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Cynthia McKinney speaks on ‘free trade’ in Mexico

Published Jul 20, 2008 8:38 PM

The following excerpts are from a recent talk made by Cynthia McKinney, Green Party presidential candidate in the United States. The statement was sent out on June 27th by the International Liaison Committee of Workers & Peoples (ILC) based in San Francisco. Go to www.organicconsumers.org to read the statement in its entirety.

In early April 2008, I participated in the Second Continental Workers’ Conference in Mexico City. I was honored to have been a keynote speaker at the conference’s opening night rally at the hall of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME).

I learned that a powerful united front now exists in Mexico against the NAFTA-inspired privatizations that will result in the theft of Mexico’s patrimony in natural resources.

The Mexican Congress was shut down by the real opposition that they have in Mexico. The PEMEX Privatization bill was supposed to have passed by now. Mexico’s Congress adjourned without passing it. Score one for the people.

One of the leading papers in Mexico City had a photo of the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress with an unfurled banner covering the Speaker’s Rostrum, proclaiming the Chamber “Closed.” The banner was hung by elected members of the Mexican Congress who constitute the Frente Amplio Progresista that has dared to draw a line in the sand against U.S.-inspired legislation introduced to allow foreign corporate ownership of PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned oil company.

I wrote my Master’s thesis on the “Idea of Nation.” And to see the women, in their T-shirts and kerchiefs, so committed to their country, their nation, their identity. To them, that’s Mexico’s oil, natural gas, electricity, land and water, and it ought to be used by the Mexican people first and foremost for their own national development. But, sadly, it’s the public policy emanating from Washington, D.C., that threatens that.

According to Greg Palast, the U.S. corporation involved in the Mexican move was none other than that now infamous Georgia-based company: Choicepoint.We know that in Florida, Choicepoint, then doing business as DataBase Technologies, constructed an illegal convicted felons list of 94,000 names, many of whom were neither convicted nor felons. But if your name appeared on that list, you were stopped from voting. Greg Palast tells us that for most of the names on that list, their only crime was “Voting While Black.”

Under a special “counter-terrorism” contract, the U.S. FBI obtained Mexican and Venezuelan voter files through Choicepoint of all the countries that have progressive presidents. Many Mexicans went to the polls to vote for their President, only to find that their names had been scrubbed from the voter list, and they were not allowed to vote. So now, not only in the United States, but in Mexico, too, one can show up to vote and not be sure that that vote was counted, or worse, one can show up duly registered to vote and not even be allowed to vote.

I guess this is the way we allow our country to now export democracy.

Unlike in the United States in 2000, Mexico City was shut down for five months in 2006 when Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s Al Gore, refused to concede and, instead, formed a shadow government.

The issue in the 2006 Mexican election was privatization of Mexico’s oil. Teachers on strike at the same time as the presidential elections in Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico, began their political movement as a call for increased teacher salaries and against privatization of schools. Tens of thousands of citizens joined them and took over the central city of that state. Today, after Mexico has added teachers and those who support teachers to its growing ranks of “political prisoners,” teachers are still protesting their conditions and the reprisals taken against them for striking, and now the teachers’ union is a committed part of the national mobilization against privatization of PEMEX.

I was invited to participate in the Second Continental Workers Conference. The first meeting was held in La Paz, Bolivia. And so people from all over Mexico and eight different countries told of their struggles, their hopes, their ideals, their values, their patriotism, their desire for peace/no more war.

Representatives from Chiapas, another one of Mexico’s poorest states, told us of the indigenous struggle for land and self-determination, the low-intensity warfare waged against them, and how now they, too, count themselves a part of the national mobilization against PEMEX privatization.

While I was there, mine workers had taken over the mines, and so could only send a handful of inspiring representatives. They are pressing for the right to unionize, denied to them by the government. And the mine workers are part of the solid front forming in Mexico to protect this powerful idea of nation.

Today’s front page of La Jornada says that the women, who marched 10,000 strong on the day that I was there, have renewed their protests and civil disobedience. The threat of violence and bloodshed is very real.

Now, why should this massive social, political and economic upheaval in Mexico, aside from its human rights implications, be important to us up here in the United States?

Because the sad truth of the matter is that, in many respects, it is our military and economic policies that are causing it. Of course, I recognize that all the way back to the practice of Manifest Destiny and the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, U.S. policy decisions have at times sent shock waves to places outside our borders. You could say that the modern version of that is NAFTA.

In 1993, the Democratic majority in the United States Congress supported then-President Bill Clinton’s push for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The stated purpose of the legislation was to remove barriers to trade and investment that existed in North America. The objective was to lift all boats in Canada, the United States, and Mexico through trade and investment. But the result has been the stripping away and transfer of Mexico’s patrimony in terms of its natural and human resources. And the Mexican people are taking a stand against it. They are taking the same stand that the little people in Haiti, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Argentina have taken.

I happened to vote against NAFTA, and I’m glad for that. Imagine if we in the United States were as certain of the possibility of peaceful change through the vote as were the people of Haiti, Mexico—despite having their election stolen from them—Venezuela and the rest. Then we would vote members of Congress out of office who support Plan Colombia. We would vote members of Congress out of office who support Plan Mexico—which, like its Colombian counterpart, is the military answer to the cry of the people for dignity, self-determination and that idea of patria.

Cynthia McKinney is a former six-term member of the U.S. Congress from the state of Georgia.