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Cablegate: Veracruz Sugar Cane Producers and Labor Leaders

VZCZCXRO2504
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #1316/01 1211930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301930Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1661
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 001316

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL/AWH, ILCSR, AND WHA/MEX, DOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON CVIS SOCI EAGR PGOV PINR MX
SUBJECT: VERACRUZ SUGAR CANE PRODUCERS AND LABOR LEADERS
BLAME NAFTA AGRICULTURAL POLICIES AND A FAILURE TO REFORM
US IMMIGRATION LAWS FOR MEXICO,S ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

1. SUMMARY: During a recent visit to the eastern costal
state of Veracruz Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor met with
a variety of labor leaders, sugar cane producers as well as
some state and local government officials. The meetings with
government officials were fairly routine courtesy calls with
no significant exchange of information or views. In sharp
contrast, the sugar cane producers and labor leaders welcomed
the opportunity to speak with a USG official and talked
freely and at length about their perceptions of some of the
economic problems affecting Mexico. According to the cane
producers many (but certainly not all) of the problems of
Mexico,s sugar industry are the fault of &NAFTA related US
agricultural policies8 and &massive8 USG subsidies. The
main theme in Labor Counselor,s meetings with Veracruz labor
leaders (over 30 in one meeting), was the argument that
Mexican labor was essential to the American economy and that
the US should recognize that fact and quickly adopt a more
open immigration policy. End Summary.

-------------------
A VISIT TO VERACRUZ
-------------------

2. do you want to say the date (sometimes embassies take
months to report such visits, so they say &recently8) On
April 21-24, Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor recently made
a three day visit to the eastern coastal state of Veracruz
for meetings with labor leaders, government officials and the
business community. Over the course of the visit Labor
Counselor had a very public meeting with the mayor of the
port city of Veracruz, Veracruz, Jon Rementeria Sempe, and
fairly private courtesy call (at his request) with the
state,s Governor, Fidel Herrera Beltran. Both of these
meetings were basically courtesy calls. However, Mayor
Rementeria arrived with what seemed a good portion of the
city,s press corps and used the occasion to point out the
many steps he said his administration was taking to make
Veracruz a welcoming place for US and other foreign
investors. Neither the meetings with Mayor Rementeria nor
with Governor Herrera provided an opportunity to discuss
anything other than routine pleasantries. To the extent that
labor issues were discussed at all, both officials expressed
their respect for organized labor and good relations their
respective administrations had with unions in the state.


--------------------------------------------- -
BITTER FEELINGS ABOUT US AGRICULTURAL POLICIES
--------------------------------------------- -

3. The meetings with Veracruz government official differed
markedly from an extended discussion Labor Counselor had with
several prominent Veracruz sugar cane producers (and
subsequently with various labor leaders). The producers were
all affiliated with both the National Union of Cane Growers
(UNC), which is more of trade association than an actual
union, and with the Veracruz branch of the National Peasants
Confederation (CNC). The CNC is a national organization of
small to medium farmers and agro-industry workers dedicated
to promoting the interests of these segments of Mexico,s
agricultural industry. The CNC is formally a part of the PRI
(Institutional Revolutionary Party), Mexico,s former ruling
political party, and nationally its activities are often
evenly divided between the promoting the political interests
of the party and working to improve conditions for small
farmers and farm workers.

4. The cane producers who met with Labor Counselor were
convinced that one of the main sources of problems for the
Mexican sugar industry was its inability to compete because
of the &massive amounts of subsidies8 received by sugar
producers in the United States. The Veracruz cane producers
laid a big part of the blame for these subsidies on USG
NAFTA-related agricultural policies. The cane producers in
the meeting did not/not say that USG subsidies to the
American sugar industry were the only cause of their
problems. However, they unequivocally stated their view that
subsidies significantly contributed to difficulties
preventing the Mexican sugar industry from being more
competitive and consequently from generating more jobs.

MEXICO 00001316 002 OF 003

5. According to the Veracruz cane producers, US cane
producers and the US sugar industry receive subsidies for
water, power, fertilizer, etc. The Veracruz producers
believed that it was unfair of the USG to provide these types
of subsidies to the various elements of the American sugar
industry knowing full well that the GOM could not provide
similar support to Mexico,s sugar industry. The cane
producers seemed genuinely unaware that while the USG does
set control on the amount of sugar produced in the US, it
does not provide any direct subsidies to the US sugar
industry. They also seemed unaware, or at least failed to
mention at any time during the meeting, that under NAFTA
there are no restrictions whatsoever placed on Mexican sugar
entering the United States.

------------------------------------
MEETINGS WITH VERACRUZ LABOR LEADERS
------------------------------------

6. Over the course of the visit to Veracruz Labor Counselor
held a series of meetings with local labors organized under
the auspices of the state level leaders of the National Rail
Road Workers Union and the Congress of Labor (CT). The
largest of these events, and the one that received the most
public media coverage, was a breakfast attended by
representatives of over 30 different unions. The breakfast
was hosted by the CT and was followed by an extensive
question and answer period. The media was not allowed to
attend the questions portion of the breakfast.

7. The CT is an umbrella organization that groups together
Mexico,s larger and more established labor federations and
some independent unions. Although it some independent unions
the overwhelming majority of its members are affiliated with
the PRI as it the CT itself. In theory the CT is suppose to
function as an organization where the various elements of
Mexico,s organized labor movement can agree on an agenda and
present a united purpose to promote that agenda to both the
GOM and the private section. In practice the effectiveness
of the organization is often undercut by the differing
priorities of its members and the personal jealousies and
struggles for political power among national leaders of the
CT,s constituent unions. A history of power struggles
notwithstanding, the unions at the CT breakfast presented a
near unanimous front to Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor in
their desire to discuss a single topic: increased Mexican
immigration to the US.

---------------------------------------------
FOR LABOR LEADERS MORE IMMIGRATION IS THE KEY
---------------------------------------------

8. From the questions asked by the media in the meeting with
Veracruz City Mayor Jon Rementeria and prior to the start of
the CT breakfast, it was clear that the state of Veracruz has
been significantly impacted by tightening border controls in
the US and the stricter enforcement of US immigration laws.
The reporters prefaced many of their questions with
statements indicating that many citizens of Veracruz who had
migrated to the US to escape high unemployment at home were
now returning to Mexico. The reporters pointed out that the
job situation in the state had not improved from the
conditions which had compelled these migrants to seek
employment opportunities in the US. Interestingly, at no
point did any report attempt to ask the assembled labor
leaders what they were doing to increase employment
opportunities for Mexicans in their own country.

9. Once the reporters were politely excused and the
breakfast over, the assembled Veracruz CT labor leaders
expressed a strong desire for an informal discussion with
Labor Counselor. At present Mexico,s organized labor
movement is facing a daunting number of issues such as
pending labor law reform, a low minimum wage, outsourcing,
the growth of the informal economy, job loss due to
contraband, child labor, improving worker skill level, inter
union disputes, union corruption and competitiveness.
Remarkably, not one of these topics came up for discussion.
Almost the only topic any of the labor leaders wanted to
discuss was immigration reform and the possibility of

MEXICO 00001316 003 OF 003


expended immigration opportunities for Mexican workers.

10. There was a general agreement among the assembled
leaders that Mexican workers were an indispensable element
underpinning the health of the US economy. The leaders could
not understand why the US could not see or failed to
understand what struck them as a simple and indisputable
fact. All of the assembled leaders expressed deep concern
about the lack of employment opportunities in Mexico but none
of them seemed to make a connection between this problem and
a resolution of some of the issues facing organized labor.
For them, the surest way to solve the country,s unemployment
problems was for the US to open its borders to unrestricted
immigration from Mexico. The only questions raised that did
not relate to the prospects or increased Mexican immigration
to the US dealt with allegations were about the mistreatment
of Mexican workers already in the US.

11. In responding to the Veracruz labor leaders, questions
Labor Counselor drew heavily on standard Mission talking
points on the subject of immigration reform. Labor Counselor
also devoted a fair amount of time encouraging the labor
leaders to advise migrants already in the US who allege
mistreat or abuse of US labor laws to contact the nearest
Mexican consulate. The labor leaders had clearly never
thought to seek assistance from Mexican diplomatic or
consular posts in the US and they were totally surprised to
learn of the large number (40 ) of such offices operating in
the United States. The session ended with what appeared to
be genuine expressions of thanks from the Veracruz labor
leaders for the opportunity to establish contact with a
representative of Mission Mexico.


-------
COMMENT
-------

12. Veracruz is one of the more developed states in Mexico,
but this fact notwithstanding there appears to be widespread
misunderstanding there about NAFTA, US immigration policies
and even about what services Mexicans should expect from
their own government. Labor Counselor,s visit to Veracruz
provided excellent opportunities to establish new contacts in
another part of Embassy Mexico,s consular district few
chances to directly discuss labor related issues. That said,
although the cane producers and the labor leaders with whom
Labor Counselor met expressed the view that the US should do
more to help address some of their problems they did any in
way hostile toward the United States. Overall the people and
government official in Veracruz seem to have a positive view
of the US and it should fairly easy to engage them on a broad
range of labor and other topics (unrelated to immigration)
during future visits.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
GARZA

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