Mexico City (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in Mexico is concerned for the social-economic situation of the country's peasants especially following the coming into force in January 1 of the final stage of lifting customs duties as agreed with a Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and the United States and Canada (TLCAN). The Agreement opens the frontiers for import and export of farm produce which means maize, flour, sugar, powdered milk and other products can be bought and sold without customs restrictions.
Since this situation is bound to have negative consequences for Mexico's peasants, in a statement “Jesus Christ, Life and Hope of indigenous peoples and peasants" the Bishops' Commission for Social Pastoral expressed concern that this trade agreement “will be good for the few farmers with means and resources”, but “will have painful consequences for subsistence farmers”. There is an inevitable “risk of greater impoverishment especially among rural and indigenous peoples”, and this will force many to “abandon their crops and move to cities which are not geared to receive them…when market laws are imposed on the rights of individuals and peoples profit becomes the supreme value and ends up favouring large interest groups and excluding the poor generating a globalised economic system which is unjust and inhuman” the Commission says.
Besides the economic impact the Bishops express concern for the cultural impact pointing out that “free importation of these products under such unfavourable conditions for Mexico's peasants forced to abandon their crops, threatens to undermine the basis of integration into the social, cultural and religious reality of such an important part of our population with a tragic consequences for our country”.
The Bishops urge Mexico's Catholics “to demonstrate solidarity to our indigenous and peasant brothers and sisters” and they propose interventions. They say the federal authorities could “examine the juridical possibility and economic convenience of re-negotiating the point in the Free Trade Agreement concerning farm products in order to give more protection to the interests of peasants and poor indigenous peoples”, generating “systems of development to help peasants and indigenous peoples overcome the negative effects of the Agreement”. The Bishops call for “globalisation of equity and justice made for the whole human family”, giving “more resources to the agricultural sector, verifying that investments reach small farmers" and do not remain in the hands of a few. “We call on Mexican society to accompany our peasants encouraging them and thanking them for their work, buying their products and supporting them as much as possible” the Bishops conclude.
The president of the Social Pastoral Commission, Bishop Gustavo Rodríguez Vega, Auxiliary Bishop of Monterrey, said that the Church in Mexico has launched a campaign in support of the peasants. The campaign “Solidarity for fair trade and responsible consumption”, aims to increase awareness of the difficulties facing peasants and to encourage society to collaborate to promote the development and progress of rural communities. Bishop Rodríguez said the campaign will develop in parish communities with arrangements for a fair sale of farm products from producers to consumers. (RG) (Agenzia Fides 17/1/2008; righe 46, parole 612)