Thursday, January 29, 2009

South American Leaders Head to World Social Forum

"S. American leaders head to anti-Davos gathering"
"World Social Forum 2009" Bank Information Center
World Social Forum Homepage
"Lula Shuns Davos Elite for Anti-Capitalist Jamboree With Chavez"

The World Social Forum has been meeting annually since 2001 to protest the World Economic Forum. In the World Economic Forum, which is being held this week in Davos, Switzerland, business leaders and 41 heads of state are gathering to discuss world economic issues. The World Social Forum is being held in the Brazilian Amazon during the same time (January 27th to February 1st) to call attention to the downsides of a world run by the excesses of capital. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the World Social Forum will show the planet how to make "a better world, distinct from capitalism." This year’s forum is titled “Another World Is Possible.”

The World Social Forum's website describes the forum as "an open meeting place were social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, for formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. . ."

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, along with the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay, headed to the World Social Forum today to protest the World Economic Forum. This is Lula's first social appearance at the Forum in three years. In addition to the South American presidents, approximately 100,000 activists are expected to attend this year's Forum.

President Lula, a former trade union leader, took a risk by turning down his invitation to the World Economic Forum. Brazil is the world’s tenth-largest economy, and in the past, Lula represented Brazil at the World Economic Forum. As the head of emerging-markets research at RBC Capital Markets explained, Lula's skipping Davos may be a "missed opportunity" to raise the profile of Brazil. In his words, skipping Davis "may play well with the local electorate but it certainly doesn’t help Brazil internationally."

President Lula does not seem to mind the criticism. His government spent 78 million reais (USD34.4 million) to bring groups from 59 countries to the World Social Forum.

1) Should President Lula attempt to attend both the World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum? Only the World Social Forum? Only the World Economic Forum? Why?
2) Should global economic leaders be concerned about Lula's choice? Why or why not?

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