INSTEAD of lowering environmental
degradation along the 3,218-km
Mexico-us border, the North American
Free Trade Agreement has only worsened the problem. The Mexican region
has become an ideal location for polluting us companies because of weak
enforcement of environment4l laws.
The town of Matamoros on the
Mexican side of the border has turned
into a dumping ground for pollutants
by fertiliser, pesticide and furniture
companies. Some of these tax-exempt
companies were sued in 1992 for causing air pollution, by a group of families
in Brownsville - located in Texas
across the border - whose children
were still-born with deformed skulls
and no brains. The families were compensated by the companies in an out-of-court settlement last year.
Ever since the Mexican currency,
peso, was devalued in 1994, manufacturing wages declined to a tenth of those
in the us, thus spurring us companies to
relocate their assembly operations.
Matamoros has only three government
health and safety inspectors who carry
out air quality and industrial effluents
tests only once a year.