Mexicans Begin Border Closings

This occurs just as the agriculture chapter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect on January 1st, 2003.

Dozens of Mexican farm organizations began to shut down all 22 border crossing along the Mexico-US border as well as maritime ports in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coasts as a protest against the NAFTA chapter on agriculture.

The move should have an immediate negative effect on the logistics industry in both nations as no import/export merchandise will move on either side. Mexico President Vicente Fox has warned farm leaders that the Agriculture chapter was negotiated a long time ago and as far as his Administration is concerned, it will abide by it.

Facing threats from farmers during the last week of December, asked the secretaries of Agriculture and Economy, Javier Usabiaga and Ernesto Derbez, respectively, to form a negotiating panel in order to bring a peaceful solution to the problem. Several farm organization leaders began the border blockade on January 1st, and others will join on Monday, January 6th.

The crux of the matter is the $180 billion subsidy President George W. Bush granted US growers. Mexican farm leaders have been warning the Fox Administration not to implement the NAFTA chapter on agriculture since Bush signed the bill. Most Mexican farmers consider Bush's action an unfair trading practice since Mexican growers do not receive subsidies.

Farm leaders have decided to negotiate with committee members, but some, like Senator Guadalupe Martinez, feel the President’s move comes late and the organization she leads--the Permanent Agrarian Congress--will begin protests immediately. Farm leader Max Correa of the Cardenista Campesino Central began border checkpoint closings on January 1st.

“If there was a negative spot in the Administration during 2002, it was its refusal to renegotiate the NAFTA chapter on agriculture. We will use force if necessary to stop subsidized exports from the US . If there is poverty now among farmers, this will starve them to death,” says Correa.

Dozens of other separate farm and peasant organizations are joining the movement, and government analysts fear it may “get out of hand” and go from a protest movement to one of violence. Correa is warning Fox to pay heed, but, acknowledges that he doesn't “see any intention on the part of the President of legally defending Mexican campesinos within NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.”

Other protesters inside Mexico are threatening to close main highways.

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