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The Mexican Government Against the PPP

The Mexican Government Against the PPP


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By Miguel Pickard

What happened to the PPP? From hype after its formal announcement in September 2000, to official silence 18 months later. Why this 180 degree overturn? What produced the current official silence and what can we expect in terms of a new strategic orientation of the government?

During 2002, there was a change in the strategy of the Mexican government in view of what was one of the projects most cherished by President Vicente Fox, the Puebla Panama Plan (PPP). The fundamental turn within the government seems undeniable at this point. The absence of any mention of the PPP in the Mexican press, at key moments like the current one, when Fox and the governor of Chiapas are on tour in Europe looking for investment, is just one of many signs in this regard.

What happened to the PPP? From hype after its formal announcement in September 2000, to official silence 18 months later. Why this 180 degree overturn? What produced the current official silence and what can we expect in terms of a new strategic orientation of the government?

One of the reasons for the official silence is the huge and growing wave of popular rejection generated by the PPP. Behind the thin layer of social veneer that the official rhetoric of the PPP wanted to project, its real intentionality was clear from the beginning. The PPP is one more gear in the various neoliberal projects (FTAA, WTO, free trade agreements) promoted by large corporations, the US and European governments and the multilateral banks. It is about channeling billions of pesos of public funds towards the construction or improvement of large infrastructure works, in order to promote the penetration of corporate capital into the region comprised of the nine states of southeastern Mexico and the seven Central American countries. The total PPP bill is estimated at US $ 25 billion over 10 years.

Shortly after the PPP's exit flag, an important sector of the population of southeastern Mexico and Central America was able to inform, organize and mobilize, in order to protest this mega-plan, designed behind the back of the real needs of the inhabitants of the area. From the protest to actions to stop the works. In 2002, works on the peripheral ring in the city of San Salvador were stopped, which would have meant the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Peasant communities and organizations in Chiapas, bordering the Usumacinta River, are vigilant against any official movement that could mean the beginning of works for one or more hydroelectric dams. Furthermore, the riverside communities have had repeated confrontations with personnel from the Federal Electricity Commission who enter their lands, wanting to buy land or negotiate rights of way. In Xalapa, Veracruz, the mobilization of organizations and activists managed to divert the original line of a bypass road that would have meant the destruction of a cloud forest, an area that supplies 50% of the water consumed in that city.

In Puebla, the mobilizations, demonstrations and blockades of various social organizations (among them the UCEZV, which groups more than four thousand ejidatarios and farmers) were crucial for the cancellation of the Millennium Plan, a local expression of the PPP.

On October 12 of last year, tens of thousands of people marched in Mexico and Central America against the PPP, in one of the first coordinated actions at the regional level. The agreement to march that day was taken at the III Meeting against the PPP that was held in Managua, Nicaragua in July of the same year, with the participation of more than a thousand representatives of hundreds of social and civil organizations in Central America and Mexico.

In Guatemala and Honduras there have also been important victories against the PPP.

We must not forget the Atenco movement that lasted nine months (October 2001-August 2002), and gave birth to important lessons. The defeat inflicted on the Fox government by the Atenco peasants, who blew up the Foxista plan to build a new airport for Mexico City on their ejido lands, had repercussions for the PPP. For the anti-PPP movement in Mexico and Central America, Atenco was a historic reaffirmation that with determination, organization and permanent mobilization it is possible to say no to the most important official mega-plans. The government had to back down, politically defeated, given the failure of its strategy to make the great "mega-plan" the mechanism to "develop" Mexico.

Will they understand it that way in the Fox government? This does not seem to be the case, at least in the office of the General Coordination of the PPP. Surprisingly, such an office openly admits the failure of the PPP, but only in advertising terms. Lic. Ricardo Ramirez Aguilera, Director of PPP Partnerships and Strategies, attributes part of the "suspicion" generated by the PPP to serious problems… ..on the website. According to Ramírez Aguilera, the official PPP website, under the previous coordinator Florencio Salazar, was an "alarming fantasy" of projects (hydroelectric dams, oil wells and others), a "flow of good intentions", but without viability and financial support. "We were responsible", confesses Ramírez Aguilera, "for the attacks on the Plan", due to the "erratic and crude information" disseminated. (one)

For the peace of mind of all of us, the website is now under reconstruction and will be available again on the Internet in about three weeks, now with "consolidated information", according to Lic. Ramírez. (2)

In any case, due to the blows to Fox's development policy in the PPP region and in Atenco, the Puebla-Panama Plan seems to have entered a deep hibernation, at least in terms of the enthusiasm shown by the government authorities. Mexican. The economist Daniel Villafuerte Solis, from the Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica, a researcher on the effects of globalization in Chiapas, agrees. "It is frozen", he says regarding the PPP, and establishes that the silence of the Mexican government dates from the Summit of PPP heads of state in Mérida, Yucatán, in June 2002.

In Merida, Fox may have encountered other obstacles to the advancement of the PPP. On the one hand, the discomfort and even disagreement of sectors of the Central American private initiative with the PPP is known. Some business groups fear that the PPP is a mechanism to facilitate the entry of Mexican capital into their area of ​​influence, and this message was surely transmitted to Fox by the Central American presidents.

On the other hand, as part of the Mérida Summit, an "opportunity fair" was held, attended by more than 700 companies of all sizes, to explore investment possibilities within the framework of the PPP. There is no official statement of the results, but the lack of subsequent announcements seems to indicate that the commitments of the large companies left much to be desired.

There are other signs of a dropped layer PPP:

- The 2003 federal budget for the PPP in Mexico is clearly bloodless, 2.1 billion pesos, compared to the 7.5 billion pesos programmed at the beginning of 2002. (US $ 1 = MX $ 11)

- In September of last year, the magazine Cambio highlighted the lack of "cheap" funds for the PPP, as Fox's strategy of attracting loans for the PPP from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank at rates preferential. Fox's ruse was, according to Cambio, to ally himself with the Central American countries, to obtain credits from the multilateral bank at six percent, as a developing country, thus avoiding higher rates, corresponding to a "developed country" and a member of the OECD. The IDB ended up approving US $ 4 billion for the PPP, but with revenues of 14 percent. (3)

- The office of the general coordination of the PPP under the category, when the Secretary of Foreign Relations moved from the Presidency to a smaller office. The exile coincided with the dismissal of its owner, Florencio Salazar. The current general coordinator of the PPP, Herbert Taylor Arthur, has been conspicuous by his almost total absence from the spotlight of the national press, in stark contrast to the extroverted and shocking style of his predecessor Salazar.

- There is frustration among senior IDB officials, according to observers in Washington, given the lack of initiative by the Mexican government for the PPP. The IDB has been left hanging by the brush, according to activists in that city, having bet on President Fox's megaproject, committing resources (the US $ 4 billion already mentioned), and then facing the apathy of the Fox government for less than a year and a half after its release. For 2003, the IDB has scheduled "public consultations" on the PPP in Veracruz and Puebla, but officials reveal reluctance to carry them out, given the lack of interest from the Fox government in supporting the initiative.

- Another sign is the deathly silence that we observe in Chiapas from Governor Pablo Salazar. His silence about the PPP is almost deafening, especially when works are inaugurated in Chiapas, previously linked to the PPP. Recently, Pablo Salazar has inaugurated infrastructure works in Puerto Madero, at the Palenque airport, and new stretches of highway in various parts of the state, without embellishing his speeches with a single mention of the PPP.

- One of the mainstays of the PPP, the creation of a vast maquiladora zone, has collapsed. Promoting the installation of maquiladoras was an important piece in the PPP's overall strategy to "absorb" rural labor in Mexico and Central America, now unemployed and migrant because of "free trade" agricultural policies designed to destroy the peasantry. But in 2000, the maquiladoras began their flight from Mexico. Because they saw better prospects in Asia, because wages in China are even lower than those in Mexico, because there is no country (or region) that matches the economic dynamism of China at this time, and also China will soon be part of the WTO, well, for various reasons, they are gone. From January 2001 to June 2002, 600 maquiladoras left Mexico, leaving 250,000 workers on the streets, 15% of the workforce. (4)

In the PPP area, the response from the maquiladoras has clearly been poor. In the state of Chiapas there are around 10 maquiladoras installed or planned. And in other PPP states the situation is repeated: in Campeche there are 9 maquiladora projects, in Veracruz 17, in Oaxaca 24, in Guerrero 6, in Tabasco 5, and no new projects in Quintana Roo, Yucatán or Puebla. (5)

What conclusions can we draw from the above facts?

Like any dome project, far from the real needs of the Mexican and Central American people, the PPP is destined to fail, and not only because of the advertising problems cited by the General Coordination.

While this conceptual umbrella is frozen for the moment, the works behind it continue to move forward, to the extent that available funds and social conditions allow.

In particular, the construction of two major highway axes between the north and south of Mexico, and of this country with Central America, is progressing. The PPP works scheduled to conclude in Mexico this year with the resources assigned in the 2003 budget are:

City of Carmen-Champoton
Oaxaca-Mitla
La Ventosa-Salina Cruz
Access to the port of Salina Cruz
The peripheral of Mérida
Access to the port of Coatzacoalcos
Feliciano-Zihuatanejo (6)
In addition, in Chiapas it has been announced that the San Cristóbal-Tuxtla Gutiérrez "highway" will enter into operation in its entirety in the last quarter of this year.

Another project that is still advanced is the integration of electrical networks. Beginning in 2004, Mexico has committed to integrating its electricity grid with SIEPAC (System of Electricity Integration of Central American Countries), which will link the networks of the eight PPP countries. This integration will make the surplus electricity generated in the region available to the United States.

The Fox government may be in a waiting period, pondering the right moment in an election year to announce that it continues with the PPP, but social and civil organizations will not take their finger off the line. They are alert in any case. As an example, the members of AMAP (Mexican Alliance for Self-Determination of Peoples) have agreed to formalize the tracking of PPP works and projects through a systematization process, the results of which will be made available to the public.

Finally, if the Fox government does not decide to drive the final stake, it is possible that in the short term we will have a new "look" for the PPP, a slimmed down and revamped PPP that covers only its less controversial aspects. Its social language will surely be strengthened, and with a new "rural agenda", a call made by the IDB to improve the PPP.

The most damaging social and ecological aspects, but conceptually closely related to the PPP and corporate globalization in general, will not find room in this new design. The works such as the dams on the Usumacinta River, the Tehuantepec transismic corridor, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and others, which are already causing the displacement of thousands of people, and which open the way to the looting of natural, biological and of ancestral knowledge in the region.

A prominent case is precisely that of the dams that are being built in the PPP area. Formally, they may not be within the PPP. But statements by the Fox government, and insinuations from the IDB in Washington, point to the decision of the Mexican and Guatemalan governments to build one to five dams on the Usumacinta. But in a year of federal elections, such as the current one in Mexico and Guatemala, the advances will probably be at the level of feasibility studies, of testing the opinion and resistance of the people, especially in the localities that will be affected by the works. This is already happening in the Tenosique region, Tabasco and in various points of the Usumacinta River in Chiapas, even with the participation of military personnel, according to local residents.

And even if the PPP disappears, we can predict that your agenda will appear in another form later. Something similar happened with the AMI (Multilateral Investment Agreement) that was defeated in 1998 by a worldwide movement of social and civil organizations. Now its concepts have been resurrected in the WTO and the FTAA, promoted by the usual ones, the governments of the United States and Europe, transnational corporations and multilateral banks. This is obviously not the time to lower your guard, but rather the opposite, to strengthen the resistance and find new ways to combat the advance of corporate globalization. In this vein is located the decision of the Network of Community Defenders for Human Rights, together with CIEPAC, to seek protection before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in order to stop the construction of the dams on the Usumacinta and Santo Domingo Rivers in Chiapas. Notes in the text: 1) This seems to be the official line for the moment within the Fox administration. Last December, Undersecretary of the Environment Carlos Szekely affirmed "A program in which The Puebla-Panama Plan has gone very badly for us, because there has been bad communication ", (ref: Enrique Méndez," The Fox government, without commitment to ecology, denounces Szekely ", La Jornada, December 5, 2002 ) .2) Telephone interview, January 31, 2003.3) Andres Becerril, "The shipwreck of a project", Cambio, September 8, 2002, p.24.4) John Ross, "Maq Attack! How Mexico is Losing the Race to the Bottom ", Mexico Barbaro No. 339, November 9-16, 2002.5) Julio Arand a, "The maquiladoras: the mirage disappears, Process, January 2002.6) Miguel Angel Montoya," Analysis of the 2003 Expenditure Budget project and its impact on the works of the Puebla Panama Plan ", December 2002, unpublished. Acronyms: FTAA: Free Trade Area of ​​the AmericasOMC: World Trade OrganizationUCEZV: Unión Campesina Emiliano Zapata ViveBID: Inter-American Development Bank OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development * Miguel Pickard CIEPAC, AC "CHIAPAS AL DIA" BULLETIN No. 329 www.ciepac.org

This is obviously not the time to lower your guard, but rather the opposite, to strengthen the resistance and find new ways to combat the advance of corporate globalization. In this vein is located the decision of the Network of Community Defenders for Human Rights, together with CIEPAC, to seek protection before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in order to stop the construction of the dams on the Usumacinta and Santo Domingo Rivers in Chiapas.

Notes in the text:

1) This seems to be the official line for the moment within the Fox administration. Last December, Undersecretary of the Environment Carlos Szekely stated "A program in which we have done very badly is the Puebla-Panama Plan, because it has there has been a bad communication ", (ref: Enrique Méndez," The Fox government, without commitment to ecology, denounces Szekely ", La Jornada, December 5, 2002).
2) Telephone interview, January 31, 2003.
3) Andres Becerril, "The shipwreck of a project", Cambio, September 8, 2002, p.24.
4) John Ross, "Maq Attack! How Mexico is Losing the Race to the Bottom", Mexico Barbaro No. 339, November 9-16, 2002.
5) Julio Aranda, "The maquiladoras: the mirage disappears, Process, January 2002.
6) Miguel Angel Montoya, "Analysis of the 2003 Expenditure Budget project and its impact on the works of the Puebla Panama Plan", December 2002, unpublished.

Acronym:

FTAA: Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas
WTO: World Trade Organization
UCEZV: Peasant Union Emiliano Zapata Lives
IDB: Inter-American Development Bank
OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

* Miguel Pickard
CIEPAC, A.C.
NEWSLETTER "CHIAPAS AL DIA" No. 329
www.ciepac.org


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