Cuba leads ‘the other America’ against FTAA

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

The US is attempting to subjugate the whole of Latin America through the imposition of the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This would give the US unlimited access to Latin American markets without Latin American countries being able to defend themselves against unequal trade by using trade barriers or tariffs. US multinationals would be free to buy up Latin American public sector assets. There would be little control of foreign investments. Foreign companies would gain patent and intellectual property rights to anything they took over. Laws aimed at protecting workers’ rights or the environment could be scrapped if they stood in the way of US multinational expansion. The FTAA is a recipe for rising unemployment, the impoverishment of peasants and small farmers and the degradation of the environment.

When a smaller-scale version of the FTAA, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was piloted in Mexico in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers went bankrupt as subsidised grain and beef from the US and Canada flooded the market; 1.3 million jobs were lost in agriculture. Meanwhile, half a million Mexicans ended up in sweatshop labour in new ‘maquiladoras’ on the border, simply assembling and returning components made in the US. Three quarters of the Mexican people now live in poverty.
But the people of Latin America are fighting back against the FTAA, led by Cuba – the only country to be excluded by the US from the FTAA proposals. Since 2002, Cuba has been warning of the dangerous consequences of the FTAA and mobilising against it.

Since then there have been some important victories with massive demonstrations by the poor at the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation and the Americas Summit in Monterrey giving oppressed countries the backbone to stand up to imperialist demands. At the Third Hemispheric Forum of Struggle against FTAA held in Havana in January, delegates agreed to redouble their efforts to defeat the FTAA before the US deadline for imposition in 2005. Their final declaration, ‘inspired by the revolt of the Bolivian people’, called on the Latin American people to mobilise and demonstrate to force their governments to take a stand in defence of national sovereignty and pledged days of united action across Latin America.

Understanding the link between imperialist economic and military oppression, delegates also called for demonstrations on 20 March alongside those worldwide demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq.

The declaration ended: ‘Our America is not for sale! Neither war nor free trade! Together let us build the other America that is possible!’
Juanjo Rivas


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