Venezuela is demanding that the Bush 2 administration should make the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) less risky for the Latin American region’s poor countries since competition between Venezuelan and powerful multi-national North American corporations as envisaged under FTAA schedules would be tantamount to “a fight between a 12-year-old boy and Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali)!”

President Hugo Chavez Frias decries the FTAA is a neo-colonialist project which, in reality, endangers free trade from a Latin American perspective … “we are going to lead a battle, we are negotiating with the leaders of 34 countries in the Americas.”

The FTAA, originally scheduled to go into effect in 2005, is aimed at becoming the largest free-trade zone in the world, from north of Alaska to the south of South America.  But many Latin American countries … including Brazil and Venezuela … are demanding that the proposal should be scrapped or reformed to eliminate US subsidies to farmers and US-imposed tariffs that protect only US farmers … they say that the subsidies and tariffs will make it impossible for poor Latin American farmers to compete fairly against giant USA conglomerates.

Venezuelan Production & Commerce (MPC) Minister Wilmar Castro is representing Venezuela at the FTAA talks in Miami where he will be resolute in maintaining Venezuela’s stance against the currently formed FTAA proposal.  On a home base, President Hugo Chavez Frias has already established programs granting low-interest loans to poor farmers to enable Venezuela to replace its 60% food imports with domestic production and thereby to eliminate a critical dependence on currency consuming foreign imports.