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web posted April 17, 2000

Castro attacks capitalism as cause for third world poverty

Fidel Castro used his opening remarks at a summit of the world's poor nations on April 12 to blame the global capitalist system for creating a holocaust of death in poor countries.

"The images we see of mothers and children in whole regions of Africa under the lash of drought and other catastrophes remind us of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany," the Cuban president said.

He spoke before at least 40 heads of state or government at the first summit in the 36-year history of the so-called Group of 77, which has swelled to a gathering of 133 developing nations.

Castro also called for the elimination of the International Monetary Fund, accusing it of spreading poverty around the world.

"We lack a Nuremberg to judge the economic order imposed upon us, where every three years more men, women and children die of hunger and preventable diseases than died in the Second World War," Castro said.

Castro's complaints of inequality - if not his comparisons - were echoed by others, who called for more aid, fewer debts and a greater role in international decision-making.

"I am confident that this summit will be a milestone in our quest for development," said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as he opened the gathering.

Draft resolutions prepared by foreign ministers urged "the establishment of a more just and fair international economic system."

"To those already enjoying them, the benefits of globalization are clear: faster economic growth, higher living standards, the rapid spread of new technology and modern management skills," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the day before in a speech at the University of Havana.

But, he said, "Many millions of people are excluded, left behind in squalor not because they have been exposed to too much globalization but because they have had too little or none at all."

Among the leaders joining Annan are South African President Thabo Mbeki, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The wide-ranging draft proposals call for a sort of new world order that would share technological advances, increase aid and investment, forgive debts and put poor countries on a more equal footing with rich ones in determining how aid is used.

Actor Andy Garcia weighs in on Elian controversy

Cuban American actor Andy Garcia joined hundreds of protesters and a small cast of celebrities demanding on April 12 that Cuban castaway Elian Gonzalez should stay in the United States.

Garcia, best known for his role of Vincent Mancini in "The Godfather Part III", spoke outside the home where protesters gathered to support Elian's Miami relatives, who are refusing to hand the boy over to his Cuban father in defiance of a government order.

Clad in sunglasses and a Cuban "guayabera" shirt, Garcia appealed for order and pressed U.S. officials to listen to the boy.

"This is a very delicate issue. I plead to the local community to support this peacefully and in a democratic manner," said Garcia, who was born in Havana and grew up in Miami Beach.

"(Elian) has things to say about what his desires are. He's very aware of why his mother brought him here and I think it's important that we listen to the child and let the child determine what his future is," Garcia said.

Repeating appeals made by Elian's Miami relatives, he also asked for a family court hearing and promoted a meeting in which the splintered Gonzalez family members can determine the boy's fate.

"If (Elian) expresses the wishes to his father to go back, then that's between them. But up until now he's only expressed the wishes to stay here and to seek asylum," Garcia said.

Last month, Cuban-born pop diva Gloria Estefan urged the U.S. government not to force the return of the boy to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Estefan, who is seen as a pillar of Miami's Cuban community, said had she spoken with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno about the case.

Her father worked for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by Castro. Garcia's family also fled Cuba after the 1959 revolution.

'Reclaim your God-given right' to guns, Heston urges Canadians

Charlton Heston, the Hollywood star and gun rights advocate, swept into British Columbia for two hours on April 13 to denounce Bill C-68, Canada's new gun control law, as a "sham" and an "unenforceable fraud" foisted on the country by a "callous, self-serving government."

In his first speech in Canada as president of the powerful National Rifle Association of America, Mr. Heston, 75, also scolded Canadians for permitting a string of governments to erode their right to own guns without interference.

"First you gave in on handguns, then you compromised on long guns. Then came registration. Next comes confiscation," he told a packed ballroom filled with B.C. Wildlife Federation members.

"Trust me -- that's history's proven sequence of events. And that's why, with every passing day, more and more Canadians no longer trust their government."

Mr. Heston said although Canada is now phasing in tough licensing and registration rules for its three million legal gun owners, criminal gun users and "thugs now go free after serving only a sixth of their sentences."

"You fill your streets with violent felons and take guns away from honest citizens ... my friends, how did this happen?" asked the man best known for his portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments and his starring role in Ben-Hur. "Can this be the Canada of old, carved out of the wilderness by independent men and women of uncommon valour?"

Mr. Heston galvanized the crowd of more than 200 delegates at the wildlife federation's annual meeting in this city in the B.C. Interior. His polished half-hour speech often elicited eruptions of cheers and applause from the audience.

In a convention hall adorned with hunting trophies of sheep and deer, dozens of anglers and outdoorsmen -- as well as uniformed provincial and federal wildlife enforcement officers -- cheered frequently as Mr. Heston lamented the loss of the freedoms so many Canadian gun users hold dear.

In February, the Wildlife Federation and other grassroots groups joined several Canadian provinces in asking the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, in part because they say it exceeds federal jurisdiction but also because they believe its central feature -- the mandatory registration of all seven million firearms in Canada by 2003 -- is an expensive and unworkable idea. They say most Canadian gun users will ignore the law.

The cost of starting up the new federal registry, initially estimated at $85-million, has now spiralled to at least $300-million. Mr. Heston quickly picked up on this theme.

"You know you'll spend some $700-million on this farce while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begs for money to fight organized crime. That, my friends and neighbours, is sacrilege.

"Why is your government doing it? Because they can. Even worse, because you let them ... you stood by and watched while one of your most basic freedoms was crushed under the boot heel of an indifferent bureaucracy."

The B.C. Wildlife Federation was criticized by Anne McLellan, the federal Justice Minister, for inviting into Canada a famous gun advocate who has argued that schoolteachers should arm themselves with guns for protection.

Heston acknowledged that gun control lobbyists and enemies of the NRA now consider him "some sort of Great Satan." But he said any damage to his reputation has been worth it, because in the U.S., "We've managed to beat back the gun haters and retain our right to keep and bear arms without registration and without confiscation."

Heston also emphasized that Canadians and Americans do share common North American values, including a love of individual freedom.

"We are North Americans by birth, on either side of the line. The rest is just survey stakes and politics," he said. "At the same time, politics can certainly erode our common heritage and traditions."

He said Canada's decision to join other countries such as Britain and Australia in registering guns is a deep concern to the NRA. The organization is now distributing a half-hour video infomercial that says Canada's Firearms Act was inspired by an international gun control conspiracy being organized out of the UN.

Heston challenged Canadians to fight harder against gun registration.

"Organize, learn to lobby, and fight the good fight," he said. "You can reclaim your God-given rights ... You've got to stay in the damn chariot. Don't quit."

Ridge wants GOP to change anti-abortion plank

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, widely considered to be on the GOP's short list of vice presidential candidates, reportedly wants his party to drop its hard-line stance against abortion.

Since 1976, a few years after the Supreme Court struck down many abortion laws, the Republican platform has called for outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. But Ridge said he thinks Republicans who support keeping abortions legal would be unwise to fight to change the platform at this summer's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

"I can count the votes," Ridge told The Philadelphia Inquirer in an interview published April 14. He was referring to the overwhelming antiabortion sentiment he expects among the convention delegates. "What the Democrats would love to see is for us to get mired down in this issue."

Even though he is urging those who share his views not to fight for a platform change, speaking publicly about his opinions highlights a difference between him and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who has the GOP nomination locked up and has said he supports the current platform language. Ridge said he had not discussed the abortion platform language with Bush.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said Bush views the abortion plank as "an important statement of pro-life principles." But she said Bush realizes "that there are a lot of different people with a lot of different views on this issue."

Bush has said he personally supports abortions when needed to save a woman's life or to end pregnancies caused by rape or incest. But nonetheless, he supports maintaining the anti-abortion plank as it is.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Ridge said he would like to see the plank either dropped or changed to reflect a broader range of party members' views on abortion.

The platform approved in 1996 says, "The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed." It adds that candidates must agree to appoint only judges who support the view.

An appendix titled "minority views" says: "The Republican Party welcomes individuals on each side of the abortion issue, encourages their open discussion, solicits their active participation in the party, and respects their positions and beliefs."

Earth Day Countermarch by Campaign in Defense of Industry and Technology

The Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism, in association with the Ayn Rand Institute, is organizing an Earth Day Countermarch in Washington, DC, on Saturday, April 22 -- and ask you to join them. Environmentalists are billing this year's Earth Day rally in Washington as a demonstration of their numbers and political power -- and the Center are determined that for once they will face open, articulate, principled opposition. Our name for this crusade is the Campaign in Defense of Industry and Technology.

It is crucial that you make the effort to join the Center; this is a case in which every person counts. It knows that it will be outnumbered by the thousands of environmentalists at the Earth Day rally, but past experience has shown that a relatively small number of people can make a difference and ensure that a dissenting voice is heard. But the more people we can bring out to march in defense of science and technology, the louder this voice will be heard.

Now is the time to stand up for your ideals -- to stand up in defense of science, technology, industry and capitalism. Ours are the kind of voices that are never heard today. This is our chance to change that.

If you want to fight for your values, visit www.moraldefense.com/ProTech. From there you can find more information on the Earth Day Countermarch and pledge your participation. You can also e-mail them at ProTech@moraldefense.com or call the Center at (540) 548-2918.

If you cannot join them in person, then at least pledge your financial support. We will need to make signs, distribute editorials and press kits, provide accommodations for student protesters, and hold press conferences. Your support can help make all of this possible. To support the campaign financially, again visit, the website at www.moraldefense.com/ProTech, e-mail them at ProTech@moraldefense.com or call at (540) 548-2918.

Science, technology, industry, and capitalism have provided all of us with inestimable values. From the food we eat to the homes we live in, from the computers that make our lives easier to the medical technology that makes our lives longer -- all of these things are made possible by industry and technology. Yet today, these fountainheads of life are under attack by environmentalist zealots who want to take us back to the Stone Age. Don't let them do it without a fight. Join the Earth Day Countermarch on Saturday, April 22.

600 arrested in protests against IMF, World Bank

Police arrested about 600 protesters April 15 during demonstrations against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

An estimated 1 000 protesters demonstrated at two locations in the nation's capital. Five hundred protesters marched at the organizations' headquarters, not far from the White House, pushing and shoving each other.

Demonstrators marched outside the 50-block police perimeter around the World Bank headquarters in a spirited protest, chanting slogans like "World Bank, shut it down, IMF shut, it down." They also carried banners saying "Shut down capitalism" and "Free political prisoners."

D.C. Metropolitan police said the 600 protesters arrested were cited for protesting without a permit.

At a late-night news conference, the police -- who initially said they had arrested "several dozen people" -- increased the number to "approximately 600." Those arrested were being held overnight at a number of facilities throughout Washington.

The demonstrators are in the nation's capital protesting IMF and World Bank policies as officials from the Group of Seven nations -- the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada -- were gathering in advance of the organizations' spring meetings. Some 750 senior diplomats and finance leaders will attend the Washington meetings.

Police tried to keep protesters out of the streets by using motorcycles, police cars and officers on foot to direct demonstrators. At one point, police encircled a group of protesters and pressed them against a building.

Farther down the street, another group of 500 protesters chanting "let them go, let them go," were held back by a wall of officers.

Two large troop transportation trucks quickly drove into the area but were momentarily stalled by protester Andres Thomas Conteris, the coordinator of the Center for Economic Justice.

Conteris walked in front of the first vehicle and, putting his hand in the air, forced the truck to a halt.

Earlier that day, police raided and shut down the protesters' headquarters after fire officials declared the old warehouse unsafe.

Two people were arrested and about 100 were evacuated from the center from the morning raid.

Police initially said they had discovered a Molotov cocktail in the center. It turned out to be a plastic soda bottle containing rags. Police said it was found near cans of paint and paint thinner.

Executive Chief of Police Terry Gainer, who initially claimed to have found it, defended his statement, saying "An unloaded gun is still a gun."

Adam Eidinger, spokesman for the Mobilization for Global Justice, the umbrella group of demonstrators in Washington, said the protesters were nonviolent and that "there were no materials for the making of Molotov cocktails."

Eidinger called the closing of the center "a clear attempt by the police to shut us down."

Marshals said fire-code violations included the use of propane gas for cooking, exposed electrical wiring, blocked stairwells and open cans of paint

In a separate raid, an undisclosed amount of ammunition as well as firebomb instructions were found in a house on Friday evening, Gainer said. He did not say whether that raid had anything to do with Saturday's decision to clear the warehouse headquarters.

The demonstrators used the building, which they called a "convergence center," for training and making materials for their protests against the policies of the world finance organizations.

"We probably saved their lives," District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said when asked why fire officials ordered the evacuation. "We're simply concerned about their safety, and we want to make sure there are no fire hazards."

Ramsey, who has gone into the streets in recent days to mingle with protesters, was shown on TV videotape talking with a demonstrator who asked if police would use tear gas against unruly crowds.

"We could light this town up if we had to, but we don't intend to do that," Ramsey said.

Police have been deployed in huge numbers through the capital to try to head off a replay of the destructive anti-globalization protests in Seattle at a December meeting of the World Trade Organization.

Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, closed to vehicles since the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, also was closed to pedestrians. Tourists, who normally snap pictures of the White House from the sidewalk, were kept behind barricades across the street.

Police said the building was a fire hazard, with a jury-rigged electrical system, chained doors and a propane stove that was not up to code.

Patrick Reinsborough of San Francisco, who was in the warehouse, said two police officers and two fire officials came to center unannounced and began inspecting the facility.

Several protesters demanded a search warrant, but the fire officials said they didn't need one for a fire inspection.

"The police said they found things that were a fire hazard," Reinsborough said. "As soon as they claimed they found a fire hazard, a large number of police were in the area. They demanded the space be evacuated."

Protester Chuck Reinhardt, 50, said fire inspectors said the propane stove was being used for cooking -- a violation of the fire code.

Reinhardt said police officers told the people in the building to leave. He said around 300 people were in the building at the time.

Late April 14, police raided a house where they said they found tools and equipment that protesters apparently planned to use to thwart police efforts to break up human blockades.

Police arrested three people and confiscated hollow plastic tubes called "sleeping dragons," along with chains, chicken wire and gas masks.

"We're very pleased that we're taking these instruments of crime off the street, and this will make the weekend much safer," Gainer said.

Shortly before police moved into the headquarters warehouse, activists woke up World Bank president James Wolfensohn. About 20 demonstrators from 10 countries appeared at his home in Washington's Embassy Row neighborhood with banners saying: "Wake up Wolfensohn" and "Wake Up World Bank."

Vineeta Gupta, a doctor from the Punjab in India, handed Wolfensohn a letter signed by 450 people from 35 countries.

The letter criticized the bank's lending programs, which protesters claim have increased indebtedness and poverty in developing countries. They also say the bank's programs promote sweatshops and destroy the environment.

"The World Bank is subjugating our economic and social independence," Gupta said. "It is time that we shut the bank down, and this boycott is a great start."

Wolfensohn, on his way to work, listened quietly as Gupta read the letter and demonstrators sang in the street.

"Good morning. Well, thank you very much. You got up very early," Wolfensohn told the group before he got into his chauffeur-driven car.

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