GSC, Protestors Descend on D.C. Weekend Rallies

Solidarity Holds Teach-ins About World Bank, IMF By Anne Rittman Hoya Staff Writer

Tens of thousands of protesters plan to converge on the capital this weekend to campaign against the World Bank and International onetary Fund, among them Georgetown Solidarity Committee-led students. The Mobilization for Global Justice’s aim is to disrupt meetings of the World Bank and IMF with rallies and blockades.

“We really want to participate in this act of global solidarity,” said Vanessa Waldref (COL ’02), president of GSC.

The rally anticipated this weekend hopes to encourage both the IMF and World Bank to reduce the debts owed to them by 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. These countries borrowed millions of dollars in the early 1970s and are now unable to repay their creditors.

To try to persuade the international organizations, located near the White House on 19th Street, NW, between G and H Streets, thousands of protestors will descend on the area. Many of the demonstrators are expected to be those who participated in the Nov. 30 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization which resulted in riots that included tear gas and looting. The Seattle protests drew 30,000 people, 500 of whom were arrested.

“We are expecting hopefully 20 [Georgetown participants],” said Adam Smith (SFS ’02), secretary/treasurer of the GSC. “We are hosting up to 200 kids. All the protesters have vowed to nonviolent protest. I wouldn’t be concerned [about violence], especially with the legal rally. The violence in Seattle [can be attributed to] a small and unrepresentative portion.”

George Washington University has decided to close its campus from Friday night until Tuesday morning “in preparation for the activity surrounding the upcoming IMF/World Bank meetings,” according to a GW Web site.

“The Department of Public Safety has been in touch with the etropolitan Police Department, and it will be business as usual [at Georgetown]. DPS will have extra folks on hand, and we will remain on alert. However, we don’t expect any spillover on campus,” said university spokesman Dan Wackerman.

This Sunday on the Ellipse downtown will bring a permitted rally, endorsed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups. Last Sunday, several thousand people, including five Georgetown students, formed a human chain around the U.S. Capitol building. The encircling was sponsored by Jubilee 2000/USA, a national coalition of religious, labor and social justice groups that promotes international debt relief as a millennial gift to poor countries, allowing them to pour more money into social services.

“There are two different parts to the protest,” said Smith. “Some students will be part of the direct action with civil disobedience, but most will participate in the legal protest on Sunday. We have tried to drum up support, had a teach-in and sponsored five lectures ending in a debate.”

Jubilee 2000 comes from a papal dictate inspired by the Old Testament book of Leviticus, describing a year of jubilee every 50 years during which people make a fresh start toward social justice by canceling debts and freeing slaves.

Said Smith, “Issues of social justice always concern Catholic universities. This issue definitely falls under that heading.”

After heavy borrowing from private banks like Citibank and prodigious spending, the HIPC were hit by myriad economic and political challenges, triggering inflation and recession. Unable to begin repayment on debts in the early 1980s, the countries, 33 of which are African, fell irretrievably into immense debt. IMF and World Bank lent countries money to repay the private banks, but the countries remained in debt.

By forgiving the debts owed by these countries, they could use money to instead build infrastructure, encourage social programs and improve conditions domestically. Additionally, the theoretical repayment of the debt would require the entire earnings of a country, which would be unsustainable and lead to the collapse of the government, still yielding no payment.

“I would rather see countries spend money on infrastructure, but the fact remains that there is no free lunch. Debt forgiveness sends a dangerous message,” said Dr. Patricia Wrightson, professor of government. “It is a terrible message and could destroy the global economy. The question is how [to forgive debts] without sending that message and setting a precedent. The problem is not the existence of the IMF and World Bank, but rather how to build democratic accountability into them. We are too globalized to live without [the World Bank and IMF]. They are essential because states cannot solve problems alone anymore.”

“Students should get involved because this is a chance to make history,” Smith said. “This is going to be one of the biggest protests since the Vietnam War, and it is right in our backyard. Tens of thousands of committed people committed to an equitable and just society will be there; it’s an amazing way to meet people with the same ideas.”

The World Bank, created in 1944, is the world’s largest source of development assistance to its 181 member countries. Also created in 1944, the IMF uses funds pooled by its 182 member countries to assist members.

“The IMF and World Bank should be helping the poor, which currently they don’t,” said Waldref. “We want to protest their actions for third world countries who can’t. We want to give people in the third world a voice so that they can determine how their country develops, not how America wants it to develop.”

“The IMF and World Bank [represent] corporate-sponsored globalization,” Smith said. “They are writing the rules for the economy and are controlled by corporations. Their actions benefit corporations . they lend money to countries then put conditions in place favoring exportation, reductions in health spending.”

GSC will sponsor a debate tonight in ICC 107 at 8:00 p.m. to conclude a teach-in they have been sponsoring. Speaking will be ark Weisbrot, from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Dr. Rosa Alonso, professor of government and former IMF employee. They will debate the merits of the IMF/World Bank and Globalization. Additionally, the GSC will hold a meeting Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in ICC 115 to discuss participation in the protest.

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