You are on page 1of 3

Context of the Zapatista Uprising: Neoliberal Reform In the decade leading up to the Zapatista uprising, Mexico underwent significant

and tumultuous economic changes. With the 1982 Debt Crisis that reverberated throughout Latin America, Mexican policy makers, the U.S. government, and debt relief agencies like the IMF and World Bank decided that macroeconomic reforms were needed to address troubling issues in the Mexican economy. These reforms included liberalizing trade, in both manufacturing and agricultural sectors, devaluing of the peso for more export-friendly exchange rates, and reducing/abandoning government expenditures to address a growing current account deficit and inefficient, even corrupt state agencies. These efforts were at best marginally successful and at worst detrimental to living standards, especially for those with the least economic security. Economic indicators like annual GDP growth reveal a mix bag of results for Mexicos neoliberal regime. From the 1982 Debt Crisis to 1998, Mexico experienced relatively weak economic growth highlighted by two additional and significant drops in GDP growth (one beginning in 1986 after an oil price shock and the other in 1994 after the collapse of Mexicos financial sector). Reducing trade barriers, reigning in government spending and stabilizing rising inflation and exchange rate appreciation did not stimulate the economic growth that was expected. Indeed, as Ros and Bouillon comment, once the difficulties linked to the debt crisis and the fall of oil prices were overcome, the economy grew at 3.5 per cent per year between 1987 and 1994. This is a slow growth rate, particularly if one considers the massive capital inflows during the period (Ros and Bouillon, Economic liberalization, distribution and poverty, p. 383) In addition to contributing to a dismal economic performance, trade liberalization negatively affected income distribution (Ros and Bouillon, p. 384). In contrast to what trade theory would predict (that given Mexicos comparative advantage in unskilled labor there would be an increase in unskilled wages compared to skilled wages), Mexico actually experienced a shift in demand toward skilled labor. This shift increased skilled wages relative to unskilled wages, i.e. an increase in the wage premium of skilled labor. Economic analyses of the ten years prior to 1994 reveal increased income inequality, as shown by the Gini coefficient, and increases in total poverty. Living Conditions in Chiapas 1990: over 50% of the people in Chiapas suffered from malnutrition, the state illiteracy rate, at 30%, was three times the national average, almost three times the national rate of children not completing primary school, overcrowding was an issue (affecting 80% of homes in some municipalities). In 1992, the Chiapas had significantly higher rates of homes without electricity, drinking water, or proper drainage/sanitation compared to national averages. 33.1% of homes in Chiapas were without electricity, 41.6% were without water and 58.8% were without proper drainage compared to national averages of 12.5% of homes were without electricity, 20.6% were without drinking water and 36.4% were without drainage. Most people living in Chiapas were agrarian producers or ejidatarios. 44.6% of

whom, as of 1990, possessed only .1 to 4.0 hectares of land. For coffee production in Chiapas, the regions second largest agricultural product, 91% of growers held less than 5 hectares of land. 116 private owners (out of a total of 73,742 growers in Chiapas) possessed 12% of the land used for coffee cultivation. Change in % contribution of GDP changes in Agriculture. Violence/ Political Intimidation Indigenous movements Successes of the Zapatista Uprising: The Zapatistas were a self-proclaimed army that declared war on the Mexican government. Indeed, the movements very origin is in armed groups defending their communities from violent attacks perpetrated by the Governor of Chiapas, Absaln Dominguez. Redefined Power Relations One of the most notable characteristics of the Zapatista uprising in 1994 was a lack of a preconceived plan for revolutionary change (Harvey, 1996, p.199). While they did and have continued to have a set of demands for reform in Mexican society, the Zapatistas were not a political party vying for power or a position in government. Nor were they a revolutionary paramilitary trying to overthrow/replace the government, indeed Harvey argues that the Zapatistas represented the antithesis of such a vanguard (Harvey, 1996, p.199). Drawing from a local history of political organization and dialogue, the Zapatistas argued that Mexicos government and civil society had violated the fundamental human rights of indigenous people not just in Chiapas but throughout Mexico. In their political organization and social spaces, the Zapatistas have emphasized plurality and the rejection of caudillismo. The Zapatistas, through their mobilizations and autonomous governing structures, have chosen to address socioeconomic inequalities/exclusion by redefining state-citizen relationships and the significance of participation and of legal rights in a democracy. Alternatives to Neoliberal Economics Gender Equality Scaling Up of the Zapatista Uprising: Guatemala comparison to Mexico Conditions for a Zapatista Uprising? Complexities Intra-indigenous disagreements

Differences between Guatemala and Mexico?