Mayhem, fatality surround G-8 summit
By Times staff and wire reports
© St. Petersburg Times,
GENOA, Italy -- Amid daylong spasms of violence that left one demonstrator dead of a gunshot wound, the leaders of the largest industrial democracies sought a unified attack Friday on sluggish economic growth. They promised to fight global poverty and advanced an international campaign against AIDS.
Their quiet, orderly conversations about the world's ills, conducted in the splendor of the 13th century Ducal Palace and over dinner in the nearby Doria Spinola Palace, stood in contrast to the scenes on the streets of this workaday port city: burning cars, looted banks, demonstrators with blood streaming from their faces after encounters with police and, in the end, a death.
The violence reached a new level for the demonstrations that have become a staple of such international meetings over the past year and a half. Although aimed at raising an amalgam of issues, the protests have been centered on fears that lowered trade barriers will reduce protections for workers and the environment.
President Bush, attending his first sessions of the Group of Eight -- the seven industrial giants and Russia -- made no public comments as the day unfolded. Before he left Britain on Friday morning, he looked ahead to the likely prospect of violence -- signaled as protesters streamed into Genoa over several days -- and said some would try to disrupt the meetings, "claiming they represent the poor."
"To those folks I say, instead of addressing policies that represent the poor, you embrace policies that lock poor people into poverty, and that's unacceptable to the United States," he said. "Trade has been the best avenue for economic growth for all countries, and I reject the isolationism and protectionism that dominates those who will try to disrupt the meetings in Genoa."
Later, a deputy national security adviser, Gary Edson, who was the only aide at Bush's side during the meetings with other leaders, said the president had been told of the violence and death. "The president regrets the violence. The death is tragic," Edson said.
The protester killed in Alimonda Plaza, about a mile east of the Ducal Palace, was an Italian resident of Genoa, police said. Witnesses gave conflicting reports about whether he was beaten, shot or run over by a police jeep. News photos showed the man raising a fire extinguisher in the air and moving toward the jeep, then on the ground bleeding.
Italy's interior minister said the protester was shot, apparently by a police officer acting in self-defense.
A police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the victim as Carlo Giuliani, 23, a Rome native living in unoccupied buildings in the center of Genoa. He said Giuliani had a long criminal record that included weapons and drug charges.
Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Genoa throughout the day. Small groups of anarchists swarmed through the city, looting banks and attacking police who were in riot gear. Larger protest groups sought to breach the barriers around the summit site without attacking the police. At least one group briefly breached a fence in the barriers around the off-limits "red zone" where the leaders were meeting, but the protesters were driven back by water cannons.
Police said 184 people were injured, including 60 officers and 10 journalists, and more than 50 people were detained.
French President Jacques Chirac, who faces a socialist challenger in next year's election, was the only leader to express sympathy for protesters. "There is no demonstration drawing 100,000, 150,000 people without having a valid reason," he said.
A senior Bush administration official said he had heard no suggestion within the summit corridors that the sessions be suspended because of the violence.
Indeed, the protests had no apparent impact on the meetings Friday. Motorcades traversed the relatively short distances between the palaces and the pier at which the European Vision, the cruise ship that is home to all the leaders but Bush, was tied up. Bush stayed at a dockside hotel.
Their meetings and travels were confined to the red zone. The leaders were many blocks removed from the multiple rings of makeshift walls of shipping containers, wooden planks and metal mesh that have divided the city like the old Berlin Wall, meant to keep protesters far from the port.
Italian navy and police units patrolled the harbor. Within the red zone, shops were shuttered, private cars were banned and commerce came to a halt.
But if the leaders looked up into the urban hills to the east, they could see plumes of menacing black smoke from burning police vans, private vehicles and tires rising over the city's buildings.
The meeting is the 27th in an annual series -- the membership growing as economies and world conditions have changed -- and brings together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and, for all but the opening economic talks, Russia.
The summit, officials said, produced these accomplishments during the first of its three days: the formal launch of a global fund to fight HIV, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; support for opening a new round of global trade talks, the first since 1994; and agreement to promote reform of the multilateral development banks and their programs aimed at the world's poorest nations.
The group also discussed the proposal Bush made Tuesday to the World Bank that major international financial institutions dramatically shift their help for the poorest countries away from loans, which burden the recipients with debt, and instead offer grants. He recommended a 50 percent increase in such spending. Much would be directed toward education and health programs to help these nations improve their long-term economic prospects.
On economic issues, each participant reported on his country's efforts to counter the global economic slowdown.
The focus on specific economic issues has grown increasingly brief over the years, considering that the initial summit, in 1975, was called to bring the leaders of the largest economies into informal discussion of economic conditions.
Now, reflecting new world conditions -- and the relative health of their economies -- the leaders' focus at this meeting is the fight against poverty around the world. Representatives of Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Senegal, Mali, Bangladesh and El Salvador were invited to the dinner table Friday night.
Officials patted themselves on the back for what they consider the speedy organization of the AIDS program, which includes $1.2-billion in initial pledges. It was proposed at last year's summit in Okinawa and officials say it could be operating by year's end.
At Friday's gathering, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the formal launching of the plan, saying "the world is finally summoning the will and committing the resources to win the war for all humanity."
He said the priorities of the program were making sure people know how to avoid infection; stopping "the most tragic" transmission of the disease, from mother to child; providing treatment for all who are infected; working on a vaccine; and helping those who have been devastated by acquired immune deficiency syndrome, particularly the approximately 11-million orphans it has created.
Two leading groups of anti-AIDS activists immediately denounced the program as insufficient in funds and reach. The funding "ignores the millions of poor who are dying without access to affordable AIDS treatment," said Asia Russell of the Health GAP Coalition and ACT UP.
Reiterating Annan's own plea for additional money, Russell said the G-8 leaders are refusing to come up with the $7-billion to $10-billion needed each year to give the global fund "any hope of offering sustainable treatment."
The protesters, loosely organized under the banner of the Genoa Social Forum, had pledged a non-violent demonstration.
Organizers identified the main culprits as members of an anarchist group called the Black Bloc. Its members wore black clothing, black facemasks and black helmets. They seemed to number a few hundred. Little is known of their origin or orientation.
Armed with metal bars, the Black Bloc attacked police, demolished parked cars, overturned trash dumpsters and set them on fire. They also went on a citywide rampage against banks, smashing windows and trashing ATMs. Their violence was contagious and large numbers of previously peaceful anti-globalists joined in.
-- Information from the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and Chicago Tribune was used in this report.
The anti-globalization movement includes groups ranging from environmental activists and anti-debt campaigners to anarchists and hard-line communists. Some of what they are saying:
Groups like the G-8 are undemocratic, with the world's rich countries making decisions that affect the vast majority who have no say.
Trade decisions made by the G-8 -- for example encouraging poor countries to open their markets to foreign multinationals -- are likely to lead to further impoverishment.
The gap between rich and poor is widening, and multinational corporations -- which are despoiling the environment and trampling on workers' rights -- need to be reined in.
The world's poorest countries need more debt relief.
Many protesters also object to the failure of rich countries to reach agreement on environmental goals like reducing greenhouse gases.
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