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Community Leaders -- Cross Border Network

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The Cross Border Network for Justice and Solidarity is a grassroots organization based in Kansas City that recognizes the common interests of working people in North America and builds ties for common action among them. The network seeks to overcome the phony competition of the global economy that pits workers and communities against each other in a no-win race to the bottom. Instead the Network works toward cooperation that enhances both Mexicans' and Americans' ability to win economic and social justice.


Through education, tours, and cooperative work, Cross Border Network is building ties of solidarity involving workers, unions, churches, community organizations, environmentalists and peace and justice advocates. The group believes that grassroots solidarity will eventually sift upwards to shape the agendas of larger social change institutions and impact the institutions of power.


Overcoming Barriers to Help the Needy

The weekend before the 2002 Christmas Holiday, the Cross Border Network made the three-day journey to transport approximately 90 boxes of donated food to the people of a shantytown within Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Their neighborhood consists of hovels on the periphery of a multitude of maquiladoras, or multi-national assembly plants. These maquiladoras take advantage of free trade agreements in order to reap huge profits from indigent Mexican workers who are only paid $4 to $5 per day as starting salaries.


When the group of 12 representatives from the Cross Border Network for Justice and Solidarity attempted to cross the international border with donated food, they were turned back by Mexican customs agents. While U.S. agribusiness freely dumps loads of subsidized grain in Mexico, displacing thousands of formerly self-sufficient Mexican peasants in the name of free trade, the Network’s 90 boxes of basic foods were turned away.


The refusal prompted many questions:

  • Why did the Mexican government tell the Network that it didn’t need a permit, then demand that it pay duties on free items and send its representatives back to the U.S.?

  • Why was a nonprofit organization that was working to alleviate free trade-induced hunger in Mexico unable to get the correct information on importing donated food from the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City – despite numerous phone calls to Mexican customs?

  • Why does the Mexican government turn its back on its own poor citizens?


In Nuevo Laredo on December 22, the Network toured an industrial park where many maquiladoras operate. At first glance it looked like a typical industrial park with street name such as “Transformacion” and “Progresso.” Just below the park by the Rio Grande, however, where its mint-green effluent drained, the stench and toxicity were unimaginable. Besides encouraging cheap labor and deplorable working conditions, Mexico refuses to enforce its environmental laws for fear that investors will locate elsewhere.


When the Network finally met with the families, they shared a meal and had a party, but the food baskets made possible by the generosity of metro area residents were absent. There was no food for Christmas, thanks to the quirks of “free trade” and two federal governments’ overwhelming indifference to NAFTA’s major consequence: the increasing poverty of the very people it was supposed to help.


The Network did not give up, though, and the workers finally received their food baskets on January 6.


Challenging the Government to Accept Aid

Shortly after its own experience with government red tape, the Cross Border Network received an appeal from Pastors for Peace to help with delivering 10 tons of humanitarian aid bound for Chiapas. When the group called on January 13, the food had been held up in McAllen, TX for a month. The difficulties left Pastors for Peace to wonder why deliveries of clothes, toys, and building materials from U.S. humanitarian groups to Mexican people in need could meet with such resistance when free trade supposedly exists between the two countries.


Pastors for Peace asked groups across the country to demonstrate at Mexican Consulates to pressure them to let the aid enter Mexico, and the Cross Border Network enthusiastically took up their call. Within two days the Network mobilized about 15 people to spend their lunch hour in sub, sub-zero temperatures in front of the Consul’s new Kansas City offices at 16th and Baltimore. There were similar demonstrations that day at 15 other Consulates. Low and behold, by the end of the week Mexico agreed to accept the aid.


The Network used the opportunity to introduce themselves to the Consul Everardo Suarez, who received them graciously and agreed to communicate their concerns to his superiors. He also offered to help facilitate the Network’s aid donations for Mexico in the future.


Ongoing Work, Future Events

The Cross Border Network is bringing in a speaker from a maquila in Mexico on May 19 at 7:00 P.M. at Central United Methodist Church, 5144 Oak Street, Kansas City, MO to talk about labor rights in Mexico.


They are also organizing a group to send to Cancun in September for the World Trade Organization meeting and raising funds for their ongoing sponsor-an-organizer project in Nuevo Laredo.


To get on Cross Border Network's email alert list, contact them at info (at) crossbordernetwork.org.


Cross Border Network members Dave Davis and Judy Ancel collaborated on this article.

 
 

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Re: Community Leaders -- Cross Border Network

Hello Dave. Interesting article. Although I know nothing of the specifics stated in this article, your article has pointed out several incidents that point directly to the corruption in the local and perhaps national government of Mexico. It is a Third world country after all and as such, Corruption of officials is quite common. In fact it is institutional. It appears that foreign companies are taking advantage of that, which is sad indeed. It is a big task to "combat" the desire of human nature when it comes to money, but you have to try at least... No answers here, at least no at a political level....
 

Re: Community Leaders -- Cross Border Network

This comment grows from the first comment.
I think it is important to recognize corruption and to criticize it.
I think it is also important to recognize the corruption in developed countries, such as the US, and how it contributes to problems in developing countries. The trade policies of the U.S. have helped create the maquiladoras and the low wages, bad working conditions, and pollution which they spread. The reason for U.S. trade policies having those consequences is the collaboration between U.S. corporate elites and the leaders of the U.S. government who determine trade policies.Á
 

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Re: Community Leaders -- Cross Border Network

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