In the shadow of Olneyville's long abandoned Atlantic textile
mill, opponents of free trade warned that more American factories will close
and conditions for workers throughout the Western Hemisphere will worsen if the
proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement becomes law.
On Sunday, April 24, more than 125 people packed into the basement of St.
Teresa's Church on Manton Avenue in Providence to commemorate the 1980
assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and decry the power of
FTAA, a treaty that seeks to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) through all of Latin America except Cuba, was the main target of
speakers from the Alliance for Responsible Trade, which is touring New England
to organize opposition to the pact.
Macrina Cardenas, legislative coordinator for the Washington-based Mexico
Solidarity Network, said NAFTA had been a "disaster" for Mexico. Opening
Mexican markets to low-priced American corn has ruined thousands of small
farmers, and the invasion of large American chain retailers has bankrupted many
small storeowners. As a result, she added, illegal immigration into the US from
Mexico has soared.
Cardenas also blamed NAFTA for the privatizing of Mexican telephone and
electricity companies and the weakening of independent unions. By making it
easier for corporations to move factories to other nations, NAFTA has
discouraged Mexican workers from organizing and risking the closure of their
plant, Cardenas explained.
Cardenas's grim message was balanced by Brazilian Maryknoll missionary David
Kane's report. "We have a good chance to shut down this FTAA," Kane stated,
prompting applause from the audience of Hispanic parishioners and American-born
anti-globalization activists. Venezuela opposes the pact and Cuba is actively
working against it, he said. Brazil is also hesitant, Kane noted, especially
after President George Bush recently placed tariffs of up to 30 percent on
imported steel and Congress retained the authority to negotiate trade rules for
300 key products.
Meanwhile, he observed, Argentina's economic collapse after the World Bank
refused to grant additional loans shows the dangers of neo-liberal economic
To spur opposition to the trade pact, Kane noted, FTAA opponents in Latin
America are holding plebiscites in churches and community halls. Millions of
people have voted in the non-governmental balloting, he reports, generating
publicity for the anti-FTAA cause. Locally, the Rhode Island Global Action
Network is organizing busloads of Rhode Islanders to protest at the April 20
meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington. For
more information call (401) 521-6031.
Issue Date: March 29 - April 4, 2002