THE NAPLES SUMMIT : REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK : Boris and Bill, Dog Sledders in Iditarod?


When they weren't scripting the fate of the Earth on Sunday, the world's top leaders had a freewheeling discussion of the Louisiana Purchase and proposed that the World Cup winner fork over an extra billion dollars in international aid.

President Clinton reminded French President Francois Mitterrand that it was Napoleon who sold Louisiana to America--and that Thomas Jefferson was criticized for spending twice the U.S. annual budget to buy it.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl warned Clinton that soon Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin would start demanding more money for czarist Russia's sale of Alaska to America.

And Clinton confessed a secret ambition to race across Alaska in the Iditarod dog-sledding endurance test.

"See, Boris and I, we have enough body fat, we can survive even if we can't quite make it," Clinton said. "I've always wanted to do that."

"I'm happy to watch other people do that," British Prime Minister John Major replied.


While the leaders were holed up in the magnificent 17th-Century Palazzo Reale, munching on veal with beef tenderloin, sipping champagne along with strawberry ice cream and deciding how to manage the planet's trouble spots, an anti-summit was taking place just a few blocks away.

The Other Economic Summit--better known as TOES--aims to put the environment and the fate of the Earth's 1 billion poor on the agenda of the leaders of the Group of Seven richest industrial nations.

"The Naples summit has been an insult to the majority of the world's people," TOES said in a communique from its dusty storefront a few blocks from the official G-7 press center.

Instead, TOES brought to Naples leaders from seven of the poorest and most disenfranchised groups in the world, including peasants from Mexico's Chiapas state, Colombia and Brazil, victims of the chemical disaster in Bhopal, India, and Native American Apaches.

"Keep your wealth. Enjoy your consumer civilization," they wrote in a letter that Naples Mayor Antonio Bassolino promised to hand over to the summit participants. "Withdraw completely your interests, companies, investments, tourist resorts and good humanitarian intentions from our countries.

"Leave us to confront ourselves and live according to our own cultural values."

The seven elite nations have improved their rhetoric since TOES began conducting parallel international summits alongside the G-7 in 1984, TOES said, but they have not made good on the Earth-friendly, anti-poverty promises included in their long and platitudinous communiques.

"The longer they get, the emptier they are," TOES activist Jakob von Uexkull said with a sigh.

"There are alternatives to increasing unemployment in the north, 'shock therapy' in Eastern Europe and poverty in the south," TOES holds. "Fiscal reform and investment in renewable energies, energy conservation, recycling, waste reduction and public transport . . . will create many more jobs than ineffectual G-7 recipes."

The G-7 is a closed elite whose past decisions have failed to improve the world's situation, Uexkull said, because its members are slaves to a "market fundamentalism," the ideology that free markets and more growth will solve all the Earth's problems.

This absolute faith is "as fundamentalist in its way as communist ideology," he said.

"Before, we had governments who were afraid of the trade unions--who, after all, represented millions of workers," Uexkull said. "Now we have governments which are afraid of the bond traders and (currency) speculators."

TOES also has a radical idea for solving the debt crisis of developing nations: Forgive all debts to nations whose loans were taken out by dictators. And lift worldwide bank secrecy laws so creditors can go after corrupt despots' Swiss bank accounts.


Predictably, the star attraction in Naples was not the G-7 but soccer's World Cup.

The Italy-Spain quarterfinal match all but shut down the summit Saturday afternoon, with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rushing out of his own news conference to watch the game.

In a European press center, a pack of journalists sat glued to the World Cup game. On a TV monitor behind them, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher spoke into empty air.

Il Mattino newspaper gave Italy's victory better display than the summit in Sunday's editions.


With the business part of his own visit to Italy concluded, U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen sent his staff home late Sunday night and took his wife, Beryl Ann, on a nostalgic visit to the town of Taranto in Italy's heel.

It was from Taranto that Bentsen flew B-24 bombers on World War II raids over Romania and Yugoslavia, and he had not been back in half a century.

Memories brought back by the D-Day 50th anniversary ceremonies a month ago prompted the Treasury secretary to arrange the trip to Taranto, three hours from Naples by car.

Bentsen told the Italians he wanted to keep the visit low-key and nixed suggestions that he fly over the now-Italian air base in a fighter jet--for old times' sake.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World