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By Jorge Fuentes
These three plans have, of course, a single intention: to incorporate into neoliberal globalization a vast region that, given its uneven development, has remained part of the strategic reserve of capitalist expansion.
In the development of the Plan Puebla Panama -PPP-, the national security policy of the United States plays a central role. First, because the region has several drug trafficking routes and, second, because of the pressure exerted by the growing migration originating in Central American countries with a final destination in North America. This without forgetting the intention of transnational capital to appropriate the abundant natural resources existing in the extensive region covered by the PPP.
For Mexico, our neighbor to the north, the PPP is also part of the state's national security concerns, no more and no less than for the same reasons as for the United States. Indeed, the Office of the Plan Puebla Panama, attached to the Presidency of the Republic, warned that part of Vicente Fox's social commitment would have a clear implementation in the PPP as it considers it part of national security and added: "A simple look at what that we are, shows two Mexicos: the one that watches and participates in the United States and the one that is tied to its delay, along with our neighbors to the south. Regional inequality threatens national security. " However, any modernization process, that is, the incorporation of the vast region included in the PPP to the logic of capital and the market, must be done without neglecting the ability to impose itself by force if the consensus fails. Thus, the militarization project of the Mexico-Guatemala border through the New Horizons Plan, designed to carry out joint maneuvers between the armies of the United States and Guatemala on the border with Mexico, precisely in the department of Petén, a Guatemalan region that It has communication through the Lacantún River with the Las Cañadas area in the Lacandon jungle, where the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has established a good part of its operational support logistics bases.
Undoubtedly, as part of the need to identify and quantify biodiversity in the area covered by the PPP for economic exploitation purposes, the World Bank sponsors a project that has been called Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, multinational in nature and to which it has recently joined the Mexican isthmus.
These three plans mentioned have, of course, a single intention: to incorporate into neoliberal globalization an extensive region that, given its uneven development, has remained part of the strategic reserve of capitalist expansion. To achieve this, it is necessary to overcome the resistance of many of its inhabitants to capitalist modernization, particularly that of indigenous peoples who decided to undertake armed struggle as a last resort to make themselves heard. Therefore, the Puebla Panama Plan also turns out to be a project with a counterinsurgency facet.
On September 11, 2000, President-elect Vicente Fox in Guatemala City, presented to local businessmen the proposal to implement a development plan that would include the south-east of Mexico and the countries of Central America. Fox pointed out the following core points of the PPP: boosting regional commodity markets, facilitating technology transfer, building an ecotourism corridor, and creating a more functional and expedited customs structure. For his part, the Executive Director for Mexico before the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), reported that only investment in the Mexican national sphere will allow the construction of 2,485 kilometers of highways; technify 694,000 hectares of irrigation; improve two maritime ports and six regional airports in addition to modernizing the Tehuantepec Isthmus railway and increasing the coverage of educational health and housing services throughout the region covered by the PPP.
On November 30, Fox met in Mexico with the presidents of Panama, Mireya Moscoso; from Honduras, Carlos Flores; from Guatemala, Alfonso Portillo and from Costa Rica, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, stated that "the Puebla Panama Plan would be the most ambitious of his government." The challenge, Vicente Fox said at the time, is to seek consensus that will allow the consolidation of the plan to integrate and develop Central America with nine states in the south-southeast of Mexico.
The lack of precision in the information on the PPP, made each one, according to their imaginative possibilities, design a plan tailored to their economic and political interests; The enthusiasm was even so great that it spread to other regions. Indeed, shortly before the end of the year 2000 there was already talk that the PPP contemplated large road and rail corridors from Alaska to Panama, as well as gas pipelines and trunk lines of electricity where whoever has the energy puts it on that line and whoever he needs it, he consumes her right there. "
Since then, the objective of the plan was extended to the constitution of a North American economic community, with more scope than those of the Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada; by the way, a reiterated purpose of President Fox and a substantive part of the US expansion project in Latin America.
Seven nations and nine federal states of Mexico participate in the PPP, where 65 million people live, of which 28 million live in the south-southeast of Mexico and about 37 million in Central America. The population of the Mexican states integrated by good or by force in the PPP (in reality, neither the governments of the nine entities nor the population were consulted on their participation in the PPP), reaches an average income per person below the average Mexican national that is 36,400 pesos per year; On the other hand, the average for the eight states in the south-southeast of Mexico is 21,900 pesos, although in some regions it is much lower, such as Chiapas or Oaxaca where it is 15,000 and 15,200 pesos respectively. In other states, such as Campeche and Tabasco, their high average personal income shows a substantial reduction when the effect of extractive activities linked to oil is isolated.
In February 2001, in El Salvador, the general coordinator of the PPP, Florencio Salazar, presented a plan to the entrepreneurs of that country and established the role of the participants: the private sector would be the main promoter of the PPP while the public sector would act exclusively as Incentive for private investment. From that moment on, several issues were defined. One of them, the subordinate role of the local private sector, consisting of seeking and establishing different forms of alliance, as a minor partner, with foreign capital. For its part, with fiscal resources, the public sector must develop "adequate infrastructure, so [public] investment in transportation, communications, highways, energy and territorial development is extremely important for the implementation of the PPP" and, in all At the moment, "public policies should seek to stimulate investment decisions by individuals."
As can be seen, the subordination to foreign capital of both the public and private sectors is proposed absolute. But the population, the Indian and non-Indian peoples, are marginalized from any activity in the PPP, let alone the plan's decision-making process. The population is only a cheap labor force and its organization in defense of its rights and resources becomes the obstacle to overcome in order to incorporate that region into the dynamics of the world market.
These three projects, apparently different and isolated, show coincidences not only in their declared ecological, social and humanitarian concerns, but primarily in their interest in the area near the Mexico-Guatemala border. These coincidences raise concern as to the true economic purposes and subordination of this area to the interests of transnational capital.
It is well known that the region that extends from the south-southeast of the Mexican Republic to Panama includes areas of exceptional biodiversity. This region, although it represents only 0.5 percent of the total land area, is estimated to contain 7 percent of the known biodiversity on the planet. Only the region it covers - which includes southern Mexico and northern Guatemala - is particularly rich in natural resources such as forests, water sources and oil, among other coveted resources. In particular, Mexico's biological wealth is concentrated in the south-southeast, from there more than 90 percent of national oil production is extracted and most of the country's installed capacity and hydroelectric generation potential is found.
Faced with such wealth, the PPP proposes: "Eliminate the obstacles that have inhibited its productive potential and, with it, promote its development and favor its integration with national and international markets, not only with North America but also with Central America." In this case, environmental conservation is used as the necessary catalyst to reduce poverty, improve quality of life, foster regional cooperation, and preserve the cultural heritage of the region. To this end, the need for financial resources that are certainly non-existent in the region is emphasized and, therefore, it is easy to conclude that transnational capitals must participate in the plan.
Of course, the PPP lawyers consider that one of the inhibiting obstacles to the development of this region are the indigenous populations and their demands. Hence the hasty declarations of the "Santa Paz en Chiapas" to corner the EZLN and try to turn it into a political force to have a valid interlocutor with which to negotiate and thus legitimize the actions of the Plan Puebla Panama.
Of course, for both Mexicans and Central Americans, it is absolutely legitimate to wonder about the consequences of opening up to national and foreign private capital a large region that is extremely rich in natural resources ranging from uranium, oil, precious woods, water. and the generation of electricity in Chiapas, the forests and biodiversity of the Chimalapas in Oaxaca and Chiapas, to the oil of the Campeche Sound, Tabasco, Veracruz and El Petén, as well as the tourist and archaeological beauties of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Honduras and Guatemala.
The strategy proposed in the PPP to grow by promoting large foreign investment in the region it covers may mean the formation of enclaves incapable of promoting development and responsible for generating new inequalities in the region. But right now there are many more questions and concerns raised by the PPP and its imposition than the answers offered by its few documents and its many apologists.
* By Jorge Fuentes
Professor at the University of San Carlos