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A March for Maize–and More

Driving their tractors and greeting supporters along the way, a group of Mexican farmers recently traveled 1,200 miles over 14 days, protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and demanding that the agricultural section of NAFTA be renegotiated.

Click here for a great photo of the over 200,000 strong march and an article in Spanish from La Jornada.

The farmers, including members of Grassroots International’s partner the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA) departed from Juarez City on January 17th and reached Mexico City on January 31st. There, in Zocalo Square, they rallied with tens of thousands of protestors from additional farmers’ movements across the country.

« Sin maiz, no hay pais, » went the farmers’ chant. « Without corn, there is no country. »

On January 1st, Mexico removed its last remaining tariffs on imported corn, beans, sugar, and other agricultural goods, as part of its obligations under NAFTA. Farmers believe that the free trade agreement is already hurting their ability to compete with subsidized agricultural goods from the United States and Canada, and that this final robbing of protection will cause the farming sector to further spiral into decline. They also fear that the U.S. will start producing and exporting large amounts of white corn–a staple in Mexican diets–thereby further eroding prospects for Mexican farmers.

The « tractorcade » to Mexico City was organized by the Francisco Villa Campesino Resistance Movement. It followed the same route that Pancho Villa took when he marched into Mexico City in 1914. Anti-NAFTA protestors also took that route on horseback in 1999.

Grassroots International is closely monitoring the farmers’ situation in Mexico. Check this blog frequently for updates.