Socialists Convene In Sao Paulo

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, waves to the public as he leaves the 22nd Socialist International Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Tuesday Oct. 28, 2003. The gathering is a three-day meeting of socialists and social democrats from around the world.
Left-leaning politicians from around the world worked Tuesday on a declaration against U.S.-style regime changes and the spread of unfettered capitalism.

Speakers at the 22nd Socialist International Congress criticized a new world order where rich countries and corporations benefit while the planet's legions of poor only grow larger.

"There is no doubt, the world we face every day is an unjust world," said Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Margareta Winberg. "It is a world that lacks balance, it is a world where there is a lot of room for improvement. That is why we are here — to bring about change."

Delegates spent Tuesday fine-tuning a "Declaration of Sao Paulo" expected to be approved Wednesday, the last day of the three-day gathering of 600 delegates from 150 political parties from Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa.

Many of the draft document's points echoed ideas espoused for years by anti-globalization activists and for months by opponents of U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

The four-yearly gathering drew a lesser crowd than past summits. The last Socialist International in Paris in 1999 attracted top world leaders including Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

All of those figures bowed out in advance of the Brazil conference. Other leftist stars — including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev former Spanish premier Felipe Gonzalez — canceled just after the congress began.

Organizers said they weren't disappointed with the outcome, saying the delegates were still doing important work.

Although the draft did not cite the Bush administration by name, it blamed conservatives for trying "to undermine multilateral institutions, to promote unilateralism and the consecration of the market and to impose the will of the powerful to decide the future of mankind."

And it reiterated the decades old idea of forgiving debt owed by the planet's poorest countries, "subject to conditions of good governance."

Delegates acknowledged that many draft's points are not new, but said the declaration is important to help center-left politicians guide their future policy moves.

"This draft is a confirmation of all we have been doing in recent years," said Aminata Mbengue, a leader of Senegal's Socialist Party.

Antonio Gallicchio, of Uruguay's center-left Nuevo Espacio party, said the document resonates because it comes on the heels of a mounting worldwide public opinion supporting issues important to the Socialist International

The group "appears slow in deciding, but acts on pressing current issues," he said.

Founded in 1951 by a group of mainly European social democratic parties, the Socialist International holds a congress every four years to discuss advancing social democratic change under the banner: "For a more human society. For a world more fair and just."

Former German chancellor Willy Brandt led the group from 1976 to 1992, and was succeeded by former French prime minister Pierre Mauroy.

Antonio Guterres, the group's current president and a former socialist prime minister from Portugal, was up for re-election Tuesday evening.