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By Maria Aguiar
November 19th, 2008
For several years Grassroots International has had a collegial relationship with Carlos Marentes of the Sin Fronteras Border Agricultural Workers Project in El Paso, Texas. Carlos is also a leader of the Via Campesina - North American Region and chair of the Via Campesina's international commission on Migrations and Rural Workers. The Via Campesina understands that most migration is a consequence of the corporate-led global trade model that has exacerbated rural impoverishment in many already poor countries.
By Carlos Marentes
November 19th, 2008
On November 9, 1989, the German people knocked down the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall had been erected on August 13, 1961 dividing the people of Berlin into two sectors. One sector was controlled by the US and its allies, and the other was controlled by the Soviet Union. German people were not free to cross from one sector to another. Families and friends were separated by the wall for 28 years. During this period of time, about 5,000 escape attempts were made to reunite with relatives, friends or to seek better economic opportunities. Nearly 300 people died attempting to cross the wall.
Grassroots International would like to salute Jesus León Santos, the leader of a democratic, farmer-to-farmer network in Oaxaca, Mexico, for winning the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize – one of the most esteemed awards in the global environmental movement.
How free trade destroys local economies, hurts small farmers and causes massive waves of migration
“There used to be one bus a day leaving this area (Esquintla, Chiapas) heading north. Now, four buses a day go to the border…. And each is packed with our young boys. Today, with the conditions the way they are, youth have become our biggest export.” Miguel Angel Barrios Bravo, president of a coffee co-operative affiliated with FIECH, the Indigenous Ecological Federation of Chiapas, one of Equal Exchange’s trading partners.
Suddenly everyone’s talking about local: “Local is the new organic,” we’re told. Farmer’s markets are springing up in food co-operative and church parking lots and on Main Streets throughout the country. More people are joining CSA’s (community supported agriculture) and choosing locally grown products in their grocery stores. And as this trend continues, more and more consumers are starting to ask hard questions about where their food comes from and how it’s grown, who are the people growing it and under what conditions, and equally important of course, who’s making the decisions that control our food choices and who’s making the profits from those purchases?
Driving their tractors and greeting supporters along the way, a group of Mexican farmers recently traveled 1,200 miles over 14 days, protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and demanding that the agricultural section of NAFTA be renegotiated.
Click here for a great photo of the over 200,000 strong march and an article in Spanish from La Jornada.
In a promising development for North American workers, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, recently introduced legislation that would require the U.S. to renegotiate NAFTA. The goal of the legislation is to address the environmental harm, decrease in jobs and wages, and other social and economic problems caused by the failed trade agreement.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Accountability Act (H.R. 4329) would require the Executive Branch of the U.S. government to certify that certain benchmarks have been met by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (the countries covered under the agreement). Such benchmarks include increased U.S. domestic manufacturing, stronger health and environmental standards, and the guarantee of Mexican democracy.
Sin maíz no hay país is the resounding clarion call given by Grassroots International’s Mexican partners, grantees and their allies in rolling out the National Campaign in Defense of Food Sovereignty and the Revitalization of Rural Mexico.
Corn is indigenous to Mexico, and the alliance of peasant, farm worker, indigenous peoples, fisher, consumer, environmental and human rights groups and other organizations that came together to declare sin maíz no hay país are making the point that corn is intrinsically tied to the very idea and identity of Mexico.
Victor M. Quintana is an adviser to the Frente Democrático Campesino de Chihuahua , researcher at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez and collaborator with the Americas Policy Program, at www.americaspolicy.org. He works with the Rural Coalition and the Via Campesina, Mexico and has spoken and written widely about agrofuels, especially about their impact on the price of staple foods like tortillas in Mexico.
[This is a final report by George Naylor, President of the National Family Farm Coalition from the Via Campesina's International Forum on Agrofuels and Food Sovereignty, August 30-31, 2007 in Mexico City. --Ed.]
Would it seem strange to you if your country had become dependent on food imports, but your government starts promoting the idea that the agricultural system needs to produce agrofuel, too?
How about if 3.5 million of your fellow citizens migrated out of the country since 2000, many because they could no longer make a living on the farm?