Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

uruguay’s free trade woes: free people, not trade!

"For many the pictures we're showing are aggressive. The truth is is what is aggressive is what's inside" the cigarette package, said Walter Abascal, program head for Uruguay's anti-tobacco program. Abascal spoke to Al-Jazeera reporter Teresa Bo (pictured left).

“Free trade” at work. Uruguay passes legislation to discourage smoking. So multinational corporation Philip Morris presses charges against them under a free trade agreement, saying Uruguay’s health-oriented laws are hurting their business. Ugh.

Uruguay’s anti-tobacco legislation requires cigarette companies to cover 80 percent of their packaging with pictures of the effects of smoking. This results in cigarette boxes with unsightly images of yellow teeth, underweight babies on life support, throat cancer victims with open tracheas, and more. The legislation also prohibits smoking in public places.

“For many the pictures we’re showing are aggressive. The truth is is what is aggressive is what’s inside” the cigarette package, said Walter Abascal, program head for Uruguay’s anti-tobacco program, speaking to Al-Jazeera reporter Teresa Bo.

Philip Morris is pressing charges against the tiny Latin American nation on the grounds that the legislation is hurting its profits in Uruguay. The multinational tobacco corporation intends to press charges under a clause of the free trade agreement between Uruguay and Switzerland, where the corporation’s operational headquarters are located. On these grounds, the corporation might actually win in international courts, forcing Uruguay to reverse legislation.

Free trade agreements violate a country’s right to self-governance. Governments don’t often express the will of the people, but it’s still better to have a government making decisions than a freaking corporation. A tiny country like Uruguay shouldn’t have to defend its legitimate legislation enacted by its democratic government on the grounds that some corporation’s profit margin is threatened.

Every free trade agreement is nothing but a weapon of domination, enabling the wealthy corporate aristocracy to tighten the grip that they have on our necks. Free people, not trade.

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Filed under: activism, consumerism, global justice, human welfare, international relations

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