Weaving Webs of Resistance in Chiapas

July 29, 2010

By David Swanson http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/54305

Last week 700 leading peace activists from around the United States met and strategized in Albany, sildenafil N.Y. ( http://nationalpeaceconference.org ). They discussed, viagra debated, sick and voted for a comprehensive new plan for the coming months. The plan includes a new focus and some promising proposals for building a coalition that includes the labor movement, civil rights groups, students, and other sectors of the activist world that have an interest in ending wars and/or shifting our financial resources from wars to where they’re actually needed. The full plan, including a preface, is available online.

The plan includes endorsements and commitments to participate in events planned for Detroit on August 28th, and Washington, D.C., on August 28th and October 2nd, as well as a national day of actions led by students on October 7th, and a week of anti-war actions around the country marking the start of Year 10 in Afghanistan on October 7-16. Dates to put on your calendar now for 2011 include mid-March nationally coordinated teach-ins to mark the eighth year of the Iraq War and to prepare for bi-coastal spring demonstrations the following month, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles mobilizations on April 9, 2011, and blocking of ports on May Day.

Here is the full list of actions agreed upon:

1. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the United Auto Workers (UAW) have invited peace organizations to endorse and participate in a campaign for Jobs, Justice, and Peace. We endorse this campaign and plan to be a part of it. On August 28, 2010, in Detroit, we will march on the anniversary of that day in 1963 when Walter Reuther, president of UAW, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders joined with hundreds of thousands of Americans for the March on Washington. In Detroit, prior to the March on Washington, 125,000 marchers participated in the Freedom Walk led by Dr. King. At the march, King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time before sharing it with the world in Washington. This year, a massive march has been called for October 2 in Washington. We will begin to build momentum again in Detroit on August 28th. We also endorse the August 28, 2010 Reclaim the Dream Rally and March called by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to begin at 11 a. m.. at Dunbar High School, 1301 New Jersey Avenue Northwest.

2. Endorse, promote and mobilize for the Saturday, October 2nd “One Nation” march on Washington, DC initiated by 1199SEIU and the NAACP, now being promoted by a growing coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO and U. S. Labor Against the War, and civil rights, peace and other social justice forces in support of the demand for jobs, redirection of national resources from militarism and war to meeting human needs, fully funding vital social programs, and addressing the fiscal crisis of state and local governments. Organize and build an antiwar contingent to participate in the march. Launch a full-scale campaign to get endorsements for the October 2 march on Washington commencing with the final plenary session of this conference.

3. Endorse the call issued by a range of student groups for Thursday, October 7, as a national day of action to defend education from the horrendous budget cuts that are laying off teachers, closing schools, raising tuition and limiting access to education, especially for working and low income people. Demand “Money for Education, not U. S. Occupations” and otherwise link the cuts in spending for education to the astronomical costs of U. S. wars and occupations.

4. Devote October 7-16 to organizing local and regional protests to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan through demonstrations, marches, rallies, vigils, teach-ins, cultural events and other actions to demand an immediate end to the wars and occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and complete withdrawal of all military forces and private security contractors and other mercenaries. The nature and scheduling of these events will reflect the needs of local sponsors and should be designed to attract broad co-sponsorship and diverse participation of antiwar forces with other social justice organizations and progressive constituencies.

5. Support and build Remember Fallujah Week November 15-19.

6. Join the new and existing broad-based campaigns to fund human needs and cut the military budget. Join with organizations representing the fight against cutbacks (especially labor and community groups) to build coalitions at the city/town, state and national level. Draft resolutions for city councils, town and village meetings and voter referendum ballot questions linking astronomical war spending to denial of essential public services at home. (Model resolutions and ballot questions will be circulated for consideration of local groups.) Obtain endorsements of elected officials, town and city councils, state parties and legislatures, and labor bodies. Work the legislative process to make military spending an issue. Oppose specific military funding programs and bills, and couple them with human needs funding issues. Use lobbying and other forms of protest, including civil disobedience campaigns, to focus attention on the issue.

7. Mid-March, 2011 nationally coordinated teach-ins to mark the eighth year of the Iraq War and to prepare for bi-coastal spring demonstrations the following month.

8. Bi-Coastal mass spring mobilizations in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 9, 2011. These will be accompanied by distinct and separate non-violent direct actions on the same day. A prime component of these mobilizations will be major efforts to include broad new forces from youth to veterans to trade unionists to civil and human rights groups to the Arab, Muslim and other oppressed communities, to environmental organizations, social justice and faith-based groups. Veterans and military families will be key to these mobilizations with special efforts to organize this community to be the lead contingent. Launch a full-scale campaign to get endorsements for these actions commencing with the final plenary session of this conference.

9. Select a week prior to or after the April actions for local lobbying of elected officials at a time when Congress is not in session. Lobbying to take multiple forms from meeting with local officials to protests at their offices and homes.

10. Recalling that the West Coast Longshore Workers Union shut down the ports for May Day 2008, and noting the recent successful actions in Oakland to block the unloading of an Israeli ship in solidarity with Palestine, the National Peace Conference will join with immigrant rights and union organizers to plan for May Day actions that include picket lines at the ports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. A large portion of war materiel is shipped from West Coast ports. These areas are home to large number of immigrants, many of whom work as truck drivers. A picket line, with veterans in the forefront, provides an opportunity to unite broader sections of the people in action. It also generates the possibility of impacting the war by blocking shipments of war materiel, and provides further consideration for continuing direct actions of this kind.

11. National tours. Organize over a series of months nationally-coordinated tours of prominent speakers and local activists that link the demands for immediate withdrawal to the demands for funding social programs, as outlined above.

12. Pressure on Iran from the US, Israel and other quarters continues to rise and the threat of a catastrophic military attack on Iran, as well as the ratcheting up of punitive sanctions that primarily impact the people of Iran, are of grave concern. All peace activists and organizations should be organizing for a peaceful and just solution to the concern over Iran’s nuclear program, including, but not limited to, supporting a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East (which would of course deal with Israel’s nuclear arsenal) and insisting that diplomacy, not war or threat of war, is the only acceptable option.

13. In the event of an imminent U. S. government attack on Iran or such an attack, or a U. S.-backed Israeli attack against Iran, or any other major international crisis triggered by U. S. military action, a continuations committee approved by the conference will mount rapid, broad and nationally coordinated protests by antiwar and social justice activists.

14. In the event of U. S.-backed military action by Israel against Palestinians, aid activists attempting to end the blockade of Gaza, or attacks on other countries such as Lebanon, Syria, or Iran, a continuations committee approved by the conference will condemn such attacks and support widespread protest actions.

15. Support actions to end the Israeli occupation and repression of Palestinians and the blockade of Gaza.

16. Support actions aimed at dismantling the Cold War nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical weapons and delivery systems. Support actions aimed at stopping the nuclear renaissance of this Administration, which has proposed to spend $80 billion over the next 10 years to build three new nuclear bomb making factories and “well over” $100 billion over the same period to modernize nuclear weapons delivery systems. We must support actions aimed at dismantling nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical weapons and delivery systems. We must oppose the re-opening of the Iranian mining industry, new nuclear power plants, and extraction of other fossil fuels that the military consumes.

17. Work in solidarity with GIs, veterans, and military families to support their campaigns and calls for action. Demand support for the troops when they return home and support efforts to counter military recruitment.

18. Take actions against war profiteers, including oil and energy companies, weapons manufacturers, and engineering firms, whose contractors are working to insure U. S. economic control of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s resources.

19. Support actions, educational efforts and lobbying campaigns to promote a transition to a sustainable peace economy.

20. Develop and implement a multi-pronged national media campaign which includes the following: the honing of a message which will capture our message: “End the Wars and Occupations, Bring the Dollars Home”; a fundraising campaign which would enable the creation and national placement and broadcast of professionally developed print ads as public service radio and television spots which communicate this imperative to the public as a whole (which would involve coordinated outreach to some major funders) ; outreach to sympathetic media artists to enable the creation of these pieces; an intentional, aggressive, coordinated campaign to garner interviews on as many targeted national news venues as possible which would feature movement voices speaking to the honed our nationally coordinated message; a plan to place on message op-ed pieces in papers around the country on a nationally coordinated schedule.

21. We call for the equal participation of women in all aspects of the antiwar movement. We propose nonviolent direct actions either in Congressional offices or other appropriate and strategic locations, possibly defense contractors, Federal Buildings, or military bases in the U. S. These actions would be local and coordinated nationally, i.e., the same day for everyone (times may vary). The actions would probably result in arrests for sitting in after offices close. Entering certain facilities could also result in arrests. Participants would be prepared for that possible outcome before joining the action. Nonviolence training would be offered locally, with lists of trainers being made available. The message/demand would be a vote, a congressional action to end the wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Close U. S. bases. Costs of war and financial issues related to social needs neglected because of war spending would need to be studied and statements regarding same be prepared before the actions. Press release would encourage coverage because of the actions being local and nationally coordinated.

22. We will convene one or more committees or conferences for the purpose of identifying and arranging boycotts, sit-ins, and other actions that directly interfere with the immoral aspects of the violence and wars that we protest.

23. The United National Antiwar Conference calls for building and expanding the movement for peace by consciously and continually linking it with the urgent necessity to create jobs and fund social needs. We call for support from the antiwar movement to tie the wars and the funding for the wars to the urgent domestic issues through leaflets, signs, banners and active participation in the growing number of mass actions demanding jobs, health care, housing, education and immigrant rights such as: July 25 – March in Albany in Support of Muslims Targeted by Preemptive Prosecution called by the Muslim Solidarity Committee and Project Salam. July 29 & 30 Boycott Arizona Actions across the country as racist Arizona law SB 1070 goes into effect, including the mass march July 30 in NYC as the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Mets. All the other mass actions listed above leading up to the bi-coastal actions on April 9, 2011.

24. The continuations committee elected at this conference shall reach out to other peace and social justice groups holding protests in the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011, where such groups’ demands and tactics are not inconsistent with those adopted at the UNAC conference, on behalf of exploring ways to maximize unity within the peace and social justice movements this fall and next spring.

— David Swanson is the author of “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” <? xml: namespace prefix = o />

Members of Tsobol Antzetik (Women United), health system
a cooperative of Mayan weavers working to support their families by selling their products in the U.S. for fair trade prices.
Photo by Rebecca Wiggins

By Crystal Massey and Rebecca Wiggins

In June of 2010, tadalafil
Sophia’s Circle/Las Cruces Chiapas Connection sent a delegation of four people to the highlands of Chiapas to visit weaving cooperatives. Over a period of two weeks, advice we listened to their concerns, shared in their laughter and learned about their goals. Following is an account of our visit.

The day was dawning bright and beautiful as 19-year-old Luz strapped on her tumpline, securing an eight-gallon container of water to her back with a band across her forehead supporting its weight. She then quickly set off for home, navigating the foot trails slick with summer rains that led to her house in a small community located in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.

Getting water from a communal spigot is a chore she performs several times a day. Her home has no running water. In order to wash clothes, bathe and clean, she must carry it from a location near the school. Though Chiapas contains nearly 50 percent of Mexico’s watershed, many indigenous families like Luz’s do not have direct access to clean, potable water and, unless they have water catchment systems, must carry it for long distances.

Luz and her mother are members of Tsobol Antzetik (Women United), a cooperative of Mayan weavers working to support their families by selling their products in the U.S. for fair trade prices. The women of Tsobol Antzetik are artists, breadwinners, active community members, mothers, sisters, daughters, teachers and grandmothers. Some are Abejas (a Catholic social justice organization), and others are members of the support bases of the EZLN (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation). All of these women are part of the resistance, which means they take no handouts from a government they believe is corrupt. They do not participate in traditional politics.

They and many others believe that giving handouts is a strategy used to coerce and control rural communities. Only those who officially support the government receive assistance. Stark reminders of these tactics are visible in the communities we visited. Following Luz back home, we gingerly stepped over pipes carrying water through other families’ corn fields. In addition, in her community a new health clinic is under construction, its modern concrete walls and design a clear indicator of something new and promising. The clinic is part of the government’s anti-poverty program, Oportunidades (Opportunities). According to the World Bank, the program’s focus is to provide aid to rural and urban communities by helping improve the education, health and nutrition of their families. Monthly grants are provided to keep children in school rather than working in the fields, basic health care and preventative care is provided, and nutritional supplements and stipends given out. Because she is part of the resistance, Luz will never have access to this clinic.

Ana is a weaver in the co-op. When we first arrived, her 10-month-old baby had not yet been named. It is common for people in this community to wait at least six months to a year before naming their children, since highly marginalized rural indigenous communities in Chiapas face an infant mortality rate of 75 deaths per 1000. Norma was named three days before her baptism. The government’s solution to high infant mortality: Oportunidades, which Mexican President Calderón describes as an “advance towards combating the poverty suffered by our people and above all, to guarantee better access to health conditions.”

But Oportunidades is described by sociologist Molly Talcott as “…essentially sterilizing women and attempting to contain women’s resistances [sic] by enlisting them in a small cash assistance program, which in these times, is badly needed.” In 2003, a Mexican newspaper reported that health care workers employed by IMSS-Oportunidades, have to meet sterilization quotas. Sixty-one percent of families in Chiapas use Oportunidades.

One of the ways to combat the challenges of living in the resistance is by weaving. Children, women and men often create artisan products to help supplement their family’s income. Every spare minute of each day is spent working on these items, in between preparing food, working in the fields, taking care of children and other household chores. On a typical day Ana gets up at approximately 4 a.m. She goes to the kitchen and grinds corn into nixtamal for tortillas, and puts the beans that have been soaking all night onto the fire to cook. When there is a break during the day, Ana weaves. She usually works until 9 p.m., at which point the family gathers around the fire in the kitchen for the evening meal, talking and laughing until it is time to go to bed.

Las Cruces Chiapas Connection, an organization based in this border-area community, helps sell co-op members’ products by finding markets in the United States. The income generated by sales helps people remain on their lands and feed their families. It also provides an economic alternative for young men and women who often see migration as their only option. NAFTA and other development projects have displaced thousands of Mexicans, making it difficult for people to earn a living. Luz’s husband is currently working in Cancun, Mexico, in order to provide for his new family. She has not seen him in over nine months.

Juan, Ana’s son, finished sixth grade and worked for several months picking coffee with an uncle away from home. He hated it. He missed his family and his community. When he came back home a friend told him about a weaver in Acteal who was taking on apprentices. He worked for six months winding thread onto bobbins and three-and-a-half years as an apprentice. By January of 2010 he had the 6,000 pesos necessary to buy a loom of his own. He hopes that his weaving will contribute to his family’s income.

Chiapas, rich in natural resources, has long been a target for development by the Mexican government and foreign investors. Under the administration of Vicente Fox, Plan Puebla Panamá (PPP) was unveiled. Originating in 2001, the plan called for massive development and infrastructure projects, including a super highway running from southern Mexico to Colombia. It was received with resistance from various groups claiming that corporations were favored over people and that the region’s biodiversity would be ruined. Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel has announced plans to begin drilling for oil in the Lacandón Rainforest, home to several indigenous communities, many of whom are in the resistance. A report cited by Kessel estimates that 17,000 new wells could produce over 500,000 barrels per day by 2021.

In 2008 PPP was renamed as the Mesoamerica Project (MP). Officially, the MP promotes integration and development, focusing on energy, trade, sustainable development, tourism and transportation. Unofficially, MP calls for the removal of indigenous people from their lands in order to open them for capitalist development projects. In 2009 regional security was added as a key component of MP. This has led to increased military presence which in turn is used to quell social unrest.

Ana’s husband is worried about being forcibly moved off his land and put into a “rural city.” He fears that young people will lose their traditions because their identities are tied to the land. Former President Fox estimated that 80 percent of rural residents of southern Mexico would have to relocate for PPP to be successful. The government promotes “sustainable rural cities” as models of development complete with educational facilities, electricity and running water. Dr. Japhy Wilson tells us that “once relocated in the rural cities, the ‘dispersed population’ of the Chiapas peasantry will no longer [be able to] dedicate itself to self-sufficient production in the milpa, …instead [they will become landless laborers working for] large-scale agroindustrial plantations. These ‘intensive plantations’ will include commercial forests, tropical fruits and flowers, biofuels, cacao, and coffee. The strategy is perfectly consistent with the Plan Puebla Panamá.”

Indigenous communities in the heart of Chiapas are already organizing against the Mesoamerica Project. They are no strangers to resistance, and know the consequences of standing up to the government and paramilitary groups. In 1997, 45 women, men and children of Las Abejas were massacred as they prayed and fasted in church to end the violence in their community. Paramilitary groups sanctioned by the government to squash the rebellion of Zapatistas and their sympathizers committed the murders. Though some arrests were made, perpetrators were released by the federal courts in 2009. Nevertheless, Las Abejas has a march planned for sometime in the fall, where they will walk from their headquarters in Acteal to the government center in San Cristobal.

Being part of the resistance has brought a renewed sense of dignity to the indigenous people in Chiapas. It is a difficult life, but a proud one as well. Father Marcelo, the first indigenous priest in the region, told us that he was glad we had come because he thinks we can learn from indigenous peoples who have a special relationship with Mother Earth that others need to emulate if we are to avoid self-destruction as a species.

To learn more about PPP, MP and “rural cities” visit www.ciepac.org, bulletins 560, 561 and 562. See also www.lascruceschiapasconnection.com. For more on Oportunidades, http://geo-mexico.com/?tag=social-geography., INEGI 2005, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición “Salvador Zubrán” UNICEF, http://www.banderasnews.com/1006/hbmesoamerica2015.htm .

Crystal Massey is a graduate student of Human Rights and Democracy at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Mexico City, mother, wife, teacher and advocate for human rights.

Rebecca Wiggins is a doctoral student at UTEP, and a member of Las Cruces Chiapas Connection.

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