Quebec City High Velocity Spin Warning!!
What Democracy Clause? And, Behind All that Barbed Wire, What Democracy?
On the policy front, the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City is a
no-news photo op
On the policy front, the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City is a no-news photo op. But, heads of state of 34 western hemisphere countries come accompanied by plane loads of journalists. So, absent some distraction, the reporters might start thinking about the deep conflicts facing the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) NAFTA expansion (see "skunks at picnic" below).
Voila, distraction de jour for Quebec City: something dubbed
a "democracy clause." Before falling into reporting about such a thing,
consider the text actually in the secret (although we have a "liberated" copy)
Quebec City Ministerial Declaration: "The maintenance and strengthening of the rule
of law and strict respect for the democratic system are at the same time a goal and a
shared commitment and are an essential condition of our presence at this and future
Summits. Consequently, any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic
order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes a fundamental obstacle to the participation
of that state's governments in the Summit of the Americas process." (Article 4)
That's it. That's the vaunted "democracy clause." So, no, a country is not thrown out of the FTAA negotiations for "democracy problems" and certainly is not thrown out of any future FTAA for not being a democracy. In fact, such problems are not even a "fundamental obstacle" (whatever that weaselly term means) for participating in FTAA talks - at issue is participation in the "Summit of the Americas process." Yikes, anti-democratic leaders would not want to miss out on that next hemispheric photo op!
Some folks argue that this language is in the Ministerial Declaration to establish a basis for continued exclusion of Cuba from the Summit of the Americas, given the growing anger about the exclusion among all of the other 33 participating countries. Others argue that hemispheric allies of the U.S. Democratic Party sought the language hoping to get an international election investigation into that the fact that one fellow became president after some strange, extended shenanigans in the state in which his brother happens to be governor while the other fellow (who won the majority of votes) got exiled to Columbia (University, that is.) But, the Summit's democracy clause is too vague to obtain even that.
As for the herd of policy skunks at the FTAA picnic in Quebec City: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay really have one major interest in FTAA: exporting wheat, soy and beef to the U.S. The hitch is that the U.S. agriculture interests that usually push trade deals grow the same stuff. And then there is the unified front of FTAA negotiating countries to take apart the U.S. anti-dumping laws, an FTAA agenda item that is a "must have" to some and also a U.S. congressional non-starter. And Brazil's orange-juice-or-die demand and Chile's wine, fruits and vegetable access demands are a blight on the vote-rich California and Florida congressional delegations. And that does not even start with the significant labor and environmental terms needed by many in Congress and polling shows the U.S. public demand!
Meanwhile, the people who would live with the results of any FTAA are being locked out in what Canada brags is its biggest security operation since World War II. Activists from Latin America and the Carribean seeking to attend a parallel social summit were denied visas. Even researchers from think tanks were refused visas into Canada. Economist Iara Pietrovsky of the Brazilian think tank INESCI ((55)(061)226-8093) was supposed to present a paper at a public FTAA conference, but was told by Canadian officials that there were "political problems" and her visa was denied although she never had previous visa problems. Researchers and activists from Uruguay, Venezuela, Dominica and other FTAA countries who have had not past problems obtaining access to Canada have had their visas denied.
People trying to cross land borders in Canada are being stopped and questioned on the basis of whether they might just be on their way to Quebec to protest. Boston-area union president Jeff Crosby (President of IUE-CWA 20, a Lynn, MA General Electric local) and a colleague were turned away at the Canadian border today. "It's outrageous at a time when they want to open borders further for trade that they want to close it to the free exchange of ideas," said Russ Davis, Director of Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, who was detained with Crosby. (Russ Davis: (617) 413-0713) Davis reported that Crosby was questioned for an hour and a half and refused entry for a criminal offense over 25 years old. Crosby had been to Canada numerous times since, and has never been questioned about the offense. Crosby had recently co-authored a report on the devastating effects of free trade agreements on union workers for the Boston Globe.
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