions, which began on November 17.

Whole areas of Ottawa were sealed off and hundreds of riot police were drafted in, forming tight phalanxes on the approaches to the conference centre.

Denouncing the IMF as "Insensitive Murdering Fascists", three separate protest marches wended their way through the streets, occasionally finding their path blocked off by police before finding another way.

At the Supreme Court, the three marches united, before splitting again into "red" and "green" groups, one heading towards the convention centre and another away.

The crowd's placards included calls to "Spank the Bank" and "Drop the Debt, not Bombs".

Police tactics escalated in the late afternoon, with riot squads moving in to arrest several balaclava-clad activists and using water cannon and pepper spray. One demonstrator had his leg snapped by a rubber bullet, reported Ontario Indymedia, while more than 40 were arrested.

Inside the annual meetings, much of the discussion centred on the plight of Argentina, a country which protest groups say is a clear proof of the failure of the IMF's favoured policies of privatisation, budget cuts and austerity.

Following a crushing defeat in Argentinian congressional elections, the government of President Fernando de la Rua has sought to alleviate the country's massive economic problems by swapping US$60 billion of existing debt for cheaper debt.

Economy minister Domingo Cavallo, in Ottawa for the meetings, met with IMF managing director Horst Kohler and US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in a bid to win their support for the plan, including the freeing up of US$1.3 billion in loans.

But the United States and the IMF are not keen on the plan and have so far given only grudging support, taking their signals from Wall Street.

Big US investment banks, managed funds and credit ratings agencies have deemed the debt swap to be tantamount to default, drastically raising the premiums they're demanding on Argentine bonds and forming a special lobby group to ensure their demands are met.

From Green Left Weekly, November 28, 2001.
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