FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 12, 2002
Contact: Nick Parker
In a press release posted on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) web site, http://www.ustr.gov, and attached below, Mr. Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative, has distorted and misrepresented a meeting that took place in Quito after a day of protests against the negotiations of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Mr. Zoellick refers to having:
"Consulted with civil society representatives. Immediately following the ABF, Ministers met with representatives of hemispheric environmental groups, labor unions, parliamentarians and indigenous peoples to receive recommendations."
The truth is that organizations of indigenous people, farmers, students, environmentalists, trade unions, NGOs and others spent the day of October 31, 2002, trying to speak with Mr. Zoellick and the other 33 trade ministers meeting in Quito, in order to give them a letter signed by thousands of indigenous people and a declaration, both denouncing the proposed FTAA as extremely damaging to the living standards and the way of life of ordinary people across the Americas. Rather than being received politely, as a Forum of business leaders was, they were repeatedly rebuffed by heavily armed police and soldiers with tear gas. Only after police officers rebelled and joined the protesters, a lengthy process of negotiations started, and the trade ministers finally agreed to hear a delegation of the protesters.
The meeting began with a speech by parliamentarians from 11 countries in the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Bolivia, in which they called on their respective governments to "reject the FTAA and recall their negotiators at once." While the speech was being read, three congress people stood in front of Mr. Zoellick with placards reading "No al ALCA"(No to the FTAA).
This was followed by a group of pro-free trade centrist groups, invited by the ministers to give the appearance of "balance," who read a prepared statement asking for cosmetic environmental changes to the proposed FTAA.
Next Mr. Leonidas Iza, the president of the CONIAE — the leading organization of indigenous people in Ecuador — addressed the ministers. He began by saying, "Señores, I wish to say to you, not to offend, but only to speak the truth, that you cannot understand how the poor live in the Americas, because you were born in golden cribs." He then went one to humbly and movingly lay out exactly why the FTAA would mean "death to the indigenous peoples of the Americas."
This was followed by the powerful reading of the protesters declaration, by Nicaraguan farm worker leader, Maria Elena Siquiera of the ATC-Nicaragua. She began by saying "this is not a consultation or a dialog, this is a statement of implacable opposition to the FTAA by all the peoples' of the Americas." The declaration warned that "if you don't listen to our voices and those of millions more across the continent, you will be responsible for putting the very future of the Americas at risk." She concluded by shouting, "Yes to Life! No the FTAA! Another America is Possible!!!"
At that point the ministers expected the delegation to stay for a photo opportunity with them, so they could claim they had "consulted" with the protesters. But the protesters stood up with the final words of Ms. Siquiera and walked out, leaving the ministers behind.
This in no way was a "consultation" with Mr. Zoellick. This was a statement of unreconcilable opposition to the agreement he and the U.S. government seek to impose on the nations of Latin America. The protesters made this very clear, precisely so that Mr. Zoellick and the U.S, could not later say that they had "consulted with civil society" so everything is "ok."
It is appalling that Mr. Zoellick and the USTR office have so cynically distorted and misrepresented the facts of this meeting. The purpose of the press statement is to set the record straight.
For further information on what happened in Quito, see
http://www.foodfirst.org and http://ecuador.indymedia.org/
Original Press Release from USTR Office:
From the Office of the United States Trade Representative
Washington, DC 20508
USTR Achieves Seven Key Objectives
Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick had announced seven key goals for the FTAA Ministerial held on November 1 in Quito, Ecuador. Below is a summary of the U.S. accomplishments at Quito.
At Quito, the U.S. energized the FTAA negotiations and secured agreement on a clear timeline to advance talks to a successful conclusion by January 2005.
Food First Media Contact:
Ecuador | ALCA/FTAA | AGP