Protests Planned for FTAA Meeting in Miami

November 11, 2003

From Nov. 19-21, in Miami, tens of thousands of people will join in forums, marches and other protests against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The protests coincide with a meeting of trade ministers from 34 countries who are negotiating the provisions of the FTAA.

The FTAA is the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to every country in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, except Cuba. Negotiations on this agreement began right after the launch of NAFTA in 1994 and are scheduled to be completed in 2005. During the last three meetings - in Quebec City in April 2000, Buenos Aires in April 2001, and in Quito, Ecuador in October 2002 - negotiators tried to work out differences in the draft texts.

The proposed agreement aims at eliminating all tariff and non-tariff barriers to the "free flow" of commodities and capital. If passed, controls on foreign capital would be eliminated completely and governments would be forbidden from enacting legislation which favors local industry. Even the public sectors of the economy, such as a country's oil reserves or national forests and its infrastructure of social services, including health care, education, transportation, water supply, etc., would be put on the auction block and open to " nondiscriminatory" foreign investment. Multinational corporations would be able to initiate "investor-to-state" lawsuits and sue governments for "compensation" if a country's laws threaten corporate profits.

Thus, the FTAA will further facilitate the economic and political domination of U.S. imperialism. U.S. corporations will monopolize the market and increase their direct ownership of the natural wealth and economic infrastructure of other countries. The public sector will be privatized and every corner of the hemisphere will be available to be exploited and plundered by U.S. capitalism. The sovereignty of the Latin American countries will be further undermined; the U.S. monopolies aim at turning whole countries into plantations and turning the clock back to the days of open colonialism.

Protests Across the Hemisphere

Popular opposition to the FTAA, however, is growing throughout the hemisphere. The "Hemispheric Social Alliance," a coalition of labor, environment, religious, indigenous, women's and family farm organizations, has been organizing a popular "consultation campaign" throughout the region. Millions of people are rejecting the FTAA. Over 10 million Brazilian voters overwhelmingly opposed the FTAA in a plebiscite last year, and this year 1.8 million Mexicans have submitted ballots against the FTAA. Labor unions and organizations, representing over 40 million workers in the western hemisphere, have categorically rejected the FTAA.

In Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Peru, mass protests have been held against the FTAA, and in August, the presidents of Venezuela and Brazil called for creating a powerful South American trade bloc to counter the FTAA.

In the U.S., people are organizing public hearings, mass protests and activities to oppose the FTAA.

Many FTAA opponents have also linked the struggle against the FTAA with U.S. imperialism's general military offensive and its "war on terrorism." On September 13, a "Global Day of Action Against Militarism and War," that included protest rallies and teach-ins targeting U.S. military aggression as well as the FTAA, was held in cities throughout the U.S. and many Latin American countries.

The struggle against the FTAA is part of the struggle against U.S. domination of Latin America.

For several years now, the working class and people throughout the hemisphere have been coming out in nationwide movements against the economic takeover of their countries by U.S. and international capital. Most recently, the people in Bolivia waged a month-long general strike to stop the sell-out of their country's natural gas to foreign capitals and to protest an IMF-dictated budget which mandated cuts in social programs in order to guarantee debt repayment to international bankers. Similar political struggles keep breaking out all over the region - in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, etc.

U.S. imperialism is well aware of the growing revolt of the peoples and along with its program of economic re-colonization, it is working to strengthen its political and military domination of Latin America. The U.S. wants to include a "democracy" clause in the FTAA which demands that every country adopt a U.S.-style political system. At the same time, such slogans as "defending democracy and human rights" or "fighting international terrorism and drugs," are being used to dispatch U.S. military "advisors" and set up new U.S. bases throughout Latin America. Already, the U.S. is waging a counter-insurgency war in Colombia to suppress the people's struggles against foreign domination and exploitation.

Thus, the struggle against the FTAA must be taken up as part of the agenda of the people in opposition to U.S. imperialism and its program of economic domination, militarism and war. We must support the movements of the peoples in Latin America for economic and political sovereignty, national independence and liberation.