Behind the recent headlines here in Mexico of massive peasant protests, blocked highways and international crossings, and demands for NAFTA treaty renegotiation lay a few facts about incompetence, corruption, and inefficiency.
The rural sector has brought its disputes to the Big Tamale—as if Mexico City’s 21 million inhabitants did not have enough headaches and two-hour-long traffic gridlocks. For weeks, a political crisis has raged between the peasant-farmer sector and the federal government over the terms of the NAFTA accords, which liberalize trade and eliminate tariffs between Mexico, the United States, and Canada. By the end of 2003, the ten-year phaseout will be complete, and almost all duties on agricultural imports between these nations will be eliminated. This is good news for those who have developed efficient ways to produce quality products worthy of foreign markets but less so for those who had hoped that obsolescence as a way of life would be maintained.
The primary complaint circulating throughout Mexico’s agricultural sector is that U.S. farm subsidies, now averaging $19 billion per year, are part of a pattern of unfair trade policies aimed at flooding foreign markets with cheap U.S. exports.
The conflict centers on grains: corn, sorghum, and wheat, principally. Corn and beans have long been the Mexican staples. The fields are still plowed by burro;...