Who Defends Mexico?

women-1093043 The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and originally published in Spanish on Thursday April 2nd, 2015 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.

 

There are two key factors affecting the future of national industry and economic activity. The

irresponsible provocation of disputes through poor decision-making, and the ignorance that leads

to our country’s industrial and commercial policies being guided by improvisation and error.

Vested interests and corruption are further elements that seriously affect the system, impeding

the development of strategies to redress the crisis and the resultant inequality.

 

How can Mexico move towards development, when openness measures are imposed that mean

national companies are clearly competing at a disadvantage? This is the case in the steel working

industry, with the ease of freely importing steel products at subsidised prices from countries that

have a production and stock surplus. Countries like China, Russia, Korea, Japan, India and

Ukraine among others are taking advantage of this situation to market their production surpluses

with the added competitive advantage of lower prices due to the devaluation of their currencies,

making their products tempting to importers, even though they are not always of the highest

quality.

 

Operating within this context are some socially irresponsible businessmen motivated solely by

their own personal or collective interests, as well as certain politicians who are benefiting from

intervening in favour of the free market. It’s up to the government to conduct a thorough

investigation into who has been profiting from this anti-nationalist commercial policy, neglecting

our country’s sovereignty and future growth.

 

In some companies this situation has even begun to lead to lay-offs and short-time working, and

in others, spurious pretexts for introducing employment reduction measures or cancelling

benefits gained in contract reviews, which has a knock-on effect on the income and spending

power of the country’s working class. Warnings of imminent short-time working and lay-offs are

now being used with the worst possible consequences for the labour force, who find themselves

increasingly under threat from their bosses.

 

Only last week the Arcelor Mittal company announced a potential temporary period of short-

time working, currently still under review, but which will have a partial effect on more than 900

workers, particularly in terms of the payment of production bonuses and incentives. This

company is the world’s largest private manufacturer of steel products, with facilities in more

than 60 countries and close to 310,000 employees in total. In the case of Arcelor Mittal’s largest

plant, located at the Lázaro Cárdenas industrial port in Michoacán, the decision could affect

more than 13,000 people. The company argues that it is suffering from the seriously detrimental

impact of the world’s oversupply of steel and falling steel product prices.

 

The National Chamber of Steel (Canacero in Spanish) and the Michoacán Association of

Industrialists calculate that Mexico has imported around four million tons of steel at well below

Arcelor Mittal’s production prices. The suspension of activities is primarily reflected in flat steel

products, production of which has dropped by a third, equivalent to a two million ton reduction

in general terms, from six to four million tons annually.

 

The question that workers, trade union leaders and the companies themselves are asking is what

exactly is the principle guiding the government, or what interests are behind its decision to open

up the economy and trade in a way that is so variable and negative for national industry? Or

might it perhaps be that its policies are affected by powerful vested interests which are totally

divorced from nationalism, sovereignty and the necessary insight, which prevent it from seeing

that the future of our nation and the solution of its problems depend upon efficiency, logic and

social and economic justice for the benefit of the great majority of the Mexican population?

 

Faced with this situation, the landscape looks extremely bleak for industry and for Lázaro

Cárdenas, Michoacán, the largest and most important port on Mexico’s Pacific coast, which

borders the state of Guerrero and was founded 35 years ago as a flagship for industrial

development. Located close to iron mineral deposits, the port is also a site of intense maritime

activity that would be destabilised, provoking a crisis that would only serve to deepen the

insecurity and inequality of a region that is so vital to the country’s growth. If these decisions

aren’t remedied in time, there is a serious concern that Michoacán’s public debt will skyrocket,

and along with it corruption and the power of organised crime in the area. This is something not

to be taken lightly – individual or collective interests and impunity mustn’t be allowed free rein.

 

On the other hand, these policies seem to be the product of a strategy intended to destabilise and

create problems, whether social, economic or employment-related, adding unnecessary fuel to

the fire. At times they could be interpreted as creating artificial disputes between companies and

trade unions, or more often supporting some companies over another for special benefits. These

decisions variously become the pretext or the excuse used by companies to cut employment,

wages or workplace benefits, with no regard for the welfare of their employees and workers,

such as in the case of Alonso Ancira Elizondo’s Grupo Acerero del Norte, which has already

instigated a programme of restructuring staff and bringing local corrupt officials under their

complete control.

 

Mexico cannot and must not tolerate such outrages, or these corrupt political and business

practices. On the contrary, now is the time to investigate and demand respect for labour

conditions and people’s human rights, for the sake of justice, stability and social harmony, as

well as enforcing the rule of law, which is so desperately needed.

 

Under the circumstances, the question is: who is defending Mexico, and Mexicans?