President Bush's Plan to Put 20,000 Bolivians Out of Work
For a month, since the U.S. and Bolivia took turns expelling one another's ambassadors (Bolivia went first), the diplomatic war between Washington and La Paz has continued unabated.
Now President Bush, in his efforts to strike out against Bolivian President Evo Morales, has decided to take economic hostages. Last month, and again in Washington yesterday, Mr. Bush declared his intention to destroy the jobs of more than 20,000 innocent Bolivian workers, by axing Bolivia out of a trade plan originally developed under his father. To do so would be a mistake – morally, diplomatically and economically.
Nearly two decades ago, under the first President Bush, the U.S. began the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPDEA). That program offers Bolivia and a handful of other Latin American nations reduced U.S. tarriffs, allowing them to develop new industries and jobs exporting products such as textiles and handmade furniture. For the U.S., the aim is to create opportunities for employment as an to alternative to growing coca for the illegal drug market.
In September, as part of the Bush administration's diplomatic battles with Bolivian President Evo Morales, President Bush announced that he will use his executive authority eliminate Bolivia's participation in those trade preferences.
The actual victims of President Bush’s move, however, won't be President Morales, but women and men who eke out modest livings as weavers, jewelry-makers and carpenters, creating products for U.S. markets. The U.S. Congress knows that, and just two weeks ago approved a six-month extension for Bolivia. But yesterday in Washington President Bush repeated his intent to sidestep Congress and use his powers to cut Bolivian workers out of the program.
Listen to the Voices of the People who Will be Affected by Bush's Plan
We profiled some of these workers for our new book, Dignity and Defiance, and after President Bush’s announcement last month we traveled out across Bolivia to ask them how his threat would affect their lives.
Today we have posted a five-minute video of their own words here on the Blog. Take a moment now and hear what they have to say by clicking on the screen above.
The Democracy Center also demanded and won the right to have their video testimony from Bolivia played next week in Washington when the Bush administation holds the public hearing required by law before he implements his plan. Administration officials told us that this will be the first time that video testimony like this has been played in such a proceeding.
On October 23 in Washington, those officials will hear directly from people like Joaquín Aquino, a carpenter in his 50s who hand-makes furniture for the U.S. market and Natalia Alanoca Condori, a 28-year-old mother who makes clothing sold in American stores. These are the people, along with thousands others like them, who will be the real victims of President Bush's actions against Bolivia.
What You Can Do to Help
We have an opportunity and an obligation to these workers to take action and help stop President Bush's plan. Here are three simple ways that you can help:
1. Share this request for action with others
All across the United States there are people and organizations that care about making U.S. policy in Latin America more just. Help us spread the word about the need to act on this now, by forwarding this Blog post to others.
2. Sign the Democracy Center's Online Petition
You can directly add your voice to the campaign to stop President Bush's threat against Bolivian workers. In less than sixty seconds right now you can add your name to an online petition that the Democracy Center will be submitting as part of the formal public record against Bush's anti-Bolivia policy. Sign that petition here. If your organization wants to join the petition please send us an email telling us so at: Bolivia@democracyctr.org.
We need your petition endorsements no later than midnight October 30.
3. Submit Formal Comments to the Bush Administration
If you or your organization want to do more, federal law guarantees the right to submit formal comments to the Bush administration's Trade Representative. To do that you must submit your comments by e-mail no later than 5pm on October 31. Those comments must be sent in the form of an attachment and must include the subject line, “Review of Bolivia’s Designation as a Beneficiary Country Under the ATPA and ATPDEA.” The address is: FR0812@ustr.eop.gov. You must also include in the attachment a cover letter with your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address.
Even if we can't make President Bush back down on his plan to put Bolivians out of work, taking action now helps build the case for Congress and the new President to reverse it. Those leaders need to see that people in the U.S. care about this issue.
Raising Up Voices from Latin America
President Bush's move against the Bolivian people is just one more example of how we, as citizens, need to not only change leaders but also change the political winds that drive U.S. policy toward Latin America. To help do that the Democracy Center is launching a new campaign – Voices from Latin America.
Voices from Latin America marries new technology and old-fashioned organizing to build a bridge between citizens in the U.S. and Latin America. It is a platform from which we can work together to help educate one another and take joint action, like the one we are starting today on Bush's assault on Bolivian workers. On the website you will find:
Briefing papers (in English and Spanish) on some of the main issues in U.S./Latin America relations, on topics such as trade, the 'U.S. war on drugs', and immigration.
Video testimonies from across the region in which people tell how U.S. policy affects their lives and their nations.
How to get involved, and real examples from people who have.
As citizens we have to be educated and involved in U.S foreign policy in ways that we never have before. That includes making sure that the people in other countries who are so affected by what the U.S. does have their voices heard in the U.S. Help us do that by visiting the Voices from Latin America web site here.
POSTED BY THE DEMOCRACY CENTER AT 8:14 PM