Profiting from neoliberalism in Mexico

October 3, 2013

ON SEPTEMBER 21, the New York Times published a story titled "For migrants, new land of opportunity is Mexico," written by Damien Cave--one of the Times' three reporters for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. When I looked at the story's headline, I immediately jumped, but then felt guilty that I had reacted with such antagonism to a story about migration to Mexico.

After all, I am Mexican-American, and I have been able to enjoy many of the benefits of being bi-national--such as migrating between both countries. At the same time, however, I knew what to expect from the New York Times, and as I read through the article, my initial suspicions were confirmed. Once again, we had an article about Mexico ignoring the reality lived by the majority of Mexicans.

Citing unprecedented trends in migration patterns between the United States and Mexico that reveal an almost equivalent number of legal migrants between 2000 and 2010, the article went on to analyze the sources and implications of such numbers. The article went on to talk about the opportunities awaiting migrants in Mexico, and it argued that you might just strike gold if you are a savvy entrepreneur with first world "know-how."

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Of course, as the article mentions, migration is nothing new in Mexico City, a place that has always received exiles and immigrants from other parts of the world. But the problem with the story was not that it talked favorably about migration to Mexico, but that it ignored the social and economic conditions that have allowed many--especially corporations--to reap the benefits from this "window of opportunity."

As readers of know, this newfound confidence in the performance of the Mexican economy rests on continued immiseration and exploitation of Mexico at the hands of Mexican and American corporations and political parties willing to sell the country to the lowest bidder.

When Enrique Peña Nieto was inaugurated as president, he entered office with guns blazing on behalf of a neoliberal agenda of economic reform. As of January 1, 2013, Peña Nieto introduced a new minimum wage in Mexico of about $0.70 per hour--low enough to outcompete Chinese labor markets.

In the long litany of pro-market reforms of this presidency, we find the sale of property to foreigners along national borders and beaches--in violation of a restriction added to the constitution after the Mexican Revolution to avoid foreign influence on Mexican soil. Other much more ambitious proposals include the wholesale privatization of the Mexican electricity firm Comisión Federal de Electricidad and Petroleos Mexicanos by opening them up to private investments--or as the presidency prefers say--to "modernize" them.

What is even more astonishing about this story is the fact that the writer failed to mention the enormous teachers' strikes in Mexico City opposing neoliberal reforms to public education. By the time the story went to press, the reform wing of the Mexican teacher's union, the La Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, had been on strike for more than a month across the country--yet this is completely missing from the panorama of the Times article.

Aside from being out of touch with reality, what this story illustrates more than anything is the blind assumption that immigrants can profit from the current economic situation in Mexico. Yet Cave fails to notice that the same forces that have pushed thousands of Spaniards and Americans into Mexico are the same forces that have pushed them out of their countries.

Instead, we must be in solidarity with struggles across borders that reject neoliberal opportunism, like the teachers' struggle, to create an alternative future for Mexico and those who migrate there.
Héctor Agredano Rivera, New York, NY.

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