For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Russia, NAFTA, and American Values
Dr. Sandersí biodefense expertise on the Ebola virus led to an invitation to participate in the Biological Weapons Proliferation Prevention Program component of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. He traveled to the Vector laboratory in the area of Novosibirsk. This laboratory is one of the two facilities in the world where smallpox research is performed (the other is in the United States) and was the site of investigations on the hemorrhagic fever viruses, Ebola and Marburg viruses, during the era of the Soviet Union. It was also the location of a recent death resulting from an Ebola virus infection, the first in Russia in more than 20 years.
Dr. Sanders discussed some the lessons he learned during his recent trip to Russia.
"There has been much discussion in this political campaign season about the events of more than 30 years ago. I believe that the era was a critical watershed in American history. On paper the Constitution and laws of the Soviet Union were just as protective of citizensí rights as was the Constitution of the United States. However, under the Communist system, Constitutional rights were an illusion. In contrast, the vast majority of Americans did authentically enjoy their Constitutional rights. However, despite the revisionist history in which my opponent has recently engaged, even in America many African-Americans were denied the voting rights that the Constitution had guaranteed them.
"But the United States and the Soviet Union took different paths. The civil rights and environmental movements in America were the greatest expression of the power of the people in American democracy. Tremendous strides were taken in enhancing American worker safety as well. In the Soviet Union the people had no voice. The legacy of Communism that one can see in a visit to Russia is a degraded environment, polluted air, rivers, and lakes, and water in St. Petersburg that is not safe to drink. Production was paramount; people didnít matter. On the last day of my visit there was a major accident at a Ukrainian mine in which more than 30 people were killed; there had been numerous fatal accidents there before. Enforcement of worker safety regulations was not a high priority.
"It was also clear that the Russian government was slipping back into some of the patterns of the past in terms of control of the media, expansion of central government authority, and lack of candor with the Russian people and the world."
Dr. Sanders discussed the implications of these findings for American domestic and trade policy.
"Upholding civil rights, protecting the environment and promoting respect for working men and women are fundamental expressions of the will of the American people. Our greatness will be measured by our success in these endeavors. I believe that there are threats to these elements of American life.
"Free trade is an essential component of capitalism. Free-trade agreements such as NAFTA, however, have given free trade a bad name. NAFTA creates a system of "investor-to-state" cases whereby supranational courts can take away American sovereignty, direct American tax dollars to go to foreign corporations and allow for the overturning of environmental and worker safety protections at the behest of those foreign corporations. Congressman Buyer is the only current Indiana Congressman who voted for NAFTA and continues to support it to this day. I oppose these provisions of NAFTA and will oppose any free-trade agreement that is similar to it.
"One of the first legislative efforts of the Republican Congress during the Bush administration was to overturn safety regulations for office workers, an increasing segment of the working population. Congressman Buyer voted for eliminating the worker safety provisions. New Bush administration rules designed to deny overtime pay to some classes of workers went into effect recently. Legislation supported by Democrats and many Republicans designed to protect workersí rights to overtime passed in the House of Representatives. Congressman Buyer voted against protecting the rights of workers to overtime.
"The Soviet Union and now Russia offer an alternative image for the path taken by a powerful country. We must insist that America takes the course that is consistent with American values and that honors the dignity of the American people."