Commentary on “Inside the World’s Deadliest City“
Juarez’s anarchy cannot be separated from American policy and addictions, says
journalist Charles Bowden” By Jeremy Gantz August 30, 2010
The public and political discussion about the violence in Ciudad Juarez has focused on its being the result of “the war on drugs”. However, this interview focuses on the underlying connections to free trade, and in particular NAFTA. Regardless of one’s opinion about Bowden’s conclusions that the solution is the legalization of all drugs, his analysis about the linkages to NAFTA are very cogent. The article writes,
“ What is NAFTA’s relationship to Juárez’s descent into violence?
In the late ’60s the Border Industrialization Program (also known as the Twin Plant Program), the prototype of what became NAFTA, was established in Juárez. At the beginning, wages were higher than the people of Juárez had experienced, but after 40 years, they have steadily declined.. NAFTA produced enormous squatter barrios of people who are fully employed by American factories and couldn’t make a living wage. NAFTA destroyed light and middle industry in Mexico, and it destroyed peasant agriculture.
But NAFTA is a disaster that cannot be recognized as a disaster because what we call “free trade” is not an empirical policy tested by fact; it is a theology. NAFTA is a failure. It doesn’t solve poverty, it expands it. And the people burn out because it suddenly dawns on them that they’re like hamsters on a wheel, and they’re going backward instead of forward.”
La Mujer Obrera has for years argued that NAFTA’s impact on women workers is the equivalent of a natural disaster. A University of Texas at Pan Am study in 2002 documented that each job lost on the US side of the border related to free trade displacement cost the community an average of $78,000. In El Paso, 35,000 people, principally women, have lost their jobs as a result of NAFTA. That’s a loss of more than $2.7 BILLION from the local economy, and in particular from the women’s lives. On the scale of the impact of Hurricane Katrina or the Gulf oil spill.
Yet, for the local, state and federal governments, this disaster, that has destroyed the livelihoods and futures of thousands of women workers, has gone unseen, unnamed, unresolved. The women’s loss is ignored and/or denied. And where there is no acknowledgement of a problem, there can also be no real support for a solution.
For these reasons, the women’s self-help efforts, over the past ten years, to forge their own future, to rebuild their community whose economic base was destroyed by NAFTA, have received little serious investment and/or support from the public sector.
Now some critics argue that government has been strongly supportive and that the women just want “to be maintained, on the public dole”. But when the amount of government dollars that have gone into genuine development efforts with the women (which is not funding for dead end English classes or mediocre bilingual vocational training for non existent jobs where the real beneficiaries are the public and private vocational schools charging the government and in some cases the women exorbident tuition) is compared to the $2.7 billion lost, then it is clear. The public sector refuses to acknowledge the devastation that free trade has wrought, and the cost of that refusal has been the lives and livelihoods of women workers on both sides of the border.
But the women workers and La Mujer Obrera refuse to accept government’s attempts to relegate them to the category of “unfortunate casualties”. For this reason, La Mujer Obrera has launched a grassroots campaign. The campaign is dedicate to increasing public and political awareness and support for the vital efforts by low-income women workers in El Paso to create a development strategy for their families and community, in the face of growing violence and discrimination on the border.
You can help. Please provide us with your contact information, particularly your email address, or “friend” us on Facebook. Then encourage your friends, family and colleagues, via email and facebook, to also join our campaign, and link to us via email or facebook.
And contribute to our campaign. $1, $5, $10, or whatever you provide will be a invaluable investment in the women’s efforts to bridge the “development abyss” that globalization has plunged them into.
For more information on our campaign, check out our facebook page and web site.
Thank you for your commitment to challenging the government’s refusal to acknowledge the disaster than NAFTA is for women workers on both sides of the border. And thank you for standing with the women’s efforts to create justice and equitable development in the face of the spiraling violence on the border.
La Mujer Obrera