CAFTA/world awareness

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I’m a Villanova student. I do not wake up every morning with the intention of saving the world. To be honest, I don’t even watch the news. I know United States History and European History. The history of Nicaragua never crossed my mind. Actually, Nicaragua never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know where it was located.

I just visited Nicaragua (between Honduras and Costa Rica) and learned that the history of Nicaragua is the history of the United States’ influence in Nicaragua. I had never heard of the Contra War, but apparently it affected the life of every Nicaraguan citizen and my country played a big part in it. The US gave money to the Sandanista party to help them get into power. Then when they didn’t like the Sandanistas (because the Sandanistas had some socialist policies and the US was in the Cold War), the US gave money to the Contra party to overthrow them. This caused a great war in Nicaragua. The US gave both sides money and weapons. This way whoever won, the US could be able to influence their policy. Because of this war, an international court declared the US owed Nicaragua $14 billion. The US still hasn’t paid it. Nicaragua is in debt-they owe the International Monetary Fund money. If the US paid off their debt to Nicaragua, Nicaragua could pay their debt to the IMF a couple times over. But the US has not. Meanwhile, 70% of Nicaraguans are living on less than $2 a day. Thousands of people are living in a garbage dump that we visited. Everyday a truck comes and dumps more garbage there. People sort through the garbage for plastic bags they can collect, clean, and give to the American-owned company down the street for nearly nothing. Because of the debt that Nicaragua owes the IMF, the IMF holds a lot of say in what goes on in Nicaragua. They said for example that the Nicaraguan government could not give raises to teachers and doctors. Teachers have since gone on strike. Who is the country with the most money and most control in the IMF? The United States.

As if this wasn’t trouble enough, this week Nicaragua signed CAFTA-the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The United States also signed CAFTA. CAFTA lowers tariffs making it easier for American farmers and farmers from other Central American countries to sell their goods in Nicaragua. Nicaragua was already having trouble competing with foreign markets because of their lack of development. The average American farmer owns two tractors. 1 in every 1000 farmers in Nicaragua owns a tractor. American farmers can easily produce cheaper goods in greater quantities. The result of this “free trade” under CAFTA is that it forces Nicaraguan farmers to find other work or starve.

If I hadn’t gone to Nicaragua I would not know that CAFTA was just signed this week. And I wonder how many other treaties my country has recently signed that will affect the fate of thousands of people I will never meet. Don’t you?