Agua Azul where the communities are under attack for hotels and other tourist projects. http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/kristin-bricker/2009/04/drug-war-repression-hits-zapatistas-and-other-campaign
Yesterday I went to a forum where the problems of Chiapas and surrounding regions were discussed. The speakers included leaders from Oaxacan movements fighting against a new hyro electric damn and against the American defense (read: War) CIA backed mapping project. There were also indigenous Guatemalans who spoke about about their struggles against Canadian mining companies and their own government. Other speakers included various leaders and members of social movements in Chiapas which are battling with a wide range of problems at the moment.
Some of the things that most impacted me were:
A Guatemalan man who came to speak about the diverse problems of Guatemala which are as big as those of any part of the world. After hearing about all the problems of various communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca he took a broader look at the problem we are all facing. That is that the government comes from the upper class and is serving the interests of mega projects of the upper class and multinationals. This is the priority of the government. Rural issues have little consequence in these matters other than when they stand in the way of mega projects. He spoke about the poor quality and limited access to education where class sizes can be up to 120 students per teacher. Indigenous have been pushed back from fertile lands into the mountains now the same people that took the fertile lands want to water and mines from the mines. Mining royalties are 1% in Guatemala including all kinds of concessions for these companies and free access to massive amounts of water. The consequences are devastating. SO WHAT WAS HIS RESPONSE? "Ya basta resistir, " that is "stop resisting!" In a crowd of resistance movements this might seem like a strange thing to say. What he went on to say was that resistance isn’t enough we fought 36 years of civil war. When we resist and start to make a difference they send the army to kill us. When we block one project they look for new ways to bring the next. Resistance isn’t enough! WE HAVE TO TAKE POWER TO MAKE REAL CHANGE! This is the message that I was waiting to hear that often seems lost in the south of Mexico. If you want to make real change you have to at least remove the barrier that is the state. For now that means taking power like has happened in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Cuba and to lesser extents in other countries like Brazil.
His Guatemalan counter parts spoke about taking over local and municipal governments with inclusive social movements which then deny the sale of the land where the mining companies want to dig. In Guatemala like Mexico the mineral resources of the country belong to the national government. These reforms were progressive when they were created by radical governments of the past to prevent foreign ownership but today they are used against local populations to gift land to mining companies. But if the communities refuse to sell the land, that is the surface which the companies wish to dig then for now companies can’t exercise their concessions.
Where mines have come to communities many times the people didn’t have any idea what a mine looked like or what consequences it would have for them. The results have been, drying up water sources for agriculture and daily use, prostitution where it has never existed, new diseases which they can’t afford to have diagnosed or treated, poisoned water and land. One of the offenders is Canadian giant Montana.
The national front of the fight for socialism, a movement which aims to have a broader appeal than the Zapatista movement has been able to achieve spoke about the "dirty war" (guerra sucia) that is being waged in Mexico against all those who chose to resist. What struck me was that he kept saying that the conditions weren’t right for change and that if there were a revolt in 2010 like many are predicting in Mexico that because of the lack of coordination and planning it will fail. For me this kind of talk is damaging at a time when there is such strong repression coming from the government and paramilitary groups this kind of talk can only discourage overthrow of the current status quo. I believe that the national government must be removed and all of its power brokers.
The mapping project in Oaxaca is attempting to map every resource above and below the land as well as obtain indigenous knowledge and information about sacred places. This information is then being published by the University of Kansas. It represents a threat to all the people of the region. http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/21369
She also spoke about a massive damn which is in the planning stage still but will directly affect 17 000 people and indirectly affect 97 000. It will also require funding to the tune of $1 billion dollars which will most likely come in the form of foreign loans. Adding to Mexico’s growing foreign debt which threatens to enslave generations of Mexican’s to servicing a debt they never asked for. It will no doubt be a major barrier to any future progressive government.
Leaders from San Sebastian Bachon, bases of support for the Zapatistas spoke about the 6 community members who are currently imprisoned and being tortured by local authorities. Their crime is to oppose the development of this beautiful area with hotels and other tourist attractions. The government wants to displace these communities to clear the way for these plans. The government backer paramilitary group "Paz y Diversidad" (peace and diversity) has rearmed and increased its aggressions against their neighbors in accordance with the desires of the government and private investors.
Others spoke about resistance of a government project which is introducing transgenic corn to their communities and displacing thousands of years of selection and indigenous culture.
In all it was a good day learning about the problems of the region. The call for solidarity and integration was the common theme for the day and will determine the success or failure of our broader common struggle.