Nafta woes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Dec 19 11:04:51 MST 2002

NY Times, Dec. 19, 2002

Nafta to Open Foodgates, Engulfing Rural Mexico

IRAPUATO, Mexico, Dec. 15 — A decade of hemispheric economic upheaval
finally turned Eugenio Guerrero's life upside down last Saturday. That
morning, he tried to auction off the pig farm that has supported his
family and some 50 others for two generations.

"It's true," read a flier that announced the sale. "We are closing and
auctioning everything."

 From now on Mr. Guerrero, 41, will dedicate himself to selling paint.

The changes he has been forced to confront are being felt all over
Mexico as the country struggles to keep its balance, one foot in
poverty, the other seeking a toehold in prosperity through the North
American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Guerrero said he had barely been able to keep afloat since the
treaty began abolishing trade barriers between Mexico, the United States
and Canada nearly 10 years ago. Credit ran dry after a national economic
crisis devastated banks in 1995. The Mexican government ended most
agricultural subsidies, sending his costs through the roof. Pork prices
plunged as cheaper imports from the United States flooded Mexican markets.

Now, Mr. Guerrero's last defense is being dismantled. Under Nafta, on
Jan. 1 tariffs on almost all agricultural imports from the United States
will end.

The looming deadline has consumed the attention of a nation where a
quarter of the population lives in rural areas, and produced warnings
about the possibility of unrest and increased migration across the
Mexican countryside and into the United States, as millions of peasants
are forced to abandon their tiny fields.

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers and their
supporters have blocked highways and border crossings. They have
temporarily shut down gas and electricity installations, and even burst
into Congress on horseback.



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