Cancún, México 5th WTO Ministerial

Cancún, México 5th WTO Ministerial 2003 daily reports 10-14  September

10 September

i am in cancún méxico for the 5th wto ministerial. at today’s campesino march there was present a delegation from korea, with drums, puppets, and very forceful speakers (translated into spanish). i don’t know how many they were. they marched with about 5 thousand mexican campesinos (farmers), mostly from the state of quintana roo; a thousand or so mexican students from mexico city; and perhaps a couple of thousand internationals.  we arrived at the 12′ orange fence separating the town of cancun from the reef where is the hotel zone and the convention center. arriving at the fence the campesinos’ agreement to pass through was broken by the policia (although we are not sure the exact nature of this agreement) and there was some conflict involving the militants.  finally, one of the korean delegation climbed to the top of the fence and commit suicide by knife. he fell back on the side of the protesters and was quickly taken to hospital by proteccion civil (the civil protection which assists people during hurricane and so forth, not associated with policia; with whom the action medics are in fact collaborating).

i am at the indymedia center right now and it has been confirmed by phone with the hospital that the korean is dead. i do not yet know his name.

there is right now a press conference at the hospital, and hopefully there will be some statements by the korean delegation on the cancun indymedia site. (  also this may make the international news. please watch.

ok, i just spoke with one of the medics who treated him. he was about 50 years old. he climbed the fence with a flag saying “wto kills farmers” and stabbed himself in the heart. when he fell on the fence it was thought at first by some nearby that he was imbalanced by the shaking of the fence, fell, and was impaled by a part of the fence, but the medics quickly discovered the wound. apparently others in the korean delegation were not anticipating this act. she says there are very good photos on in the news section.

other information:

the police have been, in my estimation, quite calm, although the hysteria at the indymedia center is extreme nevertheless and we are periodically locked up. the filming is going very well. we have seven cameras and have been very lucky to get excellent interviews as well as street footage.

the marches and protest are very ritual. a march is called, and at that time the fence to the reef is closed and lined with policia with riot shields. we march, they stand, there is some confrontation, dancing, music (today with the oldest band in mexico with tuba), we go away, they take down the barricade and people can once again pass to the reef for ngo fora, swimming at the beach, and to get a good look at the convention center.

yesterday, they made a mistake and were searching for bombas only under the cars leaving the convention center. many tourists had to walk with their luggage because it could not be decided how much road to close.

the principals with the international forum on globalization have had federales crawling all over their hotel and are prohibited from receiving guests in their room because they have been designated as “dangerous” by the federales. also 50 federales blocked for some time the location of the IFG conference yesterday, which did eventually take place with a good audience. today there were a group of wto delegates from belgium, france, and brazil in the campesino march.

the centros for indymedia and activist convergence are very well organized, but the internationals are heartbroken at the lack of turnout.

it is the day of the campesinos!

more when i can


12 September

hi all,

(sorry about the spelling. i am typing as fast as i can and next as i am rushing to go do interviews with delegates.)

i am inside the WTO press centre. please excuse my grammar as i have been mixing up several languages now for several days.

i have not been in here for long, but i have found some very good news:

a report from the EC on the “state of play of agriculture negotiations” as of this morning. as you know, the entire wto process is hung up over the agriculture negotiations. if nothing changes on this, nothing else will go forward. 3w countries are resisting on the basis of dumping and trips (biotech). the EU & the US are not in agreement either, but have similar rels w/ the 3rd world. anyway, this report stated that the G-21 (the resisters) “have shown no ambition at all…to address” their own subsidies of farmers. this indicates that solidarity is happening among the third world and they are holding strong. the report ends “without flexibility, without an effort on the other side, these talks will get very, very difficult.”

this is good news. they need to hold out!!!!

also circulating is a report done from inside the meetings by an ngo called war on want. they made a survey of delegates inside and found that 82% say their experience w/ wto is not democratic. 6 of ten delegates think their country will be no better off as a result of this week’s talks. the report states “delegates were unequivocal in their belief that the wto is not interested in addressing the needs of the world’s poor. the survey expressed a deep pessimism, disillusionment, and anger. It was surprisingly easy to get people to fill out the questionnaire – in fact most were only too happy to make their views known. Many delegates imply feel that they are being taken for a ride.”

i also found a dcoument by the president of senegal entitled “africa does not intend to be an adjustment variable.”

this is day three and they have made very little progress. on the table of paper briefings there is very little progress. only the admission of cambodia and nepal into the wto with descriptions of their timetable of accession to wto rules. the list of press briefings for today is anaemic, nothing victorious, and there is one on the topic of “dumping”, which suggests that issue is still totally unresolved,

please send your solidarity by whatever means at your disposal to the delegates in resistance.

in cancun city yesterday and today all protests are reorganized as ceremonies for lee kyang. that is the focus of all the groups. there are several shrines. last night there was an excellent cacerolazo. what this suicide means is that the struggle against globalization has been equated with the struggle against war.

there is a banner immediately across from the conference center outside of the press entrance right now. i am going outside to see it.

en la lucha,


13 September

12th evening

audre lorde says that poetry is economical, it takes less space and time. i don’t know if it’s poetry, but all my Spanish is nouns and i am too tired for sentences.

que se vayan todos is what the banner said hanging from a great orange crane directly across the street from the wto’s convention center on the fortress tourist reef with images of corn, indigenous power, and “no omc” [wto].  “get rid of them all”. and even the delegates remembered the banner in seattle…

here in cancun we are honoring lee kyung and all the farmers of the world over and over in shrines and marches all over the city, we are celebrating a victory of 1 km of 9 between us and the wto, we are dancing on the ruins of yet another wto ministerial, we are excitedly speaking many languages, we are proudly marching with campesinos from whose lives many of our parents tried to liberate us, we are eating deep fried yucatecan quesadillas, we are disguising ourselves as happy tourists all day and in the night emerging to dance on their doorstep (at which position they cannot use tear gas because the last thing they want is to disperse activists throughout their garden.)

great parties

free camping (if you don’t like to camp with the Maoists in Campamento Anti-Imperialismo you can take your tent a short distance to the anarchist camp. but the maoists brought more paint so you may still want to go there to make banners.)

calm, smiling cops, asking the cameras to wait while they get ready for the pictures

and the zapatistas, in typically mythical style, are everywhere, particularly on the 11th of september.

the zapatistas will be at the estadio de beis-bol at 2

the zapatistas will be at the parque de palapas at 3

the zapatistas will go straight to km zero at 2:30

the zapatistas are arriving to the convention center by boat.

the zapatistas are nowhere because they are everywhere

they are the young dreadlocked kids from the u.states proudly wearing Korean bandanas tonight

they are the pauses while a consulta is called before giving an interview.

the Zapatistas are everywhere, masked, under many masks.

warily meeting with watchful eyes only a few days ago, now smiling strong solidarity striding past to different actions.

liberating zonas for eating, dancing, meeting, and encamping.

they are here.

the Zapatistas have taught us so much, so quickly.

they have taught us to value all the languages, and what each can convey (and not convey)

they have taught us how to see that all of us are marcos, so we knew at once that all of us are lee kyang.

13th  afternoon

those of us were correct who said we didn’t expect much violencia from the mexican policia at this manifestation. in many ways it is not 1968. the students have with them too many unions, and far too much press. but most importantly, mexico must act the part of a success in the neoliberal system. the farce must play to the end that free trade brings peace and prosperity. in the united states, activists can be marginalized and dismissed because to criticize is absurd, but too broad a swath of Mexican society is outside the gates and besides all the taxis support them. everyone in mexico knows the OMC is wrong, wrong, wrong, so it is best just to let them gnaw at the fence and keep things quiet.  the police are far off guarding burger king while the festival of fence cutting continues ponderously (there are not enough tools for everyone).

here is the summary of news as of now:

primero, the suicide of lee kyang is being described as a death caused by the wto alongside many other farmers who have died as a result of its policies. all around the city the grafitti says “kyang vive” [lives]. as well as bringing attention to farmers’ suicides (generally by drinking pesticide) which has happened in asia, south asia, africa, and latin america, his act takes the anti-globalization movement to a new level by correlating it with anti-war movements (the birth of the recent wave of Buddhist self-immolations).

otro primero, there is strong solidarity among a group of developing nations (G21) within the wto meeting. as of yesterday, the EU was threatening that if the G21 didn’t become “flexible” then the negotiations would be “very difficult”, after which and brazil told the us to back off and to stop threatening and bullying. there is no progress being made inside. nothing happening on services or investments, because agriculture is absolutely at a stalemate. what is going on inside in terms of solidarity among the third world is being likened to seattle. the wto can’t take much more of this. at today’s march, a drenched walden bello spoke from the sound truck and said that there is nothing much going on inside. he also said, as did john ross, that “it’s the same war” in cancun and iraq.  also bello said today that the people in resistance in iraq and palestine are the ones who have struck the greatest blow against imperialism and that it has become very clear that the anti-globalization movement is also anti-war and anti-imperialism.

as a result of the strong presence of via campesina (the international farmers’ network) here, the level of international solidarity has gained tremendously. the connection between activists of the Americas and korea is tremendous; it is a new bridge. also today i met the delegation to Via Campesina from Bangladesh. it is a delegation of one. the internationals here are few, but they represent many.

today was the second big marcha. the two big actions were initially the 9th and 12th but turned out to be 10th (campesinos) and 13th (syndicatos/unions) it was to be at 9 or 11 or 1, and went off at 10:30. fortunately, everyone managed to find it in good time. the koreans, this time carrying metal shears to cut the fence and ropes to pull it down, worked alongside a group assembled entirely of women, who made an independent assault on the fence, and next to them were assaults made by the maoists, the anarchists, the orange bloc (wearing the same orange safety vests as are the police) and the international direct action people.

we are winning.

amory starr

cancun mexico

13 september, 2003

14 September ALTO TOTAL wto meetings collapse!

Alto Total in Cancun

for further reports on the protests please go to

At about 2:30 pm, i had a feeling to go to the wto press centre, having spent almost all my time on the other side of the barricades here in cancun. Just as we walked in the door, press were rushing some delegates who had just emerged from a Green Room to announce that the MEETINGS HAVE COLLAPSED. At 4:25 pm, the G21 had a press conference in which they announced that the meetings are over, not waiting for the Director-General to do so as it’s not his decision.

This is a great victory for the Developing (3rd world) Countries and also for all of us who have been struggling to show that there is dissent, that there are alternatives, and that there will be international solidarity in support of developing countries who refuse to go along.

The failure of the meetings comes primarily as a result of the solidarity of the G21 (Group of 21) which expanded to be the G32 sometime yesterday. These countries include many countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia (including South Africa, China, Brazil, and Philippines) and they were in solidarity on agriculture issues. As of yesterday afternoon the meetings were deadlocked on agriculture and nothing was moving forward. There were rumours that the US and EU were trying to extend the meetings for several more days, but that the developing countries could not afford to stay. Some press believed they would negotiate all night and announce failure in the morning.

But today at around 2:15 pm, in a small “Green Room” meeting in which the EU was pressing the developing countries to accept negotiations on the Singapore or “New Issues” (investment, competition, services, and government procurement), the ACP (African Caribbean Pacific) Group, the African Union (including (Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Kenya +/-), the LDC (least developed countries), and some Asian countries (including India and Malaysia) refused to launch these negotations. Some people say that Kenya walked out of this meeting first (I spoke with one person who claimed to be standing right there when it happened).

Two or three hundred press crushed around the delegates who had just emerged and eventually sorted themselves out by language (I was best able to hear the delegate from Mali who spoke in French). It was very hard to hear, and some people were telling different stories of exactly what had happened. Some people said the director would make the announcement in one hour, but a delegate from Mali said “it’s not the decision of the director. It’s over.” Eventually the story settled into some consensus that it meant the end of the talks. I got chills.

Soon Walden Bello, Maude Barlow, Lori Wallach, and Anuradha Mittal appeared and by far the largest crush of press centered on them. Bello announced that “the Developing Countries have said ‘Ya Basta’…It is a crisis of legitimacy for the WTO and a victory for the developing countries. whether the WTO will survive this i doubt. 2 failed ministerials are hard to survive.” Mittal said that this event is a “huge slap in the face of the the EU and US. The developing countries do not agree to be colonized.” (I do not know if he said it today in the Press Centre, but all week he has been saying at every speaking engagement and in every interview that the anti-globalization movement is also now very clearly anti-war and anti-imperialism and that most significant assault on US imperialism is being made by Iraqis and Palestinians.)

Before long, cheers are spreading across the hall, Bello and friends are singing, others are dancing, there are hugs everywhere, and most everyone is smiling. People have run to print out signs saying “we won” and are holding it behind Bello’s head for the video cameras. NGOs are using the WTO’s nice laser printers and photocopy machines to issue victory statements which they are distributing everywhere.

The US Trade Rep has issued the following erudite and petulant press release saying that “Whether developed or developing, there were ‘can do’ and ‘won’t do’ countries. The rhetoric of the ‘won’t do’ overwhelmed the concerted efforts of the ‘can do’. ‘Won’t do’ led to impasse.” He also characterized the countries in resistance as “focused on rhetoric” and “unwilling to focus on work, ambition, and flexibility”. Now Zoellick (the US TR) and Veneman (Secretary of Agriculture) are having a lonely press confernece (no solidarity with them) saying again, just as after seattle, that “the real losers” are the countries which most need the wto.

We’ve heard that the barricades are down already. (This may not be true.) Anyway, we’re going back to the city now to celebrate with our compadres. The news has not really arrived to the streets yet.

Nosotros ganamos!!! (We won)

Que se vayan todos! (Get rid of them all)

Lee Vive!

Amory Starr

reporting from the WTO Press Center

Cancun Mexico

16:56 on s14 September 2003