A popular campaign

By Oxfam America

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The coalitions of farmers were not alone in their campaign against DR-CAFTA. A network of activists in the US supported their efforts. Oxfam America's organizers worked with student and faith groups to urge their representatives in Congress to vote against the legislation. During the Global Week of Action in April, for example, hundreds of activists called or visited their members on Capitol Hill, including 65 college students from seven states attending meetings with the offices of 45 Representatives and Senators (most of whom were swing votes).

Other students held events on their college campuses. Creative ideas included a "CAFTA Carnival" that featured rigged games to illustrate unfair trade. In one, participants were challenged to shoot a basketball at a net—the distance was determined by whether they were representing a US- or Central American-based business. Students and other activists also held more formal debates and discussions with experts on trade policy. Activists held more than 250 events during the Week of Action, a significant proportion of which were focused on DR-CAFTA.

At the end of July, the day before the last debate in the House on CAFTA, a small group even staged mock tug of war before the votes on Capitol Hill to show the uneven trade benefits DR-CAFTA provides.

In the end, watching the DR-CAFTA floor vote during the last week of July was "gut wrenching," said Sophia Lafontant, Student Trade Campaign Organizer at Oxfam America. But she was comforted by the many memories of activists around the country showing such passion in their grassroots efforts to defeat the agreement.

"I have to admit that I took this loss hard. It is difficult to pour all of your energy and passion into one issue and have the outcome end up not as you hoped, especially when the impacts of DR-CAFTA are so real," Lafontant said. "However, I am consoled by the fact that DR-CAFTA passed by such a slim margin. Let that be a reminder to us that we are doing our job and that we are being effective. The impact that trade has on development was a theme in the debate."