WASHINGTON - December 29 - In January, local groups around the country will mobilize to protest the implementation of the US-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). CAFTA passed in the US House of Representatives by a mere 2 votes in July after a draining political battle.
January 1, 2006 marks the date that the Bush Administration had set for implementation of CAFTA. However, progress has been frustrated in various countries where the US insists on the need for constitutional reforms before CAFTA goes into effect, while in Costa Rica the parliament has yet to bring CAFTA to a vote, despite recent threats from the U.S. ambassador.
According to Christin Baker, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative, "we want CAFTA-DR to start as close as possible to January 1, 2006, so that U.S. and regional businesses can begin taking advantage of the Agreement's benefits in the shortest possible time." But even in El Salvador, the country closest to finalizing its constitutional reforms, President Tony Saca has announced that conflicts within the Salvadoran Assembly will prevent implementation until at least February. The Bush administration continues to push reforms to the remaining countries' domestic laws before they can comply with the broad changes that CAFTA imposes.
"The problems associated with implementing CAFTA demonstrate what we've been saying all along: this agreement goes beyond trade in requiring dramatic changes in domestic laws that grant new rights to transnational corporations at the expense of working people," said Tom Ricker of the Quixote Center. "The fact that legislatures throughout Central America and in the Dominican Republic are now struggling to change laws governing intellectual property, services, and investment -- in order to receive US certification for joining CAFTA -- makes clear the undemocratic nature of this agreement."
According to Burke Stansbury from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), "from day one the Bush administration has been trying to ram CAFTA down people's throats, with little substantive debate and despite voices of tremendous opposition. In Costa Rica they have failed, and in other countries it took repression and dirty tactics to ratify CAFTA. But just as Central American social movements continue to resist the imposition of this devastating agreement, we too are not giving up."
Organizations from throughout Central America recently met in Costa Rica for the 5th Mesoamerican Forum where they pledged to continue fighting CAFTA, and to mobilize huge protests for the visit of President Bush to El Salvador in mid-January. In the US, the Stop CAFTA Coalition is organizing coordinated, local anti-CAFTA actions in January to denounce the likely effects of the agreement in Central America and to hold accountable Representatives and Senators who voted in favor of CAFTA in July.
For more information go to http://www.stopcafta.org