<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Reading the Zapatista “Other Campaign” Via the Internet: Part I - Guanajuato

The Commercial Media Ignores a Major News Story as Subcomandante Marcos Puts Capitalism on Trial


By Al Giordano
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Mexico

March 29, 2006

In recent weeks, readers throughout the world — in English, Portuguese, Italian, French and German — have suffered the Commercial Media’s Information Blockade of the most important and newsworthy story emanating from Mexico: the daily march of the Zapatista “Other Campaign” through five of Mexico’s 31 states. And readers in Spanish have had to look hard for the coverage among a handful of alternative media and community radio station websites, and the important narrative provided by Authentic Journalist Hermann Bellinghausen of the Mexico City daily La Jornada, almost never on page one, buried in the “Politics” section among the flotsam and jetsam of the money-drenched presidential campaign that will culminate in Mexico in July. Narco News’ coverage by the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign has been sidelined due to lack of transportation for its volunteer reporters — a problem we hope to solve soon — but meanwhile what has happened along the rebel road? What follows is a summary based on reports, in Spanish, by our colleagues in the alternative media.


The Other Campaign, early March in Querétaro
Photos: D.R. 2006 Ricardo Azarcoya Alemán
For the past eighteen days, Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos’ six-month long march throughout Mexico has traveled the states of Guanajuato (home state to Mexican President Vicente Fox, where he was once governor), Aguascalientes, Jalisco (and its capital of eight million residents, Guadalajara), and Nayarit, the pacific coastal land where, in the 1970s, the Mexican Party of Communists (distinct from the better-known Communist Party) was born in rebellion and is very much alive — but below Commercial Media radar — today. In many of the stops along the way the man known as “Delegate Zero” has met with, and heard from, members of important indigenous communities, including of the Huichol ethnic group, internationally known for its millenarian use of the peyote cactus as a medicinal plant. Not so known — again, we live under an Information Blockade — is the fighting tradition of the Huichol people, which has shown its face along the Other Campaign trail in these lands. And particularly in Jalisco, Marcos again found urban industrial workers, as he encountered along previous stops in the states of Puebla and Querétaro, among others — such as the rebel tire-makers of the Euskadi factory that, as a result of a 2001 strike, became half-owners of their own jobs and means of production — ready to join forces with a Mexican countryside on the verge of a national uprising.

What has occurred since January 1 is a kind of people’s tribunal in which Marcos — the Quixotic prosecutor against an entire economic system that projects itself as invincible — sits silently inside his black ski-mask for hours each day and night listening to the testimony of “the simple and humble people who fight” in every corner of the Mexican Republic, taking notes and inventory of the materia humana that he hopes to forge into a “national rebellion” — coming soon to a country that borders the United States of America? He does this unarmed and relatively freely in the sense that the Mexican State of Vicente Fox so far has adopted a strategy of ignoring, rather than imprisoning, the rebel leader who with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) declared war, “from the mountains of the Mexican Southeast” of Chiapas, upon the federal government in 1994; a guerrilla movement that attracted significant national and international support.

For the past eighteen days your correspondent and his colleagues of the Other Journalism have been in the same position as any other reader trying to follow this road story: dependent on a scattershot series of raw audio recordings, photos posted to Internet sites often without explicatory captions, and scarce written chronicles — all of them in Spanish — to try to piece together what has been going on in this nomadic laboratory of revolt. Here is a brief summary of the information that so far appears online…

Guanajuato: “The Wealthy Only Want More”

Marcos left the state of Querétaro on March 10, where he had listened to rural farmers in the Sierra Gorda (and formulated an explanation of how “middlemen” on behalf of the super-rich are seeking to take every last square meter of land away from those who work it), to indigenous Mexicans already displaced to the city (where he waxed about the possibilities of this rebellion-in-formation jumping over the wall into the United States), to urban industrial workers (where he laid plans for a national worker’s gathering that will meet in Mexico City on April 29 and then march in the nation’s capital on May Day) and where the EZLN joined the water war of El Batán by farmers and ranchers defending their life’s blood from Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark and other multinational corporations that seek to dry the countryside to feed an industrial park many miles away. Those four reports — plus the video newsreels now being edited about those struggles — offered the kind of Other Journalism coverage plus translation that this road team would have liked to offer in the subsequent states of the tour but without gas nor a gas-tank could not.

From there, Delegate Zero entered President Fox’s state of Guanajuato: one of the Mexican regions where the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993 has provoked a gigantic exodus of Mexican workers and farmers into the United States as it has devastated working conditions in the factories and farms below.

In his first report from the Other Guanajuato, La Jornada’s Bellinhausen wrote:

“…the Other Campaign today enters the Otomí lands of Guanajuato and hours later in the Grand Chichimeca region, territories and peoples that officially do not exist. In Guanajuato, as in Aguascalientes, and until recently in Querétaro and Tlaxcala, the indigenous peoples are considered to be extinct. Now you can see that they are not. And not only that. All indications are that they possess a more robust notion of identity and belonging than the majority of mixed-blood people in this region that are decidedly transnationalized by the governments of the PAN (National Action) party and their systematic emigration to the United States.”

There, Marcos heard from indigenous Otomís (the ethnic group of 96-year-old Narco News School of Authentic Journalism professor and Guanajuato-native don Andrés Santiago de Vásquez, elder of Mexico’s Indigenous National Congress) about their battle to protect their sacred hill, Pinal de Zamorano (they call it “the navel of the world” reports Bellinghausen) from the Mexican telephone company Telmex which seeks to erect communications antennas there.

Marcos responded to their plight with some choice words for the owner of Telmex, the magnate Carlos Slim, who Forbes magazine recently listed as the wealthiest man in Latin America and who received the national phone company from the Mexican government of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari only 15 years ago. Marcos explained:

“His name is Carlos Slim. It has just been reported that he is the third-wealthiest man on earth. That is to say, he can buy all of Mexico. And one would think that since he already has a lot of things that he would be content. But no. He wants more. The rich are like that. But just the same our ancestors taught us that we have to be very cautious, because the wealthy know no bounds. Don’t think that if Slim has a million pesos he will be happy. No. He wants two, three, ten, 100, a thousand. And although he might be owner of the whole world he will then want other planets, because the rich, the capitalists, are like that.”

Kind reader: Have you ever read words like those in the New York Times? Or Associated Press? Or seen someone say them on the TV news? For that matter, how often do you read words like that in “alternative” media outlets? Or on the corporate Internet of AOL and Slim’s own Prodigy company? And if not, ask yourself, please, why aren’t such words reported? Is it because the words are untrue? Are the super-wealthy magnates like Carlos Slim or his business partner Bill Gates content with the riches they already have? Or, as Marcos says, do they just keep wanting more and more? And if those words are true, why must they never be reported in the Mass Media? Are they not news? And this is why a media from below is so urgent to cultivate. Anyway, you read those words here.

Here are some more words, which Marcos said to the indigenous gathered in Guanajuato about how President Vicente Fox and others don’t understand — nor want to understand — any of Mexico’s 62 living indigenous languages:

“But if you speak in English to Fox you will se that he understands it and he doesn’t speak his stupidities in Spanish, because not only is his language English, in his heart he is a gringo. It doesn’t matter what color someone has, but, rather, where someone is looking.”

Hmmmm. There’s something else to think about. Not even the president of Mexico will know what is happening in his own country if it is not also reported in English.

A Campaign Against the PAN Party, Too

When the Zapatista “Other Campaign” is mentioned in the Mexican press, and in some liberal or “leftish” reports in other languages than Spanish, it usually involves Marcos’ critiques of Mexico’s Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, in its Spanish initials) of presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which many reports categorize as “leftist.” One can read and hear this spin both from conservative mass media — enchanted with what they view from above as an internecine division on the Left — and from sympathizers of López Obrador aghast that Mexico’s most popular radical, the Zapatista Marcos, is not supporting the supposed candidate of the Left.

But the Commercial Media (and, sadly, some less conservative media sources) have maintained their blockade of the other side of the story: that Marcos and the Other Campaign criticize just as harshly the other political parties and candidates in Mexico. The Zapatista critique of Fox’s PAN party was particularly harsh in Guanajuato this month as it has been in other states governed by the PAN from Yucatán to Querétaro along the Other Campaign trail.

Of the PAN party, in Guanajuato, and its conservative, Catholic, and “free market capitalist” bases, Marcos said:

“Behind this party that today governs the country we see the double morality of he who claims to be worried about the family and at the same time promotes the growth of pornography and bordellos in those places that it governs. In the places where the National Action Party governs people have explained to us how the number of houses of prostitution, pornography and the traffic of minors for sexual commerce grows. The paradox is that these are people who say they are very Catholic and who go regularly to mass, probably to ask forgiveness for all the sins they commit during the rest of the week.”

The next day in the Other Guanajuato, when the PAN government of the state prohibited Marcos from visiting with political prisoners held there, Marcos sharpened his attack on the PAN, calling for a national and international boycott of the state and also of all election campaign signs and materials by the PAN party. After all, even the authoritarian and repressive PRI regime of Oaxaca state allowed Delegate Zero to enter — as can be seen in the Other Journalism’s video newsreels — the prisons of Tehuantepec and Ixcotel to speak with political prisoners and attack that same regime. Marcos was also able to enter, in January, a prison in the PRI-governed state of Tabasco to visit other political prisoners.

But in PAN-led Guanajuato, where politicians speak of “freedom”, the prison doors remained shut. Thus, Marcos then called for “a boycott and sabotage” of all PAN campaign materials and events.

“Repression, Dirty Tricks, and Looting Without Limit”

During three days in Guanajuato (just three days out of 170 in which the Other Campaign traverses Mexican territory), Delegate Zero heard from citizens opposing government plans to impose garbage dumps on their lands, from indigenous confined to what are essentially US-style “reservations” not even recognized as such by the government. He also heard from many of the 330 miners of the Santa Fe Mine Engineering Cooperative who, according to Bellinghausen, “exposed a history of repression, dirty tricks and looting without limit” that they have lived while their government steals their silver mine to deliver it to a Canadian company. He heard from youths who suffer police repression for their style of dress. In Salamanca, where people live in the shadow of an industrial park, he heard the story of environmental pollution that invades the daily lives, nostrils and lungs of the residents. That’s where the multinational corporation Techem operates its factories that produce chemical products such as the insecticide Maliathon. As one citizen told Marcos:

“The air is pestilent, unbreathable. And that doesn’t even tell of how it is when there are explosions in the factory… there is no regulation… Look, I’ve been sick in the throat for days and the doctor says I don’t have any infection… But that is how I always feel.”

Bellinghausen reported:

“The rate of cancer and leukemia in children including the unborn are at scandalous levels. In the meeting of no more than 200 neighbors, some complain of constant illness and many have lost family members to cancer due to the chemical contamination by Techem.”

These “stories of pain” as Marcos calls them have been told throughout the 17 states through which he has traveled and listened. But they are not told by the Commercial Media. Perhaps one motive for the silence is that the very same companies on which the Commercial Media depends for advertising are those responsible for so much of the pain. As Marcos explained some weeks ago in Puebla, after hearing from “maquiladora” (sweatshop) factory workers that make jeans, jackets and other products for sale in the United States and elsewhere:

“And so it goes that in that in the production of merchandise, in that pair of pants or that jacket, there is a story written that was covered up the moment that they painted the pants blue and… with the residues they also contaminated the water of the Valley of Tehuacan. And at the hour that they contaminated this water it affected the people, the communities that depend on those springs. And it also hurt them because when they lost the water and they lost the land, they had to migrate to the United States and look for work there. And if they walk through one of the big cities of the United States and see that pair of pants or that jacket there in the store windows with the logo of a U.S. company, together with a price tag in U.S. dollars, they know that it was produced here in Mexico by their own family members, here in Tehuacan…

“But this story is not known, compañeros and compañeras, it is not known. In a single pair of pants, in a single jacket, in a pound of sugar, is also the suffering of the workers who put that product there and that is not seen. And, above all, the exploitation is not seen. And those who keep the wealth that this merchandise produces are not seen either.”

(For another excellent report from the Other Campaign trail in Puebla and the story of the sweatshop workers, see John Gibler’s story in Z-Net, “Maquila Violence in Mexico.”)

Where the Story Is Told

A reader that understands the Spanish language can listen directly to audio files of the comments by Marcos — and in many cases by the struggling people who tell him their stories — in each of the states visited so far via the pages of pirate radio stations KeHuelga and Radio Pacheco in Mexico City. There are also many photographs, audio and video tapes, and irregular reports from alternative media correspondents traveling with the Other Campaign caravan at Chiapas Indymedia.

The Enlace Zapatista site — the Subcomandante’s own weblog — is another very well organized collection of audio and video recordings, photos and sometimes transcripts of the meetings Marcos has held across the country.

A partial list of “alternative media” covering the Other Campaign to varying degrees appears at this link. Not listed on that page (perhaps because the dominant tendency among alternative media covering the Other Campaign is vaguely anarcho) is some of the best reporting in Spanish from the Other Campaign trail. It comes from members of the aforementioned Mexican Party of Communists. And, likewise, the Communist Party of Mexico has its own coverage of the Other Campaign, too. (This journalist of anarcho-syndicalist tendencies very much appreciates the ability and work ethic of our communist brothers and sisters to write coherent narratives of the news: something that many members of more libertarian tendencies could and should learn from.)

And of course, there is the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign, the only project that uses the word journalism to describe what we do, and that reports not only in Spanish, but also in English and also Italian, French, German and Portuguese. But, as stated, we are sidelined, for now, waiting for the next tank of gas… spectators like any other reader out here.

In the meantime, in he coming days, we will try to offer similar summaries from the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco, and Nayarit to keep readers updated on the progress of this Other Campaign that — as is clear to anyone paying attention enough to bypass the blockade by Commercial Media — is changing the history of Mexico and of all América.

We leave you, for now, with another quote from Subcomandante Marcos from the Other Guanajuato. Again, not something you are likely to read in the Los Angeles Times or the Washington Post:

“Our proposal is that we defeat the government and the big businessmen. We don’t want to spend more time petitioning or sending delegations to a government that not only does not listen to us, but also deeply disrespects us; a government for which we are leftovers. The people from below, the humble and simple people, are in their way, preventing them from being able to take control of the country and convert the flag into a prostitute.”

As journalists, we are also workers, who have watched our profession and the stained flags of “press freedom” and “freedom of speech” turned into prostitutes, with the Commercial Media as the whorehouses. Meanwhile, we, as authentic media workers who don’t lie in order to make a buck, are stuck in the same place as the rest of the public: Forced to seek out “alternate routes” and dig through miles of pavement along the “Information Highway” to deduce what is going on where history is being made.

This reporter merely spent hours pecking through Internet sites on your behalf, kind reader. But as workers we would really prefer to be reporting from the scene of the news. Soon, we hope… soon.

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