Guerilla attack, anti-NAFTA actions in Mexico

On the morning of Jan. 3 a unit of 15 masked people armed with AK-47 rifles set fire to three backhoes belonging to the Constructora Torreblanca, a construction company building a highway in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. “No to the gas price increase!” and “Join the armed struggle!” were some of the slogans the group painted at the site, in Tixtla municipality, about 15 kilometers from Chilpancingo, the state capital. The company had the slogans removed, and news of the incident didn’t become public until Jan. 5. No group took responsibility for the action, although the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) and other rebel groups have been active in Guerrero in the past. (La Jornada, Jan. 6) [It is not clear from news sources whether the company is linked to Guerrero governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo.]

The government has begun a policy of gradual increases in gasoline and energy prices, leading to fears of dramatic increases for staples, as happened in late 2006 and early 2007 before the government and industries agreed to a price stabilization plan that generally held tortillas at about 8.5 pesos ($0.78) a kilogram. But the price of tortillas has now risen to 9 pesos a kilogram in the southeastern state of Chiapas, according to Mario Coutino Fonseca, president of the Cornmeal and Tortilla Consulting Council of Chiapas, and the price of tortillas may go up by 20-30% nationally. (La Jornada, Jan. 6)

The upward pressure on prices comes just as tariffs end on corn, beans, sugar and powdered milk from Canada and the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In the last minutes of Dec. 31, in an unusual cold spell, some 100 campesinos began a 36-hour anti-NAFTA protest shutting down three of the four lanes on the Cordoba-Las Americas international bridge, which links Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, with El Paso, Texas. In Tuxtla, Gutierrez, capital of Chiapas, at least 10,000 campesinos marched on Jan. 2 to protest the change. Organizers said that since NAFTA started taking effect in 1994, the resulting damage to rural production has forced more than 300,000 Chiapas residents to immigrate to the US. (LJ, Jan. 2, 3)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 6

See our last post on Mexico, Guerrero, the guerilla movement and the impacts of NAFTA.