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Costa Rican Patricia Ramos Con speaks out in solidarity against CAFTA in San Francisco

by Rubble
Rubble interviews the Costa Rican labor lawyer during her visit to San Francisco to present at the annual Radical Women Conference on October 4. She flew all the way to San Francisco for the event to generate solidarity with US activists around Costa Ricans' continuing fight to prevent domestic implementation of CAFTA and the domestic strife already occuring as a result of this polarized political struggle. She speaks in Spanish, translated to English. (37 minutes)
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Patricia Ramos Con is a labor lawyer and feminist from San Jose, Costa Rica. She has been a leader in the movement to defeat ratification and implementation of CAFTA. In 2008 she was a candidate for Vice President on a slate that included a number of left and pro-labor organizations including her party, the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT). She is also a mother of two, a mentor of young activists, and an advocate of socialist feminism.

This interview took place at the Women’s Building in San Francisco on October 4 during the annual Radical Women Conference. She spoke earlier that day on a panel titled “Magnificent Warriors: Female leadership in the global freedom struggle”, in which she urged US feminists, “As Latin American revolutionaries, we know that world revolution depends on you. We’re in the trenches and you’re in the belly of the beast. Your fight is our fight.”

In this interview, she discusses the continued fight in Costa Rica against domestic ratification of CAFTA. While it was ratified into law in that country in a very close and highly contested vote - the fairness and constitutionality of which is questioned including for Bush Administration threats of economic retaliation if not approved - the individual measures of the treaty still need to be ratified into law for it to take effect. A broad coalition of sectors are continuing the fight by challenging implementation, and Costa Ricans have officially urged the Bush Administration to delay implementation.

The vote and its effects have severely polarized citizens and government. Ms Ramos explains that severe escalation of government repression is already occurring, with new laws to make political demonstrations illegal and labor leaders being fired from their jobs. Demonstrations have reportedly been met with state-sponsored violence. Besides questioning the constitutionality of the agreement, she also questions the ability of the US to carry it out at all if the current economic problems here result in a depression or financial crisis.

A two-year report on CAFTA in the other participating countries shows it clearly is hurting those countries economically and politically, as NAFTA has to Mexico. In the other countries, trade deficits have become problematic, each of the countries except Nicaragua have seen a significant decline in exports along with a significant increase in US imports. The US imports have resulted in higher prices, not lower prices as the Bush Administration has promised. It has resulted in increased unemployment and poverty, increased migration (unemployment figures would be even worse without the escalating migration), higher prices, and increases in government repression in order to enforce the agreements. Currently, increased migration to the US from Mexico and Central America is being met by the draconian ICE raids and other anti-immigration measures here.

Costa Rica has had a higher standard of living than the other countries in the region, with a much more extensive public services sector and stronger unionism, so they have even more to lose and to fight for than the other participating countries. CAFTA will hurt biodiversity, including implementing intellectual property rights to a number of industries - for example to seeds and traditional knowledge and practices with plants and animals. As with the other countries, it will severely damage the agricultural sector. CAFTA will open up telecommunications and insurance to international corporations. It will privatize water, electricity, and education, and could privatize health care and other public services. Worker’s rights and other constitutional protections can be overridden by foreign corporations “if commerce is affected”, thus severely impacting national sovereignty.

Hopefully the fight will be successful. Ms Ramos flew to the US specifically for this event and to work for solidarity with US anti-CAFTA activists.
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