Free Trade: A New Conquest of Mexico

The quincentenary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas may some day be remembered by Mexican historians as the year in which the second conquest of their country officially began. For on August 12, 1992, the chief executives of the United States, Canada, and Mexico announced the conclusion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Unlike the first conquest by the Spaniards, it appears that this conquest, at least for the short term, will be bloodless. But the fact that no blood was spilled will be of little comfort to the mother who watches her child die of malnutrition as a result of NAFTA-related "reforms" in the Mexican countryside.

The restructuring of Mexican agriculture that will take place under NAFTA--if the agreement is approved by Congress--could result in the removal of up to 95 percent of Mexico's farmers from their land. When family members and villagers are taken into account, up to 15 million rural Mexicans could ultimately be displaced, left with the option of either migrating to the United States in search of work or joining the impoverished millions in the slums of Mexico City.

Of course, NAFTA proponents claim that the displacement of rural families is necessary for "economic growth" in Mexico, since NAFTA will supposedly generate new manufacturing jobs that will need to be filled. The trauma suffered by land-based people forced to leave their homes is not a consideration for the free-trade promoters. Nor can they guarantee that the Mexican economy will ever expand enough to accommodate all of the new employment-seekers.

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Sojourners Magazine November 1992
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