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Governments Ratify, Protesters Die: Two Killed as CAFTA Ratification Meets Strong Resistance in Guatemala

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March 29, 2005

Governments Ratify, Protesters Die: Two Killed as CAFTA Ratification Meets Strong Resistance in Guatemala

by Sandy Hager

Protesters demonstrating against the Guatemalan government's ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement were met with what the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ICFTU) has described as "disproportionate force" by Guatemalan police.

According to the ICFTU, the Guatemalan police were directly responsible for the deaths of two protesters in the province of Huehuetenango. Arrest warrants have been issued across the country for labour leaders associated with the demonstrations.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement was ratified by the Guatemalan Congress on March 15th and establishes a free trade area between the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Critics say that such agreements grant disproportionate power to corporations by allowing them to sue governments for lost profits due to "trade barriers" that populations rely on to protect their rights and environment. The official term is "investor-to-state dispute resolution."

With striking resemblances to its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) counterpart, CAFTA is seen by some as a necessary stepping stone to the completion of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

According to a Green Left Weekly report, the Guatemalan demonstrations were sparked by a desire to see CAFTA subject to a national referendum. The same report suggests that provisions in CAFTA allowing for the lowering of US tariffs "will threaten the livelihoods of small farmers and increase unemployment and may exacerbate the country's food shortages."

» Union Network International: Guatemala: CAFTA protests result in 2 deaths and arrest warrants for trade unionists

» Resist.ca: Guatemalan Government Approves CAFTA Under Cloud of Tear Gas

» Stop CAFTA: About CAFTA

» Green Left Weekly: Guatemala: Two Die, CAFTA Ratified

Quixote.org: CAFTA and Expanding Corporate Rights

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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