The Violent Side Effects of NAFTA

Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuits' online magazine, has an disturbing article this week about the increase in violence towards women in bordertown Juarez, Mexico as an indirect result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1994, Juarez has attracted over 3000 foreign-owned assembly plants which in turn have drawn an onslaught of migrants seeking work. But there has been no improvement of infrastructure to coincide with this population growth....


While the official body count of women since the introduction of the NAFTA is 400, local activist groups estimate more than 5000 have been killed, most of them factory workers aged 12–22. If their bodies are found, they typically show signs of torture and sexual brutality.

Check out the full story here.

Jim McDermott, S.J.


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James Lindsay
8 years 8 months ago
A more profound effect is cheap American corn choking off Mexican agriculture, which drives farmers to these plants and to exploitive jobs in the shadows on this side of the border - often in factories protected from unionization by right to work (hire illegal migrant) laws.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 8 months ago
There is something deeply disturbing about this article and the femicides that continue to happen in Ciudad Juarez.  Something about the work, itself, and the culture surrounding this mass abuse of a cheap labor force, that makes everything (and every body) very sick - physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Human life totally degraded.
Surely the Catholic Church must have some words to speak to this crisis. 
Interestingly, I found the article very compelling, not at all "academic" or mumbling.
Pearce Shea
8 years 8 months ago
I agree that this is monstrous. A step (or several) away from capitalism to the cruel, vicious mercantilistic industrial-era take on human life.
Beth- I think the last three paragraphs are to what David S. referred, where we move from more traditional reportage to that weird, logical contortion that is academic speak, such as, "In line with the most unabashed patriarchal viewpoint, a woman working outside of the home is comparable to a prostitute — a stance that, from a very traditional moralist perspective, permits her sacrifice." (Do we have any evidence that this is what is happening here? It could be. But it sounds like someone coming in with a lot of academic-sounding assumptions and imposing a particular slant on a tragic scenario. In the very least, it's not helpful as it doesn't really give any evidence.)
And this: "But we must be careful to not identify women in these circumstances as essential victims. Their victimhood lies in their abuse, and not as a quality they possess for being female and working-class." It's pure academic self-reflexive speak. It's the bit you have to put into your book or paper to make sure that you aren't re-ifying women as the victim, the object, the Other, etc.
Anyway, this all doesn't get away from the fact that this is a very troubling situation.
Vince Killoran
8 years 8 months ago
An important issue.  It's a complex issue since the agency of these women in severely circumscribed by local forces (crime, government, etc.) and the more impersonal force of globalization.
I recommend Jeff Cowie's CAPITAL MOVES: it's a compelling study of RCA's long search for cheap labor which took the company from New England to Indiana to Memphis to Mexico.  The damage it left in its wake are still affecting these communities where they established plants.
Gabriel Marcella
8 years 8 months ago
This article is not balanced and expects too much from NAFTA. The responsibility for providing the security to the citizens of Mexico lies with the authorities of Mexico. Lamentably, the Mexican state is weak to ineffective, and in some respects corrupt. Blaming NAFTA or globalization for this misses this critical point. Indeed, throughout much of Latin America and the developing world the state is often too ineffective in meeting the security and governance needs of its people. Making the state effective will be the major policy challenge of this century.


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