|CAFTA Passed in Guatemala Amid Clouds of Tear Gas and Bullets|
President Oscar Berger ratifies trade pact
On Tuesday, March 15, two protestors were killed and many were injured at Naranjales, near Huehuetenango, during a demonstration against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). As the anti-CAFTA rally ended, police and soldiers launched a violent attack on the crowd using batons and tear gas. Two protestors were fatally shot.
The Central American Free Trade Agreement, a precursor to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and an extension of the existing North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), was passed by the legislature of Guatemala on Thursday, March 10. Massive anti-CAFTA protests in Guatemala City had delayed the vote on the treaty, but CAFTA was finally passed with thousands of police surrounding the Guatemalan Congress and tear gas wafting throughout downtown.
Guatemala joins El Salvador and Honduras in having approved the treaty, leaving the legislatures of the United States and Nicaragua yet to pass it. The Dominican Republic has signed but not yet approved an identical treaty, while Costa Rica, one of the five "target countries" for CAFTA, refused to sign the treaty in December. A hearing on CAFTA, the first step in congressional approval of the pact, will be held in the U.S. Senate on April 6.
Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, has expressed hopes that the FTAA is effectively dead and has proposed a Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
For more information, visit:
"Guatemalans to step up protests" by BBC News, 3/16/05.
Foundation for Human Rights in Guatemala
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