” This morning my father became an angel “, Monica shares on Facebook, Tuesday April 22. His father is Raul Rosales, 57, quality controller at the Lear Corporation, a maquiladora (1) from Ciudad Juárez (a town on the border with the US state of New Mexico). Like Raul, there are 13 of them who lost their lives trying to earn a living in this company which operates thanks to the Mexican workforce. Finally, it suspended its activity on 1er April. But too late.
1.7 million workers on the border alone
Most shops in Juarez have closed to stop the coronavirus. But according to the governor of the state of Chihuahua, some 28 of the 320 companies in the city continue to produce, “But at the end of March, there was still no soap in the canteen toilets or sinks, regrets the workers’ frontier committee. Often, you cannot ventilate the production areas because there are no windows. “
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Clément Brault, co-author of the book “L’Amexique au pied du mur”, was not surprised. “You just have to see the slums where these workers live. Covid or not, the maquiladoras in any case respect very little the law and sanitary standards. “
This cheap labor represents nearly 1.7 million workers on the border alone, and their health does not seem to be of concern to the United States. Under Secretary of State for Defense Ellen Lord even “Wrote to the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs to ask for his help in reopening the most important ones. These companies are essential. “
“We are not going to paralyze economic activity”
Juarez is not the only home of the Covid between the two countries: Tijuana, on the Pacific coast (on the border with California), is the most affected city after Mexico, with 153 dead, or 9% of 1,859 deaths . “No wonder, San Ysidro is the most crossed customs post in the world”, recalls Clément Brault. For the past month, the passage with the United States – the country most affected by the virus – has been reserved for essential activities “But in normal times, we observe endless queues”.
→ REPORTAGE. Mexicans trapped between necessary confinement and compulsory labor
Ironically, in Tijuana, medical equipment is made for American hospitals. Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla has threatened to shut down the Smith Medical Inc. plant, which produces respirator parts, if non-essential North American companies do not close, “Because workers fall like flies”.
But on Saturday, President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo), advanced the possibility of reopening the maquiladoras stopped. “We are not going to paralyze economic activity. We need each other. (…) Keeping the border open is essential ”. Problem: Amlo mentioned a recovery in early May. But the Undersecretary for Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, estimated the peak of the pandemic for the same period, “Between 8 and 10 May”.