April 6, 2001

Activists Discuss Mexican Economy

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The Committee on United States – Latin American Relations (CUSLAR) welcomed two human rights activists yesterday to discuss the current economic situation in Mexico.

In their presentation, Gustavo Castro, the co-director of Center of Economic and Political Investigation of Community Action in Mexico, and Annie Bird, of the Action Rights group in Guatemala, illuminated the ways in which the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has already transformed Mexico and speculated about the consequences of expanded free trade.

Liz Carlisle ‘O3, the organizer of the event, said that CUSLAR was extremely excited to hear Castro because of “his knowledge of the effects of NAFTA on Mexico.”

Castro is from the Mexican state of Chiapas, where there have been several uprisings of indigenous Mexican citizens protesting for their basic human rights.

Of particular concern for Mexico and other Latin American countries right now is the pending expansion of NAFTA into the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). FTAA essentially has the same goals as NAFTA except that it will increase the scope of free trade to the entire western hemisphere.

According to Carlisle, FTAA can be likened to “NAFTA on steroids.”

Castro indicated that the implementation of FTAA would cause an increase in the widespread exploitation of Latin America and Mexico’s resources as well as further displacement of Mexican and Latin American people.

“When there is a possibility of selling off resources, there will be a big struggle over who can control them, ” Castro said. “When the corporations find poor, indigenous people on land they want to own, they want to get rid of them.”

Bird and Castro both maintained that NAFTA has already allowed large corporations to overwhelm Mexican enterprises and isolate Mexico from world trade.

“The agreement [NAFTA] lifted tariffs so companies could install factories in Mexico and then remove the product from the countries without taxes,” said Castro.

According to Castro, the entrance of foreign corporations is of particular concern because it creates an insecure environment in which Mexican citizens are vulnerable.

“In the globalization process, when the role of the state is taken away, are transnational corporations going to look out for the workers and the people?” Castro asked.

With the possible implementation of FTAA, Castro and Bird fear that questions like these will continue to lack answers.

Carlisle said that she hoped that Castro’s visit would “facilitate a discussion of solutions besides globalization and alternatives to FTAA.”

Castro did touch upon what the goals of a global economic policy would ideally be from a human rights perspective.

“We need to remain convinced that we can create an economic model that is inclusive for everyone,” Castro said, adding, “I would hope that we as a society can switch from one economic model to another without violence and bloodshed.”

Archived article by Leigh McMullan