Stop CANAMEX, Stop the Intermountain West Corridor and I-11! Stop the Sun Corridor! Stop the 202!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

ADOT IS RACIST! O’odham Resistance Against the Loop 202!

November 15th, 2014
Akimel O’odham Youth Collective

On Saturday November 15th, 2014, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) came to the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) to hold a public forum regarding the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway. About 25 people attended to show their resistance to the freeway. Moadak Do’ag, also known as the South Mountains, is a sacred place for all O’odham people. Eighteen other tribes also have cultural affinities to the South Mountain range, although ADOT did not consult directly with those eighteen other tribes listed in the FEIS. The Gila River Indian Community has a history of opposition to the proposed freeway dating back to the late 1980s, yet ADOT continues to plan freeway construction through Moadak Do’ag. GRIC’s tribal council has passed three resolutions against the freeway and countless actions have been taken by community members over the decades.


The morning of November 15th started off with a prayer run beginning from part of the South Mountain range that ADOT plans to blow up for freeway construction. The prayer run went throughout District Six of the Gila River Indian Community, which is the part of GRIC that would be most harmed by the proposed freeway. The prayer run concluded at a community gathering place, the District 6 ballpark. The roughly 5 mile run had runners from age 10 to 50 years old, and included runners from the other tribes that are listed in the FEIS. The runners were met with more supporters at the District Six ballpark. The group then marched down 51st Avenue to the Komatke Boys and Girls Club where the ADOT forum was held. Marchers held signs and banners reading “ADOT IS RACIST – No More Freeways On O’odham Land”, “Save the Mountain”, “We Love Clean Air”, and several others.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

From Ayotzinapa to Arizona: NAFTA Persists

You might not think Arizona has anything to do with the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state in Mexico. But these disappearances had a lot to do with trade and NAFTA specifically. Arizona is spending billions of dollars on roads as trade corridors (I-11/CANAMEX, etc.) and ports of entry at the border, in addition to the accompanying border security. NAFTA requires not just the violence of border security, that of displacement and loss of jobs, but also state repression and the violence of the drug war, which are intimately connected.

The main Arizona-based proponent of NAFTA is former Congressman Jim Kolbe, who would seem in complete denial about the situation in Mexico. True, the shit hadn't quite hit the fan in Mexico when he was glorifying NAFTA at an event combined with a golf tournament in Tubac less than a month ago. At that point, news about the students' disappearance was spreading across the world as police were searching for the mayor of Iguala and his wife who were the likely masterminds of the attack. This story of the students does not have that much to do with Arizona specifically. However, students from their particular teachers college were known to protest the neoliberal reforms of President Nieto and others, and even though they may not have been doing the same on the day of their disappearance in Iguala, this is why they were targeted. Those neoliberal reforms, praised by Kolbe, continue in order to make Mexico a safer place for foreign investment, not for the people. Some Arizona elites want a cozy trade relationship with Mexico. Kolbe likely isn't ignorant of this situation even as he paints a pretty picture. He and colleagues of his who were also involved in the creation of NAFTA (one of whom was also involved in the Iran/Contra Affair, another in the military coup against Allende in Chile) are clearly seeking to continue the free trade agenda.

The attack on the students was not simple state repression, due to the relationship between the narcos and the state. In a recent interview, Laura Carlsen explains what is called "Arming NAFTA" (or "Armoring NAFTA"),
which means that there’s a series of mechanisms—the drug war being the most important—that are really aimed at militarizing the country in order to protect foreign investment. So, as that becomes even more intensified with the greater investment in oil and gas, including fracking, including things that are going to be devastating to Mexican communities and to the Mexican environment, there’s going to be more emphasis on the militarization, not to fight the drug cartels, because they haven’t even really been doing that, and certainly not been doing that effectively, but to fight the resistance of the people to the takeover of their lands and resources.
Kolbe claims that NAFTA contributed to political stability in Mexico and improved the lives of Mexican people, according to his article, "NAFTA is Working" printed around the 20th anniversary of the trade pact. Indeed, the false myths that fed the fear in Arizona leading to SB 1070, such as rumors of violence spreading from Mexico to Arizona in the form of beheadings, (and what happened to Phoenix being the number two kidnapping capitol of the world?) are barely a memory now that the illusion of calm in Mexico has won out. This facade of calm and safety requires violence or the threat of it, but it can get out of control as it perpetuates itself. Kolbe, having been involved in the creation of NAFTA, still has an interest in its functioning no matter the consequences. If Arizona is to spend billions of dollars reorganizing its infrastructure to support trade with Mexico, there's some work to be done.

There are two institutions that play a large part here with which Kolbe has connections. One is the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the other is the Merida Initiative also known as Plan Mexico. The SPP lasted from 2005-2009 as an extension of NAFTA functioning largely in secret. Harsha Walia and Cynthia Oka write,
The SPP calls for maximization of North American economic competitiveness in the face of growing exports from India and China; expedited means of resource (oil, natural gas, water, forest products) extraction; secure borders against “organized crime, international terrorism, and illegal migration”; standardized regulatory regimes for health, food safety, and the environment; integrated energy supply through a comprehensive resource security pact (primarily about ensuring that the US receives guaranteed flows of the oil in light of “Middle East insecurity and hostile Latin American regimes”); and coordination amongst defense forces.
The Merida Initiative, allegedly meant to combat the drug trade in Mexico, came out of the SPP. Its emphasis, like Plan Columbia, is on the supply-side rather than largely US demand for drugs. The Merida Initiative is a drug war aid package involving military hardware being provided to the Mexican military (over $2 billion since it began in 2008). So not only does it increase US political power and control in Mexico, it provides the US military industrial complex with further profits. Carlsen pointed out, "There’s a constant lobbying effort on the part of defense companies, intelligence companies and private security firms in the United States to perpetuate the Merida Initiative and to perpetuate the drug war in Mexico." Yes, as long as the drug war, and therefore the drug trade continues, the longer there is need for these aspects of the military industrial complex.

The drug war is used as a way to pull off political assassinations that can be swept under the rug by making it seem that those killed were involved in the drug trade or allowing for them to be overlooked in comparison to much more gruesome mass murders, as John Gibler discusses in a really interesting interview. Laura Carlsen also discusses the so-called collateral damage of the Merida Initiative, which are largely political attacks such as on Zapatista communities, and abuses towards women.

The Merida Initiative has contributed to the militarization of the border as well. "By including 'border security' and explicitly targeting 'flows of illicit goods and persons,' the initiative equates migrant workers with illegal contraband and terrorist threats. This ignores both the root causes of Mexican out-migration and the real demand for immigrant labor in the United States," wrote Carlsen. It is rarely mentioned that so many get involved in the drug trade because that's the only way to make money. NAFTA and other reforms prior and since has led to this situation.

In essence, the power of the state (US and Mexico) to protect foreign investment requires violence--but justified violence. This complicated relationship between the state's need for crime and crime-fighting at the same time is discussed by John Gibler.
...the idea of corruption seems to lose any analytical or descriptive power, right. It's not that there's an otherwise integral pristine state structure that is threatened by some external  contaminating or corrupting force. It's rather that simply for organized crime to function--for it to exist as we know of it today--it must constantly have in its direct employ members of the state. And for the state political programs of drug warring to exist and to be used and manipulated as they are, they need the constant presence of enemy drug warriors with whom to combat.
In this context, it may not be all that surprising that one panelist in favor of continuing the Merida Initiative was a colleague of Kolbe's. John Negroponte who, as America's Ambassador to Honduras, was complicit with human rights violations and was essentially the tactical director of the Contra war. Negroponte claimed ignorance about the Iran Contra Affair, yet there is evidence he was deeply complicit. It's important to note that aside from the international arms trade, money from cocaine trafficking made up part of the unofficial funding to the Contras provided by the US Government.

Kolbe works with Negroponte and others who were involved in NAFTA, as part of the Global Strategies team of McLarty and Associates formerly known as Kissinger McLarty Associates (Kolbe started before Kissinger split from McLarty). Henry Kissinger, known to many as a war criminal, was complicit in the CIA-backed military coup in Chile. Kissinger is famous for calling NAFTA "the single most important decision that Congress would make during Mr. Clinton’s first term…the most creative step toward a new world order taken by any group of countries since the end of the Cold War … not a conventional trade agreement but the architecture of a new international system." Thomas "Mack" McLarty, president of McLarty and Associates, is described as a key figure in the creation of NAFTA and the FTAA and was also involved in the SPP.

Jim Kolbe has played a central role in pushing for the CANAMEX Corridor, the NAFTA trade route connecting Canada, the US, and Mexico that also came out of SPP. Kolbe is the CANAMEX expert for the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC) which Kolbe calls the god-father of CANAMEX. Arizona Governor Brewer, who is a chair of the AMC, appointed Jim Kolbe as the chair of the Arizona Governor’s CANAMEX Task Force and is Arizona’s private sector designate to the multi-state CANAMEX coalition which might be defunct, or perhaps has taken new form. According to the AMC website, "the Arizona Governor’s Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA)... encompasses the former CANAMEX Task Force." Kolbe was also appointed by the Governor as co-chair of the TTCA (the other being ADOT Director John Halikowski). Rather than being an extension of the Arizona government, TTCA, with its many private sector members, is more of an extension of AMC. There is a lot of overlap between AMC, TTCA, and transportation committees, as elaborated on in Arizona's Roads Meant for Trade with Mexico Despite Corruption and Violence?
The Arizona Office of Tourism joined up with the TTCA on November 7th, the same day that officials announced that the students had most likely been murdered, incinerated, and dumped in Cocula. "Arizona Should Seize the Moment as Trade Partner with Mexico" was the title of an article by an official with the Arizona Office of Tourism printed last week after protesters torched several government buildings in Mexico in response to the government's indifference. Of course there was no mention of the violence in Mexico in the Arizona Office of Tourism articles. Perhaps Arizona is just slow to realize the implications of what happened in Mexico.

Laura Carlsen explained,
Mexico, with the reforms under Peña Nieto..., is now betting the entire country on foreign investment, especially in the newly opened oil and gas area. And President Obama and the Mexican government and the transnational corporations that are based in the U.S. have been pushing this, and it’s one of the reasons they created this very false image of everything’s great and modern, and Peña Nieto is the great reformer in Mexico, that has now been completely shattered by the revelations not just of the 43 students, but the mass graves and the disappearances and the corruption and collusion throughout the country.
The issue is not so much a moral question about Arizona's participation with this narcoestado whose corruption also involves the favors to a Chinese-led consortium for a $4 billion rail deal in exchange for a mansion. It is more about the ways in which state power is used to enforce these policies favorable to private interests such as multinational corporations, here in Arizona and elsewhere. Multiple Arizona agencies have trade with Mexico as a primary focus. If they don't, the TTCA will make sure they do. Arizona just opened a trade office in Mexico and announced various moves to improve trade and increase security. There are massive plans for shaping the so-called Sun Corridor as a trade hub along CANAMEX or the Intermountain West Corridor which means the I-11 and various other roads that may act as truck bypasses, such as the South Mountain Freeway. Billions of our tax dollars is being funneled in this direction of trade with Mexico, yet we will also not see the benefits of it.

Ayotzinapa's disappeared may be a turning point for Arizona.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Arizona's Roads Meant for Trade with Mexico Despite Corruption and Violence?

Protesters temporarily close the Acapulco Airport November 10
Also read this more recent piece, Interstate 11: NAFTA Trade Corridor

It has been decided for us that the destiny of Arizona's economy has everything to do with international trade, specifically trade with Mexico. Perhaps it seemed that the current Mexican president was succeeding in making Mexico safer for foreign investments, but in recent days, the press is saying Peña Nieto is in the midst of the worst crisis of his presidency. Evidence is pointing to the horrible mass-murder of 43 student protesters in the state of Guerrero last seen in custody of police. Most likely, the murder, destruction (bodies were chopped up and burned), and disposal of the students was master-minded by the mayor and/or his wife who wanted to be the next mayor, both of whom fled but were captured by authorities. [The official story given by the Mexican government has been shown to be false.] Protesters recently attacked the National Palace in response to Nieto, rather than showing respect for the families of the students, leaving for China amidst a controversy regarding a Chinese-led consortium (which included Mexican companies) winning a bid for a high speed passenger rail. Media has exposed a likely quid pro quo deal in which Nieto and his wife received a mansion in exchange for the award for the rail bid. The $4 billion deal for the rail system was suddenly cancelled when this and other questions about transparency came up regarding the bid.

There is no question that Arizona's transportation plans revolve around trade with Mexico. There is a major push for Interstate 11 for example. Much has moved forward recently in furtherance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) largely in part to the expected growth of the Mexican economy and its role in international trade. Not to imply that there is no corruption among the US and state governments, the enthusiasm with which AZ officials embrace trade with Mexico raises various questions, especially now. Increased transportation infrastructure opens more doors for multi-billion dollar arenas for corruption, likely facilitates the drug trade (and more security at check points and such may only mean more arms, equipment, and training going to those working with drug cartels), in addition to more human rights violations and environmental damage when and where the infrastructure is built. Transportation and trade go hand in hand not only because of the requirement for movement of goods, but also because both are venues that allow multinational corporations to make massive amounts of money.

Mexican transportation infrastructure is meant to link up to Arizona's. Case in point is the major October announcement, discussed by KJZZ, that Mexican officials pledged "to spend the equivalent of $1 billion on highway improvements to expedite the shipments of goods from central Mexico into the U.S." Specifically this involves the improvement of Route 15 leading north to Nogales (part of the CANAMEX Corridor). This is where Interstate 11 from Las Vegas through Arizona is likely intended to reach the Mexican border.

There is such an effort to push international trade as the basis of Arizona's economy that John McCain wrote a Guest Opinion piece titled, "We must make it easy to do business in Arizona" printed last month in a Nogales newspaper

A recent ADOT press release stated that "the U.S. and Mexican governments finalized a plan to invest $6.8 million implementing U.S. technology, equipment and training to enhance the efficiency of the military inspection station north of Hermosillo, which inspects more than 1,000 trucks per day." Increased international trade brings more border security and militarization.

The release also listed other developments regarding Arizona-Mexico trade including increased freight rail infrastructure, "development of a new port of entry at Douglas/Agua Prieta and the expansion of the San Luis II Port of Entry at San Luis, Arizona," in addition to "advances to the necessary improvements to the Mexican side of the Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales, Arizona."

ADOT also recently announced the launch of Arizona's new trade office in Mexico and a delegation of Arizonans to Mexico City for strategic meetings. Mexican leaders announced that ProMexico, which is "the federal government agency responsible for promoting Mexico's participation in the international economy," will open an office in Phoenix.

Although the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance released its Roadmap several months ago, they're making efforts to push their agenda with their action plan recently posted on their website. Goal #1 is to Establish Arizona as a leader in High Value Trade and Investment, and goal #2 is to Develop an Integrated Transportation System Supportive of Arizona's Economic Goals. As part of this second goal, they seek to support what they call "Key Commerce Corridors." They say, "The Key Commerce Corridors plan represents Arizona's major statewide transportation initiative for the next 20 years."

TTCA is claiming they're the best authority on prioritizing Arizona's transportation plans and that they plan to come up with funding options, which involves public-private partnerships (P3). "Creative ideas for an era of reduced federal funding include new state and local revenue sources, private infrastructure, P3s, user fees, local funding, and high-impact, low-cost projects to meet infrastructure needs." Of course they're pro P3- they're made up of public and private members.

According to their website, "TTCA will serve as the state's freight advisory committee, as required under the recently enacted federal transportation bill," which refers to MAP-21. According to the Arizona-Mexico Commission website, "the Arizona Governor’s Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA)... encompasses the former CANAMEX Task Force." A review of recent Arizona State Transportation Board minutes shows an emphasis on TTCA's influence.

The TTCA would probably not exist without the Arizona-Mexico Commission. AMC is a non-profit organization which is essentially a public-private partnership unit in that its leadership involves public officials such as the governor (Brewer) and the director of ADOT (Halikowski) in addition to several private, as in corporate, partners. The Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) is primarily made up of AMC board or committee members and gives AMC's agenda more legitimacy and reach. TTCA was instituted in early 2012 by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. According to a press release back then, "ADOT – in collaboration with the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority – will bring together public and private sector partners to assess opportunities for Arizona to pursue investments in trade corridors such as the newly-designated Interstate 11, and to explore enhancements to border infrastructure. The Alliance will help identify how best to take advantage of the state’s current resources and guide future investment in a strategic way to increase the capacity of existing corridors – all with the ultimate goal of improving Arizona’s competitiveness in a global marketplace"

As discussed on this blog, AMC is said to be the "god father" of the CANAMEX Corridor by AMC's CANAMEX expert Jim Kolbe. It is likely that CANAMEX is not specifically mentioned in the TTCA Roadmap or Action Plan because Interstate 11 is now in the works. Interstate 11 would in some ways complete CANAMEX, but is also part of a vision for a similar trade Corridor called the Intermountain West Corridor, which may eventually be designated officially as Interstate 11 from the border with Canada to the border with Mexico. See Filling in the I-11/CANAMEX Gaps for more exploration of this issue.  

Below is a list of people representing the overlap between various organizations related to trade and transportation. (It is uncertain as to whether the CANAMEX Coalition still exists, hence the parentheses below. Where AMC is in bold, the individual is on the board rather than just on a committee).
  • John Halikowski (ADOT Director): State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Victor Flores: State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Hank Rogers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jack Sellers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jim Kolbe: TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • James Manson: TTCA, AMC
  • Gary Magrino: TTCA, AMC (formerly)
  • Mary Peters: TTCA, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Margie Emmerman, TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Bruce Wright, TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Tom Skancke Executive Director of I-11 Coalition, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Dave Berry President of the I-11 Coalition, formerly AZ Governor's CANAMEX task force
The TTCA recently put on an event in early November as described in an ADOT press release: As the World Trades: Leaders to discuss Arizona’s place in global economy. "Leaders from Arizona’s transportation, trade and commerce industries will come together with national and international business specialists next week to discuss Arizona’s stake in the global marketplace and strategies to foster international trade and economic growth."

An additional component of all of this is the partnering agreement signed in April of 2014 to form the Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion. According to the Yuma Sun, "The newly formed Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion will 'foster competitiveness and innovation' and 'implement economic development plans and strategies to benefit the megaregion.'"

Considering so many US citizens know someone who has lost their job to China or Mexico, how do state officials expect to convince us that more trade with Mexico will bring economic prosperity? NAFTA has not been good for any workers. Although NAFTA was not the beginning of the negative impact in Mexico of US influence on policy, nor of international trade, there is plenty of evidence that it had a major detriment to Mexican workers and their families. The US government correctly predicted that NAFTA would lead to displacement and migration of Mexicans and began to increase border security in urban areas, such as Operation Gatekeeper in the San Diego area, launched the same year NAFTA was enacted. Migrants have been scapegoats in response to decreasing employment rates, yet it is the companies that seek cheaper wages, lower labor standards and less environmental regulations. Add to this the corruption that is so clear among Mexican officials, and we can see that any bi-national partnership can bring nothing good.

Read more on this subject at Megapolitan in a Mega-Drought? A Guide to the Sun Corridor (scroll down to "Trade with Mexico".

Tuesday, November 4, 2014