Environmental imperialism in Mexico
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 17 11:18:44 MDT 2002
NY Times, Sept. 17, 2002
U.S. Will Get Power, and Pollution, From Mexico
By TIM WEINER
MEXICALI, Mexico, Sept. 11 American companies have long faced intense
resistance to big new power plants from communities crying, "Not in my
Now they have a big new backyard: Mexico.
Here on the edge of Mexicali, a few miles from the California border, two
huge power plants are rising in the desert, near a graveyard and a clutch
of hovels. They will generate billions of watts for millions of
Californians, a handful of jobs for Mexicans and pollution on both sides of
They are "what free trade is all about," says an official of InterGen, the
company building one. But a California congressman calls placing the plants
in Mexico a form of environmental imperialism.
The plants will be the first of many built in Mexico specifically to
provide power for the United States, says Mexico's energy secretary,
Ernesto Martens. And that represents a new phase in relations between the
First came the labor of migrant workers. Then, in the 1990's, came the
maquiladoras, the assembly-line factories providing cheap Mexican labor for
American and multinational corporations under the North American Free Trade
Now these 21st-century plants call them energy maquiladoras represent a
new way to generate wealth and power by capitalizing on the economic and
legal differences dividing Mexico and the United States.
Mexico's environmental law enforcement is weaker, its government less
transparent, its desire for foreign capital bottomless. California's energy
demand is enormous as big as its citizens' resistance to huge power plants.
These projects are the first result.
"Building anything on the Mexican side is much cheaper, mostly because of
the regulatory system," which is less stringent than in the United States,
said Ernesto Ruffo, President Vicente Fox's border commissioner.
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