The popular movement resists the narco

A view of Acapatzingo Housing Community, also known as La Polvorilla. Photo: José Luis Santillán

By: Raúl Zibechi

In the Iztapalapa delegation (Mexico City) the Acapatzingo Housing Community, where 596 families live, is being harassed by armed people who define themselves as “Colombians,” It’s one of the popular movements that for decades has been struggling for housing, with eight nuclei in the city that belong to the Francisco Villa Popular Organization of the Independent Left (OPFVII, its initials in Spanish). [1]

The aggressions and intimidations began in mid-April brandishing firearms before the neighborhood guard that controls entrance to the community. “On Friday, May 22 –community leaders report– two subjects who got out of a car tell the guard that in the next few days they will come to deliver envelopes, as a first and last notice, which will contain their demands and instructions and that the community would have to abide by them within a period de 72-hours.”

The envelopes arrived the next day; however, by agreement with the community, the guards proceeded to destroy them without knowing their content. “In the afternoon-evening of that same day, the assembly decided to face the threats by reinforcing the guards on all shifts and taking other actions in case the community was attacked,” continues the account of the members of the community’s General Council of Representatives.

Among the las decisions of the general assembly, with more than 500 participants, is to reinforce the guards, guard even the roofs, make permanent rounds through the streets and sidewalks, reinforce the main accesses to the community besides increasing the number of people who participate in the rotating guard and making bonfires at different points. “The organization’s other communities are on alert and ready to go there and act if necessary,” they assure.

Up to here, a brief summary of the facts. I believe that we need to debate, throughout Latin America, the modes of confronting drug trafficking, in addition to deepening its understanding.

For several years I have maintained that the drug business is yet one more form of accumulation by dispossession and that the world’s economic elites are increasingly behaving like drug traffickers ( Furthermore, drug trafficking is one of the modes used by the dominant class to control and discipline popular movements.

Organized peoples are the ones who can confront and set limits on drug trafficking, something that the states neither want nor can do, in this period of debacle and collapse of the system’s institutions.

In the first place, we have a history of how a solid popular organization has managed to stop the entry of predatory forces into the territories of the peoples. The Peruvian campesino rounds prevented cattle thieves from imposing their law on hundreds of communities to later set limits on multinational mining companies, stopping their activity.

Something similar can be said of the Nasa Indigenous Guard in the Colombian Cauca, capable of recuperating comuneros kidnapped by armed groups; of the organized people of Cherán who expelled the loggers and of the EZLN who have prevented drug traffickers and paramilitaries from imposing their law on the Zapatista territories.

The case of the las cities is, certainly, more complex. They are the strong link in the chain of capitalism’s domination, where the central powers of the State are located and are the easiest space the armed institutions, legal or not, to control. However, the experience of the Acapatzingo Community, known as La Polvorilla, can give us clues on how to face the challenge of the armed.

The decisive thing is a solid organization. In this self-constructed neighborhood of some 4 thousand people, each family belongs to a sector where a brigade operates. There are various commissions, the most important at this time being health and vigilance, with eight commissions in total, including education and communication.

The important decisions are made in the general assembly, but a General Council of Representatives functions with leaders of the 28 brigades into which the neighborhood is divided that meet every week. In order for the organization to be solid, a quarterly or monthly assembly, like the most active popular organizations usually do, isn’t enough. A network of spaces that manage daily life is necessary, from health and education to sports, culture and maintenance.

In Acapatzingo they have constructed two vegetable gardens, health and training spaces. Even the children are organized and have their own activities, including a newsletter. During the pandemic they installed eateries in the eight inhabited spaces and took extreme protection measures with wide community participation. Collective self-government is key to the formation of community ties, the only ones capable of defending the territorial autonomy of those below and thus confront drug trafficking.

[1] Several years ago, the Chiapas Support Committee hosted a talk by a representative of the Francisco Villa Popular Organization of the Independent Left, also known as Los Panchos.” This is an amazing project; it’s relevant to autonomous urban housing. NACLA published an excellent article on La Polvorilla earlier this year.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, June 5, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





2 Comments on “The popular movement resists the narco

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis from CHIAPAS SUPPORT COMMITTEE Home of the Compañero Manuel blog on the Zapatistas & Mexico | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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