Aranceles aduaneros y tortillas

BUENOS AIRES – Desde la llamada “crisis de las tortillasampquot; mexicana, ocurrida en enero pasado, las protestas callejeras contra la escasez de alimentos y sus altos precios, o contra el aumento de los impuestos a la producción agrícola, se han desatado desde Haití a los países de América Central, y en toda América Latina. A veces los gobiernos han reaccionado con medidas proteccionistas o iniciativas macroeconómicas, pero en algunos casos también lo han hecho con represión.

La paradoja de la crisis alimentaria de América Latina es que, aunque la región es una importante productora de alimentos, a veces debe recurrir a las importaciones para prevenir periodos esporádicos de escasez. Según el Banco Mundial, América Latina y el Caribe exportaron en 2006 55 mil millones de dólares en alimentos; no obstante, las familias más pobres del continente destinan un 50% de sus presupuestos a alimentos, y esto en una época en que América Latina ha tenido sus mejores índices económicos desde los años 70.

Es poco probable que los precios de los alimentos, que han subido un 83%, comiencen a caer sino hasta después del 2009. Para América Latina, esto es más que un desafío; es una oportunidad. El reto central es político: corregir políticas formuladas cuando los recursos, incluidos el petróleo, el gas natural y los alimentos básicos, no se consideraban una fuerza impulsora de la economía global. La clave aquí es evitar la trampa del proteccionismo y el aislamiento internacional.

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