We've already won. The City of Miami, Department of Homeland Security, and an array of private dicks and corporate media boosters have successfully accomplished what the movement aims to achieve at each anti-capitalist convergence - the total shutdown of the host city.
Because of this victory, the carnival has begun, and as the late afternoon sun arcs down into the west and a cool evening Caribbean breeze blows across Biscayne Bay onto the Florida mainland, 300 anti-globalization activists march on downtown Miami. The march, sponsored by Root Cause, a coalition of southeastern grassroots organizations, approaches the city center. Miamians along the route emerge from their corporate cubicles and apartment complexes to view the ranks of the FTAA Unwelcoming Committee. Rather than witnessing the violence and nihilism promised by state and local law enforcement, the curious spectators are lured out of their isolation by pulsating rhythms, puppets, and people in the street.
Embedded in the Intercontinental Hotel, protected behind a seven foot-high barrier, US trade representative Robert Zoellick is desperately scrambling to retrieve the "Washington Consensus" at the 5th ministerial of the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference.
The expectations for the talks are spectacularly low. Zoellick is surely suffering from insomnia with the recent memory of southern hemispheric nations walking out of the Cancun WTO talks and the realization that there is no hope of substantive discussion of expanded "free trade" in Miami.
Back at the fence, the Root Cause march reaches the other side of this fence - the culmination point of the protesters 34-mile journey that began in Fort Lauderdale three days prior. Downtown Miami is a militarized area. Protesters and civilians are subjected to bag checks, random detentions and harassment. The whole of Miami is a state sanctioned free fire zone on dissent paid for by a portion of the $87 billion Iraqi reconstruction bill. To be present in downtown Miami protesting the FTAA is to be an enemy combatant within the heartland of global empire.
Ideologically, "free trade" is a system of domination that maintains its innocence by out-sourcing the enforcement of its "theory". The captains of industry and masters of finance don't like to dirty their hands with the actual material consequences of their policies. Whether it is the displacement of tens of millions of farmers in the global south, the criminalization and incarceration of downsized redundant workers, or the dispossession of indigenous people so their lands can be more "efficiently" used, capital traditionally maintains "plausible deniability" when confronted with the logical implementation of its theoretical prescriptions.
The legacy of Seattle, Prague, Quebec City and the rest is that the undemocratic and coercive nature of the "free market" has been well and truly outed. As with the war against Iraq, the gap between our leaders' words and deeds is so great that everyone in Miami, from the homeless to small business owners, can see it.
The Root Cause marchers, however, shout this connection against the hollow towers of finance. They mingle before the massive enforcement team of capital - laughing, dancing, living defiantly and celebrating triumphantly under the gaze of hundreds of police behind barricades and trade reps housed in the nearby Intercontinental. To the delegates of the thirty-four countries invited to join the market paradise the real politik is clear. They find themselves in a five-star fortress of capital exiled from the people of their host country. They must ask themselves: If even the Americans, who benefit most from the FTAA, need a paramilitary army -- ten thousand strong -- to meet, how will these policies play in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil?
The answer can be found in the street of La Paz, Buenos Aires, and today Miami. Whatever happens this week, the "invisible hand" of the market has been once again revealed to be an iron fist. And the people of this hemisphere will continue to defy this system, whatever it calls itself.