Readers of our Sept. 29 reports on the WTO summit empathized with developing nations. Said one, “Globalization has made the world’s poor even poorer.” Others found it ironic that, as reported in another story in the same issue, even primates have a better sense of justice than the “developed” North.
BRIDGING THE NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE
After all is said and little is done (“Going Up In Flames,” and “The Poor Get Poorer,” Sept. 29), world leaders should reflect on the lessons of the past and work to prevent the worst. If trade disputes and economic issues were the triggers to wars in the past, goodwill and a real desire to help those in need were the basis of the long-lasting peace and development of the second half of the 20th century, at least in some parts of the world. It is about time the rich North looked at the poor South the same way wrecked Europe and Japan were looked upon in the 1950s. Living in a society in which millions of youngsters are condemned to live in poverty through no fault of their own, one can foresee the chaos ahead. The way out for many has been criminality. Brazil and the G22’s position at the World Trade Organization summit was a warning that the poor are tired of being treated as discardable machines that exist merely to produce wealth for the rich. So far, globalization has produced wealth for the rich, but has made the world’s poor even poorer.
Edson J. M. Lopes
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
It would seem that countries like India, China, Brazil and all the developing nations shot themselves in the foot during the Cancun trade summit, according to Scott Johnson (“The Poor Get Poorer”). However, it seems rather obvious that Johnson is speaking from a developed nation’s point of view. According to the World Bank, the opportunity cost of this failure is 144 million people raised out of poverty—not a drop in the ocean for nations like India and China, which stood to gain the most from this estimate. Perhaps holding out for a better deal to raise 500 million or more out of poverty is what they are aiming to do. It’s about time that developing nations stopped accepting leftovers in neatly packaged doggy bags and started enjoying the five-course meal at the main table. On a lighter note, perhaps Johnson should read “My Fair Monkey,” the very next article in the same issue, and realize that “justice” seems to be what is lacking in the “developed” nations’ idea of free trade.
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
I was struck by the similarities between “The Poor Get Poorer” and “My Fair Monkey.” Both depicted clear cases of unfair behavior blatantly displayed by certain groups in front of witnesses, leading to a rebellion by the witnesses. However, the sad fact is that while one was about monkey experiments, the other dealt with the horrendously unfair behavior that Western, developed nations show toward their fellow men when it comes to agricultural subsidies. While they are allowed to spend on subsidies of ever-decreasing numbers of farmers, they hypocritically call for talks on competition and trade so as to further their own hegemony. As a citizen of a developing country, I fully support the action taken by these countries at Cancun’s World Trade Organization meeting, and despite lamentations by the Western press that such nations are only making themselves poorer, we will not be dictated to by the West.
As a longtime, ardent reader of NEWSWEEK, I found your reports on Cancun, juxtaposed with the report on primates’ behavior and their sense of justice, most interesting. The behavior of the North at Cancun was akin to that of the monkey that got the grape (the better deal) and that of the South similar to that of the monkey that got the cucumber (the raw deal). It amused me that the lopsided thinking of the North was reflected in the under-standing of the primates’ behavior by Western scientists and researchers. What the monkey that got the cucumber felt was a sense of injustice. If there was a sense of justice it ought to have been felt by the monkey that got the grape. This is the root of the problem.
SILVIO BERLUSCONI’S RECORD
I must point out a number of egregious errors in your Oct. 20 article “Opposites Distract.” You refer to “allegations of corruption, bribery and illegal bookkeeping,” but Silvio Berlusconi is innocent before the law: he has been cleared of all charges brought against him in trials since he decided to enter politics. You say that Italians are proud of Romano Prodi’s record, whereas today the economy is in recession and unemployment has risen to 9.8 percent. This is false: voters punished Prodi’s Olive Tree Coalition after five years of government in the 2001 general elections by giving a large majority to the coalition headed by Berlusconi. Berlusconi reduced the unemployment rate from 10 to 8.6 percent by creating 750,000 new jobs. Then, thanks to Italy’s new immigration law, 750,000 illegal immigrants gained legal status and entered the official labor market. The previous governments of the left had hidden a deficit of .13 billion, equal to 1 percent of the GDP. Despite this, the impact of September 11 and the stagnation of the European economy, Italy is the only major country in the eurozone not to have received an “early warning” from the European Council. Your assertion that “most European leaders dislike Berlusconi and would welcome his ouster” is unfounded and flies in the face of public statements of esteem and friendship from all of Italy’s partners. And, contrary to your claim, Berlusconi and Prodi did meet officially—in a long meeting followed by a joint press conference—on July 4 at Villa Madama in Rome. It is also wrong to say that for Berlusconi “Europe has no place for Muslim nations such as Turkey.” Europeans know that Berlusconi demonstrated courage and consistency by arguing for negotiations with Turkey and its early accession to the EU. And, the Italian Prime minister has never “insulted German tourists”; on the contrary, he requested and received the resignation of Under Secretary Stefano Stefani, who had made the statements considered offensive. Finally, Berlusconi does not travel in “chauffeur-driven luxury cars” and “private jets.” Like other heads of government, he travels in government aircraft and official cars driven by government security officers.
Spokesman for Prime Minister Berlusconi
Editor’s note: Paolo Bonaiuti is right to say that Prime Minister Berlusconi did not insult German tourists. The controversy specifically concerned his likening a German parliamentarian to a concentration-camp “kapo” at a meeting of the European Parliament on July 2. We apologize for misstating the target of Berlusconi’s remarks. Bonaiuti is also technically correct in saying that the prime minister and Romano Prodi saw each other at a July 4 meeting at Villa Madama. But it was a group meeting with more than 40 people, including EU representatives and Italian government officials, in attendence. The two men have not met on their own. On the other points raised, NEWSWEEK stands by its story.
A LATIN TITAN
I was fascinated by the Sept. 29 cover story of NEWSWEEK’s Latin American edition, featuring the Mexican business icon Carlos Slim (“Looking for a Legacy”). But, as happens many times with wealthy people, Slim’s human side appears to be hidden under his “empire.” He seems to be helping the biggest minority in the United States by creating services for their needs. His work in the revival of Mexico City and his investment in the restoration of our landmark buildings are admirable. I hope that other Mexicans will learn from his vision and follow his maxim—”You must do as much as you can while you’re alive”—to turn Mexico into a First World country.
BLAIR’S TARNISHED CREDIBILITY
How well you have focused on Tony Blair’s tarnished future (“The Twilight of Tony Blair,” Sept. 29)! His stature has indeed been diminished beyond repair. He is a prime minister who, while asserting that Britain is no “poodle” of the United States, has brought ridicule upon himself. He is supposed to be Her Majesty’s “most obedient servant” but has emerged as the joker in George W. Bush’s court.
Tony Blair, who has been known as a successful and globally popular prime minister, is facing his worst crisis. The endless accusations and controversy over the Iraq war and the death of David Kelly have raised issues about his political capabilities as a leader for the future. Can his eloquent and undaunted ways still reassure Brits and the rest of the world that he’s not gone astray?
Blair either tried to mislead the world in a matter of war or else he was fooled by his intelligence services. Either way, he is not fit to be prime minister.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES, ANYONE? Speaking of conspiracy theories, Stefan Theil quotes a poll that says “one in five Germans... says it’s possible that Bush ordered up 9/11 as a pretext for world conquest” (“9/11? It Never Happened,” Sept. 22). That 20 percent of the German people believe such a hoax is confounding, indeed. But what about the 70 percent of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks?
La Rochelle, France
Conspiracy theories are a way to compliment George W. Bush’s intelligence. Otherwise, only plain madness could have made him jump headfirst into the quagmire that you depict so accurately—madness that most of the world had easily and accurately foreseen.
Theil is amazed that one in five Germans believes that Bush could have ordered the 9/11 attack? I’m amazed that three or four out of five Americans believe that it was Saddam Hussein. Both beliefs are equally wrong, but the second one is the reason for the Iraq war. It’s time for Americans to wonder what went wrong with us?
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.