Archive for February, 2012

La Lucha Sigue! (The Fight Continues)

February 28, 2012

Due to a lot of interest and support for the subject matter, I have written a short essay summarizing some valid points made in my dissertation and removed those that weren´t. My final paper at Edinburgh Napier University was on the appropriation of communication and organization as a means of mobilizing the people against injustice and political corruption. This study led me to the Zapatista movement in Mexico and their collaboration with autonomous movements such as Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group who together reflect and resist against the global order of neo-liberalism.

I credit everyone that has gone to the effort of reading this essay with the understanding of such terms but will give a brief explanation of the structured implementation of the ideology now labeled ´neo-liberalism´.  Not to be confused with the bullet dodging, computer geek turned messiah in The Matrix, neo- liberalism looks good on paper; foreign investors, privatization of state enterprises, redirection of public spending, trade liberalization, deregulation and so on.

Neo-liberalism is relatively new, hence the use of neo, 25 years or so, but the ideology of free trade and competitive advantage is certainly not. Whether we call these economic policies capitalism, neo-liberalism or globalization, the theme always follows colonial administration methods of western ideologies along with the plundering of minerals and wealth. The effects of this market maneuver I am sure we are all more than accustomed to … the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The seed of neo-liberalism was sewn throughout South America, a common testing ground for oppression and cultural homogenization, but before this seed was allowed to evolve something organic emerged from the jungles and mountains of Chiapas. On January 1st 1994, the day in which the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would take effect and as the global corporations slept off another New Year celebration, an unknown military organization descended from the south eastern jungles of Mexico and into the towns of the provincial area of Chiapas. The city of San Cristobal de las Casas was captured and held under the demands of autonomony[1] against violations of human rights and the economic and agricultural exploitation of the indigenous peoples in Chiapas. The Zapatista Army of Liberation (EZLN) had formed 10 years earlier out of the suffering of the indigenous peoples inMexico. The group of sympathizers chose the dense jungles of Chiapas to train the peasants and farmers, forming a guerilla movement under the blue print of previous revolutions.

The EZLN compared the colonial enterprise of extracting natural resources at the expense of the indigenous to a major war and initially declared an armed resistance to the Mexican government if the rights of the indigenous people were not reinstated. It is the destruction of Central America´s natural resources that will result in the fragmentation and disappearance of the people´s culture. The restoration of this process becomes the primary objective of the EZLN; to stop the advance of the Neoliberal economic system in Chiapas.

Chiapas is the eighth largest state in Mexico and is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources. It produces 55% of Mexico´s hydroelectric power, 21% of Mexico´s oil and 47% of it is natural gas. Chiapas produces more coffee than any other region in Mexico, is the country´s second largest beef producer and is one of Mexico´s most important suppliers of fruits and vegetables. Despite living under one of Mexico´s wealthiest natural resources, 70% of the people of Chiapas live under the poverty line. The majority of the poor are indigenous Mayan peasants.

Large mining companies like First Majestic Silver Corp and Goldcorp occupy sacred Mayan sites in Guatemala and the mountains of Catorce, polluting their water regardless of public opposition. The World Bank and The World Water Forum (sponsored by Coca-Cola) want to privatize water in Mexico “so the poorest have access to water under price conditions that are acceptable.”[2] The people of Mexico strongly believe that water is a right and not a commodity. The proposed construction of La Parota Dam in Guerrero, Mexico will displace around 30,000 indigenous people, destroy 17,000 hectares of jungle and leave 36 towns buried under water. The capitalization of the Mesoamerican biological corridor will allow pharmaceutical companies to ´classify species´; log the chemical components of this biodiversity and create gene banks. The only people who benefit from these proposals are the corporations themselves, the local communities will have their natural resources taken away from them and the knowledge passed down from generation to generation lost in time. Tourism contracts in Chiapas and Colima have set proposals that exploit indigenous land for corporate jungle trails and hotel complexes. The Mexican government stands to make billions in an attempt to repay the debt it has with its North American neighbor with the proposed Project Mesoamerica (previously marketed as the Plan Puebla Panama)[3] . Project Mesoamerica is a massive infrastructure that will literally bulldoze its way through Mexico, Central America and Columbia in order to advance this civilization with tourism, highways, factories and energy extracting corporations. The message is clear; lost cultures are not preserved anymore just exploited for our own economic gain.

This political ideology can also be interpreted as controlling a nation under the rule of  sovereignty; that is making, executing and applying a legal system foreign to the indigenous, buying and selling resources that belong to the people, imposing and collecting taxes, and implementing these strategies through war and peace. Marketing genetically modified crops and abandoning traditional agricultural methods to make way for the ´free market´ is indeed foreign to those that only know how to harvest the land and filter the water. The colonial enterprise we are discussing goes under many names (NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA[4])  and has been carefully implemented with corporate advocacy in order to reduce immediate resistance. Terms like ´investment opportunities´ and ´established framework´[5] mean very little to the peasants of Central America and corporate investors often exploit this complicated terminology to their advantage.

Amidst this corporate trickery there are international movements and grassroots organizations that are watching every move the transnational corporations make as they tighten their grip around the world’s natural resources. By documenting this global shift we can rationalize and act upon the political coercion and injustices inflicted upon the people of Central Americain order for corporations to market and capitalize on sacred land. Our access to this knowledge and understanding is constantly clouded by media propaganda and consumerist tactics, rendering the populous as industrial figures instead of participants. Our own culture is so diluted and manufactured our legacy on this planet can be summed up by Ronald Macdonald. The EZLN have produced a wave of socio-political movements that do not want to be a part of the unsustainable global greed nor do they wish to return to slave status in a factory or sweatshop. We in the western civilization have to consider at what price do we pay in order to upgrade our mobile phone or install that new plasma screen. This issue is not regional, the suffering, repression and discrimination of indigenous peoples is international. The communities and families who sacrifice everything to be exploited by their rulers are no longer feeding their children but feeding the western world.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

[1] Autonomy stemming from ancient Greek: αὐτονομία autonomia from αὐτόνομος autonomos , ´one who gives oneself their own law.´

[2] Jean- Christophe Deberre, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, World Water Forum, (Mexico, 2006)

[3] In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox announced the launch of Plan Puebla Panama, the main objectives are privatization, attracting foreign investment, regional control ofMesoamerica and a shift from locally owned agriculture, industry and forestry to corporate-ownership.

[4] The North American Free Trade Agreement, Free Trade Area of the Americas and The Central American Free Trade Agreement

[5] North American Free Trade Agreement ; Objectives,


Another closure on Edinburgh’s dwindling social life

February 6, 2012

Originally written for SchNEWS and published by Freedom Press, February 2012

A major setback for the people of Edinburgh as occupied social centre is closed.  So what went wrong?

The proposed centre for ´non-commercial activity´ re-opened its doors to the public on  the 30th November last year with a programme of participatory events that involved other non-profit organizations, local residents, activists and members of the Bilston Glen community. The People´s Café  website was set up and a  mission statement clearly set out their simple objective; ´Direct action has been taken to ensure that the space is not left unused but can be reopened for the benefit of the local community.´

The radical measures in place to provide a social centre for dialogue and creative space were to be short-lived as a civil motion was applied for by the administrators PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) and a court date was posted within 2 weeks of the occupation. The eviction date was set for the 21st December in order to take full advantage of the working week before the Christmas holidays. The occupiers left the premises accordingly under the surveillance of two court officials and two police officers. Other officers and vans stationed strategically on adjacent streets were not required. Contrary to the courts concerns of health and safety, the building was not damaged by the occupiers and improvements were made whilst the building was in use.

SchNEWS can reveal that although The People´s Café was offered an extension on the eviction date until February, the offer was declined on the pretense that there was an insufficient number of managerial staff  that could run the centre. The two court representatives for The People´s Café were initially involved in the Occupy Edinburgh movement and took onboard the running of the café in order to provide a premises for the three day National Occupy Conference on 16th  December. Many of those who initially showed interest in building a social centre inside the former Forest Café wanted to distance themselves from the Occupy Movement.  These activists feel betrayed by those who represented them in court and believe members of the Occupy Edinburgh movement hijacked their social centre; ´We didn´t know about the extension in court … certain individuals from the Occupy Movement destroyed The People´s Café

The steel shutters, chains and padlocks sealing the windows and doors of what was The Peoples Café in Edinburgh only serve to remind its residents of how little our councilors and politicians care for community space in Scotland. In this climate of political realization and social unrest, the reopening of 3 Bristo Place was perhaps an opportunity to expand on the people’s requirement for an autonomous space within the community. What this story highlights is not only the extreme conditions initiated in order to open up a space for dialogue and organization, but the requirement for all social movements to forget their political agenda and remember the source of this struggle; our basic human right to gather in numbers as a means of self-empowerment and solidarity.