Report on Sao Paulo Anti-FTAA Conference
Presentation by OWC Co-Coordinators: A Deep Sense of Urgency
Final Declaration of the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference Against the
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) -- Sao Paulo, Brazil, December
3) Appendix 1: Excerpts from the Resolution of the
Coordinating Committee of the Brazilian Campaign Against the FTAA, the
Debt, and Militarization -- December 8th, 2003
4) Appendix 2: Have Plans to Launch the FTAA in
2005 Been Scaled Back? -- by Alan Benjamin
1) Presentation by OWC Co-Coordinators: A Deep Sense of Urgency
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Season's greetings, and may all of you have a healthy and happy New Year.
May it be a year in which we make some real progress in building a
powerful and united movement for peace, jobs and justice -- at home and
abroad. Most important, may it be a year in which we stop the Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA)!
On December 12-14, both of us -- in our capacity as co-coordinators of the
OWC Continuations Committee and representatives from the San Francisco
Labor Council (AFL-CIO) -- were among the more than 200 delegates from
across the Americas who participated in the Western Hemisphere Workers
Conference Against the FTAA in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This was no
business-as-usual trade union conference. There was a deep sense of
urgency in all the Conference presentations and deliberations. The
Conference's Final Declaration [see below] attests to that. It is a call
to forge the widest possible unity in action across the Western Hemisphere
to stop the FTAA in 2004 -- just as it is a call to preserve the
independence of our trade union organizations, which is a condition for
stopping the FTAA and the entire corporate assault on our rights and
The deep sense of urgency expressed throughout the conference was
prompted, in our view, by two factors.
1) The first and most important factor was the understanding by Conference
participants that the FTAA negotiations in Miami on November 19-20
maintained the FTAA calendar and full negotiations agenda demanded by the
Bush administration. This means that by January 2005 -- unless working
people across the continent mobilize with sufficient strength to force
their governments to withdraw from FTAA negotiations -- the FTAA, one of
the most vicious attacks against the peoples of the Americas ever to come
down the pike, could become a reality!
Conference participants expressed their deep shock and dismay that the
Brazilian government, headed by former union leader Luis Inacio
"Lula" da Silva, had reneged on its pledge to subvert -- or at
the very least provide some form of resistance to -- the FTAA negotiations
process. Lula, when he ran for the presidency in the fall of 2002,
characterized the FTAA as an agreement that would allow the United States
to "annex" Brazil and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
Brazil, as co-chair (along with the United States) of the final round of
FTAA negotiations, could have played a major role in undermining the FTAA
process from within, while building wider continental opposition to the
FTAA negotiations. But the Lula government did not do this.
Much has been made in some of the mainstream and labor press in the United
States about the so-called "FTAA Lite" deal that was reached in
Miami by the trade ministers of the 34 countries comprising the FTAA.
The December 2003 issue of America@Work, the monthly magazine of
the AFL-CIO, in a report by James Parks titled "Stop the FTAA!",
characterizes the agreement reached in Miami on November 20th as a
"setback for the United States." Parks writes: "Despite the
Bush administration's expectations for finalizing FTAA, trade ministers
failed to reach a comprehensive binding agreement, choosing instead to let
individual nations opt out of trade requirements they find unpalatable, a
move some observers called 'FTAA Lite'."
Later, Parks writes: "Because U.S. efforts to create the FTAA have
stalled, the United States has been negotiating bilateral deals and on
Nov. 19 announced it will launch negotiations for bilateral free-trade
agreements with Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama and
Peru." Parks then goes on to quote Sarah Anderson, trade analyst of
the Institute for Policy Studies, who stated, "By announcing the
bilateral deals, the Bush administration is admitting they can't get what
they want via the FTAA, and that's because people and governments are
resisting throughout the Americas."
While it is very true that the people of the Americas are resisting
steadfastly the imposition of the FTAA, it is not at all the case that the
Miami Final Declaration marked a retreat by the Bush administration in its
quest to win FTAA passage by January 2005. The Sao Paulo Conference
examined the "FTAA Lite" agreement in some detail [see section
on "FTAA Lite" in Final Declaration], as did the Brazilian
affiliate of the Hemispheric Civic Alliance Against the FTAA in a
comprehensive statement released December 8th [see major excerpts below].
Both texts characterize the Miami agreement as a victory for the United
States. [Also see the Dec. 6 statement on "FTAA Lite" by CUT
National Executive Director Julio Turra, distributed in a previous OWC
A close examination of the "FTAA Lite" accord in Miami shows
that the United States was able to preserve its essential strategic
orientation, with all the basic FTAA principles and time line kept intact.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick admitted as much when he stated,
"The Miami Summit has moved the FTAA process from a general concept
to a reality." (Agence France Presse, Nov. 21, 2003)
The bilateral "free trade" agreements -- all of which must be
"WTO-compliant" according to the Miami Summit Final Declaration
-- are not in any way contradictory with the FTAA negotiations process, as
Zoellick himself has acknowledged, but are in fact part and parcel of the
same destructive "free trade" agenda promoted by the FTAA. These
bilateral deals are all meant to create the conditions for implementing
FTAA in the time frame demanded by the Bush administration. While
countries are "allowed" to opt out of some FTAA requirements, to
save face, they are brought back immediately into the FTAA fold by equally
harmful bilateral or regional "free trade" deals -- not to
mention the "conditionalities" imposed by the IMF in all its
country-by-country debt-repayment Structural Adjustment Plans.
2) The second factor giving such a sense of urgency to the Conference
proceedings was the dramatic situation facing Brazil's working and
oppressed people one year after the election of Lula to the presidency.
The feeling of anguish, bitter disappointment and anger -- coupled with a
deep resolve to build a broad and powerful fightback to force the Lula
government to reverse course and heed the workers' legitimate demands --
was echoed in all the presentations by the Brazilian delegates to the
On October 27, 2002, more than 53 million Brazilians voted for the
presidential candidate of the Workers Party (PT) because they wanted
fundamental change. They wanted an end to hunger, growing unemployment,
rampant child labor, and increased violence by the large landowners
against the landless peasants' movement. They voted for Lula because they
wanted land for the landless peasants and an improvement in their overall
wages and working conditions. They wanted to stop the FTAA, as Lula had
promised he would do.
Instead, according to the presentations at the Conference, Brazil's
oppressed and exploited people were dealt even greater hardships, attacks
and takeaways during the past year by a government in which they had
placed such high hopes.
According to testimony and meticulously documented written reports from
the Conference participants, the child mortality rate in Brazil doubled in
2003; unemployment surged as more factories, unable to compete with
foreign imports (in the wake of the IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment
Plans), were forced to shut down. The unemployment rate in the greater Sao
Paulo region, alone, has skyrocketed to 20%, with all the ensuing problems
of crime, rampant homelessness, prostitution and drug-trafficking.
Public sector workers were delivered a particularly harsh blow this past
summer by the Lula government, with the so-called "reform" of
their pension system -- or "Previdencia." The Lula government,
buckling under pressure from the IMF and the large financial institutions
and speculators, turned its back on all past pledges to defend the system
of "Previdencia" and proceeded to begin turning over the
billions of dollars in public workers' pension funds to the foreign-based
private insurance corporations and speculators. Despite a six-week
nationwide strike of public-sector workers organized by the CUT trade
union federation, the government was able to prevail against the workers.
The age-old demand for land reform also went unheeded during the Lula
government's first year in office. The Landless Peasants Movement (MST), a
longtime ally of the Workers Party (PT), had demanded that the Lula
government turn over land to 125,000 landless peasant families in 2003.
The government responded that because of budget constraints imposed by the
IMF Agreement negotiated by the previous Cardoso government, it would only
be possible to resettle 60,000 families in 2003. The bitter reality was
that only 6500 peasant families were given titles to the lands this past
Worse still, the Cardoso-era law banning land occupations by the MST (and
preventing any family charged with an "illegal occupation" from
benefitting from any future land distribution) was maintained -- despite
previous pledges that it would be overturned. In fact the violence in
Brazil's countryside escalated this past year, as the landlords --
emboldened by the government's refusal to stand by the landless peasants
-- let loose their "jagunšos" (or hired goons) on the landless
peasants, killing 64 people in this past year alone, the highest number in
The opening day of the Sao Paulo Conference -- December 12th -- was also
the day the Lula government signed its own agreement with the IMF, thereby
codifying its commitment to increase the privatization/destruction of
public services and enterprises and the wholesale attacks on workers'
rights and gains, and on the sovereignty of Brazil itself.
But the reports by the Brazilian delegates were hardly all doom and gloom.
In just about every presentation the delegates also expressed their deep
resistance and courage to continue to fight until their legitimate demands
One of the most powerful sessions of the Sao Paulo Conference was an
evening Commission, or workshop, on the current wave of factory
occupations sweeping Brazil and the fight by the workers to demand
nationalization of the factories. The Commission was led by a large
delegation of workers from the occupied CIPLA/Interfibra factories in
Joinville, Santa Catarina, who showed a video on their year-long struggle
to protect the 1070 jobs in these two plants. Delegations from workers in
eight other occupied factories in various regions of Brazil also described
their conditions and explained why it was the responsibility of the
government to nationalize the factories to preserve their jobs.
Echoing the sentiment of all Conference participants, a delegate from the
occupied factories in Joinville stated:
"The money to defend our jobs and workplaces exists. If the Lula
government were to refuse to earmark 64% of our current national budget to
debt-repayment, as the IMF demands, and instead made some or all of this
huge sum of money available to job preservation, factory retooling,
agrarian reform and farm credits, public schools and hospitals, just to
mention a few key budget items, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.
The resources exist. What is lacking is any resolve by the Lula government
to do the right thing; that is, to carry out the mandate of the people who
elected him to office. ...
"That is why, more than ever, we must hold this government's feet to
the fire to demand that it break with the IMF, that it withdraw from all
FTAA negotiations, and that it fund the urgent needs of the Brazilian
people. This is a matter of life or death for millions of people across
Brazil. ... Now is the time to organize. There is still time to force the
government to heed the will of the people!"
It is impossible in this one report, to give a full account of the rich
discussion that took place at the Sao Paulo conference. The Final
Declaration below provides a good summary of what was discussed and
resolved. In future postings, we will provide excerpts from some of the
main presentations and documents submitted to the Conference. We will also
publish the full list of action campaigns that were registered by the
Conference as proposals to the rest of the workers' and popular movements
of the Americas. These are extremely important and urgent action
We would like to conclude this presentation with the following comment. As
you will read in the concluding paragraphs of the Final Declaration of the
Sao Paulo Conference [see below], this gathering was totally self-financed
-- meaning it did not receive funding from any foundations or governments.
Such funding, as recent experience has demonstrated all too clearly, is
always attached with strings -- strings that seek to hamstring and blunt,
if not outwardly co-opt, a fighting labor movement.
In mid-August, we in the OWC Continuations Committee pledged $2,500 to the
Brazilian Conference organizers to assist with their Conference travel
fund. This fund was aimed at providing matching funds for delegates who
needed help. Thanks to the support of many of you on our OWC email list,
we were able to raise $600 toward this fund drive. Given that the airline
tickets for the Conference had to be purchased, we borrowed $1,900 from an
OWC supporter to help pay for the tickets. Now we must repay this
If 19 of you could make a donation of $100 toward this fund, we would be
able to pay off our debt immediately. (If you don't have this amount of
money, please consider asking your union to send a contribution.) Of
course, we welcome all contributions -- large or small. We want to pay
this debt off as soon as possible so that we can move on to help organize
and fund the campaigns that will be needed to Stop the FTAA in 2004.
Please support this $1900 OWC fund drive. We need your support urgently.
Fill out the coupon below and return it to us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
so that we know your check is in the mail. Please make your check payable
to "OWC" and send it to OWC, c/o SF Labor Council, 1188 Franklin
St. #203, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Many thanks for your ongoing support to the fight to Stop the FTAA!
Alan Benjamin and Ed Rosario,
OWC Continuations Committee
San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO)
(Conference Against the FTAA, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
[ ] I/my union will send a financial contribution of $ ___ to help
defray the travel expenses for the Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference
Against the FTAA. My check, payable to OWC, will be sent to OWC, c/o S.F.
Labor Council, at 1188 Franklin St. #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
(please fill out ASAP and return to <email@example.com>)
2) Western Hemisphere Workers Conference Against the Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA)
Sao Paulo, Brazil -- December 12-14, 2003
We -- 201 delegates from trade union, popular and youth organizations
from the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Guadeloupe, Ecuador, Bolivia and
Uruguay -- came together in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on December 12-14, 2003, at
the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference Against the FTAA. We received
messages of support from trade unionists in Canada, El Salvador, Chile and
Colombia, and were honored with the presence of a fraternal delegation
from the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC) from
We who gathered in Sao Paulo at this Conference call upon all working
people and their organizations across our continent at this crucial moment
in our history to forge the broadest unity to confront the grave threats
against the sovereignty of our nations, and against our social and labor
rights and the future of our people.
We hereby wish to inform you of the results of our discussions:
In our Conference plenary sessions, we listened to 53 participants provide
an objective analysis of the discussions under way among the
representatives from 34 countries of the hemisphere (except Cuba) to
establish the FTAA. The discussion also took up the consequences for
working people of the bilateral and regional "free trade"
agreements that are part of the overall FTAA agenda.
Our Conference was held a bit less than a month after the announcement on
November 20th of the Declaration of the 8th Ministerial Meeting on the
FTAA, held in Miami, Florida. This document -- which was the result of a
prior agreement between the U.S. and Brazilian governments, which co-chair
the final stage of FTAA negotiations -- was endorsed by the trade
representatives of all the participating countries. The media referred to
this agreement as "FTAA Lite" or "FTAA a la Carte."
The Conference delegates examined this agreement closely, focusing on the
three core items contained in the section of the Miami Declaration titled
"The Vision of the FTAA."
Points 5, 6 and 7 of the Miami Ministerial Declaration state the
"5. We, the Ministers, reaffirm our commitment to the successful
conclusion of the FTAA negotiations by January 2005 [* Venezuela
reiterates its reservation with respect to the entry into force of the
FTAA in 2005] with the ultimate goal of achieving an area of free trade
and regional integration. The Ministers reaffirm their commitment to a
comprehensive and balanced FTAA that will most effectively foster economic
growth, the reduction of poverty, development, and integration through
trade liberalization. Ministers also recognize the need for flexibility to
take into account the needs and sensitivities of all FTAA partners.
"6. We are mindful that negotiations must aim at a balanced agreement
that addresses the issue of differences in the levels of development and
size of economies of the hemisphere, through various provisions and
"7. Taking into account and acknowledging existing mandates,
Ministers recognize that countries may assume different levels of
commitments. We will seek to develop a common and balanced set of rights
and obligations applicable to all countries. In addition, negotiations
should allow for countries that so choose, within the FTAA, to agree to
additional obligations and benefits. One possible course of action would
be for these countries to conduct plurilateral negotiations within the
FTAA to define the obligations in the respective individual areas."
The Trap of "FTAA Lite"
One of the delegates to the Conference, a trade unionist from the
United States, told the Conference that U.S. Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick, following the adoption of the Miami Ministerial Declaration,
stated to the press that "the country that makes the most concessions
[to the United States] will be the country that comes out ahead."
Zoellick also said that in Miami "the trade representatives from the
34 countries [had] moved the FTAA agreement from a general concept to a
reality." (quoted in Agence France Presse, Nov. 21, 2003)
This is indeed the case, as the Miami Ministerial Declaration provides the
framework for promoting the overall FTAA "free trade" agenda
through "trade liberalization" and through bilateral agreements
between the United States and Colombia, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia
-- not to mention the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA) involving Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and
Through all these bilateral and regional agreements, the United States is
able to impose its destructive corporate agenda country by country.
Zoellick also affirmed to the press that he sees "no contradiction
between Mercosur [a regional "free trade" agreement encompassing
Brazil, Argentina Uruguay and Paraguay] and the FTAA."
In this regard, a delegate from Brazil provided some important facts about
In Argentina, as a result of this "free trade" pact, almost the
entire industry of copper tubes and joints has disappeared. There have
been widespread closures of steel and auto plants. Nearly all the
Argentine textile and shoe industries have closed shop and move to the
impoverished Northeast of Brazil (the Sertao of Ceara), leaving millions
of people unemployed in their wake.
In Brazil, meanwhile, given the greater productivity of wheat and soy
production in Argentina, small and medium-size farmers have been
bankrupted, many of them bought out by large landowners and foreign
agribusiness corporations -- all of which runs counter to the need to
implement a genuine Agrarian Reform program. In relation to milk
production, which in the Mercosur region is controlled by large
corporations like Parmalat, more than 70,000 small producers have been
forced out of business in the southern region of Brazil alone.
Analyzing the Miami Declaration, another Brazilian delegate -- a trade
union official in the Sao Paulo Metro [subway] Workers Union -- warned the
Conference that "FTAA Lite" is even more dangerous, in that it
represents a trap aimed at confusing, dividing and demobilizing the
peoples of the Americas, whose mass protests to stop the FTAA have gained
great momentum, North and South. [For a similar assessment, see statement
below issued by the Brazilian Campaign Against the FTAA.]
The Miami Declaration's call for "flexibility" in the FTAA
negotiations is a ruse. Not only is the time frame for implementing FTAA
maintained, all core or bilateral agreements must be "WTO
compliant" -- and we all know the role of the WTO in opening the
economies of each and every country to the insatiable appetites of the
As various delegates explained throughout the Conference, the FTAA is part
and parcel of the imperialist war drive carried out by the Bush
administration and its allies to destroy nations across the globe, as is
occurring today, for example, in Iraq. One delegate asked: Is it possible
to imagine such a thing as "War Lite"?
Our discussions -- all based on facts and on the concrete experiences and
struggles we have waged in our respective countries -- revealed that the
policies of "free trade" and "globalization" are, in
reality, nothing but freedom for the large foreign-based corporations to
plunder the natural and economic resources of our peoples. These policies
are aimed at destroying all vestiges of national sovereignty to increase
the rate of exploitation of the labor force and thereby increase the
hunger and misery the world over. They are aimed at increasing the attacks
on the rights and working conditions of millions of people -- all to
satisfy the insatiable quest for profit by the multinational corporations
and the speculators.
Our peoples, every time they've had the opportunity, have demonstrated
their opposition to this so-called "economic integration" --
which, again, has nothing to do with fraternal relations among free and
sovereign nations, but, on the contrary, is aimed solely at
"harmonizing markets" and bringing down wages and working
conditions to the lowest possible common denominator.
This opposition was expressed by 10 million Brazilians who, in the Popular
Plebiscite of September 2002, said "No to the FTAA" and
"Brazil Must Withdraw From FTAA Negotiations." It was expressed
as well this past December 7th in Uruguay, where, in a nationwide
referendum over control of petroleum refining, the people soundly defeated
the pro-FTAA government.
Should the people of Brazil or Uruguay, or any other of our countries,
continue negotiating this FTAA agreement? Or, on the contrary, is it not
more urgent than ever to forge the unity of the workers and peoples of the
Western Hemisphere to stop the FTAA, to force the governments to withdraw
from these negotiations?
Unity to Stop FTAA In All Its Forms!
All Conference delegates vowed to redouble their efforts to forge --
together with all the trade union, popular and youth organizations across
the continent -- the widest unity to Stop the FTAA under all its guises,
be it "Lite," or "Flexible," or
"Labor-Friendly." All these adjectives are merely meant to
sugar-coat the bitter poison pill of "free trade."
Delegates from the United States and Mexico reminded the Conference that
the NAFTA agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico will be
10 years old next January 1st.
During these past 10 years, millions of Mexican peasants, or campesinos,
have been forced off their ancestral lands by "free trade." The
country has been transformed into an importer of corn, wheat and soy
beans. The entire Agrarian Reform plan, wrested through bitter struggles
in the 1930s, has been undermined and reversed. The country also has been
inundated with "maquilas" -- or pass-through sweatshops -- where
all labor is deregulated and exempt from Mexican labor law, and unions are
Today, the government of Vicente Fox is preparing the conditions for the
implementation of the FTAA by placing PEMEX, the nationalized oil
consortium, on the market for sale to private buyers. Also slated for
privatization/destruction are the state electrical utility and the public
system of Social Security; the latter with the aim of paving the way to
the introduction of private pension funds.
Against this onslaught, more than 100,000 workers responded to the call
from their unions and mobilized this past November 27th in Mexico City
behind the banner, "No to the Privatization of Electricity! No to
Fox's Counter-Reforms! The Mexican Nation is Not For Sale!"
These were 10 years, moreover, in which more than 700,000 industrial jobs
with benefits were destroyed in the United States as a direct result of
NAFTA. In addition, the exploitation of immigrant labor was intensified
during this period, while wages and working conditions deteriorated as
U.S. workers were forced to accept concession after concession in the name
of preventing their jobs from being exported south of border.
On November 20th, more than 20,000 workers and activists marched in Miami
to stay "No More NAFTAs! Stop the FTAA!" in response to the call
by the national AFL-CIO. They represented hundreds of thousands of working
people across the United States who signed the AFL-CIO post-card petitions
to the 34 trade ministers demanding an end to the FTAA.
The FTAA, the War, the Foreign Debt and the IMF
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration
declared war on working people both "at home and abroad."
Abroad, the United States unleashed a war against the peoples of
Afghanistan and Iraq, while at home, in the United States itself, trade
union and democratic rights were rolled back in the name of the "war
Delegates from the United States reported on the formation and activities
of US Labor Against the War, which represents millions of U.S. trade
unionists and which this past October 24-25 held its National Labor
Assembly for Peace in Chicago, where it also took a firm position to stop
Our discussion also took note of the fact that even though the FTAA is not
slated to go into effect till January 2005, significant components of the
FTAA agenda are already being implemented by the governments of our
continent. These take the form of the Structural Adjustment Plans of the
IMF, the widespread privatization/destruction of public services and
enterprises (healthcare, education, pensions, water and electricity
utilities, Social Security), as well as the wholesale closing of factories
and mines, all of which have resulted in a dramatic increase in the rates
All of this, it was further noted, takes place in the name of repaying the
illegitimate Foreign Debt -- a debt repayment which in Brazil just this
past year has amounted to US$52 billion that have left the public coffers
toward the foreign private banks and speculators. Such staggering sums for
debt repayment are also being spent in Mexico, Ecuador and the rest of the
countries of the hemisphere. These are billions of dollars that could and
should be earmarked to satisfy the urgent needs of our peoples!
At the same time, our Conference noted that across the continent there is
increasing opposition to these policies, all of which are aimed at paving
the way for the introduction of the FTAA.
In Ecuador, where a U.S. military base was installed in the town of Manta,
the mass popular mobilizations against this U.S. military outpost
prevented the government of Lucio Gutierrez from carrying through on its
plan to set up further U.S. bases on Ecuadoran territory.
The U.S. military presence in the neighboring country of Colombia also was
the object of considerable discussion at our Conference. In the name of
the "war on drugs," according to a Brazilian trade unionist who
was part of an international trade union fact-finding delegation to
Colombia, the U.S. government, acting on behalf of the large North
American transnational corporations, seeks to extend its domination over
the entire Amazon basin and its gigantic natural resources. In the
process, trade unionists in Colombia are constantly being assaulted and
killed -- simply because of their steadfast determination to defend the
interests of their union members and their people.
This resistance to the U.S.-led onslaught was also manifested in Uruguay
in the December 7th plebiscite, which resulted from a mass petition drive
initiated by the union of workers in the state-owned oil refinery, ANCAP,
and was later supported by the PIT-CNT trade union federation and the
Frente Amplio. In that plebiscite, more than 62 percent of the people
voted "YES" to revoke a law enacted by the Battle administration
(in the framework of a "FTAA Lite" bilateral trade agreement
with the United States) that would have broken the state monopoly over oil
refining in favor of a privatization and joint-venture plan with the large
U.S. oil corporations.
This resistance, the Conference delegates noted, reached its highest
expression in the revolutionary mobilizations of the workers and people of
Bolivia, who this past September and October brought down the government
of Goni de Lozada in their quest to defend their country's gas resources
against a takeover assault by a consortium of foreign corporations.
As the delegate from the National Federation of Mineworkers of Bolivia
told the Conference, this mobilization took place under the banner of the
struggle for national sovereignty, against the FTAA, and for the
re-nationalization of all the mining and other resources and enterprises
that have been privatized in recent years. The Bolivian delegate explained
that this struggle to save the Bolivian nation was only possible because
the workers of the Mineworkers Federation and the Bolivian Trade Union
Federation (COB) only months before this mass uprising had expelled from
the leadership of these union bodies all the officers who had bought into
the pro-U.S. plans implemented by the Goni de Lozada government, the
direct agent of Washington. It was only because the workers were able to
reclaim their unions from these misleaders that these union formations
could become the backbone of the mass uprising of the entire Bolivian
Preserve the Class Independence of Our Organizations
It is precisely because of this massive resistance to the corporate
onslaught in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and across the entire continent that
the promoters of the FTAA insist on the need to "associate" --
read co-opt -- the trade unions into the negotiation and implementation of
their "free trade" agenda. This is done in the name of providing
a "social dimension" to the "free trade" agreements
and thus "providing a human face to globalization."
A delegate from the General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe (UGTG) -- a
union federation that fights for the rights of workers and for national
independence for Guadeloupe, a French colony in the Caribbean -- expressed
the general sentiment of the Conference when he said: "You don't
humanize capitalism, you fight it."
The Conference was also alerted by the French delegates of the ILC to the
significance of the so-called "European Constitution," which is
today being discussed by the governments of the European Union. It is a
forerunner, in a certain sense, of what is intended with the FTAA on our
continent. It is a machine for the destruction of all the social and labor
rights that have been inscribed in the framework of the nation states by
the age-old struggles of the European workers.
The French delegates alerted us as well to the role of the European Trade
Union Confederation (ETUC), which defines itself as a "social partner
of the European Union" -- and therefore of the governments that
constitute it. At the very moment we were holding our Conference in Sao
Paulo, the ETUC was in Montevideo giving "advice" to the union
federations of South America on how to "incorporate a social
dimension" into the "free trade" accords or treaties.
This led the brothers and sisters present at our Conference to reaffirm
the crucial importance of preserving the class independence of our trade
union organizations. Unions were not built by workers to have them
dissolved into some nebulous "civil society" -- a notion that
brings together exploited and exploiters, oppressed and oppressors, in the
same "social" forums or "roundtable agreements." On
the contrary, unions were built to defend the workforce against
exploitation by capital, and as such should be maintained to fulfill that
role. The right of the working class to organize on their own terrain,
distinct and opposite from the terrain of the bosses, independent of the
governments and parties, is a primary condition for the existence of
Democracy and Agrarian Reform, Incompatible with the FTAA
Democracy is incompatible with the FTAA. Similarly, explained a
brother who has followed closely the drafting of the National Plan for
Agrarian Reform presented by the Lula government, there is absolute
antagonism between the realization of a true Agrarian Reform in Brazil and
The initial National Plan commissioned by the Brazilian government set a
minimum goal of land for one million landless peasant families. Its very
essence of settling people on the land is incompatible with "free
trade" in agriculture, which demands maintaining the large
agricultural holdings, or latifundio, held increasingly in the hands of
According to the expert on agrarian reform who addressed our Conference,
the Lula government shunned the National Plan for Agrarian Reform it had
commissioned, promising instead to give land to 400,000 landless peasant
familes over four years. This was determined not by a sovereign decision
of the Brazilian nation, the delegate stated, but by what resources were
left over for Agrarian Reform after heeding all the dictates set by the
IMF for payment of Brazil's foreign debt. Under the current conditions
(4.25% fiscal surplus), observed another delegate, even the promise of
land for 400,000 families is not likely to become a reality.
Our Conference reaffirms the relevancy of the Conference call issued last
January, which stated: The FTAA is not an alliance among peoples that will
serve the people; the FTAA is an "alliance" of multinationals
and large banks against all of the peoples of the continent! This should
lead the governments involved to a reflection: Agreeing to continue along
the path of the FTAA is agreeing to become a direct instrument of the
disintegration of your own nation!
The FTAA is an alliance that wants to harness and integrate/co-opt the
trade unions in order to transform them into instruments to be used
against the rights of workers and national sovereignty. This should lead
the union leaders to a reflection: Accepting the integration of the trade
unions into the machine of destruction of social and labor rights that is
the FTAA is agreeing to become the instrument of destruction of your own
Dear Sisters and Brothers!
Our Conference has been marked by free and open debate and the
exchange of often differing points of view. But, above all, it was marked
by the common desire to find points of unity to promote the mobilization
of workers and peoples of the Americas against the FTAA.
We think it is important to underline the presence at this Conference of
delegates elected by workers who today are occupying factories in various
Brazilian cities. Their companies went bankrupt or were abandoned by the
bosses. These workers are fighting to preserve their jobs and are seeking
intervention from the public powers toward that end.
We want to note our satisfaction in having held this Western Hemisphere
Workers Conference Against the FTAA in a totally self-financed manner. It
is financial independence that guarantees political independence, without
any type of constraint on the free debate we are holding. Our Conference
was only possible thanks to the efforts of the workers and their
organizations that collectively assumed its costs.
We declare that we have no interests separate from the interests of the
workers and the exploited and oppressed majority of the peoples of the
Americas. We affirm that we respect scrupulously the prerogatives of the
workers' organizations, of the trade unions, and that we do not have the
least intention of substituting ourselves for them. To the contrary, we
are for the broadest unity possible in defense of our rights and
conquests, in defense of democracy and the sovereignty of nations.
It is for this very reason we are hereby forming the Western Hemisphere
Continuations Committee to Stop the FTAA and Break with the Payment of the
Foreign Debt and the Domination of the IMF -- in collaboration with the
Open World Conference Continuations Committee of San Francisco and the
International Liaison Committee. In so doing, we declare our firm
intention to support all the initiatives that help to build the unity
necessary to defeat the FTAA and to force the governments involved to
withdraw from its negotiations.
Our Conference also registered a series of specific proposals and motions,
which we will publish and submit for discussion to the entire labor and
popular movements in the Americas in a Special Bulletin. In this
Declaration, we want to highlight and propose to the working women and men
of our continent the following proposals for action, proposals which we
hereby pledge to implement in our respective countries:
* March 20, 2004: International Day of Action Against War (withdraw all
foreign troops from Iraq), to which we propose to add, in the countries of
our continent, the struggle to stop the FTAA;
* Continental Days of Struggle Against the FTAA, which we propose for the
last week of April, leading up to May Day demonstrations in each country;
* The formation of an international commission of trade unionists to
investigate the labor conditions and the situation of workers' rights in
the maquiladoras of the border region between Mexico and the United
- In defense of social and labor rights!
- In defense of the democracy and the sovereignty of nations!
- No to Bush's policies of war, for fraternity among the peoples of the
- For a break with the FTAA Negotiations!
- Long live the struggle of the Peoples and Workers of the Americas!
Sao Paulo, Brazil, December 14, 2003
Below is the list of all of the participants, coming from 8 countries --
including 12 states and 34 cities in Brazil. Seventy-four union, popular
and student entities were represented at the Western Hemisphere Conference
of Workers Against FTAA (organizations are listed alongside the delegates'
names for identification only)
[Note: to be sent separately]
Excerpts from the Resolution of the Coordinating Committee of the
Brazilian Campaign Against the FTAA, the Debt, and Militarization
(December 8th, 2003)
1- The Facts
The Ministerial meeting that took place in Miami reiterated the original
calendar for the implementation of the FTAA, in accordance with the
agreement reached in Washington between the U.S. and Brazilian
It was affirmed that the Declaration had resulted in a "FTAA a la
Carte," wherein the negotiations would proceed on two levels: The
first "minimal" level would establish a common platform for the
34 countries; the second level would allow each country to negotiate this
or that degree of concessions.
The resolution adopted in Miami calls for the acceleration of the FTAA
calendar and for a series of meetings in 2004 to conclude the
2- Our Position
The National Campaign Against the FTAA has always demanded that Brazil and
the rest of the Latin American countries withdraw from the FTAA
negotiations because participating in these negotiations can only entangle
us in a process meant to undermine our national sovereignty.
The media and the Brazilian government claim that the Miami Ministerial
meeting and its final declaration represented a defeat for the United
States and a victory for the people of Brazil and Latin-America.
The Brazilian Campaign Against the FTAA has an opposite assessment. The
Miami Declaration in our view signified a political victory for the United
States, one that preserves its essential strategic orientation. We agree
with the Continental Campaign Against the FTAA, which in a recent
statement took note of "the appearance [in the Miami Ministerial
Declaration] of a new and perhaps more dangerous, negotiating
proposal," and then went on to state, " [I]n the face of this
new unfolding scenario, the Continental Campaign Against the FTAA
reaffirms its opposition to the content and basic principles that orient
the FTAA, whose essence is retained in the agreement reached in
The Miami Ministerial agreement is framed as a "free trade" pact
and, contrary to the claims of the media and the government, it maintains
all the fundamental themes of the FTAA negotiations process. The official
Miami Final Declaration itself states that "The negotiations on the
common set of rights and obligations will include provisions in each of
the following negotiating areas: market access; agriculture; services;
investment; government procurement; intellectual property; competition
policy; subsidies, antidumping and countervailing duties; and dispute
Our campaign believes there is nothing positive about the FTAA in any of
its forms. We know that the central focus of the FTAA is "free
trade." In this context, even an "FTAA Lite" -- insofar as
it maintains the central axis of "free trade" and "trade
liberalization" -- will be tremendously harmful to the workers, to
the majority of the peoples, and to our sovereignty. It will lead to
rising unemployment, the closing of industries, and the impoverishment of
the population. We affirm that "free" trade and competition
between economies that are so unequal can only result in the weakening of
our economies and of our right to development. All this is
"free" only in the sense of guaranteeing free and unfettered
movements of capital in the quest of ever-greater profits for the large
For all these reasons, the Campaign reiterates its positions and calls on
the Brazilian government to immediately withdraw from the FTAA
negotiations and to organize an Official Plebiscite on this issue in the
Have Plans to Launch the FTAA in 2005 Been Scaled Back?
By ALAN BENJAMIN
Many in the mainstream and radical press have portrayed Brazil's
president, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, as a resolute fighter
against the U.S. corporate "free trade" agenda. An article in
the Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan. 1, 2004) titled, "Lula
Challenging the Status Quo in Brazil and on World Stage," is one such
example. It states, in part:
"Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union leader
with a grade-school education, has made himself the biggest man in South
America in just a year in office.
"In defense of Brazil's interests, he is challenging U.S. policies in
the region. In September, he single-handedly derailed global trade
negotiations in a bid to protect Brazilian farmers, and in November he
forced the Bush administration to scale back its ambitious proposal to
create a hemispherewide free-trade zone by 2005.
"Last month, in a direct challenge to U.S. policy, he notched an
agreement between the Brazil-led Southern Cone Common Market, or Mercosur,
and the Andean nations of Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. It is
designed to create a South American trading bloc over the next decade to
rival the United States, Canada and Mexico."
The Inquirer author, Kevin Hall, asserts that Lula is challenging
the status quo in Brazil even though he later acknowledges that,
"While standing up internationally, Lula has reassured foreign
investors who feared he would carry Brazil far to the left. Instead, on
domestic economic issues, he has proved more conservative than his
Hall notes, in this regard, that, "Lula won congressional approval
for an overhaul of staggeringly generous government-pension programs that
are bleeding the treasury and jeopardizing Brazil's future. He also won
partial tax reform."
The author's pro-business bias comes through loud and clear. The large
U.S. insurance companies and speculators, long drooling to get their hands
on the Brazilian workers' pension funds, have clamored for years that
Brazil's government-pension programs are "staggeringly generous"
and are "bleeding the treasury and jeopardizing Brazil's
future." This is a bold-face lie. Moreover, what is really bleeding
the treasury and jeopardizing Brazil's future is the "reassurance to
foreign investors" that takes the form of the staggering 64% of the
national budget (or US$52 billion) going to pay back the foreign debt -- a
debt that has already been reimbursed many times over.
The Lula government's partial tax reform, which benefited only the large
corporations and foreign investors, also contributed to undermining
Brazil's ability to meet the needs of its own people. [For more
information about the Lula government's faithful implementation of all the
IMF/World Bank directives during its first year in office, please go to
the Brazil section of the OWC website at www.owcinfo.org.]
The same bias, the same campaign of obfuscation, is at play in the
corporate media's effort to present Lula as the new leader of the Third
World -- as the man who "forced the Bush administration to scale back
its ambitious proposal to create a hemispherewide free-trade zone by
But has the FTAA really been scaled back -- as the business media would
have us believe? Is it no longer a clear and present threat to U.S.
workers and to working people across the Americas?
The documents published in the Report on the Western Hemishpere Workers
Conference Against the FTAA held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in mid-December
address this question of "FTAA Lite" frontally, demonstrating
how Bush's Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, was pleased with the
Miami Summit agreement (insofar as it now "enables the FTAA to move
from a general concept to a reality") and quoting Zoellick to the
effect that "there is no contradiction for us between FTAA and
Mercosur." [See report in this posting.]
Brazil's broadly based national anti-FTAA coalition concurred with the
anti-FTAA conference declaration in its characterization of "FTAA
Lite" as an "even more dangerous" agreement -- in that it
pretends to be an improvement, and hence will lead activists to throw down
their guard and become demobilized, when, in fact, it is an agreement to
go ahead full force to FTAA by January 2005 using various routes:
bilateral trade agreements, FTAA negotiating sessions, regional accords,
IMF Structural Adjustment Plans, and the like.
In case these arguments about the dangers of "FTAA Lite" are not
convincing enough, it is worth taking note of the speech by Brazilian
Federal Deputy (equivalent to U.S. Congressperson) Luiz Eduardo Greenhalg
to the December 13th plenary session of the anti-FTAA conference in Sao
Greenhalg, who is a close associate to President Lula, told the conference
that early in his administration Lula had decided not to withdraw from
FTAA negotiations -- which he felt would be too politically risky -- but
instead to fundamentally change its character from within. One of Lula's
main goals, according to Greenhalg, was to postpone any FTAA ratification
till 2008 or beyond. Brazil, as the co-convenor -- along with the United
States -- of the final stage of FTAA negotiations -- could have thrown a
monkey-wrench into the works and disrupted the FTAA calendar.
"The main guarantee that the social movements and the trade unions
would not be betrayed, and that the signing of the FTAA agreement would
not take place, as planned, in 2005," Greenhalg stated, "was the
designation of Samuel Pinheiro Guimaraes, the No. 2 man at Itamarati
[Brazil's Foreign Relations Ministry], as the main FTAA negotiator.
Guimaraes is known to all of you for his forceful opposition to
Greenhalg went on to say that in his view, the Brazilian government's
negotiating strategy was going fine until the month of June, when a
top-level Brazilian delegation, headed by Lula, went to Washington to
discuss the next stage of FTAA negotiations. It was at this meeting that
Lula and Bush signed a joint declaration committing to signing FTAA by
2005, maintaining all FTAA negotiations agenda items, and ratifying the
proposal to convene a Summit of the hemishpere's 34 trade ministers on
Nov. 19-20, 2003, in Miami.
"At the June meeting in Washington," Greenhalg said, "the
Brazilian trade delegation fell into a trap set by the U.S. government,
particularly in relation to the meeting's final declaration. And the
reason it fell into the trap was that the delegation included Ministers
Rodrigues and Furlan, who sided with the North Americans and demoralized
Roberto Rodrigues is Brazil's Minister of Agriculture. He is the
past-president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association. He campaigned
actively on radio and TV for JosÚ Serra, the conservative candidate who
lost to Lula in the second round of the election on October 27, 2002. Luiz
Fernando Furlan is Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce. The
appointment of Furlan, past president of the Sadia financial group, was
"greeted with great joy by the employers' associations,"
according to a press release issued by Horacio Piva, president of FIESP,
the Sao Paulo employers' association.
Greenhalg said that the June declaration signed by Bush and Lula in
Washington, and the Final Declaration of the Miami Summit represented a
major retreat from Lula's and Guimaraes's initial negotiating strategy,
but he went on to urge the Conference, particularly its Brazilian
delegates, not to lose hope in Lula. "Our role should be to support
Samuel Pinheiro Guimaraes and Celso Amorim in these negotiations --
because if we were to reach a stage where Itamarati [Brazil's foreign
office] lost control of these negotiations, we would be in a bind from the
point of view of the fight against the FTAA. We would then have no choice
but to confront the government."
Greenhalg's speech was met with respectful applause but great skepticism
by the largely trade union delegation, many of whom, as public sector
workers, had waged a bitter nationwide strike in July and August against
the Lula government to demand the withdrawal of PEC-40, the pension
Luis Henrique, a delegate from the CUT trade union federation in Brasilia,
was one of many delegates who took the floor to respond to Greenhalg's
remarks. "We should not channel our movement into support for this or
that tactical position the government feels compelled to make. Even good
positions and good negotiators can be revoked at any moment, including
Samuel Pinheiro's appoitnment at Itamarati. If the government says that it
wants to go ahead and negotiate the FTAA, which it has done, the diplomats
at Itamarati have no choice but to carry out orders. They are paid
diplomats, functionaries of the government."
Another delegate took the floor to say that the voices and mandate of the
10 million Brazilians who voted in the Popular Plebiscite of September
2002 for Brazil to withdraw from FTAA negotiations must be heard.
"Our role is not to get sidetracked into supporting this or that wing
of the government. Our role is to deepen the mobilizations across Brazil
and across the entire contient against the FTAA -- to force the
governments to withdraw from these negotiations altogether!"
Yet another delegate expressed the will of the entire conference by
stating, "The Uruguayans, Bolivians and Mexicans are right to say,
'The Nation Is Not For Sale'!"
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