Chiapas Uprising and Trade

Chiapas Uprising and Trade

          CASE NUMBER:      361
          CASE MNEMONIC:    CHIAPAS
          CASE NAME:        CHIAPAS AND TRADE

A. IDENTIFICATION 1. The Issue On January 1, 1994 the Mexican State of Chiapas erupted into an unprecedented political upheaval in reaction to the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The indigenous people of Chiapas, represented by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, organized under the leadership of Subcommandante Marcos, declared war on the Mexican government on the same day that NAFTA went into effect. This, in fact, was not a coincidence. The rebels, motivated in part by the fear that United States corn imports would destroy their low- technology agricultural economy, strategically coincided their insurrection with the enactment of NAFTA in order to maximize embarrassment to the Mexican government. 2. Description The Chiapas uprising occurred at a time when President Carlos Salinas de Gortari proclaimed that Mexico was on the verge of becoming a more modernized and industrialized state. One of the primary issues with the NAFTA debate was the question of stability in Mexico and as a result the Chiapas uprising has left foreign investors wondering if, in fact, Mexico is stable enough for their investment. As of January 14, 1995 the rebels had agreed to a temporary cease-fire, ordering an end to all offensive operations against political and military targets in the region for another week. The cease-fire came after the Mexican government made a major concession which allowed Bishop Samuel Ruiz and his National Intermediation Council to mediate all future negotiations between the Zapatistas and the government. Since the eruption of the January 1, 1994 armed conflict, approximately twenty-six thousand displaced people have begun to return to their districts in the Lacandona region. This operation, under the supervision of the Federal Army and the judicial police, has marked the beginning of the Mexican Government■s relocation program. But as one indigenous person of the Chiapas noted, "Government officials told us we were going to receive our land only if we told them who the Zapatista leaders were." In fact, in order to create a safety zone that would guarantee peace in Chiapas San Cristobal Bishop Samuel Ruiz noted that "it would be necessary to have the withdrawal of the Federal Army from that area as well as to have the cancellation of the arrest warrants against the Zapatista leaders." In the most recent attempt to end the political upheaval in the Chiapas region, twenty leaders of different countries and members of the Peace Council assembled in the second Annual Assembly for peace, in which they agreed that only a peace settlement would contribute to Mexico's development. As a result, the Federal Government and the members of the Concord and the Pacification Commission (Cocopa) and the National Mediator (Conai) have agreed to continue with the process of negotiations with the Zapatista rebels that was insurrected in January 1994. The state of Chiapas is located in the southern most portion of the country and has traditionally been known as one of the most oppressed and poverty stricken regions in Mexico. The indigenous population of the Chiapas, comprised mainly of uneducated Mayan Indians, however, has not been the only population in Mexico to suffer. At least ten of its neighboring states in the region share similar characteristics of poverty, marginalization of indigenous communities and political disenfranchisement. In an attempt to solve this endemic problem, President Salinas has instituted a program of Solidarity. Although the Chiapas have received more Solidarity money than any other state in Mexico, it has not been sufficient compensation for the withdrawal of agricultural subsidies in the name of economic reform in the preparation for NAFTA. Land has been the key issue in the economic reform process. As a result of the Mexican Revolution and in an attempt to keep the peasantry under control as well as to win their support, the government addressed the land issue in Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917. The article, "directs the government to promote conservation, balanced development of the various regions of the country, improvement of living conditions, in rural as well as urban areas, and an equitable distribution of the public wealth." In order to obtain this equitable distribution the article "mandates measures to preserve and restore ecological balance, break up large land holdings, and ensure that all communities are provided with adequate title to surrounding lands and waters, taking care not to infringe on the holdings of small farmers." However, this law has been ignored in the Chiapas. The peasants have continued to be treated as outsiders on their own land. President Salinas took office with the intent of making Mexico a modern, industrialized state. In order to make Mexico attractive to foreign investment, Salinas began the process of reform by first amending Article 27 of the Constitution. A result of this, community land could be divided and either sold or rented. The NAFTA negotiations dealt with the final impediment to economic reform, namely agricultural tariffs. These tariffs protected Mexican farmers from cheap U.S. and Canadian grains. It was the realization that NAFTA would eliminate this protection which provided the impetus for a rebellion by the indigenous population of the Chiapas. The Mayan Indians of the Chiapas relied on this protection in order to continue to sell corn, beans and other products so that they could earn enough income to buy their own basic necessities. The economic reforms that have accompanied NAFTA have had a wide spread impact on the region. These reforms have replaced the traditional subsistence farming of the Mayan Indians with such products as beef, timber, and oil which can be exported. The removal of trees for the export industry will eventually destroy the rain forest in Mexico which will cause flooding and soil erosion which in turn will stop up the dams down stream that provide most of the electricity to Mexico. Cattle ranching for the purpose of beef exportation will cause population displacement in order to create more space for the cattle. As the Mayan Indians are pushed further off their land into the Lacandon rain forest, they will have to adopt such methods as slashing and burning of the rain forest in order clear land for their agricultural practices. As a result, the Mayan Indians and the peasants will only be able to live off the lands until the nutrients are depleted. They will then have to move further into the rain forest thus repeating the process. The detrimental consequence of this process in global warming. 3. Related Cases NAFTA Case PETEN Case TRUCK Case ECUADOR Case Key Words (1): NAFTA (2): Agriculture (3): Mexico 4. Draft Authors: Kimberly L. Mott and Allison L. Housman (September 1996) B. LEGAL CLUSTER 6. Discourse and Status: DISAGREE AND INPROGRESS Because the Chiapas rebellion is not an issue of legal proceedings, its discourse is neither a formal agreement nor a disagreement. As was mentioned above in the issue portion of this paper, this is a case in progress and as of this date the situation has yet to be resolved. The Zapatista National Liberation Army and the Mexican government are currently holding negotiations to attempt to put an end to the year long uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The unrest in the country has driven the markets into a panic causing the massive conversion of peso holdings into dollars. As a result of the uprising coupled with other signs of instability, the Mexican economy is now in crisis. 7. Forum and Scope: Mexico and Unilateral 8. Decision Breadth: 1 The United States, Mexico and Canada could all affected by the Chiapas rebellion because it could have potentially damaging effects on trade between the three countries as negotiated under NAFTA. If trade between these three countries is affected by the instability in Mexico then the situation may lead to a renegotiation of NAFTA. 9. Legal Standing: SUBLAW There have been no laws created in relation to this case but with the current negotiations between the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and the government, it is possible that there will be some new laws established by the Mexican government. For instance, one of the reasons for the emergence of the rebellion was the lack of democracy in Mexican politics. The Mexican government has shown some signs of positive reform in the political system and it is quite possible that new election laws may stem from the Chiapas uprising. There also exist the possibility that the laws regarding land reform will be altered. C. GEOGRAPHIC FILTERS 10. Geography a. Continental Domain: North America [NAMER] b. Geographic Site: Southern North America [SNAMER] c. Geographic Impact: Mexico 11. Sub-National Factors: YES There are subnational factors due to the fact that this case involves the Mexican state of Chiapas. 12. Type of Habitat: Tropical [TROP] D. Trade Filters 13. Type of Measure: Import Tax Economic reform in accordance with NAFTA have caused the Mexican government to lift subsidies on agricultural products, such as corn, in order to prevent barriers to trade. Type of Measure: 14. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRECT The impact on trade is direct because the Chiapas rebellion has the potential to cause the government to change its current policy of economic reform which in turn would affect the types of products that would be traded under NAFTA. 15. Relation of Measure to Impact The removal of subsidies and tariffs for subsistence agricultural farming and replacing it with cattle ranching, a timber industry and oil refineries, has a direct impact on the resources in Mexico. As was mentioned above, cutting down the trees for timber exportation directly, or as is the case for cattle ranching indirectly, leads to the destruction of the rain forests and global warming. a. Directly Related: Yes CORN b. Indirectly Related: Yes c. Not Related: No d. Process: Yes Deforestation 16. Trade Product Identification: Corn 17. Economic Data Based on information reported in the 1994-1995 World Resources book, Mexico's total agricultural output was 9,872 and about 30 percent of the population has been employed in the agricultural sector. With the economic reforms implemented under NAFTA, there may the possibility of significant job loss in the agricultural sector as Mexico continues on its way to becoming a modern, industrialized state. 18. Degree of Competitive Impact: MEDIUM This case relates to the removal of barriers with the intention of making Mexican goods more competitive with the United States and Canada. Because of the recent nature of this case it is too early to tell exactly how competitive those goods will be. 19. Industry Sector: FOOD 20. Exporter and Importer: USA and MEXICO 21. Environmental Problem Type: Deforestation The case applies to the problem of deforestation because as the Indians are forced off their land to make room for the new exportable commodities such as beef, timber and oil, they are forced to move further into the Lacandon rain forest, slashing and burning the vegetation as they migrate. The Indians are able to grow crops on land for a few years until the nutrients are depleted. They will then move further into the forest repeating the same activity which in turn will destroy the forest. The Lacandon rain forest is located at a high altitude, therefore by destroying the vegetation, which acts as a sponge controlling the release of water from the mountain, the land will become too saturated for the growth of any products. This will cause floods and soil erosion, which will block the dams downstream that provide most of the electricity to Mexico. 22. Species Information 23. Impact and Effect: MEDIUM and STRUCTURE 24. Urgency and Lifetime: MEDIUM and 100s of years If the deforestation is not contained, the wildlife in the rain forest will face destruction. 25. Substitutes: LIKE products This case could possibly apply to the development of synthetic alternatives for oil, greater conservation efforts for timber and switching to like products for beef. E. OTHER FACTORS 25. Culture: No 26. Human Rights: Yes There have been many reports of human rights violations in relation to the Chiapas uprising. For instance, in the city of Ococingo where the fighting was the heaviest, reporters found the bodies of five rebels that had their hands tied and were shot execution style by the army. There were also claims that the army was responsible for the death of many civilians, including numerous infants. The army has come under strict criticism for their use of excessive force in attempting to repress the uprising. However, it has not only been the army, but also the rebels themselves that have been responsible for the death of civilians. There has been an undetermined number of disappearances and executions. Some International and Mexican human rights violations have been endemic in Latin America and Mexico is no exception. However with NAFTA, Mexico has come under the watchful eye of the international community. In fact, defending human rights in the Chiapas and supporting a peaceful negotiated solution to the demands of the Zapatistas as well as calling for reform in Mexico has become the order of the day for many activist within the United States and elsewhere. 27. Trans-Boundary Issues: No 28. Relevant Literature "A Cry From The People." McLean's 24 January 1994: 42-44. Calvet, Peter. "The Indians of Chiapas." Index on Censorship. May 1994: 166-170. "Mexico's Second-Class Citizens Say Enough Is Enough." The Economist. 8 January 1994: 41-42. Nairan, Allan. "After NAFTA: Chiapas Uprising." Multinational Monitor. January 1994: 6-9. Reding, Andrew. "Chiapas in Mexico." World Policy Journal. Spring 1994: 11-24. Serrill, Michael S. "Zapata's Revenge." Time Magazine. 17 January 1994: 32-34. Smith, Geri. "The Guns of NAFTA: From Mexico's Wretched, A Bloody Dissent." Business Week. 17 January 1994: 47. The Houston Chronicle. All articles pertaining to Chiapas written between January 1994 and January 1995 (Lexis/Nexis).


Go to Super Page