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World Social Forum adopts ‘alternative currency’

January 31, 2009

BELEM (Brazil), Jan 30: At the World Social Forum in Brazil, anti-globalisationists are not only eschewing capitalism — they are also rejecting the currencies that go with it.

Some of the 100,000 participants in this sprawling, disorganised event in the northern city of Belem have adopted an alternative money, the “Amazonida”, as a substitute for the dollar or Brazil’s own reals or credit cards.

“I want to show that other monies are possible and we’re not condemned to use just Visa or Mastercard,” said Joao Bosco da Rocha, a Brazilian social worker.

He was one of several people exchanging Brazilian reais for Amazonidas in a little “solidarity bank” set up on the university campus acting as the nucleus of the forum.

In front of him another customer, Claudia Leite, explained as she received a handful of notes printed with Brazilian flora and fauna: “I believe in another economy, a fairer form of trade.”

In Belem, the Amazonidas were only valid at forum stands, being used to purchase food, handicrafts, t-shirts and other souvenirs on sale.

Sandra Magalhaes, the head of the bank distributing the money, said the Amazonidas were exchanged one-for-one with the reais, and there were 30,000 of them (13,000 dollars) in circulation at the forum.

Magalhaes explained that alternative monies were being used in some small villages in parts of Brazil, with 38 banks printing and offering their own notes.

She herself worked for a bank named Palmas, which was located in the poor community of Conjunto Palmeira, in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, and which offered “Palmas” notes to the 32,000 local residents.—AFP