manufacturing a food crisis
The Nation, by way of Alternet.net, explores the food crisis in Mexico and the Phillipines. One never has to read far before finding the usual suspects: International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and neoliberal economic policies wreaking bloody havoc.
When tens of thousands of people staged demonstrations in Mexico last year to protest a 60 percent increase in the price of tortillas, many analysts pointed to biofuel as the culprit. Because of U.S. government subsidies, American farmers were devoting more and more acreage to corn for ethanol than for food, which sparked a steep rise in corn prices. The diversion of corn from tortillas to biofuel was certainly one cause of skyrocketing prices, though speculation on biofuel demand by transnational middlemen may have played a bigger role. However, an intriguing question escaped many observers: how on earth did Mexicans, who live in the land where corn was domesticated, become dependent on U.S. imports in the first place?
The Mexican food crisis cannot be fully understood without taking into account the fact that in the years preceding the tortilla crisis, the homeland of corn had been converted to a corn-importing economy by "free market" policies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and Washington. The process began with the early 1980s debt crisis. One of the two largest developing-country debtors, Mexico was forced to beg for money from the Bank and IMF to service its debt to international commercial banks. The quid pro quo for a multibillion-dollar bailout was what a member of the World Bank executive board described as "unprecedented thoroughgoing interventionism" designed to eliminate high tariffs, state regulations and government support institutions, which neoliberal doctrine identified as barriers to economic efficiency.
There is no justification for this continuing effort to institute policies that practically guarantee an impoverished citizenry, the privatization and wholesaling to foreign entities of a nation's wealth, crushing debt, spiraling interest payments, and loss of independence and autonomy.
The classic definition of insanity proffered by Alcoholics Anonymous et al is doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. Since the Chicago school economists first began fucking around in South America, the results have been predictable and bloody and destructive, yet the same theories are repeatedly put into practice, despite having proven disastrous around the globe.
Of course they've not been disastrous for everyone. Huge multinational corporations have benefited greatly. They've been immensely enriched on the backs of the world's poor, so depending upon one's point of view, what I consider a disaster may not be so: I think starvation and death due to economic terrorism is a disaster. You?
There are heartening developments in South America and I'm hopeful that they'll continue. One bright spot is the South American Union agreed upon last Friday in a meeting of national leaders, with further talks now about a single currency for the region. It's a tenuous start and likely to falter, but the effort was based on the sound premises that there must be an alternative to American hegemony and that nations should band together to avoid falling victim to thuggish institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.
Whether it will fall apart if Venezuela's Hugo Chavez fails to win reelection remains to be seen; certainly his anti-American stance has been a driving force behind the general move of South American nations to fight US domination and that stance, too, has been the fuel for US efforts to derail his presidency. Chavez is feisty, but in a head to head battle, Chavez v. CIA, the CIA will likely be the ultimate victor.