Interview: Mario Rodriguez

By Andrea Perera

CIDECA lobbies against the DR-CAFTA agreement in support of Guatemala's indigenous people, agricultural workers and small-scale farmers. In this interview, Rodriguez explains why he traveled to Washington DC to tell US Congresspeople about DR-CAFTA.

How would you describe Oxfam's partnership with CIDECA?

Oxfam has allowed us to do a lot of research. And Oxfam has been instrumental in helping us come to the US to say, "We really don't want CAFTA," face-to-face.

Why should people in the US care about DR-CAFTA and its affects on your country?

We believe that public opinion has been manipulated. The business sector, which is pushing CAFTA, has said that people in Central America want CAFTA. The reality is totally different

For example, in El Salvador, this agreement was approved late at night and behind closed doors. In Honduras, when they approved it, the legislature had to leave through the back door because there were protestors out front. In Guatemala, the people are asking for a national referendum even though the president says they can't afford it.

We believe that this is an important decision for the future of our countries. There has to be a national referendum so people can say what they think.

I believe that the negotiations and ratification process is totally undemocratic—because the negotiations have been carried out, and still are being carried out, by a very small group of people. We have asked the Congressional representatives in Guatemala if they understand the agreement. And they say they don't even have a copy to look at. But they have been pressured to vote in favor of CAFTA. That's not democratic and says a lot about the process.

If CAFTA really is a good thing, why do they have to hide negotiations and do it behind the people's back?

Today, we got news that the Guatemalan congress was trying to approve DR-CAFTA. What have you heard?

I got news of the police repressing local people who were protesting against CAFTA. I don't think CAFTA has been approved yet, but it can happen at any moment.  (Guatamala's congress ratified CAFTA on March 10, 2005. The agreement is awaiting ratification by the US congress).

What is your organization doing to defeat DR-CAFTA?

We lobby the Guatemalan congress. At the national level, we are part of Mesa Global, which has been leading the protests this week. We also present proposals and research on issues related to the negotiation process and the potential impact of the trade agreement. We have been working with people involved in the negotiations and ratification of CAFTA, as well as with local organizations.

How do you feel about your visit here?

I'm very sad because I feel that the future, whatever it is, will be decided here in the US. They don't have the right to make decisions about our lives.

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