The court case that could reshape US
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 Americas democracy.
Veith et al vs. Jubelirer involves only Pennsylvania. The states
Democrats have challenged what they say is a rigged and unfair plan
to redraw congressional districts, a move approved by Pennsylvanias
Republican-controlled legislature after the 2000 census.
But the cases 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 states 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
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 partys votes into as few districts
as possible, leaving as many seats as possible in your partys
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
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. Were cautiously optimistic.
Groups bash Bushs 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 Bushs 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 Thursdays 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 WhiteHouseForSale.org, 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 Citizens Congress Watch.
Leaders from the electric utility industry, for example, were regularly
consulted by Cheneys 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 Virginias
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. Bushs Environmental Protection
Agency recently announced it is considering weakening regulations governing
mercury emissions as well.
The Bush administrations mercury plan is just another example
of their catering to big polluters who make big campaign contributions,
said Pamela Irwin of the Sierra Clubs 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 WhiteHouseForSale.org to track contributors to Bushs
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.
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 Paxons close ties to Bush. Not only was Paxon
named a Pioneer in 2000 and 2004, but he served as chairman of the Bush-Cheney
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 Bushs transition team
at the Treasury Department. Pioneer David A. Metzner of American Continental
Group, a member of Bushs Commerce Department transition team,
represents Exelon, PepsiCo and Siemens. Metzners 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 countrys 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 presidents
brother. Thursdays 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
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 USAs (AIUSA) Atlanta office
and is part of the networks 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 worlds 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 networks 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 UNs 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, womens 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. Theres 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
We are pulling together in a way that can build movements,
she said. The networks 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
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.
Washingtons exceptionalist policy has been most vividly on display
in the administrations 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 nations 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
The government cant 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
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
governments 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
nations 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 harms 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
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
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 cant 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 Californias ADAP starting next month.
Many seniors and disabled people will face a huge gap in drug coverage.
In a bill thats marketed as providing choice to consumers, comprehensive
drug coverage is not really an option. Thats 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 shouldnt 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 nations 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 negotiations
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 wont 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
peoples 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 workers
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