NAFTA and Chiapas : problems and solutions Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/wm117t22k

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  • On New Year's Eve 1993, there was little indication that popular President Carlos Salinas de Gortari was about to take a monumental fall. Mexico was in the midst of unprecedented prosperity. The world's oldest ruling political party, Mexico's PRI, enjoyed substantial support. Allegations of corruption within an authoritarian regime were now frivolous charges obscured by economic success. The nation was poised to become a major player in the global market; vying with Japan to be the second largest trading partner of the U.S.A. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the largest trading partner of the U.S., Mexico and the United States became effective January 1, 1994. Just after midnight 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) went to war in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Approximately 2500 peasants (mostly indigenous men of Mayan descent) had mobilized against the Mexican government. The violence sparked world wide interest in the human rights of Mexican Indians. Ten days later, as the EZLN retreated into the jungle, an international audience remained captivated by the struggle. The Mexican Army did not advance. The EZLN refused to lay down its arms. Within the year, the Mexican economy collapsed. Soon thereafter, President Salinas went into voluntary exile amidst charges of high crimes against the state. Was it just a coincidence that the rebellion coincided with the implementation of NAFTA? Did the treaty really present such an enormous threat to Mexico's underclass? Did NAFTA contribute to the nation's political problems? The following thesis answers these questions. It is the product of years of travel and study throughout Chiapas and Mexico, both before and after the rebellion. The intricacies of the relationship between NAFTA, the Mexican government and the EZLN are revealed. The government's position and rebel demands are reconcilable. This is an important conclusion. But Mexico is a poor country embroiled in a rebellion to the south as well as a precarious economic treaty with the world's wealthiest nation to the north. In addition, the EZLN has come to represent the world's beleaguered poor in an era of free trade. As Mexico's past and present are explored, conclusions about the country's future have implications that go beyond NAFTA.
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