After two days of protests against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), Guatemala’s congress voted 126 to 12 to ratify CAFTA as a matter of “national urgency.” Numerous civil society organizations have actively organized against CAFTA, with some seeking a national referendum on CAFTA while others organized massive demonstrations in Guatemala City that were able to postpone the ratification of the agreement by disrupting the legislative sessions in which it was to be debated. Many Guatemalans have opposed CAFTA because of what they see as its prioritization of corporate rights over labor rights, disregard for environmental legislation, and the possibility of US subsidized agriculture flooding the region. When Media Mouse visited Guatemala in December and January, people expressed concern great concern over the displacement of farmers as a result US taxpayer subsidized corn being imported.
While CAFTA has now been passed by El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the agreement still faces a significant hurdle in the United States. CAFTA has gained little attention in the corporate media, as many of its business and political backers have realized that talk of a new trade agreement based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is not popular in the United States as corporations continue to outsource jobs to Mexico. The passage of CAFTA in the United States legislature is far from certain and there are numerous national and local efforts to stop the passage of CAFTA. A group of local union members and activists are currently circulating a petition on CAFTA, building off work done by Fair Trade Awareness Initiating Relationships (FAIR), which will be presented to local congressman Vern Ehlers at the end of the month. In addition, a variety of popular education materials and information packets have been distributed to progressive organizations and labor unions in the area.
Individuals wishing to get involved in local anti-CAFTA efforts should contact Media Mouse. A two page information sheet on CAFTA is available online, as are blank petition sheets for individuals wishing to collect signatures as part of the petitioning effort.