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The Summit of the Americas is "an institutionalized set of meetings at the highest level of government decision-making in the Western Hemisphere". The next summit is being held in Quebec City from April 20-22, 2001. Overshadowing all other issues is the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, or FTAA. This agreement builds immensely on NAFTA and includes 34 countries (every country in the west except Cuba).

There will be at least 6000 police to stop the peaceful protests which will be taking place from numerous activist groups. A 4 kilometre 4 metre high concrete fence is being built to complement the huge wall that already exists along the upper part of the city. Previous summits were held in Miami (1994), Santa Cruz (1996), and Santiago (1998). The FTAA is supposed to be fully implemented by 2005, but many corporate-backed politicians, such as George W. Bush are pushing for 'fast-track' power so that the policies are implemented sooner.

Many activists have demanded for the text of the FTAA agreement to be released to the public domain, and were arrested. You can read what they want you to know at www.summit-americas.org.


Two weeks after the summit in Quebec City, Jaggi Singh is still being held in jail, because of his wooden catapult which was used to toss teddy bears at the riot police. The RCMP said that it used 3,009 canisters of tear gas, and 502 plastic bullets, while the Quebec provincial police used 1,700 canisters and 320 rubber bullets. I have heard of one case of a person being shot in the neck with a plastic bullet, who was in critical condition and is still recovering. This is unconfirmed, but should not be surprising, considering any 'sub-lethal' weapons simply have a certain probability of not killing anyone.

The Summit of the Americas was held in Quebec City from April 20-22, 2001. The heads of state present declared the summit a success and laid the framework for an eventual FTAA agreement that, if passed, will have all of the negative consequences outlined above.

The summit was greeted by a huge, multi-day protest. On Friday, April 20, protestors engaging in direct action were able to pull down two sections of the 5 km perimeter fence that had been erected around the center of town. This was met by intense volleys of tear gas from riot police which was to set the tone for the entire weekend.

On Saturday, some 60,000 or more activists, labor union members, and concerned citizens from Canada, the United States, and every other country in the hemisphere marched in Quebec City in opposition to the FTAA. Again those engaging in direct action clashed with police. Enough tear gas was used to coat a good portion of the city. In the culmination of the largest police action in Canadian history, the Riot Act was read.

Perhaps popular opposition to undemocratic 'free' trade agreements such as the FTAA that benefit transnational corporations at the expense of environmental, labor, and health standards, as well as national sovereignty, is reaching a critical mass. It is telling that the Summit of the Americas had to be held behind a 5 km concrete and chain link fence perimeter patrolled by 6000 riot police. As a bit of poignant graffiti declared, "How can this fence be associated with the word free?"

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