Mexican farmers suffer

Although David M. Dickson cites arguments from both sides of the free-trade debate within the United States, he grossly ignores the social and economic effects of NAFTA in Mexico (“Free-trade advocates rally at RNC,” Business, Sept. 3).

Indisputably, since 1994, the flood of subsidized U.S. agricultural products into Mexican markets because of the North American Free Trade Agreement has caused a sharp decline in Mexico’s ability to compete in the agricultural sector.

Subsistence farmers in the south of Mexico have suffered most, with their traditional farming methods unable to compete with artificially cheap products from U.S. agro-business. This year, 18 percent of the Mexican labor force works in the agricultural sector, which produces just 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. In rural areas of Mexico, poverty levels have risen steadily since the inception of NAFTA, reaching more than 75 percent in the southern state of Chiapas. Thousands of Mexican farmers have had to sell their land at depressed prices and join the illegal trek north to the United States.

It is unwise for U.S. politicians to ignore such socioeconomic inequality in Mexico. With their livelihood in Mexico destroyed, these disenfranchised peasant farmers are forced to seek other opportunities for work. Forty-four percent of Mexicans who immigrate to the United States come from impoverished regions in the south.

For these people, NAFTA has meant the destruction of their livelihood and a savaging of their cultural heritage. They deserve to be addressed by our nation’s presidential candidates or, at the very least, to be mentioned on your news pages.