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Central America is Not for Sale

Please find attached a call for organizational sign-ons from the Central America is Not For Sale Coalition, a mobilizing coalition of environmental groups, trade unions, indigenous communities, farmers, youth, and womens’ groups, who are concerned with the socio-economic, ecological, and cultural impacts of neo-liberal trade agreements on communities in the Central American region.

If your organization wants to sign on, please contact:

Ambika Chawla: ambika_chawla[at]


Ramiro Tellez: Vía Campesina: asocode[at]

 The Oakland Institute

Central America is Not For Sale!

Central America is Not For Sale, a coalition of social-economic-environmental justice organizations, rejects the imposition of the Central American - Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in the region, because its policies are harmful to life, the natural environment, our autonomy, dignity, and sovereignty of our communities.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was formed in 2002 as Bush administration’s initiative to establish a neo- liberal economic block between the United States and the five Central American countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. On August 5, 2004 the Dominican Republic signed onto the CAFTA agreement, integrating the country into the regional agreement. The Central America is Not for Sale coalition believes that CAFTA - DR has been negotiated in a non-transparent manner, dominated by the interests of U.S. based corporations to further their interests.

The Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement will implement neo-liberal economic policies which will allow U.S. based investors to push for greater trade liberalization in goods, services, and agricultural products. These policies imply that our governments will lose their autonomy in establishing key policies which protect our domestic and rural economies, as well as programs to protect the environment and human rights.

We are especially concerned about the potential impact on rural economies in the region. Liberalization policies in agriculture will be detrimental to the livelihood of farmers, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and in particular, women. Instead of increasing agricultural exports from Central America to the United States, the Central American region must open its markets to a flood of subsidized cheap imports from large U.S. agri-businesses, thereby threatening our small farmers and rural communities. Local producers of beans, corn, and rice will be especially affected by these policies, as they will not be able to compete with the subsidy rich U.S. agribusiness.

In the services sector, CAFTA-DR pushes for the liberalization of public services, in particular health, education, energy, and telecommunications. Together with investment liberalization policies, this will lead to the privatization of basic services in Central America. Public services should remain in the hands of the state or in communities, guaranteeing their access to the general population.

As organizations fighting for the protection of the natural environment and our communities, we are concerned with CAFTA-DR’s threats to the region’s rich biodiversity. Market liberalization will benefit the transnational corporations who will gain rights to the extraction of petroleum, minerals, gas, and other natural resources.

We categorically oppose the privatization of genetic resources. CAFTA-DR’s chapter on intellectual property pushes for genetic resources to be appropriated by multinational corporations. This will allow these vital resources to be subject to private rights such as patents, thereby excluding indigenous communities and small farmers from their right to their own genetic resources.

Overall, the decisions taken during negotiation processes were made in an un-democratic and un-consultative manner, leaving out diverse social sectors from key debates and decision-making processes. The United States defined the negotiation issues and the calendar such that the negotiations accelerated, without due time to inform or consult the general public. In the end, governments negotiated the Central America Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement behind the backs of Central American communities.

For the Above Reasons, We Demand the Following:

1. Do Not Ratify CAFTA-DR in Congress:
We urge that the Congresses in each one of the Republics do not ratify the Central American - Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. In our opinion, this agreement will increase the power of transnational corporations while strangling the capacities and autonomy of our governments from being able to achieve sustainable development.

2. No to Intellectual Property Rights:
In intellectual property, countries are forced to adopt the UPOV-91 system on the patenting of vegetable varieties. The inclusion of the UPOV-91 agreement within CAFTA-DR undermines the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples to guard, improve, and propagate their own seeds, as well as to maintain the agricultural diversity necessary for assuring food security for generations to come. The introduction of patented seeds thereby threatens the livelihood of small and medium producers while giving greater control to transnational seed and agrochemical distributors.

3. No to the Liberalization of Public Services:
Vital public services, such as health, energy, water, telecommunications, transport, social security and education should not be subject to liberalization nor privatization policies. We reject CAFTA-DR as it has already initiated the opening and privatization of these basic services in our countries. Services should remain excluded from the Central American Free Trade Agreement. We demand that public services be accessible to the entire population, as a human right and not as a privilege.

4. No to Investment Liberalization:
We are concerned with Chapter 10’s insistence on the establishment of laws favourable to foreign investors, such as the Investment-State clause and Most Favoured Nation and National Treatment chapters, which have already led to various lawsuits against countries, such as Mexico. This also includes the aspect of indirect expropriations, which clearly favours the lucrative benefits of transnational corporations.

We Propose:

1. Prioritize Policies which Protect Food Sovereignty:
Communities have the right to maintain their food sovereignty, to decide how to feed themselves, exercising control over production processes and access to local markets. This requires putting into practice effective measures which guard against the current agro-export model and the potential invasion of genetically modified seeds. The introduction of genetically modified organisms can lead to irreversible consequences for human health, the rural economy, and the environment once released. We demand that governments - in virtue of the precautionary principle - put in place a moratorium on the introduction and production of genetically modified organisms in our countries.

2. Democratization of Decision-Making Processes:
Communities have the right to know and decide upon trade agreements which will affect their daily lives. This means that decision-making processes in negotiations should be democratic, transparent, and inclusive. CAFTA-DR has been negotiated in an un-democratic and non-transparent manner, leaving out the opinion of the majority. We propose the construction of mechanisms of local and popular power based on greater civil society mobilization and participation. We are convinced that organized actions on the part of Central American communities will deter the imposition of free trade and neo-liberal policies.

3. Respect the Culture and Traditional Knowledge of Central American communities:
The traditional knowledge of our communities has constructed our vision of the world. Fundamental aspects such as our food, dress, medicine, and art have been passed down from our ancestors and should be recognized as valuable to society. The imposition of goods, services, and agricultural products coming from the United States will threaten the traditional knowledge and culture of Central American communities.

Alternative Proposals:

 The development of sustainable economies, based on the encouragement of local and regional production and consumption.
 A development model based on a just and harmonious relation with the natural environment.
 Intra-Intergenerational Equity, including the redistribution of control over resources such as land.
 Equality between men and women, guaranteed through the practice of equal access to resources and decision-making processes in communities.
 The obligation of governments, companies, and other organizations to be accountable for their acts in a public, democratic, and transparent manner.
 The development of trade policies based on principles of justice and sustainability, where the exchange of goods, services, and agricultural products occurs primarily at the regional level.
 The construction of mechanisms for building local and popular power, based on greater civil society mobilization and participation.
 The formulation of agrarian policies that encourage rural economies and local markets.
 The development of programs for the preservation of the native seeds of indigenous peoples and small farmers.
 The creation of programs for strengthening public education and health via basic literacy and alternative medicine campaigns, which will contribute to the reduction of poverty.
 That governments acknowledge the in-depth studies done by social and popular organizations concerning the social and environmental impacts of neo-liberal policies.

Organizations that have signed on:

  1. Amigos de la Tierra Centroamérica: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador
  2. CEIBA, Guatemala
  3. Vía Campesina Centroamérica
  4. Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC)
  5. Movimiento Campesino e Indígena Mesoamericano
  6. Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo, Nicaragua
  7. COCOCH: Consejo Coordinador de Organizaciones Campesinos de Honduras
  8. FÍAN Honduras
  9. Organización Campesina Hondureña
  10. Unión de Trabajadores del Campo, Honduras
  11. COPINH: Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares Indígenas de Honduras
  12. Centro Cultural Hibueras, Honduras
  13. Asociación Campesina Nacional, Honduras
  14. Asociación Hondureña para el Desarrollo Ecologicó y la Seguridad Alimentaria, Honduras
  15. Centro para el Desarrollo Comunal, Honduras
  16. Christian Aid, Honduras
  17. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Honduras
  18. Comité para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras
  19. Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras
  20. Federación de Asociaciones Femeninas de Honduras
  21. Federación Sindical de Trabajadores, Honduras
  22. Fundación Ecologista "Hector R. Pastor Fasquelle", Honduras
  23. Movimiento de Agricultura Sostenible, Honduras
  24. Organización Fraternal Negra, Honduras
  25. Red Comal, Honduras
  26. MESA GLOBAL, Guatemala
  27. Coordinadora Nacional Sindical y Popular CNSP, Guatemala
  28. Coordinadora Nacional de Pobladores de Áreas Marginales de Guatemala
  29. CONAPAMG, Guatemala
  30. Movimiento Tzu Kim Pop, Guatemala
  31. Federación de Estudiantes de Agronomía de Guatemala
  32. FEAG/USAC Guatemala
  33. Sector de Mujeres Guatemala
  34. Centro de Acción Legal de Derechos Humanos CALDH, Guatemala
  35. Mujeres Ixchel, Guatemala
  36. Comisión de la tierra de Mujeres, Guatemala
  37. CIDECA, Guatemala
  38. Mamá Maquin, Guatemala
  39. Coordinación de ONGs y Cooperativas CONGCOOP, Guatemala
  40. PRODESSA, Guatemala
  41. Juventud URNG, Guatemala
  42. Colectivo Madre Selva, Guatemala
  43. CUC/CNOC, Guatemala
  44. Mujeres en Acción, Guatemala
  45. Colectivo de Organizaciones de San Marcos COSAM, Guatemala
  46. CONIC/CLOC, Guatemala
  47. UNASGUA, Guatemala
  48. IMAP, Guatemala
  49. COINDE, Guatemala
  50. Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Educación Guatemalteca STEG, Guatemala
  51. Unidad Nacional de Comunidades para el desarrollo Humano Integral, Guatemala
  52. UNACODHI, Guatemala
  53. Asociación de Maestros para la Educación Rural de Guatemala AMERG, Guatemala
  54. Sector de Mujeres, Guatemala
  55. Paz y Tercer Mundo PTM, Guatemala
  56. Alianza por la Vida y la Paz, Guatemala
  57. Frente Petenero, Guatemala
  58. Pastoral Social de Ixcan, Guatemala
  59. Pastoral Social de San Marcos, Guatemala
  60. Encuentro Popular, Costa Rica
  61. Consejo de Defensa de la Institucionalidad Pública (CDI) Costa Rica
  62. C.G.T. (Central General de Trabajadores) Costa Rica
  63. CRIPDES, El Salvador
  64. CORDES, El Salvador
  65. Coordinadora Sindical
  66. CONFRAS, El Salvador
  67. Ciudadania y Desarrollo, El Salvador
  68. FUNDPROCOOP, El Salvador
  69. Comunidades Unidas del Bajo Lempa, El Salvador
  70. Paz y Tercer Mundo, Nicaragua
  71. CIPRES, Nicaragua
  72. La Cooperativa Maria Luisa Ortiz, Nicaragua

4 November 2004