MEXICO CITY -- Never before has the contrast between the World Economic Forum (WEF), the annual clambake of the capitalist class in Davos Switzerland, and the World Social Forum (WSF), created a decade ago to beat back the corporate globalization of the Planet Earth, been quite so stark.
While the moribund masters of the universe met on their ice mountain in the midst of the most chilling world-wide depression in a century, largely triggered by the overweening greed of those in attendance, tens of thousands samba'ed in the tropical heat of the Amazon city of Belem to celebrate the demise of capitalism. Among those on hand at the WSF dance party were presidents Chavez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, and Brazil's Lula da Silva. Lula, who is usually a devoted Davos-goer, eschewed this year's funerary event to avoid the stench that inevitably results from rubbing shoulders with mummies.
"The God of the Market has been broken," the one-time Sao Paolo metalworker proclaimed to tens of thousands in Belem. Writing in the Mexican daily La Jornada, Luis Hernandez Navarro pointed out that it was precisely the social forces represented by the WSF that propelled Latin America's social democratic presidents into power.
Indeed, the only two Latin heads of state to attend the caviar and champagne-laced charade in Davos were Colombia's widely-disparaged Alvaro Uribe and Mexico's questionably-elected president Felipe Calderon, both of them Washington's darlings. Not even freshman U.S. president Obama, who recently lambasted the machinations of the same breed of bankers who gather each year on the ice mountain as "shameful," showed up in Switzerland, an event that his predecessor in power George Bush never missed.
Felipe Calderon's trip to Davos got off on an inauspicious foot. On the very day he flew out to the WEF, Bank of Mexico president Guillermo Ortiz confirmed that his country was in full-blown recession. For months, Calderon and his obscenely obese Secretary of Finance Augustin Carstens have characterized Mexico's economic health as only suffering from "a little cough" ("catarrito.") According to Bank of Mexico prognostications, the Aztec Nation will suffer negative growth in 2009 (-0.8% to -1.8%.)
The news hit Felipe like an ice ball from hell.
Seeking to put a happy face on his country's dismal future, Calderon championed Mexico's 1.5% 2008 growth rate but fooled few - Mexico's anemic performance last year put it in 24th place out of 24 Latin American economies in the International Monetary Fund's rankings, even behind Haiti, the basket case of the Americas. The IMF is predicting 1.1% growth for Latin America in 2009 and, like Ortiz, calculates that Mexico will fall into negative numbers.
The Mexican president's delusional optimism in the face of so bleak an outlook played to incredulous audiences at Davos. Calderon also sought to blunt the recent blockbuster report of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that Mexico is a potentially "failed" state by handing out trinkets like baseball caps bearing the ambiguous legend "It's All In The Trust." The giveaway ("magic spikes" to keep the mummies from slipping on Davos's icy streets were also distributed) came during a session at which Calderon flogged Mexico's chances of weathering the current economic turmoil - the Mexican president's talk was slugged "Riders On The Storm," a title plagiarized from the Doors' 1971 apocalyptical anthem about a cowboy spree killer. Lead singer Jim Morrison was reportedly heard thrashing about wildly in his Paris grave.
As a bonus attraction, Calderon teamed with former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, now head of Yale University's Institute for Globalization Studies, in an act conducted entirely in broken English that verged on tragicomedy.