By Gustavo Castro Soto
In 1994, also the year of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, the Free Trade Agreement with North America (NAFTA) that Mexico signed with the United States and Canada, meant the grave for the agricultural sector, and specifically for the peasants and indigenous people of the country. when suddenly 52% of agricultural products could freely enter the country.
In 1994, also the year of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, the Free Trade Agreement with North America (NAFTA) that Mexico signed with the United States and Canada, meant the grave for the agricultural sector, and specifically for the peasants and indigenous people of the country. when suddenly 52% of agricultural products could freely enter the country. Back then the catastrophe that we are currently experiencing was predicted. Today also lament those who on that occasion celebrated the arrival of progress and the first world in Mexico, and disqualified those who noticed the obvious: the death of the Mexican countryside.
In January 2003 the last shovel of earth was thrown into the countryside, buried in misery. As of this date, the Mexican borders were fully opened to the free import of 93% of agricultural and forestry products from the United States. The Mexican market was flooded with chicken, barley, eggs, pork, potatoes, sweets, instant coffee, live pork, cold cuts, hams, malt, rice, lard, bacon, poultry, turkey and chicken pasta, egg, juice orange, wheat, animal fats and oils, chocolates, preserves, tobacco, apples, cigarettes, etc. Among the highest tariffs (import taxes) and whose total elimination will be more costly for the country are animal fat (53.5%); potato (51%); whole turkey (25.2%); piece of turkey, poultry and chicken pasta (49.4%); malt (33.2%); barley (24.32%) and egg (9.5%). Only chicken producers in Mexico say they will lose 30 thousand jobs in a single year. And is that production costs in the United States are 68% lower than in Mexico. For their part, pig farmers indicate that 70% of the 300,000 jobs they generate will be at risk. (Victor Quintana)
In this way, fruits, vegetables, grains, oilseeds, poultry, pork, dairy products (except powdered milk), among many other products, will not pay taxes or have a maximum limit of tons to enter the country. The government will stop receiving these millionaire income that transnational companies will save, and that the government of President Vicente Fox will try to recover through the increase in taxes on Mexicans, using the funds for the retirement of workers who have kidnapped banks , increasing the cost of public services, eliminating the subsidy for water and electricity, among other neoliberal structural adjustment measures imposed by the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The foods that are supposed to still be charged with tariffs by the Mexican government are powdered milk, cane sugar, corn and beans that come from the United States. These products will gradually pay less tariffs until they enter freely in 2008, the year in which the government's Procampo program aimed at the rural and indigenous poor, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), will end. But this is actually a lie since, as we will see later, this agreement has been violated and imports of corn and beans have increased. On the other hand, President Vicente Fox supports the importation of high fructose from transgenic corn from the United States with which the soft drink industry and all those that use candy, use this product instead of sugar cane from the Mexican countryside.
As if that were not enough, on May 13, 2002 in the United States, the Security Law for Farms and Agricultural Investment was approved, increasing subsidies to the United States by up to 80%, especially to the agro-export sector.
The United States Subsidy to the Field
According to the study "Losing Our Land: The Farm Bill of 2000," prepared by Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rosset, directors of the Institute for Food and Development Policy and Food First, respectively, the 2002 Farm Bill signed by President George W. Bush on May 13, 2002 raised to $ 248.6 billion in subsidies for US agriculture for the next ten years, mainly for eight crops: cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, barley, oats and sorghum. That amount is an 80% increase compared to the 1996 Farm Bill with funds from US taxpayers. This subsidy is greater than Mexico's foreign debt, which amounts to more than 160 billion dollars.
Thus, the total budget of the United States government for the agricultural sector amounted to 118 billion dollars in 2002 against only 3,500 allocated by the Fox government. Approximately 20 times more when Mexican agriculture is only six times more smaller than the American one. However, Vicente Fox wants the indigenous to become an entrepreneur and be competitive.
While the United States government provides a subsidy of $ 21,000 a year to each producer (approximately 575 Mexican pesos per day), the Mexican government allocates 3.3% of that amount, which is equivalent to $ 700 (approximately 20 Mexican pesos per day). The subsidy from the United States is 5.6 times more than the support or shield to the Mexican countryside. For every dollar that Mexico allocates to its farmers, the United States allocates $ 6.6 and most of its subsidies go to the wealthiest, including 14 of the legislators who drafted the law in the United States and corporations such as Wesbaco that produce Mexican products. role, Chevron, insurer John Honcock, Ted Turner (CEO of Time-Warner Entertainment), Dan Donalson (ABC Channel correspondent) and David Rockefeller (Chase Manhattan Bank).
Therefore, two-thirds of farm bill subsidies benefit 10% of US farms. Only 8% of them represent 72% of sales. This implies the gradual elimination of the small and medium American farmer. In 1930, 25% of the population lived on six million family farms. Currently only less than two million remain where 2% of the population of the United States lives. (Mittal and Rosset)
Today, 40% of the total income of the agricultural sector of the United States comes from the direct supports of its government. Only in this way is it understood that it occupies the first place in the world in exporting most agricultural products. The United States exports corn with 20% and wheat with 46% below the cost of production. With these subsidies it manages to drastically and artificially reduce costs, export food at lower prices, break up competition, take over grains, the market, the price and food, enriching the most powerful companies. Then they can make the products more expensive by eliminating competition and eliminating the subsidy.
In this way, a company or a handful of them will be the suppliers of grains and food on a world level, as other companies in the field of drugs, oil, computers, agrochemicals, automobiles, etc. have. Another mechanism that US companies use is the destination of grains for alleged humanitarian aid in hungry countries such as Africans, or taking advantage of natural disasters to introduce their patented and transgenic seeds that other countries such as Europeans refuse to to accept. With this they accelerate the loss of the food sovereignty of the peoples. Even worse when the presidents of some countries are representatives of some transnational food companies such as in Central America.
The Mexican peasant has not been able and will not be able to compete like this. Therefore, the solution is not to try to enter the export market for them because it simply does not make sense. The rules are not made by them or for them. As long as the laws and rules of the international market are somehow changed, the countryside will have to survive in another way, producing for the interior, achieving an economic network that some call solidarity, alternative, barter or any other fair mechanism for the countryside. .
In the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agricultural Agreement, countries committed to reducing domestic subsidies and defined a maximum subsidy ceiling. The United States defined it at $ 19 billion annually and Mexico at $ 8.3 billion, although it does not deliver it. However, other supports do not define them as subsidies, although in reality they are, so as not to exceed this figure.
It is from 1982 with the presidency of Miguel De La Madrid Hurtado (1982-1988) that the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed for the first time in Mexico the First Package of Structural Adjustment Measures, inaugurating thus the beginning of neoliberalism in the country. Also under the supervision of the United States Department of the Treasury, the Mexican government begins to free itself from the social obligation to support the needs of the field and begins to withdraw support in fertilizers and other inputs necessary for the field. De La Madrid's main achievement for North American interests was that he entered Mexico into the GATT in 1986, thus starting the importation of agri-food.
During the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) the second generation of structural adjustment measures began in Mexico. Salinas intends to reduce the number of peasants in the country from 25 to 5 million; He continues to decrease support for the countryside, accelerates privatizations, frees control over farm prices, hastens constitutional modifications to adapt them to the Libra Trade Agreement with North America (NAFTA), and the poor during his administration increase considerably to 17 million of people. In 1994, the GATT became the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus expanding its power to legislate on other binding and mandatory issues for all countries, such as patents and agriculture. Salinas's claim to the WTO presidency is frustrated. However, his main achievements before the United States government are the modification of Article 27 of the Constitution that privatizes the land and the signing of NAFTA.
The third neoliberal government arrives with the presidency of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994-2000), and dragging the murder of his friend and presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio. By this time, the end of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was seen after 70 years in power. With Zedillo, the government program Procampo is implemented in order to cushion hunger and the crisis of corn producers during the first 15 years of NAFTA, and other programs supported by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are invented. to compensate the damages to the more than 24 million poor in the country. The prices of guarantee to the peasants disappear, the prices of other products of the basic basket are released, the Conasupo and all its warehouses that guaranteed the purchase of the seeds of the field are privatized. For the interests of the United States, Ernesto Zedillo turned Mexico into a bridge between its market and the rest of the world, achieving free trade agreements with more than 30 countries.
With NAFTA, agri-food imports increased. In 1995, Mexico imported from the United States 3 thousand 254 million dollars and exported 3 thousand 835 million. In 2001, imports were 7,415 million dollars and exports were 5,267 million. Before we sold more than we bought (agri-food scale). However, as we can see, in seven years of NAFTA we have gone from sellers to buyers of agri-food products. In other words, a deficit agrifood balance going from a surplus of 581 million dollars to a deficit balance of 2 thousand 148 million.
In 1990, Mexico imported an average 8.7 million tons of ten staple crops annually, among which were corn, beans, wheat, sorghum, rice, among others. For the year 2000, it reached 18.5 million tons, which represented an increase of 112%. Before NAFTA, no more than 2.5 million tons were imported, and only in 2001 6 million 148 thousand tons were imported. (Victor Quintana)
The fourth neoliberal administration arrives with the president of the National Action Party (PAN), Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-2006), the first opposition government in 70 years. The current administration strengthens its relations with the World Bank, making Mexico the third country in the world most indebted to this bank. Fox exacerbates food dependency, continuing to allow the violation of NAFTA with the introduction of agricultural products from the United States without payment of tariffs or taxes, as well as greater amounts of imports than those agreed in the treaty. By then, the existence of between 50 and 60 million poor people in Mexico is already recognized. Among the achievements to date of Vicente Fox in the eyes of the United States administration, is the support for the promotion of the Puebla-Panama Plan and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, as well as the guarantee that he will not request renegotiation of NAFTA with the United States in the agricultural chapter, despite the manifestations of disagreement from Mexican society.
Since NAFTA came into force in 1994, while the prices of grains plummeted, those of the basic basket have increased by 257%. During his administration, President Vicente Fox has allowed 3 million 725 thousand tons of corn to enter Mexico without charging the tariff agreed with the United States, for which the country stopped receiving 429 million 782 thousand dollars and was affected to 3 million of corn producers. With this, the time has come when 40% of imports are destined to cover food needs.
On December 10, 2002, International Day for Human Rights, President Vicente Fox affirmed that it is time to give a "new vision" to NAFTA, for which the United States and Canada are already negotiating how to adapt it to the purpose. to respond to the needs of the three countries in the next 10 years, and to be able to "assemble all the pieces of what will be the great Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA)" that is intended to be signed in 2005. (The Jornada, December 11, 2002)
Between 1982 and 2001, investment in agricultural development fell by 95.5%, and public spending by 73.3%. In the same period, agricultural credit was reduced by 64.4%. In order for banks to grant loans to poor peasants and indigenous people, the Chiapas government promotes the rural capitalization program where peasants put as collateral the resources that they would receive annually from Procampo until 2007, in exchange for a loan for productive projects. Believing that the poor peasant will be able to compete with the market rules described so far and will be able to pay his debt, it sounds naive to think that this will work. Moreover, the poverty and decapitalization of the peasant and indigenous people is accelerating. Today we see some communities in Chiapas where only abandoned women live because the men emigrated to the United States in order to find money to pay the credit they owe from the failed cattle project. In addition to being in debt, they were left without Procampo. The current government believes that the indigenous and peasant will get ahead with the sale of Fox's dream of being entrepreneurs.
For the economist José Luis Calva, the average food production per person (per capita) collapsed since the adjustment policies were imposed between 1981 and 2001, while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of agriculture and forestry per capita decreased 14.3 %. On the other hand, the per capita production of the eight main grains fell 21.8% and that of red meat by 28.8%. The national production of liters of milk per capita also decreased by 8.4% and the cubic decimeters of timber production by 39.9%. (El Universal, November 8) Therefore, the situation in the countryside will not improve as long as the root causes of its poverty are not modified.
In any case, using the "per capita" index as an indicator of development, justice and equity is totally absurd. It does not mean development that there are ten liters of milk and nine of them are consumed by a single person, although theoretically it would be the same for all of them if it were divided equally, which is not the case. Similarly, the GDP indicator, a lot of wealth can be produced, but it is produced and enjoyed by a few, which does happen. Another equally ridiculous indicator is that of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) because buying a company, land, merging banks or factories, moves a lot of money but also moves many laid-off workers to the streets.
Radiography of the Mexican Countryside
The four basic grains in Mexico are corn, beans, wheat, and rice. Between 1985 and 1999 their real values fell between 47 and 57%. The percentage of crops that have modern irrigation technology mechanisms does not exceed 8%. For its part, the amount of agricultural area in the country is about 35 million hectares, of which about 22 million have a high degree of erosion.
In rural areas, 42.8% of the child population is undernourished. About a million children under the age of five are growing poorly. While in the north of the country the population is more developed, in the center it presents an intermediate development and in the south the situation is serious. Only in the northern state of Sonora 87% of children register normal growth, while in Guerrero 63% of children are malnourished and 10% suffer from third-degree malnutrition, which is why it ranks first in malnutrition in Mexico followed by the rural area of Yucatán and later Chiapas, Puebla and Veracruz (Bourges Rodríguez).
52% of the land in Mexico is ejidal and communal. Each ejidatario has an average of 9 hectares. Only 7% of agricultural production units are technified, 45% are traditional and 52% are subsistence. Most of the indigenous peoples, whose population exceeds 10 million Mexicans, live in the countryside as peasants. (Victor Quintana)
In contrast, in the United States they produce 3.5 times more kilograms of corn per hectare than Mexico and three times more kilos of beans. There, the agricultural worker generates 20 times more economic value than a Mexican, but they have 1.6 tractors per worker while Mexico has 2 tractors for every 100 workers. The United States has 20 times more farmland and 10 times more irrigated land per worker. In Mexico, 25% of the population lives in the countryside, while in the United States only 2% live. (Mittal and Rosset)
Despite these results, there are social and business sectors in Central America that believe that they will benefit from the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement between Central America and the United States (FTAA-EU). While they go, indigenous and Mexican peasants have come and gone a thousand times from their lands to the northern border in search of survival. Hundreds and hundreds have met death in their attempt to pass. Others have realized that it is time to defend what little is left, to defend the land. Today, more than ever, the projects that have been promoted in the past and that were replaced by attempts to compete in the international market sounding like leaving the poor make more sense: family gardens, community vegetables, small chicken farms and pig pens. ; organic production, barter, community production or internal consumption.
It is at the cost of much poverty that we have understood that the current market system is not made to help the poor get out of their misery, but to sink them further. Those with the least do not participate in the rules. It is the game of savage and neoliberal competition. It is from the WTO, the FTAA, the PPP and the Free Trade Agreements from where the rules of the game are imposed to eliminate the enemy, the competitor. Why is it hard to understand something so simple.
Note: The series of Bulletins dedicated to NAFTA and the field is based on information from the following sources that were consulted: Center for Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside (Ceccam): www.ceccam.org.mx; Study "Losing Our Land: The Farm Bill of 2000", prepared by Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rosset, co-directors of the Institute for Food and Development Policy and Food First:
www.foodfirst.org/pubs/backgrdrs/2002/leyagricola.html; www.noalca.org; Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade (RMALC): www.rmalc.org; Jose Antonio Romero Sanchez, specialist in agrarian issues of the Division of Graduate Studies of the Faculty of Economics of UNAM; Tania Molina Ramirez in her study "Recount of a Disaster, The Field in Figures" of January 12, 2003; Luis Angel Huesca Zepeda, private consultant, specialist in hydraulic work; Jose Jacobo Femat, leader of the Central of Peasant and Popular Organizations; Abel Perez Zamorano, academic from ITESM and the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh); Study "Situation of the Mexican Countryside", by Rita Schwentesius and Manuel Angel Gomez Cruz (UACh); National Association of Trading Companies (ANEC); Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington (CSIS); Jose Luis Becerra, director of the Union of Poultry Associations in Queretaro); "The war against the Mexican countryside" by Victor M. Quintana, coordinator of the Frente Democratico Campesino; Jose Antonio Fernandez Ortiz, coordinator of Procampo; Hector Bourges Rodriguez, from the Salvador Zubiran National Institute of Nutrition and professor at the Faculty of Chemistry at UNAM; Rural youth survey in Mexico, applied in 2000 by the Mexican Institute of Youth; National Association of Department Stores (ANTD); Jose Antonio Romero Sanchez, specialist in agrarian issues of the Division of Graduate Studies of the Faculty of Economics of UNAM; Rodolfo Tuiran from Sedesol. Also, the newspapers: The Wall Street Journal; Reforma, October 16, 2002; La Jornada, December 11, 2002 and January 6, 2003; J. Luis Calva,
El Universal, November 8; Ana de Ita, La Jornada, November 2, 2002; Ursula Oswald, from the National Coordinator Plan de Ayala of Mexico, ALAI-AMLATINA, January 24, 2003, Porto Alegre.
* Gustavo Castro SotoBOLETÍN "CHIAPAS AL DIA" CIEPAC; CHIAPAS, MEXICO Center for Economic Research and Community Action Policies E-mail: [email protected] Web page: http://www.ciepac.org/