Will Security and Prosperity Partnerships End Dissent as We Know It?


Disastrous free trade agreements continue to drive small farmers off their land, condemn the poor to dead-end sweatshop jobs, and open countries to economic and environmental rape by transnational corporations. Just about everyone on the Left knows what a free trade agreement is by now. But how many of us have heard of an SPP? It is something that we need to know about because it is the wave of the future.

SPP stands for Security and Prosperity Partnership. It is free trade coupled with military policy and aimed at the “deep integration” of the US, Canada and Mexico. Just as the North America Free Trade Agreement was the model upon which the other hemispheric free trade agreements are based, the Security and Prosperity Partnership will be the model to give transnational capitalism use of what political science calls the “coercive powers of the state.”

The most alarming thing about the SPP is that it is an agreement completely at the level of the Executive branches. It requires no vote by Congress, or Canadian and Mexican legislatures, and is not subject to Congressional oversight. It is one more step along the road to totalitarianism that has been so accelerated by the Bush/Cheney regime.

From August 20-21, the presidents and top government officials of the US, Canada, and Mexico, along with military and police leadership and major corporations, will hold an SPP summit in Montebello, Quebec. A 25 kilometer “security cordon” will be enforced around the summit. No protests will be allowed. Cars with more than five people in them will be turned back. The Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest citizen advocacy organization, headed by Maude Barlow, has been informed by Canadian officials that it is not be allowed to rent the community center in a town six kilometers from Montebello in order to hold a public forum on the SPP.

In other words, free speech, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to seek redress of grievances will be denied to the people of North America during the two-day summit which will be making decisions that affect all of our lives. Only corporate leadership will have any input into the deliberations, and indeed, knowledge of what those deliberations are!

Central America is not part of the SPP. But, as we saw that the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was an outgrowth of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), I fully expect that the day is not far off when the SPP will be extended to Central America, and from there into South America. Under the guise of “security” and the so-called wars on terrorism and drugs, as well as the unnamed war on immigrants, our freedoms will be further prescribed and those of corporations and the military-industrial complex will be further expanded.

That is, if we let it happen.

Few in Congress know anything about the SPP since it wasn’t created by legislation and its budget is spread throughout the executive branch and Pentagon budgets. One thing you can do right now is ask your member of Congress and your Senators to tell you what they know about the SPP. Ask them what is on the agenda of the Montebello summit. Ask them what decisions will be made and how those decisions affect our fundamental rights. Ask them if they think Congress should have a role in setting economic and military policies.

The concentration of power takes place in the shadows and behind closed doors. We wake up one day and discover yet more of our liberty has evaporated. We need to shine a spotlight into the dark corners. We need to kick open the closed doors. The Council of Canadians has issued a Call to Action for August 19-21. Go to their web page at http://www.canadians.org/integratethis/index.html for details.

The SPP was created because we have been successful at challenging the myths and lies of “free” trade. The Bush regime only got CAFTA through Congress by two votes. Congress refused to renew the administration’s Fast Track Authority that restricted Congress to an up or down vote on trade agreements. There is no certainty that Congress will approve any more free trade agreements, especially as long as strong popular movements keep the pressure on elected officials.

The solution by the anti-democratic forces of the corporations, military, and their neo-con and neo-lib allies is to tie their savage capitalist policies to “security” and anti-terrorism policies and to remove the policy making process from the arena of public debate by cutting the national legislatures out of the process altogether.

If we fail to stop this dangerous process early on, soon environmentalists, labor activists, civil rights and civil liberties activists will be labeled and treated as terrorists. That is not an exaggerated danger.

In mid-July the government of El Salvador violently repressed a peaceful demonstration against the privatization of water. They arrested 14 leaders of civil society, some of whom weren’t even at the protest, and charged them under a new anti-terrorism law that the US government had pushed them to pass. Totalitarian governments have always criminalized dissent. Will the US follow El Salvador? Maybe not today or tomorrow, but if we allow Security and Prosperity Partnerships to become the norm, one day we too will lose our right to disagree.

We should not underestimate the power and creativity of the forces of greed and plunder. We have to continue the struggle on many fronts. Issues that cross borders and oceans can only be won by a strong and united movement of free citizens from many countries. ;

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