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Students Get Ready For Weekend Rallies

Groups to Address FTAA, Abortion Rights

By Naveen Sunkavally


MIT students aren’t exactly known for their political activism, but this weekend two groups of students will be participating in high-profile protests.

Ten students, of whom half are affiliated with the Social Justice Cooperative, will head to Quebec City this weekend to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference that starts today.

Protesters charge that the FTAA agreement, basically an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement to Central America and South America, will give corporations the ability to evade social welfare regulations in countries and will hurt workers abroad and in the United States.

In addition to the FTAA protest, a group of six students is going to participate in a march on Washington on Sunday organized by the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, and the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).

Students prepare for conference

MIT’s Green Party coordinated a conference last weekend to prepare and educate students on the FTAA. The conference featured keynote speakers and economists Arthur McCowan from UMass-Boston and Raul Moreno from the University of El Salvador. Mexican indigenous leader Juan Carlos Beas Torres spoke about the effect of NAFTA on free trade and the environment.

“The fundamental misunderstanding of the FTAA is that it’s not merely about free trade,” said MIT Green Party President David J. Strozzi G. Strozzi said that the FTAA agreement, which has been negotiated in secret and can only be seen by the top 500 corporations, represents an agreement among the elite of countries. Peasants, who will be adversely affected, will have no input into the process.

In addition, Strozzi said that the FTAA agreement would enable corporations to sue governments when free trade is threatened -- even if the governments are putting in rules that are for social welfare, such as health care, child labor, or environmental legislation.

“All of us feel strongly about it being in secret. We are aware of the way NAFTA has affected border towns, and we feel strongly abut the anti-globalization movement,” said Abigail S. Popp ’02, who is coordinating the trip to Quebec.

The Boston Global Action Network is also sending up buses of protesters to Quebec, with the possibility that buses may turned away at the border.

Protesters will head to Washington

Every few years, the National Organization for Women, along with other organizations, coordinates a march on Washington in support of reproductive rights. This year’s march will feature speakers such as Patricia Ireland, the president of NOW; Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood; and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D - N.Y.).

Susan M. Buchman ’01, who is organizing students at MIT along with the Massachusetts Chapter of NOW, spoke about the Bush administration’s efforts to reverse the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

She said that under Bush the United States issued a “global gag rule” threatening to cut off aid to any international relief organization that even mentioned the word “abortion.”

In addition, Bush has moved to cut contraceptive benefits for federal employees, Buchman said, while the drug Viagra is fully covered by insurance companies everywhere.

April 23-27 is MIT pro-choice week and will include a “Choose Your Own Flower Sale” at a booth in the Student Center.