Thursday, August 30, 2007

Security & Prosperity Partnership

NAFTA meets the "War on Terror"

Hardly reported on in the US media but much more so in Canada and Mexico, the most recent meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) took place a little over a week ago in Canada...and, as I mentioned last week, they were met with protests, police provocateurs, and sabotage. The SPP is the agenda that the "Society of Power," as the Zapatistas say, has in store for us here in the North American Union. Oops! I meant to say "Canada, the USA, and Mexico"...or did someone say Turtle Island? Which one will it be?!

Here's a breakdown of the SPP from some allies to the south. Let's read up, cuz it ain't gonna go away just because it's too ugly to look at...

(Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America)
Miguel Pickard
August 17th, 2007
CIEPAC (Economic and Political Research Center of Communitarian Action)
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México

This bulletin is intended to be a first introduction to the topic of the SPPNA (hereinafter SPP), initials of a very undemocratic alliance between Canada, Mexico and the United States. On August 201, 2007, the presidents of Mexico and the US and the Canadian prime minister met in Montebello, Quebec, to discuss the SPP. Showing total indifference for democracy, the three governments are reaching crucially important decisions with no prior consultation or consent of civil society. The summit received almost no press coverage in the US, but got reasonably good exposure in Mexico and Canada. We present herein reasons why the citizens of all three countries need to follow SPP developments.

1. What does SPPNA mean?

The initials stand for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, a fairly new regional integration initiative that dates formally from March 23, 2005 when the presidents of Mexico and the United States, and the Canadian prime minister met in Waco, Texas.

2. Is the SPP related to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) that Presidents Carlos Salinas and Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1993?

Yes, it is related and some analysts even call the SPP "NAFTA plus". But there are important differences.

One crucial difference is that the SPP is not an "agreement" as is NAFTA. If it were, it would be subject to scrutiny by the federal legislative branches in the three countries. But under the SPP, the chief executives are signing so-called regulations, hundreds of them, according to some reports. These are similar to presidential decrees and are therefore exempt from legislative review. Civil society has been given very little information.

3. Why is it important that I know something about the SPP?

Citizens of all three countries are concerned because our democratic rights and sovereignty as nations are being ceded to the US government and large corporations. At the behest, or insistence, of the Bush administration, the governing elites of the other two countries have worked rapidly to "securitize" the region which, at least in Mexico, has translated into increased militarization. The SPP is also part of the growing corporate takeover of activities and functions that used to lie in the public sector. Changes are being made in laws, norms, standards, regulations, practices, to facilitate international trade and so increase the profitability of certain corporations, but which in some cases weaken labor, consumer protection and environmental standards. Finding out about the SPP is a necessary first step in detaining its corrosive effects on democracy and national sovereignty.

4. Doesn't the SPP have to do with trade between our three countries?

Yes, but it goes beyond trade issues. The Canadian citizens' organization Common Frontiers explains it as follows:

The SPP initiative is intended to harmonize many Canadian and Mexican domestic and foreign policies with those of the U.S. Under the guise of protecting citizens from the threat of terrorism and also facilitating trade, this initiative would involve drastic measures such as a deeper integration of North American energy markets, harmonized treatment of immigrants, refugees or tourists from abroad, and the creation of common security policies. (Press Bulletin, Common Frontiers, 27-Mar-06)

5. Why so much emphasis on security?

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the pretext for many changes is "security concerns" in the face of "world terrorism". In keeping with this mindset, US government strategists are quietly demanding that neighbors Mexico and Canada enact or reform laws and measures to increase security. The elites in both countries have happily and even eagerly acquiesced.

We believe that the SPP is also being implemented in anticipation of several phenomena.

One phenomenon is the global warming crisis and the increasing shortage of water that all Earth's inhabitants will soon face. In response to the planet's increasing thirst, the US is working to control and assure sufficient water from nearby sources, a fact that puts pressure on water supplies in southeast Mexico and throughout Canada. Canada's water in particular has been tabbed a US national security issue by the Bush administration.

A second phenomenon is the US's enormous appetite for energy resources. The access to abundant energy supplies and their control, preferably by US corporate giants, is perhaps the primary motive that explains US activities throughout the world, from wars of extermination to the negotiation of agreements and, now, the signing of regulations. The invasion of Iraq by US armed forces in 2003 is just the most recent example.

Still a third phenomenon has to do with the trade war already being waged between the world's three main economic blocs. One of them is the European Union, the other is the Asian bloc headed by Japan and China, and the third bloc is essentially the United States. Each bloc is closing ranks with neighboring countries in different ways. We believe the US is positioning itself to control the Americas and the Caribbean in its trade wars with the other economic forces. The US wishes to control the continent's strategic natural resources to help guarantee mainly energy supplies (oil, natural gas and electricity), but also access to other resources such as land, minerals and the region's enormous biodiversity (Brazil, Colombia, and Meso-America are extremely species rich).

Furthermore, the Americas are, or will soon be, a preferential market for US goods and services. The 34 countries of the Americas (all except Cuba) have a combined population of 800 million, 500 million of whom live outside the United States, and multinational corporations see the enormous potential of privileged access for their products in this region.

In addition to trade and natural-resource issues, Washington has since 2001 exercised greater control regarding the security and militarization of the Americas. When the military takes on a greater role in the internal affairs of any country, the result is a tendency towards the criminalization of social protest (a fact of life now in Mexico).

6. Who's behind the SPP?

Two main entities are pushing it forward. One is the US government which considers the SPP to be an ideal initial step in a strategy of integrating the American continent in key areas under the pretext of "trade facilitation". It is true that the SPP does have aspects related to trade, but there are others that many times go unreported in the mass media, i.e., the ones mentioned above--access to energy resources, security, militarization. When the mass media report on the SPP they often mention only the trade aspects and gloss over other important topics.

Even the center-left press in the US falls into this trap. The Nation magazine recently reported that the SPP is a "relatively mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue" and accepted at face value Assistant Secretary of Commerce David Bohigian's claim that the SPP has to do with "simple stuff like, for instance, in the US we sell baby food in several different sizes; in Canada, it's just two different sizes". (The Nation, Aug. 27, 2007)

The other actor pushing the SPP is the private sector, especially the large corporations that are eager to take advantage of the expansion of "free trade" and the access to natural resources that the SPP is promoting.

7. How is the control of natural resources to be assured?

One way is through privatization. When a country's strategic resources are sold, corporations have an opportunity to buy and control what was once in the public domain. The corporations best poised to profit are from the US, but Canadian and some Mexican corporations will be winners too. As a general policy, the US government, either directly or though institutions it controls, e.g., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has insisted for years in the privatization of state corporations. In Mexico these include the state oil company PEMEX and the Federal Electricity Commission, as well as water companies, health and educational institutions, etc. US "encouragement" led to the privatization during the 80s and 90s of other strategic state sectors (the telephone company, airlines, trains, mass media among others).

Another way is through treaties such as NAFTA and "partnerships" such as the SPP that severely restrict a country's sovereign in matters of natural resource exploitation. For example, as part of its free trade agreement with the United States, Canada lost the right to reduce unilaterally its exports of oil to the US. Although Mexico did not formally agree to similar terms when it signed onto NAFTA, the Salinas, Zedillo, Fox and Calderón administrations have increased exports of oil when the US has so requested, for example, in the run up to the Iraq invasion. Guaranteed access by the US to Mexico's oil at bargain prices may be a matter that has been agreed to in the SPP regulations. Meanwhile Mexico's oil supplies are quickly being depleted with some estimates putting reserves at no greater than 15 years at current rates of extraction.

A more recent example has to do with increased levels of pesticides that Canadians will soon have in their foods, when tolerances for residues are "harmonized" to US standards by SPP regulations.

8. What implications does the SPP have for indigenous or first-nation peoples?

The SPP weakens the rights of first nations to inhabit and work their lands. In the case of Mexico, the country's neoliberal governments (since the times of President Miguel de la Madrid, 1982 - 1988), have tried to weaken any "limitation" on private investment. The right of the indigenous people to establish autonomous areas and decide on the use of natural resources located on their lands, recognized by the ILO's 169 Convention (see Article 15), is an aspect that the corporations would like to curtail. The same goes for laws and norms that have been established to protect the environment. We suspect that corporations are reaching agreements with governments within the SPP framework that first weaken and then eliminate these protections and rights.

9. What is the most egregious aspect of this new Partnership?

Perhaps it is the total contempt that the forces behind the SPP have for ordinary citizens and their right to decide on how a country is run. The SPP is profoundly undemocratic. Citizens' control is being weakened and turned over to a minority, e.g., a few people and corporations who are using greater doses of violence to accumulate capital. Basic principles are under threat: a country's wealth should be used to address and solve problems related to education, health, housing, infrastructure etc. The tendency now, however, as expressed in agreements such as the SPP, is the opposite: wealth is being concentrated in a few hands and the people are experiencing ever-greater poverty and deteriorating services and infrastructure.

10. How does the SPP relate to the recent meeting held between the presidents of Mexico and the United States and the prime minister of Canada?

Since the SPP began in 2005, the three chief executives have gathered several times. The last summit occurred on August 201, 2007, and featured talks between illegitimate presidents Calderón and Bush and Prime Minister Harper (all neo-cons) in the small town of Montebello, province of Québec. Little information on the summit surfaced in the US press (the New York Times dismissed the significance of the summit, see "No Breakthrough at Canada Talks", 22 Aug 2007, and "Bush's Talks with Neighbors Overshadowed by Storm", 21 Aug 2007). In the Mexican and Canadian press, and in activist circles, it was widely expected that the chief executives would sign additional SPP regulations.

11. How are these regulations drafted and approved?

In most cases the enforcement of regulations requires just the chief executives' signatures. It is actually corporate lawyers who draft the language of the regulations, especially those having to do with trade, in consultation with selected government officials and academics. This procedure overturns the traditional roles played by governments and corporations and in essence constitutes the privatization of what had traditionally been considered a public prerogative.

12. Do we have access to the documents signed by the executive branch?

No, SPP documents have not been released for public scrutiny. Civil society is not consulted before the signing ceremony nor is full disclosure practiced once the summits end.

We believe that the executives opted for signing regulations because, almost 14 years after NAFTA began in 1994, civil society throughout the region is better organized, informed, networked and mobilized. Further, first-hand experience with NAFTA has exposed the lies that were touted to sell the "virtues" of the trade agreement. For example, job creation has actually slowed in Mexico and NAFTA-induced job creation in the US and Canada has been modest at best; peoples' living standards have not risen; the gap between Mexico and its more-developed neighbors in terms of salaries and per-capita income has actually widened. Within Mexico differences between the poorer states in the south and better-off states in the North have deepened.

If full disclosure existed, civil society would be ill disposed to accept a "deepening" of NAFTA such as the SPP. There might be large-scale mobilization and protests. Approval in the legislatures might not be forthcoming. The chief executives know this and in anticipation are signing decrees that circumvent watchdog functions by civil society and the legislatures.

13. The "security" aspect of the SPP is intriguing. Do our countries really have a security problem?

No, or at least not to the extent we've been told. We believe that any security concerns that may exist are the result of grossly misguided US foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. In any event, the US and allied countries took advantage of the events that transpired on Sept. 11, 2001 and created an ambiance of fear in order to increase military budgets and repression.

Under the SPP, the three participating countries have agreed on a security apparatus that includes a greater control on flows of people and goods, response to threats such as terrorism, organized crime, the trafficking of people and the contraband of goods. All this implies greater coordination among intelligence services and greater repression to control "external and internal threats".

Evidently any social protest, for example, grassroots protests last year in Oaxaca or Atenco, Mexico, might be classified by the government as an "internal threat", or even "terrorism". In fact, the Attorney General of the state of Oaxaca declared that the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) is a "violent group" that has committed crimes "called terrorism" under the Federal Penal Code (see La Jornada, November 10, 2006, Political section). Independent observers, such as the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation, have said the opposite, by copiously documenting the brutality of state repression against community-based or non-partisan social movements (see here).

Again, is there a security threat? Probably so...for the region's elites, who fear a backlash (or a "blowback" to use Chalmer Johnson's expression) from increasingly disgruntled populations.

14. What does this new Partnership have to do with prosperity?

Nothing. The word has been included for publicity purposes given growing poverty among the majority. The SPP will bring prosperity to the multinational corporations, their major shareholders and those in power who are colluding with the former.

Formally, there is a "prosperity agenda" that covers diverse subjects, such as easing restrictions on business, health measures, phytosanitary measures, financial services, electronic business, complicated rules of origin and many others. Large corporations have detected measures that are missing from NAFTA which would facilitate cross-border business and increase profits. These aspects are now being approved with SPP regulations.

The SPP omits reference to any social measures that might lead to greater prosperity of the population of the three participating countries.

15. Why is Mexico included in this type of partnership with two other countries with much large economies?

The motives have never been strictly economic. Not even with NAFTA. And now the security of the US has become a required reference point. US military strategists have placed increased priority on protecting the US's land borders by including Canada and Mexico as "buffer zones" in the event of "terrorist attacks". Mexico and Canada will be required to take measures, dictated by the US, to become as "secure" as the US itself. In Canada the new orientation is well advanced. In Mexico it will take longer, but the objective is clear. Furthermore, under the SPP Mexico has become a "test-tube" nation, for experimentation in the context of future US plans for the region.

16. Mexico-an experiment? What for?

It seems likely that US plans go beyond integrating Mexico and Canada into its area of control and influence. We believe that the US wishes to control the Americas for the reasons mentioned in the response to question 5. As an example of US intentions, up to 2005 the US sought to extend "free trade" to the entire continent at a single go by means of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). The initiative backfired and was dropped when grassroots protests erupted throughout the Americas and quasi-nationalist governments, opposed to US hegemonic tendencies, were elected in South America.

When the FTAA was derailed in 2005, the US took a slower approach in matters related to trade in the Americas. It continued making strides towards its goal of a "free trade Americas" by signing treaties with individual countries or with blocs of countries. Mexico is just the first step in a much wider project that the US will be pushing forward in the next few decades for the integration of the entire American continent in matters of trade and other important issues that the US would like to see "bundled". In this sense Mexico's participation in the SPP is an experiment in how to integrate an "underdeveloped" country in an alliance with "developed" countries such as the US and Canada.

Let's explain further. The asymmetries separating Mexico and its northern neighbors are many. Mexico's deep and widening poverty and the reduced size of its economy vis-a`-vis the US are obvious asymmetries, but there are other equally important, but less visible, differences that will undoubtedly be conflictive and will require resolution. For example, the difference in legal frameworks: Canada and the US operate under a legal system that derives from Anglo-Saxon common law, while Mexico works with a tradition of Roman law inherited from Spain.

As US strategists ponder how best to integrate the continent, it makes sense to grapple first with one country, and the obvious candidate is Mexico, in order to generate a series of experiences that will prove useful when the rest of the continent and the Caribbean are incorporated. Analyzing the SPP back in 2005, Professor John Saxe-Fernández of Mexico's National Autonomous University wrote, "The goal is to use Mexico as a battering ram to push forward 'vertical integration' of Latin America to the [United States] in trade, finance, monetary and geopolitical aspects" (La Jornada, 28-Mar-05).

In Europe, the better-off countries had to make certain adjustments when poorer countries were integrated into the European Union. A certain standardization of procedures occurred. The better-off countries also disbursed enormous sums of money in an effort to "level the playing field" in education, health, housing, etc., and to solve the inevitable problems that were sure to arise, for example, retraining workers laid off from their jobs.

In contrast, the US wants a different type of integration. It wishes to benefit in terms of control over important aspects, but without disbursements that would need to dwarf the Marshall Plan to have an impact on the major social problems throughout the Americas. There is absolutely no political support in the US for this type of foreign aid now, nor can we foresee a time when there will be. So integration will proceed by accords such as the SPP to be tested initially in Mexico. (Actually it is difficult to talk of "integration" per se, because the US will retain its hegemony in all crucial matters. Absorption might be a more appropriate term).

In a recent development, the US has drafted plans that call for transfers of up to a billion dollars into Mexico. The funds are not for social programs, but for a supposed "war against drugs", in a repeat of a rationale used to channel billions of dollars into Colombia, to increase that country's arsenal in its war against domestic insurgencies. (See "The Lost War", by Misha Glenny, The Washington Post, 19 August 2007).

This is a long-range task. We predict that the US will be pushing forward its corporate and security-led agenda through the SPP and its offshoots for the next several decades.

17. Does the SPP have anything to say about Mexican migration northward?

Except for references to "intelligent borders" that will make it easier and quicker for "low-risk persons" to cross border checkpoints, the SPP apparently overlooks migration issues. This mirrors the "NAFTA credo": goods, services, capital and high-level corporate executives can cross borders with increasing ease. Common folks, on the other hand, those that need to migrate to survive because they cannot find work or a decent salary, are "high-risk persons" for the US government. Therefore they will continue to face difficulties as undocumented migrants, risking their lives by crossing deserts or mountains in search of a livelihood.

The SPP contains no measures that recognize the importance of immigrant labor for the US and Canadian economies. Thus a large and vulnerable labor pool, subject to deportation, will continue to exist, malleable to accepting low wages and negligible labor rights.

18. Is the increased militarization of Mexico's southern border part of these accords?

Undoubtedly, but today there is no region that is exempt from creeping militarization. Currently the south-southeast of Mexico has become a seal, especially for Central Americans, but also for other foreigners and even a few Mexicans. Mexico's ability to control its southern border is a crucial element within the SPP, but crackdowns on foreigners entering from Guatemala or Belice have had a poor record. Gross violations of human rights occur daily. All security forces - the army, the National Migration Institute, the Federal Preventive Police, the Beta Force (established supposedly to "aid" immigrants in need), and the state police - have declared "open season" on Central Americas and treat them as spoils of war. With one hand they strip migrants of their belongings and receive bribes with the other hand from polleros (immigrant traffickers) so that their human cargo can continue their northward journey.

The SPP has, however, authorized a new type of border crossing. The United States now has permission to cross the Mexican or Canadian border with its armed forces virtually at will. Incursions could take place during "red alerts" declared due to "terrorism" or suspicion of terrorism anywhere in the three-country region.

These plans and accords are now quite well advanced between the US and Canada and we can reasonably suspect that similar agreements have been reached with Mexico.

The US and Canada have established a Binational Planning Group that has laid out "military contingency plans" to be enacted on both sides of the US-Canadian border and include "a coordinated response to national requests for military assistance [by civilian authorities we presume] in cases of a threat, attack or civil emergency in the US or Canada. Should a red alert be sounded, these so-called 'requests' could lead to the deployment of US troops or Special Forces in Canadian territory" [information taken from Global Research].

19. Has there been any opposition to the SPP?

Definitely. As people and organizations find out about the SPP, a common reaction is to ask how can we work together with others to expose and oppose it. Fortunately, there are organizations and networks that are undertaking diverse activities, such as information dissemination, mobilization and protest against the SPP. In Mexico, CIEPAC belongs to one such network, the RMALC (Mexican Action Network on Free Trade), which actively disseminates information on the SPP throughout Mexico.

In the United States, RMALC's counterpart is ART (Alliance for Responsible Trade). The Canadian counterparts are Common
Frontiers and the RQIC (Quebec Network on Continental Integration).

Other allies in this struggle against the Empire throughout the Americas have created a region-wide network know as the HSA or Hemispheric Social Alliance.

Many organizations, such as the Anti-imperialist Coalition, Block the Empire, the Other Campaign in Canada and the Council of Canadians, mobilized in response to the "amigos' summit" in Canada on August 20-21.

20. What can we do to protest the SPP?

As always, the first step involves finding out what the SPP is about. All social organizations, trade unions, producers' cooperatives, etc. should undertake information dissemination campaigns on the SPP, in order to widen comprehension on what it means, how it will (and is) affecting us and how to work for better alternatives based on peoples' needs.

After finding out more, one option is to demand a binding consultation, referendum, or popular plebiscite on the SPP. Although in Mexico there is little faith in traditional party politics, if the legislative branches in all three counties were to exercise their established powers, at least there would be greater access to information and a possibility of stimulating debate.

Why should these important agreements be taken without complete transparency? Why is it that a small group of elites and large corporations find it necessary to hide SPP proceedings from public view? It is up to us to ensure that our countries represent our interests, the majority's interests.

For further reading, please see:

"Behind Closed Doors: What they're not telling us about the SPPNA" by the Council of Canadians

For a historic overview of the SPP, please see
"NAFTA-plus: the future according to the elites"

Read More!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Prita Lal on the 2nd Encuentro

photo: Jennifer Whitney

"Visiting the Zapatistas reinforced to me the strength of women and the vital role they play in the community."
-Prita Lal, 26, Organizer and Student in NYC

Earlier this summer, Prita and I traveled together with over 70 other people as part of the Another Politics is Possible delegation from New York City to the US Social Forum in Atlanta. Below is an in-depth interview where she reflects on her organizing in NYC, her life, and her experiences at the Second Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World.

Also this week, an effective action in NYC against representatives of Oaxacan Governor Ulises Ruiz; an excellent new film on Oaxaca is out, the Other Campaign mobilizes to defend itself; a national encuentro of the Other Campaign has been called for by collectives and individuals from Los Angeles, Fresno and Santa Barbara; Elvira Arrellano continues her struggle from México; and protests, police provocateurs, and sabotage against the Harper/Bush/Calderón meeting in Canada...

Interview with Prita Lal
August 23, 2007

RJ Maccani: Before we get into discussing the Zapatista encuentro you attended, I want to ask some questions about you. For starters, what do you do in your daily life?

Prita Lal: I live in NYC and am part of two community organizations: Center for Immigrant Families (CIF), which is a community organization of low-income immigrant women of color that uses popular education to organize for personal and social transformation in upper Manhattan; and Casa Atabex Aché (Casa), which means House of Womyn’s Power, and is a natural health and wellness center for womyn of color in the South Bronx that organizes for personal, spiritual, and collective transformation through earth-based, holistic and alternative healing techniques. I am also a graduate student in history and anthropology.

Have you always lived in NYC? How did you find yourself working with CIF and Casa?

My parents migrated to the U.S. from India in the early 1970s. I was born in Queens, NY but then (after over a decade of living in the NYC area), my family moved to Louisiana when I was 3 years old. I grew up in small towns between Louisiana and Georgia until I was 17. Having been raised in the Deep South as a child of South Asian immigrants really helped politicize me at an early age because of injustices I experienced and witnessed both because of race and class.

I went to college in New Orleans and developed my political analysis through living there and experiencing the gross disparities between the mostly white and wealthy college campus that was located in a predominately black and very poor community. I moved back to NYC four years ago and had been working with immigrant worker rights groups (specifically with grocery delivery and domestic workers in the West African and South Asian communities) before I began working at CIF and Casa.

Could you tell us a bit more about the history of Center for Immigrant Families and what the day-to-day work looks like?

Center for Immigrant Families (CIF) is a collectively-run organization of low-income immigrant women of color and community members in Manhattan Valley (Uptown NYC). Committed to a holistic vision of organizing, our stories and lived experiences are central to building a community that works towards social transformation and promotes justice, mutuality, love, trust, and dignity.

CIF was founded in 1997 in response to the increased forms of institutionalized oppression facing immigrant families and communities. Assaults have consistently mounted in recent years, from the passage of the 1996 immigration and welfare "reform" laws, which gratuitously attacked and unfairly targeted immigrant communities, particularly women and children of color, to attacks on bilingual education, the push for English-only laws, and the further criminalization of undocumented immigrants.

CIF's founding program, the Escuela Popular de Mujeres/Women's Popular Education Program, is driven by a deep understanding of and faith in the transformational and healing power – for individuals and communities – of sharing our stories. At CIF, this is where we begin, with our migration stories; for us, these stories are not mere reminders of when we arrived or of our cultural heritage, but they are also about why we came, who and what we left behind, our expectations for life here, and what we found when we arrived. Our stories become the foundation for developing a collective analysis of why we are here as well as of the realities and challenges we face in the U.S. and what we can do collectively to address them. Integrated into our work is also leadership development and skills building to organize for justice.

From the Escuela program (since many of our members have identified public education as one reason we continue to live in this country in spite of the hardships), our Project to Challenge Segregation in OUR Public School System arose—in which we are fighting to take back our schools and make them accountable to our community. We're addressing public ed within a broader context of community displacement, as the schools have become a gateway for exclusion, displacement, and segregation in all the neighborhoods that comprise our school district. As part of the Escuela, we also have an English Literacy Project--we offer English classes that challenge the traditional ESL model thereby making English language learning a tool of resistance. To support the work of the Escuela, we developed the Women's Circles program, which provides a space for healing from the ways in which the system affects us internally. Lastly, we have developed a Resource Center library, in the face of dwindling community services, that complements CIF's work and shares information about advocacy and other organizing on a wide array of issues, including but not limited to violence against women, immigrants' rights, housing, and health.

…and what about Casa Atabex Aché?

Casa began to take form since the 1960s; the founders were part of the Black Panthers and Young Lords Parties. They saw that community members were constantly being given drugs to treat illnesses caused by all the injustices happening in their communities, but that this did nothing to challenge the systems causing the oppressions—namely capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. The founding womyn sought to develop a space to heal from the violence that people internalize as a result of living in this society—we heal through our tears, experiences, and knowledge of our ancestors.

We organize monthly healing circles in which women of color come together to break the silence around issues affecting our community and heal from various kinds of trauma and violence we experience. Casa has developed an emotional release model that integrates different indigenous healing modalities such as herbology, aromatherapy, yoga, the seven chakras, and seasonal nutrition to move toxic energy out of our bodies so that they do not develop into diseases. We use earth-based spirituality to create sacred space to align ourselves with the healing elements of the season for the healing of our mind, body and spirit.

The monthly healing circles are part of ACHE, which is the first alternative Womyn’s Health & Wellness Cooperative in the South Bronx. Through ACHE, we are creating our model for sustainable and accessible healthcare for community members, activists & organizers. The cooperative will support the health and wellness needs of womyn while being a respite to integrate self-care into our daily practice and heal from internalized oppression. We also have a Young Womyn’s Fuerza/Power program and a “Healing the Rainbow” program that is geared towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, and Queer community.

When and how did you first learn of the Zapatista struggle?

I came to know about the Zapatista struggle through these past few years of work within immigrant communities of color in NYC. Casa went to visit the Zapatistas over a year ago. Inspiration from that visit led to the creation of “ACHE” (Alternative Cooperative for Healing and Empowerment), our autonomous alternative health and wellness initiative in the South Bronx.

Similarly, CIF has learned from and draws inspiration from the Zapatistas, among many other movements. Recently, we had a series of workshops that lead up to our participation in the US Social Forum. Some of the intentions of the workshops were to build the leadership skills of members and develop our political analysis. For one of the workshops, we read a recent essay by Subcomandante Marcos entitled “Qué tan grande es el mundo?” (How big is the world?). To me, this piece speaks about the scope of injustices happening in the world and the importance of relating our struggles to those happening everywhere else. I think this piece relates to CIF’s work because it helps us to think beyond our organizing work locally and put our struggle in a larger context of movement building in solidarity with oppressed people all over the world.

Could you give us a general outline of what you participated in and experienced in this trip to Mexico and to the Zapatista Caracoles?

We went to 3 Zapatista Caracoles (Caracoles literally means ‘snails’ and they are the centers of Zapatista autonomous government): Oventik for the first 2 days, Morelia for the next 4, and then La Realidad for the last 2 days. Oventik is located close to San Cristobal, so traveling there was pretty easy, while La Realidad was deep in the jungle close to the Guatemalan border, so we spent a good bit of time traveling there via truck. It was really a special opportunity to have the chance to go so far into the jungle and experience the natural beauty of this area. We basically camped out in all 3 caracoles. During the day, in each caracol, there would be ‘mesas’ that we would participate in—which were basically plenaries about various themes like health, education, struggles of women, the juntas de buen gobierno (“councils of good government”), autonomy, and collective work done by different municipals within the caracoles. The plenaries were 45 minutes each and then there would be 15 minutes at the end for questions (hand written).

There was also a delegation of farmers and representatives from farmer’s organizations who are part of an international network called Vía Campesina. Delegates came from South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Brazil, U.S., Canada, and Mexico. During one day in Morelia, Vía Campesina held a program in which delegates spoke about the injustices and oppression experienced by farmers in their native countries.

There were also cultural performances during the evening after the plenaries finished, such as Zapatista youth performing theater pieces, and the evenings would usually finish with a band playing and a ‘baile popular.’ There were also kitchens and stores set up to provide for our nourishment. There were also collectives from different parts of Mexico that would have tables or share info about the work they are doing—such as artists or indy media collectives. I also had plenty of opportunity to talk with and get to know folks doing interesting work—I mainly met people from the global north and Mexico City.

Having never visited the Zapatistas before, why did you decide to attend this Encuentro?

My friend told me about the Encuentro and said it would be an amazing opportunity to visit the Zapatistas. Since Casa is located in the South Bronx (with a large Latina community) and CIF’s membership is primarily Latina, I was already traveling to Guatemala to study Spanish in order to make my work in NYC more effective. So I was already close to Chiapas, and since I am a part of two organizations that are working to build autonomous communities, and since building autonomous and collective leadership is a struggle in our capitalist society, I was hoping to draw inspiration that would inform the work we’re doing and learn any lessons from the Zapatista struggle.

And were there lessons you were able to learn from the Zapatista struggle?

I’m still discovering the lessons I learned from the Zapatistas during this Encuentro as I continue to reflect on this experience. Some of the things I have learned from the Zapatistas deals with their courage and commitment. The fact that they are in a low-intensity war against the mal gobierno ["bad government"] means to me that they have developed a mastery (if you will) of fear such that they are ready to literally fight for their values and autonomy.

I also feel like lessons can be drawn from their courage to rise up against the oppressors and stand firm in their beliefs to the point that they resist efforts to be bribed into complying with the system by refusing to receive benefits or privileges from it. For instance, the Zapatistas would mention the attempts made by the mal gobierno to provide funds for community development projects, but that they would remain solid and not accept these funds so that they can retain their autonomy. I feel like they can see through these attempts to receive benefits from the mal gobierno as attempts to co-opt their movement and find it to be admirable and something to learn from. I also really appreciated their veneration for their ancestors and their knowledge as central in their work.

In regards to their ancestral knowledge and practices, they seemed to be at the same time very deliberate and careful about how much and what knowledge they would share with outsiders. I seemed to get the strong impression (based on the plenaries and discussions with other people at the Encuentro) that the Zapatistas are not interested in having outsiders come in and join their community. For instance, they seem to place limits on how long outsiders can stay within their communities and they seem to have a deliberate and careful process of sharing information about their work with outsiders. It seems to me that these are efforts to protect their knowledge and hence their autonomy.

I also feel like movements in the U.S. can draw lessons from the Zapatistas going beyond the demanding rights from the state model and actually creating alternatives. The Zapatistas said that they refused to continue waiting to get rights from the state, because they would actually only get lies. To me, this shows their commitment and belief in their people and in their community—that they don’t need to rely on a state to regulate their relations, but that they can do it themselves. I also felt like it was powerful to see their commitment to collective work as critical to their communities. This is especially an important lesson because in the U.S., we get so trained to operate in hierarchies and we internalize assumptions that hierarchies are the most ‘efficient’ and effective way of organizing our relations, so its really important to see entire communities thriving through collective organization as a source of inspiration.

Also, visiting the Zapatistas reinforced to me the strength of women and the vital role they play in the community. Their firm commitment to prioritizing the leadership of women is also an important lesson.

What were the most powerful aspects of the Encuentro for you?

It was a very powerful experience to stay in the caracoles—I felt a connection to mother nature that I haven’t felt before. Living so one with nature is an experience hard to describe, but there was this feeling in the air, the spirit and energy present, its like I could feel the spirit of the ancestors in the area and the efforts to hold on to indigenous knowledge. The Vía Campesina program was very powerful as well. They began their program with a theater performance in which the stage was set up with crops and different fabrics to represent the earth. Some delegates were pretending to farm and cultivate the earth until they got forced off their land from people representing the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, etc. One of the people from the delegation was singing a powerful song during this reenactment about the plight of farmers. I was so moved I was brought to tears! It was also very powerful to see thousands of people from so many countries gather in solidarity with Zapatismo.

Was there anything you were hoping to experience, share, learn or connect with at the Encuentro that either did not happen or -if you had a question- that you still feel unclear about?

I did expect the Encuentro to be more participatory, and to have more space to talk directly with the Zapatistas. I can understand for security reasons why the Zapatistas would be weary of sharing too deeply about their work given the large number of attendees (perhaps to protect their autonomy), however, I did leave feeling like I would have appreciated the opportunity to dialogue more directly with them. I also hoped to have seen more people from the Global South represented. Although the Vía Campesina delegation was very powerful, it was disappointing that the farmers from the U.S. and Canada were white. I wonder why there couldn’t have been indigenous or African-American farmers represented in the delegation.

It was also disappointing that there was supposed to be a Vía Campesina delegate from Africa participating in the Encuentro, but their visa was denied. I was also expecting to meet more people from other Latin American countries, but felt like most of the folks I met were from Mexico and mainly from the capital city. I actually was talking to folks in Guatemala about this and learned that even to travel to Mexico as a Guatemalan, for instance, is difficult because the authorities would assume that they would be trying to cross the border into the U.S., or stay and work ‘illegally’ in Mexico. So, I was surprised to realize that even traveling to Mexico is a privilege not accorded to many.

What questions do you bring from the Encuentro back to your life, work, and communities in the USA?

How do we challenge neoliberalism and capitalism in our daily work? Attending the Encuentro reinforced the idea for me that there is no such thing as a utopia—so long as capitalism exists, we are all implicated in it. I did notice some contradictions within the Zapatista struggle such as a gendered division of labor in which women were predominantly responsible for preparing food while men collected money—in spite of an explicit attempt to prioritize the leadership of women and challenge machismo in their communities; the selling of corporate products like Coca-Cola in the stores; and the attendees of this ‘Encuentro de los Pueblos Zapatistas con los Pueblos del Mundo’, not exactly reflective of the people of the world (i.e., large number of attendees were white and from the Global North—and in my perception—very sparse representation of working-class folks from the global South)). I also think that although the Zapatistas are firmly committed to living autonomously from the mal gobierno, they are nonetheless connected and perhaps I could even say beholden to the state system in some ways. For instance, I noticed in the Junta de Buen Gobierno’s office that attendees were expressing interest in donating funds or other resources to the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas indeed repeated during the Encuentro that support from the national and international community has afforded them the opportunity to develop their projects better, and I got the impression that one of their intentions for the Encuentro was to continue building this support so that they could raise more resources for their projects in the future. Thus, national and international support has played some kind of role in the Zapatista’s movement, yet the attendees of the Encuentro (as well as other folks who visit Zapatista territory) had to pass through state controlled immigration officials in order to get to the autonomous liberated zone, and indeed state authorities play a role in determining who is able to enter the country (and hence Zapatista land). All this to say that the Zapatistas are still connected to state systems and, I may even say, rely on them to some degree in their struggle for autonomy. I don’t bring up these contradictions to judge the Zapatistas in any way, just to point out that to me, social transformation is really a process and not an end result and so the importance of constantly reflecting on how we are challenging these systems of oppression in our daily lives and work.

Were you able to attend the plenary in San Cristobal that preceded the Encuentro; the one where Marcos discussed different forms of anti-capitalism and the use of Coca-Cola as a replacement for alcohol in the communities?

No, I was not able to attend this plenary. I certainly would have appreciated attending it since I am only beginning the process of thinking through the relationship between the Zapatistas and Coca-Cola, so I am sure there are complexities and nuances that I have yet to discover or understand. However, just to share some of my initial reactions: I understand that Marcos has made speeches in which he criticized people for critiquing their selling of coke products, etc, and to them, it’s more important to seize the means of production than simply change consumption patterns. I also think we need to do much more than simply change consumption patterns—especially since no matter what, so long as global capitalism exists, we are all perpetuating its systems regardless of how hard we try to avoid patronizing certain oppressive corporations. So, I agree with this discourse, but I guess I am just wondering why the Zapatistas would sell products produced by a company that is responsible for the murder of folks in Latin America and campesinos in other parts of the third world. I just find it to be a bit of a shock, to be committed to taking over the means of production in an anti-capitalist way, but at the same time help support a capitalist enterprise that is causing their injustices and the injustices experienced by compas in the global south.

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, meaning that we don’t have to do either one or the other. I think it’s important that the two go together; because otherwise it’s kind of like we're stabbing ourselves in the back (creating autonomous alternatives/taking over the means of production, but at the same time, supporting the very institutions that are causing the oppression our communities experience in the first place...).

What else do you bring back with you?

An increased respect for the earth and nature. A firmer commitment to the importance of reclaiming our indigenous knowledge. One of the Zapatista health promoters talked about how their community lost the knowledge of their ancestors in regards to health and healing because of the Spanish invaders who said the knowledge of their grandmothers was savagery, and how they have been working hard since their revolt to reclaim indigenous healing modalities. I can really relate to these sentiments just from my own community, so really take this to heart and find inspiration in it.

And by “my community” I am referring to my upbringing in the South Asian diaspora—always feeling like I was living in exile—never really at home in the U.S. or in India. It was difficult growing up in the Bible belt south while being raised by devote Hindu parents. I felt the pressure to assimilate at a young age—by feeling ashamed of my family’s language, culture, and habits.

Also, my schooling was very euro-centric and we were not taught the value of the histories of people of color. It was very enlightening (for lack of a better word…) for me to have the opportunity to take ethnic studies classes in college. Indeed, my last trip to India was very different than ones I had taken before that. After having studied the history of India intensively in grad school, I felt much more connected and comfortable in the country in a way I had not before (although I still do recognize the tensions within this given the oppressive role the academy plays and/or can play as well…).

One of the challenges growing up in the diaspora is having to deal with the ways in which Western culture exoticizes my native culture—it’s offensive because white people try to have it both ways: to retain their white privilege while taking the culture of brown people. After experiencing how protective the Zapatistas were with their knowledge and community, it seems to me that this is important to retain the autonomy of one’s community and to resist efforts at co-optation and the stealing of knowledge. For instance, by being open and allowing outsiders to join your community and soak up the knowledge, it helps facilitate the theft and co-optation of this knowledge.

Before, I had always felt like something was wrong with me because I did not retain elements of my ancestral practices and knowledge and felt like there was so much I didn’t know. But after visiting the Zapatistas, I realized (since they also expressed that their indigenous knowledge got lost through colonialism, assimilation, etc,) that this loss of knowledge is something shared by all colonized peoples. It was inspiring to hear that this process of recuperating lost knowledge is not something I am alone in doing, but that it is shared by other communities as well.

Do you have any plans to stay connected to the Zapatistas, the Other Campaign, and/or the Zezta Internazional? If so, what are some next steps?

Definitely feel renewed inspiration and commitment to the work I am doing with CIF and Casa. I do feel like our work is strongly connected to the ideas of Zapatismo so, yes, I am feeling a stronger commitment.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Campesinos of the World

Peasant Representatives from Korea, Brazil, the USA and Mexico speaking together in Chiapas prior to the Second Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World

I'm excited to present this first of several reportbacks from the Second Encuentro, and related events, such as this plenary.

Also check out these new reports from Movement for Justice in El Barrio on their continued
organizing against repression of the Other Campaign and their upcoming activities in NYC and beyond. For their part, the Zapatistas have just released a new communiqué regarding the upcoming Indigenous Encuentro, even as they face new paramilitary hostilities against bases of support and women. Also of note this week, the North American heads of state (of which at least 2 of 3 can hardly say they were elected!) are meeting in Canada right now to further solidify with the "Security and Prosperity Partnership" an anti-democratic, NAFTA meets the War on Terror, agenda. And as Naomi Klein recently reminded us, "...we never lost the battle of ideas...we only lost a series of dirty wars..." And so, with that in mind, here's our first reportback:

Facing Capitalist Disposession, the Defense of Land and Territory
a reportback by Jennifer Whitney
from the July 19th Plenary featuring members of Via Campesina and the Zapatistas at the University of the Land in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México

We arrived at the Round Table Among the Campesinos of the World nearly an hour late, which is to say, before anything had begun. Representatives from Vía Campesina, a global organization of farmers and fisherfolk with members in over 50 countries, were there to share their experiences of struggle, and to attend the entire encuentro.

We were greeted warmly at the entrance to the The University of the Land, which, when it is not the site of an international plenary, offers three- and six-month programs to indigenous people, covering a wide range of trades, including carpentry, sewing, mechanics, computer skills, and more. The campus is beautiful – it sits far back from the outlying neighborhood, down a rough muddy road from which it climbs up the forested hillside. It is full of new landscaping, white gravel pathways lined by saplings, canna lilies exploding with red blossoms around the dormitories. Its focal point, at least for tonight, is a beautiful octagonal building, with windows on all sides.

The octagon was far too small for the 2,500 or so of us that wanted to attend the discussion; and clearly this was not unpredicted – sloping down the hill from the octagon was a long narrow strip of bench seating, covered by a bit of roof. Approaching it from below reminded me a bit of the arduously climbing infinite staircases leading to the churches to the east and west of San Cristóbal – the likes of which can be found in most towns I’ve seen in southern México.

Dotting the rest of the campus were other wooden buildings – classrooms, dormitories, a communal kitchen, a library. I followed the signs that pointed the way to the registration and credentialing office, bumping into a few old friends from San Cristóbal and Mexico City along the way.

Despite the fact that I had registered online about five hours prior, my credential had already been handwritten, laminated, and filed neatly away with stacks and stacks of others. I gave the requested two peso donation to cover the costs of the pass, and was on my way in five minutes – surely the most efficient registration system of up to three thousand people I’ve ever encountered.

When I returned to the hall, the evening’s host had just introduced Dong Uk Min from the Campesino League of Korea, who started off by speaking of his movement’s participation in the WTO protests in Hong Kong. He then spoke of their desire for a united Korea, and of the difficulty they have had, uniting the farmers with the workers of the cities – how a large part of their work is to demonstrate the common interests of both groups, and to this end, the campesinos have begun attending the demonstrations of the urban workers and unemployed:
We’re building a large national alliance now. We promise that within the next ten years, we campesinos will create a new country where we will be the caretakers of the land, and through it all we will remain in solidarity with the Mexican campesinos’ struggle.

Soraia Soriano of the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) of Brasil then spoke of the confusion that the election of the supposedly leftist president Lula wrought on her organization, and the left in general, with some people wanting to be patient and give him time to enact reforms that would bring about substantive change, and others quick to recognize that all the so-called public works projects that his government invested in were to develop the export economy rather than to invest in internal and social development. She spoke most about the land crisis, which is, among Latin American countries, worse in Brazil than anywhere else. In particular, she focused on the disaster that ethanol production was already creating in the countryside, and with Brazil poised to become the hemisphere’s main producer and refiner of agro-fuels, that things could only get worse. Yet, in the face of so much bad news, she managed to bring some hope into plenary:
Compas, as we have seen, we have many reasons to be pessimistic, but in our hearts we have a lot of optimism. We face a challenge – to build a new cycle of the left, with new forms of politics. We know that the enemy is big capital, and that we have to develop our politics at the same time as we fight capitalism. As we say, no one person has the answer; we have to think strategically, and find the first, second, and third answers.

George Naylor, a corn and soy farmer from Iowa, who is the out-going director of the National Family Farm Coalition of the US followed up with an overview of how, since the worship of the market (that he identified as coming with the Cold War), US farming has been suffering under systematical destruction. He began by mentioning that the family farm only ever existed because of the theft of indigenous land by his (our) European ancestors, and also spoke admiringly of indigenous food security plans he was learning about. Offering sobering statistics on the concentration of food cultivation in so few hands, and the possible impacts of a further-increased specialization, with the boom market of ethanol cultivation threatening to take over even more land with monocultural industrial crops, he made it clear that this system is far from isolated to the US: “I’ve been privileged to be able to travel the world and I tell the people everywhere that farmers in the US have lived the future of the market and we know that it is going to destroy you.” With that, he planted the question in all of our minds – who will feed us in ten years, and from what land?

Wrapping all of this up was Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Delegado Zero of the Sixth Commission of the EZLN. He began by holding up a soft drink can, and recounting a story of how, during the last encuentro, when the Zapatistas asked for comments and discussion, someone brought up several transnational products that were for sale in the stores at Oventik, dumped them on the table with a “dramatic gesture,” and criticized and condemned the Zapatistas for selling such products. “We remained silent during this judgment and condemnation, as a matter of courtesy, not because we were in agreement with what he said. And now I am going to explain what that silence meant,” said el Sub. He carried on saying that there were many ways of attacking capitalism:
You could choose to consume in an anticapitalist way, like he who judged us suggested, by picking one product over another, or you could try to influence the flow of commodities by boycotting big stores and corporations, and only buying from small businesses, both of which are “respectable” ways of struggling. But, the Zapatistas, in developing the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, said, ‘Well, of course, the problem with capitalism is that very few are the owners of everything, and very many own nothing, and this must change, must be turned on its head, subverted turned around.’ That is to say, the Zapatistas decided to become anticapitalist and attack the means of production, and he who judged and condemned us, and those who applauded him – they thought that our anticapitalism was not attainable, and that theirs is better, more visible, more immediate….We say that our anticapitalism is more unassuming – it’s aimed at the very heart of the system, because you can change your consumption habits, or the ways and means of circulating commodities, but if you don’t change the means of production or the exploitation, capitalism carries on, alive and operational.

He carried on, sharpening his critique, and his tongue, adding that,
Years ago, before our revolutionary laws were in existence and before we began our war…people used to make booze, from sugar cane, or corn, or fermented banana…. And so, with out any transnational consumption, without exploiting labor (because the workers made it in their own milpas…), and without enriching the bank accounts of the CEOs, people got drunk, beat and raped women, mistreated children. It was an anticapitalist alcoholism, but it was and is a crime. And since the uprising, the Zapatista women reject alcoholism, whether it be capitalist or anticapitalist.

Afterwards, during the standing ovation that followed, the Sub added, “PS. PS, that tells an anti-gender tale,” and the room filled with gasps and then silences. The tale was great, and invoked the unfazeable character Elias Contreras, of the Zapatista Investigation Commission, who, to my knowledge, first appeared in Marcos’ detective story, Muertos Incomodos: falta lo que falta, co-written two years ago with Paco Ignacio Taibo II. In the PS, Elias tells a story to a person called Magdalena, who is “transsexual, that is to say, neither man nor woman, but both.” Elias addresses Magdalena as “compañeroa,” (no @, no slash between that “o” and “a” but rather, both are pronounced in this five syllable word, for those of you who know a little Spanish). The story concluded like this:
Magdalena asked, ‘But why do you use the word “ellos” when you know that they are male and female at the same time?’ Elias got very serious, with a far away look, and said, ‘Well, it’s because we Zapatistas know that there are things for which there are no words, and we have to use the words we have, but we know well that even though we don’t know how to name them very well, they still exist…And one day…one day we will have words in order to understand that which we now do not understand, because there are many worlds that exist, even though they don’t have names.’… Long live that which still remains nameless!

And with that high-velocity journey through “ethical” consumption, taking over means of production, alcoholism, and genderqueer linguistic debates, the event was over, and as people streamed down from the building, a tumultuous melee of enthusiastic greetings and chattering ensued. The enthusiasm burned from people’s eyes, glittering in the streetlights. This thing had finally begun, and what a beginning!

Jennifer Whitney is co-author of We Are Everywhere: the irresistible rise to global anticapitalism, (Verso, 2003) and co-founder of the Seattle marching band, the Infernal Noise Brigade. After hurricane Katrina hit her home state of Louisiana, she moved back to New Orleans where she coordinates a free mobile health clinic for day laborers, and where carnival gloriously erupts in the streets more frequently than in most places she's ever seen. She currently is trying to figure out how best to support solidarity work between hurricane-affected peoples of the US Gulf Coast and of México and Central America.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Womyn's Encuentro!

Third Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World
"Comandanta Ramona and the Women Zapatistas"

Comandanta Ramona

12/31/07: Bilingual coverage of the Womyn's Encuentro at Indymedia Chiapas
12/23/07: Information, themes and schedule for the encuentro here

You can now find Sunday's post, "Abstention in Oaxaca," at Narco News. Without further ado, here's my English translation of the announcement for the Third Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World "Comandanta Ramona and the Women Zapatistas"...hey boys, let's get ready to be calladitos!

UPDATE: Denunciation of Violence Against Zapatista Women (en español)

Compañera Everilda, candidate for Comandanta
-live recording in Spanish-
July 28, 2007 in La Realidad, Chiapas
(hasty) translation by zapagringo

Compañeros and compañeras of Mexico and the world. Good evening to all of you. With this Second Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World we are very energized, with much responsibility and this worries us greatly. It makes us think. How there is much that we would like to say in this encuentro but scarcely find the time to share what we Zapatista communities are doing and there remain things for us to share, especially us women Zapatistas. Because of this we wish to say with anticipation that these words will remain well-guarded by us while you go to inform our compañeros y compañeras in your communities of what you have already come and heard so that the rest who are not here can be informed.

But we think it’s better at once that you already bring the message from us women Zapatistas that we convoke the Third Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World, and the principle and unique theme will be the women Zapatistas, especially for us women Zapatistas of the Zapatista communities to gather with compañeras from México and the world.

We are going to speak, us women Zapatistas, with compañeras from Mexico and the world and you will be able to ask questions of how we organize ourselves, the women Zapatistas, more directly with women. We are going to ask the compañeros men Zapatistas that they help us with logistical questions. Compañeros from Mexico and the world may also come to hear us, but remain silent [calladitos], same as our compañeros men Zapatistas.

This Third Encuentro, as it will be especially of the women Zapatistas, will be dedicated to Comandanta Ramona, and will take her name. Thus it is like this: Third Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World: Comandanta Ramona and the women Zapatistas.

Bring this message to the rest of the compañeras. That they are prepared. At the same time, that they go to tell their spouses that they will have to take care of the house, the kids, and pets for a few days, while they leave and gather with the women Zapatistas to organize ourselves on how to fight against capitalism and neoliberalism.

This Third Encuentro of the women Zapatistas we think will happen around the last days of December 2007. We are consulting with the compañeras and compañeros of the Good Government Council of the caracol of La Garrucha and the community of La Garrucha, which is the seat of the caracol, if they will permit us to have our Third Encuentro there.

We’ll confirm later. We ask that you watch our Zezta Internazional and Enlace Zapatista internet pages, the Intergalactic Commission of the Sixth Commission of the Other Campaign.

The days we are thinking of:
Arrive the day of December 28 in the Caracol of La Garrucha and register;
December 29, 30, 31: plenary workshops of the Zapatista women with time for questions from the women of the world,
January 1: Celebration of our 14th anniversary of the beginning of the uprising of these dignified lands.

This is the invitation, compañeros y compañeras. We will be waiting here as always by the doors.

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