| id="headline">A Fatal Stand Against WTO|
id="subhead">South Korean stabs himself as symbol
By Letta Tayler
LATIN AMERICA CORRESPONDENT
September 11, 2003
Cancún, Mexico - The South Korean farmer, dressed in
white, scaled the metal wall dividing a motley throng of several
thousand protesters from hundreds of helmeted riot police.
Then he plunged a small knife into his chest to symbolize the death of
small farmers under regulations sanctioned by the World Trade
Organization, the free-trade group that hours earlier had begun a
summit here. The farmer died in a local hospital later yesterday.
Four years after it helped scuttle a WTO conference in Seattle, the
anti-globalization movement resurfaced with sobering vengeance
yesterday at the start of the organization's fifth ministerial
Pandemonium began soon after several thousand WTO
foes from around the globe marched to the metal wall, which authorities
had erected to block protesters from a glitzy, oceanfront strip of
hotels where the conference is taking place.
youths, their faces half hidden behind green bandannas, began scaling
the wall. "We don't want the rich countries deciding who eats and who
starves!" one of them shouted.
Minutes later, a group of South
Korean rice farmers, including the man who stabbed himself, scaled the
wall while chanting protest songs and burned a fake, brightly colored
coffin which bore a sign reading, "Death of the World Trade
Then scores of youths in spiked belts and black
ski masks jumped onto the wall. Some hurled stones, chunks of concrete
and sticks at the riot police. Others, joined by a few Mexican farmers,
pushed so hard against the wall that they upended it. Police responded
by firing tear gas and spraying water cannons, injuring at least three
The protesters said they were trying to march to the
WTO summit to present their demands for an end to WTO's free-trade
policies, which they say are helping rich nations at the expense of
poor ones and turning the world into one vast string of multinational
Organizers described the rally as a "warm-up" for a
second, massive march Saturday in which they will again try to enter
the summit site.
Mexican officials said they must block the
protesters from the five-day summit to prevent a repeat of the mayhem
that rocked Seattle.
The friction was mirrored inside the
conference, with poorer nations in the '-member WTO accusing wealthy
ones of ruining their economies.
In a speech read at the
conference, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan echoed that
charge. "We are told that free trade brings opportunity for all people,
not just a fortunate few," he said. "Sadly, the reality of the
international trading system today does not match the rhetoric."
The outside protest was organized and dominated by small-scale farmers,
mostly from Mexico, who claim they are being ruined by a flood of cheap
food imports from the United States and Europe.
were joined by other protesters from around the world, including
environmentalists in dolphin suits and black-clad anarchists. Many said
their gripes against the WTO were part of a broader sense of outrage
against the policies of wealthy nations.
Supachai Panitchpakdi deplored the death of the farmer, Lee Kyang Hae,
55, and urged protesters not to wreak further havoc. At the hospital
where Lee died, scores of South Korean protesters unfurled a blanket on
which they had written: "WTO kills."
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.