Mexico: Zapatistas are Drug Terrorists

From an article by Kristin Bricker in the NarcoSphere: 
"In an operation that bears all the marks of drug war-style repression, state and federal police detained six adherents to the Other Campaign, one Zapatista, and one unaffiliated man in Agua Azul, Chiapas.  The military was also involved; it shot six warning shots into the air with live ammunition at a protest blockade, and it provided military intelligence that Chiapas state officials say was used to detain the men."
The Mexican state has used violent military tactics on indigenous groups associated with the Other Campaign a number of times since its inception a few years ago, so this new report comes as no surprise. What is troubling is that these 6 men are being charged as participating in "organized crime" which has been the key word for arresting drug traffickers that have reportedly been at the root of the intense violence around the U.S. border. Mexico has received millions to fight what is essentially the U.S. war on drugs, and now we have another case why this can be so problematic. Once the funds are allocated to and in the hands of the government (whether Mexico's as in this case - or the similarly funded Colombia's) there is little to no oversight as to how those funds are allocated. If the Mexican government sees fit to repress indigenous organizers as threats to the nation, they can do so simply by using the appropriate vocabulary of the oppressive state. 

Wondering how this is part of Mexico's drug war?
"Felipe Calderon's war on drugs is largely fought through statewide "joint operations." In joint operations, the federal government deploys soldiers and federal police from various federal police forces to a particular state.  The federal troops often work together with state and sometimes local police in anti-drug trafficking operations (although in other instances the federal troops relieve local police from their duties due to suspected corruption).  Mexico's National Defense Ministry announced last October that it would expand its anti-drug operations to Chiapas. The government has confirmed that seven government agencies participated in the Bachajon operation that resulted in the eight detentions, including the military, federal police, and state police." 

photo of Agua Azul Zapatistas from Noticias Palenque

The Uru Chipaya and Global Warming

Coming on the heels of Earth Day and a meeting of indigenous groups in Alaska to discuss global warming, today's Guardian article about the Uru Chipaya of Bolivia brings to light just one of the effects and possible casualties of rising temperatures.

The Uru Chipaya are known as the "water people" of the Andes, and are believed to be "the oldest surviving culture in the Andes." As the land they have inhabited for 4,000 years ceases to sustain them due to drought, their culture and the Uru language face extinction.

From the article:
The tribal chief, 62-year-old Felix Quispe, 62, says the river that has sustained them for millennia is drying up. His people cannot cope with the dramatic reduction in the Lauca, which has dwindled in recent decades amid erratic rainfall that has turned crops to dust and livestock to skin and bones.

"Over here used to be all water," he said, gesturing across an arid plain. "There were ducks, crabs, reeds growing in the water. I remember that. What are we going to do? We are water people."
Continue Reading >>>


Profit and Loss: Somali Pirates

In the digital age (in places with access), the word piracy most often surfaces in relation to technological plundering of some sort -- music, internet, etc. The evolution of the word is probably why mainstream media and the general public latched on to the ongoing Somali pirate story -- real, live pirates on the high seas. Predictably, much of the background and context of the story has been traded for dramatic effect.

CBC News in Toronto, Canada, offered some insight into why and how the pirate situation has developed off the coast of Somalia. Some key points from the video:
  • Somali pirates made an estimated $30 million last year from seizing and ransoming ships. Somali fishermen lost an estimated $300 million last year from illegal fishing by foreign ships.
  • In addition to starvation and political turmoil, Somalis have been victims of illness from toxic waste washing up on their shore. With no government to prevent illegal dumping, the coast is a cheap place for toxic waste dumping. The international community is reluctant to investigate because of the perceived danger due to the lack of authority.
  • Piracy began as a reaction to this turmoil. Somali fishermen began acting as an informal coast guard. In the process, piracy became a lucrative industry.
Watch the broadcast:

Labor Writing and Union Building

A fascinating article by Steve Early about the role of books and union-building came across Znet a few weeks ago. In discussing the ability of labor writers to connect with readers, and the overall climate of the labor writing marketplace, Early argues that labor writers' task has become increasingly easier due to current labor conditions raising political consciousness. Still, the publishing environment remains an obstacle with which labor writers must contend, including the difficulty university presses face in appealing to the general public and intra- and inter-union politics.

From the article:
Within organized labor—an institution not known in the past for the richness of its intellectual life—the marketplace for new ideas has grown even as union density has shrunk. Labor activists today are often desperate for any information, insight, or inspiration that can aid the difficult task of re-building unions. While many labor education programs continue to focus on developing basic union skills, more shop stewards, local officers, and union staffers realize they need to think critically and analytically about "the big picture" in their occupation, industry, and society. The challenges facing 16 million union members—and eight times as many unorganized workers—are a product of past workplace struggles, won and lost, and powerful economic and political forces that need to be analyzed and better understood. As [Eric] Lee argues, trade unionists can even find out "what works and what doesn't" by studying "the experience of others in our globalized world."
Continue Reading >>>

Chomsky on Health Care

Below is a snippet from a lecture by Noam Chomsky. He discusses why health care reform has taken so long in the U.S., despite documented public support for a nationalized system.

He argues that support has been suppressed for decades because the issue hasn't been a part of an ongoing debate, therefore eliminating public pressure. The recent publicity the issue has received can be traced to 2004. Shortly after the election (in which neither candidate favored health care reform on a national level), Congress "passed legislation that made it illegal for the government to use its purchasing power to negotiate drug prices." In the years that followed, the manufacturing industry voiced support for national health care because of skyrocketing manufacturing costs. This development is the only reason national care care has become "politically possible," in Chomsky's words.

What type of system we get, and who it benefits, remains to be seen.

Indigenous Women's Rights in Mexico

It is common for many Westerners - even scholars - to idealize indigenous communities around the world. Many see indigenous peoples as living some ideal life that has largely been lost in the globalized West. While this view is slightly skewed, it does remain true that many indigenous peoples live a life based on traditions that can be traced back through many generations. These traditions often involve intimate knowledge of select environments built on experimentation and trial and error over an equally lengthy time period. This intimate knowledge of the surrounding environment is largely lost on those dwelling in urban areas, but nonetheless remains an important repository of human discovery and knowledge. 
Still, indigenous communities are not perfect, and problems of all sorts persist. As an example, I just came across an article describing the efforts of a Zapotec woman in Mexico who is organizing for women's rights in her home state of Oaxaca, a majority indigenous state in the south of the country. Eufrosina Cruz traveled to Mexico City to found an organization to help the cause. From the article from the IPS
Her group is called Quiego, short for Queremos Unir Integrando por Equidad y Género en Oaxaca (roughly, "we want to come together for equity and gender in Oaxaca"). The acronym was inspired by Santa María Quiegaloni, the name of her village of 800 Zapoteca Indians, located in the mountains of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest states. Quiego "plans to hold workshops and organise women’s groups, first in my village, and later throughout Oaxaca and anywhere else that we can, to raise awareness on women’s political rights and help them understand that some traditions are no good, but that we are not alone, and that we have to wake up," she said. 
Mexico is the Latin American country with the largest indigenous population in absolute numbers, which is variously estimated to make up between 12 and 30 percent of the country’s 104 million people (the smaller, official, estimate is based on the number of people who actually speak an indigenous language). The overwhelming majority of the Mexican population is of mixed indigenous and Spanish ancestry. 
More than 90 percent of the 12 million officially counted indigenous people live in extreme poverty, nearly 50 percent are illiterate, and 80 percent of the children under five are badly malnourished, according to the human development report on Mexican indigenous people published in 2006 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 
A study focusing on gender issues by the government National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, also released in 2006, states that "among the poorest of the poor, among the most marginalised of the marginalized, are indigenous women." 

Giroux: Commodifying Kids

A recent essay by Henry Giroux, "Commodifying Kids: The Forgotten Crisis," dovetails nicely with our previous post and follows another article by him that we posted back in February about the criminalization of today's youth. In this most recent essay, Giroux urges that we recognize the "teachable moment" unfolding before us, given the current state of society (hyper-commercialized and profit driven).

He discusses how children have come to be defined through market principles, their worth determined by their market value; the role of a $17 billion advertising budget aimed at shaping children's identities; and the roles of children as both consumers and commodities. Perhaps more important than criticizing consumerism, argues Giroux, is "developing public spaces and social movements that help young people develop healthy notions of self, identities and visions of their future no longer defined - more accurately, defiled - by market values and mentalities."

Continue Reading at >>>