More than 20 Years of Million-Dollar Support for Economic Development and Chiapas Remains as Poor as Ever


By: Isaín Mandujano

Chiapas is the state that has received the most resources to combat poverty in the whole country during the last 20 years; nevertheless, measurements demonstrate that poverty has not been reduced; on the contrary, it seems to have increased in a slow but sustained way. [1]

This is what they concluded in the presentation of the report “Inequality and Social Exclusion in Chiapas, a long-term view,” realized by Chiapas social and economic researchers and financed by the international organisation Oxfam México.

The document elaborated by Jorge López Arévalo and Gerardo Núñez Medina, two researchers from the Autonomous University of Chiapas (UNACH) reveals the critical situation that exists in Chiapas, which since the 1994 armed uprising has received millions of dollars that have had little impact among the state’s indigenous and campesino communities.

Elvia Quintanar Quintanar, coordinator of the research project, said that a large part of the reason these resources have no impact, is the corruption with which the bureaucratic government apparatus in Chiapas is plagued at every level, federal, state and municipal

He said that the lack of any transparency and the absence of accountability favour a recurring corruption that doesn’t end in Chiapas and that consequently, of the resources (funds) that are designated for fighting poverty, only a few drops reach the recipients.

Ricardo Fuentes from Oxfam México said that there is a growing tendency towards inequality, and that this is a global phenomenon which Oxfam has warned about since 2014, when it revealed that 85 people possess more wealth than half of the world’s population.

He explained that the inequality crisis that the world is experiencing has special characteristics, which is why, in June 2015, Oxfam México published the document “Extreme Inequality in Mexico: The concentration of economic and political power,” wherein they warned about the gap that exists between those who have it all and those who have nothing.

“We found that in Mexico the fortunes of four people grew five times in the period 1996-2014, while, in the same period, the per capita GNP grew at less than 1% annually. The country with 55.3 million people in poverty is also the country of some of the richest men – yes, men – in the world. “Many Mexicos,” is a common phrase, but no less true for all that,” Ricardo Fuentes said.

He added that the document presented on Thursday in Chiapas specifically seeks to give a reason for the inequalities that exist in different regions of Mexico, their causes and consequences from territorial and communitarian constructions; as well as the exit routes that can be sketched from the local.

“A system in which it is possible for 55 million people to live in poverty worries us,” he indicated.

The report points out that Chiapas is considered as the state with the highest concentration of its population in poverty and extreme poverty. Consequently, it is the state that has received the most resources (money) in Programmes to Combat Poverty over the last 20 years. However, the measurements show that it (poverty) has not been reduced; on the contrary, it seems to increase slowly but surely.


The document is divided into four parts: Inequality in Chiapas: the problems on the inside and the outside; Social inequalities: the difference between being born into an indigenous family and into a mestizo family; Inequalities and public expenditures; and Development with equity: Conclusions and proposals.


The document emphasizes that Chiapas has experienced a slow growth for more than a century, which has deepened in the last 35 years, configuring a weak and unstructured job market: it presents the lowest rate of salaried work at the national level, and one of the highest rates of informal working, which reached 80% in the second quarter of 2015.

It points out that inside of Chiapas, the precariousness of employment, added to the loss of the real value of wages, are the principal determinants of economic inequalities. In addition, access to job opportunities is tied to discriminatory factors that worsen the fragile situation of the indigenous populations.

The report says that during the last century, the population of Chiapas increased and the economy grew; nevertheless, the living conditions of its inhabitants did not improve.

In 2010, Chiapas ranked seventh in terms of population on a national level, with a total population of 4.79 million inhabitants. In economic terms, the same year it generated 1.8% of the GNP and ranked 19th, while it came last in the country’s per capita GNP.

As a result of a historic process with high rates of population growth, recurring crises and economic stagnation, a vicious circle has been generated between poverty and inequality so that the state reports the highest indices of poverty and inequality in every area.

An important Note

[1] Although it is not specifically stated in this article, it is almost certain that Zapatista communities are not represented in this report because the EZLN does not permit this type of research in its civilian communities. Importantly, this study would seem to support the recent EZLN communiqué regarding the deteriorating condition of the non-Zapatista communities affiliated with the political parties.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Friday, April 1, 2016

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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