Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pure evil

I'm talking about CAFTA which Costa Rica just ratified by a razor thin margin.

Did you know that the terms of the treaty require that Costa Rica basically dismantle their public sector which would mean the total de-nationalization of medicine, social services and agriculture?

Did you know that Bush threatened Costa Rica with economic reprisals (which he did not have the power to do) if they did not support the treaty? And that even after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wrote to the ambassador from Costa Rica assuring him that such reprisals could not happen, that Bush repeated his threats right before the referrendum.

Please take a look at this excerpt from a page on the Public Citizen website:

That Sunday’s referendum resulted in narrow passage is not surprising given considerable intervention by the Bush administration and a massive, well-funded campaign for the pact led by Costa Rica’s president and pushed heavily by the corporate sector and much of Costa Rica’s media. The Bush administration repeatedly threatened to remove Costa Rica’s existing Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade preferences if the public rejected CAFTA, even though the program was made permanent in 1990 and only an act of Congress could terminate it. (A tiny percentage of Costa Rica’s U.S. exports enjoys duty-free benefits under a CBI add-on program that was approved in 2000. The tremendously popular program, which covers nearly two dozen countries and cannot be removed for rejection of an FTA, is set for renewal next year.)

“Right now, we see the same duplicity with the proposed NAFTA expansion to Peru, where proponents claim that implementing the Peru agreement is critical to building a positive U.S. image in the region,” Wallach said. “Yet if these agreements are good foreign policy, why did the Bush administration also threaten to remove existing Andean trade preferences to force the deal over the opposition of the Peruvian public as well as its religious, indigenous and labor leaders?”

The U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale, was slammed with a rare formal denunciation before Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal in August after he waged a lengthy campaign to influence the vote on CAFTA. As part of that, Langdale employed misleading threats and suggested there would be economic reprisals if CAFTA were rejected. In response, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in late September demanding the cessation of Langdale’s interventions. “Even the perception of such interference harms the U.S. image in a region already suspicious of our intentions,” Sánchez wrote. “If we are to be seen as respecting democracy, sovereignty, and economic development, we must not interfere in any way with the historic popular referendum on CAFTA in Costa Rica, the region’s oldest and strongest democracy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in late September sent a letter to Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States correcting Langdale’s false threats that Costa Rica would lose its CBI trade preferences if the public rejected CAFTA. “Participation in CBI is not conditioned on a country’s decision to approve or reject a free trade agreement with the United States, and we do not support such a linkage,” Pelosi and Reid wrote. Despite this, Bush’s U.S. Trade Representative renewed the threats on Thursday, and the White House issued a statement repeating the threats on Saturday – just hours before the vote.

“Only two years after CAFTA squeezed through Congress on a one-vote margin, the narrowest margin ever for a trade deal, nearly half of Costa Rica’s public took a strong stand, in the face of campaign trickery and lies, against the damaging agreement,” said Todd Tucker, research director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division and author of the CAFTA Damage Report. “No more countries should be subjected to the damaging policies imposed by overreaching ‘trade’ agreements.”

Can you imagine the DEATHS that are going to result from this? The displacement of peasant farmers? The denial of medical care? How DARE we demand that another country dismantle its social safety net? How DARE we?

UPDATE: CAFTA threatens Costa Rica's rice industry.

UPDATE 2: Costa Rica’s CAFTA “Si” vote called into question

Notice how Bush insisted on protections for the U.S. sugar industry but demanded that protections be eliminated for Costa Rica's rice industry.

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