FTAA CAMPAIGN UPDATE January 2003
Our second issue focuses on plans for 2003. You can help!-
circulate this e-letter to friends and organizations.-
subscribe to our listserv for crucial campaign news: email update
- check out http://www.peoplesconsultation.org for action tools,
updates, events calendar, organizer's manual.
Hemisphere-wide protests and referendums are on 2003's agenda
The Hemispheric Campaign Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas met in October in Quito
and again in November in Havana to share information on national and sectoral campaigns.
Delegates from 34 nations developed long-term strategies to confront the spider web of the
FTAA, the World Trade Organization, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, bilateral
trade agreements, Plan Puebla Panama, etc. With fast-track authority in hand, the Bush
administration is promoting a multifaceted strategy to lock in this corporate-centered model of
economic integration. The Havana and Quito meetings consolidated grassroots commitments to
multifaceted campaigns, coordinated across borders whenever possible. A detailed report is
available at www.asc-hsa.org.
The Havana meeting featured Evo Morales, indigenous leader from Bolivia who narrowly lost
recent presidential elections, Fidel Castro, and 800 activists from community groups and NGOs
from throughout the hemisphere. This was the second annual anti-FTAA meeting held in Cuba,
and delegates made significant advances in terms of concrete strategies, including a call for each
country to hold a popular referendum on the FTAA. Brazil's successful referendum in September
drew nearly 10 million participants, and referendums are planned or in process in Mexico,
Canada, and the United States. For information on the US People's Consultation on the FTAA, see
The crisis in Latin American agriculture dominated much of the Havana meeting. Many small and
medium-sized producers are unable to compete with highly subsidized US grain production.
Millions of campesinos have been forced from their land to look for work in sweatshops or
migrate to large cities or the US. A crisis looms for Mexican campesinos in January of 2003
when NAFTA provisions are scheduled to eliminate most agricultural tariffs. A second potential
blow may occur in September of 2003 when the World Trade Organization takes up agricultural
at the Cancun ministerial. Campesino organizations are calling for massive protests, including
blocking borders, during both of these key events.
A hemispheric Day of Action has been called for the opening of the WTO meeting in Cancun,
Mexico on September 9 or 10. There will also be a national protest with local solidarity actions
during the next FTAA ministerial meeting in Miami, probably in November. These two protests
can make corporate trade agreements a national issue for the 2004 elections. Locally, people
are conducting "people's consultation" surveys, passing city and state resolutions, and
broadening the base of awareness and opposition to the FTAA.
Here is a sampling of activity in the US. You can see more at www.peoplesconsultation.org. If you
have local activity to report, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-423-2148 x
California: people connect the FTAA to local issues
In October of 2002, the Mexico Solidarity Network and Global Exchange co-organized eight
public hearings on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) through the state of California.
The hearings were sponsored by the Alliance for Responsible Trade as a part of the People's
Consultation, a strategy to educate our communities about the threat of the FTAA and mobilize
people for action.
Fela Contreras, a former Mexican maquiladora worker who was part of the first compliant filed
under the NAFTA labor side agreements, spoke about the devastating effects that NAFTA has had
on working people in Mexico and the failure of the NAFTA labor side agreements. Herlinda
Hernandez, a displaced Colombian union organizer, spoke about the relationship between Free
Trade and Plan Colombia and the expressed concern that the FTAA would further aggravate
violations of labor rights which are rampant in Colombia. (Since 1990, over 1800 Colombian
trade unionists have been assassinated).
In each city local people spoke about their concerns about the FTAA, drawing local-global links
in the discussion around Free Trade. These speakers included immigrant garment workers,
former maquila workers, local and state officials, union organizers, environmentalists,
solidarity activists, and others. We spoke directly to over 500 people and thousands were
reached through the media. One hearing was recorded for cable TV, one hearing was recorded for
a local radio station, and the international speakers did one radio interview.
Texas: city councils say "no" to the FTAA
Texas Fair Trade Coalition includes the Texas AFL-CIO and eight Central Labor Councils, Texas
Farmers Union, many environmental groups, religious and other community organizations. We
have passed a City Resolution on Globalization in the Austin City Council and we are working on
passing this in other major cities as well. We are also holding meetings to discuss the FTAA with
Congressmembers in 18 swing districts across Texas.
And we're doing grassroots education. At our Texas Student Conference on Alternatives to
Corporate Globalization, students from across Texas met to discuss organizing on their
campuses. Noam Chomsky was the keynote speaker at this conference. We also have a
Globalization Basics workshop which trained volunteers to present a workshop on the global
economy to union locals, congregations, and community groups in their region of the state. Only
through educating and uniting as many sectors of the community as possible will we be able to
Chicago: a neighborhood votes on the FTAA
A coalition including the Mexico Solidarity Network, American Friends Service Committee, and
Jobs with Justice worked for two months this fall to build an organizing campaign against the
FTAA in Rogers Park. This immigrant neighborhood is diverse in language, ethnicity, and class.
Its diversity posed challenges, as did unfamiliar concepts like "political economy" and "FTAA."
However, organizers connected global economic issues to the realities of poverty, joblessness,
and the lack of affordable housing which plague so many area residents. Two public events and
various workshops launched a sustainable process of outreach and dialogue. The group feels
confident that with more time and resources they will be able to successfully expand this
organizing model to other similar Chicago neighborhoods.
New Freedom Bus Tour takes FTAA referendum nationwide!
"As families who have watched our communities be torn apart as a result of free trade policies,
privatization and welfare reform (a form of structural adjustment) - we refuse to remain
silent or invisible. We are determined that those of us whose very lives are threatened by these
policies play an active role in the fight to stop the FTAA."
With these words, Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor Peoples Economic Human
Rights Campaign launched a 30-day bus tour from Maine to Mississippi, the Carolinas to
California. Each event connected local issues to global injustice and let people vote on the FTAA.
For detailed descriptions and photos see www.kwru.org.