On radio interviews I am frequently asked about the “free trade agreement” the Bush administration is trying to hammer out with Colombia and about John McCain’s recent trip to Colombia. Here’s my answer in a nutshell:
Nine countries in Latin America have recently voted in presidents who are saying “no” to staying the course with international policies that allow foreign corporations to exploit human and/or natural resources. These democratically elected presidents have gone on the record of not seeking US aid but instead asking for reversals in policies, including “free trade agreements,” that have been very destructive to their economies — and resulted in a huge influx of immigrants to the US.
Colombia is a major exception. Washington’s push for a new trade agreement with Colombia is an attempt to bolster the Uribe administration — a president who is held in very low esteem throughout most of Latin America and is seen (along with Mexico’s Calderón) as one of the last of the old “Washington puppets.”
Uribe infuriated many Latin Americans when he illegally sent troops into Ecuador to assassinate FARC representatives who reportedly were there to try to negotiate hostage exchanges and a peace deal. I was traveling in Central America at the time and heard first-had the anger directed at the Colombian president for the way he ignored Ecuador’s sovereign rights and escalated hostilities.
This “free trade agreement” is Washington’s desperate attempt to shore up one of its few remaining Latin puppets and at the same time tilt the playing field even further in favor of the big corporations.
What you can do: Speak out against “free trade agreements” that are written to help multinational corporations exploit other countries. Email your representatives and the corporations whose goods and services you buy. Tell them you know that what is best for the US are strong Latin American economies where local resources are channeled to the poor through health, education and other social services.