Chiapas Support Committee

Capitalism in criminal mode

A gold mining operation next to a river in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. Photo is from the Guardian.

By: Raúl Zibechi

In Latina America a criminal or mafia capitalism is expanding geometrically, in whose practices the differences between formality, informality and crime dissolve, as Peruvian researcher Francisco Durand maintains and how he has previously analyzed the Argentine Marcelo Colussi (https://bit.ly/3YLq98t).

Each time we have more data and studies that evidence the modes in which this predatory and criminal capitalism operates that, evidently, is the form that the system assumes in this period. The Quehacer magazine, Number 10, from the Desco Center in Lima, highlights in its July edition that illegal gold mining exported no less than 3.9 billion dollars in 2020, exceeding that of drug trafficking (https://bit.ly/3Z3gU3E).

In parallel, Bolivian Senator Rodrigo Paz points out that his country “is besieged by the gold, contraband and drug trafficking mafias,” which add up to the overwhelming figure of 7.5 billion dollars (https://bit.ly/3GmGlWzx). Drug trafficking contributes $2.5 billion a year, smuggling $2 billion and gold $3 billion. “The government, not being able to access external loans, lets these resources flow because they move the national economy,” he tweeted.

To get an idea of the importance of these figures, one must compare the $7.5 billion of illegal economies with the country’s total $9 billion exports. An incredible proportion that reveals the importance of mafia economies. Illegal gold has displaced drug trafficking in both countries, even though Peru is the world’s second largest producer of coca and cocaine in the world.

A soldier patrols La Pampa, an area in Peru that was once lush rainforest, Photo: Brett Gundlock for Nature.

Most significantly, however, is how the illegal gold circuit works until it becomes legal gold. In Peru alone, there are 250,000 informal or artisanal miners who live in terrible conditions, are extorted and violated by intermediaries, until they reach the collectors. Legal and illegal miners participate in the extraction and commercialization process, with a fine dividing line between the two, since often the same collector buys in both markets.

Processing plants usually have double accounting, to access both the legal and illegal mineral. Gold converted into bullion or jewelry leaves for the two most important final destinations: Switzerland and the United States. The former imports 70 percent of the world’s gold. Bolivia and Peru produce almost 30 percent of gold illegally, a portion that reaches 77 percent in Ecuador, 80 in Colombia and 91 in Venezuela, according to the book Non-formal Mining in Peru (https://bit.ly/3YTYG4w).

This book reproduces a fragment of the work of the Swiss criminologist Mark Pieth, who highlights the contrast between La Rinconada, in Puno, “at more than 5 thousand meters high and with temperatures of minus 22 degrees, where 60 thousand gold prospectors squeeze into a town that 25 years ago was home to only 25 families. “

In that village “an unbearable stench of urine and human feces” dominates and the living and working conditions are “horrendous.” This reality is contrasted with “the glamor of gold in Switzerland,” where the Swatch watch company “spends 50 million Swiss francs annually, just to present its new gold watches, and beautiful models present jewelry for the enjoyment of those who can afford them” (p. 73).

Mafia capitalism causes enormous environmental and social damages, such as pollution and deforestation, homicides and disappearances, rapes and femicides, perpetrated by the mafias. One of its consequences is human trafficking for various purposes: sexual and labor exploitation, sale of children and organ trafficking. In mafia capitalism, people are just another commodity that can be torn to pieces with total impunity by state complicity.

A gold mining operation. in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo: NBC News.

Finally, we would have to answer a question that allows us to complete the picture, one that researchers in general do not ask: what is the State that corresponds to this mafia capitalism, which destroys everything to accumulate more and more capital?

It is a state for war, for dispossession against those below. But it has a peculiarity that differentiates it from the dictatorships that devastated our region: it’s painted with democratic colors, it calls elections although there are fewer and fewer freedoms, since monopolies block freedom of information and expression. In short: a criminal-electoral State.

Those who pretend to be a government must know that they will administer a criminal and predatory capitalism, impossible to regulate. That’s why the progressive rulers continue with extractivism and large infrastructure works, and look the other way when the murders of social leaders take place.

Looking aside is a way of letting go, as Switzerland does when it imports gold bathed in blood and death. Asked why Switzerland continues to import this gold, Mark Pieth concludes: “They want to do trade, to make an island of pirates” (p. 74).

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, December 30, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/30/opinion/019a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Zapatismo impacts processes of autonomy in Latin America

An interview with Raúl Zibechi

29 years after the EZLN Uprising, the journalist and popular educator Raúl Zibechi evaluates the validity of the Zapatismo of Chiapas in the social and indigenous movements of Latin America and the processes that they experience before the progressive governments today.

Text: Daliri Oropeza Alvarez

Photos: Pedro Anza and Isabel Mateos

MEXICO CITY – Raúl Zibechi is a popular educator, journalist and writer who lives in Montevideo, Uruguay -where he has his library – when he isn’t traveling in Latin America. He is part of the Desinformémonos team, and collaborates in several media such as La Jornada, in Gara or Brecha, a media created by Mario Benedetti and Eduardo Galeano.

Zibechi is a referent for the analysis of anti-capitalist movements. For him, what’s important about the Uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) in 1994 and what has been constructed in these 29 years in Chiapas is “showing that it’s a possible path,” to talk about autonomy.

He takes stock of the Zapatista Journey in Europe, the solidarity and horizons it opens up in Latin America for social movements. At the same time, he talks about the social context for indigenous movements with progressive governments, “they embody a possibility and in turn a risk,” he says in an interview.

He gives an overview of how progressive governments have people from the struggles in their ranks and this implies a risk for social or indigenous movements.

The journalist has closely followed the process of Pueblos Unidos, Nahua communities that united for water from the Cholultec region in Puebla, who closed a Bonafont plant and managed to recover water from their own wells.

There, in the closed Bonafont plant, he gave workshops and presented books. Although they were evicted, Zibechi returned this 2022 to present his book Other Worlds and peoples in movement. Debates on anti-colonialism and transition in Latin America.

In an interview he describes how the processes of dispossession, whether by corporations or States, cause division in indigenous peoples or social organizations, and talks about avoiding confrontation, given the difficulty of recovering the social fabric.

He assures us that we cannot forget that the subjects of decolonization are the peoples. He emphasizes that it’s important to think collectively and Zapatismo has stood out in that, in the simultaneous doing-reflection.

He participates in the interview from Montevideo, where he participates in a movement called Popular Subsistence Market, a collective of 53 nodes in networks dedicated to the community purchase and distribution of food that they buy from recovered factories, from peasants directly, or from production cooperatives.

Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Dec.31, 2018. Members of the comandancia and the Good Government Juntas, bases of support and social organizations, attend the celebration for the 25th anniversary of the insurrection of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. The event was held in the Zapatista Caracol of La Realidad. Photo: Pedro Anza /cuartoscuro.com.

The uprising and its contagions

—A 29 years later, why is it important to remember the Zapatista Uprising?

—It’s important because it marks a watershed in Latin America and the world. But we are going to stay in Latin America, at a time when real socialism had fallen. Between 1989 and 1991 there was an implosion of Soviet and Eastern European socialism and no social changes were in sight.

There was a complete triumph of neoliberal capitalism in the world. ‘The Commodity Consensus’, as an Argentine sociologist calls it. That on the one hand, and on the other hand, the vociferous advocacy of native peoples, in this case the peoples with Mayan roots, marks a turning point in what previous struggles used to be, they placed autonomy in a prominent place. The construction of autonomies instead of the struggle for state power.

Already in 1994, these two elements mark the irruption of a revolutionary force and in turn the collective subjects that sustain them: the original peoples.

How does the Zapatista uprising affect or favor social movements in Latin America today?

In Latin America, Zapatismo had a very strong imprint in the early years, logically. Then that imprint changed in intensity but today as almost 30 years have passed since “Ya Basta!” we have in Latin America, including Mexico, a large number of autonomous experiences … that I would not describe as daughters of Zapatismo but traveling similar paths.

We see the Mapuche People or different variables of the Mapuche People in southern Chile, in southern Argentina; the Nasa in southern Colombia, in Cauca; the birth of two autonomous territorial governments of the peoples in northern Peru: Wallmapu and Wampis, which are formed in the last six, seven years, in 2015 the Wampis, in 2021 the Wallmapu.

Twenty, up to 28 autonomous processes in the Brazilian legal Amazon of autonomous demarcation of territories; processes such as those experienced by Cherán in Mexico; processes such as those of Guerrero and those of Oaxaca, which some already came from before as the community autonomies of Oaxaca, but that are strengthened in this period of the 90s and take their own paths, naturally.

Zapatismo impacts the autonomous processes, it doesn’t direct them at all, because that’s not its objective, and also autonomy does not admit that others direct you, right? Autonomy is autonomy, so totally. Then everyone takes their own paths.

We also have autonomy and urban autonomic construction processes more or less known in different parts of the world and Latin America. And this seems to me to be very important: to create and confirm that we are in a process in which there is not only a part of the left and the movements that bet on the conquest of state power, but there is another part that sometimes collaborates or not, or are distanced. But there is another part of that left, from below, that fights for autonomy.

Something similar happens in the women’s movement, in one part they are more attached to state initiatives and another part more than linked to autonomy projects or autonomy processes. A similar thing happens among campesinos, among the black peoples who are at this moment, both in Brazil and Colombia, in processes of expansion of their initiatives.

It could be said, then, that the EZLN Uprising in ’94 and what was built as a result of Zapatismo, is a kind of detonator to make visible or proclaim these autonomies, which in themselves were already there, to infect them…

“Yes. Those that already existed and infect others that did not exist and show that it’s a possible way.

I do want to emphasize that what you call a detonator or a driver of these processes, is not in relation to direction. There is no one to direct these processes because autonomies are naturally self-directing, right?

Looking at Latin America

It’s been a year since the Zapatista Journey for life where two delegations, one maritime, one by air traveled to another geography that is Europe. What horizons does this experience open in Latin America?

—I participated in exile in the 80s when the Uruguayan dictatorship in Europe, in the Spanish State, in processes of international solidarity.

What the Zapatista tour does is bring about a change in the political culture of solidarity. Not to provoke. To show that another culture of solidarity is possible because I remember in my life leaders, especially of the Central American guerrillas, who visited Europe; commanders, to meet with European political leaders. It was always mediated by fundraising, right, material support.

AUSTRIA, September 14 2021- The Zapatista extemporaneous delegation arrived at the Vienna International Airport this morning. 103 Zapatistas traveled on the plane; amoing them were men, women and children from Mexico City. Photo: Isabel Mateos Hinojosa / Cuartoscuro.com

In this case what there are: women, above all, men, girls and boys from the communities and peoples with Mayan roots who visit another continent and meet with other people from the Europe of below.

It shows that another type of bond is possible, another type of relationship that does not go through the styles of the old political culture and is, to put it in some metaphorical way, an embrace between people and peoples from below. This is important because it also sends a different message that it is possible and necessary to carve out another political culture even in international relations.

This was left there, which people then pick up. I find it interesting to note that there are other ways and that they were shown. Other ways of doing solidarity, I call it political culture but there is no reason to call it that. Everyone calls things as they see fit.

—Now there are more countries with progressive governments in Latin America, what does it mean for indigenous movements on the one hand and for social movements on the other?

Well, you know that I am very critical of progressive governments. The ones I know the most, logically, are those from the Southern Cone: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile… They embody a possibility and at the same time a risk.

The progressive government of Gabriel Boric sent more armored vehicles and more soldiers to Wallmapu, Mapuche territory, than the neoliberal government of Piñera, and militarized Wallmapu. That shows the risk, right? of the militarization of indigenous territories.

In turn, Lula, in his first two governments, advanced the enormous infrastructure work of Belo Monte, the third largest dam, an initiative that not even the military of the Brazilian dictatorship of 64 to 85 could carry out due to the opposition of the peoples of the Amazon, of the native indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

One says: Is Lula or Bolsonaro better? Obviously, I prefer Lula to be there than Bolsonaro, but that cannot obscure the enormous risks that the existence of progressive governments that are thriving represent for the movements. For the movements they have a risk, because many of them have been with the peoples, many of their cadres, especially in the media, have participated in the struggles of the peoples and when they go to the government, they take that knowledge to the government, then they can work better with them.

Now Lula is going to create the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, of Original Peoples, because they were the spearhead of the struggle or resistance to Bolsonaro. There is already a whole mechanism created so that the leaders of a good part of these peoples are inserted into the ministerial structure, with which the struggle and organization of the peoples will undoubtedly be weakened.

There are lights and shadows, and the shadows for movements, for indigenous peoples, are very great risks because once a people, an organization is inserted into the institutions and co-opted by them, it is very difficult to recover autonomy.

Recovering social fabrics

“What a panorama! There is a concern expressed in several indigenous peoples about the division caused by voracious capitalism or governments, about dispossession. What alternatives do social or indigenous movements have in the face of what you were talking about, the use of codes of struggle by progressive governments, in the face of division?

—I have no alternatives. What I see at the more macro level is that the world’s ruling classes and international corporations have learned a lot from the people.

There we have the case of Soros and the Color Revolutions, which are found in many places to such an extent that one doubts. We won’t know if it’s a legitimate movement or if it’s a movement that started out legitimate, regardless of whether it agrees or not, but then was manipulated by the media and the right. Something like this happened in Brazil in June 2013.

A gold mining operation in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park. Photo: The Guardian.

A mining corporation, for example, arrives in Peru or Ecuador, or in any country: Argentina, Chile, regardless of the government, it arrives in a community and that community is offered “aid” for schools, for sports centers, for a number of initiatives. It neutralizes criticism of this mining venture.

So, the result is what you mentioned: a division is promoted in the communities, by that intelligence acquired by the big corporations: the mining companies, Monsanto, the soy companies, etc. and a process of division of the struggles begins because there are always people from the communities who, even without bad intentions, see that the presence of this mining company or this international company is favorable to their interests.

This division inevitably weakens the struggle, the resistance. So, what I believe is that we are facing a period in which capitalism, the knowledge of capitalism, has managed to generate widespread confusion among the popular sectors and communities and in this confusion the extractive projects deepen and accelerate, and this is very difficult to reverse.

The only way to reverse it is with a lot of patience. With a lot of acceptance that the community is divided and that they are not good and bad. Sometimes there is someone bought by power, of that there is no doubt. But you can’t simplify it between good and bad. What ends up happening is a situation in which the collective fabric of communities ends up being hurt, torn.

And repairing those tissues is not easy. Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. But we must avoid confrontation in any case, because except for a minimum, a very small minority of people who obtain positions or money, that division cannot be judged because what is acting are very strong powers.

—In your recent book, “Other Worlds and Peoples in Motion,” you place peoples as collective subjects of knowledge and critical potential, as a subject within history with an emancipatory potential.

—In this book I try to show, to know one: that decolonization or decoloniality, as academia maintains, has subjects that are the peoples, who are collective subjects.

Because sometimes it would seem that there is a lot of confusion in academia, like everywhere, which is not something special. But what one can see is that it’s not clear from the writings of scholars who the subjects of decolonization are. And they are the peoples.

That is a first theoretical and important question, because otherwise the peoples would be the object of study and I believe that they are collective subjects in thought and action.

And the second thing is to show how in this completely new period, Immanuel Wallerstein says that we are navigating seas for which there are no maps because we are in a systemic crisis of capitalism, of neoliberalism, and before a civilizational crisis that includes environmental and other facets.

The peoples, unlike the old labor movement, are in turn resisting the model but creating new things in health, in education, in justice, and not only in Chiapas.

I believe that Zapatismo does both: create a new world and reflect on it. It has both facets and in that sense it shows an important plus because, although I believe that the creations of a we are already the heritage of many native peoples, blacks, peasants and even urban peripheries in Latin America, the deep reflection on this is not yet the heritage of all movements.

But yes, Zapatismo has excelled in this: in doing and reflecting, in reflecting on what is done and this is a very important thing because we need to think collectively in order to continue growing.

Originally Published in Spanish by Pie de Página, Saturday, December 31, 2022, https://piedepagina.mx/el-zapatismo-impacta-en-los-procesos-de-autonomia-de-america-latina-raul-zibechi/ and Re-Published with English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee

The EZLN commemorates 29 years of struggle with a call to new generations of rebels

Entrance to Caracol VII, Jacinto Canek, site of the celebration. Photo: Isaín Mandujano.

With dances and slogans, members of the EZLN ratified their struggle that began on January 1, 1994 and called on the new generations of rebels not to forget those who gave them their lives.

By: Isaín Mandujano

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, Chis (proceso.com.mx)

Between dances and slogans, milicianxs and support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) ratified their struggle that began on January 1, 1994 and called on the new generations of rebels not to forget the dead who gave their lives since “the organization” was conceived in the deepest recesses of the Lacandón Jungle.

In the interior of Caracol VII Jacinto Canek, located in the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Indigenous Center for Integral Training AC-Universidad de la Tierra Chiapas (Cideci-Unitierra Chiapas) north of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, some two thousand masked members of the EZLN gathered.

After honoring the Mexican flag and the EZLN fighting flag, a black flag with a red five-pointed star in the center, one of the commanders of the armed group took the floor to recall what happened that night between December 31, 1993 and January 1, 1994.  as well as the days of war that came afterwards, in which there were many dead, wounded and missing.

While they allowed access to journalists, they did not allow photographs, videos, much less record audio of the speech given only in Tsotsil. Except for the slogans that were in Castile, as they refer to the Spanish language.

The spokesman of the event thanked everyone for their presence to remember this date of the armed uprising “against the bad government.” But above all, he said, remembering the men and women who lost their lives “in those difficult days.”

The Jacinto Canek Zapatista Caracol VII. Photo: Isain Mandujano.

“Let’s remember that this fight is a fight against the bad government, so let’s remember that we must be and continue to be organized, developing what we are doing. Let us all continue to work in unity, let us all continue in the organization because this is a long journey that has been made. It is a job that those who have already died left and we must continue, to continue remembering it,” the rebel commander said.

He pointed out that they continue to demand justice for their dead and disappeared, and that they did not stop shouting it because each and every one of those crimes that remain unpunished must be clarified.

He asked those present not to forget the dead, because thanks to them they have been able to continue fighting for a better quality of life and outlined that their levels of government are now determined by three hierarchies, by groups, by zones, and in each of them each of the men and women have an important role.

“I ask the new generations to learn the form of organization, to learn to work within their towns and communities so that they do not have to migrate to other countries or states to get work, because within organizations there are also jobs that are very important. That is why it’s relevant that the new generations learn all that, so that the organization can continue,” he added.

“Don’t change your way of thinking, keep it up, let’s keep thinking like this because so far the organization has walked well and we follow the legacy and the thinking of those who have already died. And while it has been transformed, this has been in the community, so it’s important that we continue to learn all this, “he said.

“No to the megaprojects.” Resistance and Rebellion. Photo: Isaín Mandujano.

“¡Viva el EZLN! ¡viva the 29th anniversary of the armed uprising!, ¡vivan the insurgentas!, ¡vivan the insurgentes!, ¡vivan las milicianas!, ¡vivan los milicianos!, ¡viva Subcomandante Insurgente Pedro!, ¡vivan all of the fallen!, ¡viva the resistance and rebellion!, ¡viva subcomandante insurgente Moisés!, ¡viva subcomandante Insurgente Galeano!, ¡viva Chiapas!, ¡viva Chiapas!, ¡Viva México!, ¡Viva México, ¡Viva México!”, were the chants at the end of the political event. 

Then it gives way to the musical group that enlivened the dance, where men and women filled the sports field.

They were first born as the National Liberation Forces (FLN, Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional) on November 17, 1983 in the heart of the Lacandón Jungle. Later, in 1992, to attend the march on October 12, 1992, to celebrate 500 years of indigenous resistance, they called themselves the Emiliano Zapata National Campesino Alliance (ANCIEZ, Alianza Nacional Campesina Emiliano Zapata). But on January 1, 1994, the whole world knew them as the EZLN.

Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso, Sunday, January 1, 2023, https://www.proceso.com.mx/nacional/estados/2023/1/1/el-ezln-conmemora-29-anos-de-lucha-con-un-llamado-las-nuevas-generaciones-de-rebeldes-299540.html and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

EZLN, 29 years of persistence

Zapatistas in the Municipal Palace of San Cristóbal de las Casas on January 1, 1994. Photo: Carlos Cisneros.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

29 years have passed since the armed uprising and the declaration of war against the Mexican state of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in the mountains of Chiapas. Six presidents and nine governors later, and so much water running under the bridges at the national and local levels since that early morning of January 1, 1994, the challenge posed by the insurrectionary Mayan peoples remains. And its bold and functional autonomy has just turned 28. On December 19 of that same year, the creation of the first 38 rebel autonomous municipalities was announced.

What was born as an experiment in indigenous peoples’ self-government, which the State has never recognized and for seasons has openly fought via the armed forces and police at all levels, still stands when 2023 arrives. The rebellious municipalities persist, different from those at the beginning, but the same. La Jornada toured the regions of some of the at least 12 current Zapatista caracoles and was able to observe the vitality of this autonomy.

In 1995, after the military occupation of the Zapatista communities and, on orders of President Ernesto Zedillo, destruction of the Aguascalientes in the Tojolabal community of Guadalupe Tepeyac, the EZLN created five Aguascalientes, and organized their autonomy regionally around them.

What began as an armed action, for many even suicidal, resulted in new forms of indigenous self-management against the grain of the rampant neoliberal Spring in which the PRI governments claimed to have lifted Mexico. After the San Andrés Accords in 1996, Zapatista autonomy was in fact confirmed by assuming as law the agreements signed and then betrayed by the Zedillo government. This autonomy was rightly seen as an obstacle to the transnational and national megaprojects to come.

Memorable are the police, military and paramilitary aggressions against the rebel municipalities. Tierra y Libertad, Ricardo Flores Magón, San Juan de la Libertad, San Pedro Polhó and San Pedro de Michoacán are among those that suffered the greatest violence and dispossession. Even so, these governments continued, establishing their own systems of justice, health, education, transportation and management of land and its products.

A large part of these autonomous spaces were, and still are, on land recuperated from the finqueros (estate owners) and cattle ranchers of the Lacandón Jungle after the uprising almost three decades ago. Many others are made up of communities in the traditional areas of Los Altos, the northern zone, the jungle itself and the border region of Chiapas. Choles, Tseltales, Tsotsiles, Tojolabales and Zoques who embarked on resistance.

Six-year term after six-year term, government projects and programs have sought to undermine economically and institutionally this unique indigenous autonomy in the world. In August 2003 another twist was known when the creation of the caracoles was announced, new centers of government in the five Aguascalientes that already existed. Thus, the Good Government Juntas were born, around which the Zapatista municipalities were reorganized.

The experience would be very useful to face the new government attacks after the “declaration of war” from the government of Felipe Calderón to organized crime, which in principle meant militarily surrounding the country’s indigenous communities and the virtual paralysis of the National Indigenous Congress. With Peña Nieto would come the Crusade Against Hunger, a new version of economic counterinsurgency. In 2019 and 2020, already in the period of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the EZLN established new caracoles and good government juntas, until adding at least 12, and a redistribution of its municipalities.

Now it’s the new state and federal governments of Morena that dispute followers by electoral means (to which the Zapatistas never go) and promote a renewed partisanship of municipalities and indigenous communities, as well as by economic means through social and welfare programs, to which the Zapatista resistance has remained impervious by peaceful and organized means.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Saturday, December 31, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/31/politica/008n1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Pablo González Casanova, a Latin American trajectory

Don Pablo (Comandante Pablo Contreras) with Subcomandante Galeano. Photo: Daliri Oropeza.

By: Sebastián Rivera Mir*

In the 1970s, the Argentine dictatorship decided to outlaw hundreds of books analyzing the continent’s social and political conditions. On Sociology of exploitation, by Pablo González Casanova [1], they declared that it was a book that demonstrated “a form with undoubtedly dissociative tendencies, since they attack the structure of the State or one of its institutions, considering the need for its change by unacceptable means.” Why did one of the bloodiest dictatorships on the continent worry about the approaches of the Mexican historian and sociologist who was more than 8,000 kilometers away?  How could a text of rigorous analysis of Latin America’s economic and social future be a threat to Argentine generals?

Beyond the anti-communist hysteria itself, these soldiers seemed to understand one of the main objectives of Pablo González Casanova at the time of carrying out his intellectual activity: it’s not enough to just understand reality, it’s essential to try to change it. His commitment to social movements, to revolutionary processes, cannot be dissociated from his rigorous and critical efforts to analyze political, cultural and economic problems. Of course, the impact of his proposals throughout the continent has ended up becoming a challenge for those who seek to curb democratic processes.

The Latin American gaze of González Casanova began to be cemented from his first steps in the academic field. Paradoxically, one of his first publications in El Colegio de México, where he studied for a master’s degree in history, focused on censorship implemented by Spanish colonial authorities in Latin America. The doctorate, carried out in France together with one of the leading historians of the time, Fernand Braudel, again led him to explore the activities related to the coloniality of thought, although this time from the perspective of the sociology of knowledge.

The need to rethink, from Marxism, those categories that explained the conditions of subordination of the continent led him to build, with a statistical rigor uncommon in the 60s, the concept of internal colonialism. It was a question of understanding how forces were articulated within our countries that contributed and took advantage of the relations of dependency for their own benefit. Like many of his works, it was also based on dialogue with other researchers and political actors. Different approaches were discussed in academic spaces in Brazil, Peru, Chile, Mexico, among other countries. Thus, the result was not a personal interpretation, but a true work of collective criticism throughout Latin America.

Don Pablo González Casanova with Marichuy in 2018. Photo: Daliri Oropeza.

The process of conceptual and reflective elaboration of Pablo González Casanova has been accompanied by the creation of institutions that would allow these intellectual efforts to be sustained over time. At different times, he was linked to the Centro Latino-Americano de Pesquisas em Ciências Sociais (Clapcs; Unesco), the Latin American Association of Sociology, the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso), the Permanent Seminar on Latin America (Sepla), publishers such as the Fondo de Cultura Económica or Siglo XXI, the Salvador Allende Center for Latin American Studies, among other organizations. We could go on enumerating; However, what is relevant is to recognize that his commitment to institution-building has given density to the analytical exchanges required to face problems that often exceed national boundaries.

This last aspect allows us to understand the thematic breadth of his reflections, which have covered elements as diverse as democracy, militarism, peasant and workers’ movements, the constitution of states and uneven economic development. These problems, central to understanding the challenges faced in Latin America, have been part of Pablo González’s political career. For example, his support for anti-dictatorial movements led him to focus his analyses on the role of democracy in the region, or his collaboration with South American exiles pushed him to rethink militarism. Thus, as we have stated, their political practices, their theoretical works and their contributions from the academic field, have formed part of the same process.

That’s why it’s no coincidence that Chilean students at the end of the 60s took up thinking again about university reform, having their books reprinted in different parts of the continent or that even the Federal Directorate of Security continued its activities in support of the revolutionary movements in Cuba, Central America or Mexico. The trajectory of Pablo González Casanova in Latin America has allowed consolidating an alternative political thought and praxis, which continues to encourage the struggles for a different world. And this, as with the Argentine military in the 70s, constitutes a challenge for the defenders of the current neoliberal model.

* Professor researcher of El Colegio Mexiquense

[1] In April 2018, the EZLN named Doctor Pablo González Casanova a comandante in the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee of the EZLN (CCRI-EZLN), Comandante Pablo Contreras.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/14/opinion/022a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

The return of the old mole

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

A ray in the darkness of Salinas neoliberalism illuminated Mexico from below on the night of December 31, 1993. At the sound of the drum of dawn, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas militarily occupied the municipal capitals of the main cities of Los Altos and the Chiapas jungle.

Formed on November 17, 1983, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) grew for years in silence, underground, until the moment came to rise up in arms. The counter-reform to Article 27 of the Constitution raised the white flag of land distribution and the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement converted the country into “Maquilatitlán;” they left no alternatives on the horizon.

The first public indications of the insurgents’ existence appeared on the 22nd and 23rd of May 1993, when the Army found Las Calabazas rebel camp, in the Sierra Corralchén [mountains] of the Lacandón Jungle [1]. On May 24, soldiers surrounded the Pataté community, gathered its inhabitants in its center and, without a search warrant, went inside to search houses. They found a few low-caliber weapons used for hunting. Eight indigenous men were arrested. Later, they randomly arrested two Guatemalans who were selling clothes. They were charged with treason. The region became militarized and overflowed with new resources from the Solidarity Program. But then path of the rebellion continued.

ANCIEZ member knocks down the statue of Mazariegos. Photo: Antonio Turok.

A warning that something was happening in those lands could be seen in San Cristóbal de las Casas, on October 12, 1992. In anticipation of what would be common in other latitudes over the years, a contingent of the National Indigenous Peasant Alliance Emiliano Zapata (ANCIEZ) knocked over the statue of the conquistador Diego de Mazariegos, during the march to commemorate 500 years of indigenous, black and popular resistance. From then on, the ANCIEZ stopped acting publicly.

Out of the press’ spotlight, great transformations began to take place in grassroots organizations. Not a few democratic teachers had to leave their schools in Las Cañadas and moved to teach in other regions. In the assemblies of the cooperatives of small coffee producers, some of their leaders “disappeared” from the map, only to reappear after the uprising, no longer as coffee growers, but as Zapatistas. Others (many of them young) were absent for some time and returned with a surprising political formation. Several more, usually very active in the assemblies of their associations, visibly tired, stopped intervening in the meetings, while they dozed overloaded in the bundles of coffee. Later, it would be known that they used the nights to train in other tasks.

At the same time, many producers who for years had received credits from Solidarity to finance their crops and had religiously returned them, stopped paying them and used the resources for other things. There were not a few who sold their cows and pigs, nor those who stopped planting corn. They were preparing for something big. Meanwhile, communities voted to declare war on bad government.

The imminence of the armed uprising was an insistent rumor in Chiapas circles. There was talk that it would be December 28, April Fool’s Day. It was uncertain whether it would happen, its magnitude and the form it would take.

The Zapatista cry of “Ya Basta!” on January 1, 1994, shook the entire country and reached the most dissimilar corners of the planet. Its manifestations were as unexpected as they were diverse.

At the height of the conflict, the National Coordinator of Coffee Organizations (CNOC), with a relevant presence in Chiapas, became involved in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Although it was composed mostly of indigenous people, its members did not usually identify themselves as such until then. But the uprising disrupted this dynamic and awakened in them an enormous pride of belonging to the original (native) peoples. At an assembly held in the old Ciudad Real (San Cristóbal), the teacher Humberto Juárez, a Mazatec president of the organization, unexpectedly began his speech in his own language, addressing the attendees as “indigenous brothers.” The change was remarkable. At meetings, Spanish was usually spoken and small coffee farmers referred to themselves as “fellow coffee producers.” Similar events took place throughout the country.

Some 28 years have passed. Since those dates, the Zapatistas have not only survived. They have constructed one of the most astonishing and surprising experiences in anti-capitalist self-government and self-management. They have renewed themselves generationally. They are an exceptional countercultural ferment and a source of inspiration for thousands of those who struggle for a different world all over the planet.

Revolution is the old mole that digs deeply into the soil of history and occasionally shows its head, said Karl Marx. As happened between 1983 and 1994, many of the transformations that the rebels have promoted from below go unnoticed today. Sooner or later, that old mole will come to the surface.

Twitter: @lhan55

[1] The Sierra Corralchén mountain range separates the Zapatista Caracoles of La Garrucha and Morelia in the cañadas (canyons) region of the Lacandón Jungle.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, December 27, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/27/opinion/011a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee.

Please consider making a donation to the Chiapas Support Committee in support of our work with the Zapatistas. Just click on the donate button. We appreciate every donation and will thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The wetlands in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, are worth more than a billion pesos and a city’s water

María Eugenia Mountain Wetlands.

By: Ángeles Mariscal

The La Kisst and María Eugenia Mountain wetlands, located in the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, are at risk of disappearing. To assess the cost of the loss to the ecosystem services it now provides, and propose the recovery strategy, the federal government’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC) made an economic diagnosis of  what this area provides to the population of this region.

The Kisst and María Eugenia mountain wetlands occupy 347 hectares and are located in the southern part of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the main tourist attraction in Chiapas and one of the most emblematic and important colonial cities in southeast Mexico.

This area captures and stores carbon and regulates the temperature of the region. It houses species of fish, birds, amphibians and endemic mammals classified for special protection. It also prevents flooding by stopping soil and sediment entrainment, provides recreational services and scenic beauty and provides water to the population of San Cristóbal’s around 123,000 inhabitants, explained María del Pilar Salazar Vargas, Director of Environmental Economics and Natural Resources.

In the economic valuation of these ecosystem services, the INECC details that, for example, the capture and storage of carbon that is carried out in these wetlands, in the carbon market has a cost of 41 million pesos per year; flood control is just over 67 million; providing clean water has a value of 198 million pesos; and providing water to the entire population costs 769.98 million pesos. That is, wetlands provide services that in monetary terms mean 1 billion 77 million pesos each year.

Kisst Wetlands.

But, according to the INECC study, the place is affected and 86% of its service potential was lost, mainly due to water pollution from fecal waste and other waste that is dumped there; but also due to the extraction of stone material and the pressure that real estate [interests] -many of them linked to tourism- exercise, in addition to the invasion of individuals, who have built houses on top of the wetlands.

This meant that, in April of this year, the federal government decreed the wetland zone of San Cristóbal de Las Casas as a “critical habitat” – the first to be decreed in the country – which allows immediate and urgent strategies to be established for the recovery of the place.

Agustín Ávila Romero, General Director of Policies for Climate Action of SEMARNAT and the one in charge of the General Directorate of INECC, explained that in the strategy that is already applied in the region of these wetlands. They established areas of operation, one of them of maximum protection, where no activity that affects the preservation and recovery of wetlands will be allowed, such as as new constructions.

INECC officials acknowledged that any conservation and recovery project in that area is a challenge due to the social dynamics that are now experienced in that city, including “the interests of criminal groups in the area.”

Mountain wetlands are a key ecosystem in fighting climate change.

In the maps they presented, they locate three points of the wetlands in which the social dynamics are more complex: the Bienestar Social, Fracción San Cristóbal and San Pablo districts, where the population that carries out conservation actions, as well as the authorities, have suffered physical aggressions.

The problem is such that they have not been able to stop the trucks that take out stone material, “application of the law is lacking,” explained Ávila Romero.

Finally, the specialists explained that recently at the COP27 held in Egypt, it was agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030, “this entails a set of measures where we have to understand that wetlands are key to combating climate change,” and thus the urgency in attention to the wetlands area of San Cristóbal.

Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Thursday, December 15, 2022, https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2022/12/mas-de-mil-millones-de-pesos-y-el-agua-de-una-ciudad-eso-valen-los-humedales-de-san-cristobal-chiapas/ and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Please consider making a donation to the Chiapas Support Committee in support of our work for the Zapatistas. Just click on the donate button. We appreciate every donation and will thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

They commemorate the Acteal Massacre with a procession and 45 black crosses

The Las Abejas members walk from the Majomut to the temple constructed at the site of the massacre. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

Acteal, Chiapas

In front of “the sacred mountains as witnesses,” the survivors and heirs of the victims of the massacre that occurred here 25 years ago stated that they have always struggled “for a dignified and just life,” and their heart “is a guardian of the memory of our own history and walking as peoples.” The civil society organization Las Abejas, to which the 45 Tsotsiles who were murdered by paramilitaries belonged, also celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding in December 1992.

The organization’s message, read by Guadalupe Vázquez, survivor as a little girl of the massacre and current symbol of the peaceful struggle and demands for justice, adds: “Our heart, like a monument, preserves the tragic event of the Acteal Massacre,” which took place “within the framework Chiapas 94 Campaign Plan’s counterinsurgency war, designed by the Ministry of National Defense and the PRI government of Ernesto Zedillo.”

Yesterday morning, having previously met at the Majomut sand mine, hundreds of indigenous people walked to Acteal carrying as many black crosses as there were victims murdered 25 years ago. They descended into the ravine that has since been declared the “sacred land of the Acteal martyrs.”

The pilgrims and their companions from the Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas and civil society were distributed on the steps and balcony of the panoramic temple, built on the tombs of the fallen and today sumptuously adorned with flowers, banners, lit candles, a high cross in the center, a modest Catholic altar and portraits of the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz García and the leader of Las Abejas, Simón Pedro Pérez, murdered a year ago by hitmen in Simojovel.

Dominican Bishop Raúl Vera, compañero of Jtatik Samuel Ruiz García in the bishopric at the time of the massacre and current bishop of Saltillo, could not miss the commemoration. For the indigenous people, the brave Bishop Vera, who has always been with them, is their jtotik. [1]

Admitting that: “it would seem that the tragedy has marked us in different ways,” the Las Abejas document states that: “the injustice and abuse of power gave us birth.” It covers the group’s milestones from their struggle for the release of their political prisoners in 1992 to the present day. The “State crime” remains unpunished: “as we have been denouncing month after month for a quarter of a century, the governments, be they PRI, PAN or Morena, instead of applying justice, have created strategies and policies of attrition (wear and tear) towards our organization. That has been their custom for burying truth and justice. The only thing that characterizes us is the tenacity and stubborn long-term memory that we have woven.”

It highlighted the attrition strategies and policies of successive governments, in particular that of Felipe Calderón. Another strategy “has been the procrastination of justice that has caused two divisions in our organization, in 2008 and 2014.”

Impunity has caused “endless conflicts in Chenalhó communities.” The municipality “has been ruled by violence” since 1997. “Impunity for the massacre has not only brought sadness and decomposition of the social and community fabric, but has caused unimaginable violence throughout Mexico. Not only can we say that the Mexican justice system is rotten, but that it is going from bad to worse. It seems that paramilitaries and organized crime have allied themselves.” Las Abejas mentioned Samir Flores Soberanes and Simón Pedro Pérez López.

In another message, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), a historical defender of Las Abejas, said: “It’s inspiring to observe how they build an island of peace and hope in everyday life, a refuge from the storm that surrounds the Los Altos (Highlands) region of Chiapas, where bullets fall like permanent drops and the social fracture widens amid the collusion and inaction of governments.”

Frayba pointed out that “the current federal government has maintained silence and denied before the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights the involvement of Mexican authorities in counterinsurgency actions during the 90s in Chiapas, and has consciously excluded this period from the study process of the Truth Commission.”

Finally, Dr. Adriana Ruiz Llanos, of the Intercultural Health Support Network in Acteal, denounced “the incompetence of the Chiapas authorities to attend to victims of violence.”

[1] jtatik means Father in Tseltal and jtotik means Father in Tsotsil.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, December 23, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/23/politica/007n1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Please consider making a donation to the Chiapas Support Committee in support of our work for the Zapatistas. Just click on the donate button. We appreciate every donation and will thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Peru, the language of the street

Protests in the southern city of Arequipa, Peru over rightwing coup that removed and imprisoned a campesino president.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

The street is talking in Peru. And it does so loudly. From the farthest and deepest corners of its geography to the megacity of Lima, it cries out for the closure of Congress, for new general elections, a constituent assembly and for the release of Pedro Castillo.

Street struggle has a long tradition in the Andean country. It has defined crucial issues on multiple occasions. A large archipelago of popular movements has flourished demonstrating along avenues and sidewalks, blocking roads, taking charge of their self-defense in Campesino Rounds and facing the devastation perpetrated by open-pit mining.

The ongoing call for the popular insurgency is the daughter of the political crisis caused by Castillo’s announcement, less than 500 days after assuming the presidency, that his government was proceeding to “temporarily dissolve the Congress of the Republic and establish an exceptional emergency government,” which would govern by resorting to decree-laws until the installation of a new Congress.  and his almost immediate arrest and replacement by Vice President Dina Boluarte, with the approval of the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS).

Pedro Castillo.

It is also the product of an endemic political crisis. In four years, six presidents have governed Peru (Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Martín Vizcarra, Manuel Merino, Francisco Sagasti, Pedro Castillo and Dina Boluarte). The current social emergency originates, in part, in the exhaustion of the regime that emerged in 1993 and its outdated Constitution. There is not only a permanent struggle between Congress and the Executive, but also a lack of political representation of huge sectors of the population.

Historically, the Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Educación en Perú (SUTEP), the education workers union, has been key in forging the left-wing social force that has taken to the streets over five decades. Its members – some 800,000 teachers – are all over the territory. The invisible fabric of internationalism led SUTEP to establish a close relationship with Mexican teachers in the mid-1970s who, in 1979, founded the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE).

Emerged from SUTEP, Professor Pedro Castillo led a split from that union in 2017 to found the National Federation of Education Workers of Peru. He then formed the Magisterial and Popular Party of Peru, as one of the electoral tools that allowed him to win the presidency.

The rural teacher Castillo was born into a peasant family. His parents were illiterate. He was never a deputy or minister. Coming from progressive evangelism, as a leader of SUTEP he led one of the longest and most important strikes by Peruvian education workers in 2017. In 2021, the teachers became the backbone of his electoral campaign, in which he visited the communities where political parties do not reach, with a huge pencil as an emblem.

Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher, campaigned with a large pencil as a symbol.

In a markedly racist country, the teacher won the presidential elections in the second round, articulating the social left, indigenous peoples and social sectors not identified with the political system. He offered, for example, to convene a constituent assembly and push for land reform. He defeated the neoliberal kleptocracy headed by Keiko Fujimori, also endowed with an important social base, built during the dictatorial government of her father, around the fight against poverty.

However, beyond the victory at the polls, it soon became clear that Castillo won the presidency, but not the power. He remained in a minority in Congress, did not have the support of either the army or the judiciary, and faced the animosity of the press and the great potentates. Events followed one another quickly. On two occasions, Congress tried to remove him. They did not reach the 87 votes they required.

Faced with the attacks of the right, far from resorting to those who brought him to the presidency, Castillo isolated himself from them. He bowed to pressure from the right and got rid of the best men and women in his cabinet. He set aside the call for a constituent assembly, early elections, land reform and the fight against open-pit mining. As if that were not enough, he called on the OAS to mediate in the pulse he maintained with Congress.

Despite the corruption allegations against him, at the time of the coup he had an approval rating of 31 percent, while Congress had only 9 percent sympathy. On December 7, right-wing legislators had forged a new attempt at a legislative coup, for which they did not have enough votes. However, the president’s failed call to dissolve Parliament precipitated his downfall.

The response of the nobodies against the right-wing coup has been of impressive vigor. Deep Peru speaks with indefinite strikes, caravans, demonstrations, road blocks, burning police barracks, airport takeovers, clashes with public forces. The popular insurgency is underway.

What future will this explosion of the invisibles have? Can it precipitate an early call for elections (not the mockery announced by Boluarte) and a new constituent assembly? Will a state of emergency be declared? Will she be drowned in blood and fire? Regardless of the outcome it has, as happened 151 years ago, when the Parisian comuneros took to heaven by storm, the popular insurgency that today speaks the language of the street in the homeland of José Carlos Mariátegui deserves our solidarity and support.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, December 13, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/13/opinion/019a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Acteal infamy, 25 years in memory

Ceremony in Acteal when Las Abejas of Acteal received the 2021 Mariano Abarca environmental award. Photo: Otros Mundos Chiapas

By: Hermann Bellinghausen*

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

A quarter of a century ago, on December 22, 1997, the direst of omens were fulfilled for the communities of Las Abejas and the support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the Chiapas Highlands: 45 people from the pacifist civil organization Las Abejas [The Bees] were brutally murdered in a few hours by a paramilitary group that had already been fully identified.

The massacre was never forgotten. Not only for the survivors, who for 25 years have taught the country what it is to resist peacefully and demand with dignity. Nor for the indigenous people of all Mexico nor for millions of people in the world. Acteal occupies an important place in the universal calendar of infamy, paraphrasing Borges.

Chiapas had two years of increasing paramilitary violence in response to the Zapatista uprising, officially disguised as “intra or inter-communal” or because of “religious differences.” In 1995, the Development, Peace and Justice group was unleashed, an allegedly civilian organization, soon paramilitary, related to the Mexican Army, widely deployed in the northern zone of the Choles, and greatly benefited by government programs.

Women of Las Abejas (The Bees).

In 1997, the paramilitary activity was unleashed in Chenalhó, And, starting in May of that year, the story was one of murders, houses and plots looted and burned. The people involved had been denounced for bringing firearms into certain communities tolerated by police forces and military checkpoints. Soon, thousands were displaced, completely dispossessed, in the rainy winter of 1997. Las Abejas and Zapatista bases established camps in Acteal and Polhó. Murders and executions paved the way for the massacre.

You didn’t have to be too suspicious to “smell” what was coming. Which by early December of that year, seemed imminent. However, the facts were beyond imagination. When Gonzalo Ituarte, of the diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, communicated to the Secretary of Government of Chiapas, Homero Tovilla Cristiani and his undersecretary Uriel Jarquín, the reports of shootings in the camp for displaced persons of Acteal, they promised to “investigate.”

It was 2 p.m. on Monday, December 22. At 6 p.m., Tovilla Cristiani notified Ituarte that the situation was under control and only “a few shots” were heard.

Las Abejas members protest against the continuing violence in front of Chenalhó government offices.

Attacked from behind

At the same time the first Red Cross ambulances arrived with the wounded survivors of those “few shots.” The State’s responsibility in the crime was enormous. “Its” people attacked from behind and shot indigenous people who were praying or crying. Bullets and machetes courtesy of the government of Ernesto Zedillo, through the obedient path of Governor Julio César Ruiz Ferro and the counterinsurgency cunning of General Mario Renán Castillo, in command of all federal troops in the so-called “conflict zone.”

It took 23 years for the federal government to recognize the responsibility of the State in the massacre, in the voice of the undersecretaries of the Interior Alejandro Encinas and Martha Delgado Peralta. Today, the demands for justice of the historical organization of Las Abejas still stand; they have decided to wait for the verdict of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which accepted the case in 2005.

*Hermann Bellinghausen wrote the book that exposed the facts about the Acteal Massacre.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Thursday, December 22, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/12/22/politica/010n1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Please consider making a donation to the Chiapas Support Committee in support of our work for the Zapatistas. Just click on the donate button. We appreciate every donation and will thank you from the bottom of our hearts.