Bush humiliated as movement rebuffs FTAA
Published Nov 10, 2005 12:39 AM
U.S. President George W. Bush received a chilly
reception in the seaside city of Mar del Plata, Argentina, on Nov. 4-5. The
chill came from his fellow presidents at an historic two-day summit meeting of
leaders from 34 states in the Western Hemisphere, with socialist Cuba
In the streets of the city and the soccer stadium, however, the
reception was hotter. Tens of thousands of Argentineans and other Latin
Americans trashed Bush and the so-called Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
(FTAA) while cheering Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the memory of
the legendary revolutionary Che Guevara, himself an Argentinean.
Fourth Summit of the Americas convened on Nov. 4 under the ambitious title of
“Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic
The U.S. ruling class, still smarting from its failure
to win meaningful international and domestic support for its colonial adventure
in Iraq and its inability to defeat the Iraqi resistance, had hoped to use the
summit to advance its goal of strengthening and extending neo-colonial relations
throughout Latin America.
For Bush, whose administration represents the
interests of U.S. transnational capital, the meeting provided an opportunity to
seek hemispheric consensus for the FTAA. This trade agreement models itself on
relations, like those in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that
have proved disastrous for the economies of underdeveloped and developing
As early as March of this year the U.S. government publicly
revealed that it would not hesitate to use FTAA as a vehicle to undermine the
national sovereignty of countries that resist imperialist maneuvers in the
During a speech at the Harvard Club, U.S. Ambassador to
Argentina Lino Gutierrez praised Argentina for working to send “troops to
Haiti and trying to help assure the survival of a democratic system in Venezuela
and Bolivia.” Gutierrez further speculated that Argentina’s
assistance in supporting the FTAA would reaffirm the two countries’ shared
“belief in the free market system as a vehicle to … upholding
The “democracy” that Gutierrez speaks of
includes U.S.-sponsored kidnappings and coups, as in Haiti, Chile and Guate
mala, meant to ensure that only governments friendly to the objectives of
imperialism control the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Legacy of ‘free’ trade proves
NAFTA was implemented in 1994 when Democrat President Bill
Clinton was in office. It aimed at eliminating all trade barriers between
Canada, the United States and Mexico by 2009. NAFTA has shown it is detri mental
to workers in all three countries who are struggling to maintain basic labor
rights, social programs and public ser vices against the attacks of unfettered
A recent study conducted by the Eco nomic Policy Institute
demonstrates that over 1 million manufacturing jobs in the United States and
Canada have been lost as a result of NAFTA. According to the EPI report, the
results for Mexico’s workforce have been equally devastating:
manufacturing workers are now earning 21 percent less, salaried workers earn 25
percent less and the purchasing power of the Mexican minimum wage is now worth
only half of its 1994 value.
Millions of Mexican workers and their
families live in abject poverty in the slums surrounding the maquiladora
industries along the U.S. border, which have grown sharply following the
implementation of NAFTA.
The failures of NAFTA spurred a decade of
resistance to “free trade” on the part of the workers and oppressed,
who bear the brunt of the declining living standards and environmental
contamination that are the result of unregulated corporate dom ination. This
resistance ranged from the armed rebellion that broke out in the southern
Mexican state of Chiapas just after the signing of NAFTA, through the
anti-globalization upsurge in Seattle in 1999 and on from there.
has discovered on the streets of Mar del Plata that the legacy of militant
resistance is alive and well.
Bush versus Che
people’s movement battled the FTAA in the streets and behind the
barricades, as well as at the summit meetings. One Latin American president
fought to ensure that the summit remained true to its announced theme of
creating jobs, fighting poverty and encouraging democratic governance:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who proved a forceful opponent to FTAA
at the summit.
President Chávez lobbied against FTAA behind closed
doors and publicly supported the demonstrators during his address to 50,000 FTAA
opponents during a counter-summit at the city’s main soccer stadium.
Chávez’ public comments revealed the level of resistance Bush and
other U.S. diplomats faced. “Every one of us has brought a shovel, because
Mar del Plata is going to be the tomb of FTAA,” Chávez
If the events in Argentina were in fact a battle between
Bush’s concept of freedom and that of the great, murdered revolutionary,
Che Guevara, as the Christian Science Monitor suggested, the Bush concept was
dealt a near knock-out blow. Tens of thousands of protesters marched in the
streets, rallied under banners with likenesses of Che, and burned effigies of
Bush. Guevara was assassinated in 1967 at the direction of the CIA while leading
a guerrilla campaign in Bolivia.
At the summit’s conclusion, Bush
left without an FTAA deal, without a final communiqué and even without
the clear support of host-country Argentina.
Protests follow Bush to
Bush’s reception in Argentina left the U.S. ruling class
high and dry. His estrangement from Mexican President Vicente Fox, a former
ally, was obvious from Fox’s comments dismissing their lack of a
face-to-face meeting. Fox has been hoping for an agreement that would allow
Mexican workers to come legally to the U.S., but to no avail. Mexicans without
papers continue to die by the hundreds crossing the U.S. border.
traveled to Brazil Nov. 6, the protest against FTAA followed him to the capital
of Brasilia and through a half-dozen other major Brazilian cities. Pro testers
painted monuments in the capital city with graffiti denouncing Bush’s
planned visit with slogans that read, “Get out, killer Bush” and
“Yankees go home.”
Even in Panama, Bush’s last stop,
there were demonstrators in the streets and Bush effigies burning. He returned
home defeated and without his deal. The other hemispheric leaders had to heed
the rallying cry in the streets as the people turned down the FTAA.
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