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As Guatemala enters CAFTA, U.S. coalition calls for a new trade model

Andrew de Sousa, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Tom Ricker, Quixote Center 301-699-0042;

June 30 - As the Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is anticipated to be implemented tomorrow with Guatemala, a coalition of U.S. organizations denounces the Bush Administration’s strong arm tactics to force implementation and calls on

Congressional candidates to promote positive trade agreements by taking the Pledge for Trade Justice.

“Unfortunately, politicians in Guatemala have followed the example of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, by allowing pressure from the U.S. administration and their business allies to override the best interests of their own people,” said Andrew de Sousa of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.

"The Central American people continue to remind their governments that the free trade agenda has failed them, and we will continue to remind our Congress of the same,” said Tara Carr-Lemke of the Share Foundation. Last July, the House of Representatives leadership broke congressional rules to pass CAFTA by just one vote, the closest trade vote in U.S. history.

The U.S. administration put increasing pressure on the Guatemalan government to rewrite laws before allowing the agreement to be implemented, including a visit by U.S. Ambassador James Derham to the Guatemalan Congress. “Many of the demands being made, including further restrictions on access to affordable generic medicine, went above and beyond conditions laid out in the original agreement,” said Carrie Stengel of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission.

Experts believe CAFTA will put Central American farmers at a huge disadvantage to heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural products. There is also concern that the agreement weakens the protections in existing agreements for industrial workers and organized labor. A wide coalition

of U.S. groups have written a Pledge for Trade Justice and are now demanding candidates for upcoming November elections promise to uphold the Pledge if elected to office. A background on the Pledge can be found at:

“Through NAFTA and CAFTA, Congress has shown us that business as usual isn’t working for the people. We are asking them to take a new approach to trade negotiations that would put the people’s interests first, as outlined in the Pledge for Trade Justice” said Tom Ricker of the Quixote Center.

“We will continue to resist alongside the people of Central America in saying no to the implementation of CAFTA, and in calling for no more CAFTA’s in the hemisphere or anywhere else” said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

CAFTA has been widely opposed throughout Central America since negotiations first began in 2001. When the Guatemalan Congress ratified the agreement in March 2005, polls showed that a clear majority of Guatemalans were opposed. The process was marred by violence, including the death of two protestors.

CAFTA was already enacted in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua earlier this year. The Dominican Republic has ratified the agreement but has not been approved for enactment by the USTR, while Costa Rica is the only signatory country to not have ratified CAFTA.

The Stop CAFTA Coalition is a network of solidarity organizations in the United States that has worked in coordination with partners in Central America to oppose CAFTA since its inception in 2002.

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