A Reno student’s view of Bush at the APEC Summit
President George W. Bush convened with 20 world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) summit while more than 45,000 demonstrators took to the streets in protest.
The crowd began gathering in downtown Santiago at 8:30 a.m. last Friday, a day declared a national holiday in order to help control security for the expected international officials of APEC. By 11, swarms of protestors were united on the main street in the anti-APEC and anti-Bush march.
Initially gathered together against the “elitist closed debates of the big economic enterprises” represented by APEC, protestors predominantly opposed the arrival of U.S. President Bush in the Chilean capital. They called him a fascist terrorist, and their posters ranked him lower than a monkey on the evolutionary scale.
“Chile will not sell its soul to the devil!” and “Free Falluja!” yelled participants, from children to well known artists, and nurses to university faculty.
The Air Fills with Smoke
The march culminated with a concert in the park less than three blocks from my apartment. For more than an hour, conditions remained peaceful. While enjoying a bit of shade and an ice cream with one of many fellow American protestors, Adrien Lopez from Valdez, Ala., she told me about her experiences at a similar march in Quito, Ecuador.
“The march was awesome. But about an hour after it ended, my friends and I were sitting under a tree, just like we are now, and things started to get violent.”
Not a minute later, a swarm of people began running our way.
“Look out!” someone shouted as tear gas exploded less than 20 feet from us. The air filled with smoke, and the crowd began to disperse. I heard glass shatter and frantically looked for my friend. She found me first and handed me a handkerchief to cover my mouth and nose. She had come prepared.
Infected by Foreigners
Increased safety measures in Santiago were taken since the prior Monday, including the week-long suspension of university classes and the placement of police officers on every street corner, helping keep the city of more than 6 million under control. Not even the bomb scare in the metro on Wednesday caused too much commotion. Of course, violence was also predicted after the scheduled peaceful march.
The 50 or so teenagers who came from the backside of the crowd with smoke bombs in hand and faces covered by black masks came as a surprise to the families and organizers, but not to the police. The mass scrambled to flee the scene as water tanks rolled in and sprayed the crown with high pressure hoses.
On my way back home, two neighborhood businesses were closing up shop, and not a moment too soon. Following me attacked the virus of youth burning cars, breaking windows of the corner grocery store and adjacent bank, tearing down street signs, and creating general havoc for the rest of the day in my neighborhood. More than 200 people were detained, including four Americans, and several police officers and journalists were reportedly wounded.
Is Another World Possible?
APEC meetings concluded Sunday with President Push insisting on liberalized free trade among the 148 World Trade Organization member countries. He advocated his anti-terrorism security agenda, with pressure on the need to restart the six-nation negotiations with North Korea, and opposed Iran’s “developing weapons programs.”
All members of the economic forum agreed that members must ratify basic anti-terrorist conventions. The closing statement of the leaders reaffirmed their pledge to “take all necessary actions to ensure security of our peoples and sustainable growth of our economy.”
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos acknowledged the demonstration. “We saw two sides” of the situation, he said. But did the public stance really have any effect?
They protestors, who envision another world possible with more equitable standards and social factors with a larger influence than capital gain on the decisions made by their economic leaders, realize that one march will not change the world. But that won’t stop them from trying.
Rebecca Gasca is a UNR student studying in Santiago, Chile, on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. Her experiences are detailed at www.diariosdiarios.blogspot.com.