Saturday, April 22, 2006

The workers' own fault!

According to BBCMundo, The Mexican president Vicente Fox' spokesman Aguilar has said at a press conference that the shooting of the Mexican steel workers at Sicartsa, in the michoacan port of Lázaro Cárdenas on Thursday April 20th "would have been avoided if the striking workers had obeyed the law".

The removal of the workers was requested by the owner of the steel plant, the company Villacero.

Sicartsa was a Mexican state company. In the early 1980s, the Mexican government decided to build a new steel mill -- Sicartsa II -- next to its existing Sicartsa facility located in Lazaro Cardenas.
They invested $2.2 billion in a state-of-the-art facility. Petro-dollar loans and World Bank loans were cheap after the oil price rises in 1980-81. It is another one of the sad stories of the privatization of Mexican state companies. State companies are sold off to private interests at very low prices, i.e. nearly given away. In this case Mexico was hit hard by the crisis in 1982. It had to devalue the peso, and the previously cheap loans were hard to pay back.

Sicartsa has been part of the Mittal Steel Group, owned by Lakshmi Mittal, the third richest man in the world. Sicartsa was aquired in 1992 in the midst of a crisis in the steel sector. That's why Mittal Steel got it very cheaply, only for 220 million $, some of the payment in Mexican state bonds. It later sold off part of the company at a price of 135 million $. Falling rates on the state bonds made these easily disbursable.

CNDH, the Mexican Mission on Human Rights is investigating the events at the steel plant. The NGO has sent several human rights activists to the place who are making interviews of people involved or who have been witnesses to the events.

The present sexenio (six-year election period) of the conservative Vicente Fox has been a long period of disappointment for the Mexican working class and indigenous groups in the country. Fox, a former CEO of Coca Cola in Mexico, came to power in 2000 on promises of change from the long, long rule of PRI, the revolutionary Institutional Party that had petrified into a machine for the protection of established interests. Fox has, however, failed on most promises. Mexican democracy, which can be described as a set-up for the protection of elite interests, by the elite and for the elite, has not been reformed.

The economy is stagnant. Millions of corn producing peasants have been forced by the NAFTA free trade agreement to leave the land because of heavy competition from subsidized giant North American farms. They have been forced to accept the use of GMO seeds and crops. Large parts of the country have been lain to waste from over exploitation by American companies. And when the Mexicans try to leave the country for better life conditions elsewhere they are met with Minutemen across the borders and the shoot first, ask later philosophy of this motley crowd. Octavio Ruiz writes in the Minneapolis Star April 22nd:

The 12 million Mexicans working in the United States who will be criminalized by proposed immigration legislation are the same people who were promised the possibilities of a decent living with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
It is ironic that House conservatives who want to execute these anti-immigrant policies are the same ones who signed the trade agreement, which only has brought poverty to the Mexican people for the last decade and years to come. No level of heightened criminalization will reduce the flow of immigrants to the United States when we endorse trade agreements that give people little choice but to leave the countries of their birth.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of immigrants to the United States from Mexico actually decreased by 18 percent in the three years before NAFTA's implementation. But in the first eight years of NAFTA, the annual number of immigrants from Mexico increased by more than 61 percent.
The cause was twofold. First, NAFTA's agricultural provisions resulted in a flood of subsidized corn being imported into Mexico from the United States. The effect in rural areas was that some 1.5 million rural families -- and some researchers claim twice that -- were driven out of business. Their only options were to move to the cities and seek whatever work, at whatever wage, could be found, or to cross the border. A very large number chose the second option.


Blogger Sophia said...

NAFTA was very bad for mexicans and canadians and it was all benefit for their giant neighbor. This was a very unequal trade agreement and still the US didn't respect it. Canada went to court over few commercial disputes with the US including the soft wood lumber dispute and it won at all levels. However, the US is not respecting the courts decisions.

A wind of freedom ans social justice is blowing on Latin America. After decades of North American domination, latin Americans are ready for change and they will not tolerate anymore the predatory behavior of their northern neighbor.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Sophia said...
This article on the mexican workers might interest you.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Duck said...


Thank you. I'll update the post with some data. It verifies some of the points raised in the article.

11:30 PM  

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