Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nafta and water

The great thing of travelling is that the reality around changes constantly.
Yesterday in La Paz the weather was awful. Dark, clouds, rain, cool.

But today in Ciudad Constitucion it is a gorgeous morning with sunshine and a blue sky.

Last week the reality was the world of friends in San Clemente, California, USA and now the world of friends in Ciudad Constitucion, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Ciudad Constitucion used to be a thriving settlement. Although in the middle of a desert there were many farms around growing citrus fruit, cotton, maize, tomatoes and other agricultural products. But two issues brought it down. One was the NAFTA agreement between Mexico and the USA. Introduced by Ronald Reagan, the North American Free Trade Agreement was designed to make business between the two countries more prosperous. But as many Mexicans will explain, now without jobs and income, the Americans cheated them. Free trade is maybe OK but the American Government were giving subsidy to their own farmers who were able to produce as a result of this generosity for a much lower cost than the Mexicans. Suddenly, after NAFTA came into effect, subsidized products from the USA flooded the Mexican market while the Mexican farmers could bring their products to the local dump.
The subsidy the American farmers were getting was a result of their strong lobbying in Washington and the enormous sums of money the farmers unions were paying to the election campaigns of the politicians who once elected paid them back with those subsidies. This semi-corruption caused wide spread poverty among the Mexicans.
The second issue is the water supply. Farmers in this area have been drilling wells to pump up water to irrigate their fields. For a long time this has been going on in an unlimited way. In fact the farmers were pumping up water that must have been there for thousands of year. Once the level of the underground basins was very low, the water from the ocean, although about 50 kilometres (31 miles) away, started flowing into the void. The water of the wells became salty and of no use anymore for irrigation. Now the Mexican Government has put monitors on each well in the area and farmers are restricted in how much water they can pump up. This means that farmers have land they cannot use because of not enough water to irrigate.
NAFTA and lack of water has brought poverty to Ciudad Constitucion. This can easily be noticed. Streets are unpaved. Much of the public infrastructure unmaintained and broken. People living in poor housing. No new cars. No fancy restaurants. Young people leaving to try their luck somewhere else.
Meanwhile many of the people still living here suffer serious health problems. This is because in the days when agriculture was flourishing the large fields around the town were sprayed by airplanes by chemicals. In fact with poison to kill insects. These chemicals do not break down or dissolve and are now in the dust of the barren fields. Often there are strong winds in this area and the dust blows into town and gets everywhere. This means that the people get the dust with the chemicals into their lungs causing all kinds of fatal diseases. They are aware of this but poverty blocks them from going somewhere else.

Travelling is an interesting experience although the things learned are not always of a happy nature.
But yesterday, at sunset, a wonderful event took place when the friends in Ciudad Constitucion suddenly went out of the house to see the beautiful colours in the sky.

To learn more about what of a disaster NAFTA is, click on:


Anonymous said...

So, the local farmers depleted their most important natural resource (water) causing salt water to leach into their aquifers. Wouldn’t that alone cause their farms to shut down even without NAFTA?

Rather than take the responsibility for their own abuse of their environment they blame their poverty on the USA.

Anonymous said...

Your article clearly labeled Ronald Reagan as the one who "introduced" NAFTA. I was under the impression that Nafta was a TREATY that had to be ratified by the U. S. government AND MEXICO. Mr. Reagan, alone,could not force a treaty upon the Mexican government. Mr. Reagan did not pump the wells dry in Mexico. Mr. Reagan did not poison the Mexican crops. You failed to mention the roll of the Mexican government concerning the poverty and misery of its own citizens. You seem to imply that all misery in Mexico somehow began in the U. S. Poverty will flourish in Mexico as long as the corrupt government ignores the needs of its own people.

An American