The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 64 – JUNE 10, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• Mexico, the United States and the Summit of the Americas: A Working-Class Perspective – by Juan Carlos Vargas Reyes and Alan Benjamin
• “NAFTA: An Instrument of Plunder and Over-Exploitation” — Presentation by Dr. Lidia Suárez
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Mexico, the United States and the Summit of the Americas: A Working-Class Perspective
By Juan Carlos Vargas Reyes and Alan Benjamin
This week the Ninth Summit of the Americas is taking place in Los Angeles, promoted by the U.S. government. It is a meeting of heads of State which was conceived since its inception in 1994 as a vehicle to promote across the continent the corporate “free trade” agenda initiated with NAFTA. Its first initiative was the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which was pushed back in the early 2000s by the giant anti-FTAA mobilizations and general strikes throughout the continent.
On this occasion, several heads of state from the Americas are conspicuous by their absence, so great is the anti-U.S. sentiment in their home countries and across the continent. They include President Luis Arce of Bolivia; President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala; President Xiomara Castro of Honduras; President Luis Lacalle Po of Uruguay; and President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador.
The main absentee is Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who in recent weeks lobbied publicly for inviting the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, governments labeled by the U.S. administration as anti-democratic (in contrast to Biden’s announced visit to Saudi Arabia, whose reactionary monarchy he finds “democratically” acceptable).
AMLO declared on June 6: “There cannot be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the American continent do not participate; or there can be, but we consider that it is a continuation of the old policy of interventionism, of disrespect for nations and their peoples.”
In spite of this fiery declaration by AMLO, which was aimed at placating his base, Mexico still participated in the summit with a delegation headed by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard (one of the strongest candidates to succeed AMLO in 2024). One of Mexico’s goals, explains Mexico’s foreign ministry, is to secure funding for the assistance programs Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro [Youth Building the Future] and Sembrando Vida [Planting the Seeds of Life], which AMLO proposes to extend to the entire Central American region and to the Latino communities in the United States.
As is common knowledge, one of the main points on the agenda of this summit is to address the issue of migration — mainly migration from Central American and Caribbean countries to the United States. The Mexican government has been aligned fully with the reactionary U.S. policy since the days of the Trump administration. On behalf of the U.S. government, Mexico has deployed its National Guard to erect a military containment wall for Central American and Caribbean migrants.
Regarding the impact on Mexico-U.S. relations, AMLO and Ebrard have been clear that the absence of numerous heads of State at the summit will not modify the cooperation between both governments. AMLO announced on June 6 that as a result of meetings with senior White House officials, he has agreed to a bilateral meeting with President Biden next July.
Various Mexican media outlets have reported that this bilateral meeting will address the issue of U.S. access to Mexican energy, particularly oil exports and electricity production and distribution. This issue was under intense debate in recent months: AMLO had proposed an energy reform initiative that was defeated by the opposition parties in the Mexican Congress under sustained pressure from U.S. congresspeople and top-level U.S. State Department officials, themselves pressured by the large U.S. multinational oil corporations.
The U.S. oil lobby and top U.S. political figures argued that if Mexico were to adopt AMLO’s partial renationalization of its energy industry, it would be violating the USMCA “free trade” treaty signed by Trump, AMLO and Canada’s Trudeau. The U.S. lobby threatened to curtail U.S. foreign investment in Mexico and even impose sanctions against Mexico. Under such pressure, AMLO did not receive the two-thirds vote needed to pass his energy reform plan. This is the true face – the real content – of the corporate “free trade” agenda.
Returning to the summit, Biden stated at its opening session that among the broad agenda items (energy transition, climate change, healthcare), the issue of the economy stands out above all others. Hence his proposal to create a “Partnership of the Americas for Economic Prosperity” that involves a series of treaties to regain U.S. influence in the region and enable it to better compete with the growing expansion of Chinese businesses in the continent, particularly in South America. “Depending on how the hemisphere goes, so go we,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
The BBC quoted a senior White House official as saying:
“We really hope that participation will in no way be an obstacle to doing meaningful business at the summit.” BBC continued, “The White House expected this week the presence of 23 heads of government from the continent and planned to sign agreements even if they were just with the foreign ministers representing the absent guests.” Despite appearances to the contrary, the absence of the heads of State of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and Uruguay does not imply a boycott of the summit; the “free trade” projects of the Biden administration will continue, with or without the participation of these presidents.
On the other hand, the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have called for a boycott of the Summit on the Americas on the grounds that its main objective is to align the countries of the continent behind a new “free trade” agreement beneficial to the United States in its economic confrontation with China and in the context of the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Clearly, there is a contradiction between the sovereign interests of all Latin American countries – in particular the conquests of the Cuban Revolution – with the U.S.-sponsored regional integration, this time around with an updated and revamped version of the initial FTAA.
What is needed is a true summit of the workers and peoples of the Americas that calls for respecting the sovereignty of the peoples. A summit that proposes as its first point an end to the sanctions against Venezuela and a halt to the criminal commercial blockade against Cuba. What’s needed is a summit that calls for respecting the self-determination of the nations and peoples of the continent. A summit that calls for a halt to the plundering of natural resources and the renationalization of everything privatized by this policy of “free trade.” A summit that calls for the free movement of persons across borders and an end to the anti-immigration policies promoted by U.S. imperialism.
Responding to this situation, a Workers Summit of the Americas will be held in Tijuana on June 10-12. It is a space of convergence where an alternative platform of struggle to that of U.S. imperialism is being proposed for discussion.
The alternative proposed by the organizers of this Workers Summit is concentrated in the following 12 points:
1. Denounce the Summit of the Americas, as a gathering that seeks to exploit the countries of the South with neoliberal measures that promote the corporate interests of North America (USA and Canada).
2. To denounce the policy of economic blockade against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
3. To denounce the kidnapping of the diplomat Alex Saab by the U.S. Treasury Department.
4. To denounce the shameful border wall between Mexico and the United States, which constitutes an anti-immigrant and racist policy of the United States against the peoples of the South.
5. Denounce the necro-politics in which the U.S. government has embarked that threatens the future of our planet.
6. Establish direct relations with advanced political actors in Mexican, U.S. and Canadian society, who are fighting for a new world where the environment, nature and human beings are the priority.
7. Twinning with trade union organizations in Mexico, the United States and Canada.
8. Denounce police brutality in the United States.
9. Regional integration (CELAC vs. UNASUR).
10. Promote the struggle of the indigenous peoples of our America.
11. Denounce NATO, a disgrace in our continent.
12. Denounce the sanctions that kill the peoples.
For our part we are in favor of a broad discussion of these points, with the objective of clarifying and refining some of them. For example, NATO is much more than a “disgrace” – it is an instrument of war and massive destruction against the peoples of Europe and beyond. Also, in the case of regional integration, can we limit ourselves to a discussion involving only CELAC [all countries minus the United States] and UNASUR [the trade bloc launched by Venezuela]? Is it not necessary to have a more in-depth discussion that encompasses all the points of a policy of national and regional clean break with U.S. imperialism?
We will be present at the Workers Summit of the Americas. In future issues we will report on the developments of this counter-summit.
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“NAFTA: An Instrument of Plunder and Over-Exploitation” — Dr. Lidia Suárez
[Note: Following is the presentation delivered by Dr. Lidia Suárez to the online April 24 Forum titled “Forced to Flee: Capitalism and the Refugee Crisis.” Dr. Suárez is a professor of Social Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Baja California – Mexicali in Mexico. The first part of this forum report-back can be accessed at T.O. Weekly no. 63. It is posted to our website at: www.socialistorganizer.org.]
In the current context of war, we want to make it clear that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and NATO aggression is only one form of war that the peoples of the world are experiencing. There is a political, economic, and social war against all the peoples of the world that takes different forms in each country and region and whose objective is to favor the owners of Big Capital.
In the case of Mexico, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994 and with the deepening of this treaty with the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, [promoted and signed by Donald Trump], we have seen that an economic, political, and social war against the peoples, and mainly against women and families, has been slowly developing over the past 28 years. All the while, we have seen profits soar in the stock market of the companies that “have known how to take advantage of the treaty” – such as those in the maquila (sweatshop), automotive, and the agricultural industries, all of which export primarily to the United States.
It is well known that Mexico is attractive for investment due to its natural resources, low cost of land, energy and water, and the most precious thing: qualified and cheap labor.
Some of the consequences of NAFTA and the subsequent USMCA can be listed here:
– Migration of more than 12 million people crossing or attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. They abandon their families, cultural roots, and precarious jobs to seek better options because they now lack real opportunities in Mexico.
– The signing of NAFTA imposed the agri-food hegemony of the U.S. neoliberal model. The result for the Mexican countryside was 4.9 million displaced peasants, 1.9 million unemployed, and the loss of food self-sufficiency with Mexico now importing 89% of its soybeans, 79% of rice, 67% of wheat and 35% of corn. The entry into NAFTA devastated Mexican agriculture – and the rural population was forced to migrate to survive (Mirador Universitario UNAM. (June 12, 2018) Food sovereignty in Mexico and NAFTA renegotiation [Video file]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/Idtra9NDfZU).
– The Mexican regime’s guidelines towards the countryside were manifested in the withdrawal of public investment and credit, neglect and abandonment of irrigation districts, along with other consequences. Deregulation and modifications to Article 27 of the Constitution – regarding the communal ownership of the land, the “ejidos” – opened the countryside to privatization, a requirement demanded by U.S. capitalists during the NAFTA negotiations as a condition for continued foreign investment. This situation brought about the weakening or destruction of peasant organizations, and “freed” the labor force.
– More exploitation in the agricultural fields that export to the U.S. and Canada in the name of competitiveness, even using child labor, since it costs less to employ more cheap workers than to use machines which could replace child labor and provide adult workers with better wages, better working conditions, and full labor rights as required by law. Child labor in the fields of San Quintin and the Mexicali Valley is not a secret. Entire families are “hooked” into this system. Most of them are indigenous peoples – mainly Triquis from the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero, where their ejidos were dismantled, many of them who only speak their native language and are hired at near-slave labor wages to increase the profits of companies such as “Driscoll’s” and others.
– Initially men and young people left Mexico to try the “American Dream.” Women who stayed in Mexico experienced the precariousness of living conditions and the decrease in real wages, pushing more and more family members to work. In the name of increasing productivity, the level of income and the working conditions of the working population are sacrificed. Employers know that the people most willing to accept these conditions are women with greater family responsibilities. It is not surprising that the maquiladora companies that have been set up along the border thanks to NAFTA are becoming “feminized.” What until yesterday was an obstacle to accessing work – lack of training, being a young and inexperienced woman and being a mother – has become a comparative advantage, thanks to a perverse relationship that turns women’s lack of options into an opportunity for overexploitation and greater profit for employers.
– This precariousness has dragged the whole society to a growing wave of violence on a large scale, where it has exacerbated the one carried out against women not only in the personal-domestic sphere but also in the labor sphere. There has been an increase in the rate of femicides (increase of 85% of cases reported in Mexico between 2000 and 2015) and an increase in forced disappearances to feed the trafficking networks.
– This does not include the mistreatment of migrant women and children in the U.S., which is the subject of a different presentation. After the expansion of the border wall began, deportations increased and the conditions for greater exploitation in the U.S. increased.
According to Priego, a professor and researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California, NAFTA was the result of an entire history and legacy of interventionist policies of the United States, beginning with the Monroe Doctrine (1823), the idea that “the entire American continent belongs to the U.S. Americans.” This doctrine considers that any European or other foreign intervention is an act of colonialist aggression, while at the very same moment the United States imposes its interventions in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Not only are NAFTA and TMEC -USMCA based on this policy, so are the policies of the United States and its NATO allies in the current Ukraine-Russia conflict and its commercial pressure towards China.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, to conclude, is one of the instruments of globalization and has served to exploit Mexican labor and plunder the natural resources of Mexico and Canada.
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