Roger L. Simon

Don't Cry for Me Argentina

Am I an idiot for thinking that globalism (with free trade) is the best hope for the world’s poor? Obviously the people in the streets of Mar del Plata don’t feel the same way.

The chaos reflected the often violent, worldwide debate on free trade as the United States and Mexico pushed to relaunch talks on creating a free trade area stretching from Canada to Chile. Past summits on free trade – including last year’s summit of Asian-Pacific leaders in Chile – have drawn bitter opposition and similar angry protests.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez emerged as the most strident opponent of the plan, addressing a separate crowd of more than 10,000 peaceful protesters hours before the summit convened in this normally tranquil seaside resort.

Chavez vowed to defeat the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, once and for all. Speaking before a six-story banner of revolutionary Che Guevara, Chavez urged the throng – including soccer great Diego Maradona and Bolivian presidential hopeful Evo Morales – to help him fight free trade.

“Only united can we defeat imperialism and bring our people a better life,” he said, adding: “Here, in Mar del Plata, FTAA will be buried!”

Before Chavez’s speech, demonstrators flooded the streets, shouting “Get out Bush!” and “Fascist Bush! You are the terrorist!”