Feminist International

Radio Endeavour

July 2007

By FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour
Radio Internacional Feminista


July 23, 2007

“Banner of Dreams” symbolizes active participation of
Women Against CAFTA in grassroots resistance movement

By Margaret Thompson & María Suárez Toro

Every day, the colorful “Banner of Dreams” continues to grow and expand as a powerful democratic symbol of the growing grassroots resistance movement against CAFTA – the Central American Free Trade Agreement – in Costa Rica.    Designed and promoted by the group, Women Against CAFTA (Mujeres Contral el TLC), the “Banner of Dreams,” consists of brightly colored squares of cloth sewn together as a banner to provide a means of collecting messages of solidarity from women and men throughout Costa Rica and the world. 

“This banner reflects the diversity of groups, people and organizations that form the movement against CAFTA,” noted Paquita Cruz, of Women Against CAFTA.  “The idea is that people send us their banners, some as weavings, embroideries, paintings, or whatever form they want, and we continue to add them to the larger banner.”

Women Against CAFTA representatives have carried and displayed the banner at numerous venues throughout Costa Rica including conferences, concerts, rallies and festivals, where people are invited to write or paint their messages on the cloth.  Women have also taken the banner to collect painted messages of solidarity at the US Social Forum in Atlanta in June 2007, to Montreal, Canada at the 5th Continental Meeting of Indigenous Women of the Americas, and to women’s events in other Central and South American countries. 

Denouncing CAFTA in Costa Rica as a dangerous threat to democracy and the environment, a growing grassroots resistance movement comprised of a vast diversity of women, indigenous peoples, labor unions, farmers, political parties, former Presidents of Costa Rica, teachers, students, religious groups and small business owners is taking action throughout the country to stop CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), a “free trade” agreement with the United States.    

FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour – has provided extensive coverage of women’s participation in the struggle, working with Women Against CAFTA on the Banner of Dreams, as well as launching with other women a daily radio program entitled, “Women of the ‘NO’”on a local FM station, and broadcasting through the internet with ongoing interviews and reports on anti-CAFTA activities.   

Opponents of CAFTA say this treaty would devastate the Costa Rican economy and the environment, further dismantle a strong social welfare system through extensive privatization of social services, and contribute to growing poverty and inequality, all of which hit women particularly hard.  A study in Mexico, for example, showed a 50% increase in poverty levels among female-heads of households after NAFTA went into effect, the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and the United States.  (Las Dignas, 2004) 

Former Costa Rican President Rodrigo Carrazo
looks on as his wife, Estella, paints a solidarity message on the anti-CAFTA banner

Strong popular resistance to CAFTA forced the Costa Rican government to schedule a national referendum for October, 2007, although opponents are worried about the government’s slow response to establishing voting regulations for the referendum to protect against fraud.  Costa Rica is the only Central American country to have resisted ratifying CAFTA, with citizens insisting on have greater input in such sweeping economic, social and political changes.

In their mission statement, Women Against CAFTA denounced CAFTA as based on the logic of neoliberalism, an economic system that imposes the market as the only operative criterion, with economies globalized in a way that contribute to inequality between economically powerful and less powerful countries, and that gives overwhelming advantage to transnational businesses and their economic power.    The group also noted that newspapers, radio and television reports have said that privatization would be intensified under CAFTA, which means that women will be forced at a faster rate to cover the health and education needs of their children and families, and assume care for the elderly as the social welfare state would be dismantled in favor of private interests and people would need to pay for those services which are actually basic human rights.

Earlier this year, former Nobel Peace Prize Winner Oscar Arias and a strong advocate of CAFTA barely won re-election to a second term as President of the Republic, with a small percentage of votes over the anti-CAFTA candidate after a recount and massive mobilization against the election results.  Ironically, Arias continues to launch declarations of peace from his presidential podium, calling on the United Nations to eliminate weapons while at the same time signing new laws that would foster production of arms and guns in the country.  If approved, the CAFTA treaty would also allow tax-free and duty-free import of weapons and arms into Costa Rica, a country with no army.

Opponents including Women Against CAFTA have hit the streets with door-to-door campaigns, and organized concerts and rallies at numerous public activities and festivals, urging people to vote “NO” on the referendum.

On the other side, with strong support from the US Embassy, the Arias Administration, large transnational corporate interests and most mainstream press have dismissed the opposition movement as comprised of people who resist globalized modernization and development.  Proponents of CAFTA have launched multi-million dollar advertising campaigns urging people to vote “Yes” on the referendum in October, declaring that by not ratifying the treaty, Costa Rica risks being isolated and blocked from international economic development.  However, CAFTA opponents note a recent economic report that showed that Costa Rica had the largest increase of exports (17%) between 2005 and 2006 of any country in Central America, without having ratified the treaty.  All other countries in the region have signed on to CAFTA.  


What can YOU do to provide international solidarity against CAFTA?

1. For those in the USA, call your Congressional Representatives and tell him/her to join efforts in Congress to rework CAFTA and other poorly negotiated free trade deals.  Also ask them to oppose renewal of Fast Track trade-promotion authority for the President, which expired June 30, 2007.  This allows the President to push through trade deals with no amendments from Congress. (Call 202-224-3121 or go to: www.congress.org to send an e-mail).

2.  For those in Asia, Africa, Europe or Latin America, organize a protest at the Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate in your area.  Please let Women Against CAFTA know about your activity by sending an email to oficina@radiofeminista.net (and put Women Against CAFTA in the subject line).

3.  Send a message supporting the social movements to the Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate in your country. You can find a list of Costa Rica's consulates at:


You may use FIRE information, audio files, and photos and give credit to FIRE (www.radiofeminista.net) 



Las Dignas (Associación de las Mujeres por la Dignidad y la Vida  -- Association of Women for Dignity and Life) (2004, March), “Women say NO to CAFTA,” (published online by International Gender & Trade Network at: http://www.coc.org/pdfs/coc/IGTN/Women%20Say%20No%20to%20CAFTA.pdf.)

Augusto Sención, César (2007) "Disputes in Costa Rica about the Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States," InterAmerican Platform of Democratic Human Rights and Development (in Spanish at: http://www.pidhdd.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=37).

FIRE at www.radiofeminista.net (numerous written reports and audio interviews by FIRE staff)