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CHC to Oppose CAFTA, but Not Unanimously

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with the exception of five of its Members from Texas, is expected today to join the majority of the Democratic Caucus in opposing the Central American Free Trade Agreement, sources confirmed.

The CHC decided Tuesday night to publicly oppose the measure, which is expected to come to a House vote in the coming months. Fourteen of the Hispanic Members supported a CHC resolution to come out against CAFTA, one opposed it and four abstained from the vote, sources said.

The four Members abstaining are Texas Reps. Rubén Hinojosa, Silvestre Reyes, Charles Gonzalez and Solomon Ortiz. Rep. Henry Cuellar, also of Texas, voted against the resolution and has announced his support of CAFTA.

Cuellar said that while he respects the vote of the Hispanic Caucus, he has long been a “believer in free trade” and argues that CAFTA will broaden trade opportunities for the United States.

“Whatever the outcome, I respect the Caucus decision and we’ll continue working together,” Cuellar said. “But I feel very strongly it is the right thing to do.”

Gonzalez said he remains on the fence on the topic, and thus didn’t join the CHC in taking a position. “I have not made up my mind,” he said.

The majority of House Democrats have come out against CAFTA, including most recently the New Democrat Coalition, a move that surprised some observers because the group had been founded around the issue of free trade.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who opposed the measure, said: “House Democrats will not support the Central American Free Trade Agreement in its current form. We will only support trade agreements with strong labor and environmental protections.”

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