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Post / Lyn Alweis
Maria Garcia and her son Jose live in Candelaria, Honduras, where Garcia has no choice but to use dirty, pesticide-laden water. Children in developing nations are especially vulnerable to waterborne diseases, and they are dying by the thousands every day.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Denver, CO
Dying for clean water

As many as one-fifth of the world’s people lack safe water and 6,000 children are dying every day as a result.   But developed nations and companies with know-how are doing less to help.

By Bruce Finley, Denver Post International Affairs Writer

CANDELARIA, Honduras — Struggling for the water her family needs to live, Maria Garcia hikes five times a day from her dirt-floor shack to a creek.

The creek, cloudy from pesticides and from villagers bathing and washing clothes, isn’t safe.

Her first son, Roni, died of hepatitis at age 3 — one of an estimated 2 million children a year worldwide who die from diseases linked to bad water.

Now her second son, 1-year-old Jose, “is always with diarrhea, always coughing.”   Still, Garcia, 23 years old and seven months’ pregnant, has no choice.   This is the only water she can get.

She scoops the creek water into her red jug.   She hoists this 40-pound load onto her back and, stretching rattan cords across her forehead to support it, claws her way up a slippery clay slope on the quarter-mile haul home.

“It’s hard to do without falling,” she says.   “I’m going to have to do more trips.   I’m going to need the water.”

Today, nobody is moving to help Garcia and the growing numbers of people — an estimated 1.1 billion, nearly a fifth of humanity — who lack safe water.   Twice that many lack basic sanitation.

The death toll from bad water mounts.   United Nations officials say it tops 6,000 children a day — mostly in low-income Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Children are especially vulnerable to waterborne diseases that can lead to fatal dehydration.   Most common is diarrhea — easily preventable in developed nations such as the United States.

But elsewhere, solutions are constrained by spreading poverty and increasingly limited water resources.  

Water shortages and deficient sanitation now are starting to aggravate conflicts, leading to political turmoil.   Three years ago in Bolivia, slum dwellers rioted when the government tried to install a water system that required them to pay fees they found intolerable.   International bankers would only back a for-pay system.

And last month, Bolivian peasants and slum dwellers, riled about their government’s free-market policies in general, marched on Bolivia’s capital, hurling dynamite.   They forced President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to resign.

“We could have water wars — not riots, I mean wars — between countries over control of river systems,” said Andrew Natsios, chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the nation’s main humanitarian agency.   “We are very worried about that.”

Water deaths worldwide

World Health Organization chart, estimates for water related deaths: 

From unsafe water and sanitation.

From diarrhear diseases often caused by bad water and lack of sanitation.

World aid agencies doing less

In Iraq this year, a sudden collapse of water-supply networks enraged Iraqis as U.S. troops, who had bottled water, occupied their communities.

In India, a dispute over water allocations has led to interstate rioting.

In China, an estimated 100 million peasants unable to irrigate crops converge on ill-equipped cities.

In the Middle East, a behind-the-scenes struggle for water strains efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Water shortages also are expected to spur migration from water-poor regions to Europe and the United States, where jobs and water are plentiful.

Many experts believe that a concerted effort to address global water supply and sanitation should be a priority for the United States and other wealthy countries.   U.S. government studies have found that installing a basic water system in a village can cut infant mortality by up to 50 percent.

Yet the governments and corporations that could help instead are withdrawing from the challenge instead.

Government water aid from 21 of the richest countries to poor countries decreased by 18 percent between 1997 and 2001, according to data compiled by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group based in Paris.

The U.S. government — focusing on military priorities this year — budgeted only $162 million for water-supply and sanitation help abroad.

USAID’s Natsios said this will change.   The United States will follow through on a presidential “Water For the Poor” initiative to spend $970 million over three years “to deal with these issues,” he said.   That money — a third of it approved so far by Congress — falls far short of the tens of billions U.N. leaders say are needed.

The other key players in addressing water shortages and poor sanitation are corporations that can design and install efficient systems.   They, too, are doing less.   Private-sector spending on water supply and sanitation decreased by 82 percent between 1997 and 2002, from $8.3 billion to $1.5 billion, according to data from the World Bank, the main international financing agency.

Engineering, construction and utility firms aren’t motivated.   As the poor world gets poorer, the potential for profit diminishes.   Companies no longer bid on requests to install water systems even in megacities — let alone in the villages where more than half the world’s poor reside, said Don Evans, chief of water operations for Denver-based CH2M Hill — one U.S. firm in a water industry dominated by Europe-based conglomerates.

“The poor residents of these countries have no access to water.   They have incredible sanitation issues with huge health impacts,” Evans said.   “It’s a tragedy to these countries that nothing is going to happen.”

‘It’s very hard to lose a son’

In Honduras, population 6.6 million, one of the poorest countries in the world, water problems are chronically as severe as anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.   The struggle for clean water is constant in villages such as Candelaria in the central highlands.

Here, amid screeching roosters and the hum of insects, Maria Garcia enters her shack and unloads her sloshing jugs beneath rafters where she stores maize, in the tradition of Lenca Indians, descendants of the Mayans who once thrived across Central America.   A small fire smokes in the corner.

The only way to make the water safe — Garcia has heard from visiting Cuban health workers — is to boil it.

But boiling water requires wood.   The nearest forest lies 3 miles away in the mountains — meaning a major chore for Reyes Gomez, 24, her husband.

“We can’t get that much wood,” Garcia says.   At the same time, she believes that Roni died, and Jose is sick, because “we drink the water without boiling it.”

The family tried to get help for Roni.   Gomez carried the boy 13 miles down the muddy road to La Esperanza — the nearest city.   Doctors took blood and urine samples and sent Gomez and his son to a regional hospital 60 miles across mountains in Comayagua.

There, nurses sent them back to La Esperanza.   Gomez turned to a private specialist who suggested a test for $147.   Gomez sold the family’s bull for $264 to pay for the test.   The specialist concluded Roni’s hepatitis was chronic.   There was nothing to do.   Gomez carried his son home.   Six nights later, on Dec. 28, as parents and grandparents cradled him, Roni died.

“It’s very hard to lose a son,” Gomez said.   “You want to kill yourself.”

Doctors face similar cases every day.

More people worldwide enter hospitals with waterborne diseases than with any other type of ailment, said Mark Brown, chief of the United Nations Development Program.   Lack of safe water ranks among the leading causes of death.   An estimated 2 million children a year are victims of water-related diarrhea, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.   Typically, the diarrhea comes from swallowing fecal bacteria.

In a dimly lit emergency ward along the northern coast of Honduras, Dr. Marta Benitez said 40 percent of her patients are children sick from foul water.   It’s a bigger killer than the mosquito-borne malaria and hemorrhagic dengue fever that also haunt Central America.

During a recent night shift, Benitez and two nurses handled five critical cases.   One dehydrated boy, Daniel Ramos, 3, lay on a gurney, eyes rolling as he drifted in and out of consciousness, loops of white tape holding an intravenous tube on his tiny right wrist.

“He’s always sick with diarrhea,” said his mother, Esperanza Hernandez, 27.   He’d been crying that his stomach hurt, and in the middle of the night his family hustled down a rocky trail from their village in foggy forests above banana plantations.   “I was worried he would pass out on the way to the hospital,” Hernandez said.

The family drinks stream water.   “We don’t boil the water,” said Dolores Ramos, the boy’s grandmother, “because we don’t like the taste of boiled water.”

Benitez told the parents to just wait.   “With IV, I think he’ll respond.”   As they hung their heads, she added: “We could prevent these.”

Polluted water hurts people in countless ways.   Typhoid and cholera flare regularly.   Waterborne parasites cause onchocerciasis — “river blindness.”    Other parasites contribute to malnutrition.

And everywhere, girls give their lives to the chore of hauling water for their families.

Miriam Garcia, 13, and her friends recently balanced 20-pound water buckets on their heads along the Guaymitas River on the outskirts of El Progresso, an industrial boomtown in northern Honduras.   They had to quit school after third grade.

“My mother doesn’t come to get water because her hip hurts, so I am the only one who comes,” Garcia said.

The girls bathe, wash clothes and play in the river — within a mile of family shanties.   Diarrhea and headaches are the norm.

Doctors at public clinics “only pay attention to those who have money,” Garcia said.   “We all have parasites in our stomachs.”

Population growth erases gains

For three decades, leaders of rich countries have vowed to help the world’s water have-nots.

The United Nations, which declared the 1980s “The Decade of Water,” again has put water at the top of its global agenda.   After last year’s U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, U.N. leaders set a goal to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

Yet “the water situation worldwide is distressing and not improving noticeably,” said Jack Hoffbuhr, president of the Denver-based American Water Works Association, a leading group of water professionals.

Part of the challenge is that deaths caused by contaminated water — unlike deaths from earthquakes or hurricanes — are “a persistent, growing problem,” said John Halpern, senior water supply and sanitation adviser for the World Bank.   Politically, it’s hard to get governments to focus on such problems because they don’t seem as urgent even if the consequences are huge, Halpern said.

And gains have been nullified by population growth in the most severely afflicted countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Finally, lenders who could supply the billions needed for urban water systems turn away because governments in poor countries often can’t or won’t pay bills.

Meanwhile, villages like Candelaria — population 1,500 — are so scattered that only small-scale solutions are feasible.   Grassroots nonprofit aid groups are the best hope for villagers, Halpern said.

“The rich world needs to be involved.   In pure economic terms, growth in these countries is what’s going to help grow the world economy.   The industrialized countries including the United States need somebody to sell goods and services to.   Most of the population lives in the developing world and will live increasingly in the developing world.”

A debate among water experts also stalls action.

The issue is whether corporations should control water.   In the mid-1990s, corporations backed by the World Bank began installing and operating water systems in needy countries — for profit, with the view that charging for water is essential to allocate it efficiently.   People in rich countries generally pay for their water, though rates often are lower than in poor countries where water is scarce.   Critics argue that water essential for life shouldn’t be privately controlled.

“There has to be strong government oversight and protection of the public good,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a water policy research center.

While the debate rages, children die.   Anger grows.

“The U.S. response, in particular, has been inadequate.   Our contribution to water projects internationally is pathetically low.   It’s a tiny fraction of the aid we give, which itself is a tiny fraction of what’s needed,” Gleick said.

“If this problem got the attention it deserves, we could eliminate deaths from water-related diseases.   But we seem to do better at dealing with short-term crises.   It’s more upsetting to us when a plane crashes than when 6,000 kids died yesterday, and today, and will die again tomorrow from preventable water-related diseases.”

For a few years, Honduras stood out among water-poor countries because it did get some serious attention in 1998 following Hurricane Mitch.   The death and destruction — concentrated in the north where U.S. corporations Chiquita and Dole for decades have run banana plantations — drew more than $1 billion in emergency aid.   The United States gave more than $145 million.

Hurricane aid helped town

The aid paid for CH2M Hill, the Denver-based engineering firm, to install $3 million worth of water supply and sanitation systems, mostly in northern cities near the plantations and new factories.

Now in La Lima, population 70,000, healthy children play soccer beneath red tanks that supply purified water.

The water immediately improved lives of thousands who lacked access before, said caretaker Gilberto Nunez, 40, a father of two, who was watering Llama del Bosque trees recently at the base of one tank.

“We don’t have the shortages we had before.   People are really satisfied,” Nunez said.   “Before, they had to walk far and carry their water.   We were always working to get water.”

CH2M Hill sent engineer Leda Amador, who grew up in Honduras, to coordinate work at the local level — including the delicate matter of convincing low-income residents to pay for treated water piped to their homes.

Incomes here, as across much of the world, are generally less than $500 a year.   And newcomers flocking from rural areas for factory work often bristle at the notion of paying for water.   Sometimes they refuse.

“The question is whether the poor can pay,” Amador said.   “I think they can.   If you figure what their other options are — what they pay to buy water from private water trucks or to buy water in bottles — it’s more than what they would pay for (municipal) water service.”

Amador teamed with leaders of neighborhood “patronata” self-help associations to explain plans.   City officials backed her up, cutting off service when people didn’t pay.   Rates were set on a sliding scale to help the poor.   A typical family pays $7 a month.

But now Honduras’ hurricane money has run out.   CH2M Hill is closing its office.   And, as in other poor countries, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans — the population is growing by 3.2 percent a year — still lack access to safe water.

The United States “must continue helping, because in poor countries, we don’t have the capability to build up our water systems because it’s too expensive,” said Mayor Nelly Soliman of El Progresso, population 200,000.   “Always, the policy has been, the richer countries should help the poorer countries.   This is a severe problem for us.”

U.S. officials say the most children die in rural areas, where 36 percent of Hondurans lack water.   “I’d like to put more in.   It is needed,” said Paul Tuebner, USAID’s director in Honduras.

“Have you ever hauled water daily for 2 miles on your head up and down mountains?   ...We have studies that show, once we put in a water system, infant mortality goes down.”

The anger that has led to riots over water has erupted here, too.   Last March, 1,500 protesters riled about water targeted roads in a northern industrial area where they knew they might get attention.   They blocked traffic around new “maquila” factories where, for about $50 a month, workers make Fruit of the Loom, Wrangler, Tommy Hilfiger and other garments for U.S. consumers.   But Honduras’ rural poor traditionally are peaceful.   And in Candelaria, villagers preferred a practical approach.

They’ve designed a water system that would pipe water from a spring to spigots at family compounds.

A few years ago, they bought pipes and laid them, with dozens of men contributing free labor.   But the pipes burst.   Local engineers had failed to allow for pressure changes as water whooshed up and down hills.   Now, with help from different engineers, village leaders have modified their plan and are looking for a better kind of pipe.

Some villagers are hopeful.   Maria Garcia and Reyes Gomez are impatient after their son’s death.

Gomez now plans to emigrate to the United States.   Friends who have managed to sneak into the country send home money that lets their families live comfortably in La Esperanza.

Working abroad “would be harder.   This is my father’s land.   I learned to grow crops from my father.   This is the natural way for me to earn my living,” Gomez said.   But potato and banana crops don’t pay.   His wife, Maria, is too busy hauling water to work in a sewing cooperative.

So Gomez talks of borrowing $1,300 to hire a smuggler to guide him north.   There are alligators in the river along the U.S.-Mexico border, he said.   “That’s what I’m scared of, and maybe somebody will kill me.”

If he gets through, his first earnings will pay off his lender, he said.   “Then I could help my family.”

Population: 6,669,789
Median age: 18.8 years
Population growth rate: 3.2 percent
Infant mortality rate: 29.96 deaths per 1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth: 66.65 years
Fertility rate: 4.07 children born per woman (2003 estimate)
Literacy rate: 76.2 percent (those 15 and over who can read and write)
Population below poverty line: 53 percent (1993 estimate)
Unemployment rate: 28 percent (2002 estimate)
Sources: Denver Post research,
CIA Factbook

© Denver Post

March 23, 2005
A New War?
On Wolfowitz's World Bank

he 1200 anti-war/profit demonstrators who wound their way through central Johannesburg last Saturday heard fiery speeches, music and poetry.   At the start and finish, protesters were inspired by 80-year old Dennis Brutus, the great anti-apartheid poet who has worked within the global justice movement since Seattle and indeed long before.

Biaser Road

Children collect water, Biaser Road, South Africa


Children collect water

He calls now for a "war" on the World Bank, in the wake of George Bush's appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as its president last week.

The activists marched down from the city hall past banks and corporations to the Workers' Library in a semi-liberated zone of the Newtown arts district.

They presented memoranda of protest along the way to the government's Department of Home Affairs, attacking South Africa's notorious xenophobia policies, and the US Trade Mission.

Local demand for human rights

The demonstrators were of all ages, colours and left ideologies.  They combined the global call for an end to occupations of Iraq and Palestine with local demands for human rights.

Monday, March 21 was a South African holiday — Human Rights Day — commemorating the 1960 protest against pass books in Sharpeville township 60 km south of Johannesburg, where 69 people were killed by apartheid cops, most shot in the back as they ran.

For Brutus, the timing is memorable.  Because of Sharpeville, the African National Congress declared a guerrilla war on apartheid.

Will now become a 'War Bank'

"Times are different now," says Brutus.  "But the urgency is just as great.  It is crucial for us to up the ante against the system we might term global apartheid.  The World Bank is at the nerve center of that system, and will now become a 'War Bank'."

Brutus' new book, Leafdrift, was published a few weeks ago by Whirlwind Press of Camden, New Jersey.  After three decades in exile, he now spends most of his time in South Africa with the Jubilee debt cancellation and reparations movement.

Brutus has long warned against the divide-and-conquer tactics of outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn ("Wolfy 1"), who was perfectly willing to fund Bush's illegitimate neocolonial rule in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti.  But the man now labeled "Wolfy2" has none of his predecessor's talents in softening up NGOs in meaningless "multistakeholder forums" on issues ranging from dams to mining/petroleum to structural adjustment.
Talk left, walk right.

Mbeki and Bush

George Bush phoned South African president Thabo Mbeki early last week to alert him to Wolfowitz's promotion.  According to Brutus, "It is revealing that there is this link between Bush and Mbeki on the nomination of Wolfy2.

We do not know at this stage what Mbeki's response was.  We know that the people of South Africa in our millions would yell No! to a warmonger running the most powerful financial institution in the world."

The crowd in Johannesburg needed little reminder.  Explains Brutus, "The neoliberal policies of the South African government are a direct consequence of the World Bank's advice, ranging from macroeconomic structural adjustment to even privatisation of water and air.

Our finance minister, Trevor Manuel, used to chair the board of the Bank and IMF, and is in charge of the Development Committee, the institutions' second most powerful policy committee.

And there is another South African who is a managing director, Mamphela Ramphele.

She was Steve Biko's partner in the 1970s but her job today is ameliorating the Bank's bad public image."

Refused to lend to municipality of Nelspruit to supply water to poor people

Ramphele's vice president for public relations is Ian Goldin, another South African hated by trade unionists and communities here for promoting privatisation when he ran the Development Bank of Southern Africa — refusing to lend to the municipality of Nelspruit to supply water to poor people, and instead advancing a large loan to the British privatiser Biwater for the same purpose.

Brutus continues: "So when we march, we also protest the local manifestations of global apartheid, especially the failure of government to deliver services.

Ongoing disconnection of water and electricity.

Refused to lend to municipality of Nelspruit to supply water to poor people.

Neo liberal empire, sign on demonstration poster, South Africa water usurpation.

Ongoing disconnection of water and electricity

We oppose privatisation and the ongoing disconnection of water and electricity to more than a million people a year.

Jobs are still not being created.  Our government is deceiving us when it claims it is delivering."

This is an especially poignant critique, given that 40% of South Africans still cannot read or write.

Indeed, the depths of Pretoria's strategy were unveiled last week when the Mail and Guardian newspaper reported that two University of KwaZulu-Natal education academics accused the state of "deliberate misinformation.  Misleading claims about adult education provision have indeed become endemic."

As the newspaper editorialized on Friday, "No one with first-hand knowledge has believed for one moment the ridiculous figures the department has flourished to back its claim."

Did not count vast numbers of taps and water systems in rural areas that broke down

Liberate the USA sign on demonstration poster, South Africa water usurpation protest

A year ago, the then education minister, Kader Asmal, claimed that "literacy projects have reached nearly two million learners".  Similar claims about millions receiving water were made five years earlier by Asmal when he was water minister, because he did not count vast numbers of taps and water systems delivered in rural areas that subsequently broke down.

Last week another state agency — Statistics South Africa — claimed that the government is now supplying more than 70% of residents with free water and electricity: "The best-performing municipalities on average were in the Free State [province], where 91.5% of households had free water and 90.3% had free electricity."

In reality, the Free State has seen ongoing violent protest by township residents over the past year, precisely because vast areas of the province have no water and power.

Even the 19th century "bucket system" (where excrement is picked up by municipal workers from outhouses each morning) has broken down in many townships.

Chillingly similar to 1960

Last September, 17-year old Teboho Mkhonza was killed when police opened fire on fleeing demonstrators, chillingly similar to 1960, but now Mkhonzo's neighbours brandish not passbooks but empty wallets.

Stats SA has an awful reputation in business circles for a spate of serious errors, and so these new claims by its director, Pali Lehohla, were greeted with disbelief.

Lehohla justified why he could not provide details to verify which riot-torn towns are actually delivering water: "Municipalities do need to be protected by the Act because they may want to apply to certain organisations for grants, and poor performance figures could harm them, or there may arise situations where they face punitive measures from the ruling party in their areas."

Class apartheid, and the World Bank

What is the link between these statistical horror stories about class apartheid, and the World Bank?

At the macroeconomic level, the Bank designed the fiscal/financial model behind South Africa's 1996 structural adjustment program.  That program pushed state spending lower, and also pushed the proportion of the budget devoted to education down 2% over the subsequent six years.

South Africa water usurpation protest for ongoing neo-liberal polices of Mbeki government.

Poverty instead of decreasing over the past 11 years has increased. 

1.5 million people disconnected from water because of inability to pay

1.5 million people disconnected because of inability to pay

At the microeconomic level, the Bank authored South Africa's 1995 Municipal Infrastructure Investment Framework which severely limited supply of services, and in 1995 a staffperson convinced Asmal that Pretoria should limit cross-subsidies from hedonistic to low-income consumers, and should establish "a credible threat of cutting service"; in 2003, approximately 1.5 million people were disconnected because of inability to pay.

Pretoria is left to fib about the record, ranging from adult education to water to AIDS to crime to job creation.

So a deep resentment against the Bank's neoliberal "Washington Consensus" has been brewing for a decade, shared even by pro-government trade unions.

Now add more explicit White House geopolitics to the Bank's noxious recipe.  As Cambridge political economist Noreena Hertz put it in the The Guardian on Saturday, "Of course, the US hijacking the World Bank to serve its foreign policy interests is not a new phenomenon."  But especially at a time of rhetorical flourishes for Africa — given that the G8 will meet in Scotland in July to discuss Tony Blair's new Africa Commission report — the danger posed by Wolfy2 is severe.

Disguise the war zone, luring more people to their deaths

How many pints  of blood per gallon of oil

South Africa water usurpation protest for ongoing neo-liberal polices of Mbeki government.

Included comments on the ongoing Iraq war created by U.S. imperialist policies.

Poverty instead of decreasing over the past 11 years has increased. 

1.5 million people disconnected from water because of inability to pay

But so too is the danger that well-meaning Europeans will disguise the war zone, luring more people to their deaths.  For example, the head of the EU parliament's Development Committee, Luisa Morgantini, announced last week that there should be more Bushite candidates to choose from.

Her case was three-fold: "that the European Union in 2004 has presented two candidates for the post of the Managing Director of the IMF, with distinguished political profiles facilitating an informed choice regarding indications of future directions for the IMF; that the process of the selection of the final candidate has been done in a more transparent manner and in an appropriate timeframe, facilitating the input of the other shareholders; that the European candidate for the Managing Director of the IMF stood against a candidate nominated by another IMF member state, resulting in hearings of both candidates at the Board of the IMF and an indicative vote producing a majority for the European candidate."

Morgantini simply ignores that the worst candidate conceivable — Rodrigo Rato — was chosen as a result of this process. 

Dismantling the Spanish welfare state

Recall Vicente Navarro's critique of Rato at (19 June 2004): he was "responsible for the dismantling of the Spanish welfare state.  Mr. Rato is of the ultra-right.

While in Aznar's cabinet, he supported such policies as making religion a compulsory subject in secondary schools, requiring more hours of schooling in religion than in mathematics, undoing the progressivity in the internal revenue code, funding the Foundation dedicated to the promotion of francoism (i.e., Spanish fascism), never condemning the fascist dictatorship, and so on.
Protesters Madrid, March 19, 2005

Photo: REUTERS/Andrea Comas

In the economic arena, he dramatically reduced public social expenditures as a way of eliminating the public deficit of the Spanish government, and was the person responsible for developing the most austere social budget of all the governments of the European Community."

Morgantini also confirms her desire to see "other shareholders" play a more important role — i.e., confirming the domination of the Bank by a united front of Northern countries, rather than even concede the possibility that democratisation of multilateral agency voting power is worthy of mention.

And who, then, would be Bush's second choice, if that's what Morgantini desires?

No doubt, someone with identical politics but less baggage than Wolfowitz.

Is that what we in the global justice movement want?

If not, why aren't European NGOs condemning the inane yet dangerous line of argument associated with Morgantini's opportunistic statement?

Dependent on strict adherence to US Administration priorities

Actually, I've been surprised how many otherwise reasonable friends of mine signed an anti-Wolfy2 statement last week sponsored by Brussels-based Eurodad, with this clause:

"We fear his appointment risks the Bank becoming seen as a tool of the current controversial US foreign policy, with aid flows becoming more dependent on strict adherence to US Administration priorities."

Well, I'm sorry, it's the job of robust NGOs to speak truth to power, and to 'not fear' describing the Bank — under Wolfy1 or Wolfy2 — as a tool of imperialism.

War and the bank linked

As a colleague of mine, Raj Patel, put it on his blog last week, it's now "much easier to see how war and the Bank are linked if the man who's good at one can move to the other without skipping a beat.  This helps movement-building, and makes it harder for the media to ignore the links, though in this, I imagine ignorance will prevail.  In short, the World Bank has a president that everyone knows and loathes, and this is going to make change easier.  Welcome on board, Slick."

Brutus concluded: "This is a wider war, now.  We must engage in much more education and activism to counter the Bank's destructive role."

He chuckled when I told him a quote in The Guardian by Sebastian Mallaby (a genuinely hackish Washington Post columnist): "World Bank critics — who had been diverted to protesting [about] the Iraq war — can now do both at once.  It's like Christmas for them."

So if Wolfy2 is confirmed at the end of March, not only will the World Bank Bonds Boycott become an even more crucial grassroots protest tool against imperialism.

Counterpunchers can also celebrate Christmas early, at an all-in mid-April March Against the Bank/IMF spring meetings in Washington, sponsored by excellent comrades including 50 Years is Enough, the Movement for Global Justice (DC) and Jubilee USA.

<Patrick Bond< teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and has authored two recent books: Against Global Apartheid: South Africa Meets the World Bank, IMF and International Finance, Zed Books, 2003 and Talk Left, Walk Right: South Africa's Frustrated Global Reforms, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2004).



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