Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mexico: NAFTA Begins Its Endgame for Small Farmers

An incredibly important occasion just passed. One that could affect the immigration, environment and free trade debates as much or more than all the garbage tossed around by the politicians. On January 1st, the final phase of NAFTA went into effect. It removed the remaining subsidies Mexico provided for its small scale famers of (national staples) corn, tomatoes, bean and sugar.

Since 1994, NAFTA has already displaced some 1.7 million Mexican farmers off their land. When forced to compete with large-scale American mechanized agri-business (and their billions of subsidies), campesinos are unable to compete. The dispossed go to el Norte (the US) or to the slums of Mexico City (immigration rates to both have doubled since NAFTA).

When the midnight bell rang, there were loud protests in towns across Mexico, including a very Latin American-style tactic right up against our gates in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez (above). A thousand Mexicans manged to block one of the most critical points of entry into this country for most of a day - the highway border crossing.

While President Calderon says the date is a happy one, I doubt the Mexican people will much like what they will begin to see this year. The best thing about the Mexican Revolution was land reform, which gave plots of land to the peasants. NAFTA will inevitably swallow that up, with one of a few US companies buying up land piece by piece until the entire heritage of traditional Mexican rural life disappears. On top of the social disaster will be an environmental one, as land that can not be profitably tractored dries up (not to mention the immigration impact).



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