Interview: Victor Campos

By Andrea Perera

Centro Humboldt works on educating Nicaraguans about the consequences of international agreements such as DR-CAFTA, particularly their environmental impacts. In this interview, Campos explains why he traveled to Washington, DC to talk to US Congresspeople and their staff about DR-CAFTA.

How would you describe Oxfam's partnership with Centro Humboldt?

I believe there are interests that we share that are very important to the work we do in Nicaragua—natural disaster preparedness work, extractive industries, and irrigation issues.

Oxfam also helps build campaign support, political understanding and meaningful participation.

What are you doing in your country to try to defeat DR-CAFTA?

We have firsthand information about what's going on with CAFTA. We are trying to provide that information to those people who don't have access to it.

We are influencing public opinion and pressuring the government to prevent the agreement from being ratified in the countries throughout Central America.

At the international level, we are trying to convince members of Congress who are undecided that CAFTA is not the thing to do.

What aspect of the DR-CAFTA agreement are you most concerned about?

CAFTA will have very serious consequences on the Central American environment. Even though there is a chapter on the environment in the agreement, it is not enough to mitigate the negative effects CAFTA will produce if approved.

The intellectual property rights provisions will allow exploitation of all the local environmental capital that Central America has. This chapter will just benefit big corporations at the expense of local companies and communities.

The big corporations will tap the genetic information in tropical forests and use it for their own needs. In this agreement, foreign investors will benefit to the detriment of local businesses in Central America.

Biodiversity is an area in which Central America is very rich. And those resources are at risk under CAFTA.

Another major problem for the environment is genetically modified organisms. US agriculture allows the use of these kinds of products without a problem. If CAFTA takes effect, increased trade will bring these products to Central America. Right now, these genetically engineered products don't exist in Central America. This would lead to contamination of the local resources.

We don't know what type of problems these new seeds will introduce. We don't know what consequences there will be.

Describe the different levels at which you work on CAFTA in Nicaragua.

After the agreement was negotiated, the nature of the activities changed. We moved from a phase where we constructed proposals to a second stage, which involved getting information to the people about what had been negotiated.

What kind of reception have you received during your visit?

I believe that the US Congress is near a decision. It will be very tight, a very close call. So, this is a very important time. This is the time to influence the decision.

We still have to wait for the final result, but we have provided them with important information so they can make an informed decision.

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