THOUSANDS OF people were descending on the resort of Cancun in Mexico this week to protest at the gathering of world trade ministers, rich business leaders and their hangers-on at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit. The WTO delegates, who include ministers from 150 countries, will be staying in the splendour of luxury hotels with their every need catered for.
They will be guarded by the police and the army, who have set up a two-mile exclusion zone around the summit. The British delegation is led by New Labour's Patricia Hewitt, Margaret Beckett and Baroness Amos.
A private jet was taking them to a junket costing £50,000 of our public money. The threesome are living it up at the five-star Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach hotel. They are surrounded by marbled floors, crystal and gold decorations and a 660-foot swimming pool.
They will be able to feast on duck foie gras pate or lobster brochette and wash it down with Chateau Lafite (£632 a bottle). This is at a summit supposed to be about helping the half of the world's population forced to try and survive on less than $2 a day. Hewitt will spend four times that (of our money) on a cup of coffee at her hotel. Nothing symbolises more what the summit is about.
The WTO polices world trade rules and is in effect controlled by the world's richest countries-the US, European Union, Japan and Canada. They will be trying to carve up global trade to enrich the big multinationals at the expense of the poorest.
The British delegation is at the forefront of trying to push through measures that will hit workers and poor farmers across the Third World. These measures include an investment agreement aimed at stopping governments from regulating foreign investors or from curbing multinationals. The Mexican police were ready to use every weapon at their disposal to keep the poor, peasants, trade unionists, anti-capitalists and any protesters from disrupting the WTO.
But protesters were determined to make their voice heard despite the repression. Gabriel, who is protesting in Cancun, says, 'No doubt millions of dollars have been poured into security to ensure that the voices of some thousand corporate reps and national diplomats can be heard above the thousands of members of civil society. But the masses will be heard.'
Socialist Worker will carry reports of the Cancun summit and protests next week.