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By Mark Karlin
Sept 20, 2013 – (Photo: Beacon Press) Noam Chomsky succinctly articulates the importance of David’s Bacon new book on Mexican (and Central American) migration to the United States for economic survival: “Combining evocative personal narratives with penetrating geopolitical analysis, this compelling study vividly reveals the devastating effects on Mexico of the global class war of the past decades, and their impact on the United States. Perhaps the most striking demand of the victims is “the right to not migrate,” the right to live with dignity and hope, bitterly attacked under the neoliberal version of globalization.”
Truthout talked with David Bacon, author of The Right to Stay Home, about how much of the Mexican migration to the United States comes about in dire response to profiteering economic and nation-state strategies.
Mark Karlin: When people become economic pawns instead of looked upon as human beings with dignity, they often lose their “right to stay home,” you argue. Given the massive government, corporate and global trade forces that create dire economic circumstances in Mexico and Central America – particularly with indigenous populations – where does resistance begin as you discuss in your last chapter?
David Bacon: It begins in the home communities of migrants themselves. The book describes one of the most important organizations that is calling for resistance and the right to stay home – the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations. They were able to get the first non-PRI [dominant political party] governor of Oaxaca to make a commitment to development that could give people some alternative to forced migration. But this demand is also now being put forward by migrant, especially indigenous migrant organizations throughout Latin America, in the Philippines, and we’re now hearing it in the alternative People’s Global Agenda on Migration gathering that will take place in New York next month during the UN’s high-level dialogue on migration.
MK: You are masterful and indefatigable in detailing how various neoliberal economic policies have devastated particularly those poor in Mexico who relied on a subsistence agrarian existence. How did NAFTA wound the impoverished but livable rural indigenous economies, forcing efforts to migrate to the US?
DB: NAFTA allowed the dumping of corn, meat and other agricultural products in Mexico at low prices by huge corporations whose costs in the US are subsidized by the US farm bill. They did this in order to take over the market, and today one company, for instance, Smithfield Foods, sells 25 percent of all the pork in Mexico. That made it very difficult for Mexican farmers to grow crops or raise animals and sell them at a price that would pay the cost of producing them. When they couldn’t survive as farmers, they had to leave home looking for work.