Fox Plan for Mexico:
More Exploitation

Revolutionary Worker #1094, March 11, 2001, posted at

On February 25, 24 members of the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), along with hundreds of supporters, began a caravan from the southern state of Chiapas through 11 states. The caravan is scheduled to reach Mexico City on March 11. At the capital, the Zapatistas plan to speak to the Congress to push for a law to recognize the rights of indigenous people.

Meanwhile, in another part of southern Mexico, the World Economic Forum (WEF), a grouping of finance capitalists and government leaders, met in the tourist resort of Cancun to discuss how to further exploit the people of the world. The WEF bloodsuckers were opposed by determined protesters who want a different future. Many of the protesters were students who took part in the nine-month-long strike last year at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). On February 27, the protesters blocked the main road to the resort for several hours. The police attacked them brutally. According to the Associated Press, "Police suddenly rushed the crowd, firing tear gas and beating those they could catch."

Earlier in February, U.S. President George W. Bush traveled to Mexico for an official visit with President Vicente Fox. This was Bush's first overseas trip as president--an indication of the importance the U.S. imperialists place on Mexico. And recently, the U.S. military deployed 12,000 troops from the Southern Command in Guatemala along the border with Chiapas.

The international spotlight is shining on Mexico as dramatic events raise questions about the road forward to liberation for the people.

Fox's "Peace" Offensive

The EZLN is marching out of the jungles of Chiapas to meet with the Congress to press their demand for an amendment to the Constitution called the Law for the Indigenous Rights and Culture. The ratification of this law is one of the conditions that the EZLN has raised for restarting peace talks with the government. The other two conditions are the release of EZLN prisoners and withdrawal of the Mexican military from seven positions in Chiapas.

After taking office in December, Vicente Fox promised to bring "peace" to Chiapas and "close a chapter that has paralyzed the country since 1994." With a "better to eat you with" smile, Fox publicly welcomed the Zapatista march. Two major television networks broadcast a live rock concert called "Peace for Chiapas." Ballot boxes have been set up in grocery stores so people could "vote for peace" in Chiapas. The government is trying to swamp the EZLN with a tidal wave of "peace."

EZLN's Subcommandante Marcos has said that with a Constitutional amendment legally recognizing the rights of indigenous people, "the country will settle its historical debt with the indigenous people." Fox is from PAN, a right-wing party of the Mexican bourgeoisie. Still, the EZLN says with Fox's election victory over the blatantly corrupt regime of the PRI, a political opening exists in Mexican society that the forces of the left must fill before the forces of the right gain control. Marcos has said that when an agreement with the government is reached, he and the others in the EZLN will hang up their ski-masks and guns and fight for "democracy, liberty and justice" through a peaceful path.

Devastating Results of NAFTA

Seven years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. On the first day of NAFTA, January 1, 1994, the U.S. imperialists who dominate Mexico and the Mexican ruling class--the bureaucrat bourgeoisie and the big landlords--were preparing to celebrate. They knew NAFTA would mean a lot more profits coming into their pockets from the backs of the working people.

But on that very day, the Zapatista peasant uprising exploded in Chiapas. An army of thousands of Indian peasants with guns, including many women, took over several towns and cities. They stormed government buildings and burned government files. They took over the jail and liberated peasants unjustly imprisoned by the landlords. The EZLN said that they chose that day for their uprising because "for the Indians [NAFTA] is a death sentence. NAFTA taking effect represents the beginning of an international massacre." With arms in hand, the Zapatista rebels said "Basta Ya!" to 500 years of oppression of indigenous people.

The uprising was a beautiful sight for the oppressed. And it made the monopoly capitalists on Wall Street and the Mexican ruling class tremble. Because of the armed uprising, the eyes of the world were turned on the poverty, oppression, and conditions of life of the indigenous people in Chiapas and other parts of Mexico. This struggle received tremendous support in Mexico and worldwide and inspired many--including the anti-globalization movement. It marked a new upsurge in the struggle of the peasants and indigenous people in Mexico.

Negotiations between the government and EZLN began after the uprising--and ended with the government reneging on its promises. Government troops and paramilitary groups attacked and carried out massacres against the support communities of the EZLN. 70,000 troops now occupy Chiapas.

Since NAFTA took effect, U.S. imperialism has gained more control over the businesses, land, natural resources and the entire economy of Mexico. Besides NAFTA, Mexico has now signed free trade agreements with Europe and other countries in Central America. Fox is working to help the U.S. set up the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a treaty that will join the economies of the whole western hemisphere into a single trade agreement--dominated by U.S. imperialism.

Seven years ago, the U.S. and Mexican governments promised that NAFTA would bring more wealth to both sides of the border. Today, Mexico has the largest disparity between rich and poor in Latin America. According to World Bank estimates, 65 million Mexicans live on less than $2 a day and 15 million on less than $1. The Mexican people have some of the lowest wages in the world. The minimum wage is about $4 a day. Since NAFTA took effect, 100,000 small and medium sized businesses have gone bankrupt.

The Mexican bureaucrat capitalists have worked closely with imperialism, especially the U.S., to systematically ruin millions of peasants. The Mexican market has been flooded with wheat, corn, rice, beans and other agricultural products from the U.S. Mexican peasant-farmers cannot compete with the highly subsidized high-tech agriculture in the U.S. The Mexican government has cut off the credit that the Mexican farmers used to buy seeds and fertilizer. The government has also shut down Conasupo, the agency that used to buy the peasant's agricultural products.

The peasants--who often do not have the means to transport their crop to market or silos to store it--are forced to sell what they grow to huge U.S. corporations who can dictate the price. The peasants cannot get a price that covers their costs and are increasingly forced to sell their land to these same corporations who flooded the market with grain and other crops in the first place. Huge U.S. corporations like Monsanto and Cargill now control the distribution of wheat, corn and rice in the country. Wal-Mart is becoming one of the biggest distributors of seeds.

Instead of giving subsidies to aid the farmers, the Mexican government gives subsidies to the corporations that buy Mexican crops. 80% of the good land, especially in districts with irrigation systems, is now in the hands of large private financial and commercial owners.

Fox's "New" Plans

Vicente Fox is promoted as the "president of change" and has promised improvement in the lives of the people. His "new" plans are basically along the same lines as World Bank programs for many Third World countries, which have brought more poverty and ruin to billions around the world.

Fox declared that he wants to make agriculture a profitable business and openly states that the majority of the peasants should leave the land and find other types of work. Where will these people go? Fox plans to bring maquiladoras into rural areas and small towns to provide employment for displaced peasants. He has even suggested that Mexican workers in the U.S.--who send a total of $6 billion a year to Mexico to support their families--should invest in maquiladoras in their hometowns.

The maquiladoras are the fastest growing sector of the Mexican economy. Maquiladoras are factories owned by foreign investors that use Mexican workers to assemble parts brought in from the U.S. or other countries such as Japan or Korea. Finished goods are shipped back out to be sold outside Mexico. Maquiladora workers are paid one tenth of what they would be paid for similar work in the U.S. The Mexican government provides free land, buildings, water, and roads to the maquiladora owners.

Fox wants to create high-tech zones with maquiladoras all over the country--but these zones do not help create an economy that serves the needs of the Mexican people. In Tijuana, for example, the government guarantees the Sony plant one million gallons of water per day, while the people must line up to buy water from trucks.

Fox's "solution" for the huge income disparity in Mexico is "micro-credits" to finance "changarros" (small businesses) for one and all. On his weekly radio program, Fox explained how to start up a "changarro": "You take [the $100 micro-credit] and you use it to buy a pot of tamales, you go out and sell the tamales.... Get a little business going and families can have several incomes, the dad can be working on his land, the mom can work in her changarro, some of the children can work in agroindustry one of the many maquiladoras that are coming to the countryside.... I ask every father and every mother to really sacrifice, that we sacrifice ourselves to the fullest, that we work two shifts, and if necessary on Saturday and Sunday too...."

Fox says his scheme will mean new wealth for the poor in Mexico. But as the document by the RCP,USA "Notes on Political Economy" points out: "Those who are ruined and uprooted (especially the peasants in the world's countrysides dislodged from rural production and thrown into shantytowns) will not be smoothly integrated into new sectors.... They will be anarchically absorbed into the function, if only at the barest margins, of the world capitalist economy. We can see this in the growth of the informal economy. In Latin America, it is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the urban labor force is in this sector."

A "New Day"--for Mexico's Rulers and Imperialists

Last year, Vicente Fox and the PAN party defeated the PRI party that ruled Mexico for 71 years in an election that was described as fair and legitimate. The ruling establishment declared that there was a "new day" in Mexico.

What has really happened is that the party in power has changed, but the system is the same. Mexico is still ruled by the bureaucrat bourgeoisie, the landlord class, and imperialism. Mexico is a neo-colony of imperialism, especially the U.S. International financial lending institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which principally serve U.S. imperialism, more than ever design the policies implemented in Mexico.

After his election victory last July, Fox declared that his election sent a clear message: that the outside world can be assured that Mexico has a "democracy" that guarantees access by investors and that has a "peaceful" and "legal" succession of power. In other words, now that the thoroughly discredited PRI has lost the presidency, international investors will have a more stable environment for exploiting the Mexican people.

But the "democratic" succession in Mexico only brings more freedom for those who dominate Mexico: more freedom to systematically carve up Mexico and sell it to the highest bidder. Fox and the Mexican government say that foreign investment is the key to "development" and "progress." But foreign investors only invest if they are reasonably certain of making a profit. Capitalist investors seek out countries where the people are kept very poor so that the return on investment is very high. Now that the elections in Mexico went down without upheaval and "democracy" has arrived, Mexico is considered more stable and less risky for capitalist investments.

At the January meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Charles Schwab (who heads one of the major investment groups in the U.S.) introduced Fox to the gathering as the "model political leader for developing countries."

Fox's "Development" Schemes and the Indigenous People

Mexico's rulers have big plans for "developing" the countryside--and a lot of these plans involve the south and southeastern part of the country where there are large concentrations of indigenous people.

Before taking office, Fox traveled all over Europe and Central America to gain support for investment in the "Plan Puebla-Panama." He said that there was an opportunity to make the area from Puebla in southern Mexico to the Central American country of Panama a vanguard region for economic "development." He met with UN's Kofi Annan to discuss UN support for the project.

This is a huge plan that is projected to take over 20 years. Fox claims that the plan would exchange military occupation for jobs and develop gas pipelines, electricity grids and telecommunications networks. Irrigation systems and high-tech agriculture zones are to be built. There are plans to destroy the natural forests and create enormous eucalyptus plantations in Chiapas, Campeche, and Tabasco in order to produce six million cubic meters of cellulose fiber per year to sell to major manufacturers of paper products. The state of Yucatan will see a big growth in maquiladora industries. A railroad across the Central American isthmus will convert the region into a major export route and further integrate the area into the world market.

Will this development scheme improve life for the indigenous people? Oaxaca, the state with the greatest concentration of indigenous people in Mexico, has a law on the books that supposedly guarantees the rights of indigenous people. And the Mexican government has signed international treaties that claim to protect indigenous rights and culture. But the Mexican government is committing what is defined as "ethnocide" by the very treaties it signed.

In the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Oaxaca, the "Trans-isthmus Megaproject" is already underway. The indigenous people are protesting this project and other development projects. People protesting against the superhighway to increase tourism have been jailed and tortured. The land of the Chinanteco and Mazateco people was expropriated to build two dams and their villages entombed in water. They were then relocated to different states in Mexico. Oil refineries have contaminated the Zapotec people's fishing areas and caused respiratory and skin problems. Indigenous leaders in Oaxaca have declared that they will not allow the destruction of their communities, the ruin of their cultural heritage, and the spoiling of the fragile ecology of the area.

Of all the poor and exploited people of Mexico, the indigenous people are the most oppressed. 35% of indigenous people do not earn any income at all, which means their sole means of survival is what they can scratch out of the land. There are 62 ethnic groups and 90 indigenous languages in Mexico, and there are groupings of indigenous people in almost every state in the country. Most indigenous people have had to integrate into the larger society in order to survive, and their language and culture is disappearing. But those who have been able to conserve their language often live in remote mountain or jungle areas because they have been repeatedly robbed of their land. Some of the indigenous people who participated in the EZLN uprising had fled into the jungle in order to escape virtual slavery on plantations owned by rich landlords.

The survival of indigenous peoples for over 500 years in the face of different conquerors and oppressors is a testament to the strength of their resistance. But the history of the oppressed is always distorted and degraded by the oppressor. The power structure in Mexico propagates vile and racist ideas in order to justify the oppression of the indigenous people, the destruction of their culture, and the expropriation of their land. A commonly heard "insult" in Mexico is "Don't be an Indian."

When the PRI was in power, the rulers of Mexico reneged on their promise to create a law out of the agreement they had signed recognizing the rights and autonomy of indigenous peoples. If the Fox government now goes through with reforming the Constitution to recognize indigenous rights, this will not be because the Mexican rulers have become more responsive to the demands of the indigenous people. It will be because the Mexican ruling class determines that such a step will be in their interests--including helping them more thoroughly exploit the indigenous and other oppressed people.

The struggle of the indigenous people is like a detonator running through Mexican society and is closely linked to the struggle of the poor peasants for agrarian revolution. The plans being plotted by Fox and his imperialist backers only mean more exploitation and suffering for the masses of people in Mexico. These plans are meeting with the resistance of the people and will continue to propel millions into struggle as they search for the path to liberation.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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