It was exciting, informative and uplifting, despite the heavy police presence. I’m referring to the anti-FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) meet in Miami the week of Nov. 16 – 20, which gave progressive organizations the opportunity to meet others from the same movement.

I attended a standing-room-only forum organized by the SEIU Health Services Union at Temple Israel. Panelists discussed the impact of everything from tobacco to water management on the health of the people of developing nations.

The tobacco industry hopes to raise the consumption of tobacco in the Americas by 40 percent, according to Dr. Erica Frank. “The fight now is focused on excluding tobacco from the FTAA in order to allow countries to maintain their anti-tobacco legislation,” she said.

Rachel Perez of the No to Big Tobacco Coalition came with several other students from San Francisco City College. Their message: “Make sure tobacco is out of the FTAA. No child labor, no deforestation. Put public health before trade.”

Marco Aurelio Pereira, from the Union of Pharmacists of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said, “FTAA represents a threat to Brazil’s people” and the country’s guaranteed SUS public health system. This popular system is accountable only to the people, says Pereira, and has saved the country $1 billion because of preventive measures to treat AIDS. “Care is a human right based on need and accountability,” he said.

The Americas already face critical threats to health. The Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement is likely to worsen these problems. We have the strength to stop these out-of-control policies, which come out of our own White House.

If you would like to read more information on the FTAA’s impact on health, go to or call (415) 933-6204.

Let’s keep the pressure on.

– Gabe Falsetta (