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July 10, 2008

Peruvians Strike Against Familar Bedfellows Autocracy and FTAs

Regular readers will not be surprised at this reminder that despite the rhetoric, there's nothing particularly 'free' or 'democratic' about FTAs. How could deals that require such secrecy to broker and implement be any thing but? No wonder they hide. Forking over the rights of regular working people to corporations and investors isn't the most popular pill these days.

But Peruvian President Alan Garcia's recent power grab in the name of 'free trade' gives yet another reason to sigh dismissively when you next hear the conflation of free markets and democracy. If you're like us, you'll take comfort to see that when the perpetrators act as egregiously as Garcia, a true democratic voice rises up in opposition.

In June, Garcia overstepped his power to implement the US-Peru FTA and unilaterally changed land tenure law, facilitating the buy-up of indigenous and small farmers' properties. Other decrees removed community consultation requirements destructive mining and forestry mega-projects and eliminated a series of rights of workers. Garcia's forking over citizens' rights to corporations and investors, in true neo-liberal style, prompted calls for a national general strike currently underway

According to Inside US Trade:

A broad swath of Peruvian civil society and two leading opposition parties are calling for a nationwide work stoppage next week to protest a flurry of new laws enacted by Peruvian President Alan Garcia in late June under special authority granted by the Peruvian Congress.

That authority, which lasted 180 days and expired June 30, enabled Garcia to enact laws necessary to implement the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement through special decrees without congressional approval.

Peruvian activists have charged that Garcia has abused the special authority granted by the Peruvian Congress -- which only applies to legislation necessary to enact the FTA -- to enact laws that are unrelated to the FTA and that would hasten environmental degradation and weaken workers’ rights...

“We have a clear understanding that the government of Peru has used this period between the signing of the FTA and the implementation to lower social standards, labor rights and environmental standards,” one Peruvian activist said this week in an interview...

In the US press, the better coverage acknowledges Peruvians are striking against Garcia's free trade policies that have failed to deliver benefits of economic growth to the Peruvian people themselves, most of whom are grappling with rising prices as they see their resources and land gobbled up by the already wealthy. But there is scant mention that autocratic methods were used - even necessary - to implement regressive policy package.

Strikers have hit the streets in the name of accountability, democracy and for fair policies on trade, investment and development. For more on US-based efforts to ensure democracy replaces our autocratic, failed Fast-Tracked trade policy, check out the TRADE Act, which makes sure that democracy is at the center of US trade policy.

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