Necessary economic policy changes towards Latin America
By Adrián Boutureira, United for a Fair Economy
United for Fair Economy believes the Obama administration faces great challenges as well as great opportunities inour future relationship with Latin America.
During his election campaign, candidate Obama courageously stated he would not support the Colombia Trade Agreement due to the impunity in which human rights violations and violence against labor organizers occur in that country. While we applaud Mr. Obama for bringing these sobering facts to the attention of the American people, weinvite him to go further. President Obama must not only condemn the Colombian government's complicity in the gross violation of human rights of labor and community leaders, but he must also confront and address our own nation's economic and military complicity in those violations.
Furthermore, the new administration must not only examine and rectify these inherent inconsistencies in the proposed US-Colombia trade agreement, but also those of other existing bilateral and multilateral 'free' trade agreements in the hemisphere, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and the US-Peru Trade Agreement.
A truly new phase in US-Latin America relations calls for a rejection of many past and present US trade policies that have played a key role in the creation of social instability, lack of economic opportunity, and gross economic inequality that has led to the displacement and forced emigration of millions of human beings.
Any real change in direction inimmigration and US policy towards Latin America calls for President Obama toalso quickly distance himself from past foreign policies that have mainly supported the interests of multinational corporations and entrenched local oligarchies. He should instead develop a new comprehensive strategy that willgenerate a foreign policy that will support Latin American social movements and governments that aim to advance the rights of workers, women, the indigenous,small farmers, and other historically oppressed majority populations as they struggle for social, economic, cultural, and environmental justice.
To this end, UFE respectfully suggests the following changes in USpolicies towards Latin America and its citizens:
1. Initiate and institute changes in US foreign policy that:
- Respect the economic, political and territorial sovereignty of all Latin American nations.
- End all covert and overt military and intelligence intervention in the internal affairs of all Latin American nations.
- End the present political belligerence toward popularly elected governments throughout the region, such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, among others.
- Provide political, technological and financial support for those Latin American governments that pursue sustainable, locally determined, economically, socially and environmentally just development strategies, regardless of their alignment to US corporate interests.
- Close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
- Close the International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador.
- Stop the funding of Plan Colombia and cut off all military aid to that country.
- Stop the funding of the Merida Initiative and the militarization of the US/Mexico border.
- Close the National Endowment for Democracy and return USAID to its original foreign aid mission.
- Help return President Aristide to Haiti's presidency and support the end of the UN occupation.
- End the embargo against Cuba and normalize relations with that nation.
2. Establish tradeagreements with Latin America that:
- Include comprehensive agreement-drafting mechanisms that allow for full transparency in all aspects of the negotiations and that are drafted by democratically elected government representatives and other major non-governmental stakeholders. (For example, civil society organizations that represent autonomous indigenous communities affected by the proposed policies);
- Ensure that corporations cannot challenge international treaties and agreements; local, state and federal public interest policies; and/or international labor, human rights, health, environmental, and safety laws and regulations;
- Promote and enforce the implementation of a common, best practices standard for the rights of workers, Indigenous Peoples, small farmers, consumers and women;
- Support the autonomy and integrity of the public sector and the full protection of the environment;
- Establish practices that focus on local economies, support fair trade and sustainable growth principles, and aim at serving the interests of working people in the US and the working people of our Latin American trading partner/s equally;
- Include alternative indicators for measurements of wealth and progress other than the GNP and GDP, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), that reflect the importance of accurately measuring the adverse effects of certain economic activity on human welfare and environmental sustainability;
- Shift measuring the impact of natural resource exploitation and the introducing of potentially hazardous substances into the environment away from Risk Assessment methodology and towards the use of methods that employ the Precautionary Principle.
3. Initiate the creation of a just immigration reform that:
- Prevent the passage of anti-immigrant legislation and the criminalization of undocumented immigrant workers and their families;
- Halt the militarization of the border and the continued building of the wall separating historically culturally and economically interconnected cross-border communities;
- Cease all deportation proceedings of undocumented workers with children living and or born in the US;
- Reject the guest worker program as a viable alternative for normalizing the status of undocumented immigrant workers;
- Reject undocumented worker employer sanctions and "no match" letters;
- Develop a comprehensive path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant workers;
- Facilitate speedy family reunification;
- Protect and advance the civil rights of all immigrants and their families;
- Protect labor rights and promote a living wage for all immigrant workers.