Tag Archives: acorn mexico

Mexico’s Assault on Workers and Visiting Neza

Delegation with Laura in front of symbol of Workers University

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.

Rio Negra -- sewage discharge into river at 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.

Everyone with ACORN Mexico Neza members


Releasing Carlos Slim’s Stranglehold on Mexico

Ncarlos_slim_95876358ew Orleans Spending any day in Mexico City with Suyapa Amador, head organizer of ACORN Mexico, involves at least one and sometimes two and three stops at local stores to buy minutes for her cell phone.  Thanks to the virtual monopoly that Telcel, a subsidiary of America Movil owned by gazillionaire Carlos Slim Helu, not only is there never a way to get around this problem, but the time is expensive as well especially compared to other emerging markets like India and Kenya.  There is no question that Carlos Slim has found the way to huge personal riches, but he has done so at the expense of the people of Mexico especially the poorer families.

There may finally be hope for all of us, though it could still take years to arrive.  The Mexican Congress finally has passed an anti-monopoly bill.  There have been some favorable Mexican Supreme Court decisions where they actually ruled against the mega-monopolist.  The anti-trust folks with the Federal Competition Commission in Mexico actually assessed a $1 billion dollar fine against his companies, though it is being appealed of course.  All progress!

Statistics reported in the New York Times (where Carlos Slim is the #2 largest shareholder!) are hard to ignore:

  • Mexico telephone service almost the most expensive compared to 34 countries in the O.C.E.D.
  • Slim’s stranglehold in broadband means that Mexican connectivity is at the bottom of the list and falling even farther behind similarly sized economies like Argentina and Brazil.

In an great example of the “more things change, the more they stay the same,” Slim’s rationalization for his monopoly pricing is exactly the same that AT&T and the Bell System argued before their breakup in the USA:  they are forced to subsidize rural service which they contend is a money loser.  Of course the additional irony is that even though Slim’s outfits may be spending money on hanging line and digging cable in the countryside most folks can’t afford to do much more than yell to their neighbors out there, since they can’t afford the phone or the call.

Let’s hope the clock is finally ticking for Carlos Slim and his Mexico telephone monopoly.  As the world’s richest person with $74 Billon in wealth, putting an end to this will still leave him rich as Croesus, so no tears need be shed even on Wall Street.