Saturday, January 19, 2008

NAFTA, US spy dollars, cut Mexico off at the knees

NAFTA, US spy dollars, designed to cut Mexico off at the knees

By Brenda Norrell
Photo: Tohono O'odham Mike Wilson/photo Brenda Norrell
GREEN VALLEY, Arizona – A panel of US/Mexico border speakers said that the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefited the United States, while forcing people in Mexico off their lands. The result has been a wave of displaced people crossing the US/Mexico border, with racist rhetoric and migrant deaths increasing in the United States.
“We have created a community of slaves,” said Delle McCormick, executive director of BorderLinks. McCormick pointed out that many Americans want migrants to come to the US, but for the wrong reason.
McCormick said many Americans want “slaves,” and do not want creative, intelligent, thinking people from Mexico to relocate here. Once here, they want migrants to be “invisible.”
McCormick joined a panel of speakers at the Santa Cruz Valley Border Issues Fair on Saturday, January 19. More than 400 residents from Green Valley and Tucson, primarily retirees and winter visitors, attended and praised the humanitarian efforts underway to save lives at the border and battle with education the growing migrant xenophobia in the United States.
McCormick pointed out that NAFTA was launched on January 1, 1994, with the promise of bringing Mexico into the modern world. But while the people of Mexico waited for their lives to resemble those on “I Love Lucy,” their worlds began to crumble.
While the United States talked about “equalized trade,” out of one side of its mouth, out of the other side, the US was calling for the closure of its borders.
The US sent big business to seize the lands of the poor in Mexico. Further, the big box stores like Wal-Mart were soon putting smaller, locally-owned stores out of business. At the sacred places, Indigenous Peoples were pushed away and vendors began selling “Made in China,” trinkets, slowing the demand for handcrafts.
McCormick said while Mexico cut funding for social services, it increased funding for trade-based corporations.
Meanwhile, in Chiapas, dams were built to provide electricity for the US corporations, pushing Mayans off their lands. Like never before, this began the exodus of Indigenous corn farmers, now displaced and bound on foot for the US, desperate to survive. Today, a higher percentage of people walking across the US/Mexico border come from Chiapas, since NAFTA has wielded its damage, she said.
McCormick pointed out that the people of Mexico, including the Zapatistas, have creative ways of emerging and developing a new economy.
What the United States needs to do, she said, is “Get out of their way.”
Mike Wilson, Tohono O’odham human rights advocate, urged those attending to apply political pressure on the Tohono O’odham Nation government and hold it accountable for the large number of people dying each year on O’odham lands, primarily from dehydration.
Wilson puts out water for migrants and searches for bodies at the request of family members.
“The Tohono O’odham Nation lacks the big picture, the world view," he said.
Wilson said the Tohono O’odham Nation is very responsive to the United States government and will not go against Homeland Security, especially if there is a threat of the loss of US funding.
Border speakers discussed the ways the United States government controls Mexico. In 2007, the United States provided funding to Mexico to spy on individuals. The $2.9 million DEA contract was to Verint Technologies in New York for spy technology for Mexico. The US contract provided for storing all phone calls for at least 25,000 hours, installation of 30 monitoring stations and cell phone location and tracking devices.
Mike Marizco, freelance journalist who publishes the Border Reporter online, pointed out that the US funding provided the FBI of Mexico with the ability to eavesdrop on all cell phone calls, e-mails, faxes and other communications.
One person attending the border fair suggested that what the US needs to do is what it does in other countries, and send money to refashion the economy of Mexico. But speakers said the real solutions remain in the creative endeavors of the people of Mexico themselves.
Speakers also pointed out that none of the front running US presidential candidates are proposing visas or alternative guest worker programs for migrants. Instead, the candidates, protecting their political images, are calling for more border security and border walls.
Further, speakers said with more funding for the so-called “war on drugs,” the US continues its role as imperialist nation with covert agendas.
Dr. Anna Ochoa O’Leary, lecturer, Mexican American Studies Research Center, spoke of the impact on women of separations and migrations. She said the United States is most often the source of problems in Mexico.
“Anytime you see the United States as a ‘savior,’ chances are we broke it first.”
Organizations working for positive change and delivering humanitarian aid at the border participated in the fair, including Border Action Network, BorderLinks, JustCoffee, No More Deaths, Derechos Humanos, Humane Borders, Samaritans, artists Valerie James & Debbi McCullough and border photographer Michael Hyatt.
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Photo: Tohono O'odham Mike Wilson at the border fair/photo by Brenda Norrell

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