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Brazzil - People - September 2003
 

Brazilians on the Streets Against the U.S.

Brazilians by the thousands will be hitting the street this weekend
in demonstrations throughout Brazil against the FTAA, the World
Trade Organization and the United States. The protests, according
to their organizers, are in favor of national sovereignty,
development, jobs, income distribution and social inclusion.

AB

 

The Brazilian Coordination of Social Movements (CMS), an umbrella organization of 160 associated member groups, among them the Landless Rural Worker Movement (MST), the National Student Union (UNE) and the CUT union, will hold its first demonstration this Saturday as part of the Continental Day Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the World Trade Organization.

Demonstrations will occur around the world, following the example of other such events on February 15 and March 15 when millions marched for peace, against war, and to protest American imperialism. In Brazil there will be demonstrations in at least seven cities. In São Paulo there are hopes that 5,000 people will participate in a march through the center of the city, ending in front of the American consulate offices.

According to a spokesman, the movement is in favor of national sovereignty, development, jobs, income distribution and social inclusion. They have also drawn up a petition that will be delivered to president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva calling for a plebiscite on membership in the FTAA, in accordance with a bill in the Senate, by senator Saturnino Braga, from the Workers' Party. In 2002 an informal vote on FTAA membership was taken in which 10 million people voted against the FTAA.

The CMS has been organizing public hearings on FTAA membership in various cities in São Paulo. At the moment the group is distributing pamphlets against the WTO, as well. Calling itself the Organizer of Hope, the CMS says that with the election of Lula the country is ready for reconstruction but that public participation will be necessary if "this terrible page in the history of Brazil is to be turned."

Progress Hoped

The co-president of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the Brazilian Ambassdor Adhemar Bahadian, thinks that the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting, in Mexico, even if it isn't directly related to the creation of the FTAA, has a potentially important role to play in determining the progress of these negotiations.

The other co-president of the FTAA negotiations, the American Ambassador Peter Allgeier, mentioned some areas in which there have been advances. He underscored the area of customs duties, in which, according to Allgeier, 34 countries have been complying with the periods that were establishing in agreements and have presented proposals that are being analyzed. Another area that the American diplomat made a point of highlighting is that of government purchases. "There is not always agreement, but the basic and essential questions have already taken written form. This represents progress."

At a meeting, at the end of August, in the Itamaraty Palace to evaluate the progress in the negotiations, the head of the group in charge of the Agricultural area stated that the sanitary and disease-control areas are doing well. Nevertheless, Ambassador Bahadian made a point of observing that, if other heads of groups were consulted, "the overall assessment wouldn't be as positive in the area of agriculture, as well as in other areas."

The diplomatic official stressed that, if advances are occurring in the area of customs duties, it is necessary to pay attention to other agricultural issues that haven't even been considered, much less negotiated. "Domestic and foreign subsidies. Some products that are important to certain countries but which are not even being including in the process of rapid customs relief. There are also a lot of problems in the agricultural area which, from the point of view of other countries, have still not been entirely resolved." The diplomatic official acknowledged that this also constitutes a serious area within the scope of the WTO, so it is no surprise that the same problems arise within the scope of the FTAA.

Safeguards for the Weak

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says he is in favor of "safeguards for the weak," within the framework of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. He also criticized the US. "If there are no safeguards for the weak, there will be a hegemony of the strong, which is something we do not want. We want to negotiate as equals," declared the President. The President's statements were in response to questions by users of BBC websites (including BBC Brasil). Some 5,000 questions were sent in.

According to Lula, Latin America should join forces to negotiate jointly with Americans and Europeans. "We want a united South America because we have common interests abroad and common regional interests," declared the President.

"The United States wants to move discussions of sensitive issues outside the FTAA framework, while they continue to protect their agricultural sector within that framework. And they also want poor nations to negotiate government procurements," explained Lula.

The President of Brazil also said that Latin American countries "are not obligated to follow the political agenda of the US."

One question, asked by Robert of Atlanta, was what he would say to Americans who feared a leftist government in Brazil.

"Americans have nothing to fear from any government in Brazil—from the left, the right, or the center. What Americans have to fear is their own government, the one they elect, whether it is Democrat or Republican. The government of Brazil is a problem for Brazilians," said Lula, adding that "any government in Brazil knows that the US is an important factor in Brazilian political and trade relations."

 

The material for this article was supplied by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lucas@radiobras.gov.br

 









 
 
 







 



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