From Socialist Voice, April 2011

International

Canada steps up free-trade negotiations in Honduras

In February this year Canadian trade negotiators travelled to Tegucigalpa to discuss a free-trade agreement with Honduras. This was the second meeting to take place after an opening meeting had been held in Ottawa in December. The meetings are being held in order to allow the Canadian state and its transnational corporations greater access to Honduras’s natural resources. They also deepen relations between Canada and the post-coup Honduran regime of Porfirio Pepe Lobo.
     Canadian corporations, supported by the Canadian state, have been expanding their influence throughout Latin America over the last couple of decades, becoming the third-largest foreign investor in Lain America.
     Three years ago Canada signed free-trade agreements with Peru and Colombia. The agreement with Peru was passed in the Canadian Parliament only two weeks after the massacre of fifty protesters by Peruvian police and soldiers, while the human rights record of Colombia speaks for itself. Now Canada wants to sign an agreement with Honduras, less than two years after the illegal coup against President Manuel Zelaya.
     They are negotiating with a so-called president with no democratic mandate, as, according to international observers, there was no possibility of that election being free and fair.
     Already Canadian corporations are falling over themselves in preparation for setting up in Honduras. Gildan Activewear, one of the largest T-shirt and sock manufactures in the world, has announced that it will be opening a new $100 million factory in Honduras. Gildan has a horrendous record for working conditions and for trying to smash trade unions. Its officials have already held seven meetings with senior Canadian politicians since June 2010.
     The free-trade agreement will further open up Honduras to Canadian mining companies. Socialist Voice has reported extensively on both the environmental impact and the human rights violations of these companies throughout Latin America. Already 90 per cent of investment in Honduras’s mining industry comes from Canada.
     The free-trade agreement will further increase this investment, and further increase the exploitation of Honduras’s natural resources, further increase environmental damage and human rights violations, as well as leading to further conflict between long-suffering communities and the transnational corporations and their allies in the Honduran state and police.
     The negotiations are taking place against a backdrop of continuing serious human rights abuses. According to a leading human rights organisation, Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (Committee of Families of Disappeared Prisoners in Honduras) there have been 1,071 documented violations of human rights in the first four months alone of the Lobo regime. These have included arbitrary detention, threats of physical harm, torture, and assassination.
     There have been sixty-four assassinations of activists of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National Front of Popular Resistance). In the Aguan region twenty campesinos have been murdered by gunmen, including police and soldiers, working for Miguel Facusse, Honduras’s richest man and all-round thug and parasite. Ten journalists were also murdered during 2010. Anyone speaking out against the illegitimate regime is threatened with violence or murdered.
     Trade agreements, as history shows, very much favour the foreign investor. They are created to give wide-ranging powers to foreign governments and their transnational corporations, indeed powers that often supersede those of national governments. These agreements create even greater profits for foreign capitalists, while pushing the indigenous people into greater poverty.
     The Canadian-Honduran agreement will lead to more campesinos being driven from their land. There will be more repression of trade union activists and those opposing mining as well as those opposing the coup.
[JM]

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