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The Broken Promises of NAFTA

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During recent talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement in Vancouver, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab praised the 13-year-old agreement. "NAFTA works," she told the Associated Press.

The Democratic presidential candidates have been saying the opposite, citing American job loss, and they’re not the only ones who disagree with Schwab’s rosy assessment. Human rights advocates in Juarez and El Paso say NAFTA has in some ways been been disastrous for the border region, and a non-profit called La Mujer Obrera is going as far as staging a hunger strike in El Paso through Labor Day. According to a press release, the group hopes to call attention to NAFTA’s failures, which they say are deteriorating working conditions for female factory workers, creating job loss for Americans and diverting attention from border area development and job creation to the profit margins of large corporations.

Mary Dominguez-Santini, president of the local non-profit Casa Chihuahua and a former El Paso resident, supports the hunger strike and calls NAFTA a false promise.

"NAFTA has cost thousands of jobs in the U.S. -- it’s been a blow,” she tells Unfair Park. “They haven’t created what they promised -- development, good jobs, training. There are few opportunities for women to get ahead, not just as maquila workers, but as professionals.”

La Mujer Obrera points out that poverty and violence have increased in El Paso in recent years, and that women are often the most vulnerable to both. According to Dominguez-Santini, as conditions on the border worsen, more people are coming north to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“A lot of people have had to leave,” she says. “And where are they going to go?” --Megan Feldman

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