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Chiapas Part 1
July 30, 2003


Chiapas is a state in the southeast of Mexico, with a diverse population of indigenous communities

The EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional or National Zapatista Liberation Army) founded its struggle in the highlands of Chiapas.  The EZLN trained members in combat and insurgency techniques, gradually building an armed revolutionary force.  However, the EZLN has matured over many years, and the focus has shifted from armed insurrection to autonomous organizing of society.

In this program we begin to review some of those efforts at building a new society in the territories in rebellion.

First, we examine some of the threats to the civil and human rights of people in the Montes Azules autonomous communities.

Then we will begin our look at alternative institution building and links to communities and their efforts at social change back in the US.

New Developments in EZLN Territories

The EZLN has been and continues to be one of the leading voices of the worldwide critique of neoliberal globalization projects, starting in 1994 with the refusal of NAFTA and continuing to this day with resistance to the Plan Puebla Panama, the latest neoliberal plan for the region.

A flurry of communiqués in the last few weeks has signaled the return of the Zapatistas to public activity. Six communiqués in an ongoing series have been released over the past few weeks outlining some restructuring efforts in the governance of the autonomous territories in rebellion.

The new structure mandates that donations and aid must not come to Chiapas with specific destinations and families, but instead, be divided up with need in mind.  The indigenous communities will only accept aid for community-generated plans aimed at developing new social infrastructure.   These plans must remain under the autonomous control of the communities and serve their specific needs.

Zapatista Communities Resist Relocation

In December of last year, Mexican government officials evicted a small community of indigenous people from their home in the Montes Azules or Blue Mountains in the state of Chiapas. And the government is threatening to mete out the same treatment to forty other indigenous communities who live in this federally-declared conservation zone in the rainforests of southern Mexico. The government says these communities are destroying the rainforest with their agricultural techniques.   The communities deny they are responsible for all the destruction and point their finger at the wide-scale destruction caused by logging and large privately-owned cattle ranches. Whatever the case, the Mexican government's threat to evict these peoples would constitute a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples guaranteed by the  International Labour Organization's Covenant. And it would break Mexico's own agreement with its indigenous peoples. Luz Ruiz, of the Chiapas Indymedia Center, traveled up to the Blue Mountains to talk to people there and hear more

Autonomous Indigenous Schools

Education internationally recognized as an undeniable human right, but the government of Mexico failed to provide this for the many indigenous communities across Mexico, including the predominantly Mayan Indian communities of Southern Mexico.

Schools for Chiapas has worked with the autonomous communities in the region to build schools under community control because Mexican educational policy has left the indigenous communities without educational infrastructure geared to their specific collective needs.

Their approach to course development, teacher training, and classroom culture have created many innovative new educational practices.

Keith Rozendal of KCSB in Santa Barbara brings us a glimpse of these alternative educational efforts.

Bikes for Chiapas

In Chiapas, Zapatista teachers and health workers do not receive any salary.  They're given some level of support by the community, usually in the form of corn or food; sometimes they'll have help building a house.  But to earn the money for clothes and shoes, they must often have a second job in the city, as a gardener or a housekeeper.   Unfortunately, the roads are so bad, it can take a day on foot to get from the countryside where they provide health care to their jobs in the city, on roads that are too narrow and windy for the use of a car.  Bicycles are a solution, but its often hard to get them and keep them in good repair.   That's why, in Upstate New York, a group of volunteers and activists have banded together to send 5000 bikes to Chiapas over the next five years, as well as providing exchanges in learning about Southern Mexico and bicycle repair, as Jessie Lind reports from Ithaca Community Radio.

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High Country Community Radio Coalition

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