Saturday, October 11, 2008

Free Trade & the Struggle for Human Rights in Colombia

 



A Talk by Freddy Caicedo

Johnson City, NY; October 11, 2008

Freddy Caicedo is a human rights investigator who works alongside unionists under death threat, runs a community center to remember war victims, and charts strategies for peace. Freddy holds a degree in economics, has taught human rights courses, and has organized with Christian base communities.

Speakers: Ben Beachy, Freddy Caicedo, Lina Saunders

Witness For Peace - Colombia Program

When you hear the phrase "free trade," do you feel that George Orwell was uncannily prescient? What does the word "free" have to do with gargantuan state-subsidized corporations competing against peasant farmers, dispossessing them of their lands by the millions and forcing them into slums? And often the word "trade" doesn't really apply either, since the goods in question are merely being shipped from one corporate outpost to another, taking advantage of less than subsistence level wages, non-existent environmental regulations, and corrupt despots ever willing to sell their people out for a quick buck.

Another term one hears is "economic integration," which conjures up images of long-suffering third world masses steadily progressing toward some consumer nirvana. In reality, these people are being integrated into the global economy in a manner similar to the way formerly free Africans were integrated into American society prior to the Civil War. "Economic exploitation" seems a more descriptive term.

Meanwhile the proponents of "free trade" and the "invisible hand of the market" are now dipping their very visible hands into our pockets to the tune of $700 billion, a figure which will no doubt soon grow to several trillion dollars. This is greed and theft on an almost unimaginable scale. The U.S. is well on it's way to becoming just another corporate-fascist colony, where the only thing the public owns is the debt, and, to paraphrase Theodore Roszak, the trains run on time, especially those bound for the concentration camp.

This whole process can be viewed as a continuation of the enclosure movement which began centuries ago in England, whereby the commons were privatized and the people dispossessed (sound familiar?). But even the Tudor Kings might be taken aback to see what corporations in the 21st Century have enclosed (privatized), including for example, the genetic makeup of various species. In 1999, the Bolivian government even attempted to privatize rainwater, forbidding citizens from collecting it after selling the city of Cochabamba's water system to a foreign corporation. They eventually had to back down on that one after a public uprising.

Hmmm....."public uprising." Now there's a phrase I like!