Economic Restructuring

Latin America is region where political life has overcome neither deeply entrenched social and economic polarization nor frequent outbreaks of violence arising from profound economic inequality. Owing to its proximity to the United States, Latin America has also been the ideal setting for the unrestrained expression of US interventionism over its periphery.

Teresa Gutiérrez-Haces, “The Rise and Fall of an ‘Organized Fantasy’: The Negotiation of Status as Periphery and Semi-periphery by Mexico and Latin America,” Governing Under Stress, eds. Cohen, Marjorie Griffin, and Stephen Clarkson (London: Zed Books, 2004) 71.

The Border Industrialization Program and Economic Restructuring in Mexico

Before World War II, Mexico was largely independent economically. The Border Industrialization Program, which came into effect in 1965, was a postwar attempt to attract capital from international markets.[i] The programme was preceded in 1963 by Item 807 in the US Tariff Code, which allowed American components to be re-imported to the United States after being assembled abroad, with duty applied only to the value added. These economic changes led to the establishment of maquiladoras, namely special economic zones in the borderlands of Mexico, designated for this kind of production. The hiring processes initially focused on the idea of the docile, malleable female worker as ideal for cheap production of goods, and this rhetoric remains, in spite of the growth in male-worker presence since 1990.[ii]

Some scholars, such as Alejandro Alvarez and Teresa Gutiérrez-Haces, attribute the changes to Mexico’s structure, politically, economically and socially, to conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.[iii] This stems from the movement away from Mexico’s mid-century mandate of self-determination to an increasing reliance on integration into the American economy, resulting in the dismantling of semi-socialist state practices and a movement toward neo-liberal minimalist state function.[iv]

The economic stagnation of the 1980s, slow growth in the 1990s and general hyperinflation during both of these decades served to create further reliance on American trade.  Moreover, the economic crisis environment of the 1980s encouraged privatization and deregulation.[v] Gutiérrez-Haces notes that “political life has overcome neither deeply entrenched social and economic polarization nor frequent outbreaks of violence arising from profound economic inequality,” a reality that points toward the conflation between political and economic processes at the expense of social welfare in an increasingly neo-liberalist state.[vi]

Regardless of the apparent ingrained problems with the system, employment in maquiladoras continued to rise until 2001 and they remain integral to the growth of the Mexican economy.[vii]

The cementing of the economic entanglement between the Mexican, American and, to a lesser extent, Canadian economies was enacted at the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.


Endnotes:

 

[i] Jane Collins. Threads: Gender, Labour, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) 13.

[ii] Collins 132.

[iii] Alejandro Alvarez, “Mexico: Relocating the State within a New Global Regime,” Governing Under Stress, eds. Cohen, Marjorie Griffin, and Stephen Clarkson (London: Zed Books, 2004) 90; Teresa Gutiérrez-Haces, “The Rise and Fall of an ‘Organized Fantasy’: The Negotiation of Status as Periphery and Semi-periphery by Mexico and Latin America,” Governing Under Stress, eds. Cohen, Marjorie Griffin, and Stephen Clarkson (London: Zed Books, 2004) 70.

[iv] Alvarez 90.

[v] Alicia Schmidt Camacho, “Ciudadana X: Gender Violence and the Denationalization Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.” CR: The New Centennial Review 5.1 (2005): 256, Academic Search Premier, EBSCO. 5 Sept 2010 <http://muse.jhu.edu/loginuri=/journals/new_centennial_review/v005/5.1camacho.pdf>.

[vi] Gutiérrez-Haces 70.

[vii] Enrique de le Garza, “Manufacturing Neoliberalism: Industrial Relations, Trade Union Corporatism and Politics,” Mexico in Transition, ed. Gerardo Otero (London: Zed Books Ltd, 2004) 108.