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Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. INHOFE. Thank you, Mr. President. I think I will be able to do it within that time, anyway.

Let me make a couple comments. I think almost none of these items have been covered before. It is approaching this whole CAFTA idea from a different perspective.

Let me first of all say that when this first came up, I just heard ``CAFTA,'' and I said: I am against it. I led the opposition against NAFTA 11 years ago. I thought this was more of the same, and so I was opposed to it. Then someone showed me how my Oklahoma farmers might be affected.

I am not sure you can see this chart, but it shows the various grains, cattle, meat products, dairy products, vegetables, and so forth. The blue bars are the tariffs that are charged to our farmers, and the others are what are charged to imports coming in. I have found that in every case, when this is fully implemented--if it is--my Oklahoma farmers will benefit, and benefit materially.

So I actually went and talked to some of the farmer groups that were leaning against the agreement for a number of reasons--a number of reasons that have been posed on this floor--only to find out they have changed their minds and they are very much supportive.

That is not really why I am here today. I think that is something very specific we can look at. We know it is true. I would like to look at this in a little different way. I was distressed a little bit because some of my very good friends in the conservative communities were opposing CAFTA. I have gone to any lengths to try to determine specifically what their opposition was.

There are five organizations that are conservative organizations--they are great organizations. I agree with them almost 100 percent of the time. Their argument was: We are against this as we are against all treaties because anything that is this kind of a multinational thing will infringe upon our Nation's sovereignty.

Well, I have to tell my good friends in these five conservative organizations, there is no one who is stronger in this position than I am. I am the guy who stopped the Law of the Sea Treaty. Quite frankly, I think it was going to pass. It actually had passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a unanimous vote. I found out what was in it. I found out we were ceding our jurisdiction--our sovereignty, if you will--over some very important parts of the water-covered part of the planet. I felt it was wrong. And we have not--I am not saying it is all dead in the water right now, to use a phrase, but I think it is. Certainly it
has been stalled. I led the opposition. I was opposed to it. I was not for it.

The Kyoto treaty, you all know how I feel about that. We debated climate change on the Senate floor 2 weeks ago. I spent 2 whole days talking about that. I think we know that under that treaty, according to the Wharton Econometrics Survey from the Wharton School of Economics, if we had to comply with the Kyoto treaty, it would have cost our average family of four $2,700 a year. It would have doubled the price of energy and gasoline and all that. We know that is true. I led the opposition to that and was very proud to do that.

Eleven years ago, we had NAFTA. I was in the other body, in the House of Representatives, 11 years ago. I was elected in a special election to come over to this body. So the year they had NAFTA, I was able to lead the opposition to the ratification of NAFTA in both the House and the Senate. I was the only one who could do that. So I came over here to the Senate.

I say to my good friend from North Dakota, who posed some excellent arguments against NAFTA just a few minutes ago, this CAFTA is not NAFTA. On the NAFTA part, I agree. I remember standing on the floor of both the House and the Senate saying: If we pass NAFTA, that is going to allow a Mexican trucker to pick up a load in Brownsville, TX, take it to Tulsa, OK, and not have to comply with any of our health standards, our environmental standards, our wage and hour standards. Sure enough, these things turned out to be true. I do not think it was a success. I think it was a failure.

So getting back to the ones who are for this agreement and against it, I would have to say to the very small number of conservative organizations that are opposing this, the vast majority of the organizations in the conservative column are supporting it.

Listen to this. Those organizations that are supporting CAFTA include Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Security Policy, National Tax Payers Union, The Heritage Foundation, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, The Club for Growth, the National Tax-Limitation Committee--that is Lew Uhler and his group--Citizens for a Sound Economy, Empower America, and the James Madison Institute. That is just to name a few. They are the 40 most prominent--except for 5--organizations that are supporting it.

I am very sensitive to this. Maybe I should not be that sensitive, but I am because, according to the American Conservative Union, in their rating, I am not No. 2 or No. 3 or No. 4 but the No. 1 most conservative Member of the Senate. Now, I am qualifying myself for this because I keep hearing that conservatives are somehow opposed to this agreement, as they were NAFTA. Of course, I agreed with them back at the NAFTA time.

Now, what kind of liberal groups are opposing CAFTA? We have already talked about the conservative groups that are supporting CAFTA. Those who are opposing it are Earthjustice, National Environmental Trust, Friends of the Earth, EnviroCitizen, Freedom Socialist Party--there is another great group--the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists' Social Justice Committee, Nonviolence International, Progressive Democrats of America, Safe Earth Alliance, Public Citizen, Social Welfare Action Alliance, Community Alliance for Global Justice, Gray Panthers of Austin, San Francisco Neighbor-to-Neighbor, New York State Green Party, and the Holland Peacemakers. I could go on and on. And we will insert more of them in the RECORD.

But by and large, what I am trying to get across is that virtually every far-left, extremist, liberal group in America is opposing CAFTA. And somebody has to say it. I was sent an e-mail from my State of Oklahoma saying that they understood I was still undecided. The responses are about 9 to 1 in opposition to CAFTA, and, therefore, you cannot dare go ahead and support CAFTA.

Let me just say, on many occasions, when the people at home do not have available to them the information that we do because that is what we are paid to do for a living and we find out the information is wrong, I do not mind doing that. I can explain this to the people in my home State of Oklahoma. They do not want to identify themselves with that group, that liberal group I just read off. And when they find out about it, they will be very supportive.

But I only bring that up to say that if anyone is out there with the thought that this is a conservative versus liberal issue, it is, but it is on the other side. The liberals are opposed to it. The conservatives are supporting it.

But I have another concern that is far greater, that far outweighs even the benefits it might give to my farmers in my State of Oklahoma, even the benefits that would be achieved by passing this to the very conservative groups in America; that is, I happen to be old enough to remember what happened in the 1980s. I remember Ronald Reagan, a great President. I remember at that time we had Communist regimes in Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and that they were infiltrating--at that time, it was still the Soviet Union--they were trying to take over America by doing it through Cuba, and then all these organizations, all of these countries where they had taken over the government.

By failing to pass this treaty, we could undo all of those successful democratizations of the Reagan and the first Bush administrations. I remember the Contras, the freedom fighters, who were down in Nicaragua at that time,

and the fight that was almost impossible; they were fighting for their freedom. I remember those five countries that are part of this treaty: the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. They have all committed troops in support to the Iraqi coalition forces and have demonstrated their support for the global war on terrorism. They are fighting side by side with our troops over in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are the people we want to reward. These are not people we want to somehow punish, as though they have done something wrong. They are fighting for freedom.

CAFTA approval for these countries and their economies should aid security there and counter the influence by Cuban and Venezuelan Governments under Castro, Chavez, Ortega, and others opposed to the United States influence in the region.

I mentioned Chavez, Ortega, and Castro. They are among the anti-U.S. forces in the region, and they are all against CAFTA. These Communists, these enemies of the United States, Chavez, Ortega, and Castro, are all in opposition to CAFTA. If you want to be on their side, you would vote against CAFTA. They fear its passage would show support for and facilitate the efforts of the pro-American countries and parties in the region. Also, Daniel Ortega, former Nicaraguan president and Sandinista leader, is making attempts to elevate his obsolete ideology based on Marxist-Leninist theory. Further, upon his capture, Ortega expressed solidarity with Saddam Hussein against what he called the Yankee occupiers of Iraq. In other words, here is a guy who has been ousted as President of Nicaragua, one we defeated back in the 1980s, one who was trying to spread communism against freedom and democracy in Latin America. He was on the side of Saddam Hussein and called us the Yankee occupiers of Iraq.

A couple weeks ago I had a pretty bitter competition with one of my friends here in the Senate from Arizona, Senator McCain. I disagreed with him on an issue, and we spent 2 days debating that issue and fighting with each other. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree. I happened to hear some of his remarks a few minutes ago. I share his concern about the state of democracy in Central America. Failing economies will create an environment in which regimes such as those of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez may once again poison the future of these nations. The historical threat of communism in Central America, the influence of Castro in countries such as Nicaragua, and the Sandinistas in power also affected neighboring countries such as Honduras and El Salvador. CAFTA can protect these emerging democracies.

For example, Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti, has a President Enrique Bolanos. He is a pro-American President. He is facing a tough 2006 election, and the candidate he is facing is none other than Daniel Ortega. Bolanos knows that CAFTA is the keystone to his plans to boost economic growth and blunt the political attacks of the Sandinistas. Who would have ever thought in the last 10 years that they would reemerge, but they have. So now we have Daniel Ortega back there trying to do some things. To quote Senator McCain:

If there's anything that we need today, it is strong, viable economies in Central America so that they can progress, so that they can be strong and they can again be allies of the United States of America, not in a military fashion but in their advocacy for free and open societies, democracies, and places where people can raise their families in a situation of security and peace.

That is what Ronald Reagan did back in the 1980s.

I heard the junior Senator from Massachusetts speaking in opposition to the agreement. I don't know whether it is because of his past relationship with what was going on down in Nicaragua some 12 or 14 years ago, but I would like to quote from an April 26, 1985 edition of the Washington Post. Keep in mind, this was back when we had Daniel Ortega down there being promoted by Castro and by the Soviet Union to try to spread communism in Central America.

The lengths to which some Democrats were willing to go in pursuit of nonintervention were extraordinary. Sens. Tom Harkin and John Kerry returned home from an 11th-hour trip to Managua [Nicaragua] clutching a piece of paper signed by President Daniel Ortega which they announced was a ``new, bold and innovative approach'' and ``a wonderful opening.'' At their arrival home, only the umbrella was missing.

We have a difference of opinion. We don't agree. We didn't agree back in the middle 1980s about Daniel Ortega and what the Communists were trying to do in Central America and we don't agree today.

For those who weren't around at that time, it was a very emotional time. The contras were the freedom fighters. They were supposed to win. I used to go down there. There was a hospital tent that was right across the border in Honduras. That is where they would take the freedom fighters from Nicaragua. They would take them over there to treat them. This tent was about the size of this Senate Chamber. It had beds all around the periphery. In the middle, not even screened, was the operating table. The only operations they performed there were amputations because of all the mines that were there. And so these freedom fighters would come in there and be mended and go back and fight for their freedom across the border in Nicaragua. There must have been 40 beds all the way around, people who had had these amputations.

At that time I did a pretty good job of speaking Spanish. I thought, you kids--the average age was 16 years old because the older ones had already been killed--you kids are fighting for your freedom, you are fighting against this force, the Communists, supplied by Castro and the Soviet Union. It is impossible. Why are you doing this? And I went around and talked to each one of them. I remember coming up to a little girl who was 15 years old. Her name was Elena Gonzales. I asked her that question. And she looked up to me. It was her third trip back to that hospital tent, and they had amputated her right leg a few hours before. The blood was coming from the bandages. She looked up at me with teary brown eyes and she said:

Es porqué han tomado nuestros campos ..... han tomado todo de lo que tenémos. Pero de veras, ustedes en los Estados Unidos entienden. Porque ustedes tuvieron luchar para su liberta 2d lo mismo que estamas luchando ahora

(English translation of the above statement is as follows:)

Yes, it is almost impossible, but we are fighting. We are fighting because they have taken our farms and ranches. Why would you in the United States question why we are doing this? You had to fight against the same odds for your freedoms as we are fighting now.

That little girl didn't know whether the Revolutionary War was 200 years ago or 20 years ago. But she knew we were that beacon of freedom and that the beacon was about to go out in their country. They were willing to fight. And they died and they won. So now we have the rest of the story.

This is an opportunity for us to do something that is good down there. Yes, I think it is good for my Oklahoma farmers. And yes, the conservatives support it, and the extreme liberals oppose the CAFTA treaty. But I think the strongest argument is that this is an opportunity for us to keep the Ortega and Chavez and Castro forces from undoing all the progress that was made throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s.

I yield the floor.

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