>Forwarded From: SCUM@orange.cc.utexas.edu
>Subject: Indigenous rebels' grievances
Discovering specifics on what is actually occurring down in Chiapas is
extremely difficult right now due to a limited censorship campaign by the
Salinas' regime. However a few of our Latin American Studies contacts at UT
have passed on a limited amount of info regarding the factors that
have led up to this "spontaneous" insurrection.
The US media has chosen to emphasize the anti-NAFTA spin on the whole
event which suprisingly enough seems to actually mirror real concerns of the
insurgents. NAFTA is viewed by the small peasant producers as the
latest step in a whole series of governmental attacks. Article 27 of
the Mexican Constitution which legalized the village communes, the
ejidos, and redistributed significant amounts of land (esp. during the
Cardenas regime in the forties) has been resented by PRI leadership
throughout its modernization schemes of the seventies and eighties.
With this in mind it is easy to place NAFTA as a strategy of Mexican
capital. Small producers in Chiapas rely directly on the prices of
coffee and corn for essential goods that can only be obtained through the cash
economy. These goods are sold inside of the domestic Mexican market meaning
for the peasants relatively high prices due to tariffs and governmental
subsidies. NAFTA will by removing tariffs destroy this market by flooding
the Mexican home markets with cheap American agribusiness corn.
Capital wins on both sides of the border as small producers are
economically forced off the land. These dispossessed peasants are
expected to stream into urban areas making them ripe for the expanding
labor force which will be opening up in the rapidly industrializing
North (away from the traditional labor militancy of Central Mexico).
This process of enclosure/dispossession/migration is a central process
in capitalist accumulation going all the way back to the original enclosures
of communal land in Great Britain in the 14th century (and the corresponding
creation of an urban proletariat).
Tied in with this new assault is the age-old battle over land in the
area. Over 25% of Mexico's official land disputes take place inside
of Chiapas. Wealthy rancheros (ranchers) have clashed with peasant
ejidos since the 19th century. Ranchers have sought to acquire larger
and larger tracts of land as overgrazing turns their land increasingly
more marginal. Disputes arising from these clashes often turn into
gunfights as the ranchers rely on hired guns.
Unsuprisingly the central and state governments have either
supported ranchers' claims or ignored their atrocities.
Disputes also have arisen over land usage as well as land ownership.
Strict government restrictions on woodcutting have deprived many of a cheap
fuel source. According to AP reports this conflict lead to a 1991 incident
in which Chipas Indians took several police officers, who were extorting
bribes from wood poachers, hostage.
Also long standing is a traditional conflict between the predominately
indigenous Lacandon (who are of the Mayan cultural and linguistic group)
peasants and the local and central mestizo and creole elites. The majority of
rural communities speak very little Spanish and are very much culturally
autonomous from mainstream Mexican culture. Many orthodox catholics and
evangelist protestants have been expelled from Indigineous villages
as threats to the local culture.
*Circulation of struggle
Another important contributing factor to the insurrection was the
proximity of Chiapas to the Guatemala where indigenous groups tied to
armed guerrilla groups like the URNG have been fighting for over a decade.
Tens of thousands of Guatemalans have fled over the border undoubtedly taking
with them ideas, materials, organization, etc. on appropriate resistance to
intrusive modernizing states.
The uniqueness of widescale armed struggle in Mexico is very note
worthy. The last armed revolt was the Cristero rebellion of the twenties which
arose as a reaction to state anti-clericalism so the implications of a popular
anti-capitalist armed resistance are very great indeed pointing to a very deep
crisis unleashed by NAFTA.
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