Posts Tagged ‘Neoliberalism’

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.

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[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,