Mexican farmers protest agricultural provisions of NAFTA treaty, 2008


For the Mexican government to renegotiate the agricultural provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to protect Mexican farmers against an influx of US and Canadian farm goods after 1 January.

Time period

1 January, 2008 to 2 February, 2008



Location City/State/Province

Mexico City

Location Description

Protests initially occurred at border crossing points between the US and Mexico, while efforts ultimately culminated in a large protest in the main square of Mexico City.
Jump to case narrative


Farmers organizations including the Farmers' Democratic Front


Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio, Quixote Center, Common Frontiers, Reseau quebecois sur l'Integration continentale

External allies

Mexican Episcopal Conference

Involvement of social elites

Not known


The Mexican government

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice



Group characterization

Labor union members
University students
Political opposition party members

Groups in 1st Segment

Farmers and Farmers' organizations

Groups in 3rd Segment

Mexican Episcopal Conference

Groups in 6th Segment

Political opposition party members
Labor union members
Reseau quebecois sur l'Integration continentale
Common Frontiers
Quixote Center
Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio
University Students

Segment Length

Approximately 5-6 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

4 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Ultimately, this campaign raised awareness surrounding NAFTA but was completely unsuccessful in forcing the Mexican government to renegotiate NAFTA's agricultural provisions or even consider doing so. However, the campaign receives 1 point for survival and 3 points for growth because at the end of this campaign, the culminating protest was successful in organizing and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of farmers to gather for protests in Mexico City in addition to attracting the support of other social groups.

Database Narrative

On 1 January 2008, Mexico repealed all tariffs on corn, beans, milk, and sugar imported from north of the border as part of a 14-year phase out provision agreed to under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexican farmers quickly mobilized to voice their opposition, and tried to pressure the government to renegotiate the agricultural provisions of NAFTA, a free trade agreement passed in 1994 that removed most trade barriers between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. 

Farmers said that their livelihoods were directly at stake since US and Canadian farm goods are heavily subsidized and therefore would undermine Mexican products. Farmers said that the Mexican government had largely ignored their concerns since NAFTA’s passage in 1994, forcing them to take their demands to the streets in an effort to prevent the predicted large influx of imported goods into their country after 1 January.

On 1 and 2 January the Farmers’ Democratic Front and others organized scattered protests across the country. 100 farmers partially blocked the border crossing between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, creating a “human wall” and carrying signs and banners with mottos like “Without Corn There is No Country” and “Corn and beans out of NAFTA”. Protesters also blocked several of the traffic lanes entering Mexico and protesters “inspected” trucks crossing the border and stopped any carrying imported farm goods, turning trucks away from entering. On 2 January, farmers also held demonstrations outside of the US embassy in Mexico City.

On 6 January, Mexican President Felipe Calderon defended the implementation of the provisions under NAFTA. Calderon publicly stated that NAFTA had benefited Mexico. However, in response, on 8 January, Mexico’s Permanent Commission, the representative body for the full Congress during recesses, unanimously approved a measure demanding that the Mexican government review the agriculture chapter of NAFTA to protect the interests of Mexican farmers. 

On 18 January, a group of farmers organized as the Francisco Villa Campesino Resistance Movement (MRCFV) marched from the edge of Chamizal Park to the Bridge of Americas between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. At the border, they also formed a “human wall” to briefly stop most traffic coming into the country from the US and chanted “No Corn, No Country”. 

Afterwards, a group of MRCFV’s members began a “tractorcade” from northern Mexico to Mexico City, the capital. They planned to follow the same route that Pancho Villa took on his 1914 march into Mexico City and coordinated with other groups from the northern states of Mexico to culminate in a large protest in Mexico City towards the end of January or beginning of February. The MRCFV and similar groups gained the support of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, a religious body, which also began to urge the government to re-examine NAFTA’s agricultural sections.

On 30 January, four civil society organizations from Mexico, Canada, Quebec, and the US formed a coalition and jointly submitted a letter to the Mexican, Canadian, and US governments calling for a revision of NAFTA that included priorities such as “recognizing and guaranteeing the right to maintain food security and food sovereignty”. These civil society organizations included Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) from Mexico, Quixote Center from the US, Common Frontiers from Canada, and Reseau quebecois sur l’Integration continentale (RQIC) from Quebec. 

From 31 January to 2 February, about 130,000 farmers congregated in Mexico City, disrupting traffic by moving into the city in long rows of slow moving tractors and herded cattle. At least 50,000 other people also joined farmers in the protest, including members of several labor unions, university students, teachers, and members of opposition parties. Together, this coalition marched towards the Zocalo, Mexico City’s main square, and organizers of the protest including leaders from different farmers organizations held a rally. At the rally, protest leaders continued to demand a renegotiation of NAFTA’s agricultural provisions and warned that if the government did not respond, they would organize a 7 February blockade of Palacio de San Lazaro, where Mexico’s lower house of congress met. 

The large protest in Mexico City was reportedly accompanied by organized small protests in other Mexican states where farmers blocked streets and disrupted other border crossing points between Mexico and the US.

However, Mexican President Felipe Calderon continued to refuse calls to renegotiate the agricultural provisions and to block the ending of Mexican tariffs. Further protests against NAFTA failed to materialize after early February 2008 and the agricultural provisions of NAFTA stood unchanged. 

President Calderon was later voted out of office in November 2012, some argue in part because of popular discontent with the failure of NAFTA to produce economic growth in Mexico. The newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto came into office in December 2012 , promising to deepen NAFTA rather than to re-examine or re-negotiate any of its provisions


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"NAFTA Must Be Renegotiated - A Proposal from North American Civil Society Networks." Canada Newswire, 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.<>.

Paterson, Kent. "NAFTA Has Awakened the Ghost of Pancho Villa in Mexico." Mexican Information and Research Associates, 28 Jan. 2008. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. <>.

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Rosanna Kim, 9/12/2012