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Cowboy Bush and Corporate Lobbyists Bribe Charlie Rangel to Support Peru Free Trade Agreement at Street Theater Protest in Harlem

On Monday, October 1st at 9AM, members of the New York City People's Referendum on Free Trade held a protest at Charlie Rangel's office in Harlem's Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building to protest his role as the architect of democratic support for the Peru Free Trade Agreement.

The crowd of about 13 protestors included Rangel constituents and members of Wetlands Activism Collective, the Movement for Peace in Colombia, Global Justice for Animals, the New York Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Health GAP (Global Access Project), Polo Democratico Alternativo USA (NY/NJ/CT chapter), and Cowboys Against Bush. Media on hand included Bill Moyer's Journal and the Amersterdam News, a NYC African American newspaper.

The protest centered around a street theater performance that began with Rep. Rangel giving an impassioned speech against CAFTA and the Oman FTA, expressing his commitment to putting the public interest before corporate profits. Cowboy Bush, played by performance artist Telfair Cardaci of Wild West Entertainment, entered stage right, and in an aside to the audience commented "Looks like I'm gonna need to wrangle Rangel." He proceeded to lasso Charlie pull him up close and explain to him the vast bounty available to him as Chair of the House Ways and Means committee, so long as he cooperated with Bush's "good friends." Bush introduced Rangel to his good buddies, the corporate lobbyists. Pfizer's explained to Rangel why his company needed a Peru FTA to protect their intellectual property and pull generics off the market. The lobbyist from Occidental Petroleum explained why his company needed a Peru FTA to ensure its access to the Peruvian Amazon unimpeded by environmental protections.

"But won't that kill people with AIDS?" Rangel asked. "Won't that destroy the Amazon and kill indigenous people?" The lobbyists, with glowing smiles, responded in unison "Yup!" as they handed Rangel a big bag of money. Rangel commented that this was a very serious issue, worth of careful deliberation. He proceded to weigh the money in one hand vs. the public interest in the other. The scale teetered back and forth briefly, as Rangel repeated over and over "The money, the public interest, the money, the public interest, the money---THE MONEY!!!!!!" His decision made, Rangel and the lobbyists jumped about in ecstasy, high-fiving one another as Rangel broke into song (to the tune of Ace of Base's I Saw the Sign)

"I took the bribe!

It opened up my mind

I took the bribe!" Bush and the lobbyists then proceed to a series of dastardly deeds. Cowboy Bush lassoed a prescription drug bottle out of the hands of an HIV positive Peruvian, who they taunted with comments like "We got the money, you get to die!"

Oxy's payoff was next, as Rangel brutalized an indigenous protestor tore down his protest sign, displaced him, and erected with Bush a leaky Amazon oil pipeline.

Satisfied with a job well done, the politicians and lobbyists danced, exchanging partners frequently, while singing So Happy Together.

Bush and Rangel next had a heart to heart. Rangel talked about how great it's been to be a sellout Democrat, how he held a hugely successful "Birthday Bash" fundraiser in August (two months after his actual birthday). He recounted how proud he was to have Aretha Franklin as the star performer at his birthday, and told Bush how she'd inspired him to write a song:

Free Trade We Love (to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love")

We're taking bribes to vote for free trade, we love
Playin Corporate Hack
We're taking bribes to vote for free trade, we love
Gettin some kickback
So make a big campaign donation, we love
Shiftin' votes your way
Don't give a damn about small farmers, as long
As we get our pay
No cheap drugs for those Aids patients, Pharma loves
Keeping price high
And free trade means no more generics, who cares
If those AIDS patients die
We're gonna cut down the rainforest, we love
Oil, gas, timber, coal
Cuz they love to pad our pockets
And you that is our main goal
Yeah agribusiness wants no tarriffs, they love
Dumping chicken and rice
We'll just displace Peru's small farmers, we think
Those sweatshop jobs are nice
. Animal rights just ain't our worry, gonna build
Peru some factory farms
And if there water gets polluted, well shucks We won't be too alarmed
Because we're in it for the profits, don't care
About the public health
We know where our bread is buttered, we love
Making corporate wealth
We're getting bribed to vote for free trade
This month Peru and Panama
Maybe later South Korea, after that
We'll do Colombia
We know the people are against it, but hey
it's not like we are fools
But Democracy's old fashioned, in the age
of corporate rule
We're taking bribes to vote for free trade, we love
Playin Corporate Hack
We're taking bribes to vote for free trade, we love
Gettin our kickback
We're taking bribes to vote for free trade
....

After the performances, activists chanted:

"Charlie Rangel, corporate pawn
cutting down the Amazon!"

"Long hours, low wages
Rangel's trade deal is outrageous!"

Next, activists gave speakouts denouncing the FTA.

Nicholas Chango, an activist for the rights of Andean indigenous peoples, talked about how the deal with harm indigenous communities.

Alex Reid Ross of Global Justice for Animals addressed the threat to public health, animal welfare, and the environment the agreement represents.

Adam Weissman of Wetlands Activism Collective talked about how intellectual property rules under the agreement threatened to limit access to AIDS drugs and how the displacement of farmers under the agreement will contribute to increased cocaine production, forced migration, US job flight, sweatshop exploitation, and Amazon rainforest destruction

After the protest, Adam and Alex dropped into Rangel's office and had a meeting with his press representative, expressing their concerns that despite the agreement's new environmental provisions were of little value and that the agreement was overall disastrous for animal welfare, threatened ecosystems, and indigenous communities.

Prior to the protest, we wondered what the reaction would be to harsh criticism of Rangel. We talked to passersby during and after the protest. The reaction was fairly consistent-- people were unsurprised that Rangel was selling out the public interest. Seems like Charlie's Harlem constituents have got his number...

To view the advisory sent to the media about this protest, visit http://tradejustice.net/?page=RangelWrangled