The Crusade against Hunger programme went into effect today in Mexico, aimed at alleviating hunger amongst those Mexicans living in conditions of extreme poverty. The initiative was announced on Monday by President Enrique Peña Nieto in the city of Las Margaritas, in the southern state of Chiapas.
Efforts will target 400 cities throughout Mexico and aim to lift 7.4 million people out of extreme poverty. Of those 400 cities, four of every five are located in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Veracruz, Estado de México, and Puebla.
The five stated objectives of the Crusade are to achieve adequate nutrition levels, eliminate acute childhood malnutrition, increase food production capacity in the most affected sectors, reduce harvest losses, and promote community participation. These efforts will be monitored by the recently created National System against Hunger (Sinhambre), which will work jointly with social organisations and private sector entities.
The campaign has come under attack since Monday, however, by social movements and opposition figures that dismiss the Crusade as “almsgiving” and a “publicity stunt”.
“No one believes that combatting this scourge in 400 cities will eradicate the hunger that affects half the Mexican population” said Jesús Zambrano, president of the Partido Revolución Democrática (PRD). “We are convinced of the necessity of substantial changes in the economic model and attention to social problems.”
Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the peasant organisation which made headlines in 1994 with their uprising in Las Margaritas, expressed similar sentiments in a letter written to Peña Nieto this week.
Colegio de México professor and researcher Julio Boltvinik joined the critics, asking “How can we achieve these goals without changing agricultural politics as well? […] How do we increase people’s income if free trade and food importation continues to dominate the country, and if the marketing of agricultural grains is in the hands of three or four transnational companies?”
According to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, approximately 52 million Mexicans live in poverty, in a population of a little over 112 million.