On July 8th, an official visit by President López Obrador to Washington took place. Donald Trump received him saying that he is “a fabulous man”, proclaimed him “his friend” and even defined him as “the best president Mexico has ever had”. There are many differences in political circumstances between this meeting of AMLO with Trump and that of August 2016, when the discredited Enrique Peña Nieto received Donald Trump in Mexico. Four long and intense years passed and, indeed, many things have changed, however, there is one thing that has remained unchanged and has even been reinforced: the colonial subjugation of Mexico.
By Corriente Socialista de Los Trabajadores, Mexico – 07/13/2020
This note highlights this aspect: what does the celebrated Free Trade Agreement, the T-MEC, mean for the sovereignty of Mexico and its working people on both sides of the border. For the rhetoric of both presidents should not hide the damage and grievances that remain and the greater threats to Mexico’s sovereignty, and the lives of the exploited which the T-MEC imposes. This is even more necessary because the mass media and paid analysts, only abound in their notes about the most circumstantial aspects, such as the political convenience of the visit for the two presidents or the electoral use that Trump has made of this visit, at a time of great economic and political crisis of the empire and the possible future adverse reactions of the Democratic Party towards Mexico and… a long etcetera.
The T-MEC is the “reloaded” NAFTA
The new T-MEC is a corrected and augmented version of the old NAFTA, which came into force on December 1, 1994 and that for more than 26 years has meant a surge in economic colonization, the dismantling and privatization of the main productive industries and the plundering of Mexico’s natural and energy resources. On the other hand, it led to the ruin of millions of peasant and urban producers, who, deprived of their livelihood, migrated with or without documents to swell the most exploited proletariat in the United States. Even AMLO himself has just acknowledged that under NAFTA, Mexico’s wages fell far below those of China, while multinational corporations and the oligarchy associated with them had colossal benefits from NAFTA. These oligarchs now make up a group of major capitalist magnates, who stand among the wealthiest people in the world when our country has 70% of the population living under the poverty level.
The T-MEC is one of the fundamental institutions of the Mexican semi-colonial state. It is impossible to define Mexico’s political regime without taking this imperialist institution as a reference. Even Mexican laws were reformed to be accepted by the U.S., in line with the provisions of the T-MEC. A treaty that is not merely commercial in nature, since it regulates, restricts and establishes controls and inspections in Mexico by the United States. And within this framework of imperialist domination, we cannot ignore another institution in force since 2008: the Merida Initiative* which oversees security, police, immigration, and communication and transportation institutions, placing them under DEA control.
It’s no accident that, in the face of Trump’s onslaught and blackmail in 2018, both outgoing Peña Nieto and incoming López Obrador have rushed to accept his new, harsher conditions. Both showed themselves to be faithful representatives of the multinational corporations and oligarchs, the most fanatical promoters of signing, accepting the blackmail that Trump imposed to endorse the T-MEC. And it is not by chance that they have now joined the select presidential entourage* to dine and toast with Donald Trump at the White House.
It is worth reflecting here on these facts:
How is it possible that those, like Slim Helú, Salinas Pliego, who have become rich at the expense of the country’s plundering, and who in the past deserved the nickname “mafia in power” from AMLO, are today, by the magic of the T-MEC, benefactors of the poor people?
Mexican Oligarchs Celebrate Trump’s T-MEC
Yankee magnate president Donald Trump, flanked by the leading Mexican capitalists, is now proudly showing off his new “creature”, the T-MEC. Could it also benefit the 130 million Mexicans in our current territory and the 35 million Mexicans living on the other side of the Rio Bravo?
AMLO has reiterated that with his government everything has changed and it is no longer the power of the rich… That “now, economic power has been separated from political power”. A strange “separation”, when he has Alfonso Romo Garza, a millionaire capitalist as Chief of Staff and a business advisory council made up of the major oligarchs.
Mexican and Central American Migrants: Humiliated and Exploited, Persecuted, Locked Up and Crammed Together
Remittances from millions of Mexican migrants in the U.S. – which in 2019 amounted to $36 billion dollars annually and this year seem to grow – are today the main source of income of dollars to Mexico.
Their critical situation and demands were expressed – much better than we could – in an open letter addressed by dozens of Mexican and Central American migrant defense organizations to López Obrador: ”who said he wanted to “thank President Trump for his gesture of support and solidarity” for the sale of ventilators to Mexico in the context of the pandemic. This is an insulting argument for the thousands of Mexican migrants who have died and are dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. due to lack of medical care and due to the cynicism of the government, of the country with the highest number of deaths from the virus in the world” …
“In the U.S., the death rate from COVID-19 in the Latino community is twice as high as for white people, because we have to keep working on “essential” jobs for the country, or essential for family survival, Many times without even the minimum of protection and without access to health care” … “He also cited as an example of friendship from Trump, the fact that he did not carry out his threat to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, which was recognized worldwide as economic blackmail that should never serve as an example of good diplomatic relations. The agreement that resulted from the negotiation has left thousands of Mexican and Central American migrants living in terrible conditions and now exposed to the coronavirus, in addition to denying them their right to family reunification, asylum, international protection, and due process…” Currently, the Mexican migrant community in the U.S. faces an intensification of policies of family separation, detention, summary deportations, exclusion, and criminalization, exemplified in recent days by Trump’s reaffirmation to deport the Dreamers in the face of the court’s decision, and his insistence on building the wall at the border”. …and ended up demanding:
“End the ‘remain in Mexico’ agreement, which violates international protection agreements and puts the lives of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees at risk.
That the Government of Mexico complies unconditionally with the suspension order of the Federal Judicial District Court to release all vulnerable migrants in detention and that the mistreatment and violation of rights of migrants by the Donald Trump administration be reported.
That all collaboration between Mexico and the United States be made conditional on ensuring access to health and recognition of rights for all migrant workers and their families, and that all forms of criminalization and discrimination against this sector be stopped.
That Mexico stop collaborating in deportation processes with the United States; immediately suspend deportations to Mexico, especially in the current context of the pandemic that increases the risk of vulnerability faced by people” …
Discrimination against immigrants is part of the historical racism of the U.S. bourgeoisie, including the systematic genocide suffered by African-American communities. Police repression and brutality not only affects Black people, but extends to all those who reject racism and defend Black lives. Like the case of Erek Slater, a bus driver’s union leader in Chicago, who was retaliated against for refusing to transport those arrested at anti-racism demonstrations.
White House speeches clash with the reality of millions on both sides of the border
Trump’s speech was short, awkward and inconsistent. But the Mexican president’s speech was long and very “substantial”. Out of respect for our readers, we will not anticipate what “substance” we are referring to. Rather, we propose that you read some textual fragments of the speech by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador:
“I celebrate this meeting with you President Trump… having achieved this agreement represents a great achievement for the benefit of the three nations and our peoples… As it is known, North America is one of the most important economic regions of the planet… the volumes of imports to our countries from the rest of the world can be produced in North America with lower transportation costs… and with the use of the region’s labor force…
Mexico, has something extremely valuable to make effective and enhance economic and trade integration in the region, I mean its young, creative and responsible workforce … good workers who stand out for their imagination, their talent and their work mystique … during the Second World War, Mexico helped meet the United States’ need for raw materials and supported them with labor from migrant workers who were known as braceros, from then until now… the economic circumstances of both nations, the migration of Mexicans to the United States, and a community of about 38 million people has been formed here, including the children of Mexican parents, it is a community of good, hard-working people who came to earn an honest living and who contributed much to the development of this great nation”.
“As in the best times of our political relations, during my mandate as president of Mexico, instead of grievances against me and what I consider most important to my country, we have received from you understanding and respect” … “When I decided to meeting with you President Trump, a strong debate broke out in my country about the convenience of this trip … I wanted to be here to thank the people of the United States, your government and you President Trump for being ever more respectful of our Mexican countrymen, I thank you President Trump for your understanding and the help you have given us … I thank you, because you have never sought to impose anything on us that would violate or infringe upon our sovereignty, … you have not sought to treat us as a colony, but on the contrary, honored our status as an independent nation … That is why I am here to express to the people of the United States that your president has behaved towards us with kindness and respect” …
In short: AMLO offers for sale the qualified and cheap Mexican labor force. In other words, let the Mexican labor force replace that of China as a source of exploitation. And without the cost of transportation because it is in the “backyard” of the United States. He also thanks the imperialist boss for continuing to exploit and plunder us, because “He has not pretended to treat us as a colony, but…he has honored our status as an independent nation…he has never sought to violate Mexican sovereignty!
Nothing new. He adhered to the “vision” that big corporations sell en masse to the public, he adhered to the interests of big multinational capital. The “polls” that give majority approval to the entry into force of the T-MEC also respond to this vision. We are aware of López Obrador’s ability to distort reality in his speeches and, especially, in his daily morning conferences. That’s why, for now, he manages to have his cheap speech, delivered together with Trump, to still be tolerated among the people who voted for him.
The reality under the T-MEC empire… lays bare the fallacy of official speeches
After the public protocol ceremonies, presidents and capitalists gathered in a select group, dined and toasted together. While these like-minded people lavished praise and mutual empathy on each other, immigrant children in detention suffered from not being able to be reunited with their parents. While political foremen and tycoon bosses dined at the White House, the pain of captivity consumed the souls of those detained in the immigrant concentration camps. As AMLO and Trump raised their glasses, thousands of families mourned their coronavirus deaths on both sides of the border*
In the United States, the union movement has been demanding a minimum basic wage of $15 per hour for several years. For millions of precarious workers, including undocumented migrants, the federal hourly wage is around $8 to $10. But in Mexico, the minimum wage in the maquiladora industries, even at the border area after the struggles for the 20% increase in 2019, is $10 per day! Cheap workers: that is AMLO’s offer to attract foreign exploiters and their “capital investments”.
On the other hand, the pandemic has exposed the brutal working conditions imposed by the multinational maquiladora companies based in Mexico, which are claiming many workers’ lives. The imperialist production chains in the automotive, electronics, aerospace and military sectors do not care about rights, whether union, legal or human. The governors, mayors, legislators and judges of those states are employees of their business chambers, together with the traitorous union henchmen of the CTM, who act as police inside the factories in exchange for a juicy slice of the exploitation of their “constituents”.
The labor section of the T-MEC is colonial demagogy and not union democracy
We denounce as a farce the “labor section” of the treaty, which today is presented by AMLO as a “great conquest” with respect to NAFTA. According to his speech, thanks to the T-MEC “wages will be raised and unions will be democratized”. It is outrageous that he makes a mockery of the workers who trusted him. The U.S. corporations that pushed for T-MEC and its “labor section” are the same ones that impose poverty wages and even refused to pay them in full during the quarantine, going so far as to fire thousands who demanded compliance with the National Health Emergency law. And it is these same capitalists who privilege protection contracts with the white union “charros”, who fire thousands and persecute the leaders who promote independent union organization. In other words, there is nothing to thank Trump for (and there was nothing to thank Obama for, or Bush for) but to repudiate and resist this exploitation, plunder and humiliation.
The resistance has already begun
Contrary to AMLO’s lambish and complicit discourse, the labor movement at the border rejects this unjust and colonial regime. It is the 20/32 Workers’ Movement, which since January 2019 has risen up in the city of Matamoros with a wave of strikes that have caused the maquiladora corporations and their political and union agents to panic. And it succeeded in presenting an independent working class political alternative to all these parties of the regime and in founding a new independent union with nationwide registration. And it slowly began to spread to other work centers on the northern border.
The enemies of the working class have launched a rabid judicial and police counteroffensive to disrupt this movement. The imprisonment of labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas for three weeks, and the current persecution against her are part of this. This shows how those who dined with Trump at the White House plan to maintain the offer of this “young, creative and responsible workforce… good workers who stand out for their imagination, their talent and their work mystique. These facts unveil the hypocrisy of the T-MEC’s “labor section”.
For that reason it is necessary to extend solidarity at a national and international level with the persecuted of North America and the world, for the complete freedom of lawyer Prieto Terrazas, for the reinstallation of Erek Slater in his job, for solidarity with the Frente Unido de Pueblos de la Laguna en defensa de la vida y el agua, which is confronting the multinational Chemours Dupont and it’s plan to build a sodium cyanide factory, and also support for the indigenous brothers and sisters who are being persecuted in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero for confronting concessions to U.S. mining companies. In summary: to coordinate in a unified way the struggles of all those who resist in North America, against the exploitation, the plundering of our resources, the territorial dispossession and the destruction of the environment by the mega-projects of those same transnational corporations that today celebrate with AMLO and Trump the new T-MEC.
Translation: Blas (corriente obrera LIT-CI U.S.)
1] The Merida Initiative (sometimes called Plan Merida or Plan Mexico) is an international security treaty, established by the United States with Mexico and the countries of Central America, with the supposed objective of “combating drug trafficking and organized crime. The agreement was accepted by the U.S. Congress and activated by former President George Bush on June 30, 2008.
2] The Secretary of Foreign Affairs announced the official list of members of the President’s Business Advisory Council: Carlos Slim Helú, owner of Grupo Carso and the richest man in Mexico; Patricia Armendáriz Guerra, of Financiera Sustentable; and Carlos Bremer Gutiérrez, of Grupo Financiero Value; Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who owns TV Azteca, of Grupo Salinas, the second richest man in the country; Carlos Hank González, president of Grupo Financiero Banorte; Bernardo Gómez, co-executive director of Grupo Televisa; as well as Olegario Vásquez Aldir, who owns Grupo Empresarial Ángeles. The other executives are Francisco González Sánchez, of Grupo Multimedios; Daniel Chávez Morán, real estate developer and founder of Grupo Vidanta; and Miguel Rincón, CEO of Bio Pappel; and Marcos Shabot Zonana, of Arquitectura y Construcción. Representing their interests, in the meetings with Trump, participated Alfonso Romo Garza, Chief of the presidential office, agribusiness executive, associated with the former Monsanto, now Bayern.
3] Contributions from Corriente Obrera, from Los Angeles, CA, USA.