This Week in the Americas

Extending NAFTA’s Reach
By Laura Carlsen

Faced with opposition from the left and the right, George W. Bush, Felipe Calderon, and Stephen Harper met August 20-21 in Montebello, Canada to discuss the little-known second phase of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Declarations to the press acknowledged public concerns about the content and the secrecy of the talks, but said nothing to clear up doubts about the closed-door proceedings or disclose specific policies under discussion.

Beyond the vague feel-good rhetoric about a "prosperous neighborhood" and "common commitments" the Canadian, U.S., and Mexican leaders each seemed to have his particular agenda. The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), however, has surreptitiously proceeded well beyond the regulatory mandate into areas that threaten the sovereignty of the three nations and will have long-term effects on the lives of their citizens. This has happened not only without citizen participation, but also in many cases without citizens’ knowledge.

Trilateral decisions that affect entire populations should be open to the public and subject to citizen review. The priority should always be placed on increasing the long-term well-being of the people. As democracies we cannot allow the course of North American integration to be dictated by a closed group of corporate and cabinet representatives.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program at in Mexico City, where she has been a writer and political analyst for more than two decades.

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New from the Americas Program

The New Politics of Political Aid in Venezuela
By Tom Barry

Five years after U.S.-funded groups were associated with a failed coup against Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez, the U.S. government continues to meddle in Venezuelan domestic politics with its political aid programs. In the name of promoting democracy and freedom, Washington is currently funding scores of U.S. and Venezuelan organizations as part of its global democratization strategy—including at least one that publicly supported the April 2002 coup that briefly removed Chávez from power.

The United States would not permit foreign countries and their agents to inject themselves into its own political process; it should assume no right to do unto others what it would not have done to itself.

Tom Barry is a senior analyst with the Americas Policy Program, of the Center for International Policy.

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Creating the Bases for a New World
By Raúl Zibechi

The largest social movement on the continent, and one of the most important in the world, held its 5th Congress in mid-June 2007 in Brasilia. Despite successful mobilization of masses of people and significant media impact, under Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government the movement faces strong challenges to activate its base against new enemies, such as agribusiness.

Agrarian reform will no longer be the principal demand from the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Movement. This was the central dilemma for the 5th MST Congress. To make agrarian reform viable, first the neoliberal model that is advancing in Brazil under the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva must be rejected. Their new focus includes fighting environmental destruction and domination by multinational agribusinesses.

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst at Brecha, a weekly journal in Montevideo, Uruguay, professor and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to grassroots organizations. He writes the monthly "Zibechi Report" for the CIP Americas Policy Program ( Translated by Maria Roof.

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Guatemala’s Kafta-esque Year
By Umberto Mazzei

CAFTA went into effect a year ago in Guatemala and a number of regrettable things have happened since. Under CAFTA, Guatemala’s fortunes have demonstrated an abrupt reversal, with its first trade deficit in a decade. This is exactly what was predicted by the groups who were not consulted at the time—the citizens’ organizations that were shot at by police and blackballed by the press where newspapers gave them precious few column inches to voice their opinions.

Umberto Mazzei is a PhD in Political Science from the University of Florence, and has been a professor in international economics in Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala. He is Director of the Institute of International Economic Relations in Geneva ( and a member of the Mesa Global coalition in Guatemala, as well as an analyst for the Americas Policy Program at Translated by Tony Phillips.

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