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KU researcher suggests President Biden invest in Campesino agriculture to relieve border pressure

(Cedar Attanasio | AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 10:22 AM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - A researcher from the University of Kansas has suggested that President Joe Biden use funds to invest in Campesino agriculture to relieve pressure at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The University of Kansas says Brent Metz, professor of anthropology, has lived with, researched and written about the Indigenous people of the tri-border region in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

According to KU, Metz said President Joe Biden’s approach to refugees is already better than that of the president before him and that the spending plan could be transformational if invested in better than the past.

“Over seven decades, U.S. development and military expenditures in Central America have been, at best, partially successful and have, at worst, contributed to mass emigration,” Metz said.

Metz said Biden should focus resources on semi-subsistent farmers, also known as Campesinos, in a way that has not been done since the Cold War.

“Campesino agriculture was attacked by U.S.-promoted trade policies favoring agri-industry and the extraction of raw materials, such as minerals and hydroelectric power, at the Campesinos’ expense,” Metz said. “If Campesinos have been fortunate enough to grow surplus grain, they can’t compete with the prices of U.S. grain grown under better conditions with billions of dollars of annual subsidies.”

According to Metz, trade deals such as the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement only made it worse. He said by categorizing Campesino labor to the comparative advantage opened the doors for low-paying, underemploying sweatshop and plantation jobs.

“Contrary to the free-market capitalism touted by the lords of economic growth, Campesino resources and self-determination are being stolen at gunpoint,” Metz said.

Metz said $4 billion could provide a fundamental reset in U.S. development approaches. He said to do this, the nation needs help dealing with the effects of U.S.-driven climate change.

“Terracing and reforestation to protect the topsoil from erosion and conserve rainwater, composting to rebuild soil, irrigation systems, better long-term forecasts for determining which crops to plant, new experimental crops and the return to old ones suited to the region, and ongoing improvements to socially and culturally accessible family planning so that projects have a chance of keeping pace with a young, growing population, albeit growing at a slower pace,” Metz said.

According to Metz, there is also a need to address organized crime by building up the justice systems of nations in Central America.

“One of the biggest drivers of emigration is threats from organized crime, including that integrated in the highest levels of government,” Metz said. “The U.S. Agency for International Development has wisely devoted resources to legal institutions and human rights, but not to the infiltration of mafias at the highest levels of government. Judicial systems must protect would-be emigrants from predatory mafias, gangs and mega-projects. We should support independent legal institutions such as the former U.N.’s International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) in Guatemala, which brought the highest state criminals to justice.”

KU said Metz is affiliated with its Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies. It said he is a founding member of a topical interest group on the migration of the Society for Applied Anthropology, and his chapter “Causes of Migration to and from the Ch’orti’ Maya Area of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” has been accepted for the upcoming volume “Human Migration: Biocultural Perspectives.”

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