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Although the key to the side accords' anticipated success lay in their ostensibly generous encouragement of a participatory politics and sustainable development opportunities, "Sustaining the Borderlands" reveals that the Mexican border populations for which they were largely created are effectively excluded from participating due to the ongoing online, territorial, class, and cultural barriers that shape the borderlands. Rather than experiencing the side accords and their companion institutions as transparent and accessible, residents experienced them as opaque and indecipherable. Simon concludes that the side accords have failed to deliver on their promise of bringing democracy to Mexico because practical mechanisms that would ensure their effective implementation were never put in place.
NAFTA took effect at a time when Mexico was undergoing a democratic transition. The treaty was supposed to encourage this transition and improve environmental and labor conditions on the US-Mexico border. This book demonstrates that, twenty years later, the promises of NAFTA have not come to pass.