The Guardian 16 March, 2005

Guatemalans fight FTA with US

For three days in a row last week thousands of farmers from rural areas took to the streets of the capital, trying to stop Congress from ratifying a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The week before 6000 people protested in the same location for the same reason. More protests are expected.

Wednesday last week, police used tear gas and shot blue stain onto protestors. Shots were heard from near an armoured truck at a distance of 100 metres behind the police line. Five people suffered blows from nightsticks. Two required sutures to the face and head. On for occasions ambulances were allowed to pass from the cordoned off area by the police and by demonstrators facing them.

By the end of the day, the whereabouts of two people from Peten were unknown in the words of the Guatemalans, "disappeared". They could not be found in the hospitals.

Peten and some smaller states in the north are the major agricultural producers in the country, and they will be very affected by the FTA. Huge quantities of corn will enter Guatemala with no taxes, yellow corn, transgenic corn, contaminated corn.

Guatemala already meets its own needs for corn, the major staple in the diet there. Corn and other agricultural products will come from the United States where prices are low because of agricultural subsidies. Farmers in Guatemala will not be able to sell their products.

On the way to the action, one woman said, "What the government is making is another civil war. The pot subjected to much fire, finally breaks and spills the water. Thus are the people."

When asked, "What is the Free Trade Agreement?", one man responded, "It is privatisation of water and medicine."

Banners from rural groups represented the Alliance for Peace and Life in Peten and others. In the afternoon, more groups arrived to march carrying banners from the, Alianza Civil para Acceso a Medicamentos, two groups representing HIV-positive people, National Organisation of Students, GAM representing families of disappeared, union of workers in bottling plants and the government public health ministry.

A national strike was announced starting March 14.

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