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Chiapas Article

Farmers vow they will fight to protect Mexican agriculture - 11/9/2002

Southern Mexican farmers said they would take up arms if necessary to protect the nationīs embattled agricultural sector, a local daily reported.

The farmers, who face the possibility of lower prices for their goods as a result of the opening of trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States, said the government's failure to support the farm sector during the past 18 years may result in violent resistence, according to Reforma daily.

In January, Mexico will remove tariffs on milk, wheat, coffee, rice and other imported goods from the United States and Canada, in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexican farmers, World Bank officials and the federal government have warned that U.S. and Canadian agricultural subsidies will make the price of those country's goods artificially low, crippling the market for many Mexican products.

Last month, Mexico's agriculture secretary warned the government may enact reforms to battle the United States' and Europe's subsidies of farm products which he said were tantamount to unfair competition.

Armed resistance could take place anywhere in the south and southeast of the country, said Alberto Gomez, president of the the National Organization of Independent Regional Farmers.

Gomez, who spoke at a rural development forum organized by the Autonomous University of Queretaro, also told Reforma his organization planned to present an alternative federal budget proposal for the farm sector.

He said his group wants the government to spend 60 billion pesos (US$6 billion) on the agricultural sector and to declare a three-year moratorium on the opening of agricultural trade. President Vicente Fox's proposed budget for 2003 includes 34 billion pesos (US$340 million) for the Agriculture Secretariat and another 2.1 billion pesos (US$210 million) for agrarian reform.

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