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February 01, 2008

Farmers Clog Mexico City In NAFTA Protest

Posted in: Agriculture, Free Trade Agreements

The only candidate willing to eliminate NAFTA and CAFTA is Ron Paul. The Mexican farmers need to be able to support themselves so that they won’t have to come here looking for work.


Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Tens of thousands of farmers on foot and on lumbering tractors clogged Mexico City Thursday to protest the lifting of corn tariffs under a free trade agreement, which they say is hurting their pockets.

“No corn, no country” was the byword of the protest plastered in signs on tractors and buses, as the angry farmers, some of them leading herds of cattle through the streets, demanded equal treatment with farmers in the United States and Canada.

While it was mostly peaceful, there was some tension late Wednesday when a column of slow-moving tractors ground to a reluctant halt before a phalanx of anti-riot police that barred access to the Zocalo, the city’s main square.

By late Thursday, however, the protest was allowed to move on Zocalo, where organizers said some 50,000 people congregated, while police put the crowd estimate taken by helicopter at between 20,000 and 25,000.

Some 1,500 police fanned out across the city to prevent any unrest stemming from the protest. Farmers from across the country have made their way here, some on foot for 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles), since January 18.

A provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) lifting tariffs on corn — Mexico’s staple food — and other products kicked in on January 1, 14 years after the agreement between the three neighbors came into being.

Many farmers in Mexico have been against NAFTA from the start, but their protest has escalated as the date for lifting corn tariffs approached.

The National Peasant Confederation (CNC), Mexico’s chief farmers’ union with more than five million members, has also warned against NAFTA regulations lifting tariffs on milk and sugar cane products.

Farmers say that government subsidies their counterparts in Canada and United States receive are unfair. CNC said farmers get some 20,000 dollars in annual subsidies in the United States compared to only 700 dollars in Mexico.

They also complain of mounting fuel, fertilizer and electricity prices which they claim represent 60 percent of the average cost of running a farm and place them at a severe disadvantage to their northern competitors.

The farmers and opposition politicians are insisting that some NAFTA provisions be renegotiated, but the three NAFTA governments refuse to do so.

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