y but not Narrow Pick up your FREE copy at over 200 locations in Austin & Houston, For further information call 512.476.0576 or 713.521.5822 CHEAP CORN FROM MORE TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED FARMS IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA IS FLOODING MEXICAN MARKETS AT A RATE THAT FAR EXCEEDS WHAT WAS ENVISIONED BY THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. the Jesuit-run Santa Teracita hospital, reports Father Luis Verplanken. Chihuahua public health authorities list seventy-seven Raramuri child deaths though July, 86 percent of them related to nutrition. Near Mexico’s southern border in Chiapas, hungry indigenous people struggle to find enough food. Because Mayan Indian farmers could not plant in the spring of 1995, following a large-scale military offensive against the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, there are no corn reserves to carry campesinos through the summer growing cycle. Now, as the rains drench the Zapatistas’ Lacandon Jungle communities, 100,000 “men and women of corn” \(as the severe food shortage; only solidarity caravans from the big cities are keeping the villagers fed. In the parish of Ocosingo on the edge of the jungle, Father Jose G. Garcia estimates a shortfall of over 800 metric tons thus far this year; 205 of the 300 communities served by the church have applied for dwindling emergency supplies. Meanwhile, the Mexican military distributes free corn in Chiapas towns that do not support the EZLN. “Corn has become a weapon of lowintensity warfare here,” said Gonzalo Ituarte, co-vicar of the San Cristobal diocese. In Guerrero, another southern flashpoint state, hunger feeds one more incipient uprising. “This is the worst time of year for us. There is nothing to eat and the soldiers keep us from our fields,” complains Julian Rodriguez in the mountain town of Tepetixtla, where Mexican troops hunt for members of the “Popular Revolutionary Army.” Since the EPR surfaced on June 28, its heavily armed fighters have made appearances in many of the fourteen Guerrero municipalities that the National Geography in its “extreme poverty” category. The EPR claims to have launched guerrilla operations in the Huasteca mountain range, which touches five states where some of Mexico’s most impoverishedand hungriest indtgenas live. \(Editors’ Note: This story was received several days before the EPR launched its August 29 attacks, in four Mexico’s hunger is mostly for corn, the basic diet of the country’s underclass. Mexicans consume 136 grams of the grain each day in tortillas and corn gruels like atole and pozole. That ration might be drastically reduced. With as many as 600,000 hectares devastated by drought, Mexico registered a 5-million-ton corn shortfall in 1995, harvesting only 10.2 million tons of basic grains. It needs to produce between twelve and fifteen million tons each year. Now cattle ranchers, corn flour manufacturers, and Conasupo, the government purchasing and distribution agency, will import up to 9 million tons of corn, wheat, and sorghum in 1996, at prices much higher than what was paid in the past. This summerdue to drought that extends from Texas to Kansasa ton of corn costs $200, more than double the $90 per ton paid in 1994. \(Mexico purchases 90 According to Jose Luis Calva, agrarian economist at the Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico will shell out $4 billion for imported grain this year-70 percent of its petroleum export revenues and three times as much as the government invests in rural development programs. Drought is not the only reason that Mexican corn production was off 11 percent in 1995. Cheap corn from more technologically advanced farms in the United States and Canada is flooding Mexican markets at a rate that far exceeds what was envisioned by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under a NAFTA schedule, which gradually expands Mexican corn imports over the next ten years, the Zedillo government was scheduled to allow up to 2.3 million tariff-free tons into the country in 1996. Because of the shortfall, the import limit has been increased to 8.2 million tons. An Agricultural Ministry study, issued in 1993, estimated that 670,00 farmers and will eventually be forced off their land by corn imports. Now, as Mexican emigration to the U.S. increasesdespite stringent border controlsthis prediction seems to be coming true earlier than anticipated. Agriculture Secretary Francisco Labastida insists that corn supplies are guaranteed by renewed rainfall in the north and increased NAFTA imports, but a survey conducted in June by the national daily El Financiero found corn reserves at their lowest level in thirty-three years. With just 800,000 tons on hand, Conasupo only had enough to feed the nation for the next sixty days. y et for Roberto Gonzalez Barrerawhose Maseca Corporation controls 70 percent of Mexico’s flour market and 35 percent of the tortilla market, and who just sold one-fourth interest in his parent company to U.S. agribusiness Archer-Daniels-Midlandbusiness is booming. Buoyed by government subsidies and Conasupo favoritism, Gonzalez Barrera made Forbes’ Mexico billionaires list for the fourth year in a row. Mexico now ranks only behind the U.S., Germany, Japan and Hong Kong in the number of billionaires. Ernesto Zedillo and Tortilla King Gonzalez Barrera are hardly strangers to one another, and what’s known about their relationship provides some insight into 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 13, 1996 +K.
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