By: Raúl Zibechi
The systemic chaos is so deep and the monopolistic media that misinform are so naturalized, that it’s difficult to make a clear composition of where we are, an inescapable step to trying to decipher where we are going. Even knowing that the attempt may fall short or go terribly wrong, here are some ideas about what we experience.
On the global scale, the analysis of the think tank European Laboratory of Political Anticipation, in its Bulletin 171, seems correct: “A new macroeconomic and geopolitical paradigm continues to take shape and we believe that the European Union will mainly be weakened, behind its historical protector, the United States, which preserves its world power together with a China at the crossroads and a flourishing India.”
Next, it emphasizes that “Latin America runs the great risk of succumbing once again to US influence, without this preventing it from relaunching dynamics of cooperation within its continent.” In short, Europe and Latin America will remain subordinate to the United States and, therefore, will have the most difficulty finding their place in the new world.
Secondly, we must look at what’s happening in the daily life of our societies. The Brazilian portal Passapalavra writes about the extreme right: we are facing a large social movement that “is born of the barbarism of territories increasingly managed by the direct violence of a standard of behavior that is far from the logic of social rights,” anchored in capitalist practices that commodify [everything] from popular territories to our “commodity bodies” themselves.
The author of the text, urbanist Isadora de Andrade Guerreiro, asserts that progressivism is not capable of reading that which is outside the dominant institutions. The world of crime (understood as the whole of accumulation by dispossession), dilutes the boundaries between worker and criminal, between legality and illegality. Once that cohesive world of wage society has dissolved, “through the ongoing wars,” society is in the process of reorganization.
This criminal mode of production needs new institutions, with other forms of political and social legitimation. We could say it another way: Accumulation by dispossession/extractivism/fourth world war, generates new political forms and institutions, which are taking shape on the rubble of the old republics and decaying democracies.
In a third dimension, between both proportions, between the macro and the everyday, the militarization of our societies does not stop growing, in a complex and for now irreversible process, which is born above and is reproduced below. Militarization affects the entire society; it’s the form that capitalism is producing in this period of dispossession. At the top we have the “Mexican model,”  as Silvia Adoue, a teacher at the MST’s Florestán Fernandes School, names it, for which the armed forces are assuming new structural roles.
Militarization is imposed on state-owned companies and control of the Amazon, as in Bolsonaro’s Brazil; but public order and even universities are also militarized, as in Peru today. The objective, in all cases, is to shield the mode of accumulation: open-pit mining, monocultures, large infrastructure works, to facilitate the appropriation of the commons and the flow of commodities.
Based on these three perspectives (global, local and intermediate), we can come to understand how the ruling classes are reshaping the system, by force of arms, to sustain a new system perhaps not so capitalist, maintaining colonialism and patriarchy. This is first and foremost.
The progressivisms are accomplices of this process by promoting militarization and militarism. This left talks about the right, the ultra-right and even about fascism, so as not to talk about the armed apparatuses of the State; in other words, of the nucleus of the nation-State that oppresses the peoples, which is intrinsically colonial-patriarchal.
It’s the armed forces that breed paramilitary groups and drug traffickers, directly or indirectly, by providing them with weapons, training and trained experts like retired military personnel, placing logistics and intelligence at their service.
The electoral left does not have a policy towards the armed forces, it subordinates itself to them and avoids its responsibility by blaming all the ills on the right and, when it fails, it limits itself to shouting “coup” without mobilizing.
I understand that it’s not easy to face armed packs, legal or illegal. It’s even more difficult to do so by avoiding the armed confrontation that caused so much pain in the past. That’s why we must create a new policy, which is capable of confronting the “permanent state of emergency” in which peoples survive.
 The “Mexican Model” – see Laura Carlsen’s excellent article on the Militarization of Mexico in Counterpunch: https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/01/13/the-militarization-of-mexico/https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/01/13/the-militarization-of-mexico/
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, January 27, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/27/opinion/010a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Today, Saturday, February 11, is don Pablo’s birthday.
From the Editors
Pablo González Casanova’s friends and compañeros of struggle expressed a heartfelt recognition to him as a master forger of critical, rebellious and constructive consciences, and as a precursor of the democratizing process in Mexico.
In a letter entitled “To Don Pablo, always in struggle,” members of the Peace with Democracy Group extended a warm congratulations for his 101st birthday, which is celebrated this Saturday, while thanking him for being a guide and inspiration of several generations, not only as an example of coherence in thinking, acting and living, but to accompany the best causes and liberating processes.
“Your conceptual and ethical reflections, your methodical rigor and your theoretical and political work, always committed to the times and challenges that you have had to live, shine and bear fruit. In the integrity you achieve between revolutionary change, peacebuilding and democracy, and a profound humanism, you have been a master forger of critical, rebellious, constructive consciences. “
In the message, signed by 21 people, colleagues in some or several stages of their professional and personal career, they ponder González Casanova as “a guiding beacon before the landing of transnational, violent and predatory corporate capitalism that reaches the present.”
Don Pablo, they add, is a bridge of dialogue with political, popular and academic sectors, not only with this country, but with different latitudes, due to his valuable contribution from sociology, in particular to confront exploitation, the structures of internal and external colonialism, and all forms of political domination.
Given the impossibility of naming in a brief text all the contributions of the teacher, they extend a heartfelt gratitude for one in particular: the Peace with Democracy Group, which he promoted together with Don Samuel Ruiz and Luis Villoro.
“The Group stood out thanks to your efforts, for example when the Appeal to the Mexican Nation was disseminated 14 years ago. We are also a Group that since its origins has maintained closeness to the armed conflict in Chiapas, and in particular to the EZLN, its causes and projects. Therefore, with joy we have also supported Comandante Contreras.”
They then highlighted the privilege of walking at his side for the Construction of Peace in Chiapas, Mexico and the world.
“We embrace you with our gratitude, recognition and affection as always,” reads the end of the letter signed by Conchita Calvillo de Nava, Ana Esther Ceceña, Magdalena Gómez, Dolores González, Alicia Castellanos, Alicia Ibargüengoitia, Raúl Vera, Gonzalo Ituarte, Gilberto López y Rivas, Luis Hernández Navarro, Carlos Fazio, Héctor de la Cueva, Óscar González, Guillermo Briseño, Jorge Fernández, Pablo Romo, Adolfo Gilly, Marcos Roitman, Jorge Alonso, Raúl Romero, Miguel Álvarez, “as well as those who came forward from the Peace with Democracy Group. “
You can read the entire letter (in Spanish) here.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Saturday, February 11, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/02/11/politica/007n1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: William I. Robinson*
The transnational political and corporate elite was back in Davos from January 16 to 20 for its annual conclave amid the most severe crisis of global capitalism since the founding of the World Economic Forum (WEF) half a century ago. In previous years, participants in the exclusive meeting descended on the ski resort in their private jets brimming with confidence in the hegemony of capitalism. But this time, uncertainty about their ability to manage the crisis, maintain control, re-stabilize the system and rebuild the fractured consensus in their ranks was in plain sight.
The WEF served as a clearing house and planning body for the transnational capitalist class (TCC) and its political allies at the height of globalization, but now the dominant groups seem to be in permanent crisis management. The Forum’s 2023 report, Global Risks, called the global crisis a “poly-crisis,” with economic, political, military and ecological dimensions.
The WEF brings together the inner circle of the TCC and its political representatives in States and international organizations. Every year the cream of the corporate and political elite gathers in Davos to gauge the state of global capitalism, debate the problems and challenges they face as a ruling class, and consider programs and policies to address these challenges to their class domination. In short, Davos is where the lords of capital elaborate their strategy on how they will govern the world.
The core of the WEF’s membership is made up of the CEOs of the world’s one thousand largest transnational corporations, along with representatives of the most powerful media groups, key policymakers from governments around the world and international bodies, and a selection of experts from the scientific, social and technological fields. Among the 2,700 participants in the 2023 meeting were CEOs of more than 600 corporations, 51 heads of state, 56 finance ministers, 19 central bank governors, 30 trade ministers, 35 foreign ministers and the heads of major international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, The Central Bank of the European Union, the United Nations and the Secretary General of NATO.
The globalization driven by the WEF has resulted in an unprecedented concentration and centralization of capital on a global scale in the hands of the TCC. This globalization has unleashed unprecedented inequalities and triggered social and political conflicts around the world. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported just days before the start of the Davos meeting that more than 400 large-scale anti-government protests have erupted around the world since 2017, a quarter of them held for three months or more, many involving hundreds of thousands and even millions of demonstrators, and no fewer than 32 were ongoing as the conclave got underway.
In addition to the structural crisis of over-accumulation, dominant groups face a political crisis of state legitimacy, capitalist hegemony, and widespread social disintegration; an international crisis of geopolitical confrontation, and another ecological crisis of historic proportions. As background context, a 2021 U.S. government intelligence report warned that the world “will face more intense global challenges” in the coming years, which “will produce widespread tensions in states and societies, as well as shocks that could be catastrophic. “
Davos attendees this year discussed the varied dimensions of the “poly-crisis,” but seemed to be adrift on how to re-stabilize global capitalism and reject the threat of mass revolt from below, such as that of the populist right, nationalism, and neo-fascism to capitalist globalization. The IMF managing director was forced to admit that the world economy faces “perhaps its biggest test since World War II.” Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and the West’s radical political, military and economic response, along with the new “cold war” between Washington and Beijing, are accelerating a violent post-war collapse of the international system.
Each year, the Oxfam development agency schedules the release of its report on global inequalities to coincide with Davos; According to this year’s report Survival of the Richest, billionaires’ fortunes are rising by $2.7 billion a day, even as at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation exceeds wages. Amid the global energy and food crisis, the top 95 food and energy corporations more than doubled their profits in 2022, made $306 billion in windfall profits and paid $257 billion to wealthy shareholders, at the same time that nearly a billion people went hungry around the world. The report warned that three-quarters of the world’s governments are planning cuts to public spending over the next five years, including education and health care, by a whopping $7.8 trillion.
Fragmentation and geopolitical confrontation are reaching a breaking point. The crisis of hegemony in the international system takes place within this unique and integrated global economy. The end of Western domination of world capitalism is upon us as the center of gravity of the global economy shifts toward China. But it will not become the new hegemonic power; Rather, the world turns to political multipolarity at a time of acute crisis in global capitalism – prolonged economic turbulence and political decay.
We are facing the breakdown of capitalist civilization. The WEF’s commitment to defend and expand at all costs the endless accumulation of capital on a global scale makes it impossible for the global ruling class to offer viable solutions to the epochal crisis. Addressing this involves far-reaching redistribution of wealth and power downwards, regulation of global markets, control of transnational capital, global demilitarization, and radical environmental measures. Such solutions will only come from the mass struggle from below against the Davos ruling class.
* Professor of sociology at the University of California, in Santa Bárbara
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Sunday, February 5, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/02/05/opinion/011a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
WRM Bulletin 264 16 January 2023
Oil palm plantations are a central cause of deforestation in southeast Mexico. A network of women in Chiapas have organized to denounce the tactics of coercion and deception employed by the State and companies to get peasants to accept this monoculture on their lands. Their struggle is for the land, for their knowledge, and for their voices to be heard.
Oil palm plantations have become one of the main drivers of deforestation in southeast Mexico. This monoculture is being imposed as a form of territorial control, disrupting and taking advantage of existing social organization, and causing violence—especially for women and the territories they defend (1).
According to data from 2019, the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico has more than 43 percent of the country’s oil palm plantations (2). In the Coastal Region alone, in southern Chiapas, there are 27,500 hectares planted. These plantations connect northern Chiapas with a “corridor” of palm plantations, which includes territories in Guatemala and Honduras. This corridor was consolidated through the ‘Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project,’ which promotes the ‘Mesoamerican Biofuels Program.’ This program, in turn, seeks to reorganize the territory to benefit business interests and local elites. Meanwhile, the Coastal Region has become a large extractive area, with mining projects, dams, mega-infrastructure projects, gas pipelines and monoculture plantations; additionally, there is greater military control in this area, due to migration to northern countries. It is no coincidence that the largest palm plantations are located here, given that it is the most water-rich region of Mexico.
There are eleven plants in Chiapas that process crude palm oil, which is later refined into vegetable oil in refineries located in Veracruz and Jalisco. Each of these plants encourages the expansion of palm planting. The oil palm plantations are also related to another megaproject in Palenque in northern Chiapas which supports further extraction: ‘The Maya Train.’ This is the most visible component of the ‘South-Southeast Territorial Reorganization Project,’ which is also connected to the ‘Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project.’ The train will serve as an extractive route for basic raw materials, including oil palm.
Faced with this situation, women have been powerfully organizing in the region, and denouncing the tactics of coercion and deception used by the State and companies to get peasants to accept this monoculture on their land. They mention the following impacts: that the area they have for gardens and backyard farms is increasingly smaller and contaminated by agrochemicals; that the earth is eroding, making production hard; and that animals do not have water or grass. In order to feed their families, they increasingly depend on the purchase of industrialized and processed products, and even the purchase of basic grains such as corn and beans. For the women this has also meant the dispossession of their ancestral practices of caring for and preserving the territories, as well as the loss of their knowledge, history, culture, and ways of organizing, working, celebrating and eating.
Most of the women are opposed to renting their land to grow this monoculture; but since they do not own the land, their interests are not taken into account. In this way, their struggle for land is also related to their struggle to be able to participate in and decide what happens in their communities—about what to plant, when and how. It is a struggle for their voices to be heard on equal terms as men’s.
Meanwhile, under the guise of protection and controlling organized crime, the government has sent in the National Guard, thus militarizing these territories. As a result, the persecution, harassment, control, and the physical, sexual and emotional violence against women—including feminicides—have increased with total impunity. This is also exacerbated by organized crime rings, which seek to control the region.
But the women have not stopped fighting. They are organizing, sharing information and training together in networks and collectives, to strengthen their collective voice and struggle.
WRM spoke with Guadalupe Núñez Salazar, coordinator of the Network of Coastal Women in Rebellion. This is a group of about 80 women—belonging to several communities in the coastal municipalities of Chiapas—who are defending their lands and territories.
WRM: Could you tell us how you remember these lands before palm came to the region?
Before the palm trees were planted, this territory was full of fruit trees. There were mighty rivers, and there was a great diversity of vegetation and animals. I remember this place before palm very well. The women had a variety of crops, and they could consume and produce different foods. We could calmly bathe in the rivers, and there were a lot of fish during high fishing season. The water was pure and you didn’t have to boil it or add anything to it in order to drink it—like we have to do now. In those days, you could feel that people were closer to the land and its riches, and there was a lot to eat, including animals from the forest. A lot of birds would come during certain seasons. They were very wet lands—they always have been—but we knew how to manage that to take advantage of them.
WRM: When and how did the plantations arrive in your territories?
Oil palm arrived in the 1990s through the governments.
In 1998 there were big floods that caused huge losses for peasant families. A large part of the region had been severely flooded. It’s important to remember that Hurricane Mitch also occurred that year, and several provinces were buried—taking with them crops, animals and trees that people had planted to survive.
It was then that the governor at the time insisted that oil palm should be grown to help dry out the land and prevent flooding.
In 2007 the government started in with stronger propaganda to get people to plant palm trees on their lands. Government representatives would approach the ejidatarios (ejido owners)who had land—most of whom were men—to promote this monoculture as a way to do business. And they kept up the discourse that palm would help prevent floods like the ones that occurred in 1998.
The palm boom in the region was also boosted by the promotion of credits to implement plantations that lasted up to five years.
It is important to remember that, due to the style of land ownership in Mexico, it’s not possible for the government or a company to buy large tracts of land. Land is communally owned, organized in ejidos, but every ejidatario has an individual plot and can make individual decisions about its use. So, what they do is take over lands by claiming that the companies are going to buy the palm fruits. This is also related to the use and control of water, since the plantations (and by extension, the companies) end up using the water from peasant lands. So instead of buying the land and the water, the companies rent it, so to speak. And this is when the radical change in the vegetation and diversity in the territories of this region begins.
So, with their interests united, the companies and the government began to work together to promote palm. At first they gave away seedlings to people who accepted their contracts, but later the plants cost 30 or 50 pesos each, and the companies themselves sold them. They promised the peasants that their lives would improve, that they would have more income. They sold the idea that the peasants would no longer be poor.
But there is a falsehood here, right? It is always thought that people in the communities are poor, but we have always said that poverty isn’t really about having 1000 pesos in your purse. Wealth is what the communities have. They have their land, their water, their vegetation—and that is great wealth! Sometimes we don’t realize this and we sell this wealth to the government and the companies. They are taking it from us! People from the communities are used and deceived through the promise of a lot of money.
Now you see an excessive amount of oil palm in the territories, and the more palm there is, the lower the price of the fruit is.
Contracts in this region are mostly with two processing companies: PalmoSur (Palmeras Oleaginosas del Sur S.A.) and Uumbal. There is also a government-promoted cooperative to collect the fruit, which belongs to the small-scale palm producers themselves. Nonetheless, the cooperative has had to buy even the scales to weigh the fruits before they can take the fruits to the processors.
WRM: How was the Women’s Network created, and what has been its process of struggle?
The Network of Coastal Women in Rebellion was born out of an organization called the Autonomous Regional Council of the Coast, whose main fight is access to electricity—though always in relation to what was happening in the territories vis-à-vis the numerous environmental issues affecting the communities.
In 2016 we began to organize as women, so that those who were already part of the organization but who not very involved could become more aware of what was going on in the communities. It was important for us to raise awareness about how community lands with palm plantations were being severely affected, and how this affected not only those people with plantations but also the whole community—and in particular, women. This led us to reach out to and meet with women who had palm in their territories and were experiencing its impacts—so that we could learn more about what was happening.
Now we know that the earth is cracked, the water is yellow, the rivers are much slower, and some water wells smell like rust. We are seeing the loss of diverse and nutritious foods, and medicinal plants. About five years after palm has been planted, we can see how food is now contaminated with agrochemicals. For example, corn cobs used to be big, but now they are small and with very scattered kernels. The earth is eroded and hardened, making it extremely difficult to produce food…many plants dry up or do not bear fruit. The water situation is also worrisome; we can directly see the pollution and how the water is running out…there is no longer enough water. And when there is no water, it is women who suffer the most; it is women who have to figure out how to get it, no matter what. This sharing helped us to continue to organize and have an impact on the defense of our lands and territories.
We started as five women in 2016, and now there are around 80 of us from 16 communities. There are about 10-15 women from each community who are watchful and having an impact on the work.
The experience in the Autonomous Council—in which there were both men and women—made us realize that it was important to create a space just for women. We had to find a space where we could talk not only about the contamination and impacts on the land and water, but also about the violations of our rights as women. The Network became a necessary space for us to be together, hug each other, feel each other, reflect together and walk together. That feeling pushed us to strengthen this Women’s Network.
One of our main challenges in the process of maintaining this space was to make ourselves heard, in order to gather strength. Because if we can’t speak outside of our spaces, then who is going to hear us? Therefore, the space is critical to strengthening ourselves and being able to speak with conviction. It is important to understand that many women are violated in their homes; and so together, we learn to defend ourselves and understand our rights that have been violated. Also, working in organizational processes of resistance in many cases implies confronting our male counterparts. As women together, we can see the ways to move forward, to keep fighting. Being able to hug one another and cry together helps us strengthen our collective voice.
Being a woman puts extractivism in perspective. What is being extracted? Well, our plants, our knowledge, our health. Women bear the burden of doing the marches, the blockades, the meals…and in this way, our burdens keep growing. The men go on the tours too (laughter).
Now we are trying to raise awareness so that those who have palm on their lands see how they can cut some palm trees every year in order to gradually replant our own crops.
WRM: What is violence like in the territories, and what is the defense against it?
Since the National Guard arrived, we see their presence in the communities. According to them, they are here to safeguard, but what we see is an increase in homicides, feminicides, criminal activity and disappeared persons…. everything! Their presence makes it so that there is a lot of control; and we believe they are here to protect the interests of the government and the companies. Because we are against palm plantations, but we are also against the mining companies, the dams and the large wind farms that the government wants to install in the region. We are taking action to say that as women, we are the ones who see the main impacts, and we are standing up to defend our lands.
In addition to being mothers, daughters and wives, we are defenders of life. The National Guard is here to stay, but that is not going to keep us from organizing to defend what is ours—that which is so valuable that they want to take it away from us. We have observed that since there have been so many soldiers in our territory, more women have been murdered, more young women have been disappeared, and there is more prostitution. Furthermore, organized crime has increased, and that worries us a lot, because we never know if we may wake up dead one day.
As women, we are part of the territory and, therefore, we are the most harmed when men sign these contracts. We are the force that is defending our food, our water, our knowledge. Through these women’s spaces, we have been able to raise awareness among more women and come together to defend our land.
As women, we must organize and defend our rights and our collective ways of life that we have had since the time of our ancestors. We must understand and deeply reflect together about what governments and companies do against the people, in order to take action. We must also raise awareness among men, so that they understand that women need defense, information and the ability to make decisions. They must understand that they cannot go to meetings without us, that they must not sign anything without us. It is still a long process for them to understand that women are not objects, but rather the subjects of our own lives.
(1) The information in the introduction is based on research by the Mexican organization, Water and Life, which in 2022 launched the publication: Ramos, Guillen Claudia y Schenerock, Angélica, La Palma Aceitera desde la Palabra de las Mujeres. Diagnóstico de la palma aceitera y sus efectos en los territorios de Chiapas.
(2) Ramos, Guillén Claudia, La expansión de la Palma Aceitera en el Sureste Mexicano, 2019.
This article was published by the World Rainforest Movement in Spanish, English and other languages, January 16, 2023, https://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin-articles/oil-palm-plantations-in-chiapas-mexico-women-fight-against-territorial-control-and-violence and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee for educational purposes.
By: Raúl Zibechi
Organized crime, parastate or drug trafficking, are the forms assumed by accumulation by dispossession/extractivism in the zone of non-being, that is, in the territories of the native, black and campesino peoples of Latin America. Although they are usually presented separately, as if they had no relationship, criminal violence, nation-states and the economic model form the same framework for the dispossession of peoples.
This conclusion is indebted to the work of the researcher Emiliano Teran Mantovani in a recent essay in which he links the three indicated modalities.  We know that organized crime dispossesses the commons from the peoples, breaks community fabrics, exploits and murders people, in addition to degrading the environment with its “economic” initiatives, with the support of both private companies and the states.
What most interests me about Teran’s work is his analysis, which considers organized crime as extractivism, from the displacement and intimidation of populations to the control of mines and productive territories, ending in the management of the “processes and routes for commercialization of the commodities.”
In his opinion, we must think of organized crime as “a clear expression of the politics of extractivism in the 21st Century,” therefore far beyond the economic dynamics it represents. On this point, I see a close relationship to the thinking of Abdullah Öcalan, when he maintains that: “capitalism is power, not economy.” In its decadent phase, capitalism is armed violence and genocide, however hard that may be to accept.
In one of his more brilliant pages, Teran establishes a gradation of crime’s way of acting, which takes us back to the a dawn of capitalism described by Karl Polanyi: subduing the local population through terror; control of economic forms seeking monopoly; incorporating a part of the population into the “criminal” economy, protecting that sector with its own services, naturalizing violence and, finally, converting “part of the population into war machines” by integrating it “subjectively, culturally, territorially, economically and politically into their logic of organized violence.”
The points of confluence between organized crime and extractivism are evident: they both confront the population that resists or doesn’t fold, they are both based on the same economy of dispossession and they both seek the protection of weapons, those of the State and their own.
There is something else, very disturbing: organized crime “has achieved becoming more and more a channeling factor for discontent and popular unrest, also being able to capture a part of the counter-hegemonic impulses of revolt, of antagonism with power, and potentially giving shape to possible insurgencies,” Teran maintains.
Terrible, but real. That should lead those of us who still want fundamental anti-capitalist changes to reflect on what share of responsibility we have in this decision of so many young people to join the criminal violence.
A first issue is to break with the desire to mask reality, of not wanting to see that the capitalism that really exists is a war of dispossession or fourth world war, as the Zapatistas call it. Crime and violence, in order to become the principal mode of capital accumulation, must have the support and complicity of the states, which are being converted into states for dispossession.
That’s why the problem is not the absence of the State, as progressivism says. We gain nothing by expanding its sphere, it being the primary one responsible for violence against the peoples.
A second issue is to understand that “the social fabrics are in themselves a battlefield, a disputed field, as Teran points out. Crime, narco-paramilitarism (inseparable from the State’s armed apparatus), are determined to break social relations to rearrange them to serve their interests, hence the racist violence and the femicides.
That’s why the self-defense groups anchored in the communities that resist have become essential. Not only must they defend and care for life and nature, but also human relations.
Lastly, not just a few intellectuals talk about the “alternatives to extractivism,” always thinking in technocratic terms and that they will be implemented from above. Impossible.
Today, the real alternatives are the Indigenous Guards, Cimarrons  and Campesinos of the Colombian Cauca, the autonomous governments and autonomous demarcations of the Amazon, the recuperation of Mapuche lands; the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the CNI, the bonfires of Cherán, the community guards and the multiple forms of self-defense. There are no shortcuts, only resistance opens paths.
 Emiliano Teran Mantovani, “Organized crime, illicit economies and geographies of criminality: other keys to thinking about extractivism of the 21st Century in Latin America,” in Conflictos territoriales y territorialidades en disputa, Clacso, 2021.
 Cimarron – A Maroon (an African who escaped slavery in the Americas, or a descendant thereof), especially a member of the Cimarron people of Panamá.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, January 13, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/13/opinion/011a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
As I write this, two weeks have passed since the violent kidnapping of Ricardo Lagunes Gasca and Antonio Díaz Valencia in the vicinity of Cohuayana. Their whereabouts are not known nor exactly who took them away, although the suspicions fall into the category of “it was organized crime. “For the time being, they are entering the atrocious and very long list of people who disappear in Mexico. Each “case” is a life, a story, a human totality. Who are the two activists who were taken from their vehicle on January 15 and have not been seen again?
In its urgent action, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center says of Antonio: “He is a comunero (communal member) of Aquila who has defended the environment and who has confronted representatives of the iron company (Ternium), which counts on unconditional people. At this time, the change of the communal assets commission has been scheduled and the situation has been polarized due to the fact that the company’s interests managed to be imposed inside the agrarian nucleus and have also been involved in this election by supporting the group benefited by the company.” Antonio represents a danger to the mining company “because he has denounced the grave damages that the extraction of the mineral by means of open sky mining is causing and the company fears that the signed agreements will be revoked.”
Aquila has, for decades, been one of the country’s most dangerous and ungovernable regions. One breathes the narco economy there, which frequently coincides with mining concessions of multi-million-dollar importance. If money attracts money, savage mining attracts the narco, or takes advantage of it. As a collateral business to their own interests (trafficking of drugs or people and violence itself, that big business) criminal groups clear the path for machines and extraction of obstacles. Since 2009, 35 community members have been killed and five more are still missing. The violence doesn’t stop.
Tlachinollan says: “The territorial dispute has been ironclad, not only because of the interests of organized crime, which seeks to control the territory of this Nahua community, but also because there are mining concessions such as Ternium that for years has divided the community.” Just last January 12, three members of the community round were killed.
Ricardo is one of those lawyers who, instead of enriching himself with his profession, put himself at the service of those who suffer the law and illegality without economic resources to defend themselves from the aberrations of “justice” with deep, root reasons in their claims. Ricardo always litigates and fights for communities with courage and even recklessness. He accepts difficult and dangerous cases. Not infrequently the exercise is controversial.
Ricardo belonged to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) for a while. Then, and afterwards, I had the opportunity to accompany his accompaniments. Brilliant, effective, he joined the territorial defense of two large ejidos, San Sebastián Bachajón (Tseltal) and Tila (Chol), both adherents of the Other Campaign. In September 2009, he was nearly killed in Jotolá by members of the counterinsurgency Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights, which operated in Chilón and Tumbalá. His attackers were released soon after, but he didn’t flinch.
The assurance of his audacity has made him conflicted. At some point he broke with Frayba and made harsh (in my opinion unjustified) accusations against it and Bishop Raúl Vera, president of the organization. He took on the representation of a minority group that split from Las Abejas de Acteal, seeking “reparations” for the 1997 massacre and displacement in Chenalhó. He took the case internationally, confronting his former colleagues.
He soon assumed the territorial defense of other localities. On the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, he filed an injunction against the wind companies. He litigated for communities in Yucatan and Campeche. He has spent five years accompanying the Nahuas of Aquila in their resistance against the transnational mining company Ternium, which his disappearance and that of Antonio objectively benefit.
He founded Legal Advice and Defense of the Southeast. According to Front Line Defenders, “it has succeeded in protecting thousands of hectares of collective lands, valuable ecosystems and collective rights. It has also achieved the protection of indigenous communities before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “
Several times a columnist for La Jornada, he exposed denunciations and allegations of justice from below to give relevance to their struggles. I saw it in action in courts, prisons and communities in Chiapas. I know his talent and commitment.
Tlachinollan points out: “The violence faced by community defenders and environmentalists is worrisome” in contexts where criminals have taken regional control. “Instead of protecting those who defend their territory, the authorities have colluded with the mining companies and the heads of organized crime.”
In Mexico no one defends the defenders of the prisoners and the communities that, without them, would be left without legal defense. This is one of our miseries. Ricardo and Antonio must appear now. Alive.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, January 30, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/30/opinion/a08a1cul and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Located in the coleto  barrio of Guadalupe, the space is a living museum and supplier of plastic work of creators from Chiapas indigenous communities // It exposes and sells the work of painters, potters and photographers, such as Maruch Méndez, PH Joel and Marco Girón.
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
San Cristóbal de las Casas
The Muy gallery (root of the Tsotsil word meaning “pleasure”), established in an old house in the coleto neighborhood of Guadalupe, beautiful and rustic, is a container and a supplier for the plastic work of artists from indigenous communities in Chamula, San Andrés, Tenejapa, Ocosingo, Huixtán, Las Margaritas, Rayón and other municipalities. About twenty painters, sculptors, ceramists, embroiderers, photographers, engravers, videographers or digital creators of Tsotsil, Tseltal, Zoque, Tojolabal and Chol origin are represented by Muy. They frequently create here, in the gallery workshops, their paintings, clay works, installations.
It is a living museum and a school where tradition and contemporaneity, even avant-garde, go hand in hand and produce pieces of the imagination that do not need to ask permission to be considered Art. They participate in the indigenous awakening of Chiapas, which in the past 30 years has produced literature and revolution, painting (mural and easel) and cooperatives, a curious mixture of the communal and the personal.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the encounter of the traditionalist indigenous peoples of the Highlands of Chiapas with a sudden cosmopolitan modernity and of all Mexico, often enlightened, via tourism, and also, paraphrasing Maurice Ravel, for various noble or sentimental causes, had a great cultural effect. Over time, rebels, liberationists, writers, artists sprang from the mist of the mountains and the green curtain of the jungle. The invisible ones became visible.
A couple of rooms for the exhibition and sale of the work. Muy artists’ work offer a sample of the pictorial wealth and radical craftsmanship that is taking place in these regions of the southeast. Some self-taught, others formally educated and even professionals, born between 1957 and 1997, have in common the undeniable condition and aesthetic commitment of the artist.
Crossing a small garden is the large room for temporary exhibitions, this time with numerous pieces of clay, ceramics and sculpture by P. T’ul Gómez (Chonomyakilo’, San Andrés, 1997) and other potters. Some pieces seem to have just come out of the ground, in others a rereading of Picasso, Soriano or Toledo appears. All together and scrambled. High-flying pottery.
On one side, with the guidance of Darwin Cruz, another artist of the house, a Chol originally from Sabanilla (1990), La Jornada visits the tumultuous workshop-cellar of the artists, where the chaos of figures and objects seems to come alive. Cruz shows his own finished or in-process work, sculptures and prints. His painting, which is not here, portrays a tremendous reality. There are also works in progress by PH Joel (Francisco Villa, Ocosingo, 1992), anthropologist and ceramist between the neo-Maya and the phantasmagoria of a dream of gods and cyborgs.
Explosive and refined proposals
The list of artists represented by the gallery is wide and varied. There is the painter and potter Maruch Méndez (K’atixtik, San Juan Chamula, 1957), with an original “innocent” power. Juan Chawuk (Tojolabal from Las Margaritas, 1971), renowned painter, who has exhibited abroad, stands out for a painting, sometimes a mural, loaded with provocative eroticism and irony, not far from the tragicomic realism of Raymundo López (San Andrés Larráinzar, 1989).
Also known are the painter Saúl Kak (Nuevo Esquipulas Guayabal, Rayón, 1985), who adds to his explosive and expressive work an environmental and cultural activism in the Zoque region, and Antún Kojtom (Tenejapa, 1969), with a characteristic, neo-figurative, post-cubist style, sober in color, intense in its representation.
Maruch Sántiz (Cruztón, 1975), with extensive experience, was one of the first indigenous photographers in Mexico, with “portraits of things” who knew how to speak. His “little brother” Genaro (Cruztón, 1979) from a very young age followed in his footsteps and today is an elegant photographer of nature and detail.
The linguist, university teacher and translator Säsäknichim Martínez Pérez (Adolfo López Mateos, Huixtán, 1980) has developed a bold practice of photo and video, as well as textile intervention. Cecilia Gómez (Chonomyakilo’, San Andrés, 1992) seems closer to the “craftsmanship” of embroidery, but with a radical free touch.
They are joined by Gerardo K’ulej (Huixtán 1988), who makes spatial and sculptural interventions of inexplicable balance and refined sobriety, and Marco Girón (Tenejapa), experienced photographer and web designer.
Another realist painter is Carlos de la Cruz (San Cristóbal, 1989), who transitions naturally from coal to mural. Manuel Guzmán (Tenejapa 1964) practices the wild expressionism of a Kandinsky votive offerings painting. Somewhat predictable, and notable however, is the Lacandón Kayúm Ma’ax (Naha, 1962); he is related to the Amazonian painters of Ecuador, and like them he portrays dreamlike landscapes that replicate from here the customs officer Rousseau .
This tour closes the interconnectivity of the writer Xun Betan, Tsotsil of Venustiano Carranza and also a member of the Muy gallery, founded by John Burnstein, and currently directed by Martha Alejandro, originally from the Zoque region.
 Coleto is a word used to describe residents of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, who believe they are direct descendants of the Spanish invaders.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, January 24, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/24/cultura/a03n1cul and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Francisco López Bárcenas
Popular predictions at the beginning of the year announced that January would bring storms, but few imagined the magnitude of them. The violence against indigenous peoples in this first month of 2023 has acquired such dimension and modalities that it gives us much to think about. In such violence, community mobilizations in opposition to megaprojects are repressed, and community guards responsible for providing security to the peoples of which they are a part are assassinated. Likewise, defenders of communities in struggle are disappeared and community authorities who defend the rights of those they represent are arrested, without any foundation or motivation. All this in a context where human rights organizations denounce that the country is one in which the most violence is exercised against human rights defenders.
One constant in this violence is that it is presented in regions where they generate the most opposition to the emblematic projects of the federal government. This is the case of the repression that was exercised on January 9 against inhabitants of Nuevo Paraíso, Campeche, who had blocked work on the Maya Train. The police action began at noon and involved five units of the state prosecutor’s office with at least 40 heavily armed elements, two of the Mexican Army and about 16 troops, two patrols of the state preventive police with about 10 agents, two units of the National Guard composed of 10 people, as well as three Fonatur vans. Excessive force unnecessary to accomplish its goal, but necessary to instill fear. In the action, several people were beaten and two identified as responsible for the blockade were arrested.
This is also the case of the arrest of David Hernández Salazar, municipal agent of the Puente Madera community, municipality of San Blas Atempa, where the construction of an industrial park for the operation of the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, another of the emblematic works of the federal government, is planned. His arrest occurred on January 17 in the city of Tehuantepec, in compliance with a court order, for the crimes of fire damage and intentional injury. His compañeros mobilized and denounced his disappearance, with which they achieved his freedom, which makes them suspect that the authorities intended to charge him with invented crimes in order to stop him, and to thus stop opposition to work on the Trans-Isthmus Corridor.
Another form of aggression against the indigenous peoples, in which no governmental institutions participate directly, but have responsibility due to their omission, is the murder of opponents of the regime. As Magdalena Gómez wrote in these pages: “Last January 12, three members of the communal guard of Santa María Ostula and the community guard of Aquila municipality were murdered: the community members Isaul Nemecio Zambrano (of Xayakalan), Miguel Estrada Reyes (of La Cobanera) and Rolando Mauno Zambrano (of La Palma de Oro). The crimes were perpetrated at a vigilance point near the municipal seat of Aquila, by a commando of some 20 members of one of the criminal groups that operate in the area.” No one in the government has said anything in that regard.
The most recent case is the kidnapping and disappearance of human rights defender Ricardo Lagunes Gasca and the leader of the indigenous community of Aquila, Michoacán, Antonio Díaz Valencia, on Sunday, January 15 on the highway between Aquila and Tecomán, Colima. According to the public denunciations of their compañerxs and of human rights organizations –including the representation of the United Nations Organization in Mexico–, the lawyer “was accompanying the Nahua community of Aquila in the legal defense of its communal land, coveted for many years by mining companies that operate at the limit of legality and in collusion with organized crime groups.” As in the previous case, the aggression has not occasioned any statement from any authority, despite their obligation of proving security to the population.
One of the characteristics of capital at this juncture is the control of spaces in which to operate and the speed of its movement. On them, as well as on the dispossession of natural goods depend their profits, not on the exploitation of labor to produce surplus value, as in past times. And both the spaces and the resources that interest it are located in indigenous territories. That may explain so much legal and illegal violence against them. What is not explained is that a government that declares itself anti-neoliberal maintains the patterns of repression of its predecessors, from which it seeks to distance itself. Care should be taken with this, because violence generates violence and peoples also get tired of always providing the deaths.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, January 23, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/23/opinion/015a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
In Ciudad Real de los Altos a scenario like few others has been created, in which creativity, art and literature flourish in cafes, galleries and bars where Tsotsil and Tseltal writers, plastic artists, filmmakers or academics gather
By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy
San Cristóbal de las Casas
To commemorate International Maternal Language Day (February 21) and in tribute to indigenous peoples, in 2022 Darwin Cruz made the oil painting Lajkña Ch’ol (left), a symbol of the campesino community that continues to work the land and resists changes in contemporary societies, the artist shared on his Instagram account.
The awakening, or rather, the indigenous awakenings that have been experienced in Mexico during recent decades created cultural scenarios of their own, but few like that of the arrogant Ciudad Real in the Highlands of Chiapas. Outside the national spotlight, the cultural activity of authors, collectives and promoters may go unnoticed, but here it is breathed intensely.
In cafes, restaurants, galleries and bars writers, plastic artists, filmmakers or academics gather, of Tsotsil and Tseltal origin, mainly. It is not irrelevant. San Cristobal de Las Casas used to be one of the most openly racist places in the country. Disdain for the Indians was inherent in the dominant population, kaxclán or “white.” Maya women and men were invisible, poor, cannon fodder. They had to give the sidewalk to the coletos. They were worth “less than a chicken,” according to the finqueros (estate owners).
In a little more than 30 years that changed radically. Not that the discrimination has dissipated, but it is now shameful and quiet. What’s indigenous, and feminine indigenous, are fashionable, if you will. No wonder. In itself, the tourist attraction of Ciudad Real was, despite everything, the indigenous crafts and the atmosphere of the campesinos and merchants who came from the mountain villages.
The Zapatista imprint was felt in the local Maya culture almost immediately at the end of the twentieth century, as a sequel to the uprising and political activism of the rebels. For the same reason, it also became a destination for thinkers, writers, filmmakers from all over the world, but that is not what is talked about here.
Today there is a young but rich bilingual literary corpus in Tseltal, Tsotsil, Chol and Zoque. It would be lengthy to list the poets and storytellers who have published and given readings in these years. Much poetry and stories, far from ethnographic folklore, are accompanied by the theoretical reflection of authors such as Mikel Ruiz, Delmar Penka or Xuno López Intzin. Translators and cultural promoters such as Xun Betan, the Chamula poet Enriqueta Lunez, the Chol poet Juana Peñate and the teacher Armando Sánchez are here. Book publishing is difficult and of restricted circulation, but incomparably more widespread than before.
Photography, painting, cinema and gastronomy
From the admirable traditional craftsmanship have emerged photographers such as Maruch Santiz, painters and plastic creators such as Juan Chawuk, Saúl Kak, Pet’ul Gómez, Antún K’ojtom, Darwin Cruz, Säsäknichim Martínez, to mention just a few.
In the modest yet lavish Zapatista autonomous stores one finds the eloquent naïve oil paintingsof the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia. Now there is a caracol in San Cristóbal: Jacinto Canek, a place of meeting and reflection for indigenous people from the region’s communities and the municipality of San Cristóbal itself.
Training and production support programs such as ProMedios, ImagenArte, Tragameluz, Sinestesia, Ambulante have left their mark and given rise to a new documentary film and a new photography. We have recent films, such as those of Xun Sero, María Sojob, Juan Javier Pérez and others that already parade through film libraries, festivals and platforms.
There are key antecedents such as the cooperative Sna jtzi’bajom (since 1982), the Taller Leñateros, the school for writers in the Los Amorosos bar in the 90s, the Chiapas Photography Project. Today we find important spaces, such as the Muy gallery, dedicated to promoting the creation, exhibition and promotion of Maya and Zoque artists, where one finds canvases, engravings, sculptures and installations of important aesthetic value.
A new Chiapas Maya cuisine flourishes in successful gallery restaurants such as Taniperla, where good pizzas and tasty stews are added to a jungle cuisine based on banana, Creole corn, flowers, chiles and leaves of the Lancandón. Even the debatable pox today has tourist stores, as well as coffee and honey from cooperatives and autonomous municipalities, which also promote cultural spaces.
Although in other parts of the country there is a similar indigenous cultural profusion, such as Oaxaca and Mexico City, in San Cristóbal it is more unexpected and visible. Although public institutions in the sector play some role, they are not as successful as independent indigenous enterprises, projects and cooperatives.
Nor is the scientific and cultural effect of the Colegio de la Frontera Sur, the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the State Center for Indigenous Languages, Art and Literature, the Union of Mayan Writers-Zoques, the cultural collective Abriendo Caminos José Antonio Reyes Matamoros or Cideci-Universidad de la Tierra, as well as public universities (Autonomous University of Chiapas, University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas, Intercultural). All with work frequently directed to resources, ethnology, linguistics and biology in indigenous territories, with a growing presence of students and researchers from indigenous peoples, almost always bilingual.
In the midst of a simultaneous social decomposition that affects the state’s communities, the product of corruption, paramilitarism, criminal violence, massive migration northward and aggressive urbanization, the now dangerous Jovel Valley also appears as a novel melting pot for the arts, research and dissemination of those who until recently were seen only as peasants, street vendors, artisans and beggars. The indigenous cultural change that San Cristóbal de Las Casas radiates is profound.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, January 23, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/23/cultura/a06n1cul and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee