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That's according to Bordertown,
a Hollywood "message movies" that tries to be entertaining as it preaches,
mostly succeeds. Its politics are so confused that libertarians,
anarchists, feminists, Marxists, paleo-conservatives, anti-globalists,
and Gibby the cat should all find something to cheer.
The film has a typical "message
movie" structure. An Outsider investigates an Issue, educating us along
the way. In this case, Jennifer Lopez is a Chicago reporter assigned
to cover the Juarez murders.
Her editor (Martin Sheen)
rattles off statistics, sounding less like a jaded journalist than an activist/actor
lecturing to us. Lopez dislikes the assignment because Mexico
is a career dead-end. But after she relents, she reconnects with
her Mexican roots, discarding her blond hair dye to accept her authentically
Lopez learns that Juarez,
just across the Texas border, is a creature of NAFTA. A town full of maquiladoras, factories that assemble TVs and computers
for the U.S. market. Maquiladoras exist all along the Mexican side
of the border.
How are maquiladoras to blame
for the murders of women?
Bordertown informs us that maquiladoras "hire mainly young women because they work
for lower wages and complain less about the long hours and harsh working
conditions. Most maquiladoras operate 24 hours a day. Many
women are attacked while traveling to and from work in the late night and
early morning. The companies provide no security for the workers."
You see, factories are responsible
for workers' safety, not only on the job, but while they're commuting. (And perhaps at home, too?)
Yet there are libertarian
nuggets in this film. By morally obligating businesses to protect
their workers offsite, this film admits that the state has failed
in its core duty. And Bordertown pulls no punches; its corrupt Mexican police not only fail to protect,
they also cover up murders and frame innocent suspects.
So much for relying on state
protection -- these women need guns! Yet when Lopez enters a dangerous
undercover, she arms herself ... with rocks. Sic!
Bordertown offers other libertarian insights. One rape victim/factory worker
(Mexican actress Maya Zapata) says she'd rather live on her farm, but the
government keeps raising taxes to push people off their land, pressuring
them to accept low-wage jobs out of desperation. "We cannot pay the
taxes, so they tell us, go to the border and work in the maquiladora. Make money to keep your land. But there is no money here. The
government and the factories take everything. All the money is for
them. For us, nothing."
Well, she gets $5 a day,
so when she says "nothing," she presumably means wages are so low, she
can't pay the taxes. Taxes raised not for revenue (people can't pay
but to create cheap labor. Thus does the government collude with
business (perhaps for kickbacks?).
Marxists call this market
exploitation, but libertarians will recognize it as market distortion.
The U.S. government is also
condemned, for not mandating worker protections in NAFTA. "The screams of the women of Juarez are silent because no one will listen,"
Lopez writes in her news story. "Not the giant corporations who make
their profits from the labor of these women. Not the governments
of Mexico and the U.S. who benefit from the free trade agreement. All the evidence points to the fact that there are many killers. A whole culture of murder that gets worse the more it's denied and covered
up. Covering it up is less expensive than protecting these women. Everything is about the bottom line. And so the death toll mounts."
Lopez is right about there
being many killers. "You want to kill a woman for any reason, you
come to Juarez," a local journalist tells her.
Juarez is a bad town. Most slums are. And police rarely expend resources on poor victims. But this is an old story. It has nothing to do with NAFTA.
A U.S. Senator and the newspaper's
corporate owner pressure Sheen to kill the story. They want to expand
NAFTA to Central America, and don't want bad press. Sheen tells Lopez that
corporate America's news agenda is "free trade, globalization, and entertainment." Lopez snaps, "It isn't free trade. It's slave trade. It's a goddamn scam."
She means low wages and no
protections, yet she inadvertently has a point. Libertarian presidential
Browne too opposed NAFTA,
as a form of managed trade (i.e., a scam), saying, "Free trade can not
be achieved through committee negotiations and lengthy regulations."
A Mexican industrialist tells
Lopez, "I buy politicians on both sides of the border." State and
industry collaborate in Bordertown. Marxists see this as global capitalism, but libertarians recognize it as
statist corporatism (i.e., economic fascism).
I recommend this DVD. It highlights important issues. The women
of Juarez are real and deserve attention, irrespective of Bordertown's
Special features include
Jennifer Lopez accepting an Amnesty
International award for Bordertown at the Berlin
Film Festival; a documentary about a murder victim and the innocent
suspect arrested and tortured by police (Most of the maquiladoras shown
here are Asian -- Sony, Sanyo, Hitachi -- so why doesn't Bordertown condemn the Japanese government?); and a documentary that follows a woman's
attempt to illegally cross the border into the U.S.
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