The Guardian September 20, 2000

Prague: IMF/World Bank meeting
Havel to meet FBI's Prague boss

by Ken Biggs
Editor Postmark Prague On his return from the UN Millennium Summit President Vaclav Havel met with Louis Freehe, head of the FBI's newly-opened Prague office to review preparations being made by the Czech Republic's security forces for the end-of-September IMF/World Bank summit in Prague. The FBI, officially in Prague to "fight international crime", has been coordinating the security arrangements for the meeting.
They are concerned about the ability of the local police and army to contain the expected 20,000 anti-IMF "foreign radicals" and Czech opponents of capitalist globalisation who will protest at 180 events, including rallies and demonstrations, against IMF/WB policies. These concerns have already led to plans being made to switch a conference of G7 Finance Ministers due to take place during the IMF/WB meeting to a venue in Berlin. On Monday last week the Czech daily Pravo reported that, frustrated by non-delivery of protective clothing, including attachments to hold their handcuffs, radios, teargas spray and fire-extinguishers, police officers have been visiting army surplus shops to buy it out of their own pockets. Cash-strapped police forces have been reluctant to order the clothing and equipment because they don't know how much money they will be allocated from this year's deficit state budget. Meanwhile, the police have rejected a call from two Czech civil rights bodies to allow independent observers to monitor the treatment of protesters held in police cells. One of the few concessions made by the police to the two groups the Economic Legal Service and the Movement for Civic Solidarity and Tolerance is that all policemen engaged in security duties will wear a gold- coloured, three-centimetre identity number on the left side of their chests. The two groups say that they will try to prevent unnecessary interventions by the police against peaceful protesters "because this could create unnecessary problems and unrest which both sides would find it difficult to control". As Brno student Alice Dvorska, press spokeperson of the Initiative Against Economic Globalisation, points out, the Czech police have a record of "aggressive crowd control" and the Interior Ministry "is purposely demonising us. If you look at protests around the world, it is always the police who cause most of the trouble". The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) is the only one of the five parliamentary parties which is supporting the protests. At a party press conference last Thursday, Party vice-chair Miloslav Ransdorf MP accused critics of "dialogue on the streets" of hypocrisy. He reminded those in power in the Czech Republic today that they had got there on the back of mass demonstrations at the end of the '80s. If "dialogue on the streets" was appropriate then, why not now? Ransdorf accused the IMF and the World Bank of "being incapable of guaranteeing successful modernisation". He attacked the deregulation of investments, pointing out that speculative investment now accounted for 85 per cent of all world investment, compared with 15 per cent at the beginning of the '70s.
* * *
NOTE: Guardian readers may obtain a free sample copy of Postmark Prague's 16-page illustrated monthly news review by writing to PP, PO Box 42, 182 21 Prague 8, Czech Republic or e-mail:

Back to index page