Ignoring pleas from outraged South American governments, Democratic leadership of the House this week was adamant about Congress going into its August recess without taking action on free trade agreements with Peru and Panama as promised. Instead, two senior Democratic House members appear determined to travel to those two rare Latin American friends of the United States, to hector them into passing domestic legislation as a prerequisite for approving already negotiated bilateral trade pacts.
Why did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renege on her previous commitment? She dances to the tune of AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who preaches outright protectionism. Hostility toward not only the Peru and Panama pacts but also a vital agreement with Colombia can be traced to influence on U.S. unions by South America's leftist labor leaders, originating in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.