WASHINGTON - May 28 - A boisterous, colorful protest against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) took place this morning outside the headquarters of the Organization of American States as finance ministers and the US Trade Representative met to sign the agreement. Citizens of both North and Central America carried signs with slogans such as 'People Over Profits'. Street theater was enacted with corporate cowboys lassoing Central American countries.
Protestors from labor unions, Central American solidarity, and social justice organizations cited the impending devastation of rural economies in Central America and concerns about the historical role of U.S. intervention in the region as reasons for their opposition to CAFTA.
"CAFTA, a new free trade agreement in the Americas, is neither free nor fair," said Olivia Burlingame Goumbri of the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean. "While many corporations will profit from this, the people of Central America will not. Low wages, negligible labor laws, and scant livelihoods are the only results that we can predict."
CAFTA is a trade accord originally negotiated between the United States and five countries of Central America: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica that has been expanded to also include the Dominican Republic. The agreement has been met with protest at every stage -- including every negotiating round in the United States and Central America.
CAFTA will be signed on Friday, but must still be sent to the legislative bodies of each nation for approval before it can take affect. Currently, the U.S. Congress has no plans to take up CAFTA, believing it would be defeated.
"CAFTA represents a giant step back in U.S. policy to protect worker rights abroad. In a global economy, we need stronger worker rights protections, not less," said Stephen Coats, Executive Director, U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project.
"Many Members of Congress have caught on to the fact that CAFTA will hurt working people in the U.S. as well as Central America," said Melinda St. Louis of Witness For Peace, an organizer of the protests.
For more information, visit: stopcafta.org, usleap.org and globalizethis.org