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The Cost of Caring for the Land: Attacks on Communities in Resistance in Mexico

By Analy S. Nuño - It's Going Down, January 12, 2018

In the last decade, indigenous and mestizo communities in Michoacán, Jalisco, and Colima have confronted developers, mining and other extractive industries, governmental authorities, and criminal gangs to protect their territories from dispossession and destruction. Along the way, they have come up against threats, disappearances, criminalization, and death.

The body of the P’urhépecha indigenous woman Guadalupe Campanur Tapia was found on January 16th, around the 15th kilometer of the Carapan-Playa Azul highway, in a place known as Irapio. She had disappeared several days earlier.

Guadalupe, 32, was a woman who had broken the mold of her community by joining the group of forest defenders and participating actively in the search for security, justice, and territorial reclamation. The journalist Alejandra Guillén, author of the book Guardians of the Territory: Security and Community Justice in Cherán, Nurío, and Ostula, defined her as “one of the critical voices who pointed out internal contradictions — because she knew that the struggle is built day by day, starting with the small and the everyday things.”

Guadalupe was the founder of the Community Patrol, the movement against illegal logging, and a member of the “Cherán K’eri: Knowing and Recognizing our Territory” project.

On many occasions, she carried out searches for community members who had been reported as disappeared. Her murder is the latest in a series of killings of activists and land defenders in the region, including Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacán, whose natural resources are targeted by both capitalist interests and criminal groups.

“This can be interpreted as a message to intimidate and silence those who genuinely aim to re-value life through community actions that go beyond resistance. It is also a means of terrorizing women, and, on top of everything, it fits within a broader ethnocidal technique intended to diminish the struggle for life carried on by the P’urhépecha community of Cherán,” wrote her friend, Carolina Lunuen.

Still, the attacks occurring in this region are only a sampling of the systematic attacks that have been carried out against social leaders, activists, and land defenders nationwide in the last decade.

Declaration From The Regional Encounter For The Defense Of Our Territories: Oaxaca, Mexico

By Anonymous Contributor - It's Going Down, December 8, 2017

On the 6th of December, this year, we met in the community of Morro Mazatán, Municipality of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, as the Agrarian Authorities and representatives of the communities of: San Miguel Chongos, Guadalupe Victoria, Santa María Zapotitlán, San José Chiltepec, Santa Lucía Mecaltepec, Santa María Candelaria, San Pedro Sosoltepec and San Pedro Tepalcatepec, all members of the Asamblea del Pueblo Chontal para la Defensa del Territorio [Chontal People’s Assembly for the Defense of the Territory]; as well as representatives of Morro Mazatán, Santa Gertrudis Miramar, Tilzapote, San Pablo Mitla, Tlacolula de Matamoros, Rincón Bamba, Asamblea de Comuneros de Unión Hidalgo [Comuneros’ Assembly of Unión Hidalgo], Colectivo Matzá [Matzá Collective] from the community of San Miguel Chimalapa, and Tequio Jurídico AC [Collective Legal Work Civil Association], to advance the “Regional Encounter for the Defense of Our Territories,” with the goal of informing each other and articulating ourselves for our own defense in the face of megaprojects that dispossess us and extractive projects, among them, mining and Special Economic Zones.

In our analysis, our territories find themselves at risk under a capitalist system which in our country began to deepen in the 90s with the reconfiguration of the state’s legal framework. This included reforms to constitutional article 27, the mining law, the foreign investment law, and the entry into the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, generating legal conditions favoring national and international businesses that seek to impose neo-extractivist projects such as mining, wind energy projects, hydroelectric dams, high-tension towers, Special Economic Zones, tourist projects and as a consequence the militarization and paramilitarization of the territory.

In this encounter we listened to the experiences of regional organization processes from San Pablo Mitla and Tlacolula de Matamoros, who are defending their territory in the face of the installation/relocation of a military zone by the federal government through the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), the state government, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Municipal Presidents of San Pablo Mitla and Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Thanks to citizen organization, they have suspended this project; however, they remain attentive before new threats to reactivate the project utilizing a real estate company on land in Tlacolula. The residents also denounced the mining concessions in the district of Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Likewise, we listened to the experiences of the Chontal People’s Assembly for the Defense of the Territory, who have organized to defend themselves faced with the imposition of the mining concession Zapotitlán 1 granted to the companies Zalamera SA de CV and Minaurum Gold by the Ministry of the Economy. It would strip 5,413 hectares [13,375 acres] from six Chontal communities in the high region.

In this encounter, the representatives of the communities of Tilzapote and San Francisco Cozoaltepec, Municipality of Santa María Tonameca, denounced the supposed small proprietors Pedro Martínez Araiza and Domitila Guzmán Olivera. The community doesn’t know these people, who are trying to take away their territory under the argument that they are executing a resolution of the Unitary Agrarian Tribunal that recognizes them as the owners of 300 hectares [741 acres] where the village sits, in so doing, displacing them from their community. The Agrarian Ombudsman’s office, the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial, and Urban Development, the National Agrarian Register, and the aforementioned Unitary Agrarian Tribunal Number 21 are among those responsible for this situation, putting the pueblo—composed of 70 families—at risk. These government institutions and small proprietors threaten the inhabitants with the loss of 300 hectares, which spans the entirety of their territory, and the neglect of their personal defense. [Translator’s note: read more about this situation here, and there is a video in Spanish here.]

Those representing the Matzá Collective from the community of San Miguel Chimalapa denounced the fact that their 134,000 hectare [331,000 acre] communal territory has been pierced by a series of landgrabs characterized by agrarian conflicts with the state of Chiapas and mining concessions, which span 7,200 hectares [18,000 acres] of communal lands. The companies involved are Zalamera, Minaurum Gold, and Gol Cooper, and their projects would put at risk the Espíritu Santo, Zacatepec, and Ostuta rivers, on which the lives of the Zoques, Binniza, and Ikoots peoples depend.

The representative of the Comuneros’ Assembly of Unión Hidalgo denounced the illegality of the contracts on common lands signed by wind energy companies like France Electric and EDEMEX with supposed small proprietors. The Unitary Agrarian Tribunal of Tuxtepec does not acknowledge the experts’ reports offered by the agrarian community, and validates these contracts.

Shock Doctrine Implemented in Oaxaca After Earthquake

By Renata Bessi and Santiago Navarro F. - It's Going Down, November 28, 2017

Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, argues that the economic policies of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics have gained importance in countries with free market models not because they are popular, but rather because through the impacts of disasters or contingencies on the psychology of society, in the face of commotion and confusion, unpopular reforms can be put into place.

It has been little more than a month since September 7, when the strongest earthquake of the last 100 years in Mexico hit, at 8.2 on the Richter scale. The landscape in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the region most affected, is still one of devastation. The city of Juchitán de Zaragoza resembles a ghost town. Wherever you look, there is debris or damaged buildings. The police and military still roam the streets, heavily armed.

The earth has not stopped shaking. Strange sounds emanate from the depths of the sea on the shores of Oaxaca. It is possible to feel tremors every hour. Mexico’s National Seismological Service has registered more than 6,000 aftershocks, in addition to a second earthquake with a Richter scale reading of 7.2 that happened on September 19 and devastated several sites in Mexico City, where 369 deaths have counted as of the October 4.

Official data from the government of Oaxaca state that the earthquake affected 120,000 people in 41 municipalities, as well as 60,600 homes, of which 20,664 were destroyed and 39,956 had partial damage. Its infrastructure, drinking water, and drainage networks are damaged. The local economy has been hit. Garbage is piling up in the streets. There is concern about a possible health crisis.

Mexico City Earthquake Survivors: “We Had to Organize Ourselves”

By General Coordination of Mexico City Survivors - It's Going Down, November 15, 2017

With the approval of the 2018 Federation Expenditure Budget (PEF), the Chamber of Deputies showed their insensitivity and irresponsibility in dealing with the crisis left by the September 19 earthquake. They missed a historic opportunity to act in solidarity in the face of a national emergency of catastrophic proportions.

By means of mobilization, not by parliamentary will, a Reconstruction Fund (FONREC) of 2.5 billion pesos [roughly $130 million USD] was created. These resources are clearly insufficient for the reconstruction, repair, and reinforcement of the damaged dwellings and buildings.

This budget item, aside from expanding the Natural Disaster Fund, the Natural Disaster Prevention Fund, and the Capital City Fund, has no clear mechanisms nor rules to ensure that the resources land in the affected zones effectively and transparently.

Legislators who backed the 2018 PEF did not consider the situation of survivors as a priority. This is evident from their approval of 38 billion pesos [$1.98 billion USD] to continue bank bailout payments (Fobaproa).

At the same time, the federal representatives “authorized” a 200 million peso [$10.4 million USD] budget for the re-leveling of one of the buildings in San Lázaro [where Congress meets] that was damaged by the quake. It would seem that their sense of responsibility when faced with an event like that of September 19 only stretches as far as the walls of the Legislative Palace.

Furthermore, the Expenditure Budget maintains superfluous spending on perks, travel allowances, meals, and major medical expenses, for which it will designate 26 billion pesos [$1.35 billion USD], which could easily be used for reconstruction.

This disinterest compels us to strengthen our organizational efforts as survivors. Before our mobilization on November 9, a specific line item for reconstruction wasn’t even being considered in the PEF. We had to carry out joint actions for our demands to be made visible.

Protesting in the streets, where we’ve been since the day of the earthquake, we realized that there are many citizens who have demonstrated their support for us and understand our problems. Just as in the rescue efforts, we ask the people of Mexico for their solidarity in our struggle for reconstruction and against the oblivion in which we find ourselves immersed.

We will continue to bring our demands to the respective agencies, federal and local: that public resources be increased in accordance with our needs and used for the tasks of reconstruction, repair, and reinforcement of damaged buildings; as well as the issuance of advisory statements and necessary technical studies into soil mechanics, topographical levels, and materials resistance, among other subjects. Nor do we rule out turning to international agencies.

It’s important to point out that we are looking for solutions for all of the survivors, in their homes just as much as in the schools, hospitals, streets, and other public infrastructure damaged by the earthquake.

It must be underscored that the General Coordination of Mexico City Survivors is nonpartisan and from this moment on we reject all attempts to approach us in order to turn us into political spoils or a business opportunity for real estate developers.

We are citizens who demand the right to a dignified and safe home. In the face of the void displayed by the authorities, at all levels of government, we had to organize ourselves to confront the situation caused by the earthquake.

Canadian Mining is Dispossessing Indigenous Peoples and Campesino Communities in Mexico

By Mexican Network of Mining Affected People - The Bullet, October 16, 2017

On the occasion of Justin Trudeau's state visit to Mexico (12 Oct. 2017), the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People urges Canadian mining company invasion of Mexico to stop and withdraw.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has presented himself on the international stage as a democrat, a supporter of human rights and freedoms, and committed to fulfilling the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[1] Although on this latter point it is important to mention that the government has taken a weak position, limiting its support for the declaration within the scope of the Canadian constitution, which is not minor, particularly if Canada continues to refuse to ratify Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization[2] and fails to respect the self-determination of Indigenous peoples in practice.

Trudeau's visit to our country has been announced as an opportunity to strengthen commercial ties between Mexico and Canada, which is bad news for those peoples and communities who have been seriously affected by Canadian mining activities. Today, Canada has become the biggest source of foreign investment in mining around the world and in Mexico, to such an extent that 65 per cent of foreign mining companies in Mexico are listed in Canada. For Canada, Mexico has become the second most important destination for Canadian mining investment abroad, after the U.S., such that 11.3% of Canadian mining assets are in Mexico.

The power that Canadian mining wields in Latin America has been openly and arbitrarily promoted by Canada's entire diplomatic corp along the lines of its “economic diplomacy” policy through its embassies. Like good colonialists, they continue to propagate racism and hatred toward Indigenous peoples and campesino communities when they encourage mining investment in an area such as Guerrero – where there is tremendous Canadian mining investment – and then issue alerts to Canadian tourists to avoid traveling to the same place, given the violence and risks that people live with there.

The political and financial weight of Canadian mining companies and the government is a reality that has been used to influence the promotion of constitutional reforms, laws and regulations in the extractive sector to help facilitate foreign investment, as well as to weaken and deny redress for harms, tax payments, or any other condition that might affect company profits.

How the earthquakes shook Mexican politics

By Edgard Sánchez Ramírez - Socialist Worker, October 2, 2017

WE ARE not cursed, nor do we suffer from divine punishment or mere natural disasters, but from the consequences of a savage capitalism and the policies of the governments that defend it.

Just after September 7, when the first big earthquakes hit southern Mexico, the Senate announced it had opened a bank account to collect donations to support survivors in Chiapas and Oaxaca. They didn't receive a single donation from Mexican citizens, and hardly any from the senators themselves. By contrast, Section 22 of the CNTE [the radical section of the Mexican teachers' union] transported tons of goods and first aid materials from Mexico City and beyond to the affected areas to share them directly with the people of Oaxaca.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto [or EPN as he is known] went to Oaxaca to promise aid, Section 22 had already distributed the better part of what had been collected. And after the earthquake hit Mexico City and central Mexico on September 19, there were widespread calls for the public to give aid directly to social organizations and movements that are independent of the government and the institutional political parties.

Centers have opened all over Mexico City--in ordinary families' homes, union halls like the electrical workers union (SME), and artists' studios such as Oaxacan painter Francisco Toledo--to collect aid, bypassing the state and delivering it directly to neighborhoods, towns, and communities who are in desperate need of it. People have offered food, water, child care and even their electrical outlets so volunteers can charge their cell phones.

Obviously, this brings to mind the tremendous people's response after the earthquake in 1985 that killed up to 10,000 people in Mexico City. Tens of thousands of people have volunteered for brigades to rescue people, remove debris, carry food, clothes and water, reinforce damaged houses, provide tools for digging, etc. The spontaneous rebirth of this tradition is all the more remarkable because the great majority of these brigadistas were not even born in 1985!

It is as inspiring as it is hopeful see a huge number of youth helping rescue people and offering aid to the survivors. Groups of young people--who previously belonged to no organization, but came together as classmates, friends or even strangers who just happened to find each other--are taking to the streets with backpacks slung over their shoulders, their personal information written on their arms in magic marker, and cell phones charged to 100 percent, looking for somewhere to help.

Aftershocks of solidarity and opportunism

By a member of the Action and Resistance Collective of Mexico - Socialist Worker, September 28, 2017

THREE MAJOR earthquakes affected central and southern Mexico in September. In southern regions such as Oaxaca, Chiapas and Morelos, it has been difficult to account for collapsed buildings and people affected, but in Mexico City alone at least 38 buildings fell, leaving more than 325 people dead and thousands wounded.

The immediate response to the earthquakes, in all three cases, has been tremendous solidarity from workers and ordinary people. Immediately after the earthquake in the south, the Oaxaca teachers' union called for mobilization to support the affected people with supplies and reconstruction work.

What surprised everyone, however, was the great show of solidarity that emerged in Mexico City. Hundreds of thousands of people moved around the city to rescue their neighbors, collect food and help in any task in which they had opportunity. Workers of all kinds, from the most humble masons to the most experienced professionals--and even brigades of undocumented immigrants from Central America--showed their desire to support all those affected by earthquakes.

The fact that the transportation system stopped for the whole day did not prevent people from leaving their homes to provide support to those who needed it. As a result, it's estimated that around 70 people were rescued alive from the collapsed buildings.

But the rescue efforts have not been simple, and they've been complicated even more when the army has gotten in the way.

On the second day after the earthquake, the military attempted to take control of all affected areas in Mexico City, determined to prevent the inhabitants from organizing themselves. In some places they succeeded, but in others they were challenged by the popular organization.

Mexico’s Earthquake: Government Represses Grassroots Rescue Work and May be Burying Survivors Alive

By Johnny Hazard - CounterPunch, September 26, 2017

The best and worst of Mexico have been on view since the earthquake of Tuesday, September 19 that rocked Mexico City and surrounding states. This was the second major quake in Mexico in 12 days; the first affected principally the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. As the officially-acknowledged death toll from the most recent tremor surpasses 400, it is important to recognize the work of students and other citizens who, with or without experience or expertise, have collected massive amounts of food, water, personal hygiene items, and blankets and distributed them to displaced persons and have cleaned rubble—manually, which is the only way to find survivors. Within minutes, people came up with ways to help: offer rides or glasses of water, find and go to buildings that had caved in or were at risk of doing so, collect provisions and move them immediately toward affected neighborhoods and towns, and go with groups of engineers, doctors, paramedics, psychologists, lawyers, veterinarians, and other specialists to affected locales. All of this apparently non-controversial human and humane activity is seen as a threat by the federal government, which knows that during Mexico City’s last massive earthquake, exactly 32 years earlier, citizen response to government neglect and to the earthquake itself was a key event in the building of resistance to one-party rule. And more recently, the 11-year-old war on drugs has led to an increasing militarization of the country, augmented by a fear of losing control in the wake of protests against atrocities like the forced disappearance of 43 education students three years ago (September 26, 2014). Authorities hoped that suppressing civilian participation in relief efforts would help in the pre-existing U.S.-style public relations strategy of glorifying police and military personnel as heroes.

In recent days, it has become increasingly evident that some of the most horrific accusations against state, local, and federal government officials and compliant mainstream media and personnel are true, ranging from inventing a little girl (“Frida Sofía”) who supposedly was communicating from under the rubble of a collapsed private school, Colegio Rebsamen in Mexico City, to government officials and military personnel actively blocking civilian efforts and confiscating relief supplies or forcing them to be surrendered to government warehouses. Volunteers and activists have asked donors and transporters of supplies to cross out barcodes on all products and write messages like “Not for resale—earthquake relief” or “No use of this material by governments or political parties is permitted”.

Mexico: Political Statement from the Autonomous Brigades After the Earthquakes

By Anonymous Contributor - It's Going Down, September 23, 2017

To the people of Mexico

To the Indigenous Governing Council

To the National Indigenous Congress

To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

To the National and International Sixth

We are individual and collective adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, EZLN and CNI sympathizers and people from below and to the left in solidarity with the suffering of our brothers and sisters, victims of the recent earthquakes and the predatory system that is only death.

As in 1985, those who claim to govern remain totally surpassed by reality. Today their wonderland can’t be seen, not even by them. Meanwhile, we are the ones from below who suffered the consequences of these natural and socio-environmental disasters. Like 32 years ago, today the Mexican people are the ones going into the streets and towns to help, to give what little they have to help the other, the one who suffers, the stranger, the brother. Some who have much contribute much. Among those who have little, they contribute what they can, sometimes everything that is in their hands. Those who have nothing give their heart and offer to serve were needed. They are the ones who fill the streets and coordinate to gather aid and distribute it. Small business owners support by giving food and drink to those who give their time and effort. True hope emerges from these smiles and glances of solidarity.

To this communal, creative, inventive, self-managed response, the bad government replies in the only form it knows: with violence, labelling a repressive military occupation as civilian protection. Far from meeting its obligation, which is to help the victims, it sends the army, marines, and different police agencies to occupy civil life and prevent an encounter among those from below. With acts of banditry, its agents of violence rob the aid people have gathered and divert it in order to distribute it conditionally, promoting its figures, governments, institutions and parties. At the sites of the disaster, the state intervenes among those working, to keep them from even communicating and coordinating. During this time, we have seen how a version of Plan DN-III, named Plan-MX, has been implemented. As we’ve seen, the army goes to the disaster sites, where the people have been taking part in successful life-saving work for hours or days, and arrogantly pushes the rescuers out in order to take control of the location and work in a way that is useless, increasing the risk of death for those who are trapped in the collapse. At other sites, their entry is friendly and collaborative in front of the cameras, wearing the hat of solidarity with the people, but they change the strategy and impede or obstruct the rescue efforts. In any case, when a victim is rescued, they rush to stage a show for the media in which they appear as the heroes who risked their lives for Mexico. We could say that what the bad government has put together is not an operation that prioritizes saving lives, but a production that is seeking to revive its own corpse, the victim of a much larger collapse: of its legitimacy. A moment came when they stopped all rescue activity and didn’t allow anyone to come near, nor did they give information, abandoning those who could have been rescued and letting them die amidst the ruins of the fallen buildings. That they do very well. They are experts in murdering and disappearing the people.

For us, men and women from below and to the left, what the bad government and its criminal partners, such as the television stations, show is a deep contempt for life. For them it is just a macabre spectacle that suits their interests in militarizing daily life and to rebuild the social image of an army that, far from defending the people and what remains of the nation’s sovereignty, has proved to be the main protector of transnational capitalist interests and an implacable murderer of the people, especially those who resist the expropriation of their territories, waters, culture, and communal lives.

Protests in Mexico Push Country to Brink of Revolution and Nobody’s Talking About It

By Nick Bernabe - AntiMedia, January 10, 2017

San Diego, CA — Long-simmering social tensions in Mexico are threatening to boil over as failing neoliberal reforms to the country’s formerly nationalized gas sector are compounded by open corruption, stagnant standards of living, and rampant inflation.

The U.S. media has remained mostly mute on the situation in Mexico, even as the unfolding civil unrest has closed the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California, several times in the past week. Ongoing “gasolinazo” protests in Mexico over a 20 percent rise in gas prices have led to over 400 arrests, 250 looted stores, and six deaths. Roads are being blockaded, borders closed, and government buildings are being sacked. Protests have remained relatively peaceful overall, except for several isolated violent acts, which activists have blamed on government infiltrators.

The few mainstream news reports that have covered the situation blame rising gas prices but fail to examine several other factors that are pushing Mexico to the brink of revolution.