Jorge Durand *

Migration and flawed capitalism

Migration is a product of capitalism. They said the old Marx, when he spoke of "liberation of the workforce," from the grip of the old regime, which tied the peasants to land and the feudal lord. When capitalism breaks in traditional societies freed manpower that is no longer necessary and this has to emigrate in order to survive.

In the twenty-first century is neoliberalism which is responsible for freeing the workforce to be definitively integrated into the labor market. The best example we have is the case of Veracruz, one of the states most populous country and long tradition in agricultural production, variety of products for export and an important technological development. Until the 90s the veracruzanos had resisted the temptation to go north. The coffee was to live, some good and others bad years, like sugar cane, vanilla ancestral, the peanut and citrus. Jarochos peasants were neither rich nor poor, were happening and that was more than enough to stay comfortable in their homeland.

But neo-liberal politicians came to power, the FTA was signed, it left the field, was unleashed the international coffee crisis and was negotiated, in the worst possible way, the sugar quota with the United States. It all came down. In 1993, Veracruz contributed 0.37 percent of the national migration and in 2000 jumped to fifth place and contributes 5.6 percent of the total of nearly half a million migrants. The migration grew over 500 percent in just one decade, and Veracruz went from being a predominantly agricultural state, which set the population in its region, to be a net exporter of population.

The presence in the field Veracruz state was not the panacea, but it worked and the farmers could survive with dignity, build your house, buy land, start a business complementary. Little by little it could be improved. Today, it is no longer possible. The jarochos learned late, but quickly, that if it comes to selling their work force, it is better to offer it in the United States.

We live in a country with an imperfect capitalist system, where millions of citizens are not subject to appropriation. That is a major cause of migration, the inability of much of the population of access to credit, to get out of trouble, pay a funeral, a bond, a disease. For over a century Mexicans who have no access to credit have learned that the best way to get cash is to go to work in the United States. The minimum wage in Mexico is just to survive, no more.

In Mexico we are accustomed to paying high interest rates, very different from those that are paid in U.S. or Europe. In general, rates of credit cards, mortgages and personal loans are double or triple what is paid in the developed capitalist countries. Paradoxically, in poor countries, with an imperfect capitalist development, is paid more. In our case rates move between 10 and 30 per cent per annum, depending on the type of credit.

Paradoxically, the asymmetry that is at international level is repeated at the national level. For most Mexicans formal credit is inaccessible. Are simply not subjects of credit, do not have any documents that might prove. For them there is no other exit except resorting to loan sharks that lenders usually sets an interest rate of 8 percent monthly, which means 96 per cent annually, three times the rate of a credit card mexicana. Whatever, credit loan shark who finances the lender of any relatives or rich people, in exchange for a property deed as a backup, has some advantages. The deadlines may vary, there is some flexibility in the negotiation and can advance payments without penalty.

In addition to the credit loan shark, it can appeal to the bank of the poor in Mexico that bears the name of Banco Azteca and other financial engaged in microcredit. These are formal institutions, approved by the government, with national coverage, which offer small loans at the modest rate of 4.5 percent per month, but the real rate is 8 percent, if you add the expenses, fees, taxes , Insurance and research.

Given these conditions the easier, cost-effective and productive option is immigration. However, one can not resort to credit usurer, or Banco Azteca to go north. It simply is not profitable. A credit of 3 billion dollars, which is what is currently costing the border crossing, is converted into 6 billion dollars within one year, which is virtually unpayable.

The new lenders are migrants who crossed the border and have sufficient capacity to save and to finance the pollero. It is usually a close relative that finances payment to the coyote, which is paid in dollars. The cost of travel and per diem expenses are funded by savings in pesos. The ground rules are different in the north. The claim must begin to be paid off from the very moment that the migrants find work, nobody gives away nothing and everyone should pay what they deserve. For the newly arrived migrant they must scheme to be Spartan to build life savings and everything is going to have to be used pay the debt. But in a few months it is possible to settle the account.

The aspirations of migrants are neither exaggerated nor bizarre. They simply want access to a better standard of living: to be able to buy land, build a room, pay the expenses of the wedding, buy a van, put up a business. Unfortunately that's not possible, nor with current wages, nor with the current lending rates of 8 percent monthly, approved by tradition, custom and usage or the blessings of the federal government. Under these conditions there is no family economy that works, or effort worthwhile.

* Specialist at the University of Guadalajara in migration issues. ... e=016a1pol