Published on Tuesday, November 4, 2003 by the Palm Beach Post (Florida)
Iraq Bill Includes Millions for Miami Meeting
by Alex Navarro Clifton
Buried in a bill that provides money for the war in Iraq is an $8.5 million federal boost for Miami to host the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference later this month.
Passed in the House last week and the Senate Monday, the FTAA money is a single line within the massive Iraq bill.
But for the 40 local communities expected to provide extra police officers and equipment at the conference, it helps ease the financial burden on already strapped cities and counties.
Between 20,000 and 100,000 protesters are expected to flood downtown Miami during the conference set for Nov. 17-21.
"The money enables the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County in particular to go the extra mile in security," said Charles Cobb, chairman of the nonprofit Florida FTAA Inc., which is helping organize the conference. "It gives them much more comfort to do whatever is necessary to provide good security and do it in a friendly, positive way."
The FTAA would establish a free-trade zone among the nations of the Americas and the Caribbean, excluding Cuba. It would be the world's largest free market, with a combined gross domestic product of nearly $13 trillion and nearly 800 million consumers.
U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Miami can't be expected to shoulder the entire security burden, especially since violence and protests have erupted at free trade meetings in Seattle and Cancun, Mexico.
"I think we can be sure we'll have the same problem in Miami," Shaw said. "It's certainly to the United States' advantage to show the world we can have a successful conference in the U.S., protect civil liberties and maintain order."
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, also supports federal money for the FTAA.
"Congressman Hastings is supportive of having the meeting in South Florida and that obviously costs money," said Hastings' spokesman, Fred Turner. "As far as the federal government can help with funding, he's happy it was included."
Cobb said it's important for Miami to make a good impression on the foreign ministers attending the conference.
"Security is a critical element," said Cobb. "Doing it firmly, but friendly."
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