The big multinationals and governments of the continent have since 1994 been actively pushing for the implementation of the biggest commercial creation worldwide, the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas). In this pact, 34 countries will be represented that cover an area from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego: all countries from Central America, South America and the Carribean, Cuba excepted.
In its essence the FTAA is an extension of the NAFTA (the free trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico from 1994) to the whole of the American continent. We have already seen the consequences of NAFTA for workers, society and the environment: 1 million more Mexicans earn less than the minimum wage, with another 8 million families living in poverty. The industrial zone of the maquiladoras concentrated along the border of Mexico and the US has suffered a dramatic increase increase of pollution and toxic waste, a direct consequence of the dominance of commercial interests in the NAFTA agreement, causing dramatic increases in cases of hepatitis and deformations at birth.
The FTAA will mean the liberalisation of all environmental and labour norms, to the advantage of the big multinationals: the privatisation of social services, health care and education, but also water-sources and the distribution of it, post services, telecommunication and the prisons. The FTAA will put an end to small local agriculture, to the advantage of large-scale production for export like palm oil and cacao. It will steal the knowledge of indigenous population and patent it, together with the natural resources of their territory. If these won’t already be flooded by hydroelectric dams of European and American companies. The patents on medicines will cause a rise in prices, which means they will become unaffordable for a big part of the population, stuck in situation of deprivation and hunger.
FTAA condemns the Latin American countries to the use of cheap labour, with the result the emergence of true ‘repúblicas maquiladoras’, or Export Processing Zones on a national scale. It condemns these countries to change themselves into a dump of toxic waste from the US, it condemns them to sell out their natural resources, genetic as well as energetic, and in the end it will lead to the destruction of their indigenous peoples.
And if the population dares to resist this future of misery and depression, then the interests of big business will be defended. They will be defended by the army and the paramilitaries, financed and trained by the US, as well as private security companies (like DynCorp). And this will take place by means of the most brute repression, even if to the detriment of half of the Latin American population.
In clearing the road to the FTAA, these plans seem to be of central importance:
A plan of war, presented by the US as a plan to combat drugs and to develop the area, socially and economically (the humanitarian side, financed by the EU). Recently, this plan has transformed itself into ‘La Iniciativa Regional Andina’ (the Regional Initiative of the Andes), which also targets the neighbouring countries of Colombia.
Plan Puebla Panama
A plan with the goal of ‘developing’ the Central American region, including all the niceties of the FTAA. Part of this plan are, among others, the construction of more than 70 hydro-electric dams in Central America, the creation of maquiladoras in the whole of Chiapas and so on. The military component of this plan is being presented as ‘Nuevo Horizontes’ (new horizons). Another part, the ‘Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano’ means factually that the genetical and natural resources of the region are handed (privatization) over to the hands of the multinationals. The cultural heritage of the local peoples will be ‘protected’ by multinationals that will focus on ‘ecological tourism’.
Campaign Against FTAA and The Regional Intervention Plans in Latin America (Netherlands)
There will be a full analysis of the Free Trade Area of the Americas in the next bulletin.