Saying No to CAFTA - Central American Jesuits Speak Out


Central American Jesuits Oppose CAFTA

Below is one of the most lucid statements we have read to
date documenting the reasons why CAFTA should not be
ratified. (Note that CAFTA is being debated in El Salvador
today and will likely come to a vote).

This statement was issued yesterday by the Jesuit order in
Central America.

Declaration of the Social Apostolate Commission of the
Central American Province of the Company of Jesus

Why We Say No to the Ratification of the
U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement

After a broad debate between different sectors, with
arguments both for and against, we make public our
conviction that the current text of the FTA between the
United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic
should not be ratified.

We are in favor of a trade negotiation process in the
Americas that is very careful regarding the huge asymmetries
or inequalities among the countries. We are in favor of a
gradual process that pre-supposes global solidarity and does
not bless the current unsustainable situation of massive
misery and poverty. We are in favor of a process of
integration and of economic and political pacts among Latin
American and Caribbean countries that can make us stronger
in our negotiations with Canada and the United States, as
well as with the European Union and Japan. We are in favor
of global negotiations of the WTO that adopt an equitable
point of view.

The CAFTA+DR is all about liberalization and direct foreign
investment rights, especially for the transnational
companies and financial capital. It also is about
intellectual property rights, the liberalization of
government purchases, the deepening of private sector
privatization, and freedom of movement for company
executives and technical experts. But it does not offer any
proposal regarding the global phenomenon of migratory
workers; freedom of movement; undocumented workers in the
U.S., among other things. In addition, the resolution of
controversies between states and companies is left in the
hands of international arbitration panels whose members are
to be named by the WTO or the World Bank. And the
resolution of labor disputes are not submitted to the ILO,
nor environmental disputes to the Kyoto Protocol, simply
because the U.S. did not sign.

Today, Central America can export sugar, textiles or
clothing to the U.S. thanks to the privileges conceded in
the Caribbean Basin Initiative or in the Generalized System
of Preferences. And it has been necessary to negotiate this
Free Trade Agreement under threat of losing those privileges
if the negotiation were not consummated. Central America
has had to open its markets to the basic grains the U.S.
produces, while that country has not agreed to negotiate the
diminution or suppression of production and export subsidies
for those basic grains. CAFTA maintains tariff and non-
tariff barriers (sanitary & phytosanitary) and Central
America is in a situation of inferior technology which makes
compliance with them more difficult. To all this,
unforeseeable anti-terrorist barriers are added.

This is not the road. The Central American states should be
provided with anti-dumping laws (against artificially law
prices), that can protect their agriculture and strengthen
food sovereignty, impeding unfair competition in the market
from subsidized foods with those produced just be the sweat
of the campesino.

The concession of production and distribution of generic
medicines and their competition with brand name medicines in
the marketplace is not negotiable, because the health and
lives of people come before the patent rights of the
chemical, biogenic and pharmaceutical transnationals.

Whatever FTA must be negotiated with a view toward the free
movement of workers, the right of immigration and
improvement of the situation of migrant workers. So that
people will not have the need to emigrate, the more
developed states should put at the service of less developed
states technology that allows for more efficient and
effective production, and training to use that production.
The transfer of technology and the linkage of investments to
the rest of the economy of our countries should be normal
requirements demanded by the states.

What cannot be accepted is the doctrinaire, undeclared
presupposition of the TLC: that the state should intervene,
putting itself at the service not of the common good, but
rather of the transnationals and their investments. With
the Social Doctrine of the Church we think that in today’s
new capitalism “it is the duty of the State to provide
defense and guardianship of the collective good, such as the
natural environment, and the human environment, whose
safekeeping cannot be assured by simple market mechanisms…
There exist collective and qualitative needs that cannot be
satisfied through the mechanisms of the market (and) escape
their logic; there are goods that, by their nature, cannot
and should not be sold or bought.” (Juan Pablo II in
Centessimus Annus, 1991). Water, health, food security, the
environment, education, social security [health insurance]
and pensions and retirement are some of those collective

The Central American states will be better able to negotiate
if they support the strategy of integrating with Latin
America, and from the strength of unity, negotiate with the
U.S. and the rest of the world in the WTO. CAFTA+DR can
still be defeated and contested as unconstitutional. Toward
that end, we unite with many other sectors to make for a
stronger NO and to strengthen ourselves through the unity of
the people, so as to make the dream that “another world is
possible” a reality.

P. Ismael Moreno, SJ, Apostolic Secretary
P. Francisco Iznardo, SJ, Apostolit Social Coordinator



Don't believe the hype.