THE PLAN PUEBLA-PANAMA

A dynamic, crossborder citizens’ movement in Mexico and Central America has emerged to challenge the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP) an industrial development program being promoted by the Mexican government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In just over a year, the movement has managed to bring significant public scrutiny to bear on the PPP, both on the home front and internationally.

In the months after it was announced, Mexicans and Central Americans learned about the PPP only through rumor and the mass media, if they heard about it at all. Neither the governments of Mexico and Central America nor the IDB has shown any real interest in informing the communities that would be affected by PPP projects.

Given the scale of the program, the majority of the region’s 65 million residents could be affected in some way. The people of these eight countries speak more than 100 different languages. At least one-quarter of them are illiterate, and many in that group do not have access to television or even radio broadcasts. Despite these immense challenges, in the last year hundreds of community organizations throughout the region have made the Plan Puebla-Panama more familiar to area residents, if not completely understood.

Concerned with the plan’s potential impacts, a network of groups and individuals in Mexico and Central America has emerged to raise public awareness and challenge the plan. Although civil society’s efforts are still in their early stages, hundreds of regional and local meetings have introduced thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people to the PPP.

Since May 2001, the network has organized three large-scale international on the PPP. At the most recent, held in Managua, Nicaragua in July 2002, more than 1,000 people attended. By the event’s close, attendees agreed to a series of coordinated actions and strategies, indicating that anti-PPP organizing efforts are evolving from a loose network toward a coherent social movement.