February 20th marked the end of a two-day national agrarian strike in Peru. Campesino organizations demanded government measures to alleviate the financial hardships small-scale farmers will face as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) recently signed with the U.S. Under the FTA, tariffs will be lifted on heavily subsidized U.S. grains, like corn and soybeans, creating unfair competition for millions of small-scale farmers in Peru. The strike began on Feb. 19, when farmers in eight departments throughout Peru held marches and blocked traffic. Four protesters were killed, hundreds of people were arrested, and the government declared a state of emergency in all eight departments. The following day, on Feb. 20, the government agreed to undergo negotiations and the strike was suspended.
Many of our farmer co-operative partners in Peru have been very concerned about the impacts the U.S. – Peru Free Trade Agreement will have on their members and other small-scale farmers in Peru. CEPICAFE, the Association of Piuran Coffee Farmers, with over 6,600 producer members, worked hard with Peruvian congressional representatives to improve the agreement. In the U.S., there was widespread opposition to the FTA from consumer, interfaith, labor, environmental, and small farmer organizations. Despite the many concerns that were raised, the Free Trade Agreement was approved by Congress in December.
To read more about the U.S. – Peru Free Trade Agreement, visit Grassroots International’s web-site: http://grassrootsonline.org/news-publications/articles_op-eds/