Central America Theater

Nicaragua: left-dissident candidate dies

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 3:

Nicaraguan presidential candidate Herty Lewites died late Sunday of an apparent heart attack. The son of a Jewish migrant, Lewites, 66, was the country's best-known citizen of Jewish descent.

CENTRAL AMERICA: TICOS PROTEST CAFTA

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Thousands of workers from Costa Rica's Social Security Institute, Electricity Institute, National Insurance Institute and other companies marched in San Jose on June 7 to oppose the US-sponsored Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) and to protest a recent Constitutional Court decision annulling a series of benefits public workers had won through collective bargaining. According to the march organizers, 15,000 people participated.

The unionists said the court decision was intended to "smooth the way for CAFTA." "The first victims of this CAFTA are the labor rights we've won," National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP) general secretary Albino Vargas told the ACAN-EFE wire service. "With CAFTA, Costa Rica will have to agree to downgrade its labor legislation with the rest of the Central American countries, which means taking away rights from those who won them through struggle." Costa Rica signed on to DR-CAFTA, but it is the only signatory nation whose legislature hasn't ratified the agreement. President Oscar Arias, who was inaugurated on May 8, is a strong supporter of the accord. Arias was on a visit to Europe on June 7, and Vargas charged that the new president would be holding a "chat" with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Europe while his country is "violating labor rights." (La Nacion, Costa Rica, June 7)

CENTRAL AMERICA: ANTI-CAFTA MOBILIZATION

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

MAYDAY ANTI-CAFTA MOBILIZATION

As they did last year, many Central American workers marked May 1 with demonstrations protesting the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a US-sponsored trade bloc composed of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US. Many marchers also expressed solidarity with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers demonstrating the same day in the US.

More than 20,000 workers, indigenous people, unionists, women and older people marched in Guatemala City, burning US flags and effigies of US president George W. Bush and Guatemalan president Oscar Berger. "The DR-CAFTA is a plague that will kill the people who live in extreme poverty," campesino leader Daniel Pascual told the ACAN-EFE wire service. "Today is a day of Latin America inside the US," said Jose Pinzon, a leader of the General Workers Central of Guatemala (CGTG), one of the country's largest labor federations. The more than 1.2 million Guatemalans living in the US sent $3 billion back to Guatemala in 2005; some 60% of them are reportedly undocumented. US restaurant chains in Guatemala City's historic center seemed empty as workers honored a boycott of US products in support of immigrants' demands. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, May 1)

Guatemalan war criminal dies a free man

When Slobodan Milosevic died, he was in a prison cell at The Hague facing war crimes charges, and it made world headlines. The May 27 passing of Guatemala's equally genocidal dictator of the late '70s and early '80s, Romeo Lucas Garcia, was largely confined to the obituary pages and wire copy, and he died a free man, passing his final years in luxurious Venezuelan exile. Nothing could indicate more clearly how much cheaper life is for indigenous peoples such as Lucas Garcia's Maya Indian victims, and for those whose oppressors happen to be on the good side of US imperialism. Obits have generally noted his bloody 1980 attack on the Spanish embassy after it was occupied by Maya protesters. This is because Spanish judicial authorities would later seek his extradition over the affair. Forgotten is what the embassy occupiers were protesting--the reign of terror in the Guatemalan countryside that (carried on by Lucas Garcia's successor Rios Montt) would ultimately leave some 50,000 dead, a million displaced and hundreds of villages destroyed. The obits have generally not used the "G word," but the 1999 findings of the UN-backed Guatemala Historical Clarification Commission estimated 200,000 dead in the civil war that lasted from 1962 to 1996, squarely accusing the Guatemalan state of "genocide." (BBC, Feb. 25, 1999) The Lucas Garcia-Rios Montt period was the bloodiest of the war, and that in which the violence was most explicitly aimed at the Maya ethnicity. This typically abbreviated account from Reuters, May 29:

EL SALVADOR:

No Business as Usual as CAFTA Takes Effect

by Paul Pollack

SAN SALVADOR, March 1 -- There was little fanfare and much protest today as the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) went into effect in El Salvador. The country is the first Central American nation to honor CAFTA and for the second straight day, thousands marched and traffic was snarled throughout San Salvador. Five other signatory nations have failed to meet US requirements necessary to join the agreement.

The day before, Salvadoran President Tony Saca proclaimed the start of CAFTA by announcing to George Bush (who was not present), "Come with your basket empty and take it home full."

CAFTA'S ASSUALT ON DEMOCRACY

The New Corporate Agenda for Central America

by Tom Ricker and Burke Stansbury

What does tightening intellectual property laws have to do with "free" trade? That's the question many people in Central American and the Dominican Republic are asking as the United States trade representative continues to insist on dramatic changes to constitutional laws in the six countries involved in the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (otherwise known as CAFTA).

As if the agreement itself weren't bad enough for the region—critics say CAFTA will hurt small farmers, worsen workers rights, and lead to environmental degradation, among other negative effects—the US is manipulating the implementation process to demand even further concessions by the six countries involved.

CENTRAL AMERICA: CAFTA DELAYED; REPRESSION CONTINUES

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

U.S. DELAYS CAFTA

On Dec. 30 Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) spokesperson Stephen Norton announced that the US was postponing implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1. Although "various countries are almost ready for their startup, none have completed their internal procedures," he said, referring to enabling legislation the participating countries have to pass for DR-CAFTA to go into effect. The trade pact will be implemented progressively, according to Norton, "to the extent that the countries make sufficient progress to comply with the promises set in the accord." Until then, the countries will continue to benefit from tariff reductions under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA).

CENTRAL AMERICA: CAMPESINOS BLOCK HIGHWAYS

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

EL SALVADOR: FMLN BACKS ANTI-CAFTA PROTESTS

Thousands of Salvadorans participated in a nationwide day of protest on Nov. 30 against the neoliberal economic policies of President Antonio Saca. The demonstrations, organized by the Popular Social Bloc (BPS) and backed by the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), consisted of 17 different actions, including the blocking of major highways, rallies in front of government offices and the distribution of literature on the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a trade pact set to go into effect on Jan. 1 between five Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and the US.

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