Mexico President Felipe Calderon and the Super-Maquiladora
by Frontra NorteSur
Posted on July 23, 2008
For a few hours on July 22, Mexican President Felipe Calderon toured turbulent Ciudad Juarez. Declaring that his government was “putting the house in order,” Calderon touched ground in a place that is far from orderly these days. In recent days, and with half the year barely over, gangland-style executions that even continued during the president’s visit pushed the 2008 homicide toll to nearly 600 murders. Immediately preceding Calderon’s trip, another shake-up in federal law enforcement occurred in Ciudad Juarez. Rolando Alvarado, Chihuahua delegate for the Office of the Federal Attorney General, was replaced by Hector Garcia, who previously held the post in the early part of the decade.
This week, tractors in the Juarez Valley and some city buses have remained idle as mass farmers and mass transit operators blame a fuel shortage on the purported black market siphoning of Pemex diesel fuel to the United States. In the southeastern section of the city, meanwhile, hundreds of families are trying to patch back their lives after July 13 flooding devastated several neighborhoods.
President Calderon, however, emphasized what he considered upbeat economic news. On his visit, the Mexican president inaugurated a new Electrolux appliance plant and a Flextronics factory.
According to Calderon, international economic developments favor Mexico in general and Ciudad Juarez in particular.
“Our strategic geographic position allows us to bring inputs from the east, give them added value, manufacture them in Mexico and export them to the west coast or east coast or center of the United States or to Europe,” Calderon said. “Mexico can be and is called on being the economic link between the European Union, the American one and Asian markets, not to mention the emerging markets of Latin America.”
Calderon went on to laud Ciudad Juarez, calling it a “strategic point that has the enormous advantage of being able to produce at very competitive prices and at the same time have the biggest client of the world practically at its door-step.”
Soaring fuel expenses and rising labor costs in places like China are encouraging a shift of the global assembly line back to Mexico, which lost some production to the Far East in recent years.
Separately, Jabil Circuit and Sanmina SCI have announced they will rely more on Mexican production. Last week, ground was broken for a massive Foxconn plant on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez that will employ anywhere from 9,000 to 40,000 workers, depending on the source.
Owned by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision, the electronics company produces components for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and other industry giants.
In a Ciudad Juarez speech, Calderon stressed Mexico’s growing importance in the global electronics industry. He noted, for example, how Mexico’s electronics exports reached $62 billion in 2007. Electronics now constitute a 27 percent share of the country’s manufactured export product sector.
As was expected, Calderon was accompanied by Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza and Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz.
Praising Electrolux’s workers, Governor Reyes called Ciudad Juarez a city of “opportunities” and “generosity” that is going through trying times.
Despite the all the problems, Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua are experiencing economic expansion, he added, citing Electrolux, Foxconn and other companies.
Representatives of local non-governmental organizations were far less enthusiastic about the presidential visit. Several leaders cited the ongoing narco-violence, military presence, decaying urban infrastructure and overall economic situation as reasons not to celebrate.
Cipirana Jurado, director of the Worker Research and Solidarity Center, said 2006 presidential candidate Calderon vowed to punish the killers of women and curb femicides in Ciudad Juarez.
“He made promises to the community when he was a candidate for the presidency and one of those was to address the femicides, but nothing has happened” Jurado said. The former maquiladora worker, who was arrested by federal police earlier this year and then released on charges related to a 2005 demonstration, added that Calderon’s special federal prosecutor, Guadalupe Morfin, has yet to visit Ciudad Juarez in her new capacity.
Formerly the head of President Fox’s femicide commission in Ciudad Juarez, Morfin was appointed as federal prosecutor for crimes against women and human trafficking last winter.
Calderon did not publicly mention the femicides in any of his Ciudad Juarez presentations.
Urging Calderon to broaden his agenda, Jurado contended the president is leaving ordinary citizens out in the cold. “As president of the Mexicans, Calderon should act as such, not only as the president of businessmen.”
The Mexican president commented briefly on the broader security issue, noting the deployment of 4,000 soldiers and federal police in Ciudad Juarez to counter organized crime. However, he avoided other thorny issues. There was no mention of the Bush administration’s border wall, for instance, or of the growing imprisonment and deportation of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Calderon also failed to mention the mothballed Asarco smelter across the river in El Paso, a hot environmental issue in Ciudad Juarez.
Critics of the president expressed their opposition during Calderon’s stop-over. Blocked by an estimated 200 police transported on maquiladora industry buses, a small group of demonstrators slammed the military presence in Ciudad Juarez and blasted the president for promoting the privatization of Pemex.
Supported by the center-left Democratic Party of the Revolution and allied groups, anti-privatization forces will conduct a non-binding citizen referendum on the Calderon administration’s proposal to reform Pemex beginning July 27.
Local reporters charged they were forcibly excluded by the presidential guard from adequately covering Calderon, who was accompanied by privileged “chilango” journalists from Mexico City, according to one account. The Mexican president did not offer a news conference during his Ciudad Juarez day-trip.
-- Lapolaka.com, July 21 and 22, 2008.
-- El Diario de Juarez, July 21 and 22, 2008. Articles by Sandra Rodriguez, Javier Arroyo and the Reforma news agency.
-- El Paso Times, July 22, 2008. Article by Diana Washington Valdez.
-- Norte, July 21, 22 and 23, 2008. Articles by Felix A. Gonzalez and editorial staff.
-- Presidencia.gob.mx, July 22, 2008. Press releases.
-- El Universal/Notimex, July 22, 2008.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico
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