PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- With some branding President Bush a terrorist, leftist activists opposed to the spread of American influence ended the fifth World Social Forum yesterday with a protest against unfettered capitalism and the war in Iraq.
Activists from 140 countries then started packing their backpacks, dismantling tents, and furling bright red flags after the six-day gathering in southern Brazil that was intended to counter the simultaneous World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Thousands of people joined a final demonstration march in this southern Brazilian city to close the forum, waving Communist flags and chanting slogans against US-style liberalized trade and the occupation of Iraq.
"Let's globalize the struggle," some shouted. Others waved placards with pictures of the president that read: "Bush, No. 1 Terrorist."
The economic forum in Europe attracted more than 2,000 world leaders, celebrities, and chief executives. Social forum organizers contended that 150,000 activists participated in their gathering. The government estimated the figure was at least 100,000.
The economic forum ended Sunday, but activists stayed until yesterday to mark the day the United States was supposed to close a deal to create a 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas stretching from Alaska to Argentina.
Though the deadline will be missed, officials plan to restart negotiations this year amid bitter opposition from activists, who say such free-trade zones benefit multinational corporations while enslaving workers from developing countries.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a self-professed revolutionary, emerged as the hero of this year's social forum, drawing roars of approval late Sunday from 20,000 activists after switching briefly from Spanish to English and denouncing the free trade zone, known as ALCA in Spanish and Portuguese.
"Where is the ALCA, mister? The ALCA is dead," said Chavez, who is funneling profits from Venezuela's oil riches to the poor.
In contrast, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil received jeers at his appearance Thursday from activists upset about the slow pace of change since the leftist leader was elected two years ago.
A proposal for a final declaration was scrapped largely because forum organizers said they wanted to decentralize the event, spur new grass-roots movements, and give power to participants to pursue their own agendas.