DALLAS – North Texans were among the many Americans worried when the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was signed May 28 by the foreign ministers of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick. Spokespersons for organized labor, faith-based organizations, and immigrants-rights groups came together against CAFTA at the Dallas Peace Center on June 2. They explained to reporters that CAFTA represented a bad deal for workers on both sides of the Rio Grande River. They also began an outline of how they would fight to stop Congress from approving the pact.

Dr. Ron Wilhelm, originator of the Interfaith Communities for Economic Justice, explained the genesis of his group at the press conference and earlier that morning on the “Workers’ Beat” program on KNON radio. They were formed after religious leaders from Dallas took a tour of El Salvador last summer. They came back fully convinced that the ordinary people of Central America wanted them to oppose any further international trade agreements that favor big corporations over the rights of people. Specifically, they brought back from Central America a moral mandate to oppose CAFTA.

Wilhelm was joined in solidarity at the Peace Center by the main officer of the Dallas AFL-CIO and leaders of United Voices for Immigrants. All of the speakers agreed that “CAFTA would be a disastah” for working people in the United States and in Central America.

Margarita Alvarez, a survivor of earlier civil war in her native Guatemala, predicted that CAFTA would cause massacres to resume in her homeland as people defended “what little they have” against greedy transnational corporations.

The group outlined plans to visit area congresspersons. They said they would set up a speakers’ bureau to provide orators and audiovisual materials to all interested groups. Dr. Joerg Rieger of Southern Methodist University said that he was taking a delegation of students that same day to Brazil. They will investigate first-hand the effects of international trade agreements.

The author can be reached at flittle7@yahoo.com.