While bankers and politicians met this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum a rival summit in the Brazilian city of Belem challenged them and blamed the capitalist system for the current global crisis.
Tens of thousands of socialists, anarchists, environmentalists, Amazon tribes and five South American presidents under the banner of "another world is possible" promoted Latin America as a model for global economic development and co-operation. Basically the blame for the global economic crisis was on the United States and the bankrupt "neo-liberal" capitalist system and the message from the forum "we told you so". US economic mismanagement is causing chaos across the world and "21st century socialism" is the only way forward, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said, leading the charge at the international meeting in Belem. "Misery, poverty and unemployment are on the rise, and it's mostly the fault of global capitalism," Chavez said as cheering supporters waved red flags at the World Social Forum in the Amazon. "We are facing a crisis in the global capitalist system and the irresponsible economic policies of the government of the United States" he added. Chavez was joined at the forum by some of his closest allies: Presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Evo Morales of Bolivia, plus the leader of the country hosting the meeting, Lula da Silva.. About 100,000 activists are attending the forum, campaigning for everything from anarchism to rain-forest preservation to a return to Soviet-style communism. The forum has attracted a record of number of presidents this year as the financial crisis has sent economies into recession and forced rich countries to bail out their banking systems. Correa and Lugo fired up the crowd in a university gym by serenading them with songs including "Comandante Che Guevara," a tribute to the late Latin American revolutionary. They later joined Brazil's Lula da Silva at another gathering of thousands of activists, including hundreds of indigenous Amazon Indians in traditional headdresses and body paint. Lula da Silva, whose policies have balanced social programs with free-market orthodoxy, brought a dozen cabinet ministers to the forum and spurned the Davos summit of business leaders in Switzerland that he had attended previously. "I believe the crisis is much more severe. We don't know how deep it will go," he said, adding that his government would invest in industry to create jobs rather than give public money to banks as rich countries have done. He said the US and other rich countries should get the same tough treatment that Latin American countries received during their financial crises in recent decades. "Now, I expect the IMF to go to US president Obama and tell him how to fix the economy" said Lula da Silva. The Brazilian president, a former factory worker who has blamed the crisis on the United States and "casino" capitalism, got the biggest cheer of all the leaders but avoided socialist rhetoric. Ecuador's Correa said the crisis showed that the "neo-liberal" model had failed, and said the social forum was now more relevant than the Davos World Economic Forum. "They are the ones responsible for the crisis. They are not the ones to give us lessons," he said. Bolivia's Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president, said social movements must ensure privileged elites no longer accumulate capital without considering the human cost.