Cheap accommodation in Prague for anti-IMF activists

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Thousands of International Monitory Fund opponents are expected to stream into Prague on the 26th September to demonstrate against the IMF and World Bank congress, set to take place in the city over the three days that follow. The city council of Prague has decided to handle the problem with an iron hand in a velvet glove. Beatrice Cady reports.

The 15,000 activists expected are to be accommodated in the Strahov Stadium, just outside the town centre, although the Interior Ministry and the City of Prague are still rowing over the details. Whether or not the protestors will actually want to stay in accommodation provided by the Czech state is a different question. The Interior Ministry is in an ambiguous situation which Minister Stanislav Gross characterizes as 'schizophrenic'. He admitted to the press that he did not consider the IMF and the World Bank to be without faults, and that his left-wing sensitivity made him inclined to sympathise with IMF opponents. However, as he told Wednesday's Lidove Noviny, as a minister of the interior he has the responsibility to guarantee security, and to present a tough stance.

With demonstrations planned throughout the city centre, the ministry has issued warnings, recommending people should do their shopping ahead of time, postpone a visit to the doctor and not open their door to strangers. Elderly people were also advised not to worry unduly and to put their trust in the ministry.

The leader of one of the smaller opposition parties, Daniel Kroupa, has accused the ministry of fostering panic, but Minister Gross's worries may be well founded: as Ann Pettifor, chairwoman of the protest organisation Jubilee 2000 said, the anti-IMF activists shall hit hard on Prague. Seattle's demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation were only the dress rehearsal before the real thing. A statement which puts the Czech government into a cold sweat...

Author: Beatrice Cady
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