MEXICO: HELL IS THE TIJUANA ASSEMBLY LINE
The maquiladora factories, where consumer goods are pieced together along the Mexican-US border, are falling apart. Their workforce is without rights, without hope, and increasingly without jobs
Anne Vigna’s incisive account of the maquiladora sector –in-bond plants that import about 97% of the parts, which are assembled to be then “exported” back to their contractors– exhibits the dire and complete disenfranchisement of Mexican workers in the formal economy. Yet over 50% of workers toil at a living in the even worse underground economy.
In Vigna’s first hand experience, right on the field during 2009, she talked to workers earning even lower wages. She found workers –mostly women– earning $58 per week in the electronics sector. That is barely more than a dollar an hour (about $1,16), for the typical work week of at least 48 to 50 hours. In the apparel sector, the hourly pay could easily be below a dollar an hour. Such labour endowments are, to be sure, what is now commonly regarded as modern-slave work wages. Contrary to popular wisdom, slavery in the XXI century is not by any account a thing of the past. It is a social phenomenon that has been growing in direct proportion to the grip that today’s global Darwinian capitalism –the worst of its kind– is increasing on a world where representative democracy has been supplanted by marketocracy, where the institutional investors and their corporations dictate the pubic agendas.
Indeed, the most prominent feature of the practice of modern-slave work in Mexico’s maquiladora sweatshops –a far more accurate adjective to refer to this mode of production– is the complete, systematic and customary violation of all international labour rights as well as many other human rights that Mexico’s Congress ratified many years ago. This creates an ethos clearly reminiscent of the worst kind of social Darwinism practiced in the factories of the English Industrial Revolution that Charles Dickens so eloquently portrayed.
In the case of Mexico, Anne Vigna’s brief vividly exposes the dire circumstance that millions of Mexicans working in the maquiladora sector throughout Mexico endure daily in a gripping account of first hand experiences. Since NAFTA took effect, millions of Mexicans have been displaced –completely disenfranchised– for they lost their past livelihoods as part of the so-called “market externalities” of today’s global economy. Many of them have sought to work in the sweatshop sector as a measure of last recourse; many after trying unsuccessfully to migrate to the U.S. where many corporations and millions of consumers benefit from the modern-slave work conditions model of Mexico’s maquiladora industry.
As could be expected, the maquiladora sector is only a symptom of a far more complex and dire problem. The actual systematic depredation and destruction of this nation for the last three decades is due to the close partnership between the Mexican oligarchy, foreign corporations and their governments, who have worked closely –through the traditional centre-periphery relationship– to exploit at ease the human and natural resources of this depredated territory.
Anne Vigna’s account of life in the maquiladora sector represents a rather important contribution to expose the truth about Mexico and denounce it. Far from being a democracy, the real Mexico can only be regarded as a devastated “protectorate” of global Darwinian capitalism, imposed jointly by the Mexican oligarchic mafias and their tutors in the global centres of economic power.