April 7, 2001

Argentina suffers outburst against free trade

                  BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- It was nothing on the scale of the 1999
                  "Battle in Seattle," but violence has again marred an international trade meeting as
                  rock-throwing youths took to the streets of Buenos Aires.

                  Friday's clash followed peaceful protests by more than 7,000 people on the
                  second day of a summit by trade negotiators from 34 nations. The delegates had
                  already left meeting site when the rock-throwing began.

                  A few dozen youths on the edges of the peaceful protest hurled gasoline bombs
                  and rocks at police officers, who fired back tear gas.

                  Some of the youths had slingshots, and others used clubs to shatter the windows
                  of nearby bank buildings and shop displays.

                  A crowd of about 3,000 demonstrators marching nearby melted away as the
                  violence began. Mothers held handkerchiefs to the noses of young children as
                  tear gas clouds wafted overhead.

                  By the time the violence ended an hour later, police said several officers were
                  injured. They had no count of any others hurt.

                  It was the latest in a string of violent protests against international meetings to
                  promote free trade and showed, at least among a minority here, a vein of anger
                  in a country stuck in a long economic crisis.

                  The protests came midway through a three-day gathering by officials discussing
                  ways to complete a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005. The free trade
                  zone would create a single dlrs 1.3 trillion market from Alaska to Argentina.

                  More demonstrations were planned Saturday before the meetings end here. The
                  delegates are in Buenos Aires to lay the groundwork for the third Summit of the
                  Americas in Quebec City, Canada, later this month.

                  Until the brief bout of violence, protests were noisy but peaceful.

                  "No to Free Trade! No to the International Monetary Fund!" the demonstrators
                  shouted, setting off bottle rockets and beating drums Friday afternoon on the
                  Plaza de Mayo, the central square outside Argentina's Government House.

                  Throngs marching through the capital included workers, leftist militants and
                  students who waved signs opposing "international capitalism" and "globalization."

                  Many raised signs against the World Bank and multinational companies -- whom
                  critics blame for everything from worker exploitation to environmental damage.

                  Resentment runs especially deep in Argentina, where the nearly 3-year-old
                  recession has left many disillusioned with the country's embrace of free market
                  economics over the past decade.

                  Former President Carlos Menem opened up a stagnating, protectionist economy
                  in the early 90s, undertaking one of the most vigorous privatization programs in
                  the hemisphere. While growth was rapid for several years, hard times have fallen
                  on the country anew.

                  Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 14.7 percent, and a quarter of
                  Argentina's 36 million people remain mired in poverty. Gloomy times and
                  IMF-sponsored austerity measures have chipped away at the earlier support for

                  "I am here protesting against free trade because it is a way for the United States
                  to dominate less developed countries," said Sergio Ares, a 23-year-old state

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press