WASHINGTON - March 1 - As the Central America Free Trade Agreement is implemented today with El Salvador, a coalition of solidarity organizations working with partners in Central America declare their intention to continue the struggle against the flawed accord, and denounced police repression of opposition voices in the region.
"CAFTA is not only going to hurt workers and the poor of Central America and the U.S. It is quickly destroying whatever elements of democracy remain in the region," said Andrew de Sousa of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.
"CAFTA implementation is another 'hand in the honey pot' for the U.S. in Central America," said Kathy Hoyt of the Nicaragua Network
In El Salvador, the social movement responded to last week’s announcement that CAFTA will go into effect in El Salvador on March 1st by calling for massive protests. On February 22, a coalition of national organizations, including the Popular Social Bloc (BPS), MPR-12, Salvadoran Union Front (FSS), national agricultural organizations, and others held a press conference to reassert the movement’s rejection of the imposed agreement. All of the organizations called on their members to participate in protests, including shutting down major highways around the country, on March 1st. Some protests began yesterday, and were met with a harsh response from the police.
"Its no coincidence that protests exploded in El Salvador the day before CAFTA was to go into effect, and that they continue today. In the face of President Saca's posturing about El Salvador being the first country to implement CAFTA, the message from the people continues to be total rejection of this disgraceful agreement," said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
“The entire CAFTA process has been conducted behind closed, with corporate interests granted almost everything they desire, while basic protections for people, be it worker rights, environmental sanity, or access to essential services have been sacrificed,” added Tom Ricker of the Quixote Center.
Speaking to the limited options for the people of the region under the agreement, Chloe Schwabe of the Share Foundation said, "sweatshops are not a sustainable or dignified solution to the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be lost in El Salvador's rural sector. We want real sustainable alternatives to rural poverty. CAFTA is about as far as you can get from this objective."
Katherine Stecher, of the Campaign for Labor Right concurred, "With CAFTA, the U.S. once again puts corporations' profits before a decent wage and respect on the job. CLR rejects that model."
“As long as the people of Central America are resisting this agreement we will do what we can to assist their struggles,” said Burke Stansbury. Tom Ricker added “As CAFTA goes in to effect we will be monitoring its impacts, and we challenge the dominant media in the United States that celebrated CAFTA to do the same.”
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. The coalition includes the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, the Nicaragua Network, Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, Campaign for Labor Rights, the Quixote Center, Share Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today, Witness for Peace, and others.