Free trade still leaves American workers displaced

When I read "Free trade's dual impact down on the farm," (Jan. 15) I could not help but respond. As a volunteer in El Paso leading Border Awareness trips, I know that the effects of free trade have wreaked havoc on many families in this area. The article says that President Bush sees free trade as a great way to create jobs, but for whom? Maybe it is creating jobs in the Midwest, but it has the opposite effect here at the border.

Companies that were in downtown El Paso 20 years or so ago are now across the border. This has left more than 20,000 workers displaced. Of these, 97 percent are Hispanic, two-thirds are women, and one-third are single mothers. With NAFTA, companies that used to be here are now in Mexico. Why? Instead of having to pay workers the minimum wage, they can pay workers in Mexico $25 per week to do the same thing. They can also get by with less-strict environmental regulations, thus leading to an environmental wasteland here on the border.

I wonder if Bush would come to El Paso to promote free trade and visit the many families who are struggling to make ends meet in a city with a skyrocketing unemployment rate. Maybe if he came here he would have a better idea of how free trade affects us all, not just certain sectors of the US population.

Maren Loken El Paso, Texas

Caring for Canada's homeless

Thank you for "Unfamiliar to Canada - lack of roofs" (Jan. 14) about the housing shortage in Canada. I live in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. I am disturbed by the changes that have occurred in public and low-rent housing during the past 10 years. It is good to read about it in an international newspaper - to make Canadians wake up to what is happening. I intend to e-mail the story to my provincial member of the legislature and my federal member of parliament. I think Canadian politicians need to see how our country is being presented to the world. We have thought of ourselves as a caring society with a safety net to protect the less fortunate. Your story alerts us that this is no longer true.

Dorothy Milburn-Smith Ottawa

I read your story on Toronto's Tent City with great interest. There was one error, however. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto is much closer to $1,500 (Canadian). I challenge you to find a two-bedroom place in Toronto for $1,000 (US $642). A more accurate statement would be that the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,000 per month. The cause for these high rents is linked with the elimination of rent controls that occurred in the city a few years ago. Otherwise, well done.

Peter Zimonjic Toronto

US role in global violence

Your article, "Public sees new global role for US" (Jan. 11) addressed the recent increase in citizens' support for the United States government becoming more involved in global issues. We must be aware that it has been US involvement, military and economic, that helped to create the societies that produce anti-US terrorists. The power elite has never shared the isolationist leanings of many Americans, preferring instead to extend the American empire without ever admitting it is doing so.

In principle, I am not an isolationist. I believe in generous foreign aid (nonmilitary) to help societies develop into democracies. But based on the historical record, US foreign policy usually means undermining democracy and killing civilians (either rapidly through bombs or more slowly through structural adjustment policies and sanctions). I currently support isolationism as the most humane approach we can take.

Richard Anderson-Connolly Tacoma, Wash.

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