February 16, 2010
Approved by the Mexican Congress in 2005 during the administration of
President Vicente Fox, a program to compensate survivors of the 1942-64
Bracero Program of temporary labor between the US and Mexico has fallen
short of its goal.
At a Mexico City meeting held earlier this month to inaugurate a special
Congressional commission to monitor the compensation process, Mexican
legislators harshly criticized the existing program for being rife with
red-tape. Incomplete lists of beneficiaries, missed payments and
insufficient funding were other problems cited by lawmakers.
Congressman Alejandro Encinias, a former mayor of Mexico City who
coordinates the Party of the Democratic Revolution fraction in the lower
house of Congress, said he hoped the new commission would help get the
compensation issue resolved by January 2011.
Initially approved with a $30 million budget, the bracero payment fund was
established to compensate former braceros or surviving family members for
paycheck deductions of 10 percent that were withheld decades ago and
supposed to paid to the guestworkers after they returned to Mexico.
Eventually channeled into a Mexican government-run bank, Banrural, the
money disappeared sometime in the 1970s.
Paying former braceros their due, Encinias said, was a matter of justice
for workers who were ?defrauded by the state,? even though their sweat and
toil boosted both the US and Mexican economies.
After mass protests of ex-braceros in Mexico and the US broke out years
later, the Mexican Congress agreed to a compensation amount of $3,800
payable in ten installments. At the first session of the new special
bracero commission this month, Queretaro Congressman Alfredo Francisco
Lugo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) called the $3,800
payment an ?absurd? amount.
Present for the commission?s inaugural session, an official with Mexico?s
Interior Ministry who is charged with coordinating the compensation
program with the states, acknowledged as many as 6,000 errors have been
detected in the administration of the fund. ?There have been mistakes, but
we have been correcting them,? said Alan Nahum, state coordinator for the
According to Nahum, five million bracero contracts were issued during the
life of a program which brought Mexican workers to labor on US farms and
railroads, but many of the work agreements were awarded to the same
individuals multiple times. In total, 139,000 beneficiaries have been
identified for compensation, Nahum said.
The Calderon administration official stressed that 5,000 people who
applied for compensation at Mexican consulates in the US have been unable
to collect their money in Mexico. The probable undocumented status of the
eligible beneficiaries puts them in a Catch 22, Nahum said.
?If they come to Mexico, they cannot return,? he added. Calling for
greater communication among the different parties involved, Nahum said the
Interior Ministry was fully committed to moving the compensation process
?I?m 100 percent Mexican but from an immigrant family,? Nahum said. ?I
know what it is like to suffer when one country is changed for another.?
PRI Congresswoman Diva Hadamira Gastelum, special bracero commission
president, joined other legislators in urging a speedy resolution to a
long-standing problem she called the ?oldest? and most persistent human
rights violation in Mexico.
On a related note, a group of former braceros from the southern state of
Guerrero has sued Mexico?s Labor Ministry over the back payments owed.
Felipe Monroy Sandoval, leader of the Alianza Ciudadana Braceroproa
organization, accused the federal government of blocking former braceros
and family members from benefitting from the compensation fund.
Lack of resources, Monroy charged, was behind the delays. ?They already
paid (money) out, but there is a lot of demand and nothing to pay it
Funding for bracero compensation is subject to the normal budgetary
process under the control of Mexico?s lower house of Congress. As time
drags on, less and less of the elderly ex-braceros are alive to receive
money which should have been paid to them decades ago.
Sources: Canal del Congreso, February 2, 2010
El Sur, January 29, 2010. Article by Cristine Sierra Rosas.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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martes, febrero 16, 2010
February 16, 2010