Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cucapá Camp Regulations

The Indigenous Peoples in Defense of Life, Culture and Nature: Below and to the Left

Quilihua youth chillin'

The Cucapás, Quilihuas and Zapatistas have united in defense of indigenous people and Mother Earth. They are calling on their fellow Mexicans and compas from around the world to support two encampments: one on indigenous Cucapá territory in Baja California and the other in indigenous Tzotzil territory in Chiapas. Read the invitation carefully and consider how you may support this latest initiative of the Other Campaign. (Also check out the Zapatista Sixth Commission's website, Enlace Zapatista, to see the wave of communiques and denunciations coming out of the Zapatista communities right now.)

In considering how best to engage with this initiative, it may be helpful to check out some of the articles and resources at Colours of Resistance, a site created by "a grassroots network of people who consciously work to develop anti-racist, multiracial politics in the movement against global capitalism."

And if you are considering physically joining either the Cucapá or Zapatista encampment, its a good idea to get ready now to respect the regulations they've set up for participation. It's one thing to break the rules of a government you disagree with but its another to break those of a people you are visiting and in solidarity with, right?

With that in mind, I've translated here the regulations put out for the Cucapá camp:

Encampment Regulations of the Chapey Seisjhiurra Coappá in Maat'cuoak
(Cucapá Fishermen Camp in El Zanjon)

2007 Fishing Season

First Article: This place, Maat'cuoak, is the land and water that we, the Chapey Coappá (Cucapá), have lived on and fished for thousands of years. This place is sacred to us.

We respect it because it is the place where our ancestors, same as us today, found food for our families. In this place, the Ipaa Gentil (Wild Wheat) is found, with which we have fed ourselves, and we have also encountered Jasreiis Cuoau Llu (Saltwater fish: Curvina), that also helps us to feed ourselves and to survive.

Second Article: Consequently, any person, be they indigenous or not, for their own safety, is obligated when entering and/or staying in the camp, to respect this place (Maat’cuoak), under the terms laid out in the following regulation and to fulfill it in agreement with:

a. Our Rights, Customs, and Traditions,
b. The Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico,
c. Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization,
d. The Political Constitutions of the States of Baja California and Sonora,
e. The Laws and Regulations that have emanated from these legislations, as long as these last ones and the others do not contravene the constituted rights of the indigenous Cucapá people.

Third Article: It is prohibited to use this regulation and the camp itself and any of its installations for electoral political ends or another’s demands of respect for indigenous rights and culture, and above all, prohibited are activities that do not promote the defense and recognition of the history, culture, and rights of the original people of the American continent and the world; the conservation and defense of Mother Earth; and that are not approved by the indigenous Cucapá people. Also prohibited are all actions or omissions that, in the consideration of the Cucapá people, damage the Mother Earth in their territory.

Fourth Article: It is prohibited to use this regulation and the camp itself and any of its installations for religious ends of any nature and, above all, it is prohibited to make within the camp activities for and/or against any church or sect or any religious organization, that contravene our rights, customs and traditions.

Fifth Article: This regulation is to be observed obligatorily by any person that enters the camp, in the three places in which it will be installed, that is to say:

Zone A: Indigenous Cucapá village El Mayor;
Zone B: El Zanjon, East Side (by El Indiviso);
Zone C: El Zanjon, West Side (by El Mayor)

Sixth Article: In regard to the safety and conduct of the people, it is strictly prohibited within this camp:

A. To pass through any part of the camp without carrying your respective accreditation from the Indigenous Cucapá Accreditation Committee.

B. The possession, trafficking and consumption of any substances identified as psychotropic, narcotics, or drugs of any type, and/or the possession, consumption, and/or sale of alcoholic drinks.

C. The use of any weapon, be it a firearm, knife, machete, or blunt or stabbing weapon. The fishing gear that is the property of the Cucapá fishermen (nets, trawling nets, buoys, utensils to remove the insides of the fish, lead weights, cabos, outboard motors, and boats) is not included in this prohibition.

D. The use of explosives of any type.

E. The use of any television and/or music device and of photographic, video, or television cameras that have not been registered with the Accreditation Committee.

F. To utter any type of offense or carry out acts of provocation toward any person.

G. To circulate in the camp after ten at night without the knowledge or authorization of the Indigenous Accreditation Committee.

H. To have, at any time, any sound-making device at high volume.

I. To commit excesses or carry out acts that contravene indigenous Cucapá rights, customs, and traditions.

Seventh Article: In regard to the activity of fishing, it is strictly prohibited within the camp:

A. To enter a boat without authorization from the Cucapá fishermen.
B. To enter a boat without a properly placed life jacket (with the exception of the Cucapá fishermen).
C. To operate a Cucapá fishing boat without their authorization
D. To be in the work area or direct fishing zone of the Cucapá fishermen without their authorization.

Eighth Article: Under no circumstance is a national or international permitted (according to the customs of the Cucapá and Mexican law), to meddle in matters that only concern the Cucapá themselves.

Ninth Article: The violation of any of the rules of this regulation will have, as immediate sanction, the cancellation of accreditation, and the violator will have to leave the camp immediately and without excuse. This without prejudice to the criminal or civil responsibilities the violator incurs.

Tenth Article: Any situation not foreseen in this regulation will be resolved by simple majority of the members of the Indigenous Cucapá Accreditation Committee. The judgments and resolutions that said committee aims to take will be unappealable and are to be immediately fulfilled.


The Accreditation Committee of the Cucapá Camp

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Zapatismo vs McDonald's

Florida's Coalition of Immokalee Workers Puts Global Justice Back on the (US Kitchen) Table

First things first: Find some way to get yourself to Chicago this April 13th & 14th to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and their allies from around the world, in what will be an historic mobilization and gathering for "Fair Food, Real Rights, and Dignity" in the USA!

There's more information on how to do that below, but first a couple questions:

How did a small group of Mayan indigenous people armed with machetes, sticks, and a few guns-certainly no military threat to the Mexican regime-force the then-ruling PRI to make more concessions to the political opposition of their country in the three weeks following the Zapatistas' 1994 uprising than they had in the 50 years prior?

How did the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a 2,500 member organization of farmworkers with no legal rights to organize in the USA, bring the world's largest restaurant corporation, Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, A&W, Long John Silver’s, and Pizza Hut), to its knees in an age of rising corporate power and declining worker unionization?

Well, neither of them did it alone for one, so see below for how you can join the CIW this April in Chicago and support them in the meantime. You'll also find below a few connections between the CIW and the Zapatistas...not the least of which their statement of adherence to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, translated into English (for the first time?) here at

For starters, and to give credit where credit's due, you can check out this article from the October 2005 Monthly Review that breaks down specifics of the "who, what, where, when, how, and why" of the CIW and their struggle...and the zapatismo connections.

The connections between the CIW and the Zapatistas are not difficult to make. As Melody Gonzalez of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) discovered, they may even have overlapping membership...
the SFA is an ally formation to the CIW and as a representative for them at an early meeting of the Other Campaign in September 2005, Melody encountered a Zapatista compa who had been working in Immokalee's fields until 1992 when he returned to Chiapas to participate in the uprising!

Immokalee's farmworkers, coming mainly from Mexico and Guatemala (also with significant membership who are either Haitian or African-American), earn sub-poverty wages that have been stagnant for almost thirty years. They are denied the right to overtime pay, the right to organize and, in some cases, endure violence and abuse at work; and, in some extreme cases, conditions of modern-day slavery.

Employing the secondary boycott, the most successful tactic in labor movement history (and one that formal unions are denied by the federal government through the Taft-Hartley Act), these workers have forced Taco Bell to meet their demands (and more!) and are now going after McDonald's.

They are demanding that McDonald's take responsibility for the poverty and inhumane working conditions that it directly contributes to through its mass-volume, low-cost tomato purchasing practices. They assert that it is farmworker poverty that has contributed in no small measure to the wealth of McDonald's.

This struggle is about worker's rights, immigrant's rights, human rights and the struggle for fair food. It's also about being compañeros to our fellow adherents to the Sixth Declaration!

Join the CIW this April 13 in Oak Brook, IL, for a major rally outside McD's global headquarter and April 14 in downtown Chicago for a "Carnaval and Parade for Fair Food, Real Rights, and Dignity." This is a global justice struggle led "from below and to the left" in the USA! There are CIW allies organizing transportation to Chicago from cities across the country, you can contact organize[@]sfalliance[.]org to get connected locally.

You can also work to get the CIW's PSAs played on radio stations and they are in English and Spanish.

If you are in NYC, you can check out Celeste Escobar of the SFA presentating at Bluestockings in the Lower East Side at 7p on March 5th.

And without further ado, here's the statement of adherence to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers...

At a September 2005 gathering of the Other Campaign in the Zapatista Autonomous Municipality “Javier Hernandez” in Chiapas, Mexico:
My name is Melody Gonzalez and I am a Xicana from Califaztlán, the stolen Mexico. I am the daughter of immigrants from the state of Michoacán. I am representing the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community organization of immigrant farmworkers in southwest Florida.

Neoliberalism, the freed trade agreements, and the large corporations have forced many people to leave their lands and come there, many times they end up working for miserable wages for the very same corporations. These workers don’t only represent cheap labor, they are also the most vulnerable, least protected, and represent production and profits at a minimal cost for agroindustry and fast food.

In Immokalee, a community that for many years did not exist on the map, a large part of the farmworkers are from the south of Mexico, especially the south, and from Guatemala and Haiti. They arrived knowing they would have much work but many didn’t imagine the conditions they would face. They didn’t imagine that they would receive a wage that’s been the same since 1978. Picking tomatoes is the largest industry in Florida and all of the East coast, in this industry a worker has to pick 2 tons of tomatoes to make just $50. At the end of the year, they’ve earned $7,500. Meanwhile, the rent in Immokalee averages $400 per week for a trailer. With these miserable salaries, the people are forced to live in trailers with up to 16 people. It’s the only way to have money to survive and to send money to the family that stays in Latin America. In addition to this, there is no form of benefits.

We describe these conditions of ours as sweatshop conditions but in the fields, but there is another reality even more extreme—slavery. These are the cases of workers that are put in isolated labor camps, forced at gunpoint to work against their will, and many times threatened and violently attacked. Many of these workers are tricked when coming to the United States and end up in debt bondage to their bosses. In the past 7 years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have freed more than 1,000 slaves.

All of this drove us to organize ourselves to fight for our rights and in 1993 we began, organizing ourselves first against the violence that was happening in the fields and against the miserable wages. One of our mottos is "Consciousness + Commitment = Change". Together, we began to analyze our situation to understand why wages were stagnated and why slavery still existed in the 21st century. We realized that there were large fast food corporations and supermarkets that, in demanding the cheapest price from their suppliers, had pushed wages down. And so they sell their cheap product to the consumers, who for many years did not ask from where their food came and under what conditions, and they made their profits. As it says in the Sixth [Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle], in the market we see products but we don’t see the exploitation from which they came. And they are sweatshop conditions that are fertile ground for slavery.

After analyzing the situation, we committed ourselves to this struggle and launched a national campaign for just food, leading a boycott against Taco Bell, that is a part of Yum Brands, the largest fast food company in the world; and one of the biggest purchasers of tomatoes. After 4 years of boycott, and nearly 11 years of struggle, making alliances with religious people, students and awakening the conscience of the consumers, the boycott ended when Taco Bell and Yum Brands accepted the demands of the Coalition. Today our struggle continues, because this victory is just one step. We are analyzing how we can struggle against the other corporations that also benefit from our poverty, to impact in this way the rest of the food industry and so that farmworkers receive the respect and dignity that they deserve. We continue fighting against slavery at the root of the problem and not simply helping with the investigation and prosecution of case after case because as it says in the Sixth, we fight to be free people, not to change our master.

We understand that although our struggle for better wages and conditions in the fields is one struggle of one grassroots organization, it is, without a doubt, connected to the global struggle for justice and peace. The same forces that oppress us are the ones that oppress so many communities in Mexico and in many other countries.

A struggle that we have already taken on is the struggle against the FTAA [Free Trade Agreement of the Americas]. We organized in 2003, along with various other grassroots organizations, a 34 mile march against the FTAA in Miami, Florida. Each mile that we marched represented a country that would be a part of the agreement. Today we continue our struggle and do not want free trade that exploits human beings, but fair trade that respects the dignity of all. We have made alliances with other organizations locally, nationally, and also internationally. We are going to continue forming alliances, sharing experiences, and organizing ourselves as one force against the free trade pacts.

We understand that our struggle is already part of the Sixth thus we commit ourselves to the Sixth continuing the work we are already doing. And we also wish to strengthen our paths of communication and dialogue with the organizations and people in Mexico that also struggle against free trade and in favor of fair trade. We see this trip to Chiapas as an opportunity to learn what is being done and what is going to be done in Mexico. We are constantly learning from other struggles and this is part of our consciousness-raising. Many of our friends there [in Immokalee] are from Chiapas and since back in the day they have talked of the struggle here. We commit ourselves to continue learning from the struggle here and in all parts of Mexico, and also to assure ourselves that the Zapatista word continues being expressed in our work. We also wish to leave some materials from our struggle to share our experience with you. My compañeros in Immokalee send their greetings and brotherly hugs to the Zapatista communities and say that although you don’t know them in person, they know that work, commitment and consciousness converts us into compañeros. We are with you and the Sixth.
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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oaxaca Update: ¡La APPO Vive!

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca Lives!

"Reorganize Ourselves to Win!"
APPO web banner announcing this weekend's Statewide Assembly

Here are two reflections/updates that came over the Oaxaca Study Action Group listserve today (and now, Tuesday, 13th as well!) from Nancy Davies, writer of Narco News' first book "The People Decide: Oaxaca's Popular Assembly"...and her partner, George Salzman, has just posted his introduction to that book...oh, and Marcos has released a new communique...and a communique has also been released by the Good Government Council and seven autonomous town councils of the Altos de Chiapas zone Caracol "Heart Center of the Zapatistas in Front of the World".

Here are Nancy's latest, insightful thoughts direct from Oaxaca:

Sunday, February 11th
...If you look outside Oaxaca city, there are dozens of towns in turmoil, because of either PRI crooks uncovered (more likely always known but now confronted), town governments overturned, or schools still held by the PRI Section 59 [government-created teacher's union]. There is a fierce struggle going on in some towns, with literal fighting. Several towns have declared their return to usos y costumbres. A few hundred teachers are still in prison.

The Isthmus is in an uproar over the wind farms. They were "rented" by intermediaries who gave the local owners next to nothing (100 pesos annually per hectare) and then turned around and rented the land to the transnationals at hefty prices. These exemplars of neoliberalism are making grand profits while the local people are left behind. Consciousness now is on the rise, and the struggle to rewrite the contracts is underway.

Autonomy was declared by a collection of Triqui towns. The Costa formed an asamblea. There is a vital movement underway for establishing more community radios.

This weekend the APPO [Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca] is meeting, while other APPO activists are in Mexico City or the USA or Europe or somewhere, getting the support they need. The biggest decision has to do with how to approach the elections. If the APPO can't clean out the PRI this year, then when?

1. What will URO [Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, PRI Governor of Oaxaca] do to prevent the ouster of the PRI in August (state legislature) and October (mayoral) elections? I shudder to think. This is a man who permits the police (not the Federal riot control nor the state riot control, but the local police) to wrap their clubs in barbed wire.

PRI operatives right now are reported to be out in the small towns giving away cement or food, in other words, buying votes. The campaign to vote the PRI out will be seminal, keeping in mind that Oaxaca has never achieved a division of powers between the legislature, executive and judicial branches; and furthermore, those three branches have been dominated exclusively by the PRI. Nor has Oaxaca ever had a law of transparency so that millions of pesos are ripped off each year by caciques who enrich themselves while the towns starve for resources.

If the PRI can be defeated at the polls, that may leave Oaxaca freer to make social changes which are essential and within the power of the state legislature.

2. Essential changes are, however, to a great part dependent on the federal government and the climate of neoliberalism. For example, will the feds allow Oaxaca to "take back" ownership of its natural resources? A good example is the transnational occupation of the Isthmus by eolic generators which produce electricity for transnational profit -not local-, mentioned above. Another is the use of water by Coca-Cola. The water to profit (and some claim that the water is not treated for minerals, etc.) is not quite free to Coke, but is in short supply for local peoples. Other concerns are mining, manufacturing of paper products (Kimberly-Clark), etcetera. The use of natural resources and labor is not benefiting Oaxaqueños whom we know are the second poorest population among the Mexican states.

3. Section 22 of the teachers union is now missing about 5,000 education workers, who went with the PRI and Elba Esther Gordillo. That leaves 65,000, a force to be reckoned with. They have declared themselves for the APPO – and for participating in the marches, etcetera. The marches are not as important as what the teachers can achieve in their towns.

4. If the APPO succeeds in helping the PRI to lose, will it achieve status as a voice to be reckoned with? Or will the public heave a sigh of relief and let go their indignation? Will a new state legislature deliver on a PRD promise to oust URO? The APPO is set to back FAP [Wide Progressive Front] candidates, which might be a nice alternative, but are we so naïve as to suppose that those politicians will not be corrupted? Nope, we're not.

5. If the PRI loses big-time, what will the position of the PAN (nationally as well as locally) then be? And will such a defeat buy the APPO time to move on other issues beyond getting Ruiz thrown out? Ruiz is so tiny a part of the problem!

6. An important question is how to enhance the Oaxacan economy to allow everyone to survive without migrating.

A campaign is underway (once again) to lure tourists, this taking place while the newspapers are filled with photos of razor wire, attacks dogs, mounted riot police, etcetera. Not an attractive destination! Tourism is of little or no interest outside of Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. It doesn't effect enough of the general population to be significant as a true economic engine. What is really significant is channeling the profits from natural resources to the local economy, and allowing the local peoples to proceed with sustainable agriculture and small businesses. That is to say, local control.

Tuesday, February 13th
The APPO meeting…ultimately came to consensus at five am, (or by another account at 7 am) after all-night participative debate. The decision is that the APPO itself will not run candidates nor become a political party. Any individuals who choose to offer themselves as candidates from whatever parties may do so; however if such a person is a member of the APPO Consejo (council) s/he will have to resign that position. In other words, the APPO stays true to its original intention to be all inclusive and not a political party.

The punishment vote is ON, hopefully with results as good as those achieved last July. Those of you who are following events (and spreading the word) should be alert to assassinations and arrests. They are inevitable. Don't be fooled by stories like we saw today, which is basically Triquis shoot Triquis. Not so. PRI-allied Triquis shot APPO-allied Triquis, this taking place in the context of the new autonomous Triqui municipality which will certainly vote against the PRI.

I for one am extremely pleased with the APPO decision. Corruption around here is like mold in your bathroom. The APPO wisely can minimize that by staying true to the populace, and working in open meetings to decide the positions it wants to espouse.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Other Campaign '07 (Part 2: NYC)

Message from the Zapatistas

Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) is the most visible, organized presence of Mexican adherents to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle in New York City. You can catch up on them by reading last year's article, "Walking, We Ask Questions."

Since then, a big victory against one of the worst landlords in New York City, and possibly the worst in El Barrio, secured MJB the superlative "Best Power-to-the-People Movement" in the Village Voice's Best of New York '06. They were also awarded the venerable (and useful) Union Square Award.

At the end of October, organizers with MJB traveled to the US/Mexico border at Ciudad Juarez to attend a meeting of the Other Campaign with the Zapatistas' Delegate Zero (Subcomandante Marcos). As MJB's membership is almost entirely undocumented and/or contingent workers, they could not travel down to the meeting en masse and so they created a video, "Message to the Zapatistas", to bring more of their voices and message to the meeting.

Now MJB is hosting screenings of the Zapatistas' reply, "Message from the Zapatistas." If you are in the NYC area, consider coming to El Barrio for MJB's screening for the general public (they've already done screenings for their membership and the neighborhood). The message is directed not just to the members of MJB, or even all adherents to the Sixth Declaration in NYC, but more broadly to "historically marginalized peoples struggling for social justice, including women, gays, lesbians, transgendered and indigenous peoples..."

Here's the call out:
Save the Date!!

Tuesday, February 20th, Movement for Justice in El Barrio will present a New York city wide premiere of our all-new interview with Subcomandante Marcos! The interview includes a special message for historically marginalized peoples struggling for social justice, including women, gays, lesbians, transgendered and indigenous peoples and a special message to the Other Campaign in New York!

What: Screening of Message from the Zapatistas
When: Tuesday, February 20th, 7:00 PM
Where: Julia de Burgos Cultural Center
1680 Lexington Ave Btw. E. 105th & E. 106th St.

Who We Are:

We are the color of the earth. We are women, men, youth and children of corn. We are Mexican immigrants. We have not lived in our Mexico for a long time, but Mexico is still the air we breathe, still the pulse of our heart, it is still the thought that fills our minds. We were born in our Mexican lands and our Mexico’s lands were born in us.

We are Movement for Justice in El Barrio, an organization of immigrants fighting for justice in East Harlem.

As immigrants, we were forced to leave our native country because of a savage neoliberal economic system. Here in the U.S, we are affected by neoliberalism on a daily basis. Gentrification pushes us out of our homes in El Barrio. Exploitation at the workplace forces us to work twelve hours daily for poverty wages. Racist immigration policies attempt to criminalize and dehumanize us.

In New York, we fight against neoliberalism in all its forms. We fight against racism, xenophobia, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

We fight for humanity.
So I'll see you on the 20th...and stay tuned in the coming months for more news on the Other Campaign in NYC!

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