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Monterrey, continued from page 9 to deal with all that Third World debt that neo-liberal economists argue is no longer a problem, despite the fact that during the 1990s poor nations paid out far more in debt service alone to rich nations than they received back in aid. Although canceling the debt of the 25 most impoverished countries could be a vital step in meeting millennium goals, debt relief was dismissed as a source of funding sustainable development at the Monterrey summit. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington provided a dark subtext for the entire event. U.N. secretary-general Kofe Annan reminded summit-goers that the world cannot be really safe so long as a fifth of humanity lives on a dollar or less a day, and World Trade Organization chieftain Michael Moore \(also known as the other self of the imagery by characterizing world poverty as “a time bomb.” Billionaire currency trader George Soros considered that the summit might never have been called without rich nations’ sudden concern with mollifying the discontent of the world’s poor, in the wake of September 11. Soros has criticized President Bush for diverting funds to combat poverty into the War on Terrorism. By way of response, the U.S. president justified a $50,000,000,000-increase in defense spending this year as anti-poverty aid because it “provides security for the poor.” Over and over again, critics at the summit expressed fears that U.S. aid, much as during the Cold War when Communism was Washington’s chief bogeyman, would be directed at geo-political allies in the War On Terrorism rather than those who need it most. s eptember 11 was clearly on Bush’s screen when he checked into town on the first leg of a three-stop Latin junket that Washington pundits figured was designed to boost the Latino vote for Republican candidates in this year’s mid-term elections. His first order of business was a huddle with Fox and Canada’s Jean Chretien to discuss strengthening North American security defenses and the tightening’ of both the Mexican and Canadian borders. Bush also met tWice’ with President’ Fox in an effort to revive immigration reforms that were torpedoed by 9/11, but as expected, no breakthroughs were announced. All in all, the president did less damage , on his second visit to Mexico, than he .did in February 2001, when he announced the resumption, of the bombing of Iraq from Vicente Fox’s Guanajuato hacienda. . . This time around he participated in a rare four-hour “,retreat”,with Fox and a, half a hundred heads of state, purportedly to brainstorm a , way out of world poverty. Conspicuous by his. absence at the high-level tete-a-tete was Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro. The sudden arrival and departure of Comandante Castro, who denounced current aid levels as “genocide” even before he touched down in Monterrey, all but ,stole the show, from the U.S. president. In Fidel dissed the world economy as “a big casino” and denounced the Monterrey consensus as “humiliating… crumbs tossed by the masters of the world.” Although the U.S. delegation, led by U.N. ambassador John Negroponte, whose stints in Honduras and Vietnam were steeped in CIA chicanery, walked out on the Comandante, delegates from many poor nations in Africa and Latin America rose to give the Cuban Prime Minister a standing ovation. The olive-drab-clad Castro then stormed out of the plenary session and flew back to Cuba, with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez right on his heels. Peru’s Alejandro Toledo also left the summit abruptly following a deadly terrorist attack outside the U.S. embassy in Lima. Although both Argentina’s Duhalde and Colombia’s Pastrana stuck it out, Brazil’s Fernando Enrique Cardoso, who was otherwise occupied, never managed to show up. Comandante Castro’s angry departure startled Fox and Castafieda, who both denied complicity in precipitating his quick leave-taking. Cuban officials later suggested that White House national security adviser Condoleeza Rice had threatened to cancel her boss’s visit if Fidel Castro lingered in Monterrey. “This is like CinderellaFidel was invited to the ball but he had to be home by a certain hour,” mused Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban parliament who led his country’s delegation. According to Fox and Castafieda, the Monterrey Summit allowed Mexico to finally take its rightful place at the global table. “Monterrey in the Eyes of the World!” garish television commercials blared for days after the summit had run its course. But not all of Monterrey was included. Mayor Jesus Cantu, a member of President Fox’s right-wing National Action or PAN party, reportedly sent city workers into threadbare colonies clinging to the sides of towering Saddle Mountain, to paint them the color of the earth in a futile exercise to camouflage the poor. Street kids were rounded up and taken to shelters and beggars removed from downtown sidewalks; in some Monterrey neighborhoods, begging is a punishable crime. A flimsy wooden wall was thrown up, apparently to keep poor neighbors skirting the center of the city from offending the sensibilities of the distinguished visitors, a barrier rebaptized by colony dwellers as “The Berlin Wall.” Of course with a million and more poor on its doorstep, it is just about impossible for the Sultan of the North to tuck them all away from public view One day during the summit, United Nations Habitat director Anna Kajamolo was .taken out to meet a group of garbage pickers on the periphery of the city. Surveying the strewn, waterless landscape, the U.N. official muttered to a local reporter, “You know, this looks a lot like Africa.” John Ross would father have . . Historic than cabrito in Monterrey. tamalitos in Mexico City’s Centro 4/12/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29