Saca and Bush to Announce CAFTA implementation for March 1st

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This Friday Saca is scheduled to visit the White House in a meeting in which Saca and Bush will announce that El Salvador has finalized its constitutional reforms and is ready for CAFTA implementation on March 1st. Saca is already using the meeting as an electoral stunt to show how good ARENA's relationship with the U.S. is. El Salvador is the first of the four Central American countries that have approved CAFTA to capitulate on all of the U.S.'s demands for modifications to local law that go beyond what is agreed upon in CAFTA. While U.S. and Salvadoran government officials claim the reforms are only details, the reforms actually make some substantial changes from what was originally negotiated in CAFTA. One of the reforms El Salvador agreed to means that the government will now have to accept U.S. sanitary standards for all agriculture products and will not be allowed to do its own tests on imports for sanitation.

There have been major protests against CAFTA in El Salvador this month. On February 8th, 2000 small farmers, accompanied by market vendors from the informal sector, marched to the Ministry of Agriculture. There they delivered their demands, including the demand that the government slow the phasing out of agricultural tariffs and offer financial support to small farmers to lessen the blow of CAFTA. Ministry of Agriculture officials promised the small farmers a meeting to address their demands. The protestors left the march promising to return if their demands are not met. And although Saca is traveling to the U.S. - and far away from the opposition to CAFTA in El Salvador - he will still be met by protests on Friday. In Washington D.C. the Stop-CAFTA Coalition, together with Salvadoran organizations in the U.S., has organized a protest and press event outside the White House for Friday.

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