[Marxism] How The NAFTA Flu Exploded

brad bauerly bbauerly at gmail.com
Wed Apr 29 16:23:47 MDT 2009


How “The NAFTA Flu” Exploded
Smithfield Farms Fled US Environmental Laws to Open a Gigantic Pig Farm in
Mexico, and All We Got Was this Lousy Swine Flu
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

April 29, 2009

US and Mexico authorities claim that neither knew about the “swine flu”
outbreak until April 24. But after hundreds of residents of a town in
Veracruz, Mexico, came down with its symptoms, the story had already hit the
Mexican national press by April 5. The daily La Jornada reported:

Clouds of flies emanate from the rusty lagoons where the Carroll Ranches
business tosses the fecal wastes of its pig farms, and the open-air
contamination is already generating an epidemic of respiratory infections in
the town of La Gloria, in the Perote Valley, according to Town Administrator
Bertha Crisóstomo López.

The town has 3,000 inhabitants, hundreds of whom reported severe flu
symptoms in March.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from Mexico, has identified a La Gloria
child who contracted the first case of identified “swine flu” in February as
“patient zero,” five-year-old Edgar Hernández, now a survivor of the

By April 15 – nine days before Mexican federal authorities of the regime of
President Felipe Calderon acknowledged any problem at all – the local daily
newspaper, Marcha, reported that a company called Carroll Ranches was “the
cause of the epidemic.”

La Jornada columnist Julio Hernández López connects the corporate dots to
explain how the Virginia-based Smithfield Farms came to Mexico: In 1985,
Smithfield Farms received what was, at the time, the most expensive fine in
history – $12.6 million – for violating the US Clean Water Act at its pig
facilities near the Pagan River in Smithfield, Virginia, a tributary that
flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The company, according to the US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dumped hog waste into the river.

It was a case in which US environmental law succeeded in forcing a polluter,
Smithfield Farms, to construct a sewage treatment plant at that facility
after decades of using the river as a mega-toilet. But “free trade” opened a
path for Smithfield Farms to simply move its harmful practices next door
into Mexico so that it could evade the tougher US regulators.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on January
1, 1994. That very same year Smithfield Farms opened the “Carroll Ranches”
in the Mexican state of Veracruz through a new subsidiary corporation,
“Agroindustrias de México.”

Unlike what law enforcers forced upon Smithfield Farms in the US, the new
Mexican facility – processing 800,000 pigs into bacon and other products per
year – does not have a sewage treatment plant.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Smithfield slaughters an estimated 27
million hogs a year to produce more than six billion pounds of packaged pork
products. (The Veracruz facility thus constitutes about three percent of its
total production.)

Reporter Jeff Teitz reported in 2006 on the conditions in Smithfield’s US
facilities (remember: what you are about to read describes conditions that
are more sanitary and regulated than those in Mexico):

Smithfield’s pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns,
in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and
delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty
fully grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny
apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw,
fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a
catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up
in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old
batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn
pigs­anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the
pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to
create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything
bursts out into a large holding pond.

The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The
air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and
chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four
hours a day. The ventilation systems function like the ventilators of
terminal patients: If they break down for any length of time, pigs start

Consider what happens when such forms of massive pork production move to
unregulated territory where Mexican authorities allow wealthy interests to
do business without adequate oversight, abusing workers and the environment
both. And there it is: The violence wrought by NAFTA in clear and
understandable human terms.

The so-called “swine flu” exploded because an environmental disaster simply
moved (and with it, took jobs from US workers) to Mexico where environmental
and worker safety laws, if they exist, are not enforced against powerful
multinational corporations.

False mental constructs of borders – the kind that cause US and Mexican
citizens alike to imagine a flu strain like this one invading their nations
from other lands – are taking a long overdue hit by the current “swine flu”
media frenzy. In this case, US-Mexico trade policy created a time bomb in
Veracruz that has already murdered more than 150 Mexican citizens, and at
least one child in the US, by creating a gigantic Petri dish in the form pig
farms to generate bacon and ham for international sale.

None of that indicates that this flu strain was born in Mexico, but, rather,
that the North American Free Trade Agreement created the optimal conditions
for the flu to gestate and become, at minimum, epidemic in La Gloria and,
now, Mexico City, and threatens to become international pandemic.

Welcome to the aftermath of “free trade.” Authorities now want you to grab a
hospital facemask and avoid human contact until the outbreak hopefully blows
over. And if you start to feel dizzy, or a flush with fever, or other
symptoms begin to molest you or your children, remember this: The real name
of this infirmity is “The NAFTA Flu,” the first of what may well emerge as
many new illnesses to emerge internationally as the direct result of “free
trade” agreements that allow companies like Smithfield Farms to escape
health, safety and environmental laws.

Brad A. Bauerly
PhD Candidate
Political Science
York University
Toronto, Canada
bauerly at yorku.ca

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