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Leaders of Major U.S. Latino Organizations Say NAFTA Expansion is Anti-Latino and Damaging to Central America

Leaders of four major U.S. Latino civil rights and immigrant organizations today discussed their opposition to the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to five Central American nations, calling the pact against the interests of Latinos in the United States and Central America.

CAFTA-NAFTA expansion requires signatory countries to rewrite their domestic policies to conform to new patent rules that will increase medicine prices and undermine access of poor farmers to seeds; provide new protection to foreign investors that undercut governments’ ability to implement basic economic development, public interest environment and health protections; and privatize and deregulate essential public services.

The following are statements by the four leaders, delivered during a telephone briefing with journalists today:

  • Gabriela Lemus, director of policy and legislation, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s oldest and largest member-based league of U.S. Latinos:

“In 1993, LULAC joined other Latino civil rights organizations in supporting NAFTA but now after seeing its damaging outcomes in Mexico and the United States, our membership passed a no-to-CAFTA resolution at our 75th Anniversary national convention in 2004. ”

  • Angela Sambrano of Los Angeles-based Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), the organization founded by Salvadoran refugees:

“CAFTA will have irreparable economic consequences to Central America. Farmers will face forced migration as campesinos did under NAFTA with corn dumping. Already 400 people a day migrate to the U.S. from Central America, and CAFTA will increase migration to the United States, not improve conditions.

“CAFTA’s negotiations were conducted without consultation by those governments of Central American civil society or input to U.S. negotiators from U.S. Latino immigrant organizations. The agreement that resulted benefits the business elite, but not the poor, much less the marginalized indigenous and Afro-Latino populations.   That exclusion is racist in the eyes of Latinos, which is why, for instance, 30 leaders of Central American trade unions issued a statement to that effect.”

  • Robert Martinez, an executive board member of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the first national organization to represent the views of Latino workers seeking justice at the workplace, with more than 65 chapters nationwide:

“Latino workers have suffered job decimation discrimination in the U.S. from NAFTA with heavy U.S. NAFTA job losses in manufacturing in the border area. CAFTA is an expansion of the NAFTA nightmare that has denied the American dream to Latino working families.”

  • Oscar Chacon, president of the Salvadoran American National Network, (SANN), an association of Salvadoran and other Central American community-based organizations from around the country:

“CAFTA is anti-development, does not foster equal integration or address the needs of Central Americans. We are pro-development and the interests in Washington pushing CAFTA are not.”

For more information on CAFTA, visit  www.tradewatch.org.