Special Economic Zones for Southern Mexico


A cruise ship docks at Puerto Madero.

A cruise ship docks at Puerto Madero.

By: Angeles Mariscal, Chiapas Paralelo

Destining 115 billion pesos coming from public resources in order to attract transnational and Mexican private investment to zones “with high productive potential,” sounds like dispossession.

The proposal of a law for the creation of special economic zones that President Enrique Peña Nieto made yesterday (September 29) in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas was clear: designed on behalf of and for private capital, in a market logic –principally transnational-, wherein the population of Chiapas is only present in the project as labor, setting aside the fact that it is the owner of the natural resources and raw materials.

Representatives of the World Bank and of the Business Council Coordinator attended the presentation of the initiative that awaits the approval of the Congress of the Union as guests of honor.

In the presentation of the initiative Peña Nieto said that the proposal seeks to guaranty special customs fiscal benefits for foreign trade, which favors private initiative in regions with high productive potential in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Yucatán and Campeche.

In no part of the proposal did he talk about the social sector –owner of the lands and resources- save for tangentially referring to the “poverty” in which the region’s residents live -according to market parameters and logic- and the possibility of them obtaining “employment.”

According to the president, to construct the initiative they had as advisors industrialists and representatives of transnationals that already have operations in Mexico, among them exporters and industrial park developers.

He said that upon approval of the initiative, three special economic zones would be created first; one of them he defined as the interoceanic industrial corridor on the Isthmus de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, which would permit the movement of merchandise between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Another zone would encompass the states of Michoacán and Guerrero, so that exporting through the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas is favored; and a third one at Puerto Chiapas, through which merchandise would be able to go out towards Asia, through the Pacific Ocean.

According to this project proposed by President Peña Nieto, infrastructure would be created for installing a transoceanic gas pipeline, which goes from Salina Cruz in Oaxaca, to Guatemala, passing through Puerto Chiapas.

As the president said, each special economic zone will offer direct financial benefits to investment and employment, special customs regulations, additional facilities for foreign trade and a regulatory framework that makes it easier to open businesses.

The infrastructure also assures the supply of energy and logistical connections with the rest of the country and with the international markets.

He said that in order for the plan to become a reality, they would offer financing through the development bank, support for training workers, for the implementation of processes for technology innovation, and for the “modernization” of the cities.

Peña Nieto said that the impact and consolidation that the Special Economic Zones would have on the regions where they are installed would be seen in the medium and long-term. Sin embargo, he maintained that he hopes to have the first businesses installed before he finished his term of office.

This project is not new! The World Bank has impelled the creation of other special economic zones in various parts of the world where the private sector can find “permanent first class infrastructure, water and electricity.”

The example of the “success” Special Economic Zones is China, a country that is now considered “prosperous” because its population produces, buys and sells thousands of various products. In Mexico, the country’s northern states are the example of “prosperity.” With these examples, I wonder whether any Chiapas resident would want to have the quality of life that the residents of China have, whether anyone would want to make their home in Monterey.

The basic issue is the concept of “development,” “wealth” and “prosperity.” Is “development” having a job as a qualified laborer? Is it “wealth” to own a car? Is it “prosperity” to live in a city?

What does Chiapas have? What does it have apart from large reserves of water, forests that provide oxygen, minerals, oil, natural gas, thousands of species of flora and fauna, a large extension of fertile land where it’s enough to plant a seed to make a tree full of fruit grow?

In recent years the vindication of some original peoples -owners of the largest part of the land and territory-, of the concept of “good living” (kuxlejal) has been more evident, based not on the accumulation of goods, but rather on the construction of the interior harmony of individuals with community and nature, in a different conception of what quality of life means.

Certainly more than 70% of Chiapas inhabitants suffer from the lack of some components of basic wellbeing, but will have to ask themselves what the cost-benefit of this new governmental “strategy” is and get ready for the process that’s coming.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Wednesday, September 30, 2015



  1. In an article posted here Magdalena Gómez expressed the opinion that the Special Economic Zones were one reason for the release of Compañero Galeano’s killers. http://compamanuel.com/2015/09/12/impunity-and-provocation-of-the-ezln/
  2. Gustavo Esteva also expressed the opinion that the regressive laws in Oaxaca and the sending of federal troops to the state were connected to imposing the special economic zones. http://compamanuel.com/2015/09/06/esteva-the-storm-in-oaxaca/




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