Saturday, November 18, 2006

Unravel the Injustice

Friday's Unravel the Injustice evening went well. I didn't get much of a chance to hear the speakers or watch the sweatshop presentation during the first half, because I was helping keep the models backstage organized. But, I did sneak out during the second half to listen to the keynote speaker Shirley Klassen talk about the effects of NAFTA in Mexico.

So 1994 was the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, which was basically the FTA extended to Mexico. It was also the year of the Mexican Peso crisis. Maquiladoras are manufacturing zones in Mexico. Under NAFTA, thousands of jobs disappeared from Canada and the US to Mexico, and sweatshop jobs were created where workers earned US$50 per week. Good paying service sector jobs disappeared because of privatization. In order to allow NAFTA, the Mexican government changed the constitution to allow foreign ownership of indigenous lands, and that ownership went to transnationals. Roads, education, and healthcare were privatized when the government simply removed services; the services were eventually brought back through American contracts and privatization. The control of the military also went to transnationals. Now all crops are of genetically modified seed. Railways, which were once for people, are now privatized and only for the transportation of goods.

Mexicans were forced off their rural lands into urban centres; many squat in colonia—shanty towns that grow in the toxic wastelands created by manufacturing. Piles of toxic waste sit beside people’s houses. According to the statement of a member of a delegation who visited a colonia, the Rio Grande was a toxic soup where people fished. Fish are found floating dead, some are mutated, and when they are cut open are blackened inside. For the Mexicans, the choice was simple: “eat this now and die later, or don’t eat anything and die now.” The delegate also mentioned that the stench of the Rio Grande alone made one of the other delegates vomit. And, when asked why they chose to live in the toxic areas, Mexicans said that they had no choice; they had been forced off their lands, and nobody bothered them here.

Chapter 11 of NAFTA allows corporations and individuals to sue governments. My friend Wikipedia tells me here that "Metalclad, an American corporation, was awarded US$15.6 million from Mexico after a Mexican municipality refused a construction permit for the hazardous waste landfill it intended to construct in El Llano, Aguascalientes." Does anybody else think NAFTA doesn't really benefit people?

Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras


Blake said...

what wrong with genetically modified seed?

Lapsura said...

I wasn't making a judgement on GM seed, I was just transcribing my notes from the lecture. I don't really know enough about GM-related stuff right now.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's that the GM seed is more expensive and/or local farmers with natural seed can't compete with it?


Blake said...

If GM seed was more expensive to grow no one would grow it. And since it offers higher yields per acre it's a much more efficient use of land. Inputs are higher of course but so are the returns. And the only "natural" seed is organic, regardless if its GM, and they are paid a premium for that. But I don't think little starving Billybudo in Ethiopia cares if it's organic or not. Only safe and edible. There are also unpatented GM crops that you are allowed keep for reseed the next year.

Lapsura said...

I moved this question and its comments to the forum.