Common Dreams NewsCenter
Support Common Dreams
 Home | NewswireAbout Us | Donate | Sign-Up | Archives
   Featured Views  

Send this page to a friend
Published on Monday, April 10, 2000 in the Madison Capital Times
Thousands Rally To Urge Erasing Third World Debt
by John Nichols
WASHINGTON -- As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney declared that corporate-driven globalization of the economy was "killing the hopes and dreams of working families from Managua to Milwaukee,'' Wisconsinites joined thousands of activists in calling for cancellation of debts owed by impoverished countries.

The crowd rallied on the national Mall on Sunday and then surrounded the Capitol with a human chain symbolizing the chains of debt that prevent development of poor countries. As trumpets sounded and ancient Jewish shofars were blown to herald a time of Jubilee -- when the debts of the poor are absolved -- the crowd chanted, "Cancel the debt! Free the world!''

While Congress has yet to act on the issue, Bruce Colburn of Wisconsin said the American people fully understand the need for the United States to provide full debt relief for poor nations -- a move that economists estimate would cost the average American less than $4 over the next 20 years.

"People from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, from all over the U.S. are here to say that it is time to eliminate the debts and let these countries start to rebuild,'' said Colburn, a former Milwaukee County Labor Federation chief who is now a top official with the national AFL-CIO. "This is an issue where people in places like Madison and Milwaukee are way ahead of the government and the banks.''

The issue of debt relief has been forced onto the global agenda by Jubilee 2000, a worldwide movement created to push wealthy governments and international lending agencies to cancel the crushing debts owed by the world's poorest nations. Development officials, religious leaders and academics argue that the burden of making interest payments on international debt prevents Third World nations from providing for the health, education, housing and nourishment of their citizens.

The activists found an ally in President Clinton.

A statement from the president, which was read at the Jubilee 2000 rally, said, "In too many countries around the world today, excessive debt and unwise economic policies divert crucial resources from health, education, environment and other social investments. Every year, two-thirds of the world's heavily indebted poor countries spend more on debt service than on health and education. At the same time, basic human needs go unmet. In these countries, one in 10 children dies before his or her first birthday, one in three children is malnourished, and the average adult has had only three years of schooling. This is wrong.''

Last year, Clinton promised cancellation of some debts owed to the United States by impoverished nations, but Congress has yet to approve funding for that initiative. Even with congressional action, Jubilee 2000 activists argue, more work is needed. The debt relief initiative must be extended to cover all impoverished countries, they say; and they want to see the United States play a greater role in pushing the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, international banks and other wealthy nations to embrace proposals for complete debt relief.

Nuns and steelworkers, students and retirees at the rally joined in the call Sunday -- carrying signs that declared "Debt kills 19,000 children each day'' and "Compassion -- not greed.'' The United Auto Workers union printed thousands of signs declaring "Cancel the Debt!'' and handed them to members who arrived from as far away as the Upper Midwest to join the human chain.

Sweeney noted the presence of union members and others who had come by bus from the far corners of the country, saying, "The crushing burden of worldwide debt is doing more than killing children, it is also killing the hopes and dreams of working families from Managua to Milwaukee and from Karachi to Kansas City.''

Samantha West, a 1999 UW-Madison graduate, listened to Sweeney on Sunday and said, "This really is remarkable. This shows that people in the United States are starting to make the connections between what's going on in their lives and in the lives of people living in Africa and Asia, all over the world. That's the way that change -- real change, change that matters -- begins.''

Noting that activists from around the country will be in Washington for the next week to challenge everything from corporate sweatshops to U.S. trade policies to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, West said, "This is the kickoff event for a week of citizenship like we haven't seen in a long, long time.''

2000 The Capital Times


Send this page to a friend
  This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Common Dreams NewsCenter
A non-profit news service providing breaking news & views for the progressive community.
 Home | NewswireAbout Us | Donate | Sign-Up | Archives

Copyrighted 1997-2003