TONATIERRA
Annual Human Rights Conference
Saturday, September 13th, 2003 NAHUACALLI
802 N. 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ
Tel: (602) 254-5230

Working Group: Human Rights and Immigration

Theme: COMMUNITY FOOD SECURITY: The Right to Self -Sufficiency

Background: Over a span of eight thousand years, the Mexican civilization developed a self-sustaining agricultural system based primarily on the cultivation of corn which served as nutritional foundation for the economic and social stability of the indigenous cultures, recognized in the Mexican constituion as the foundation of the Mexican nationality. Up until January 1st of 1994 and the implementation of the NAFTA trade accord, Mexico was self sufficient in terms of its own nutritional infrastructure in relation to corn production, an independence in the most critical economic indicator for any society.

The flooding of US corporate corn into Mexico, an industry underwritten by US government subsidies and taxpayer dollars, which is dramatically marked by the NAFTA of 1994, is an example of the practice of deliberate economic warfare that benefits only a small circle of elite corporate collectives on both sides of the border. The pattern is similar to construction of the railroad systems in Mexico during the Diaz Regime, which were built not to develop the economic infrastructure of Mexico as a modern republic, but instead designed with the intention of delivering cheap and disposable Mexican labor ( and raw materials) to the developing agribusiness and industrial needs of the US economy in the North.

Discussion Points:

If Mexico's economy was self sufficient, how would the immigration streams to the North be impacted?

What the difference between self sufficiency and sustainability over generations in economic and cultural terms?

Why are the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico still not recognized within the laws of the Republic?

Why is our cultural identity as Indigenous Peoples denied respect and recognition on both sides of the border except in terms of either the Mestizo or Hispanic paradigm?

Positions:

What is the position of our political leaders regarding the issue of agricultural subsidies to the US corporate agribusiness industry that is undermining our family and community security with impunity at the local, regional, national, and international levels?

What is our position as a community to the adoption of a minimum recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, such as the Acuerdos de San Andres?

What is our position a a community when these issues will be addressed at the upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organiziaton in Cancun, Mexico?

The New York Times, March 3, 2003

Why Mexico's Small Corn Farmers Go Hungry

By TINA ROSENBERG

MEXICO CITY

Macario Herna°ndez's grandfather grew corn in the hills of Puebla, Mexico. His father does the same. Mr. Hernandez grows corn, too, but not for much longer. Around his village of Guadalupe Victoria, people farm the way they have for centuries, on tiny plots of land watered only by rain, their plows pulled by burros. Mr. Hernandez, a thoughtful man of 30, is battling to bring his family and neighbors out of the Middle Ages. But these days modernity is less his goal than his enemy.

This is because he, like other small farmers in Mexico, competes with American products raised on megafarms that use satellite imagery to mete out fertilizer. These products are so heavily subsidized by the government that many are exported for less than it costs to grow them. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, American corn sells in Mexico for 25 percent less than its cost. The prices Mr.

Hernandez and others receive are so low that they lose money with each acre they plant.

In January, campesinos from all over the country marched into Mexico City's central plaza to protest. Thousands of men in jeans and straw hats jammed the Zocalo, along side horses and tractors. Farmers have staged smaller protests around Mexico for months. The protests have won campesino organizations a series of talks with the government. But they are unlikely to get what they want: a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, protective temporary tariffs and a new policy that seeks to help small farmers instead of trying to force them off the land.

The problems of rural Mexicans are echoed around the world as countries lower their import barriers, required by free trade treaties and the rules of the World Trade Organization. When markets are open, agricultural products flood in from wealthy nations, which subsidize agriculture and allow agribusiness to export crops cheaply. European farmers get 35 percent of their income in government subsidies, American farmers 20 percent. American subsidies are at record levels, and last year, Washington passed a farm bill that included a $40 billion increase in subsidies to large grain and cotton farmers.

It seems paradoxical to argue that cheap food hurts poor people. But three-quarters of the world's poor are rural. When subsidized imports undercut their products, they starve. Agricultural subsidies, which rob developing countries of the ability to export crops, have become the most important dispute at the W.T.O.

Wealthy countries do far more harm to poor nations with these subsidies than they do good with foreign aid.

While such subsidies have been deadly for the 18 million Mexicans who live on small farms "nearly a fifth of the country". Mexico's near-complete neglect of the countryside is at fault, too. Mexican officials say openly that they long ago concluded that small agriculture was inefficient, and that the solution for farmers was to find other work. "

The government's solution for the problems of the countryside is to get campesinos to stop being campesinos," says Victor Suarez, a leader of a coalition of small farmers.

But the government's determination not to invest in losers is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The small farmers I met in their fields in Puebla want to stop growing corn and move into fruit or organic vegetables. Two years ago Mr. Hernandez, who works with a farming cooperative, brought in thousands of peach plants. But only a few farmers could buy them. Farm credit essentially does not exist in Mexico, as the government closed the rural bank, and other bankers do not want to lend to small farmers. "We are trying to get people to rethink and understand that the traditional doesn't work," says Mr. Hernandez. "But the lack of capital is deadly."

The government does subsidize producers, at absurdly small levels compared with subsidies in the United States. Corn growers get about $30 an acre. Small programs exist to provide technical help and fertilizer to small producers, but most farmers I met hadn't even heard of them.

Mexico should be helping its corn farmers increase their productivity or move into new crops" especially since few new jobs have been created that could absorb these farmers. Mexicans fleeing the countryside are flocking to Houston and swelling Mexico's cities, already congested with the poor and unemployed. If Washington wants to reduce Mexico's immigration to the United States, ending subsidies for agribusiness would be far more effective than beefing up the border patrol.

###

CONFERENCE DOCUMENT

Declaration of Aztlan

Submitted to the Second Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - Economic and Social Council

New York, NY May 2003

Declaration on the Sacred Birth Right of Indigenous Children and Youth

Tlahtokan Aztlan

Traditional Gathering of Indigenous Peoples NAHAUCALLI

Phoenix, Arizona 7-9 March 2003

O'Odham Nation Territories

In the spirit of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples 2003 theme addressing Children

We the representatives of Indigenous Peoples attending the Tlahtokan Aztlan affirm our inherent and inalienable rights as the Indigenous Peoples of the world.

These rights, bestowed upon us by our Creator are reaffirmed each dawn through our sacred relationship to Mother Earth and by our collective responsibility to our elders, women, men, youth and children to uphold peace, equity and justice, in harmony with all our relations in the natural world. As representatives of the Confederation of the Eagle and the Condor, the Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Tlahtokan Aztlan hereby reaffirm our mutual commitment under our Treaty of Teotihuacan, and proclaim to the world the following, with a view to our responsibility to safe guard Mother Earth, our traditions, our cultures and our lifeways for our children, youth and the generations yet unborn:

Extract:

Economic globalization constitutes one of the main obstacles for the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unsustainable extraction, harvesting, production and consumption patterns lead to climate change, widespread pollution and environmental destruction, evicting us from our lands and creating immense poverty and disease. We are deeply concerned that the activities of multinational mining corporations on Indigenous lands have led to the loss and desecration of our lands. These activities have caused severe health problems, interfered with access to our sacred sites, destroyed and depleted Mother Earth and devastated our cultures.

Extract:

PLAN OF ACTION TO ASSURE THE SACRED BIRTHRIGHT OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Unanimously adopted by Tlahtokan Aztlan, Traditional Gathering of Indigenous Peoples Oodham Nation Territories March 7-9, 2003.

Respectfully submitted to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 2003, New York.

Action Plan Item 14.

To invite the Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations Environment Program and other relevant U.N. agencies to advance the work relating to Indigenous peoplesí right to safe and adequate food, food security and food sovereignty focusing particularly on:

  1. those areas where Indigenous peoples face starvation;
  2. those areas where Indigenous peoples, especially women,children and the elderly are threatened by starvation and malnutrition;
  3. the effects of biotechnology on the health of Indigenous communities, food systems and resources including species of sacred plants, shoots, seeds, animals, birds and fish;
  4. the main factors weakening Indigenous agricultural systems and agro-related activities including traditional trade through barter,and traditional trade routes

- factors such as

-lack of access to land and resources including safe and adequate water

-energy and climate change

-invasive large-scale agro-industries

-contamination and destruction of the soil, water and food sources by pesticides and toxic-related substances and chemicals

-large-scale infrastructure projects

-militarization

(e) immediate measures to correct the situation, with the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples, through initiatives that include the recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources, the restoration, strengthening and protection of Indigenous food and agricultural systems, their traditional knowledge, innovations and practices in agriculture, their agro-related activities, and their trade routes and trade practices; Note : The full text of the Declaration of Aztlan and the Plan of Action is available at the TONATIERRA website: www.tonatierra.org

A community report back by the legation which submitted the Delaration of Aztlan at the UN will be part of the TONATIERRA Annual Human Rights Conference agenda on Saturday, September 13th at the NAHUACALLI, Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples.

For more information call:

TONATIERRA
Tel: (602) 254-5230
www.tonatierra.org


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