No. 257, Dec.18-24, 2003



To read an article, click on the headline.

The court case that could
reshape US democracy

Groups bash Bush’s big
donor fundraising

New activist network slams
growing abuses under Bush

House approves bill to censor
Americans from voicing
opposition to war on drugs

AIDS activists slam new
medicare bill

MGJ activists disrupt CAFTA
negotiation’s press conference


The court case that could reshape US democracy

By Rupert Cornwell

Washington, DC, Dec. 11— It bears the utterly uninformative title of Veith et al vs. Jubelirer (docket number 02-1580). But the case, which the US Supreme Court heard yesterday, deals with the explosive political issue of gerrymandering - and its ruling next year could literally reshape America’s democracy.

Veith et al vs. Jubelirer involves only Pennsylvania. The state’s Democrats have challenged what they say is a rigged and unfair plan to redraw congressional districts, a move approved by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature after the 2000 census.

But the case’s implications are nationwide. At stake is not only control of the House of Representatives in Washington, but the very health of democracy. “This is hugely important,” says Sam Hirsch, an attorney for the Pennsylvania Democrats. “Gerrymandering on this scale is corrupting US democracy. This was not what the framers of the US constitution intended.”

Gerrymandering is an established American political tradition. Its name derives from Elbridge Gerry, a governor of Massachusetts who in 1811 endorsed an electoral district said to look like a salamander. “Call it a Gerry-mander,” a wit said, and the term stuck.

Under the devolved US system, the map of a state’s congressional districts is drawn by its legislature - not by a non- political body such as the Boundaries Commission in Britain. Changes are usually made after each 10-yearly national census.

Over the years, partisan gerrymandering has become the norm - traditional spoils for the party which wins control in a state, and then tries to design congressional districts that send the maximum number of its own to Washington.

Democrats have been as guilty as Republicans. But the growing Republican dominance at state level, combined with the wizardry of computers that draw districts to reflect voting patterns down to the tiniest street, has created an unprecedented problem.

By law, districts must be exactly the same size. The idea therefore is to pack as many of the opposing party’s votes into as few districts as possible, leaving as many seats as possible in your party’s hands. In closely balanced Pennsylvania, Democrats are fighting a scheme which gives a million Republicans control of 10 House seats and the same number of Democrats control of five.

Early this year Texas provided an even more spectacular gerrymandering row, as Democratic legislators fled the state for neighboring Oklahoma. Their aim was to deny the Republican state house majority a quorum to push through a plan to redraw districts that would hand half a dozen Democrat-controlled seats to Republicans. In the end the Democrats cracked and the scheme went through. Only the courts can prevent it taking effect.

Nationally, the consequences of gerrymandering on this scale are disastrous. “Voters no longer choose members of the House, the people who draw the lines do,” says Samuel Issacharoff, professor at Columbia Law School.

The House of Representatives is almost ossified. Only 20 or 30 of the 435 seats are competitive. Add to that gerrymandering on the scale of Texas and Pennsylvania, and the Republican majority — a narrow 229 to 206 on paper — is all but impregnable.

Gerrymandering has hastened the polarization of US politics. The big threat to an incumbent is often no longer in the general election (81 of the 435 Congressmen ran unopposed in 2002) but at a primary, where radical activists dominate. Incumbents thus become more partisan. Moderate Republicans or centrist Democrats, vital for cross-party cooperation, are threatened species.

Which way the Supreme Court will lean is unclear. The 5-4 ruling in favor of George Bush at the last presidential election shows it does not shrink from political decisions.

In the past gerrymandering has been treated as a fact of life, barred only on racial grounds. “But the fact the justices took this case suggests they believe extreme political gerrymandering needs a second look,” Hirsch says. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”

Source: lndependent/UK

Groups bash Bush’s big donor fundraising

Washington, DC, Dec. 11— Environmental and public interest groups gathered today near the site of an exclusive Virginia fundraiser to protest President Bush’s practice of paying back his biggest contributors with weakened environmental regulations, pork-barrel projects and plum presidential appointments.

The $2,000-a-plate luncheon in McLean is the 43rd and final fundraiser headlined by Bush this year. After Thursday’s event, the Bush-Cheney campaign is expected pass the $111 million mark for a primary contest in which the president is running unopposed. Averaging nearly $5 million a week in contributions, the campaign has held 91 events headlined by Bush, Vice President Cheney or First Lady Laura Bush since June, according to, a Web site created by Public Citizen.

“In exchange for millions in campaign cash, the Bush administration has rewarded its rainmakers with environmentally destructive policies that include a radical alteration of clean air laws and a pork-laden energy bill filled with billions in handouts to polluters,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

Leaders from the electric utility industry, for example, were regularly consulted by Cheney’s secretive energy task force and received key appointments within the administration. Ultimately, they helped rewrite a key Clean Air Act rule that had required polluters like Virginia’s Dominion Power to retrofit their plants with pollution controls when making plant modifications. Future legal actions against such polluters are blocked under the new rule. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it is considering weakening regulations governing mercury emissions as well.

“The Bush administration’s mercury plan is just another example of their catering to big polluters who make big campaign contributions,” said Pamela Irwin of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter. “Instead of supporting weak standards, the administration should require existing technology that reduces emissions of toxic mercury by 90 percent.”

Public Citizen, a national consumer group with more than 3,000 Virginia members, launched to track contributors to Bush’s 2004 re-election fund, particularly those dubbed “Rangers” and “Pioneers” for steering $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, to the campaign. The Web site features an updated, searchable database of all 309 individuals named Rangers or Pioneers by the Bush campaign.

So far, 15 Virginians have been identified as Rangers or Pioneers (this includes two married couples who raised money together). Two-thirds of these top fundraisers work as Washington lobbyists, representing a wide range of corporations seeking special favors from the Bush administration. They include:

Former US Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) of Akin Gump, who has become an influential lobbyist. Corporations such as Bechtel, Boeing and Pfizer pay big money to take advantage of Paxon’s close ties to Bush. Not only was Paxon named a Pioneer in 2000 and 2004, but he served as chairman of the Bush-Cheney transition team.

Lobbyists Leslie J. Brorsen, a Pioneer from the accounting firm Ernst & Young, and Richard F. Hohlt, a Ranger whose clients include Altria, Cinergy and J.P. Morgan. Both served on Bush’s transition team at the Treasury Department. Pioneer David A. Metzner of American Continental Group, a member of Bush’s Commerce Department transition team, represents Exelon, PepsiCo and Siemens. Metzner’s partner, 2000 Pioneer Peter Terpeluk, was appointed as ambassador to Luxembourg by Bush last year.

Husband-and-wife Pioneers Charlie and Judy Black, both lobbyists. Charlie Black is a former senior adviser to former President Reagan and spokesman for the first President Bush. Charlie Black now works on behalf of companies like AT&T, GM and NBC. Judy Black is a former Reagan aide who represents Comcast, Merrill Lynch and Ticketmaster.

Pioneer Mark Holman, who left his position as the top aide to Tom Ridge at the White House Office of Homeland Security last year to become a lobbyist for Blank Rome. His clients include Boeing, BearingPoint, the Homeland Security Corporation, and DestiNY USA, a project aiming to build the country’s largest shopping mall in upstate New York. Buried in the massive energy bill is a $2 billion tax break earmarked for DestiNY, the brainchild of fellow Bush Pioneer Robert J. Congel.

Other Rangers from Virginia are developer Dwight C. Schar, a part owner of the Washington Redskins, and Marvin P. Bush, the president’s brother. Thursday’s event is expected to add more names to the list of top fundraisers when the campaign releases an update in mid-January. In the 2000 election, 15 Virginians pledged to raise at least $100,000, although campaign officials did not confirm if they all raised the full amount.

“This elite group of super-lobbyists understands the value of having special status with the administration,” Clemente said. “These influence-peddlers buy insider access with generous campaign contributions. Then they turn around and sell that access to their clients. This system is destroying our democracy.”

Source: Public Citizen

New activist network slams growing
abuses under Bush

By Jim Lobe

Washington, DC, Dec. 11 (IPS) — Key US civil liberties and social justice groups marked International Human Rights Day Dec. 10 by launching a new “US Human Rights Network” dedicated to raising awareness about international human rights standards and focusing attention on the US failure to enforce them.

More than 50 groups, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), said they had agreed to join forces to address what they said was “the alarming rate of human rights violations in the US,” particularly as it pursues its “war on terrorism.”

They called for US citizens to speak out against these abuses, as well as to fight “US exceptionalism”, the view pushed strongly by the administration of President George W. Bush, that the United States should not be constrained by international law or human rights standards, especially relating to economic and social rights.

“The demonstrations that we are currently seeing against the US around the world are a reaction to the perception that the US, and particularly the Bush administration, thinks that it is above international law; laws the rest of the world are required to abide by,” said Ajamu Baraka, who works for Amnesty International USA’s (AIUSA) Atlanta office and is part of the network’s secretariat.

“The rights of ordinary Americans and others residing in the US are being trampled on a daily basis — in violation of a host of international laws and standards,” said Cathy Albisa, a secretariat member who is based at CESR.

“These include the right to economic security and a decent standard of living, the right of children convicted of crimes not to be executed, the right to a fair trial, the right to seek asylum, and the right to be free from torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, among many others,” she added, noting that the US has the developed world’s highest child poverty rate and that 20 percent of adults are functionally illiterate. The network, which has been several years in the making, marks its birth from a meeting last year at Howard University in Washington, DC on the subject of “Ending Exceptionalism: Strengthening Human Rights in the United States.”

Most of the network’s founding organizations — which include advocacy groups for immigrants, ethnic minorities, welfare recipients, the disabled, prison rights, among others — took part in the conference, organizing themselves into specific caucuses regarding such issues as the death penalty, discrimination and sovereignty.

Among the best-known groups are the ACLU, the American Friends Service Committee, AIUSA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, the Indian Law Resource Center, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People Defense Education Fund. The network is to be guided by six “core principles,” including acceptance that all rights enumerated in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights are interdependent and universal; that they include economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights, as well civil and political rights that are generally given more recognition in the US; and that rights are most effectively protected through building social movements whose leadership should be accountable to those who are most directly affected by their work.

These principles challenge the work of a number of major US-based human rights groups, many of which have historically been dominated by professional elites and have generally ignored ESC rights, in part because of their failure to accept the Universal Declaration and international human rights law as a sufficient juridical basis for their work. They have tended instead to rely on the rights provided under the US Constitution. In recent years, however, US courts, even the Supreme Court, have increasingly cited international human rights standards in their decisions regarding, for example, the death penalty for juveniles and the mentally retarded, women’s rights, and the accountability of US companies for wrongful conduct overseas.

Many of the network groups have been pushing courts in this direction. “The ACLU decided several years ago to integrate more international principles in our work,” said Gregory Nojeim, a staff attorney who represents the ACLU in the network.

“A lot of groups that have traditionally focused on political and civil rights have expanded their mandates,” said Albisa, who cited both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, which has produced a number of reports on cases where civil and political rights have intersected with ESC rights, such as the impact of practices by multi-national corporations on local communities. “There’s a growing recognition that you cannot separate economic rights from political and civil liberties,” she added, noting that groups that have tried to use international law to broaden the panoply of rights recognized in the US have until now been fragmented.

“We are pulling together in a way that can build movements,” she said. The network’s launch is the first step.

Both the inclusion of ESC rights into the broader human rights pantheon and the use of international human rights law by US courts are anathema to the Bush administration and key policy-makers, about two dozen of whom are members of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, a legal association whose recent national convention featured half a dozen major presentations on the dangers allegedly posed to US national sovereignty by international human rights standards that have not been ratified by the US government.

Among others, the Society was addressed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Attorney General John Ashcroft, UN Ambassador John Negroponte, and the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, who argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) represented a particularly grave threat to US sovereignty and that Washington obtained all the legitimacy it needed in invading Iraq by following its own constitutional processes rather than deferring to the UN Security Council. This kind of “exceptionalism” is precisely what the network is trying to organize against, however.

“As the US indulges an increasingly unilateralist bent in both domestic and foreign policy, the cost to rights at home and abroad is growing,” said Baraka, who noted the rise in racial profiling, the summary detention and deportation of Muslim immigrants after Sept. 11, 2001, and the indefinite detention as “illegal combatants” at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of hundreds of foreigners seized in Afghanistan and elsewhere as examples.

The international human rights framework, including ESC rights, he said, remains underutilized in the US “due in large part to a deliberate, long-standing effort by the US government to deny human rights laws and standards when it applies to situations internal to the US and to US actions around the world.”

Washington’s exceptionalist policy has been most vividly on display in the administration’s refusal to request ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); its renunciation of the ICC treaty; its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty; its walkout at the World Conference Against Racism; and its failure to adhere to the Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war, according to the network.

House approves bill to censor Americans
from voicing opposition to war on drugs

Washington, DC, Dec. 9— A little-known provision buried within the omnibus federal spending bill that the US House of Representatives approved Dec. 8 would take away federal grants from local and state transportation authorities that allow citizens to run advertising on buses, trains, or subways in support of reforming our nation’s drug laws.

If enacted, the provision could effectively silence community groups around the country that are using advertising to educate Americans about medical marijuana and other drug policy reforms. Meanwhile, this same bill gives the White House $145 million in taxpayer money to run anti-marijuana ads next year.

“The government can’t spend taxpayer money promoting one side of the drug policy debate while prohibiting taxpayers from using their own money to promote the other side,” said Bill Piper, Associate Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is censorship and not the democratic way.”

The provision raises both constitutional and political concerns. Courts have generally ruled that public transportation authorities cannot legally discriminate against any political viewpoint. Thus, local and state authorities could soon be put in an impossible position: if they reject advertising in support of drug policy reform they risk running afoul of the First Amendment; but if they accept drug reform advertising they lose federal money. Civil libertarians warn the provision also sets a dangerous precedent. Special interest groups could lobby for federal bans on advertising with pro-life or pro-gun messages, or in support of or against gay marriage or abortion.

The provisions in the omnibus spending bill are part of a growing controversy over the use of taxpayer money to influence state and federal drug policies:

· Court records show that Members of Congress created the federal government’s first anti-drug advertising campaign in 1998 as a way of using billions of taxpayer dollars to influence voters to reject state medical marijuana ballot measures.

· In 2000 it was discovered that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy used financial incentives to get newspapers and magazines to editorialize in favor of the drug war and get TV and movie producers to change their scripts to reflect pro-drug war views.

· Current Drug Czar, John Walters, and his staff have used taxpayer money to campaign against local and state ballot measures and legislation they disapprove of. After Walters spent taxpayer money to defeat a 2002 ballot measure in Nevada, the Nevada Attorney General complained, “The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election.”

· Earlier this year, Members of Congress tried to give the White House the ability to spend over a billion dollars in taxpayer money on negative attack ads against medical marijuana ballot measures and Congressional candidates that support drug policy reform. Although a public outcry stopped the legislation, existing federal law may already allow the White House to use taxpayer money to influence elections.

The Drug Policy Alliance is urging Congress to remove the anti-free speech provision from the omnibus spending bill, eliminate taxpayer-financed anti-drug advertising, and prohibit the drug czar from using federal money to campaign and lobby against reform.

“The drug policy debate is the only one in which federal bureaucrats are allowed to use taxpayer money to influence how taxpayers vote,” said Piper. “This is a dangerous precedent. Congress needs to enact a firm ban on using our money in this way, before this becomes the rule instead of the exception.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

AIDS activists slam new Medicare bill

By Emily Hager

New York, New York, Dec. 10 (IPS)— Sweeping changes to the nation’s Medicare program, signed into law Monday by President George W. Bush, are facing a new round of criticism from AIDS activists who say that the new legislation is going to put tens of thousands of US citizens living with AIDS in harm’s way.

“Our government is finally bringing prescription drug coverage to the seniors of America,” Bush said as he signed the legislation, which provides prescription drug coverage to Medicare recipients through private insurance policies.

But according to Terje Anderson, executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), millions of seniors will be trapped by a provision to prohibit wrap-around prescription drug coverage to Medicaid and Medicare so-called “dual-eligibles”.

Currently, dually eligible Medicare-Medicaid recipients have drug coverage under Medicaid. Once dually eligible recipients are forced into Medicare, they will not have the same body of prescription drug coverage they have now.

“The bill calls for some six million low-income elderly and disabled Medicare recipients who also receive Medicaid to be barred from access to Medicaid drug benefits when this bill takes effect in 2006,” said Anderson. “Assurances made by the Bush administration that 50,000 people living with AIDS will not be harmed must be supported with concrete plans and specific program advice.”

The legislation has already faced a barrage of criticism for weaknesses in its highly touted drug benefit provision, including its plan to limit coverage by establishing a short list of preferred medicines in each drug class known as a formulary and refusing to pay anything for drugs left off the list.

While patients could appeal a denial of coverage, they could not buy private insurance to cover the costs of such drugs.

Under the standard Medicare drug benefit, the beneficiary would be responsible for a $250 deductible, 25 percent of drug costs from $251 to $2,250 and all of the next 2,850 dollars in drug costs. In theory, the bill establishes a limit of 3,600 dollars a year in out-of-pocket costs.

But if a beneficiary bought drugs not listed on the formulary, the bill says, those costs would not be counted toward the $3,600 limit.

“HIV is a disease which requires careful prescribing, so limiting which medicines can be provided to people living with AIDS can threaten our health and lives,” says Anderson. “Health care providers must have access to all antiretroviral medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to provide US Public Health Service standard of care.”

Another consequence of the legislation will be further pressure put on the already overburdened AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), part of the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program serving as the payer of last resort to states and cities whose health care systems have been impacted by caring for low-income people living with HIV.

“If people with AIDS receiving Medicare can’t get the drugs they need to survive from Medicaid, they will have to rely on ADAP,” says Anderson. “Fifteen states and counting have waiting lists or other ADAP program restrictions.”

For example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently proposed capping enrollment in California’s ADAP starting next month.

“Many seniors and disabled people will face a huge gap in drug coverage. In a bill that’s marketed as providing choice to consumers, comprehensive drug coverage is not really an option. That’s a disappointment,” said Gail E. Shearer, a health policy analyst at Consumers Union.

Director of the Metro New York Healthcare For All Campaign Mark Hannay, who does not support the new Medicare legislation, said in a telephone interview, “the greater issue for AIDS patients and anyone who requires several different prescription drugs is that the bill may decrease accessibility to a variety of drug therapies.”

In an interview at an AIDS vigil held last week, Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, Inc. which assists People Living With AIDS to find housing, said the new Medicare legislation came “at the price of people living in poverty,” and is likely to heavily impact AIDS patients who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

In New York State, the Medicaid AIDS formulary, the list of prescription drugs available to AIDS recipients, includes 140 different drugs. The new Medicare legislation requires private insurance policies to offer one generic and one name brand drug in each therapeutic class. Comparatively, this means dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid AIDS patients will have access to at least two drugs that treat AIDS.

Christina Lubinski, director of the HIV Medicine Association, said that it is important for AIDS patients to have access to a variety of drugs due to the mutating ability of the AIDS virus. Most AIDS patients must take a three drug cocktail or switch frequently between prescriptions in order to slow the progress of their disease. Lubinski said that, unlike heart disease, there is not a handful of drugs that work for everyone.

Lubinski added that AIDS treatment with antiretroviral and protease inhibitors can engender side effects, including diabetes and hypertension. She pointed out that drugs given to treat side effects must in turn be carefully matched with AIDS prescriptions because some have adverse effects when mixed.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the HIV population in the United States is growing and people with AIDS are living longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 850,000 to 950,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, with approximately 40,000 new infections every year.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study based on 2001 data, African Americans represent approximately 54 percent of new AIDS cases reported each year. Thirty-four percent of new cases in African Americans are diagnosed in women, up from 21 percent in 1991.

Meanwhile, Fred Griesbach, government affairs manager for the New York State American Association of Retired Persons, which supported the bill, said in a telephone interview, “We shouldn’t be deceived into thinking this [bill] is going to solve all of our problems.”

Griesbach explained that the $400 billion legislation would only cover a quarter of the nation’s prescription costs over the next 10 years. In the end, Griesbach speculated “something would have to give,” whether it be an increase in the importation of pharmaceuticals, the development of more generic drugs, or a decrease in the costs charged by HMOs.

MGJ activists disrupt CAFTA negotiation’s
press conference

Washington, DC, Dec. 11— Five activists with Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) were forcibly expelled from a press conference during negotiations to finalize the Central America Free Trade Agreement at the Mayflower Hotel on Dec. 11.

The protesters carried banners renaming CAFTA the “Corporate America Free Theft Agreement.” They chanted “CAFTA means hunger, CAFTA means violence, we know the truth and we won’t be silenced” and “EEUU fuera de CentroAmerica” (US out of Central America).

Miguel Lacayo, Minister of Economics of El Salvador, was forced to postpone his remarks until the activists were removed. He was in the middle of comments on his meeting with Deputy US Trade Representative Peter Allgeier when the chants and shouts against US-enforced corporate globalization erupted from the back of the room.

“CAFTA would extend to Central America the same gross violations of human and labor rights resulting from NAFTA, as FTAA would to all of South America,” said Rachael Moshman, one of those expelled. “These so-called ‘free trade’ treaties constitute a hemispheric race to the bottom, with corporate lobbyists writing the rules and civil society completely cut out.”

MGJ identifies these problems as:

*Secrecy Instead of Transparency: No formal public input or oversight in the negotiations. No draft text of the CAFTA has been made available.

* Corporate Domination Over Democracy: At the expense of democracy and people’s right to self-rule, CAFTA would give corporations power to object to barriers to free trade, including laws people enact for their own protection. For example, NAFTA established the right for companies to sue governments over public-interest laws that may limit their profits. This right has been employed 27 times by companies since 1994.

* Increased Inequality: A minority of rich companies and wealthy stockholders will benefit from reduced costs. The poor will get poorer and more people will move into poverty: workers will get lower pay and lose their jobs while shouldering higher costs of living as more services are privatized.

* Disappearing Public Services: Resources such as education, health care, energy, and water utilities owned by everyone in a community will more likely be taken over by corporations. This would prevent many people from receiving these vital public services. For example, when Cochabamba, Bolivia privatized its water utility, water rates increased 200 percent, leading to riots that resulted in six deaths and forced the withdrawal of US-based Bechtel.

* Reduced Labor Rights: Labor laws such as those that protect worker’s safety can also be challenged and the “race to the bottom” for pay will hurt workers in all countries involved in CAFTA.

* Devastation in the Agricultural Sector: Increased corporate domination of farms and mass desertion of family farms in the US and Central America, as NAFTA has devastated family farms in Mexico.

* Environmental Destruction: CAFTA, like NAFTA, would gut environmental laws and decrease costs to companies but increase costs to local communities which suffer more health problems as a result of pollution. “

Since the signing ten years ago of NAFTA, over 1 million U.S. jobs have relocated to Mexico and 8 million Mexicans have fallen out of the middle class into poverty, with one million more Mexicans now earning less than the minimum wage of $3.40 per day,” said Chris Doran, who was also expelled. “The US alone has suffered a net loss of nearly 800,000 jobs due to NAFTA. As a result, 44 tons of hazardous waste are dumped every day along the US-Mexico border.”

CAFTA is a trade agreement being negotiated by government representatives from the United States, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. President George W. Bush supports CAFTA and hopes to have an agreement sealed as quickly as possible, and to move the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations forward faster.

Source: Mobilization for Global Justice