CAFTA = pollution, hunger, job loss

With a vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement expected in the House of Representative before the end of July, 10 activists in the Los Angeles Coalition Against CAFTA held a four-day hunger strike July 13-17 urging pressure on Congress to oppose the measure. It has already passed the Senate.

Hunger striker Esther Portillo said the North American Free Trade Agreement, on which CAFTA is modeled, has provided “10 years of devastation for workers of the USA, Mexico and Canada. Mines and factories have been allowed to pollute, people have lost land, hunger and poverty has been created at the border. Our fast is for fair trade and exemplifies the suffering people will have if CAFTA is passed.”

Nineteen-year-old hunger striker Sonia Parada, a child of Salvadoran immigrants, said, “I have seen how people have had to leave their land and suffer in the struggle to survive here.” She said, “I want to people to know that this ‘free trade’ is not in the interest of people here or in Central America.”

Almost all Central American unions, farmer/peasant, student and people’s organizations are calling on the U.S. Congress to vote no on CAFTA. The main labor federations from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala were among the signers of a massive petition originating from the MesoAmerican Forum of the People held this past year in San Salvador.

The petition states, “The Central American Free Trade Agreement will hurt the ordinary citizens of our countries. We believe CAFTA will benefit only the most wealthy and powerful in our countries at the expense of the majorities of our populations.”

It points out that CAFTA will drive small farmers from their land, destroy small businesses and bring poverty to the peoples of Central America, leading to a massive increase in forced migration to the U.S. CAFTA will especially hurt women and children in the region, they say.

The AFL-CIO strongly opposes CAFTA, pointing out that previous free trade pacts have wiped out over a million U.S. jobs. Environmental organizations cite the increases in pollution and environmental damage caused by these pacts.

The groups urge special efforts to contact members of Congress.

You can call toll-free 1-866-340-9281 (courtesy of the Steelworkers Union) to reach the Capitol switchboard. Tell your representative to oppose CAFTA.