Working towards defending and restoring Territory, Justice and building Peace. Victor Hugo Lopez has been working in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, came to the University of Oregon on Tuesday 2/23/10,to give a talk about his experience living and working in Chiapas after the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation).
“Since the start of 2010, there have been threats against 5 distinct indigenous groups, as well as arrests of lawyers and human rights workers” said Lopez. The primary motivation of these attacks are reprisals, in his talk, Lopez identified the source of these attacks as state theft of natural resources. “We need to see the bigger idea, [Chiapas] is wealthiest in terms of natural resources and the poorest and highest poverty… for average Mexicans, we know this.”
The problems of Chiapas are complicated, by government corruption, NAFTA and the drug trade. Government corruption, the land is opened to NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement), which says resources can be moved across border with little cost. So a large corporation comes in, takes all the resources, pays little and resells it for retail to earn huge profits. This model effects Chiapas, since the resources are on indigenous land. “acting with destructive control, they [the government] comes in saying its ‘federal territory’, its important to remember who has lived on these lands for centuries.” The government comes in, steals the land displaces the people and sells the resources, and keeps all the money. “Its low intensity warfare. They come in with helicopters, take everyone, move them to urban areas and abandon them. The most recent was two months ago. They clear lands of indigenous people, steal land, take resources all part of plan Pueblo Panama, NAFTA. 62 mining companies given exploration and exploitation rights, in official government agreements lasting until 2057. In promoting these, they say protecting national areas, but it’s in conjunction with militarization. The cost of which has been 10,000 civilian deaths”
The drug trade, shipping stocks through Mexico, pay ex-federal military members to join private militias. So the army ends up working for the cartels, because its on of the few jobs that pay and it gives the cartels a brutal tool and powerful connections. “When they announced a war on drug trafficking, we wondered if they would take out their own government officials contributing.” When the drug cartels commit crimes, they get off, because of their connections. So the people get killed and the government walks away. There was a massacre and the murders appealed to the Supreme Court and were set free.”
“We saw the government as illegitimate in the late 1990s. By 2000 the government was becoming regressive and now voting is pointless. They said there was 40% turnout and 15% support the current president and those are the official numbers; we know they are much lower… We have seen civil rights overturned, against labor laws. Abandoning the people in terms of economic, security, political and social structure. The basic needs are not met and the government says it does not have resources to fix problems.” The people are disenfranchised and were disempowered. “This is the state abandoning social responsibility, [primarily in] Health, Education and Energy”.
Between the government, the cartels and NAFTA exploitation the suffering seemed to feel complete, “Building our community means involved participation. We are building autonomous communities.” This work is making a difference, communities empowering communities “Working with the EZLN social branch…we see communities reaching out to support displaced communities and defend one another… We went to [the Mexican state of] Oaxaca in the 2006 uprising and we are collaborating with the disempowered and indigenous struggles elsewhere.” Lopez made clear the communities are open for all sexual orientation and gender communities, allying will all struggles and types of oppression, relying on age-old matriarchal systems.
Lopez is on a West coast tour, talking about conditions in Chiapas.
The EZLN or ‘Zapatistas’ for short, began an uprising against the government of Mexico in 1994. While armed revolution has died down “Zapatistas are not turning in arms, due to circumstances.” Mr. Lopez gave an hour and a half lecture featuring video from a human rights organization he works with, the lecture was narrated in English for Lopez, by his friend Tony.