<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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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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“We Will Fight To the End,” Students, Neighborhood Residents and Fishermen of Michoacán Assure Marcos

Rejecting a New Gas Station, Residents of the City of Morelia Confront Capitalism’s Offensive

By Bertha Rodríguez Santos
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Michoacán

April 8, 2006

MORELIA, MICHOACÁN, MEXICO: The rebel enthusiasm of around 1,500 university students, young anarchists and youths of other political tendencies, indigenous representatives, neighborhood residents and other adherents to the Zapatista Other Campaign flooded the streets of this state capital and took over Juárez Street to demonstrate, in front of Subcomandante Marcos, their opposition to the installation of a gas station in an area of schools and woods.

Photos: D.R. 2006 Yael Gerson Ugalde
After broadcasting a two-hour edition of his Radio Insurgente program (“The Voice of the Voiceless,” as its host, Subcomandante Marcos, calls it) through the San Nicolás de Hidalgo University radio station and speaking to more than a thousand students at that school, the man also known as Delegate Zero left for the streets of Morelia to meet with the residents of the Flícitas del Río neighborhood, who are fighting against the gas station construction.

The march occurred among shouts of support for the Other Campaign and chanting against the gas station. Upon arriving at the edge of the proposed construction site, the demonstrators set up a table right on the road and held their meeting.

The neighborhood residents, who form part of the “No to the Gas Station Movement,” explained that the plan to establish a gas station in a populated area of the city puts the lives of thousands of people who live in the area at risk. They are especially concerned that there are three schools “less than 100 meters away” and that the construction would destroy many trees.

The Zapatista representative also heard this complaint during his afternoon meeting with adherents at San Nicolás de Hidalgo High School No. 1.

Guillermo Mora Hernández, one of the neighborhood residents that is against the gas station, explained late that businessman Manuel Nocetti Tizado, who leads the project, operates 11 gas stations in the city through his Grupo Gasomich and has the necessary permits to run six more.

Mora claimed that the Nocetti Tiznado lends his name to the business interests of various politicians, such as state PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) leader Carlos Galvez Herrera and several functionaries of the previous state government.

During the meeting with Marcos, the neighbors mentioned that Nocetti Tiznado enjoys the support of mayor Salvador López Orduña , of the National Action Party, (or PAN in its Spanish initials), as well as Governor Lázaro Cárdenas Baltel, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Mora Hernández, who is also a member of a commission of neighborhood representatives, claims that there are very strong economic interests between the authorities of the municipal and state governments and the true owners of the gas stations, as the latter supply fuel every day for the vehicles that are so widely used by the town and state governments. The profits, he claims, come because the gasoline providers only supply 60 percent of what the governments order. The rest of the money ends up in the hands of public servants and gas station owners.

The neighbors’ outrage is even greater because of allegations that Grupo Gasomich is funding the presidential campaign of PAN candidate Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

The dissidents say that in addition to placing a time bomb in a densely populated area, the government’s representatives are illegally authorizing the permits, as environmental and traffic impact studies are being passed over.

One of the gas station opponents felt that the sit-in they are maintaining at the site represents not just a struggle “against a gas station, but also a group of neighbors who are confronting capitalism’s offensive.” He therefore proposed that the members of the Other Campaign regional coordinating committee join the sit-in to stop the project.

In addition to their opposition to the gas station, the demonstrators declared themselves against the privatization of the Institute of Social Security and Services of Government Workers (ISSSTE in its Spanish initials), public services such as water, public street lights, “the sale of Mexican Petroleum (PEMEX)” through concessions the state company gives to private gas stations, as well as the construction of Wal-Mart stores in the area.

Under an intense heat — the wait was prolonged due to disorganization among organizers in addition to the fact that it was being held in the middle of the street — Subcomandante Marcos stood up on one of the tables to speak to the audience.

To begin, Marcos saluted the neighborhood residents and representatives of the media, who, like bees to honey, swarmed in to get a good shot of the Zapatista leader. He also saluted the “ears” listening in from the municipal and state governments.

“We want to ask the media, and the people listening in from the PAN and the state PRD government: How much is a child’s life worth?”

He spoke harshly against the commercial media, who he feels are complicit in this aggression against Mexican citizens. When the first death of a boy or girl appears, “what will they say in their newspaper, on their television station? What will the governor say? What face are they going to show the people to appear credible?”

Because of that, he expressed the respect Zapatistas have for the neighborhood residents’ struggle, as they are confronting the power of the commercial media as well as repression from the municipal and state governments. “Their cause is life… that is what the Other Campaign is also about,” he said.

After 5:00 pm, in another meeting at the Nicolás High School, Delegate Zero listened to students, workers, artists, neighborhood residents, indigenous people and peasant farmers.

One of the participants who identified himself as a worker expressed his rejection of the junk products that big multinational companies like Coca-Cola produce to be consumed by the Mexican people. He believed that “Mexico is sick; the majority of its inhabitants are sick because of what we eat.”

He pointed out the importance of achieving food self-sufficiency and fighting the middlemen by buying directly from producers. What’s more, he said, it is necessary to “reclaim our labor. We have no reason to be giving it away to the multinationals, to the bosses.”

For his part, Efrén Olivares Valdez, from the indigenous community of La Barra, in the Ario de Rosales municipality, spoke of the repression that his community has suffered for defending its lands, as well as the lessons it had learned from that struggle.

In 1989, the farmer explained, seven of his compañeros were imprisoned, an 89-year-old man among them. Some of them were set free on bail and others were absolved in 2005 as there was no evidence against them; they were accused of “theft, kidnapping, threats and assault.”

He said that the repression’s motive came from the rich who have dedicated themselves to plundering the indigenous’ lands, as the region is ideal for avocado cultivation, a lucrative industry that requires great quantities of water.

When the rich men arrived at their community, added Olivares Valdez, they saw dollar-signs written all over the land. Then, when the people refused to sell their land, they were attacked with guns, which often forced the indigenous peasant farmers to hide in the hills. “The children also suffered from this,” he lamented.

Based on these experiences, the indigenous of Michoacán’s Purhépecha Plateau understood that “only united can we achieve what we need and make them respect what we have as Indian peoples.”

“We have learned to distinguish,” he said, referring to the politicians’ false promises. These politicians look for votes during election seasons, but now the people know that, “as pretty as they may talk to us, we won’t let them treat us like garbage.”

Also, the indigenous have learned to “be united, to not look negatively upon each other. We have learned to love our land and our forests.”

He mentioned his community’s concern for protecting the forest. In the course of three years they planted three thousand trees, which is why it is so painful to them that people come in to steal wood. The community currently has 865 acres of forest, which the people guard “day and night.”

Within the communities there is a great effort from the farmers to preserve their natural resources. In Zirahuén, Alvino Saucedo, a 66-year-old farmer, commented that the reforestation efforts are carried out collectively, with participation from men, women and children. They often have to carry pine trees on their own backs to plant in the hills. On one occasion, he said, 120 people were able to reforest an area of 220 acres.

The students denounced the fact that “the universities have become human resource centers where they only teach how to obey a boss.” They called out for secular, free, universal education, and elimination of entrance exams and tuition charges.

The adherents to the Other Campaign complained: “We suffer from insecurity, unemployment, and a lack of education.”

Antonio Domínguez, a Purhépecha man, spoke in his native tongue as a representative of the fishermen of Lake Janitzio. He said that many of them have been jailed, with sentences of up to 20 years, for opposing a temporary prohibition on fishing.

He explained that his community organized itself to stop government officials who came to stop fishing in the lake. Six hundred people peacefully and even politely detained the government representatives, preparing them a meal and allowing them to use their radios. Nevertheless, several of them were later jailed.

Despite the fact that there are more arrest warrants out against the leaders, the fisherman say that “we are going to fight to the end” for their compañeros’ release, as they believe the charges they were convicted on were fabricated.

Before Subcomandante Marcos spoke, members of the alternative media announced the birth of the new magazine, “Words from the Other Campaign,” which will publish in its pages stories, reports, essays and poems about what is seen and heard during the Other Campaign tour.

Upon taking the floor, Marcos said that capitalism is a system that not only exploits us but “attacks us even in the most intimate of places: in the bedroom (if one has a bedroom), in the home, in the street…”

He added that “everyone in their own place is suffering an aggression that is worse and worse.”

He commented that the great empire of money needs a fourth world war, which means the destruction of humanity as we know it.

He referred to the advance of capitalism worldwide, the neoliberal stage of globalization which has begin to destroy nation-states.

“There is a force of greed that uses violent means to take what we have from us,” he said.

The political class of every country, he added, including ours, has stopped being political, and has been replaced by managers.

Marcos said that worldwide, the capitalist system has broken down national boundaries to dominate anywhere and anytime it wants. And so, “we realize that the U.S. government applies its laws in Mexican territory. We have, in the most brutal way, become another star on the soiled stars and stripes.”

The enemies of that system, he explained, are the women who are furiously persecuted, the young people who dress differently, the elderly, the children, etc.

He recommended that the people from below not be divided, but rather unite their scattered rebellions and “build bridges made of words.”

He assured those present that capitalism fights to impose death on all, and that “what we are fighting for is humanity.”

“If they win, we will disappear. If we survive, we will do so with liberty, democracy and justice.”

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America