Chiapas Support Committee


Please Join Us…


VIVIMOS ZAPATA / LIVING ZAPATA – Thursday, April 19, 2012 – 7:00 PM – San Francisco – A panel discussion on the current issues in Mexico, featuring guest speakers on the Drug Wars, Migrants and Social Movements. Delegates just back from the CSC’s Spring Delegation to Chiapas will report on the current situation. Eric Quezada Center, 518 Valencia Street, San Francisco. Suggested donation: $5-10. (Sliding Scale)

Raúl Zibechi: Local Resistances, Global Movements

Local Resistances, Global Movements

By: Raúl Zibechi

In June 2002, just 10 years ago, the first popular consulta (vote) of a communal character about mining on a large scale in the world was held in Tambogrande (northern Peru). More than 90 percent of the voters, some 25, 000 people, rejected the project to exploit gold, silver and zinc by Canadian Manhattan; only 350 voted in favor and just 6 percent of the residents did not turn out to vote. The municipality organized the consulta and its results were interpreted as a victory for peasant agriculture, which depends on water for its survival.

The consulta in Tambogrande was followed by one in Esquel (southern Argentina) in March 2003, where 80 percent voted against a Meridian Gold project to extract gold by using cyanide. In June 2005 another referendum was held in Sipacapa, Guatemala, with similar results. These consultas were the form of struggle found by the local communities for breaking their isolation and avoiding that their arguments were drowned out by official and media silence. Now it can be said that they had a more than successful result.

In Peru, resistance to mining led to the National March for the Right to Water, in February, in which the weight of the Peruvian social movements came together. In Argentina, the Esquel victory activated the creation of dozens of local assemblies that coordinated with each other in the Union of Citizen Assemblies, which just held its 18th meeting in Mendoza. In Guatemala, there are now 56 municipalities that have declared themselves free of mining, due to formidable pressure by the population. In Peru, Brazil and Chile, popular resistance to hydroelectric mega-dams continues advancing, and is interlaced with the struggle against mining and monocrops.

After more than a decade of resistances it is possible to establish a pattern of action by movements that have largely transcended the local and are installed as the principal alternatives to the model settled on the expropriation of the commons. “It is the most important popular mobilization since the epoch of Fujimori,” wrote Hugo Blanco, evaluating the March for Water (Lucha Indígena, February 2012).

The first feature of this pattern is that the movements attained such deep and massive support among the local populations that it permitted them to transcend the isolation and harassment. A good part of these resistances were made strong by being rooted in relations of a community character, which permitted them to make visible the existence of a conflict between big multinational corporations and local communities that seek to assure their survival. They appealed to specialists for translating their arguments into the language of the urban middle classes and looked for the protective umbrellas of local institutions and authorities, which is what the oppressed always do to legitimize their demands.

Even when small groups or even a fistful of people mobilize, like often happens with the Argentine citizen assemblies, the stubborn resistance to authority by the communities in movement has permitted them to neutralize the criminalization of protest. Local communities have shown a novel ability to elaborate a discourse capable of tuning in with other people in the most remote places, emphasizing that it’s about the defense of life in the face of the greed of accumulation.

In second place, although the demand is strictly local, they sought from the beginning to weave ties with other social sectors to widen the echo of their struggles, and in that way they began to weave broad regional alliances first, then the national and now international. The ability to break the information and political circle is what has permitted them to transcend the repression and get massive support in the cities, something that up to now seemed difficult to get.

The forms of struggle, in third place, are neither legal nor illegal, neither peaceful nor violent, although they are of all types, but all legitimate, as much the demands as the ability of the members to put their bodies before the gigantic trucks of the corporations and the blows from the police. There is no contradiction between the option for the ballot box in Tambogrande, or later in Majaz (northern Peru), and the outstanding action of the Baguá warriors in 2009, in the Peruvian Jungle.

In fourth place, is listed the confluence of the most diverse social sectors (like happened during the march in defense of TIPNIS in Bolivia in 2011, and in those moments in Aysén, in southern Chile) with the reactivation of the peoples’ traditional internal mechanisms for making decisions and guarantying their security, like the campesino patrols did during the recent March for Water in Peru.

Lastly, we are facing an acceleration of the times. In the first months of this year the March for Water happened in Per and the Aysén Uprising, which has been blocking bridges and highways for three weeks, with a list of 11 demands, among them that the opposition to the Hidroaysén Dam occupies an emphasized place, while last March 8, the March for Water began in Ecuador. It will arrive in Quito on March 22, after touring the country’s three regions. And now a new march is announced in Bolivia to avoid the highway being imposed in TIPNIS.

We are not facing a conjuncture of mobilizations, but a movement against the multinationals and financial speculation, in defense of water, life and the peoples. It is the most formidable, broad and varied continental movement since the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s and the resistance to the first phase of neoliberalism in the 90s. This impressive movement for the commons occurs as much in countries governed by the right as in those that have progressive or left governments. It is not legitimate, therefore, to look for stylish excuses of “who benefits” from the movements to throw a mantle of shadows over the struggles of those below.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, March 9, 2012

English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Para español:

Zapatista News Summary – February 2012


In Chiapas

1. Seven More Released in Acteal Case – On February 1, 7 of the men convicted of murder and other crimes in the Acteal Massacre case were released from prison after serving 14 years of a 35-year sentence. Lawyers for those released also obtained a finding of innocence by the court. Their were released and found innocent based on the fact that the evidence used against them by the Attorney General was tainted. The same lawyers said they are also suing the PGR for damages caused by the “false” imprisonment. Bishop Arizmendi, who many in the diocese of San Cristóbal consider conservative, spoke out against the release, questioning whether anyone would end up being punished for this crime against humanity? The 7 released will be relocated in Villaflores Municipality, in the center of Chiapas state, where the 45 previously released have also been relocated. 28 more men who were convicted and sentenced for the massacre remain in prison and await decisions in their appeals.

2. Update On Chiapas Prisoners – The General Labor Confederation of Spain, adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and participant in the EZLN’s International Campaign, visited Chiapas political prisoners during February. Their report indicates that all Other Campaign and Zapatista support base prisoners, including those from Banavil, are in good spirits, although there are still complaints about the lack of medical care. That lack was confirmed in a denunciation from Alberto Patishtan from the federal prison in Guasave, Sinaloa. Patishtan reported that he is still being denied treatment for glaucoma. The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) is asking the court for an order returning him to the prison in San Cristobal de las Casas Municipality, Chiapas.

3. Other Campaign Communities Deprived of Electricity by CFE Workers – The Digna Ochoa Human Rights Center in Tonala, Chiapas, denounced that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE, its initials in Spanish) dismantled a transformer in La Central, a community in resistance to high electricity rates, belonging to the Regional Autonomous Council of the Coastal Zone of Chiapas. The residents of La Central (municipality of Pijijiapan) have been without electricity since January 3. The Regional Autonomous Council of the Coastal Zone of Chiapas is an adherent to the EZLN’s Other Campaign. Its members refuse to pay their electricity bills, which they believe are outrageously high. (See item #1 in Other Parts of Mexico below.)

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Francisco Hernandez Detained and Imprisoned for Refusing to Pay Electricity Bills – Federal agents detained Francisco Hernández and placed him in a Chihuahua state prison, accusing him of robbery because of his participation in the payment strike against the CFE due to its high rates. The MARC is an organization that has struggled for more than 10 years against the high charges for electric energy service. Its members maintain a payment strike and reconnect service to users whose service has been suspended, while the cases and complaints are reviewed and the charge for the real consumption that the family has is adjusted, principally in precarious settlements in the state capital. Francisco Hernández, an electrician, is one of its principal leaders. The MARC is an adherent to the EZLN’s Other Campaign and a member of the National Network in Resistance to High Electricity Rates.

2. Mexico’s President Puts Up A Billboard on the US / Mexico Border – On Thursday, February 16, Mexican President Felipe Calderón made a speech at the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso Border. The backdrop for his speech was a three-ton billboard built with crushed weapons illegally exported from the US and confiscated by various authorities. Calderon said: “One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America.”  The billboard, posted on the border at Ciudad Juárez, read in English “NO MORE WEAPONS.” (What politicians won’t do during an election year!)

In the United States

1. US Officials in Mexico – From February 18-20, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in Los Cabos (Baja California Sur)  for a G-20 preparatory meeting of foreign ministers. While in Mexico, Clinton signed an agreement with her Mexican counterpart for joint oil exploration in cross-border underwater oil fields. On February 27, Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security also signed a joint agreement with Mexico for increased Customs Security at the border. She continued on to visit Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama. Her visits were scheduled to conclude on February 29. At the beginning of February, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman delivered 17 million dollars worth of equipment for computerizing clinic records of individuals receiving treatment for drug addiction in Mexico’s 332 drug treatment centers. The technology enables the centers to share clinical records and is part of the Merida Initiative.

2. US Vice President Joe Biden to Visit Mexico – The White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden would visit Mexico on March 4, where he will meet with President Felipe Calderón to discuss a broad range of issues to forge cooperation ahead of April’s Summit of the Americas. Vice President Biden will continue on to Honduras for a visit with its president, Porfirio Lobo, and will attend, at Lobo’s invitation, a meeting of Central American Integration System (SICA, its initials in Spanish). SICA is Central America’s regional security organization to which the United States, the Inter-American Development Bank and some European countries are giving funding to fight a “war on drugs.”


Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.

The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).

We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.

Click on the Donate button at:  to support indigenous autonomy.


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box  3421, Oakland, CA  94609


Latin America Now Regulates Mining

Latin America Is No Longer the Unregulated “Paradise” for the Mining Companies: World Bank Economist


 * There are 120 disputes in the region; rejection because of the environmental impact

Lima, February 13, 2012

The mining boom that Latin America is living in due to increased demand and prices on the international market is resisted through regional strikes, demonstrations and marches by the affected populations that have come out in defense of the environment and water.

“There is an increase in the number and in the intensity of the mining conflicts because of the water, the extension of mining concessions, the contamination of the rivers, the displacement of activities and the population,” explained the economist José de Echave, Peru’s former Vice Minister of Environment. “But they are, above all, because of the water,” he added.

From Mexico to Patagonia several mega-projects have been stopped and even suspended by the inflexible opposition of citizens to sacrificing the environment despite environmental impact studies that the companies present and the messages of progress with social inclusion (job creation) with which the authorities justify their approval.

The problem is that to extract gold, silver, copper, zinc or iron, many times one must move entire peoples from the place, cut down forests with the native plants and animals or even dry up lakes and empty them.

Environmental organizations criticize that the companies use millions of liters of water to extract minerals and also resort to the use of highly contaminating cyanide, as in the case of the open sky mines, for separating gold from the rock.

One clear example is Panama, where the conflict between the indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé and the government because of a copper deposit with 17 million tons has left two dead this week.

According to Raisa Banfield, director of the Sustainable Panama Foundation, the project contemplates “cutting down five thousand hectares of forest. There will be a loss of biodiversity and habitat for native species and contamination of soil, of underground water and rivers,” she explained.

In Northeast Peru, after weeks of disturbances that led President Ollanta Humala to decree the state of emergency, the 4 billion 800 million dollar Conga project, was suspended while waiting for three foreign experts to evaluate the environmental impact study presented by the Yanacocha Company.

In Argentina, some 20 people were detained on Wednesday, February 1 in the eviction of a highway blockage that sought to impede the exploitation of Bajo La Alumbrera, the largest gold and copper deposit in the country’s northwest.

Here, the locality of Famatina (1300 kilometers to the northwest of Buenos Aires) had already become emblematic, which in the last few years achieved suspending two gold projects.

There are also projects paralyzed in other countries, like Costa Rica and Colombia. According to data from the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America, there are more than 120 disputes in the region.

“It is certain that hay a new environmental conscience in the residents. But the people are also realizing the extra-normal profits that mining leaves and they want part of those profits to stay in their region,” explained Juan Carlos Belausteguigoitia, a World Bank environmental economist for Latin America and the Caribbean del Banco Mundial.

According to the international financial institution, 30 percent of the investment in exploration of new deposits is in Latin America. In countries like Chile, Peru or Colombia, the mining sector can reach 20 percent of the GNP.

In Brazil, mining production reached an estimated 11 billion dollars in 2011, 20 percent more than the previous year, while Ecuador foresees for 2012 an increase of 5.35 percent of the GNP, thanks to the exploitation of gold and silver.

Despite the opportunities that it offers, Latin America is no longer the unregulated “paradise” for the big mining companies.

“It has advanced a lot as far as environmental regulation, although there is still more to do. Until a little while ago, the Ministries of Environment were the little brothers in the cabinets,” Belausteguigoitia explains.

“Now, inasmuch as the corporations are larger, they have to be more accountable and they have greater probabilities of improving their environmental performance,” he adds, without forgetting that legal vacuums still exist as to prevention of the long-term environmental impact after the mine closes.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Para leer en español:




Raúl Zibechi: Land, Water and Resistance

Land, Water and Resistance

 By: Raúl Zibechi

 Para español:

What is happening in Latin America in relation to the commons (water, land, biodiversity) is something more than a succession of local conflicts. At times the intensity of the confrontations gives the impression that we are marching toward a general conflagration, which for now has local and regional expressions, but which is repeated in almost every country.

The Big National March for Water, which began on February 1 in Cajamarca [Peru], is the popular movements’ response to the repression and to the state of emergency in three provinces by Ollanta Humala’s government, faced with the 11-day strike in Cajamarca against the Conga mining project. The caravan will arrive in Lima this Friday to stop the use of contaminants like mercury and to declare water as a human right.

Conga is a project of the Yanacocha Mining Company, first in gold extraction in South America, which foresees investing almost 5 billion dollars and draining four lakes, two to extract gold and another two for storing waste. The activities at Conga have been paralyzed since the November strike. The most important thing is that the movement has achieved transcending the local to become the confluence of the most important social organizations for a large action with a national character.

Resistance to mining has been reactivated in Northern Argentina. In January, citizen assemblies impelled mass mobilizations, in La Rioja, Catamarca and Tucumán, against the Famatina and Bajo La Alumbrera mining projects. The popular mobilization in La Rioja forced the communal chief of the provincial capital to state that he was against mega-mining, although he is aligned with the national government.

The blockage of trucks that are headed to Bajo La Alumbrera in Catamarca led the company to license the personnel and delay the exploitation due to a lack of inputs and provisions at the mine. More than three weeks ago, members of the Citizens Assembly in Defense of Life and Water blocked the transit of trucks that belong to the mining company and that circulate through Tinogasta, Belén and Santa María.

One of the less visible conflicts but with great destabilizing potential is that which is happening in Paraguay between campesinos and settlers of Brazilian origin, known popularly as Brasiguayos. It is estimated that there are 8 million hectares, 20 percent of the country’s surface, illegally adjudicated, above all under the Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship (1954-1989). An important part was delivered to settlers coming from Brazil, at up to one dollar per hectare in the border zone.

Now they are large producers son of soy that take out their product through Brazil without even paying taxes. Tranquilo Favero, “the soy king,” owns 45, 000 hectares of high quality lands on which he harvests up to 130, 000 tons each year, which renders him some 50 million dollars, in the Ñacunday zone, Alto Paraná. This is the hottest region of the current conflict, in which landless and landholders confront each other, but in which the governments of Fernando Lugo and Dilma Rousseff are also involved.

If the production of soy, with its consequent contamination and expulsion of campesinos, is grave, so is the border question. Of the 400, 000 Brazilians that live in Paraguay, some 250, 000 occupy the border with Brazil. In 2007 the Paraguayan government approved the Border Law because of which foreigners cannot have lands at least 50 kilometers from the border, as a way of affirming national sovereignty. Brazil has similar law, although stricter.

In 2011, The National Coordinator of Struggle for the Recuperation of Ill-Gotten Lands was formed –in which more than 20 campesino organizations, social organizations and leftist parties participate–, which held its first march last October 25. The leaders maintain that the recuperation of those lands could favor 400, 000 campesinos.

The land question is one of the most delicate themes in Paraguay, because of the long history of corruption, abuse and repression that forced the plunder of campesinos. Lugo took government power in large measure because of his close relationship to the struggle for agrarian reform when he was a bishop. The agrarian reform struggle did not advance under his government, but in recent months the campesinos grouped together in the National League of Tent Dwellers (because they camp in tents) are occupying the Brasiguayos lands.

The League was born two years ago faced with the inaction of the campesino movement in the struggle for land, but in a recent communication the Coordinator estimates that their actions form part of a “destabilizing strategy” against the Lugo government and that at its interior is “excelling the influence of provocateurs that objectively prejudice the historic struggle for land and agrarian reform.”

In the complex panorama of the Paraguayan movements, it is not convenient to simplify. The “tent-dwellers” [occupiers?] struggle is legitimate but everything indicates that grouped together with a new layer of popular leaders one is able to perceive the influence of traditional right-wing politicians, now reds or liberals, those allied with Lugo, and opportunists that are always present. Nevertheless, it is also certain that the historic movements, which make up the Coordinator, prioritize negotiations instead of pressure for agrarian reform from below, and seem to be very worried about the presidential succession in the 2013 elections.

The struggle for the commons is in first place on the agenda in the whole region. It is possible, as a union leader from Chilecito points out, that the multi-national mining companies are suffering “a catastrophic defeat” in Northern Argentina. Small groups like the citizen assemblies, in remote places of the mountain range (cordillera), have achieved stopping gigantic corporations that enjoyed state support for everything. It is a lot. It is the product of tenacity, which at any moment renders fruits.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, February 10, 2012

January 2012 Zapatista News Summary


In Chiapas

1. Seminar on Anti-Systemic Movements – From Dec 30 to Jan 2, Cideci-Unitierra, located on the outskirts of San Cristóbal de las Casas, hosted an international seminar of reflection and analysis entitled  Planet Earth Anti-Systemic Movements. The seminar celebrated the 18th anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising on January 1, 1994 and recognized that the Zapatistas provided the inspiration for rebellions in many countries against capitalism and undemocratic governments. You can read the English translation of articles about the seminar on this blog.

2. Displaced Families Occupy SCLC Plaza – In December, 7 families from Busilja ejido and 18 folks from Cintalapa ejido set up camp and occupied Peace Plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. They were protesting rape, kidnapping, theft of lands, homes and personal property by armed members of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic), which they characterize as being PRI members and paramilitaries. They further alleged collaboration by police in both rape and arbitrary detention and the collaboration of state government officials by refusing to punish Opddic and PRI members. They demanded: the return of an 8-year old girl who they state was kidnapped; the return of their lands, homes and other property; and the release of 2 men from prison. Frayba Human Rights Center issued a bulletin denouncing the human rights violations involved in the detention of the 2 men and the disappearance, rape, kidnapping, land grabbing and internal displacement that occurred in the 2 ejidos. Those displaced from the 2 communities formed an organization and are adherents to the EZLN’s Other Campaign.They ended the occupation after 30 days and a complete lack of response from the state government to their demands. They remain displaced. A possible motive for their displacement is ecotourism development. Busilja and Cintalapa are near the Ojo de Agua area in the Lacandon Jungle. The Viejo Velasco Massacre also took place in this area of the Jungle and some of the same PRI members were allegedly involved in that as yet unsolved crime.

3. Other Campaign Communities in Chiapas Take Local Action – A series of articles by La Jornada‘s envoy in Chiapas, Hermann Bellinghausen, describe the struggle of Other Campaign adherents in the Sierras of Western Chiapas against mining, crime and what they perceive as government efforts to displace them from the lands to which they have legal title. They got so fed up with their elected officials ignoring crime and the needs of the region’s people that they formed an Other Campaign organization named Luz y Fuerza del Pueblo-Sierra Región (Peoples’ Light & Power-Sierra Region). That organization has members in 38 municipalities (counties). Recently, Peoples’ Light & Power members closed off access to Siltepec Municipality to beer companies, distributors of drugs and alcohol, as well as Canadian mining companies and logging companies. They also closed bars and houses of prostitution and basically took over many local government functions because elected officials did nothing to solve their problems. Residents of this region believe that government negligence is designed to drive them off their land and into a nearby “rural city,” which is under construction.

4. Civilian Zapatista Member Unjustly Detained by Police – On January 19, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) issued an Urgent Action in which it reports that Franciso Santiz Lopez, a Zapatista civilian supporter, was detained by police and placed in state prison Number 5, allegedly for the acts of violence that occurred on December 4 in the Banavil ejido, in the municipality of Tenejapa. The events of December 4 included an attack by 50 armed PRI members on 4 families sympathetic to the Zapatistas. The results of the armed attack are: 1) the death on 1 PRI member; 2) one man, Alonso Lopez, disappeared (and presumed dead); Alonso’s son, Lorenzo Lopez, shot twice, gravely injured  in the hospital and somehow accused of causing bodily injury; and the arbitrary detention of Francisco Santiz Lopez, a civilian Zapatista support base, who was not even at the scene of the crime when it occurred.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Researchers Question Official Numbers on Drug War Deaths – A New York Times article reports that researchers question the official numbers from the Calderon government in Mexico with respect to how many have died in the war against drugs. Apparently, Mexico has not been forthcoming with information in response to a freedom of information request by the Times and a different government agency reports possibly 20, 000 more deaths than the official report. The numbers released by President Calderon’s government only reflected statistics up to September 2011. Whatever the real numbers are, ordinary Mexicans are living a nightmare in many once peaceful cities. See:

2. Zedillo’s Lawyers Respond to Acteal Massacre Case – Attorneys for former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo responded to the complaint filed by anonymous victims of the 1997 Acteal Massacre in Chiapas, Mexico. The lawyers filed Zedillo’s answer on January 6 of this year, asserting the defense of immunity from prosecution because of his former government duties. Lawyers also asserted that the allegations were false, cast doubt upon the anonymous nature of the plaintiffs and asked the federal court in Connecticut to fast track the case. The Mexican government asked the US government to issue a statement supporting the immunity defense, meaning that  the PAN administration of Felipe Calderon is supporting Zedillo.

3. Two and A Half Million Mexicans Face Starvation – Severe drought and freezing temperatures killed crops and animals in the Tarahumara region of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, causing hunger in the indigenous Raramuri population, most of whom are subsistence farmers. In order to draw attention to the situation, an activist circulated a report on social networks that 50 Raramuris committed suicide because they could not feed their children. That resulted in food aid from the government, civil society and churches that provided temporary relief. While the drought destroyed this years crop, freezing temperatures destroyed roots, which means that next years crop could not be planted. The crisis is not only in the Tarahumara region; that merely drew attention to the fact that as many as 2 and a half million people in northern Mexico face possible starvation because of the drought.

In the United States

1. Another US Gun-Running Operation – The Los Angeles Times reported this month that Congress is investigating another operation that involves running guns into Mexico in order to catch drug traffickers working with Chapo Guzman. This was an operation named White Gun, conducted by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). It was run by the same agents that ran Fast and Furious. Both operations started in 2009. Congress is supposedly investigating whether any guns fell into the hands of criminals. Those who conducted the operation claim it resulted in arrests, give specific examples and are defending it.,0,3917291.story


Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.

The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).

We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.

Click on the Donate button of to support indigenous autonomy.


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box  3421, Oakland, CA  94609






Raúl Zibechi: The Lefts and the End of Capitalism

The Lefts and the End of Capitalism

By: Raúl Zibechi

 The current world financial crisis fragments the planet into regions in such a fashion that the world system approaches a growing disarticulation (breakup). One of the effects of this growing regionalization of the planet is that the political, social and economic processes no longer are manifested in the same way all over the world and divergences are produced –in the future perhaps bifurcations– between the center and the periphery.

For the anti-systemic forces this global disarticulation makes the design of just one planetary strategy impossible and makes attempts at establishing universal tactics useless. Although common inspirations and shared general objectives exist, the different speeds that the different transitions to post capitalism register, and the notable differences between anti-systemic subjects, attempt against generalizations.

There are two relevant questions that nevertheless affect strategies in the whole world. The first is that capitalism is not going to crumble or going to collapse, but rather it must be overthrown by anti-systemic forces, be they movements with a horizontal and community base, parties that are more or less hierarchical or even governments with an anticapitalist will.

Paraphrasing a Walter Benjamin, one would have to say that nothing did more damage to the revolutionary movement that the belief that capitalism will fall under the weight of its own internal “laws,” above all of an economic character. Capital arrived in the world wrapped in blood and mud, as Marx said, and had to mediate a demographic catastrophe like that produced by the black plague so that the people, paralyzed by fear, would submit without resistance to the logic of the accumulation of capital. Losing fear depends on the people to begin to re-appropriate the means of production and exchange, to construct something different, like the Zapatistas do.

The second is that nothing indicates that the transition to a society new will be brief or will be produced in a few decades. Up to now all the transitions required centuries of enormous suffering, in societies wherein community regulations placed limits on ambitions, when demographic pressure was much less and the power of those above did not seem as absolute as that which the wealthiest one percent accumulate today.

In Latin America, within the last three decades the anti-systemic movements invented new strategies for changing societies and constructing a new world. There also exist thoughts and reflections about collective action that by way of acts diverge from old revolutionary theories, although it is evident that they do not deny the concepts coined by the revolutionary movement throughout two centuries. At the current juncture we can register three facts that impose on us reflections different than those that are being processed by part of the anti-systemic forces in other regions.

In the first place, the unity of the lefts has advanced notably and in not a few cases they have arrived in the government. At least in Uruguay, in Bolivia and in Brazil the unity of the lefts has been as far as was possible. There are certain that there are left parties outside of those forces (above all in Brazil), but that doesn’t change the central fact that unity has been consummated. In other countries, like Argentina, talking about unity of the left is to say very little.

The central fact is that the lefts, more or less united, have given almost everything that they were able to give beyond the evaluation that is made of their performance. The eight South American governments we can classify as left have improved the lives of people diminished their sufferings, but they have not advanced in the construction of new societies. We’re dealing with establishing facts and structural limits that indicate that one cannot obtain more than what has been achieved through that path.

In second place, germs, cements or seeds of the social relationships exist in Latin America that can substitute for capitalism: millions of people live and work in indigenous communities in rebellion, in settlements of campesinos without land, in factories recuperated by their workers, in self-organized urban peripheries, and they participate in thousands undertakings that were born in resistance to neoliberalism and have been converted into alternative spaces to the dominant mode of production.

The third thing is that the sufferings generated because of the social crisis provoked by neoliberalism in the region were contained by initiatives for surviving created by the movements (from eating places to popular bakeries), before the governments that came out of the ballot boxes would be inspired in those same undertakings to promote social programs. These initiatives have been, and still are, keys for resisting and at the same time creating alternatives to the system, since not only do they reduce suffering, but also generate practices autonomous from the states, the churches and the parties.

It is certain, as Immanuel Wallerstein points out in La izquierda mundial luego de 2011 (The World Left After 2011), that the unity of the lefts can contribute to giving birth to a new world and, at the same time, reducing birth pains. But in this region of the world a good part of those pains have not decreased with the electoral triumphs of the left. There are almost 200 charged with terrorism and sabotage in Ecuador for opposing open pit mining. Three militants of the Darío Santillán Front were murdered a few days ago by mafia in Rosario, in what can be the beginning of an escalation against the movements. Hundreds of thousands are displaced from their homes in Brazil because of the speculation facing the 2014 World Cup. The list is long and does not stop growing.

Unity of the left can be positive. But the battle for a new world will be much longer than the duration of the progressive Latin American governments and, over all, it will be spilled in spaces stained with blood and clay.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, January 13, 2012

Para español:

English Translation: Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez,

Chiapas Support Committee

Delegation to Chiapas, Mexico

 SPRING DELEGATION to CHIAPAS, March 25 – April 1, 2012

The Chiapas Support Committee of Oakland, California announces a Human Rights Fact-Finding Delegation to Chiapas Mexico.   We hope you will join us for this in-depth exploration of how corporate globalization is affecting indigenous communities constructing autonomy (self-governance).

On January 1, 1994, eighteen years ago, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) rose up in arms against the government of Mexico and took control of large expanses of land owned by cattle ranchers. Thirteen days later, the Zapatistas  declared a truce. The government also declared a truce, but prepared for war. In February 1995, the Mexican army entered “Zapatista Territory” and set up military bases and camps close to indigenous communities.  The army has never left and an estimated 50,000 or more soldiers remain there to this day. The territory claimed by the Zapatistas and militarized by the army is known as a “conflict zone,” but in contrast to many places in Mexico plagued by drug-related violence, Zapatista Territory is surprisingly calm.

Since the Zapatistas put down their weapons in 1994, they began to construct another world, one characterized by regional self-government, collective economic projects, autonomous education and health care.  This delegation takes place eight and a half years after the Zapatistas renamed their 5 government centers Caracoles (shells) and created 5 autonomous regional governing bodies, called Good Government Boards, or Juntas; and nearly seven years after launching the Other Campaign, an effort to unite anti-capitalist movements into a political movement within Mexico.

The indigenous peoples of Chiapas confront a design by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank to re-conquer indigenous territory for exploitation by transnational corporations. The Zapatistas live in resistance to the Mexican government and are committed to resist corporate acquisition of their lands and natural resources. They say they will not permit the Plan Puebla Panama (now renamed the Mesoamerica Project) within their territory. That project threatens the people of Chiapas with eviction from their lands so that transnational corporations can exploit the natural resources and construct hydroelectric dams, soft drink bottling plants and upscale tourist facilities; as well as for oil and mining exploration and mono-crop export agriculture, such as biofuels.

Delegates will receive briefings from Mexican non-profits and will visit Zapatista communities, including the Caracol of Oventik .

This delegation provides an opportunity to visit and interact with civilian Zapatista communities constructing autonomy and resisting corporate exploitation. (We’re hoping to include a non-Zapatista community too this year.) While in San Cristobal, there will be time for shopping and entertainment. So, we invite you to join us for an amazing learning experience.

Getting there, cost, etc.

Delegates will arrive in Tuxtla Gutiérrez by plane and then travel by bus or taxi to the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas.  We will assemble at a hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas on Sunday, March 25.  Several days later, when the delegation travels into the communities, conditions will be like rough camping and require both a sleeping bag and a hammock.

Cost of the delegation is US $500.00.  This does NOT include airfare or bus transportation to and from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.  It DOES include most food (2 meals per day), lodging (double room) and ground transportation to the communities. Private rooms with Wi-Fi are available for an additional $50.00. Your tuition ALSO includes a donation for each community we visit, an honorarium for each NGO briefing we receive, delegation expenses and educational materials.  We provide each delegation with experienced group leaders and a translator. Delegation dates are March 25 to April 1, 2012.  We are working on arranging visits now. When we have arrangements confirmed, we will prepare a day-to-day itinerary and will send it to those who express interest in the delegation.

Who is the Chiapas Support Committee?

The Chiapas Support Committee is a grassroots nonprofit organization founded in 1998.  All of us are volunteers. We support indigenous and campesino (peasant) organizations, autonomous communities and non-governmental organizations in Chiapas. We certify human rights observers, organize delegations, fund autonomous projects and process applications for the Zapatista Language School. We have a partnership (hermanamiento, in Spanish) with the autonomous Zapatista municipality of San Manuel, Chiapas. We have been organizing delegations to Chiapas since 2000.

Conditions in Chiapas

As described above, the areas we visit in Chiapas are in a “conflict zone.” There are military bases and “paramilitary” groups within the zone. The EZLN maintains its own army, although it does not use its weapons offensively. The conflict is almost entirely between unarmed Zapatista communities and armed civilian groups referred to as “paramilitary,” sometimes accompanied by local police. Violence has not been directed at or against foreign visitors. Between 1998 and 2000, the Mexican government expelled some foreign visitors from Mexico for “interfering” in internal Mexican politics because they were working in Zapatista communities, but changed its policy at the beginning of 2001 and there have been no problems for foreign visitors since then. Nevertheless, it is a zone of conflict and, therefore, conditions are not entirely predictable. Delegates travel at their own risk.

How to apply

Please email, requesting an application. Act now! There are only 10 spaces on the delegation, so the sooner you send in your application the better. We must receive all applications by February 18, 2012.   A deposit of $100 is required with your application in order to reserve a space.  Balance is due March 5, 2012.  For those who want more information, just email your questions to:  or call  (510) 654-9587.


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA  94609

(510) 654-9587




Seminar: Planet Earth, day 4

In the Seminar of Reflection, Agreement Predominates in Condemning the System

** University students, indigenous and ocupas share experiences with spokespersons for Resistencia

** Unanimous rejection of capitalism and domination by participants in San Cristóbal

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, January 3, 2012

The presence of anti-systemic movements and organizations very involved in the current continental process of resistance, throughout the sessions of the International Seminar of Reflection and Analysis celebrated here, permitted understanding, as Víctor Hugo López, Director of Frayba and moderator of one of the tables of discussion, would summarize: “the problem that confronts us all is systemic,” and therefore all the movements must be against that system.

University students from Chile and Cuba, indigenous leaders from Bolivia and Ecuador, representatives from Occupy Wall Street, shared experiences together with spokespersons of Purépecha resistance in Cherán and the Wirrárika defense of the Wirikuta Desert, in San Luis Potosí. The cultural expression of Zapotecs, Peninsula Mayas, Tzeltals and Tzotzils, and the debate between different currents of feminism came to meet each other here, in a predominance of coincidences, the clarity of anti-systemic demands and the condemnation of the parties as monopolizers of the political and government decisions.

“The struggle is long-winded,” warned Daniela Carrasco, from the Revolutionary Student Tendency collective of Chile, upon relating how the student movement of 2011 “displaced the right and the parties” in student representation. “We are not an apolitical movement but [we are] non-partisan,” because “we no longer believe in individualisms or in the parties; therefore one speaks of a crisis of Chilean representative democracy,” he maintained.

“What did not advance in 20 years, turned into one of fervent struggle,” he celebrated. Also, the vindication of the street struggle, the population’s support, the making of collective and horizontal decisions, the national organization through new communication technologies, to get beyond centralism in a country of great geographic and mental distances. And he accepted as pending the deepening of unity with the Mapuche and Rapa Nui, the campesinos and the workers of Chile. “The youth are not asleep, they are there, learning, and with all desire to continue the struggle.”

That [occurs] in a country as unequal as Mexico is, pointed out Paulo Olivares, of the Central University of Chile. “Ours was not a spontaneous movement,” he added, but one largely dug by “the mole” of popular action.

In the workshops where Luis Alberto Andrango also participated, director of the polemical National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) of Ecuador, and the indigenous leader Julieta Paredes Carvajal, of Bolivia, confronting the contradictions of their governments that are considered progressive, but still anchored in practices of the old partisan democracy functional with the global system of domination, the participation of Cuban students was of particular interest. They said: “we have inherited a 53-year old revolution and we have the challenge re-founding it and re-making it, above all in these times,” as Danay Quintana expressed, of the Martin Luther King Center, based in Marianao, Havana.

According to what the university student Boris Nerey recognized, “the idea of ‘re-founding’ the State in Cuba can be too much pretension,” but socialism “is a permanent construction,” and moreover, a true “civilizing process.” Recognizing himself as in the island’s revolutionary tradition, Nerey pointed to the existence “of a process of the historic reconstitution of the Cuban resistance” against the big enemy that has not ceased its aggressions. And, citing Fidel Castro, he pointed out that the revolutionary process “has produced two forces, one for the continuity of the socialist system,” and inside currents that could be able to make it fall.

The frontal rejection of the capitalist system of domination was unanimous in the participations of Marlina, from the New York Occupy Wall Street; from Carlos Marentes, an activist with agricultural workers in Texas and New Mexico, and members of Via Campesina; of Santos de la Cruz Carrillo, Wirrárika representative, who recognized that indigenous and non-indigenous resistance has up to now impeded that mining exploitation is initiated in the Wirikuta desert, sacred for his people, in San Luis Potosí. Or even Salvador Campanur, from Cherán, where one day the population decided to put a ¡ya basta¡ to the criminal destruction of their forests, as well as to the manipulative and divisive role of the political parties in the meseta Michoacán Meseta.

For his part, the Bolivian Paredes described the experience of communitarian feminism in her country, without denying the importance that the Zapatista struggle has had for Bolivian women, and she denounced that the destruction of culture and nature “is also constructed on the oppression of women.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seminar on Anti-Systemic Movements re: EZLN Influence

The EZLN, Origen of the Current Social Unrest All Over the Globe

** Vision of González Casanova and De Sousa Santos in seminar

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, January 2, 2012

Two of the most influential sociologists-thinkers of the last half-century, Pablo González Casanova and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, referred with animation to the emergence of alternative social movements all over the world, and both found the Zapatista Rebellion at the origin of this process. “We are conscious,” González Casanova said, “that we are more all the time and that there will be more all the time who struggle in the entire world for what in 1994 just seemed like a ‘post-modern indigenous rebellion’ and that in reality is the beginning of a human mobilization considerably better prepared for achieving liberty, justice and democracy.”

The Portuguese De Sousa, ample expert of the Latin American reality and committed to democratic change in the countries of our south, considered that today “one cannot have a view from the left and struggle against capitalism” without referring to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). He said that during the international seminar Planet Earth: Anti-Systemic Movements that was held during four days in el Cideci-Unitierra and concluded this Monday.

“The world movement of the indignados (indignant ones) of the Earth began in the Lacandón,” he points out about entry of González Casanova’s document for the seminar, and that turns out to be a “script of words” about where to travel at this complex moment; a 17-point manual, for worldwide use, for interpreting new ideas for action that will also have to be new: “Impoverished and excluded, indignados and occupiers formulate theories that contain great empirical support, based on a large quantity of experiences;” understandings, arts and techniques “that correspond to the wisdom and ‘know how’ of the peoples” that exalted Andrés Aubry, and the Tojolabal values “of human solidarity” that Carlos Lenkersdorf rescued.

“We think about the immense mobilization of the indignados and the occupiers that struggle for another possible world. Today –two admired English professors write–, the mobilization is gigantic. Never had one of that magnitude been presented, and all the mobilization ‘began (they add) in the jungles of Chiapas with principals of inclusion and dialogue,’” says González Casanova. “That universal movement in the midst of their differences lives in similar problems” and finds “similar solutions for the creation of another world and another necessary culture, which the peoples of the Andes express as living well; in which the living well of some does not depend on others living badly.”

The slogan that the Zapatista Movement used for liberty, justice and democracy “walks through the whole world not as an echo, but as the voices of thinking and a similar wanting,” points out the author of La democracia en México. Those movements “coincide in that the solution is that democracy of everyone for everyone and with everyone that is not delegated, and that some call democratic socialism or 21st Century socialism and others just democracy, and that is that, and much more, because it is a new way of relating to the land and with human beings, a new way of organizing life.”

De Sousa, a professor at the University of Coimbra and promoter of the World Social Forum, maintained last night that: “a change of civilization is needed” to conquer capitalism, dominant on a planetary scale, since “is has created a civilization-wide totality” that one must conquer. “Zapatismo is a window of what this change can be like, the only one that can save Humanity.”

In a description of the progressive processes en Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and other South American countries, De Sousa pointed out paradoxical aspects in relation to the content against the State in the anti-systemic protests. “The constituent assembly that is now demanded in Chile and Tunis,” he suggested, means that at the moment there it is thought that it is necessary to re-found the State. Our continent, he said, “has possibilities of using hegemonic instruments to be counter-hegemonic, utilizing them against the dominant class.”

Assuming himself a Marxist with a long history, he admitted that in the last 20 years the important popular revolts “have been led by actors ignored, strangers to Marxism.” He enumerated: women, indigenous, gays and lesbians, migrants, campesinos, and that, “using words that the traditional left izquierda doesn’t know how to use,” like territory, dignity and spirituality. He recognized the pioneer value of the new constitution in Ecuador that assumes the rights of nature, “a contribution of the indigenous movement whose importance will only grow with time” in the entire world.

Inside the “sociology of emergencies” that we live in, De Sousa recognized that the Zapatistas “taught us another way of looking at the world; they broke with prevailing Marxist orthodoxy, discourse, semantics and some novel ideas; they taught us a new organizing logic that had a fundamental influence all over the world.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, January 3, 2012