HAVANA – Over 1,000 delegates from around the world, primarily from the Americas, are gathered here for the Second Hemispheric Conference of Struggle Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Conference participants came from every country in North, Central and South America, and from all the Caribbean countries.

Hosted by Cuba, the only country in the hemisphere whose government is not participating in the FTAA negotiations, the conference brings together an impressive array of unionists, community and farm organization leaders, academics, representatives of indigenous peoples, anti-capitalist globalization activists, left and people’s parties.

U.S. participants include Delores Huerta, founder with Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers (UFW), and a delegation organized by the U.S.-Cuba Labor Exchange.

The FTAA draft treaty, primarily based on NAFTA, aims to open markets thoughout the Americas to further domination by multi-national corporations. The first day of the four-day meeting heard reports from Canada, the U. S., and Mexico on the disastrous effects of NAFTA on jobs, farms, and the environment. NAFTA has already cost U. S. workers hundreds of thousands of jobs, eliminated over 30,000 small farms in Mexico, created ecological disaster on Mexico’s northern border, and generated massive profits for a few corporations.

The promised benefits from free trade have proved non-existent, except for those corporations who reap super-profits from moving factories to low-wage countries and elude environmental regulations.

The FTAA agenda is cutting and privatizing public services, removing restrictions on the flow of commodities and capital, and eliminating the ability of governments to restrict the actions of the multi-nationals.

The Conference will hear presentations on the fight to defend indigenous peoples, protecting soveriegnty and self-determination, a speech by Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, on threats to world peace, and a lecture on debt and domination by Adolfo Perez Esqival, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The Conference will adopt an action plan for stepping up the fight to prevent the FTAA.

The author can be reached at marcbrodine@attbi.com