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Tuesday, August 02, 2005


For those of you who have been following the CAFTA/TLC articles on this blog, here is the latest.

My daughter sent me this letter she received from the director of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition:

As you?ve probably heard by now, we lost the CAFTA vote late Wed. night
217-215. Our collective hearts are broken, but we've not lost hope because,
although the fight is over,* the tight vote exemplifies indisputably that THIS

The vote did NOT win on its merits--it took one of the ugliest political battles
ever to secure it as well as egregious violations of democratic procedure. Bush
visited the chamber that day (with Cheney) for the first time in TWO YEARS, he
was so afraid of losing this vote as it was conjectured to be the final nail in
his "lame duck" coffin.

Proof in the pudding: "If we had not moved forward on CAFTA, it would have
undermined the U.S. position, which has been to lead the fight for
globalization," -- Calman Cohen, president of the business-backed Emergency
Committee for American Trade.

All in all, CAFTA is a fairly insignificant trade deal in terms of real changes
in trade policy; it will certainly tighten the U.S.'s ability to enforce
intellectual property rights in member countries, especially for pharmaceutical
companies to gain even greater protection against generic, and certainly will
create yet MORE mechanisms to exploit workers and the environment (and open
more doors for such here, while exporting jobs and diminishing democracy), but
it does little to improve our economy in terms of decreasing tariffs (80% of
imports from these countries are already duty-free) and increasing exports to
those countries (which is a tiny fraction of our export economy). It is merely
the leverage by which the corporate globalization model keeps it current course
or not, if the tight margin of victory and the politcal battle that led to it
proves to stop like-deals in their tracks.

Also of note is how much the vote shook up the Democratic Party. Even though the
Democratic Leadership Council supported CAFTA, the party line was that CAFTA's
passage was akin to handing the President a major political (albeit shameful)
victory. Thursday, House Minority Whip leader Nancy Pelosi was so incensed at
the outcome, that she called a special party meeting to put the 15 Democrats
that voted for it on the hot seat. "Committee reassignments" were rumored to
be on the table for these folks. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the Senior Chief
Deputy Minority Whip, admitted "some of my friends cast their votes for special

27 Republicans voted against it (Ron Paul our only TX rep.)-- MANY more wanted
to, but were pulled away during the disgusting display of breaking arms "into a
thousand pieces" -as was commonly noted. Republicans held the vote open past
the 15 minute deadline, for 47 more minutes, to pull in 8-10 'errant'
Republicans. Pelosi accused House leaders of turning the House floor into an
episode of "Let's Make a Deal," charging that ethics rules were broken. The
Washington Post said, ?The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes
resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot.?

Some "nay" votes were even changed to "aye" after the arm-twisting...but if all
votes that were already cast were counted at the 15 minute mark and if at that
time, all uncast votes were cast according to leanings, we would have won
221-214. :(

There were 2 key Republican votes NOT cast--2 that had committed to "nay"s--due
to some suspicious excuses about not making it back to the House in time
because of a storm (over 3 hours earlier) and that a vote cast was not
registered because of a "deactivated voting card" (Jo Ann Davis of VA, and
Charles Taylor of NC respectively); both most likely cases of trying to have it
both ways.

In terms of TFTC, we only lost 2 of our targets: Ortiz and Hinojosa, having
succeeded in winning Gonzalez, Cuellar, Edwards and Jackson-Lee. So along with
Cuellar's "aye" vote, we'll see LOTS of opportunity for organizing in south
Texas around fair trade issues. Although the model is broken, we have our work
cut out for us as we continue fighting AFTA, FTAA and more expansion of the
model through the WTO...although the WTO General Council closed its meeting
this past Friday in Geneva without any real progress so it looks like CAFTA's
passage didn't create any real momentum in this regard.

We should note too--that this vote is not so much about politics as it is about
people; and to the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic, we are pained and saddened at what this loss means for you, and will stand by you as we move forward to build a new, workable, global model that favors people over profit.

We are currently working on after-math strategy. Stay tuned and meanwhile, feel
free to call your Congressperson to THANK them or ask what they got in exchange
for selling their constituents out (and report back to us if you do either!).

Many thanks for your support,
Lesley and the staff and interns at Texas Fair Trade Coalition.

NYTimes article:
http://www.citizenstrade.org/pdf/ nyt_houseapprovesfreetradepact_07282005.pdf

Public Citizen statement: http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2002

*(3 CAFTA countries still need to ratify it: Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Dominican
Republic-there's a small chance for a little more resistance there)

Please contribute to our efforts by donating online today!


Lesley Nicole Ramsey
Director, Texas Fair Trade Coalition
1405 Montopolis Drive
Austin, TX 78741
Tel: (512) 472-1915
Fax: (512) 389-2899

The only hope now for COSTA RICA is that it does not become a part of this fiasco. It will do so much harm to our beautiful country while doing nothing advantageous. CAFTA is known as the TLC here. If Costa Rica becomes a signatory to this duplicitous treaty, it will immediately be exploited by gold and petroleum interests in the United States. It's beaches and moutains will be ruined. The health of its citizens dangerously jeapordized, tourism will plummet, and Costa Rica will lose its territorial rights! Click here for the previous post regarding how CAFTA will allow off-shore drilling for oil on our most beautiful beaches and the unchecked mining of gold by foreign interests. For Central America and the Caribbean CAFTA equals EXPLOITATION. There is no other way to express this.

Click here to read this excellent article from the Americas Program for more information.


About Me

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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