US Congress Passes Free Trade Agreement with Peru

Reposted from: Upside Down World

Written by Jennifer Gunderman and April Howard
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
ImageA new trade deal with Peru that passed in the US Congress last week boasts non-binding concessions in terms of labor and environmental concessions, and promises more of the same damages to both countries.

President Bush seems to have scored another gain in his trade agenda as Congress approved a free trade agreement with Peru by a comfortable 285 to 132 margin. Still basking in his victory from the recent Costa Rica-CAFTA ratification vote in October, Bush and his supporters hope these recent victories will lead to the approval of pending free trade agreements involving Colombia and Panama.

Concessions That Don’t Concede

This apparent bipartisan free trade approval with Peru became a reality only after Democrats won concessions from the Bush administration regarding labor and environmental issues. These concessions stem from concerns over several NAFTA impact studies that criticized the trade agreement’s lack of protection against trade abuses as well as poor procedures and lack of program funding that could threaten the environment.

A statement released by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee called “for the inclusion of labor standards [such as the right to go on strike] and environmental protections including access to medicines and logging controls that will create a landmark in free trade agreements.” However, actual environmental concessions in the deal only “require the US and Peru to enforce their domestic environmental laws and conform to international environmental standards.” According to Joshua Holland of Alternet, Tom Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that his members were “encouraged” by assurances that the deal’s labor provisions “cannot be read to require compliance.”

Despite these concessions, according to Amazon Watch, the agreement “grants new rights for oil companies to drill in the Peruvian Amazon, potentially causing massive deforestation and environmental destruction; [which] will therefore lead to more road construction, literally paving the way for colonists, illegal loggers and poachers, fails to explicitly prohibit trade in endangered species, instead merely re-asserting the U.S.’s existing right to reject timber imports from species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); Includes in Chapter 10, investor rights provisions that would allow foreign companies to skirt Peruvian law and regulatory authorities [, which] . . . goes further than controversial equivalent clauses in NAFTA and CAFTA; [and] Will benefit U.S. corporations such as Hunt Oil, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum and Newmont Mining over Peruvian and U.S. citizens.” US copyright and trademark protection in agreement also means Peru’s poor could be hit as the price of medicine rises by 30%, according to the BBC.

Losses to Workers in Both Countries

Opponents to the Peru free trade agreement, most notably strong labor unions both in Peru and the United states, caution that this trade agreement does little to either benefit or protect workers in either country.

Jiron Cusco, president of the General Workers Confederation of Peru (CGTP) takes his opposition a step further stating that the Peru FTA will benefit only a small population of Peru’s wealthiest citizens and that the treaty would “seriously affect Peru’s economy.”

While textiles and agro-export industries, which already export to the US, could benefit, the real benefits are for US businesses. In an interview with Alternet
e=”font-family:georgia,times new roman,times,serif;font-size:100%;”>, research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Todd Tucker, named dozens of multinational businesses and corporations including Citigroup, Occidental Petroleum and Wal-Mart, who have “put their full might into getting the Peru deal passed, including showering millions in congressional campaign donations since January alone . . . [Hoping for] privatized social security systems for Citi, rainforest-destroying oil extraction for Occidental, and a push to Wal-Mart’s efforts to buy out Peru’s retail sector, just as they did in Central America just days after Bush signed [the Central American Free Trade Agreement].” Holland also names General Mills and the Grocery Manufacturers Association PAC as interested parties because they grow vegetables in Peru and plans to move processing facilities to the country as well. Financial service firms including Citibank also stand to gain from the deal’s provisions to allow the company to “sue the Peruvian government for damages if progressive activists succeed in reversing a disastrous social security privatization scheme” that has had disastrous consequences for millions of Peruvian retirees.

Duties will be immediately eliminated “on 80% of industrial and consumer product exports to Peru, and more than two-thirds of farm exports.” Many worry that the disastrous effects of NAFTA in Mexico will be repeated in Peru as subsidized US agricultural produce, including wheat, maize and cotton, will rob Peruvian farmers if business and drive up food prices within the country. In fact, Peru’s government reports that it has put aside about $77 million in order to compensate farmers who suffer losses during the first five years of the agreement.

“We will have an absolutely unjust competition between Peruvian agricultural products and North American agricultural products, because the US subsidizes its agricultural products and we don’t”, says Javier Diez Canseco, head of the Peruvian Socialist Party and a former presidential candidate. “So there is a very strong difference between the conditions of production and the subsidies that the US farmers receive and those that Peru has to deal with.” Nearly half of Peru’s population still lives on less than $2 a day.

According to the Third World Network, though Peru’s economy could increase by $417 million increase in the first year of the agreement, “these gains will be directed almost exclusively at the [mainly coastal] urban sector, which could benefit by $575 million.” Lima-based public policy research institute, GRADE, predicts that the poorest of the rural sector, Quechua and Aymara subsistence farmers in the rural highlands, and in the Amazon interior will suffer losses to the tune of $158 million. TWN says that “The findings of this report echo impact analyses conducted in Colombia and Ecuador, who are negotiating similar FTAs with the US.”

On the other end of the spectrum, a study by the Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens found that US neoliberal trade policies have depressed the wages of 70 percent of the U.S. population. In a statement released by the Teamsters Union, president Jim Hoffa cites the “slim margin” of victory in the Congressional approval of the Peru FTA as evidence of its lack of protection for American workers affected by “off shoring of American jobs.” Hoffa is calling on Congress to focus on trade policies rather than ratification of free trade agreements.

Democratic Support and Dissent

One of the most surprising parts of the agreement was the Democratic Party support it received: 109 Democrats voted yes and 116 voted no. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on the paradoxical nature of her for the agreement. “Frankly, I have largely been on the other side of it than I am tonight,” she said. During the debate, many Democrats accused Pelosi of betraying the party’s base.

Journalist Steven R. Weisman of The New York Times Media Group points to two factors that led to democratic support. First, the concessions won in terms of “protections for workers and for the environment in Peru, and by extension in trading-partner countries in future trade deals.” And second, “sizable campaign contributions from the sectors that are benefiting the most from the global economy. These include financial services firms, computer chip makers and other high-tech manufacturers, the entertainment industry and farmers dependent on selling to markets overseas.”

Presidential candidates, “who receive support from unions but also from export-oriented industries,” demonstrate the conflict generated by the issue. O
pposed to the deal were John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden. Sen. Hillary Clinton, surrounded by pro-free trade Clinton administration officials, sent mixed messages, including asking for a review of NAFTA negotiated by President Bill Clinton, but then decided to
support the agreement. According to Alternet, Sen. Barack Obama, “said that he’d vote for the Peru deal because “it contained the labor and environmental standards sought by groups like the AFL-CIO,” but the AFL-CIO released a statement saying that, because of “several issues of concern to working families,” the AFL-CIO “is not in a position to support the Peru FTA.”

However, Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch at the advocacy group Public Citizen said that “Despite all the pressure, most Democrats, most committee chairmen and three-fourths of the freshmen in the House said no to Speaker Pelosi. The Democrats must now abandon the Bush trade agenda and work on an agenda they can agree on.”

KRFC Radio Program – Shipibo, The River of Life

To listen to the recent radio program on KRFC FM, independent community-based radio in Fort Collins, Colorado, click on the file link below:

Track01.cda

Limber Gomez, a Shipibo leader, was invited to do an interview on KRFC. He speaks about the hopes and challenges facing the Shipibo people, as well as about the community-based indigenous radio project they hope to do. For more information about this radio project, check out the below blog posting titled: Shipibo Radio Project

Below: Limber Gomez on his recent visit to Fort Collins.

Shipibo Radio Project

As one of the eight parts of the Shipibo peoples’ plans for their self-determination and the “development” of their region, radio as a means of communication was of utmost importance. The Village Earth-Shipibo team has been in contact with Project Tupa, based out of Free Radio Berkeley. Project Tupa has a lot of experience in setting up easy to build and maintain low power transmitters for indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Using locally-available materials, Project Tupa offers a 3-day workshop which teaches the communities how to maintain and repair the equipment themselves.

During Limber Gomez’, a Shipibo leader, recent visit to the Fort Collins community, we had the good fortune to meet with the Fort Collins’ community’s local community-based radio station, KRFC 88.9 FM. The KRFC team is ready and excited to help out with this interesting project in any way they can.

The Shipibo people see that being in control of their own media is an important step in their struggle for self-determination. Right now, corporate media rules in the cities and extort exorbitant prices from indigenous peoples who want to make radio announcements or have their own radio programs, such as the long-running Indigenous Voice program that had to be cancelled due to lack of funding.This 3-day workshop, materials included, will leave the Shipibo people with 4 of their very own hand-built radio transmitters to be placed strategically throughout the region.

Village Earth, Project Tupa, KRFC, and the Shipibo people can undertake this project with a mere $6000. Unfortunately, radio projects are difficult to fund. However, radio can be an important tool in cultural revival (through the diffusion of indigenous language and music programs), for defense of indigenous and territorial rights (indigenous leaders can communicate issues of concerns with greater ease in this remote region), and for educational programs.

If you are interested in supporting this team and the Shipibo’s efforts at determining their own rights and methods of communication, then you can make a 100% tax-deductible contribution through Village Earth. You can donate online using Pay Pal (clearly indicate your support for the Shipibo radio project), by using your credit card over the phone 970-491-5754, or by check sent to:
Village Earth
P.O. Box 797
Fort Collins, CO 80522

For more information, please contact the project coordinator: kristina@villageearth.org

Community-based Geographic Tech Workshops

Land rights is a constantly recurring theme in our work with indigenous peoples throughout the world. And the Shipibo people have asked for our assistance in their struggles over territory. In June, the Village Earth Peru Project Coordinator held a community-based geographic technology workshop in the lower Ucayali. Leaders from two communities in the Calleria district joined forces to protect their land. Both communities were given legal titles to their land years ago, however, in the dynamic Amazonian environment their lands have changed dramatically since the initial titling. Half of what was once part of the community is now overtaken by the mighty Ucayali River with more and more of the community being washed away daily into the river as it changes course. Originally, indigenous communities changed location as the river moved, but now communities are forced to remain within government-imposed boundaries. 

Forcing indigenous peoples to be subjugated within externally-imposed borders does not work in the dynamic environment of the Amazon. However, protecting indigenous land through titling and demarcation is a necessary evil right now in order to protect communities’ rights to land and resources. Much of the strategy of the Peruvian government has been to conquer and divide indigenous territories. However, many indigenous leaders and activists are calling for a new way to think about indigenous territory – and to remind the world they have sustainably managed their forests for thousands of years. “The demand for territorial clarity and non-overlapping negotiations on land issues is predicated on an acceptance of the EuroAmerican way of viewing land, demarking and dividing the land and environment and relationships between people on the basis of European-derived notions of property, ownership, and jurisdiction.”* 

Therefore, these communities are looking to expand their legally allotted territories, in order to maintain a sufficient land base that can provide for their self-sustainability. Workshop participants learned how to mark and find way points, use the compass, and many other useful features of Geographic Positioning System (GPS) in order to accurately locate boundaries. Each community was given a GPS unit and they are currently marking the points to which they wish to expand their territories and then will send them to Village Earth, where using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, we can help them to create maps that they can use in their negotiations with the government.

 

Both communities expressed worry about the current land grab in the Amazon by non-indigenous colonists. Roads are slowly creeping into their remote district bringing more and more settlers taking forest resources from the indigenous inhabitants.

 

These communities still have an expensive and arduous process ahead of them in order to expand their allotted territories. And their are many more communities interested in Village Earth mapping and geographic technology workshops. If you would like to make a contribution to these important efforts, please contact: kristina@villageearth.org


Thank you to the community that provided lunch to the workshop participants!

*Alfred, Taiaiake. 2005. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Broadview Press, Canada.

Geographic Technology as a Tool for Indigenous Empowerment

There is only one month left before the monumental Indigenous Tribunal in the Ucayali region of the Amazon!

As part of the Tribunal, Village Earth was asked to facilitate community mapping workshops for Shipibo Communities but we need your support to get the necessary resources to indigenous leaders.

We’ve bundled these resources into a low-cost and easy to use “Mapping Kit” that we would like to give to community representatives participating in our free mapping workshop.


You can help by purchasing one of these kits for a Shipibo community today!

Support Village Earth and the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon with your sponsorship of a Mapping Kit!
(Contributions of any amount are welcome, greatly appreciated, and 100% tax-deductible.)

Each Mapping Kit will include a hand-held GPS unit and Map Book of their territory to be given to community leaders. Village Earth will then provide the instruction in how to use this technology to their advantage.


Mapping Kits will enable communities to:

  • Identify their boundaries to determine if outside interests are illegally taking their resources or colonizing their lands.
  • Identify illegal logging using the satellite imagery available in the map books.
  • Map existing resources to establish a baseline for future comparisons of resource depletion/restoration
  • Better manage and plan for the use of their limited resources.

Village Earth has been using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to create maps of indigenous territory combined with satellite images of the region. Some Shipibo leaders have already used these maps to dispute government and colonist land claims and build their case in support of indigenous land rights in the region.




Your contribution not only provides the mapping resources, but will help further the greater collective vision for the alternative development of the region based on indigenous knowledge and values. By supporting the Shipibo’s efforts at mobilizing the region and these community-based mapping endeavors, together we can:

  • Organize indigenous communities in the Ucayali region to increase their economic and political clout to determine their own futures
  • Teach GPS technology to indigenous leaders so they no longer have to rely on expensive and biased government GPS technicians
  • Support Shipibo efforts to reclaim and restore indigenous land stewardship practices.

 


Protecting Indigenous Shipibo Territory Through Community-Based Mapping

During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down – more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began.”*

Yet, the Shipibo have sustainably managed their forests for many generations. However, an aggressive program of Amazonian “development” has been promoted during the past 50 years, which has fragmented Shipibo territory by the incursion of non-indigenous colonists, government “development” projects, and foreign corporations exploiting the land by logging, hydrocarbon extraction, and industrial-scale agriculture. However, protecting indigenous land rights has come to the forefront in their struggles for self-determination as the Peruvian government continues to open up the farthest reaches of the Amazon basin for oil exploration and other extractive enterprises.
Below: This map, originally created by the Instituto del Bien Comun and given to a Village Earth representative by AIDESEP, shows indigenous communities, protected areas, and oil concessions in Peru.
Peru Shipibo Community Mapping

Protection and defense of indigenous territory was decided as the most important focus area out of their plan for self-determination of the region’s indigenous inhabitants from the last Village Earth-Shipibo regional workshop.

To aid the Shipibo in the protection and defense of their territory, Village Earth created map books of the region using GIS layers of the native titled communities (as provided by the Sistema de Informacion sobre Comunidades Nativas de la Amazonia Peruana [SICNA] of the Instituto del Bien Comun [IBC]) and colonist settlements overlaid onto satellite images. Satellite images are an interesting mapping medium because they show vegetation cover, as well as land degradation based on the light reflected from different vegetation or soil types.
Below: A Village Earth program coordinator conducting a mapping workshop in one Shipibo community in Masisea district.
Community Mapping Workshop
As well, Village Earth held a Geographic Positioning System (GPS) workshop and gave hand held GPS units to Shipibo leaders so they can continue to use the technology to protect their lands.

Peru Community Mapping Workshop
After the Village Earth mapping workshops, two Shipibo communities have begun the process of increasing their legally-titled land in order to protect more forest from outside exploitation, as well as remove illegally settled non-indigenous colonists using their new map books and GPS points. Shipibo jefes (chiefs) even asked a Village Earth representative to attend meetings with them at the local AIDESEP and Defensoria del Pueblo offices in Pucallpa – local NGOs that work to protect and defend indigenous rights in Peru. We, accompanied by reps from Defensoria del Pueblo, then attended meetings with the local Ministry of Agriculture in Pucallpa, the branch of government that deals with indigenous land titling.

As well, these Village Earth initiatives have increased intercommunity cooperation and participants in the workshops now have a greater consciousness of their geography.

Empowering indigenous peoples by providing the training and materials to use geographic technology, in turn, allows for self-determination of their way of life – since their land and resources are inextricably linked with their culture, economy, and physical health.
Issues of land and territory will be a hot topic throughout the Indigenous Tribunal being held in June of this year. This will be a seminal event in mobilizing and organizing their communities to better protect their land and resources. The outcome of this Indigenous Tribunal will be to form a grassroots, indigenous organization in the region to direct their own path to self-determination which includes forming an indigenous working group on environmental conservation.
Thousands of hectares of highly biodiverse forest and the accompanying watershed have the potential to be protected the indigenous inhabitants taking a stand against the market forces of globalization.
*Wallace, Scott. “Last of the Amazon” in National Geographic. January 2007.

First Indigenous Tribunal of the Ucayali

As a follow-up and outcome to the Village Earth Regional Organizational workshop in January 2007, a group of Shipibo leaders have decided to hold the first ever ‘Indigenous Tribunal’ as they call it. This Tribunal will be a gathering of leaders from all 120 Shipibo communities throughout the region. They are also inviting local NGOs and leaders from other regional indigenous groups such as the Ashaninka. This is an event of historic importance because the Shipibo have not had a regional meeting of this magnitude for over 30 years, and even then never did it have the possibility for such far-reaching impacts as the Indigenous Tribunal being organized at present.

Below: Participants in the January workshop who were elected to the Transitory Committee responsible for organizing the Indigenous Tribunal.
 

The organizers of this event have asked Village Earth to be a co-facilitator – to continue with a regional visioning process with the participation of all delegates present at the Tribunal. This will be the largest strategic planning that the Village Earth team has done to-date and could possibly have the most far-reaching impacts as well. 480 leaders are estimated to attend this event representing around 40,000 indigenous peoples throughout the Ucayali region. All parties involved hope that this will be the key event in mobilizing and organizing the region to begin the process of a truly community-based, sustainable form of alternative “development” – to empower the region toward active self-determination.

The Shipibo people realized that only by working together at the regional level will they ever really be able to implement their own vision for the future based on the values and wisdom of the majority indigenous population of the region. Some of the specific objectives as written in their project plan are as follows:
  • To bring together leaders, authorities, students, technicians, and indigenous professionals of the region to search together the true development of the indigenous population with a united organization with strategic allies both national and international
  •  

  • To inform and motivate the jefes (chiefs) of the communities about the importance of cultural revival and the care of our lands
  •  

  • To achieve the participation and commitment of the jefes and leaders of the indigenous communities to form a work group for environmental conservation and sustainable development
  •  

  • To strengthen the communication channel between indigenous and foreign organizations for the development of our communities.

Art and cultural performances will also play a big part in the three-day Tribunal with cultural and artistic presentations planned each evening and also for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Above: This group of orphaned children will be performing traditional Shipibo song and dance at the June event.

The organizing committee of the Tribunal is building off of the transnational legal framework that is currently so popular in the discourse about indigenous rights. For example:

The organizing committee writes, “In the last 50 years, the Amazonian cultures have been suffering from an aggressive Western acculturation. The [Peruvian] government underwent a neoliberal political shift without considering the consequences upon the indigenous peoples. Many indigenous peoples were forced to leave their cultures as they migrated to the big cities in search of a better opportunity.” The objective of the Tribunal is so “that the communities be the protagonists of their own development, and the local, national, and foreign authorities take care of and support us in our own program of development.”

Five themed expositions will be presented during the Tribunal:

  1. The Role of the Jefes
  2. Indigenous Reality
  3. The Political Situation
  4. National Political and Economic Reality
  5. United Communities

At the end of the event, there will be an election of leaders to form the new grassroots regional organization of indigenous peoples.

This is such an important event for the future of indigenous self-determination throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Please help us to support the Shipibo by making a financial contribution today. The estimated budget for the Tribunal is approximately $9000 USD in order to provide food and transportation for even the most remote community leaders to be able to attend. As well, the organizing committee is undertaking an extensive media campaign and hopes to print posters, invitations to regional leaders, and hold press conferences.

Please help us support the future generations of Shipibo leaders and the ecological integrity of the Amazon Basin.

If you interested in supporting the Shipibo’s efforts at organizing the region, you can contribute directly through Pay Pal on the website. Or you can send a check or money order to:

Village Earth
P.O. Box 797
Fort Collins, CO 80522 USA
or call the Village Earth office at: +1-970-491-5754 to make a contribution using your credit card.
If you would like more information about the Indigenous Tribunal in June, please contact: Kristina Pearson