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Recently put to pasture, the
SPP was described by the U.S. government’s website, spp.gov, as “a
dialogue to increase security and enhance prosperity among the three
countries. The SPP is neither an agreement nor is it a treaty.
In fact, no agreement was ever signed.”i
As such, the SPP is a loosely designated concept of a close economic
and military alliance between the US, Canada, and Mexico, which
was formulated between high-ranking members of the executive branch
of government and business elites, including Campbell Soup, Chevron,
Ford, Lockheed Martin, GE, GM, Merck, and NY Life Insurance. A
neo-liberal project tantamount to the extension of the North America
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the SPP circumvented Congress in order
to avoid popular opinion while heightening industrial development
hazardous to the environment and intensifying the militarization of
society. Met with expanding dissent from civil society organizations, environmentalists, unions, and human rights activists, the SPP was put to rest at the 2009 North American Forum in Guadelajara, but activists must stay vigilant to ensure that the projects it has embarked upon are also defeated.
the secretive meetings surrounding the SPP in Crawford 2005, Cancun
2006, Ottowa and Quebec 2007, and New Orleans 2008 exempted
congressional representation from their 'dialogue,' the SPP
became quite controversial even in the halls of government. Seeing
the SPP as a challenge to democracy, Fourteen States in the US worked on legislation to challenge the SPP (AZ, UT, ID, OR,
WA, MT, SD, OK, MO, IL, TN, GA, SC, VA). Even with its recent demise, however, there is no assurance that the SPP's plans to facilitate the infrastructure of corporate
domination are not still in the works. The Alberta Tar Sands, the NAFTA Superhighway, and the Border Wall still loom on the horizon like the walking dead of the SPP.
generate advanced economic integration, the SPP worked through a
de-centralized foundation of several ‘sister organizations’, or,
‘parallel structures,' in the words of U.S. Consul General John Nay
These complimentary groups, such as the exclusive North American
Forum, which meets yearly to discuss continental integration, design
the architecture for deeper corporate expansion into industrial
projects for resource extraction in precious ecosystems, freeway
construction through protected land, and maquiladora
factory construction throughout Central America.ii
recently, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada had used the North American
Forum to inveigle political integration through a process described
in the notes of former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John
Bolton, as “evolution by stealth.”iii
the recent North American Forum in Guadalajara, however, political
agreements have taken a back seat to the increased corporate
exploitation of natural resources.
Alberta Tar Sands
the several projects undertaken through the SPP is the projected
five-fold expansion of the oil drilling of the Canada Tar Sands.
“Oil Sands Experts Working Group,” was
along with the SPP in order to evaluate “the sustainable
development of the oil sands resources,” which, according to the
working group, elicits expanded
“integrated long distance pipelines” to facilitate “the certain
doubling of oil sands production to two million barrels per day by
2010,” with the intention of eventually quintupling the production
of the tar sands project.iv
Canadian Tar Sands sit beneath the Boreal Forest which composes 25%
of the earth’s original forests. Canada’s largest ecosystem, the
Boreal Forest covers 58% of the country; wetlands lay over 30% of the
terrain, draining into an estimated 1.5 million lakes and some of the
country’s largest river systems. The expanse of freshwater in the
Boreal ecosystems represents the largest expanse in the world. More
than 80% of the world’s liquid freshwater is found in the Boreal!
love the Boreal. More than 30% of North America’s bird population
relies on the Boreal for breeding. In total, 325 bird species depend
on Boreal shelter during their lives. More than 13 million ducks and
waterfowl nest and breed in Canada’s Boreal each year. Labrador’s
George River caribou herd is the largest in the world. Also, the
Boreal is home to large populations of wolves, bears, moose, and a
number of smaller animals.
million hectares of the Boreal Forest cover the carbon sink known as
the tar sands. To say that this carbon sink is difficult to access
would be to completely underestimate the environmental cost of
industrial extraction of the oil at the bottom of the ‘tar sands’.
An area the size of Florida is slated to be clear cut out of the
Boreal Forest for the sake of pluming the tar sands. Yet this natural
splendor of the Boreal to be destroyed conceals a dangerous secret:
more than 186 billion tones of carbon stored within the trees, soils,
water, and peat. Eradicating this space, seen as the largest
terrestrial carbon “bank account” on the planet, would result in
the release of what is equivalent to 913 years’ worth of greenhouse
gas emissions in Canada.v
a barrel of oil from the tar sands produces three times more
greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil, and
processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3
million homes. This is because much of the oil sits in shallow
deposits, where the soil is loose and mixed in with the oil.
Elaborate procedures for extracting the oil bears heavily on the
resources of the area. After use, at least 90% of the fresh water
used in the oil sands ends up in tailing ponds so toxic that propane
cannons are used to keep ducks from landing. The toxic tailing ponds
are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world.
The ponds span 50 square kilometers and can be seen from space.
Indeed, if Canada were to cease and desist all other industrial
projects within its borders except the exploitation of the Alberta
tar sands, it still would still fail to meet Kyoto Protocol
five-fold increase in this project would not be wise. Increased
reports of cancer and lupus have already been reported in the areas
near the tar sands, while low water levels in aquifers, rivers,
streams, and wetlands have been blamed on the tar sands’ voluminous
water withdrawals from the Athabasca River. According to STOP: Stop
Tar Sands Operations Permanently, the SPP’s projection of increased
industrialization, combined with the TILMA’s investor protections
spell out a connection to creating an integrated North American
economy that excludes democracy.
maelstrom of free trade and environmental exploitation also involves
the promotion of a unified, commercial Superhighway that would
expedite commercial traffic from Alberta through the United States,
Central America, and to Panama City (as well as other locations in
Canada). Among other concerns, the SPP website addresses this claim
directly, insisting that it is determined to “facilitating
multimodal corridors, reducing congestion, and alleviating
bottlenecks at the border that inhibit growth and threaten our
quality of life…” and it insists that the U.S., Mexico, and
Canada must, “develop mechanisms for enhanced road infrastructure
planning, including an inventory of border transportation
infrastructure in major corridors and public-private financing
instruments for border projects).”vi
This quotation seems to tacitly adumbrate a program to direct
trans-North American traffic along a special route.
environmentalist, animal rights, and other activists have been
fighting the slow but precise progress of this secret passageway.
Though its existence is denied by nearly all political leaders in
North America, the so-called NAFTA Superhighway marks crucial
terrain in the SPP's plans to increase the exploitation and traffic
of natural resources. Like the SPP itself, this freeway cannot be
proclaimed as a single proposal, because its enormity warrants
serious democratic oversight.
Already completed in some parts of the
U.S.A. and still under construction in others, the NAFTA Superhighway is being built in a piecemeal fashion in order to avoid
drawing attention to the communities it undermines, the populations
it separates, and the ecosystems it disrupts. In Indiana, for instance, four hundred families are to be evicted from their homes to clear the 7,000 acres of land (approximately acres of 5,300 farm land, 95 acres of wetlands, and 1,500 acres of forest) slated for the highway. 400 acres of karst features, which include underground waterways, caves, and sinkholes, will be disturbed during the construction of a highway that will bring increased traffic to an already polluted area for the sake of 10-15 minutes of saved travel time. This superhighway, which already exists from the Canada-Michigan border to Indianapolis, is part of the larger SPP plan, which includes IIPSA in Latin America, Atlantica in Canada, and Plan Pueblo Panama in Central America. Each of these projects boasts unique environmental consequences which would prove catastrophic to the Western Hemisphere. Even still, as activists attempt to put a stop to the devious plan, they are forestalled by State repression, which casts their tactics of civil disobedience and passive resistance as mafia-style crime (Cf: Roadblock EF!).
boost that this Superhighway would give to environmentally
disgraceful industry in the developing world is only the start. The
SPP has also put forward an inchoate proposal for the “establishment
of a grant fund for development with US and Canadian resources to
finance the development of physical resources in Mexico.”vii
This resolution would act like a stimulous program in Mexico, using
U.S. tax dollars to invest in more environmentally irresponsible and
anti-democratic industrial development in Mexico in order to better
compete with China and other industrialized nations.
the SPP has indefinite power to direct the course of continental
economic policy, the economic part is only a shadow of the military
expansion projected. According to former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.,
John Bolton’s Rapporteur Notes taken during the second meeting of
the North American Forum, the SPP is 90% security, 10% prosperity.viii
The Border Wall
In an internal memo in 2005, Secretary of Defense, Michael Chertoff,
explained further the role of the SPP: “…The [Security and
Prosperity Partnership] has, in addition to identifying a number of
new action items, comprehensively rolled up most of our existing
homeland security-related policy initiatives with Canada and Mexico,
and ongoing action and reporting in the various U.S.-Canada and
U.S.-Mexico working groups led by DHS [Department of Homeland
Security] should now be driven by a single agenda: the SPP.”ix
The implications of this memo are staggering when considering the
militarization of the Western Hemisphere, sponsored by the US to
protect corporate profits.
so-called “Plan Mexico”, also known as the Mérida
manifests an important chapter in the progression of the SPP. In
2008, the Senate approved, as an amendment to the Iraq supplemental
appropriations bill, $350 million dollars to fund the training and
equipment for the Mexican military for the “strengthening of
military-to-military cooperation between the United States and
Mexico.” In fact, the Mérida Initiative has already had a terrible
to a recent letter sent by 72 Mexican Non-Governmental Organizations
and one Brigadier General of the Mexican Army, human rights abuses
have increased 6 times over the last two years. This is particularly
important considering the expansion of the unpopular Mexico-U.S.
Border Wall, another pet project of Chertoff and the SPP, which
provides a clear indication that victims of human rights abuses will
not be afforded asylum or sympathy in the US.
the NAFTA Super Highway and the SPP’s plans for an integrated North
America, the Border Wall is coming together as a piecemeal operation
of a series of interconnected projects. The wall, dedicated to
keeping Mexican immigrants from sneaking across the border without
documentation, once again exemplifies the attitude that protection
means repression. Due to the Real ID Act, Department of Homeland Security may bypass any and all federal environmental protections in order to build its wall, allowing the SPP to turn the US into a veritable fortress for business
elites. As a result, the jaguar and an abundance of other endangered
species will be hazarded. The 3,141 kilometer long Mexican-U.S.
border spreads out along a diverse expanse of terrains – from
wetlands to deserts, and the prevention of transboundary movement is
separating animals from their livelihoods.
In Nogales, Mexico, the border wall caused severe flooding with waters up to six feet high. In Texas, the wall blocks people and animals from accessing the Rio Grande. Even after the construction of 600 miles of border wall, at 4.5 million dollars a mile, immigration maintains its steady rise into the USA, but, as immigrants crossing the border are only funneled deeper into the desert, the number of deaths by dehydration and exposure are rising. According
to Gerardo Ceballos, of UNAM’s Institute of Ecology, the wall is a
violation of international treaties, and Mexico is considering filing
a complaint against the U.S. in the International Court of Justice.x
Still, this suit is very dangerous, as the US may use the Mérida
Initiative as leverage against Mexican dissent. If the Mexican
government moves against the border wall, the US may threaten to
refuse to grant funds to Mexico in the future.
the Border Wall is, ironically, an aspect of economic integration and
the SPP, it is questionable as to what extent the authority of the
Mexican government can over-ride it. Furthermore, since the SPP was
wrapped up in industrial issues from what leaked SPP documents
describe as “the
establishment of a grant fund... to finance the development of
physical infrastructure in Mexico”
and the Alberta Tar Sands, challenging any single aspect of its
regime might be considered an attack on the overall structure, and,
therefore, a barrier to trade.xi
lies the greatest problem concerning the SPP: without oversight,
there was no limit to its power; now that it has fallen apart, it is time to dismantle those programs which it had put into effect. The populous of North America is
still arrested by the SPP's vision, about which we only have an inkling. It
is time to take the power back, and affirm a democratic program with
environmental accountability and justice for all.
and Prosperity Partnership Of North America,
iiLaura Carlsen, "North American Summit as Traveling Stage Show"
counterpunch.org, March 26/67, 2005, http://www.counterpunch.org/carlsen03262005.html
STOP: Stop the Tar Sands Operations Permanently,
and Prosperity Partnership Of North America,
Approves Plan Mexico”.
June 6, 2008
Leahy, US-MEXICO: Border Wall Condemns Jaguars to Extinction”,
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41046, February 2, 2008
Council of Canadians, West Ottawa, ON. 2006.