Mexico City The day started ominously in Mexico City as I walked at dawn towards the Zocalo. First the Alameda, one of my favorite parks in the world, was encased in a plastic, invisible wall indicating some form of construction for some indefinite amount of time. Then the Palacio Belles de Artes was blocked by police barricades and armed, bivouacked soldiers, which I later understood was in preparation for the funeral of Carlos Fuentes, the Nobel prize winning Mexican author. Later walking to the Universidad Obera de Mexico in the light of day with the whole ACORN International delegation, the sun was shining and life on the streets of the city invigorated everyone.
Laura Juarez Sanchez, a researcher at the UOM on the effects of economy, migration, and other topics had prepared a briefing for us that was sobering to say the least. With elaborate charts and carefully chosen words she laid out the case against neo-liberalism that was stark in the Mexican context. The heart of her argument rested on the stagnation of the minimum wage for Mexican workers compared to other industrialized countries, including the USA and China. She argued that the wage was now in comparison, the lowest in the world and the growth in the minimum wage had been miniscule, all because Mexico was trying to hold on to its place in the “race to the bottom” by competing against China and other Asian countries on the basis of wages even as maquila jobs were leaving the country. The assault on Mexican workers was not simply based on low wages, but also included abnegation and dilution of the labor laws, privatization and reduction of pensions, limited health care, and increasing barriers to education. We were glad to see our companera, Laura, at UOM and to meet in their lovely library, but there were no smiles on our face about the news she offered.
Similarly, we toured the Neza (Nezahualcoyoth), where ACORN Mexico has done most of its organizing in recent years. Our leaders said there had been some progress in the struggle for water, but it was mainly around increased water pressure and access to more homes of water adequate for bathing, washing, and so forth. Potable water for drinking and food preparation was still the issue and for many ACORN families sucked up 40% of their monthly income!
Besides the issue of potable water, we spent some time along the drainage canals and the rio negra as our members called the rivers of sewage discharge that were floating out of Neza without any treatment. The coming summer rains inevitably would lead to floods and the sewage once again overflowing into many homes and sections of Neza.
The reports indicated progress, partially by exploiting the opportunity to pressure the parties in the face of the coming national and local elections on July 1st. Federal elections only come every six years, so our campaign cannot depend on this opportunity, because we are unwilling to wait.