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The Chile -To-Hood River Fast Track Express (from Pinochet with Love).

Hood River orchardists have formed the Tractor Coalition to oppose 'Fast Track', Free Trade and grocery consolidation. The article explores the connection between the destruction of Oregon fruit growing and the 1973 coup that destroyed Chile's Popular Unity government and socialist president Salvador Allende.
(From Pinochet with Love)

September 11, 1973. Santiago, Chile.

The Chilean Army has surrounded the presidential palace, La Moneda, with tanks. Snipers exchange fire with the supporters of Chilean President Salvador Allende who are holed up inside. For the last twenty four hours, units of the Chilean Army, Navy, and Air Force have seized strategic positions around the country, as firing squads work around the clock in the barracks, shooting members of the armed forces opposed to the coup in progress. Death squads are already arresting labor and peasant activists, socialists, communists, and other members of Popular Unity, the coalition that had brought Allende, Chileıs first democratically elected Socialist president, to power.

As explosions rock the working class districts of the capital city, Salvador Allende addresses the nation on the last free radio channel:

³Perhaps this is my last opportunity to address myself to you. The air force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporacion.²

Allendeıs family and close friends are leaving the palace under a white flag.

³They have the power, they can smash us, but social processes are not detained, not through crimes nor power. History is ours, and the people make it.²

Hawker-Hunter fighters are winging towards La Moneda to begin a rocket assault.

³In this moment of definition, the last thing I can say to you is that I hope you will learn this lesson: foreign capital and imperialism united with reactionary elements, created the climate for the armed forces to break with their tradition...the same social sectors which right now are in their homes, waiting to take power with anotherıs hand to continue defending their huge estates and privileges.²

Allendeıs body is discovered after the palace is captured, his head blown off by machine gun fire. The military calls it suicide. Their word is final since freedom of speech has been abolished, and will remain abolished for the next 17 years. Leftists and liberals are stuffed into soccer stadiums and torture, disappearance, and assassination become institutionalized.This is the culmination of a three year campaign organized from Washington DC, to destabilize and overthrow Allende.

³We must make their economy scream² Richard Nixon said. In 1975 Senate Intelligence Committee hearings documented the long involvement of the CIA, US military intelligence, the ITT corporation, Kennecot and Anaconda Copper corporations in funding, organizing, and encouraging Chilean coup plotters.

Early on, the new military regime hires the ³Chicago Boys², Chilean economists educated at the University of Chicago under the tutelage of economist Milton Friedman, the guru of ŒFree Tradeı. The social programs of Allendeıs Popular Unity are scrapped. Land reform is reversed. Efforts to raise the wages and living standards of peasants and workers are stopped. Production for domestic consumption is replaced with production for export. The job of generating foreign exchange through exports falls increasingly to agriculture, to super-exploited peasants working on the big estates Allende had tried to break up.

January 2001. Hood River, Oregon.

Over 400 Hood River orchardists and their supporters form a mile-long parade, driving farm equipment through downtown in a snow flurry. This is the first protest of the Tractor Coalition.

³An OSU study estimates that orchardists in the Hood River area will lose $28 million during the 2001 season² says Camille Hukari, one of the founders of the Tractor Coalition.
³As a winter pear grower, Iım not even making the cost of production. The last straw for a lot of us was a television ad that Safeway and Fred Meyer ran in January, extolling the wonders of Chilean grown fruit. We felt that we had to do something. Chilean fruit is our main source of competition.²

Hukari describes the differences between growing fruit in Hood river and in Chile: ³A Chilean worker makes $60.00 per week. We pay workers $60 per day, and that doesnıt count social security, unemployment insurance, housing costs. We have some of the toughest environmental standards in the world, regarding what we can spray, when we can spray, and how our workers must be protected. Who knows what the Chilean standards are? Weıre for fair trade, but this isnıt a level playing field.

The American consumer spends less on food than ever before. People go to the supermarket and see all this produce . They donıt realize that there is a crisis for American farmers. The combination of produce coming in from all over the world and the consolidation of grocery chains is killing us. There used to be over 30 produce buyers in our area , now there are ten. One broker told me that last year was the first time that the grocery chains told him how much they would pay for fruit, instead of him telling the grocers what the prices were.²

Competition from the Chilean fruit industry is affecting growers around the region. On 7/29, the Oregonian ran an article about local raspberry growers bringing a complaint to the US International Trade Commission regarding unfair Chilean Œdumpingı of fruit on the US market.

³ Lyle Rader, a Linden Wash. raspberry grower and packer...testified that the director of Chileıs frozen-food exporters association had put a choice before him: move to Chile or watch Chilean exports put him out of business.²

Camille Hukari and the Tractor Coalition are seeking support from the community. ³Farmers are 2% of the population at this point. We need to work with others.²

The Coalitionıs program is simple:

³We ask people to talk to the produce managers where you shop. Tell them that you want to buy US and Northwest produce. Donıt buy imported fruit.

Politically we ask people to talk to their US representatives about two important issues. First, oppose so-called ŒFast-Trackı legislation before Congress. ŒFast Trackı means that Congress gives up the right to debate new trade deals, and will just vote a straight yes or no, without amendments or questions. We canıt create fair trade deals when the peopleıs representatives donıt get to ask questions.

We also ask folks to support ŒCountry or Originı labeling on all fruit. When you buy a sneaker or a T-shirt, the labels says where it was made. You donıt get that with produce, because it is taken out of the box when displayed in the store. People should have the right to know where their food comes from.²

They call it Œblow-backı, where US actions overseas blow back on the US population. When Nixon and Kissinger conspired with Chilean generals to destroy Chileıs democracy, did they know what would happen to Northwest farmers, did they care? Agriculture is different from manufacturing. Agri-culture presupposes a local culture, cuisine, a self-reliant economy. Small farmers all over the world do best with local markets. Consolidated supermarket chains and Fast-Track free trade will destroy local culture. Which is why people are in the streets from Seattle, to Genoa, to Hood River.

For more information on the Tractor Coalition , call 541-386-5785. Visit their web-site @ www.tractorcoalition.org

To oppose Fast Track legislation, contact:

Sen Ron Wyden

Sen Gordon Smith

Mike Edera salutes Companero Presidente Salvadore Allende on the 28th anniversary of the criminal Chilean coup. Mike is a landscaper, and a volunteer with the Rural Organizing Project. Contact the ROP at 503-543-8417 to get involved.

phone: phone: 503-720-0014
address: address: 50350 Cowens Rd #41 Scappoose OR 97056