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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Story last updated at 1:22 AM on Sep. 21, 2005
Hiding The Truth About CAFTA

By: By Jim Hightower

If an ideologically incorrect study is done inside the Bush regime, does it make a noise?

Not if the White House can squelch it, which is exactly what they've tried to do to a report about labor abuses in Central America. For more than a year, the Department of Labor has fought ferociously to block the release of a study showing that working conditions in six Latin American nations are abysmal and that government officials in the region do little to enforce labor protections. These findings do not fit with the president's ideological insistence that workers worldwide can trust global corporatization to improve their lives.

The 400-page report was particularly inconvenient and untimely for the administration, because it had been pushing hard this year to ram another glob of globaloney called "CAFTA" down our throats. CAFTA -- the Central American Free Trade Agreement -- was this summer's number one legislative priority for Mr. Bush's global corporate backers, and the last thing they wanted was documentation that their corporate ilk are already exploiting, injuring and otherwise abusing workers in the CAFTA region.

In hilarious irony, the study in question was commissioned by -- guess who? -- Mr. Bush's own Labor Department! It contracted with the International Labor Rights Fund to do the study -- but when the results were not what the sponsors wanted to hear, they impounded the report, forbade the Labor Rights Fund from publishing it, and even denied repeated requests by members of Congress to review it.

Finally, after Rep. Sandy Levin filed a freedom-of-information action to force the release of the tax-paid study, the Labor Department relented -- but not before trying to taint its own report, blasting it as "rife with unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims."

To see the report yourself, go to:

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back," on sale now from Viking Press.