Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Free trade" with Guatemala

Good piece in Dissident Voice on what's happening in Guatemala. The Guatemalan president was in town (D.C.) a couple of days back to meet his imperial master. There was the obligatory photo-op, where GWB explained to the great unwashed how Guatemala was making strides in "development" (as I seem to recall) and how "free trade" would benefit everyone. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the DV piece:

Less than 24 hours after President Bush met with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom at the White House on Monday, a worker from a union that filed a trade complaint with Washington against the Guatemalan government was murdered.

Carlos Enrique Cruz Hern├índez, a banana worker, was assassinated while working at a farm owned by a subsidiary of Del Monte. Cruz Hern├índez’s Union of Izabal Banana Workers (SITRABI), was one of six Guatemalan unions who, along with the AFL-CIO, filed a complaint allowed through labor provisions of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on April 23, charging that the Guatemalan government was not upholding its labor laws and was failing to investigate and prosecute crimes against union members–which include rape and murder. The complaint states that violence against trade unionists has increased over the past two years (since CAFTA was ratified) and that the Guatemalan government may be responsible for some of the violence. The violence from this year alone includes 8 murders, 1 attempted murder, 2 drive-by shootings, and the kidnapping and gang rape of a top union official’s daughter who was targeted because of her father’s union work.

The ongoing violence against workers in Guatemala makes it clear that talk of free trade improving human rights in developing countries is lost in translation. Free trade has done nothing but exacerbate poverty and inequality, while rewarding governments for sustaining repressive conditions that allow corporations to exploit vulnerable, and often powerless workers. No country in the world exemplifies this hostility towards workers’ rights more than Colombia, a country that the Bush Administration is currently trying to reward by pressuring congress to pass a free trade agreement.

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