What follows is an article I co-authored with my
friend and colleague Liza Grandia:

Silence Is Beholden: Are corporations hog-tying
conservation groups in CAFTA fight?

By Liza Grandia, et al

02 Jun 2005

A year ago, President Bush signed the Central American
Free Trade Agreement. Since then, the controversial
plan has inspired protests across the U.S. and in
Central America. And while past trade agreements have
been ratified by Congress in less than two months, the
Bush administration has delayed the vote on CAFTA
multiple times, unable to rally the support needed for
it to pass.

The latest vote is scheduled for this month, but
CAFTA's passage is by no means inevitable. Many
Democrats and some Republicans, having learned from
the fallout of NAFTA -- for example, the loss of
hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs --
are expected to vote against it. They're taking this
stand because the agreement is weak on both labor and
environmental standards, and because they are
beginning to realize such treaties promote not free
trade, but corporate trade.

The environmental movement has also learned from
NAFTA. An impressive coalition of professional and
grassroots organizations is fighting CAFTA on the
basis that it "would allow foreign investors to
challenge hard-won environmental laws and regulations,
and fails to include adequate measures to ensure
environmental improvement throughout Central America
and the United States." Members include Friends of the
Earth, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, League of
Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense
Council, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group,
among others.

Missing from this fight is an elite subset of the
movement: the international biodiversity conservation
organizations. Not one of the four major groups in
this field -- Conservation International, the World
Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the
Wildlife Conservation Society -- has demonstrated the
courage to oppose CAFTA, despite ample opportunity
over the past year.

(Liza Grandia is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at
the University of California-Berkeley and a senior
fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. Her
coauthors are Laura Nader, Magalí Rey Rosa, Michael
Dorsey, Jorge Cabrera, Carmelo Ruiz, and Jesse
Colorado Swanhuyser.)


Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
Director, Proyecto de Bioseguridad
Research Associate, Institute for Social Ecology
Senior Fellow, Environmental Leadership Program

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