Wednesday, July 13, 2005

CAFTA

Well, FBT continues and It Is Good. We´ve been doing a lot more tech here than before and I approve of this - they are always more interesting than my other classes. We´re also having to do a huge pile of homework, out-of-class projects though.... We had to teach 26 teachers from a local elementary school about environmental education (the first presentation in spanish for some people) and I met with a teacher afterwards to plan an individual 45-minute session at the same school on Friday. We´re going to talk about garbage and what should be done with it besides toss it in the streets. Then next week I have another project I have to do by Friday about the politics of Honduras. Thankfully we don´t have Saturday classes this weekend.

During the two hours before our presentation to the teachers yesterday, we talked about the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and what it will mean for Honduras. From what I have learned now, which is mostly from the perspective of the learned members of the community here, is this:

CAFTA is definitely good for U.S. corporations and the very corrupt upper crust of wealth and power here.

It might be good for your average joe in the USA - depends if his job gets shipped overseas. If not, he may enjoy lower prices for stuff! But probably not.

It will absolutely not be good for the people of Honduras.

Why? There are a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that most of the people of Honduras are highly dependent on the little money they make farming. There are a few maquiladoras (textile/sweat shops) but far more people are small-time farmers. Opening the borders to U.S. companies would allow our mass-produced, subsidized foodstuffs to compete with the small farmers, who would not stand a chance. Really, businesses of all types would get dominated by incoming American business, but the largest negative impact to the economy would be to the Agriculture sector. So the farmers would get driven into the cities once their crop prices were no longer sustainable to work in the new industrial jobs (mostly textiles) and the companies would have to compete with China, which has even lower wages than Honduras right now, so wages would almost certainly go down.

This brings up two other important points. First, CAFTA has practically no labor standards. It will basically encourage a drop in wages, safety, and workers´ rights. Secondly, it will increase urbanization and all the social problems that go with it - drugs, crime, gangs, poverty, health problems, etc etc.

Speaking of health, they treaty makes provisions to allow private companies to start competing with the government for basic public utilities - water, electricity, etc. This would probably result in worse service or lack of service to poor and isolated communities, and increased prices for most people. Also, CAFTA provides no decent environmental regulations, which of course would lead to pollution and resource exploitation as a corollary to development of foreign-owned industries.

There is also an aspect of the treaty that I´m not as clear on that would undermine countries´ rights to legally protect themselves from lawsuits served by corporations when the government interferes with their ability to make a profit. Maybe I´m hesitant about it because it almost sounded too ridiculous to be true. But there was an incident cited where Costa Rica denied some oil company the right to develop an operation offshore, and they tried to sue the government for some billions of dollars that was more than the entire country´s GDP. That was luckily thwarted in local courts because Costa Rica never signed some global petition or treaty that would give corporations the right to do whatever it was that the oil company wanted to do. At any rate, my opinion on this matter is simply that taking away power from these sovereign nations´ governments and handing it to foreign companies is simply not good for those countries.

But it will allow Honduran producers to reach wider markets, right? Sure, but it´s not like they can really compete with the US for any of those markets. What is really going to happen is that Honduras will become more urbanized, dependent on foreign imports, and most likely health, safety, and fairness standards will go down. In other words, please oppose CAFTA. There has been a ton of popular opposition all over central america, and a few of the countries - most notably Costa Rica - have governments with enough backbone to stand up to it. Honduras´s government, however, is relatively weak and corrupt. We need to defeat this in our own congress.

In other news, things are going well at home - I have had some good conversations with Edwin and Jacqueline about various things and the little kids and I are getting along swell. Their mom went to church last night and I stuck around to take care of ´em, so we played some games of hide and seek and hot/cold object searches. When we were playing hide and seek, one of the kids tried to hide in the same spot as me so I waited til the other one was coming and then tossed him out and yelled ¨here he is!¨ This of course was the funniest thing they had ever seen. Been eating a lot of beans and tortillas, my health is good, and I´ve been running in the mornings too. Really nice area to do it in. I´ve actually been watching a lot of TV too, because that´s what this family does a lot in their spare time. It´s not like we the trainees get together every single night to do stuff, so I end up watching TV too just to pass the time. I saw The Deer Hunter the other night, and that was a pretty excellent movie.

Can´t think of too much more to say. I forgot my list of Hondureñisms, so I guess I´ll have to do that next time, but here´s a good quote from my friend Josh:

¨You know, I´ve almost gotten used to the sight of schoolgirls with machetes.¨

and Tim:

¨I can map the human genome, but I can´t tell someone I want a banana!¨

TTFN. :)

9 Comments:

At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabe,

That was a good run down on CAFTA. What you said about the impact on small farmers is pretty much exactly what has happened with small Mexican farmers following the signing of NAFTA. Now that Mexican urban dwellers can buy cheap American corn produced by agribusiness, the rural economy in many areas of Mexico has collapsed. With the result of more people than ever trying to get across the US border to work here illegally. On corporate farms for instance. It is not hard to see who's interests are served by this and who's aren't.

Pap

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Dave/SugarBear said...

CAFTA sounds like another exhibit in a long line of evidence proving that money corrupts humanity. A couple weeks ago I read about your first-hand experiences with Roberto and was excited about his choices. Now I sit here reading that his doom is looming in the US Congress so the rich can grow richer. Freakin amazing...

As always thanks for sharing Gabe!

 
At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabriel,
Gracias por sus comentarios sobre la situacion con CAFTA. Duh! If it is a pact with the rest of the world to better trade with the USA, it is going to support the mega corporations to the detriment of the little guys without a second thought. We need to continue to share information regarding how to fight this in the USA. Asismismo, tenemos que continuar con enseñarnos sobre lo que pasa en cualquier forma que podemos. (Acostúmbrete con este modo de cambiar de una lengua a otra, porque así comunicamos aqui, y en Mt. Vernon.) ¿Tienen ideas tus amigos de buenos sitios en la internet para informarnos sobre la situación? ¡Avísanos, por favor!

Por fin, hijo mio, mi amor, mi hijito, etc...El número de la casa?
Cariñosamente,
Tu mamá

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Mom,

Sorry about the continuing lack of phone number. Still haven´t remembered to get it written down.

As far as more info about CAFTA goes, check out this website: http://www.globalexchange.org (we got some of our info from it). It has some links to pages about CAFTA and the even more worrisome FTAA right on the front page. Lots of other good info too.... you could really spend a lot of time checking it out.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger pineconeboy said...

Oh, and here´s the more complete story about that oil company:

¨Many Costa Ricans are also concerned that the investment provisions in DR-CAFTA could threaten the country's high environmental standards. The Costa Rican government recently denied the U.S.-based Harken Energy Corp. a permit to conduct offshore oil exploration because of a very negative environmental impact assessment of the proposed project (a normal requirement under Costa Rican law). Harken attempted to sue the Costa Rican government for US$57 billion (a figure that far exceeds the country's entire GDP) under the World Bank's International Convention for the Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID). Because Costa Rica is not a party to ICSID and has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, the government was able to avoid the ICSID arbitration process and remove the matter to its the local court system for resolution.¨

How could they even try to do that? A corporation suing a sovereign government? Jesus Christ.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Dave/SugarBear said...

...would have condemned it for the unabashed greed it is from what I've read of him :/

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

Hey Gabe,

Thanks for reading my blog and I´m glad to see you have one, too. I´ve been wondering what´s going on in Gracias. The mountains out here in Olanchito are amazing and I´m currently asking around about hiking. Come on down!

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GABBBBBRIEEELLLL!!!!! There, thought that would get your attention. Daddio and I are sitting here wishing we could call you and visit...BUT!!! NO PHONE NUMBER!!!!!!!!! As mom would say..."You little Shit!". I'm making life changing descisions here, but do i get some brotherly advice? NO!! So get your stinking act together you lazy, pick up a pen (or stick with ink on it if that's what they use) and WRITE DOWN THE NUMBER! MyMy Lizzie



Gabe, you I&CB,

This last posting is getting a little overripe. Time to come up with something new. What is going on there? I came over to Mt Vernon this weekend to visit with Maya. It is a short visit, but nice to get together. We borrowed bikes from Tyler's house and rode out to Clear Lake taking an indirect route that was quite scenic & little car traffic. Last night Tyler came over for dinner with his folks and ate sausages & Halibut. MMMM...Also a variety of beers including your favorite, the La Conner IPA.

Life's been pretty busy for me lately, I will send you an email within the next few days to explain. I wonder if you have rec'd that box I sent yet?

Pap Finn

 
At 8:18 PM, Anonymous ghrog said...

CAFTA makes me cry, irl. And the lack of anyone talking about it makes me cry even more :(.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home