This Just In: News That Stays News
Managua, Nicaragua—Nicaraguan workers in this impoverished city poured into the streets at midnight, cheering and dancing, holding signs and wearing T-shirts with hand-written slogans reading “Exploit Me!” and “Substandard Wages Now!” They were celebrating the passage by the United States House of Representatives of CAFTA, The Central American Free Trade Act, which will open the borders of six Central American nations to what Nicaraguan officials called “a virtual job fair.” The bill allows major U.S. corporations to move into impoverished neighborhoods and lift the standard of living by paying workers a dollar a day. A dollar, U.S. and Nicaraguan officials agree, that these workers did not have prior to CAFTA. While critics of the trade agreement contend that the lack of labor and environmental controls make the bill a liability for workers, the land, and U.S. relations with the Central American poor, workers in the six affected countries were ecstatic. “We have plenty of lakes to pollute,” said Jorge Lima, an unemployed sugar cane worker. “What we don’t have is enough Coca Cola—or Pepsi Cola, for that matter.” “We need iPod and Britney Spears and Arnold Schwarzenegger!” added his thirteen year old son Manuel.
Meanwhile, Corporate CEOs, meeting in Managua on the outside chance that the House would pass the bill, stood on a hillside and discussed their plans. “I see factories and high rises and parking lots replacing all this unkempt jungle,” said Mark Wunderlich, CEO of Boss Speakers. “And malls, with food courts and overpriced American products,” chimed in a representative of an American fast food company who wished to remain anonymous. Joseph O’Malley, the lean, cowboy-hatted owner of EnviroTech, an environmental clean-up specialist, was equally enthusiastic about the future. “I can’t wait until these corporations get in here and thoroughly degrade this environment, so my people can come in and make it just barely livable once again.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, President Bush trumpeted the advantages of CAFTA at a rare press conference. “Americans sometimes forget that Nicaraguan parents love their children as much as we love ours. Some of these poor brown children have never had a Big Mac. They’ve never tasted two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Now, with the passage of this historic bill, a family of four can save their wages for a couple of weeks and purchase a Big Mac. Think about that.” The President shifted at the podium, then turned to Press Secretary Scott McClellan. “I’m getting a little hungry myself just thinking about it,” he quipped.