The congressman who led the push among Latino legislators for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement 12 years ago is now calling that legislation “a tragic failure” in an appeal for rejection of the Central American Free Trade Agreement now before Congress.

In a letter to his colleagues, former California Rep. Esteban Torres said that as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he worked hard to ensure that NAFTA became law because he “thought it would create increased economic opportunity on both sides of the border.” Torres cited assurances of fair wage, labor and environmental standards and better social and economic conditions for Mexican as well as U.S. workers.

“Sadly,” 11 years after the trade agreement’s passage, Torres stated, “nearly a million U.S. jobs have been lost … [and] in Mexico, 1.5 million farmers have lost their farms due to NAFTA while the minimum wage there has dropped severely.”

As the debate on CAFTA takes center stage in Washington, Torres warned members of Congress that the arguments used by the proponents of the Central America Free Trade Agreement “strike hauntingly familiar chords to those used in favor of NAFTA.” He added, “The failure of NAFTA demands that all members of Congress concerned about the fate of workers, farmers and immigrants reject CAFTA.”