Cal State L.A. - Project LAREGLO - Project Justification








Table of Contents


Project Justification

Since World War II there has been rapid economic and political transformation
in Latin America. Much of this economic change has been as a result of the
expanding world economy and increasing internationalization of capital and
labor. The result has in many ways been to incorporate large sectors of
the population of the Americas into the world market. While the results
of globalization differ depending on local conditions, the process has had
a profound social and political impact that is often overlooked by most
studies of globalization.

The pace of the globalization of markets and the international division
of labor has increased markedly in the past three decades. Changes in U.S.
tariff law during the early 1960s led to an expansion in off-shore manufacturing,
as U.S. corporations seek lower production costs. Likewise, Latin American
countries have responded to their own internal economic and political crises
by attracting and accommodating foreign investment. Since the debt crisis
of the 1980s, neoliberal reforms have stepped up the pace of economic liberalization
and economic integration into the world market. Foreign investment in Latin
America has expanded greatly at the same time that privatization of public
agencies has swept the region.


NAFTA and Neoliberalism Reforms

An extension of these neoliberal reforms has been the creation of free trade
agreements throughout the region. The most notable of these agreements,
the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico,
and the United States, went into effect on January 1, 1994. NAFTA aims to
reduce the barriers to trade to foster an integrated economic system among
its member nations. NAFTA deals explicitly with the technical aspects of
reducing tariffs on specific products, however it does not deal with issues
such as labor and migration. NAFTA has opened Mexico up to increased foreign
investment in crucial sectors of the economy such as the financial sector,
agriculture, and petroleum. It has kept the neoliberal reforms on pace,
even in the midst of economic crisis such as the December 1994 peso-devaluation
and its hemispheric repercussions (know as the "tequila effect").

While the process of neoliberalism and economic integration has been
a major source of analysis, less attention has been paid to the local impact
and response to this macro-economic process. Neoliberal reforms and international
competition have led to a substantial reduction in real average income throughout
Latin America. Whether this loss of income is a short-term phenomenon or
if it is endemic to this model of development is a source of constant debate.
Nonetheless, as Latin America adjusts to the fierce international competition,
social dislocations have been profound.

Recent movements to expand NAFTA to include other countries has led to
widespread discussion both in the United States and in Latin America about
whether NAFTA should be expanded and whether additional issues should be
included for discussion. A myriad of groups, many of whom have had years
of organizing experience within Latin America, have increasingly sought
to forge connections with other groups and across borders around common


EZLN (Ejercito
Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional)

The confluence of local responses to these macro-economic phenomena have
taken on a variety of forms. The uprising of the Ejército Zapatista
de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico, on January 1, 1994,
the day NAFTA went into effect, overtly declared war against the way that
the process of globalization is unfolding. The EZLN's challenge of neoliberal
reforms seeks a reversal of constitutional reforms designed to further open
the Mexican economy to foreign investment. As the EZLN has garnered attention
and support within Mexico and internationally, they have sought to more
directly build coalitions with international groups to create a unified
front against neoliberalism. In July of 1996, the EZLN held the First Intercontinental
Meeting for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism. The first of its kind, the
meeting unified grassroots community groups from around the globe and discussed
various models for creating an alternative to neoliberalism. Such approaches
typify the new social movements occurring at both the local and the international

Local responses to globalization and the growing movement toward cross-border
organizing is a crucial aspect of the globalization process that has profound
policy implications. As these movements organize and seek to challenge and
broaden the discussion of the globalization process, there is enormous potential
for a more inclusive discussion that profoundly shapes policy.

Cal State L.A. | Natural
and Social Sciences
| Latin American
Studies Program

United States and Latin American Relations

California State University, Los Angeles

5151 State University Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90032