World Social Forum 2002
February 1, 2002 10:01 AM   Subscribe

World Social Forum 2002 started yesterday in Porto Alegre, Brazil, my hometown. Planned to be 'an answer to the World Economics Forum' that takes place in NY this year, can it really offer an answer to so many problems or is it already blind from the start? (more inside)
posted by rexgregbr (13 comments total)
IMHO, this event is pure state-sponsored propaganda. If it is really an event where anyone is free to join and help discuss alternatives to globalization, then the organizing committee wouldn't stop people like the Belgium Prime-Minister from participating just because he's a critic of the left-wing organizations, just as they did.

Most prestigious guest in this forum? Noam Chomski.
What will you see if you go for a walk on the streets? People blaming the IMF and the Americans for things that range from international debts, world hunger, health situation in 3rd world countries, the issues of Israel and Palestine, war on Afghanistan and so on.

What pisses me off is that my state is paying for these troublemakers to come and stay here, while they go on their business. Do we really need people burning American flags here? Is this the solution to anything?
posted by rexgregbr at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2002

Perfectly understandable that Porto Alegre might not be happy to host Chomsky and the Ruckus Society crew, just for the sake of deflecting attention from today's World Economic Forum in NY. Interesting to see the Ford Foundation working with the Arab NGO Network for Development. Sounds like a major attempt at multi-track diplomacy to me. All the flag-burning and hot air speeches will contribute to global warming and annoy Porto Alegre residents, but it sure beats nuclear war, etc.
posted by sheauga at 10:52 AM on February 1, 2002

Jerry Mander is one of the panelists. Was he born with that name, or is it a spoof?

More seriously, what's Lula's opinion of the event? (Lula da Silva is head of PTB, the Brazilian Workers' Party, and a perennial almost-president).
posted by liam at 11:03 AM on February 1, 2002

rexgregbr: i'm interested to know how you feel about paraná under jaime lerner. like curitiba is widely held up as an example (PDF) of the "right way" to conduct economic development, like it's public transportation system seems to be innovative, exemplary, etc. and it seems to carry through to everything from the urban revitilization, to nice parks and an efficient recycling program all of which contribute to a high standard of living even with few financial resources at hand.

the way it's presented makes the city seem like a modern day utopia! i mean do you think it's really all it's cracked up to be?
posted by kliuless at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2002

Liam: Actually, Lula's party is called PT (Worker's Party), but it's an honest mistake. PTB is Brazilian Worker's Party. It is an old party created by former president Getulio Vargas in the 40s and it's a conservative party nowadays.

Lula's opinion is clear: he attended the opening events, including the protest walk, when he was joined by Olivio Dutra (our governor), Tarso Genro (our mayor) - both also from PT - and thousands of participants.

Olivio and Tarso were more harsh, mentioning that they believe that a new and more fair world is possible only with the defeat of the neo-liberal model. Lula, campaigning again for president, talked about the Mercosul (our equivalent to the ALCA - a common market for Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile).

There were some disturbs yesterday, mostly due to the traffic changes they had to made to allow all that people their parade. Last year, we had a MacDonald's restaurant invaded and also a farm owned by Monsanto Corp., where a crop was destroyed because transgenic seeds were used on it (it was a research crop). Yesterday, some buildings were invaded and there was some conflict in front of the same MacDonald's restaurant (boy, that's what I call obsession).
posted by rexgregbr at 1:10 PM on February 1, 2002


Not much time to answer right now (I promess I'll do it, though). I have several cousins living in Curitiba. The city is certainly better than many major cities here, including Porto Alegre.

Transportation system is inovattive and Lerner is a administrator with capital A.

If you're interested about it, I suggest you search stuff about Florianopolis (capital of Santa Catarina). I think it will be the next best thing, though it's still a small city (200.000 people) comparing to Porto Alegre (around 2M) and Curitiba.
posted by rexgregbr at 1:15 PM on February 1, 2002

Le Monde Diplomatique (sort of a left-leaning Foreign Affairs, if you need a reference point) summarized the goals of the conference and the setting of Porto Alegre in particular -- it provides a good introduction, by an unabashed advocate.

The Financial Times wrote up the Counter-Capitalism movement last fall; and Wired covers the WSF specifically.
posted by dhartung at 3:56 PM on February 1, 2002

Oh -- I see that Cassen, editor of LMD, is a cofounder (with Chomsky) of the WSF. I didn't realize it was that lefty.

Note his membership in ATTAC, which is a body lobbying for a global taxing authority -- and while one of the panel tracks includes the promising production of wealth, another is curiously titled access to wealth -- a name which practically aches to be questioned. Whose wealth? For what purpose? And by what authority? Perhaps ATTAC provides the answer. One need not be a rabid Freeper to be a little skeptical of "solutions" like this one.
posted by dhartung at 4:05 PM on February 1, 2002

kliuless: I'll try to add a bit more about Curitiba and Porto Alegre. I guess it will be a long post, so I apologize in advance.

Curitiba and Porto Alegre are appointed by many as the best big cities to live in, if you aim for life quality. Both cities got this image almost at the same time. Curitiba, with Jaime Lerner, an architect and administrator. Porto Alegre, since 1988, when Olivio Dutra was the first PT mayor elected here (from then on, all our mayors were from PT).

I'd say that both cities share some achievements in life quality by attending to the same issues and using similar approaches.

Curitiba was very innovative in its public transportation system (they've created the 'speedy system', where people take the bus from an elevated plataform, taking of some time of the process of getting in and out of the bus due to stair climbing).

Porto Alegre has one of the best public transportation companies (Carris, which is also a public company).

Curitiba did a great deal on urban revitalization and environment, taking care of their parks and using selective garbage processing. It took Porto Alegre some time to do the same, but we also have been very busy with this issues.

I'd say that the main difference between both cities and both states (Lerner made it to the Paraná State Government and Olivio eventually did the same) is that PT seems to have its own agenda and it's commited to issues that shouldn't be mixed with state business.

I'll add some examples:
. Porto Alegre, nowadays, has the biggest services tax rate from all the major capitals. The brazilian tax system is still a big mess and business owners are subject of city, state and federal taxes. Small business are running away from Porto Alegre;

. After several years, they've finally started building a major avenue, called 'Terceira Perimetral', that cuts Porto Alegre from the south region to the north region, relieving some of the most conturbated spots in circulation. It was completelly financed by BID (Interamerican Development Bank). BID intended to send a representative to the WSF, but his participation was rejected by the committe, basically controled by PT.

. The last governor (before Olivio Dutra) brought some major business to us, such a GM plant, a Ford plant, a Dell Plant and a new Coca-Cola plant. To accomplish that, he lent some money to those companies so they could build their factories here and also they've got some tax deductions valid for several years. Although one can discuss this kind of manoever and the inherited benefits that come with what people called '2nd generation' business (the car plants, basically), when PT took the government, they've managed to break the state's agreement with Ford (which ended up building one of the most advanced plants of the world in Bahia). While other states play the same game of giving tax deductions and lending money (Paraná and Bahia did it), we refuse to do it, even after we see that those business brought some interesting returns to the states that got those plants.

It seems to me that PT is trying hard to do things different here just to make a point that it sometimes misses completely. I could go on and on about it and probably could go deeper on politics, since up till 2 or 3 years ago I was simpathetic to PT and its politics and I've turned 180 degrees from that point of view. I guess that it's enough for today.

Feel free to mail me ( if you want further information.
posted by rexgregbr at 4:45 PM on February 1, 2002

dhartung: great links. I've been collecting some material about it and I missed the Wired links.

Yes, the WSF is THAT lefty. Last week, I was watching an italian documentary made by some people who participated in the 2001 edition (the first one). It was aired by the state TV.

At a certain point, they start telling about this particular activity where they'll protest against Monsanto's use of transgenic seeds in a city 300 km far from Porto Alegre.

They proceed to the city and meet the people that are organizing the protest: 3 or 4 priests (yes, catholic priests) and some MST (Landless people Movement), a paramilitar and illegal entity that hides behind the issue of land redistribution while operating an politically-oriented army, with connection with Cuba and the infamous colombian FARCs (communist guerrilla armies, supported by drug dealing and kidnapping).

So, yes, you could say that they are THAT lefty.
posted by rexgregbr at 4:53 PM on February 1, 2002

thanks rexgregbr! i appreciate the insights. btw, i looked up florianopolis and found this cool site (part of a larger one by sergio koreisha) i'd really like to visit someday, there and iguaçu falls :)

dhartung: you might also be interested in this recent vvoice article robotwisdom linked to. i thought it was particularly interesting in light of the FT counter-capitalism article you linked to.
posted by kliuless at 10:11 PM on February 1, 2002

rex: actually, I was referring to my earlier description of Le Monde Diplomatique, not to the World Social Forum -- which very clearly elides the "ist" in the middle. I hadn't realized the magazine was run by someone involved in such an obviously radical cause. (Ironic that the magazine only permits access to most articles if you pay the subscription!) I read it regularly, and hadn't missed the tilt -- merely the degree.

klliuless: thanks much for the VV article. Fits in with my ideas about realignment around a libertarian-anarchist axis.
posted by dhartung at 8:31 PM on February 2, 2002

Apropos of virtually nothing else in the thread, I liked the information design in this map of Florianopolis.
posted by dhartung at 8:47 PM on February 2, 2002

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