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In his AlterNet posting dated Nov. 13, 2007, Joshua Holland explains why Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the two Democratic Party frontrunners for the presidential nomination, support free trade deals and in particular are supporting one with Peru.

The Peru agreement is the first in a series of ‘free-trade’ deals based on “the deeply unpopular NAFTA model and being pushed through Congress by the Bush administration,” writes Holland. He adds that “the divide between the two Democratic front-runners and the American electorate couldn’t be clearer.”

Peruvian and most American unions oppose the deal, he says. So do key environmental and anti-poverty organizations. The politicians won’t even persuade any democratic ‘swing’ votes to join them. So what are Clinton and Obama doing and who stands to gain?

Multinational corporations do, says Todd Tucker, research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, They include Citigroup, Occidental Petroleum and Wal-Mart, which have all “put their full might into getting the Peru deal passed, including showering millions in congressional campaign donations since January alone.”

John Edwards, considered a distant third in the democratic race, is making the Peru deal into an issue that he hopes will speak to the candidates’ overall judgment as well as their concern for issues of economic justice. “Like the failed free trade agreements before it,” he said in a statement, “the Peru Agreement puts the interests of the big multinational corporations first, ahead of the interests of American workers and communities.”

Holland gets the last word. “The plain truth is that there’s no half-way decent argument for supporting the Peru deal, and that may be the most offensive part of the whole thing: It shows that on a fundamental level, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and their respective campaign staff think that the American electorate – you and I and all the people we know – are stupid.”