Date: 3/5/2003 1:11:52 PM Pacific Standard Time
In this alert you will find:
1) Updated information about Global Exchange's upcoming Tri-National
speaking tour. If you are interested in bringing this exciting lineup of
speakers to your community, please contact us as soon as possible.
2) An article from the NY Times about why corn farmers in Mexico
hungry. A hint: NAFTA's flawed agriculture policies. The article quotes
Victor Suárez, who will be part of the upcoming Tri-National speaking tour.
3) An interesting piece from the UK Guardian about the White
relationship toward institutions such as the IMF and the WTO. Excerpt:
"By wrecking the multilateral system for the sake of a few short-term,
corporate interests, the US is, paradoxically, threatening its own
tyrannical control of other nations."
1) ******Calling all anti-sweat activists, labor, environmental,
health care rights, poor people¹s rights, anti-corporate, pro-democracy
students, activists, workers, and community members******
in anticipation of the 8th Free Trade Area of the Americas
ministerial in Miami this November
and the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in
Mexico this September...
Global Exchange's Tri-National ³No NAFTA Expansion²
Speaker Tour is coming
in April 2003 to a community near you (if you help organize it!).
In Mexico, rural farmers are blockading borders and shutting
national congress to protest to arrival of GMOs and the end of Mexican
agri-³culture.² Canada¹s prized health care system is evaporating into thin
air. In the US, welfare benefits are disappearing as fast as the well-paid
jobs that could pull people out of poverty. What do all of these national
crises have in common?
One thing: NAFTA - and the model of corporate economic globalization.
Economic globalization dominated by US corporations is giving
new rights to profits for multinational corporations. Heralded in 1994 as a
landmark accord for greater economic cooperation and prosperity, the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model of free trade, privatization,
and deregulation has failed to benefit average Americans, Canadians, and
Mexicans. It has, however, triumphed in elevating the powers and profits of
corporate entities at the expense of the basic rights of hardworking,
Now the Bush administration is trying to expand its corporate
agenda to the
34 countries of the Americas with the proposed Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA), and to the world by strengthening and bringing new issues
into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Understandby hearing first hand from affected citizens
of Canada, the
United States, and Mexicowhy social movements across the Americas and
around the world are mobilizing to stop the FTAA and the WTO.
Tour speakers already confirmed include:
Victor Quintana, campesino organizer, professor and former Mexcian
Victor Suarez, Executive Director of the Mexcian Association
of Small Farm
Cheri Honkala, Executive Director of the Kensington Welfare
Rights Union and
the National Spokesperson for the Poor People¹s Economic Human Rights
Campaign from the United States.
And Canadian health care workers
Speaking out about the fallout from NAFTA and why we must STOP
of NAFTA¹s corporate investor rights and create a new vision for democratic
trade and international law.
April 11-1 May East Coast region - US, Canada and Mexico
April 21-9 May West coast region - US, Canada and Mexico
Contact Global Exchange to make sure that the The Tri-National
comes to your community/campus/church/workplace!!
Contact David Edeli at Global Exchange at (415) 575-5553 or
***Make it possible for us to keep partnering with workers to
the economic justice they deserve. Become a MEMBER of
Global Exchange at http://store.globalexchange.org/joinus.html***
New York Times, March 3, 2003
Why Mexico's Small Corn Farmers Go Hungry
By TINA ROSENBERG
Macario Hernández's grandfather grew corn in the hills of Puebla,
Mexico. His father does the same. Mr. Hernández grows corn, too, but not
for much longer. Around his village of Guadalupe Victoria, people farm
the way they have for centuries, on tiny plots of land watered only by
rain, their plows pulled by burros. Mr. Hernández, a thoughtful man of
30, is battling to bring his family and neighbors out of the Middle
Ages. But these days modernity is less his goal than his enemy.
This is because he, like other small farmers in Mexico, competes
American products raised on megafarms that use satellite imagery to mete
out fertilizer. These products are so heavily subsidized by the
government that many are exported for less than it costs to grow them.
According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in
Minneapolis, American corn sells in Mexico for 25 percent less than its
cost. The prices Mr. Hernández and others receive are so low that they
lose money with each acre they plant.
In January, campesinos from all over the country marched into
City's central plaza to protest. Thousands of men in jeans and straw
hats jammed the Zócalo, alongside horses and tractors. Farmers have
staged smaller protests around Mexico for months. The protests have won
campesino organizations a series of talks with the government. But they
are unlikely to get what they want: a renegotiation of the North
American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, protective temporary tariffs
and a new policy that seeks to help small farmers instead of trying to
force them off the land.
The problems of rural Mexicans are echoed around the world as
lower their import barriers, required by free trade treaties and the
rules of the World Trade Organization. When markets are open,
agricultural products flood in from wealthy nations, which subsidize
agriculture and allow agribusiness to export crops cheaply. European
farmers get 35 percent of their income in government subsidies, American
farmers 20 percent. American subsidies are at record levels, and last
year, Washington passed a farm bill that included a $40 billion increase
in subsidies to large grain and cotton farmers.
It seems paradoxical to argue that cheap food hurts poor people.
three-quarters of the world's poor are rural. When subsidized imports
undercut their products, they starve. Agricultural subsidies, which rob
developing countries of the ability to export crops, have become the
most important dispute at the W.T.O. Wealthy countries do far more harm
to poor nations with these subsidies than they do good with foreign
While such subsidies have been deadly for the 18 million Mexicans
live on small farms - nearly a fifth of the country - Mexico's
near-complete neglect of the countryside is at fault, too. Mexican
officials say openly that they long ago concluded that small agriculture
was inefficient, and that the solution for farmers was to find other
work. "The government's solution for the problems of the countryside is
to get campesinos to stop being campesinos," says Victor Suárez, a
leader of a coalition of small farmers.
But the government's determination not to invest in losers is
self-fulfilling prophecy. The small farmers I met in their fields in
Puebla want to stop growing corn and move into fruit or organic
vegetables. Two years ago Mr. Hernández, who works with a farming
cooperative, brought in thousands of peach plants. But only a few
farmers could buy them. Farm credit essentially does not exist in
Mexico, as the government closed the rural bank, and other bankers do
not want to lend to small farmers. "We are trying to get people to
rethink and understand that the traditional doesn't work," says Mr.
Hernández. "But the lack of capital is deadly."
The government does subsidize producers, at absurdly small levels
compared with subsidies in the United States. Corn growers get about $30
an acre. Small programs exist to provide technical help and fertilizer
to small producers, but most farmers I met hadn't even heard of them.
Mexico should be helping its corn farmers increase their productivity
or move into new crops - especially since few new jobs have been created
that could absorb these farmers. Mexicans fleeing the countryside are
flocking to Houston and swelling Mexico's cities, already congested with
the poor and unemployed. If Washington wants to reduce Mexico's
immigration to the United States, ending subsidies for agribusiness
would be far more effective than beefing up the border patrol.
Out of the wreckage
By tearing up the global rulebook, the US is in fact undermining
own imperial rule
Tuesday February 25, 2003
The men who run the world are democrats at home and dictators
They came to power by means of national elections which possess, at
least, the potential to represent the will of their people. Their
citizens can dismiss them without bloodshed, and challenge their
policies in the expectation that, if enough people join in, they will
be obliged to listen.
Internationally, they rule by brute force. They and the global
institutions they run exercise greater economic and political control
over the people of the poor world than its own governments do. But
those people can no sooner challenge or replace them than the
citizens of the Soviet Union could vote Stalin out of office. Their
global governance is, by all the classic political definitions,
But while citizens' means of overthrowing this tyranny are limited,
it seems to be creating some of the conditions for its own
destruction. Over the past week, the US government has threatened to
dismantle two of the institutions which have, until recently, best
served its global interests.
On Saturday, President Bush warned the UN security council that
accepting a new resolution authorising a war with Iraq was its "last
chance" to prove "its relevance". Four days before, a leaked document
from the Pentagon showed that this final opportunity might already
have passed. The US is planning to build a new generation of nuclear
weapons in order to enhance its ability to launch a pre-emptive
attack. This policy threatens both the comprehensive test ban treaty
and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty - two of the principal
instruments of global security - while endangering the international
compact that the UN exists to sustain. The security council, which,
despite constant disruption, survived the cold war, is beginning to
look brittle in its aftermath.
On Wednesday, the US took a decisive step towards the destruction
the World Trade Organisation. The WTO's current trade round collapsed
in Seattle in 1999 because the poor nations perceived that it offered
them nothing, while granting new rights to the rich world's
corporations. It was relaunched in Qatar in 2001 only because those
nations were promised two concessions: they could override the
patents on expensive drugs and import cheaper copies when public
health was threatened, and they could expect a major reduction in the
rich world's agricultural subsidies. At the WTO meeting in Geneva
last week, the US flatly reneged on both promises.
The Republicans' victory in the mid-term elections last November
secured with the help of $60m from America's big drug firms. This
appears to have been a straightforward deal: we will buy the
elections for you if you abandon the concession you made in Qatar.
The agri-business lobbies in both the US and Europe appear to have
been almost as successful: the poor nations have been forced to
discuss a draft document which effectively permits the rich world to
continue dumping its subsidised products in their markets.
If the US does not back down, the world trade talks will collapse
the next ministerial meeting in Mexico in September, just as they did
in Seattle. If so, then the WTO, as its former director-general has
warned, will fall apart. Nations will instead resolve their trade
disputes individually or through regional agreements. Already, by
means of the free trade agreement of the Americas and the harsh
concessions it is extracting from other nations as a condition of
receiving aid, the US appears to be preparing for this possibility.
The US, in other words, seems to be ripping up the global rulebook.
As it does so, those of us who have campaigned against the grotesque
injustices of the existing world order will quickly discover that a
world with no institutions is even nastier than a world run by the
wrong ones. Multilateralism, however inequitable it may be, requires
certain concessions to other nations. Unilateralism means piracy: the
armed robbery of the poor by the rich. The difference between today's
world order and the one for which the US may be preparing is the
difference between mediated and unmediated force.
But the possible collapse of the current world order, dangerous
will be, also provides us with the best opportunities we have ever
encountered for replacing the world's unjust and coercive
institutions with a fairer and more democratic means of global
By wrecking the multilateral system for the sake of a few short-term,
corporate interests, the US is, paradoxically, threatening its own
tyrannical control of other nations. The existing international
agencies, fashioned by means of brutal power politics at the end of
the second world war, have permitted the US to develop its
international commercial and political interests more effectively
than it could have done alone.
The institutions through which it has worked - the security
the WTO, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - have
provided a semblance of legitimacy for what has become, in all but
name, the construction of empire. The end of multilateralism would
force the US, as it is already beginning to do, to drop this pretence
and frankly admit to its imperial designs on the rest of the world.
This admission, in turn, forces other nations to seek to resist it.
Effective resistance would create the political space in which their
citizens could begin to press for a new, more equitable
There are several means of contesting the unilateral power of
but perhaps the most immediate and effective one is to accelerate its
economic crisis. Already, strategists in China are suggesting that
the yuan should replace the dollar as east Asia's reserve currency.
Over the past year, as the Observer revealed on Sunday, the euro has
started to challenge the dollar's position as the international means
of payment for oil. The dollar's dominance of world trade,
particularly the oil market, is all that permits the US Treasury to
sustain the nation's massive deficit, as it can print inflation-free
money for global circulation. If the global demand for dollars falls,
the value of the currency will fall with it, and speculators will
shift their assets into euros or yen or even yuan, with the result
that the US economy will begin to totter.
Of course an economically weakened nation in possession of
overwhelming military force remains a very dangerous one. Already, as
I suggested last week, the US appears to be using its military
machine to extend its economic life. But it is not clear that the
American people would permit their government to threaten or attack
other nations without even a semblance of an international political
process, which is, of course, what the Bush administration is
America's assertions of independence from the rest of the world
the rest of the world to assert its independence from America. They
permit the people of the weaker nations to contemplate the global
democratic revolution that is long overdue.
· The Age of Consent, George Monbiot's proposals for
democratic governance, will be published in June