Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Reply to McDermott's Response to CAFTA Letter

May 13, 2005

Congressman Jim McDermott
1035 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515-4707

Dear Congressman McDermott:

I was stunned, shocked and saddened by your response (attached) to my anti-CAFTA letter. I’m not exactly sure what to make of it.

Let us begin by noting that CAFTA is a response to the U.S. failure to force through FTAA. Our corporate controlled government is now trying to achieve its objectives piecemeal. The full force of empire is being directed against these pathetically small and weak countries which we have used and abused for over 150 years. Their current sorry state a direct consequence of U.S. intervention and exploitation, which CAFTA will perpetuate and intensify.

You mention brutal civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1980s which claimed over 200,000 lives. Civil wars? Let’s be honest. In the 1980s, the U.S. unleashed a brutal campaign of terror, torture and mass-murder to pacify the population and create the "stability" necessary to improve investment opportunities. In El Salvador and Guatemala, the U.S. trained, equipped and funded military, acting as U.S. mercenaries, committed numerous massacres, while their companion death squads tortured and disappeared any and all opposition to U.S. domination and control. In Nicaragua, the CIA ran a proxy war utilizing ex-Samoza military personnel to invade Nicaragua from neighboring countries and conduct terror operations against the civilian population. The economy was destroyed, the population murdered and terrorized until finally in 1990 the Nicaraguans surrendered at the polls.

In your third paragraph, you note (correctly) the endemic poverty, high unemployment, and dependence upon a few export commodities. You then engage in incredible sophistry by suggesting that the Caribbean Basin Initiative was a kindly attempt by the U.S. to alleviate the conditions which were a root cause of the "civil wars." That’s pure crap. The primary consequence of this corporate friendly initiative was to provide economic incentives to the transnational corporations to establish sweat shops in the maquiladora export zones. This encouraged U.S. corporations to relocate (or threaten to relocate) offshore to "business friendly" locations and export back to the U.S.. A good deal of international trade is actually internal corporate transfers among their various holdings. Surely you don’t mean to imply that this was a boon to the local economy? As you should be aware, any and all attempts to reform the oligarchies and provide benefits for the majority have been met with U.S. violence. Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, and now Chavez in Venezuela, to name a few obvious examples.
To suggest that we were trying to benefit the people even as our mercenaries engaged in mass-murder is simply incredible.

You mention coffee prices. For how long have the Latin American countries tried to establish rules, procedures and agreements to stabilize coffee prices? For how long has the U.S. opposed and thwarted these efforts? The drop in coffee prices was a direct consequence of the (U.S. controlled) World Bank encouraging and financing Viet Nam to become a coffee exporter. Since it is bad business for producers to create an over supply, we can safely assume that the World Bank intentionally collapsed the market to ensure cheap coffee prices, and for other reasons as well. One of the functions of the World Bank is to keep Third World commodities plentiful and prices low. Yet another example of our deep concern for the well being of our Third World brothers and sisters.

Fortunately, you opine, export diversification saved the day! If it wasn’t for all of those maquiladora sweat shops, what would the poor people do? Congressman McDermott, are you aware that thanks to globalization the wages of these poor people (the numerical majority of the population) have been falling? The whole intent of corporate globalization (including CAFTA) is to create corporate controlled economic structures which will prevent independent economic development anywhere, but particularly in the Third World, which is to be maintained as a world of paupers. Not everyone, of course. The satraps and compradors are doing just fine. Richly rewarded for their service to empire. Please don’t counter with any macro-economic statistical claptrap. All that this would show is that the corporations and oligarches are doing just fine (which was the intent, after all).

I almost gagged on your fourth paragraph where you note significant changes with much more to be accomplished. The obvious inference is that good things have happened, but we can do even better! Is it possible that you consider the immiseration of the majority of the population of these countries a good thing? That the destruction of the local agricultural base, the privatization of health care and of education is good? That hunger, poor health and ignorance are a sound basis for future development? You want to accelerate the process? Why? Why is it good to eliminate any and all political constraints on corporate exploitation and environmental destruction? Who are these agreements going to benefit? Surely not the people of Latin America, who have suffered grievously for many years as a consequence of U.S. intervention and domination.

But wait, a ray of hope. You seem to tentatively oppose the Bush approach to trade agreements because they lack the fig leaf of labor protections. Paper protections, I might add, that are in direct conflict with a core purpose of these corporate driven agreements. Protections that won’t be worth the paper they are written on. You express hope that these agreements can provide an incentive for Central American labor reform. Are you joking? Do you actually believe this? Do Central American labor organizations and progressives oppose these agreements because they’re too stupid to appreciate that Uncle Sam has their best interests at heart?

Getting back to the Central American economies, it is highly instructive to note that as a consequence of IMF structural adjustment programs, a fast growing area of Third World economies are the remittances from friends and relatives in the First World. The World Bank and UN estimate total remittances worldwide at $200-$300 billion per annum. In Haiti, remittances account for almost a quarter of total gross domestic product. This is your idea of economic development? For large numbers of people in Latin America, the two keys to economic survival are remittances and coca production. All of this is a direct consequence of U.S. economic and foreign policy.

I know that this letter is long and strident. So be it. I have reached the point of total disgust with U.S. illegality, immorality, and stupidity in regards to corporate global imperialism. I had hoped that there might be few members of congress who would have the courage to resist the pressures of their corporate constituency and show real leadership in these troubled times. To acknowledge the reality of peak-oil production, global warming and other forms of ecological breakdown, the immorality of Third World subjugation, and the unsustainable nature of our National Security State economy. To take the lead in opposing U.S. militarism, canceling (not "forgiving") the odious Third World debt, getting rid of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, NAFTA, and all other instruments of economic subjugation and control. To fight like hell to get the U.S. to transition to a sustainable peace-time economy. Things which most of the politically active progressives in the 7th district generally support. Things which I had thought you might support.
And then I got your letter. What am I to make of it? That Congressman Jim McDermott is basically a neo-liberal imperialist who occasionally masquerades as a progressive? Say it ain’t so, Jim, say it ain’t so.

Yours disapprovingly,

April 26, 2005

Dear Keith:

Thank you for contacting me about the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). As you know, The Bush Administration launched trade negotiations with Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua in hopes of securing a trade agreement that will lead to increased trade among these countries and ours.

In the 1980s, three of these countries - El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua - endured brutal civil wars. The other two, Costa Rica and Honduras, often were staging grounds for military action. The wars left more 200,000 people dead and more than one million seeking refuge abroad.

Some of the roots of war lay in economic conditions, such as endemic poverty, high unemployment and a heavy national dependence on a few export commodities. In an effort to temper these problems, the U.S., in 1985, created the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which reduced tariffs on many products imported from Central America. As a result, CBI countries have significantly diversified their economies. For example, in 1989, coffee represented $105 million of El Salvador's $245 million in total exports to the United States. Today, clothing represents $1.7 billion of El Salvador's $2 billion in exports to the U.S. This growth and diversification has enabled the Salvadoran economy to withstand the record low coffee prices that would have crippled its economy in the 1980s. Today, each Central American country is a peaceful democracy working to integrate their economies with other new world democracies.

While significant changes have occurred in Central America over the last two decades, there is still much more to be accomplished, especially in the area of labor rights. While pursuing free trade agreements with developing countries, our aims shoul include not only opportunities for American businesses, but also development of those principles and labor protections that allow our workforce to compete in foreign markets.

When we encourage developing countries to sell us their goods and services, we can help them expand their economies, create jobs, and raise the living standards of their populations. CBI and other trade preference programs for developing countries have demonstrated this. A well-structured free trade agreement could build upon the progress that resulted from CBI, and provide new opportunities to American firms and exporters, which would help create jobs here at home.

I am concerned that the Bush Administration is taking the wrong approach to CAFTA, as it did with the recent Chile and Singapore free trade agreements, which I opposed. Instead of seeking and promoting greater labor protections for workers in countries with whom we trade, the Administration virtually ignores this concern. I believe its approach is wrong; addressing this critical issue would provide substantial incentives for labor reforms in Central America while ensuring that American workers are not unduly harmed.

While I will reserve a final judgement about CAFTA until the negotiations are finalized and I have had an opportunity to review the agreement thoroughly, I remain dubious about the Administration's philosophy toward international trade, particularly with regard to Central America.

Thank you again for your comments. I will keep them in mind as the 109th congress moves forward.


Jim McDermott, Member of Congress


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