Intermestic Initiatives - Organizing on Both Sides of the Border: The Latino Consensus on NAFTA

During 1991-97 WCVI's LAP conducted a landmark education and advocacy campaign called the Latino Consensus on NAFTA. The Latino Consensus involved dozens of national and regional organizations in a binational organizing campaign that included

  • A Latino opinion survey in 1992;
  • Two white papers by UCLA's Dr. Raul Hinojosa and UTSA's Dr. Avelardo Valdez in 1992 on NAFTA's impact on US Latino communities in California and Texas;
  • Latino leaders Conferences in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Visalia, Albuquerque, Tucson, Chicago and New York City in 1991-92;
  • Latino leaders Summits in El Paso (1992) and Washington, DC (1993);
  • A fact-finding mission in 1991 to Ciudad Juarez and Mexico City that met with the President Carlos Salinas de Gortari;

David Brooks, US Bureau Chief of La Jornada de Mexico, arguably the most important daily progressive paper in the Americas, has said that "the Latino Consensus represented the most consequential binational policy effort of its timeā€¦perhaps ever."

Indeed, the Latino Consensus included engagement with the Mexican government -who had to agree for example to the NADBank too- as well Mexican civil society.

The Latino Consensus organizing campaign resulted in a Congressional group of 14 members who supported six policy proposals to amend NAFTA's implementing legislation in Nov. 1993.

The core of the Latino Consensus on NAFTA was a powerful (and rare) action alliance of WCVI and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on the one hand with National Council of La Raza on the other.

Undoubtedly this alliance was made possible by the unquestioned leadership of US Rep. Esteban Torres and his Legislative Aid Albert Jacquez -who was often called the 436th Member of Congress. Only their anointment of this Texas (WCVI)-California (MALDEF) alliance with DC (NCLR) could provide the glue to hold together the "big three."

Ultimately successful, the Latino Consensus on NAFTA put forth six conditions for its support of NAFTA including guarantees on labor and environmental rights, inclusion of migration along with trade in the deal, programs to retrain displaced workers and reinvest in dislocated communities and ample funding to clean up the US Mexico border thru creation by Congress of the binational North America Development Bank (NADBANK). Five of the six conditions were included in the enacting legislation by Clinton and the Democratic leadership, most importantly the NADBank. The NAFTA enabling legislation was approved in Nov 1993 by Congress.

The three billion-dollar NADBank was the brainchild of Dr. Raul Hinojosa of UCLA and was championed by WCVI Board Member US Rep. Torres (the leader of the group of 14 US Reps mentioned above) who negotiated its inclusion in the NAFTA-enacting legislation with then President Bill Clinton.

Over the years the San Antonio-based NADBank and its domestic window the Community Adjustment and Investment Program (CAIP) have invested several billions of dollars in more than 100 environmental/water projects along the US-Mexico border and in dozens of redevelopment projects in trade-impacted communities in the US heartland.





 
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Antonio Gonzalez On the Airwaves
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