<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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Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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The Second Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the People of the World has Begun

Autonomy, the Oaxacan Movement, and the next Indigenous Conference; Themes for a Colorful Start

By Murielle Coppin and Juan Trujillo
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

July 27, 2007

Oventik, Chiapas, 20th & 21st July 2007: Friday night, the second Encounter between the Zapatistas and the People of the World was inaugurated in this autonomous caracol. After the previous conference, “Defence of Land and Territory in the Face of Capitalist Plundering,” on July 19 in San Cristobal de las Casas, with special guests like Brazil’s Rural Workers Without Land Movement, the Korean rural workers movement, the rural workers movement of Madagascar, the US rural workers movement, and those of Europe, Asia, Africa and America; this event also brings together observers, sympathisers, Other Campaign members and followers of the Sixth Declaration of the Lancondon Jungle from more than 80 countries, It started with a discussion on themes referring to autonomy (worked on extensively in the first conference), the Oaxacan Popular Movement and the next Indigenous Conference to take place this October in Yaqui territory.

Photo: D.R. 2007 Alberto Gini
Friday morning and afternoon, previous to the inauguration, tables on health and education, which are now carried out de facto in the autonomous process (since the birth of the five caracols in 2003), included many support bases and individuals of national and international civil society.

At the first table, dedicated to health, promoters emphasized the effort needed in the improvement of infrastructure, and with members of the indigenous rebel communities, insisted on the importance of worthy and autonomous health, recovering the ancestral knowledge that implies harmony with Mother Earth.

The system of autonomous health is handled nowadays by health promoters, some of them highly qualified, with a clinic (which includes a surgery room), various micro-clinics, several health centers, a labyrinth of clinical analysis, and an opticians office where they make lenses. Additionally, special attention is given to women’s health with this system. As for reproductive and sexual rights, health promoters are qualified to advise and educate the men as much as the women because “in many cases it is the men who prevent women from maintaining their health.”

These positive programs are a result of the health committee, the promoters and the population working together. As opposed to “bad government,” where only the doctors count, the doctors and the hospitals, the Councils of Good Government and their health promoters understood that there are many factors to be considered: hygiene, the system of drinking water, food, education, prevention. While the doctor attends only the illness, the developer attends to the sick, to the person, respecting his culture.

In turn, the table dedicated to Zapatista education, emphasized the promoters’ clear presentation. They explained the effort to accommodate displaced students from San Pedro Polhó and others towns, which is an example of the perseverance to create that the “Other Education.” The autonomous education project that is the Zapatista System of Autonomous Education excludes western forms of evaluation which “promote fear and competition among students,” the table asserted that “the children should learn to live without fear, because fear is the antithesis of democracy.”

In practice, this social effort adheres de facto to the agreements of San Andrés (signed by the federal government and the EZLN in 1996). It intends “to balance student education,” as is done in the Primero de Enero School where 180 students study three years at secondary level. The indigenous world view, according to promoters, is an inherent part of this effort that seeks to encourage “the love of humanity, in democracy and education for liberation.”

The key to the aforementioned, according to support base promoter Amos, is “not to separate manual activity from intellect.” So to be able to mix the communal, dialogue form of self-education of common indigenous life with the culture and history of the indigenous people of Mexico.

Inauguration: Symbols, Night, and Dance

Before an extensive multicoloured public, the formal inauguration was the duty of the authorities of the autonomous municipalities, the bases of support and of the Secret Indigenous Revolutionary General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army Committee. After singing the Mexican national anthem, the first welcome was for the representative comrades of the different social movements participating in the event.

The two escorts of Zapatista support base men and women carried the Mexican national flag as well as the red and black Zapatista flag. Subcomandante Marcos, as master of ceremony, repeated the description of the heterogeneousness of the event, although with some sparkles of humour.

The member of the Council of Good Government of Los Altos explained that this fight now shared with other national and international comrades, “is yours and ours.” In turn, Comandanta Hortencia, explained that this is “a worthy corner of our country where we the indigenous people resist neoliberalism,” which is why “we welcome all honest people are convinced that our path is one of unity.” Similarly, she commented that these experiences of defiance are meant to “build a better world for all humanity.”

Insurgente Lieutenant Colonel Moises in his speech, and before explaining the dynamics of the work, affirmed that “our fight continues, and will continue until the final victory,” and at 22:24 eastern time declared the conference formally inaugurated.

Moments after singing the Zapatista hymn, everyone was dancing the cumbia to the rhythm of the band.

Other Government, Autonomy, and Women

Saturday morning, members of the Council of Good Government explained in this table, the operation of the autonomous political administration. They gave account of the rule that each town council of the autonomous municipalities has the responsibility to send a member to occupy a position in the Council of Good Government, on a 3 year rota.

Photo: D.R. 2007 Ingrid Fadnes
Commanders Domingo and Isaías of the EZLN and the municipal president brought to light the process of native autonomy in rebellious territory. The latter claiming the right to autonomy that in the past was destroyed by the conquering invaders over 500 years ago, “imposing its forms of government and laws.”

On the theme of indigenous rights and culture, they reiterated the recent history of the “sabotage” of indigenous autonomy by the bad government not complying with the San Andrés accords.

They also explained that currently, this autonomy is based on said agreements in which the International Work Organization is officially established, although the government do not permit it. Likewise, it was explained that the autonomous government and its women have the obligation to govern, to participate and to defend their town council.

Finally, and with important limitations to the presentation, the native Zapatista tried to go into detail, from the point of view of the uses and customs and the dialogue between parties, on the theme of justice inside the autonomous municipalities.

Urgent Communiqué from Oaxaca

In another workshop, a representative of Oaxacan Voices Building Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL, in its Spanish initials) brought it to light that, during the past repression on July 16th in Oaxaca against members of the social movement who were attempting to boycott the celebration of the official Guelaguetza fiesta, among the persons under arrest were Silvia Gabriela Hernández and Maria Guadalupe, Silvaja Ortíz, together with David Venegas Kings and continued to say, “to whoever is kept in prison illegally, add three more VOCAL comrades kidnapped by the government of Oaxaca,” according to this communiqué, “Our compañeros report having been badly treated, groped, and threatened with rape. We believe that these aggressions occurred again during their transfers to Tlacolula prison… We have had news that the State has prepared an operation to repress every youth movement in Oaxaca.” She continued, “we need the support and solidarity of all, in view of recent past events and what might occur next.”

The Indigenous Encounter Closing Ceremony

Ending the round table on autonomy, thousands of people congregated under the noon sun and from a few shaded places to listen to the words of Subcomandante Marcos. From the southeast of Mexico he asked everyone to turn to the people of the northeast of Mexico and those of Oaxaca.

Photo: D.R. 2007 Alberto Gini
In an effort to be the voice of those without voice, he shared with the public the situation of the indigenous people from the northeast of the country where he met not only the indigenous people of these lands but also other people of other regions of the country. Thus, in the valley of San Quintín, they found Oaxacans working, living, dying and fighting in the plantations that recall those times of Porfirio Diaz and the farms of the Spaniards during colonial days. He compared the fervour of the migrant Oaxacans conserving their identity (through language, dress, customs) with the great resistance of their kin in the fight to oust governor Ulises Ruiz.

He emphasized the constant division of the people caused by outside forces. In the case of the Kiliwas and Cucapás, they were removed from their lands with many obliged to work in the plantations all over the place. The Papagos of Sonora live separated from their brothers by “the line of death” that is drawn as the border between Mexico and the United States. While some of their sacred places are on the American side, territory on the Mexican side was turned into a toxic waste dump. Many indigenous people have been dispossessed of their land, a fundamental element of their very being. Meanwhile, the Pimas battle with powerful drug-traffickers to conserve their lands and the Seris fight against the threat of Shark Island, heart of the Seris, being transformed into a tourist center.

The Yaquis, finally, are another people already spending all their life resisting the loss of their land. It is they, more precisely the compañeros of Bikam, who will organize the Indigenous Peoples Conference of America between October 10 and 14. Through a letter read by Delegado Zero, they invited everyone present: “All good people from all corners are welcome.”

Subcomandante Marcos called all comrades of The Other “to turn to look and hear the heart of the valley of the Yaqui.” He invited economic support (through a bank account on the web page of the EZLN) because in capitalism the Yaqui people are poor and cannot count on having the basics. For this we listen, we meet, we dance and we sing – as last night – the happiness of our rebellion.

Marcos also asked not to lose sight of the fact that Oaxaca is besieged by army forces and federal police who try to impede any protest against Ulysses Ruiz’ fake Guelaguetza festival and his attempts to prevent the people of Oaxaca from having their own, real celebration.

Night came quickly and with it the closing ceremony of the activities for this caracol, which was carried out by the EZLN command and the Council of Good Government, where they gave a warm goodbye to the invited international organizations.

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