This Week in the Americas

NAFTA and the Elephant in the Room
By Laura Carlsen

It’s rare for the junior partners of NAFTA—Mexico and Canada—to have a chance to sit down and discuss regional integration without the dominating influence of the United States. Even when they do, of course, the United States is the elephant in the room. The University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico hosted a conference recently on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) from the Canadian and Mexican perspective. Although most of the presentations were from academics, businessmen, or government officials, our panel on civil society participation set me to reflecting on the long personal and political history of the nearly 15-year-old NAFTA and its offspring, the SPP.

It gives me no great satisfaction to report that some of the most pessimistic predictions we made—the displacement of small farmers, lower than expected growth rates, the growing divide between the rich and the poor—have come true. Now we need to use these networks to continue to trilaterally organize against the SPP.

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(@) is director of the Americas Policy Program in Mexico City. The Americas Mexico Blog is found at

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New from the Americas Policy Program

BorderLines Blog, Maquilas, “Fugitive Aliens”
By Tom Barry

Tom Barry, a senior analyst with the Center for International Policy, directs the TransBorder Project of the Americas Policy Program.

Check out his border blog at In addition to a lot of information on the blog, he has three new articles:

The Dragnet for “Fugitive Aliens”

Homeland Security’s Fugitive Operations Teams typify the problems created by the Bush administration’s immigration crackdown. Incorporating immigration policy into national security strategy, the administration treats immigrants as security threats and criminals. “Surges,” “collateral,” and “fugitives” are the new terms used in this war at home.

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Maquilas Symptom of Mexico’s Dependent Development

Hit by hard times in the United States, particularly auto sales, maquila export factories are shutting down and laying off Mexican workers. More than most developing countries, Mexico has had plenty of time to develop a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities of globalization. Instead, the government has opted for opted for a dependent, ruthlessly pro-business economic policy that has left the Mexican economy and population ever more vulnerable. Mexico’s development model—or lack thereof—should be a focus of new reflection about its economic ills.

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The Immigrant Bed Bureaucracy

There’s always room in the inn for immigrants. That’s essentially the guarantee offered by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Bush administration’s massive detention and imprisonment of immigrants has created a multi-billion dollar Gulag for immigrants deemed “removable” by the Department of Homeland Security. The next administration will face an out-of-control immigration enforcement regime that consigns immigrants to a labyrinth of unregulated detention centers, jails, and prisons throughout the country.

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Amazon Tribes Fight to Keep the Xingu Alive
By Glenn Switkes

For five days in May, hundreds of tribal people from the far reaches of the Amazon Basin came together to protest plans for huge dams on the Xingu River, the largest tributary of the Amazon. The indigenous peoples of the region viewed the meeting with officials in Altamira as a critical moment to present their position on the government’s plans to flood their territories, and to describe the importance of the Xingu River system to their ways of life. The sense of determination and unyielding commitment on the part of indigenous people to protect the Xingu was not dimmed by the violence, or by the media backlash orchestrated by the government.

Glenn Switkes is director of International Rivers’ Latin America program, based in Brazil. He writes on megaprojects and environmental issues for the CIP Americas Program at

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Haitian Massacre Victims Win Historic Victories in U.S. Courts
By Brian Concannon

On May 16, a group of massacre survivors from one of Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods gave the world a lesson in persistence. After a 14-year fight for justice in Haitian and United States courts, they collected $400,000 in court-awarded compensation for the damages they suffered in the April 22, 1994 Raboteau Massacre. The victims’ courage and insistence on formal justice should also be a lesson to their own government, as Haiti continues to struggle with yet another democratic transition.

The Raboteau victims’ example is particularly relevant to Haiti’s current leadership, and to the members of the international community that exercise significant influence in Haiti, especially the United States, France, and Canada. It should inspire Haitian leaders to put aside their short-term political interests and focus on the long-term development of political institutions. It should inspire the powerful members of the international community to forgo unconstitutional regime change when they disapprove of the leaders that Haitians elect.

Brian Concannon Jr., Esq., directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), He has worked on the Raboteau massacre case since 1995, with the United Nations, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, and IJDH.

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