By Tom Ricker and Burke Stansbury
Members of the Stop CAFTA Coalition denounced the approval of the US-Dominican Republic Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) which passed by a vote of 217 to 215 in the House of Representatives early Thursday morning.
"This is a tragedy for people in the United States, and even more so for the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic," said Tom Ricker of the Quixote Center. "For three years, we have worked with our brothers and sisters in the region to build a broad-based cross-border movement against this agreement, only to see the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership use dirty tricks to guarantee its approval."
"As we expected, the House Speaker kept the roll call open until after midnight while the Bush Administration twisted arms and bought off the remaining votes necessary for approval," said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. "This Administration was unable to pass CAFTA on its merits, so it turned to scare tactics and lies, making the absurd claim that rejecting CAFTA would lead to violence and a dictatorship in Central America."
"CAFTA is a sham, and the procedures used to limit debate and win over additional votes are an atrocity," said Burke Stansbury. "What we saw on the floor of the House this week was nothing less than the total undermining of the democratic process."
The Stop CAFTA Coalition held a vigil outside the Capital on Wednesday, as part of a long pressure campaign to thwart the agreement, which was signed over a year ago but had yet to come to a vote due to lack of support.
"This vote will not be forgotten by the people of the Americas. It is another example of a policy that seeks to dominate, economically and politically, a region of people demanding democracy and self-determination," said Holly Miller of Witness for Peace. "The people of Central America will continue to resist the implementation of this agreement, and we stand in solidarity with them in the face of this injustice."
CAFTA has not passed in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic due to heavy opposition in those countries. In El Salvador, opposition parties have challenged the legality of CAFTA approval.
"The struggle is far from over. The heightened awareness built by our campaign about the negative effects of so-called "free trade" will broaden our efforts to roll back CAFTA, NAFTA, and the destructive economic system from which they stem," said Andrew de Sousa of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA). "We are inspired by the resistance of popular movements throughout the Americas, and we know that we will eventually turn the tide against this abusive system."
For more information: http://www.stopcafta.org
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