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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

domingo, mayo 06, 2007

Mexico Week In Review: 04.30-05.06


Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the
Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C.
based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous
peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles
of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating
related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view newsletter archives, visit:

"Para Todos, Todo; Para Nosotros Nada"


As the month of May opened with tornadoes striking the northern borderlands, Mexican unions and their allies stepped up an offensive against government economic policies. From Chihuahua in the north to Chiapas in the south, tens of thousands of protestors staged rallies, occupied government buildings, seized highway toll booths, and temporarily shut down some border crossings to the United States and Guatemala. In Baja California and Chihuahua, classes were cancelled by striking teachers. Members of Mexico's National Teachers Union (SNTE) played leading roles in the welling mass movement. A central issue was the passage of a new federal law that changes the troubled ISSSTE retirement system for teachers and other federal workers. Opponents object to the higher premiums and longer working years that are mandated in the new law. Government spokespersons say that the reform is necessary to salvage a system on the verge of collapse and assure a decent retirement for ISSSTE members. But critics, fearing the privatization of the ISSSTE system, charge that they were not consulted about reforms that could leave them with less future money and healthcare.

"We're teachers and they have to respect us," said Tijuana strike leader Juan Ramirez Sanchez. "We'll stop work until we are protected, because the law is unjust." In addition to the street struggle, ISSSTE law opponents took their fight to federal courts. By May 2, about 100,000 individual legal challenges to the law were piling up in federal offices in Mexico City. The protest movement, which picked up steam on May Day when anti-ISSSTE law teachers upstaged official celebrations in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Aguascalientes and other places, varied in size and impact depending on the location. Downtown Chihuahua City was paralyzed May 2 by thousands of protestors, while Oaxaca City's Zocalo was reoccupied by a reinvigorated popular movement. On the other hand, a mass movement failed to immediately materialize in Tamaulipas state.

Besides the ISSSTE law, protestors slammed Mexico's growing security cooperation with the United States, criticized proposals to privatize energy resources and denounced the high cost of living. Other objections were raised to the North American Free Trade Agreement, and criticism was voiced about the recent release of alleged Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles from a US immigration jail.

Although some immigrant advocacy groups in the United States like the March 25 Coalition had earlier declared that a broad coordination of US and Mexican organizations existed for this year's May Day protest in both nations, little attention was focused in the Mexican actions on the situation of Mexican migrants in the United States. One notable exception was in Nuevo Laredo, where members of the border city's Migrant House and the Mexico-USA United Front Association, marching in the annual May Day parade, protested the Bush Administration's border wall and the overall treatment of migrants in the US.

More court battles, teacher strikes and other protests are expected in the days ahead. "We have to meet and establish our appropriate conditions of struggle, which aren't the same conditions as in other states," said Jose Francisco Ramirez, a protest leader in Aguascalientes. "Additionally, we don't want to expose our protesting comrades to the repression of the armed forces or public order."

Sources: Frontera NorteSur (FNS): 05/03; Frontera: 05/01, 02, 03; La
Jornada: 05/02,03; El Universal: 05/02


A group of students took over a university radio station in Oaxaca City and transmitted messages in support of a leftist movement demanding the governor's resignation. The students forced their way into Radio University, which had served as the nerve center for the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, or APPO. The group led protests last year calling for Gov. Ulises Ruiz to resign, virtually paralyzing the city for months. "This is a peaceful takeover and we're doing it with the rights that we have as university students,"said an improvised radio announcer, according to the government news agency Notimex.

The students called on others to participate in a march to demand the release of APPO leaders who were arrested in December, deflating the movement. They said that on Wednesday (05/03) they would leave the station and block highways throughout the state.

The conflict began last May as a strike by teachers seeking higher pay. It quickly exploded into a broader movement including Indian groups, students, farmers and left-leaning activists claiming Ruiz rigged his electoral victory and has repressed opponents. At least nine people were killed in the violence, including New York activist-journalist Bradley Roland Will. Residents and tourists also stayed away from the city's historic center for more than five months until federal troops were sent in to restore order in October.

Source: Associated Press: 05/01


Mexican farmers have signed an agreement with biotechnology giant Monsanto to buy and plant genetically modified (GM) maize. According to the agreement signed earlier this month (18 April) by Mexico's National Confederation of Corn Growers (CNPAMM) - affiliated with the umbrella agricultural association National Campesino Confederation - Monsanto will provide Mexican producers with GM seeds, as well as initiate activities to protect native maize, including setting up a maize germplasm bank.

Many environmental and indigenous groups oppose the introduction of GM plants, fearing that it may contaminate native varieties of maize in the country. Maize originated in Mexico and is home to 3,500 native varieties. It is the main food crop in Mexico, its production employing almost 12 million people.

The Mexican parliament's chamber of deputies has not yet approved regulations for the experimental sowing of GM plants as part of Mexico's biosecurity laws. Francisco Lopez, Mexico's vice-minister for agriculture, said the regulations will be published in the coming weeks, and tests on GM maize will begin in the northern state of Sonora in August. Carlos Salazar, president of CNPAMM, estimates that more than 90 per cent of small and medium growers will use GM seeds to improve productivity. Jesus Madrazo, president of Monsanto Mexico, said the commercialization of GM maize will begin in 2010, once the evaluation phases required by the biosecurity laws have been

Source: SciDev.Net: 04/30


At the mercy of fickle rulers and unreliable weather for thousands of years, Mexico's millions of corn farmers are at last getting a break. A growing thirst in the United States for ethanol fuel has inflated world corn prices and brought a bonanza to corn growers, the backbone of traditional Mexican life. The basic ingredient in staple foods like tortillas and enchiladas, corn keeps Mexico running. But the peasant farmers who plant corn each year and wait for summer rains have often been downtrodden since before Aztec times.

Now, with supplies short and prices for the grain on world markets reaching 10-year highs of over $4 a bushel in February, farmers are being feted by government ministers who want more corn acres planted for food and energy. "Thanks to God and good prices, things are looking up," said farmer Rogelio Zacaula, 66, in the agricultural town of Ciudad Serdan, east of Mexico City.

In last year's State of the Union speech, President Bush called on Americans to use corn-based ethanol to lessen their dependence on oil, pushing up corn prices. Helped by plentiful midsummer rains, last year's bumper harvest was Zacaula's most profitable in over 30 years. Now he is planting again. "In May, I'm going to pray. If it rains in July and August, this harvest is going to be a beauty," he said. Farmers say the extra few cents a bushel they're receiving doesn't pay for much more than new clothes for their families, but they hope for bigger returns with the help of government plans to subsidize seeds and help them share tractors. "This is the first time the government has paid us attention in years," said Efrain Garcia, who heads a national group that represents small farmers.

The ancient Mayans thought the first human beings were molded from corn and scientists say the grain was cultivated in Mexico as far back as 5,300 BC. Ever since, corn and bean subsistence farmers have been among Mexico's poorest, with small commercial corn growers like Zacaula not far up the ladder.

Their lives became even more precarious when the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, between Mexico, the United States and Canada came into effect in 1994. Under NAFTA, corn imports from heavily subsidized U.S. farmers have grown eightfold.

Zacaula, a father of seven, is one of millions of farmers whose income has dwindled in recent years as cheap, subsidized U.S. corn imports helped drive down prices. Mexico has fretted for years about the lifting of trade barriers on corn set for 2008, which could put many Mexican peasants deeper into poverty and increase illegal immigration to the United States. But new U.S. Agriculture Department research suggests ethanol distillers will consume U.S. corn earmarked for exports, bringing hope to Mexican farmers. The farmers got an extra boost last week with a new law promoting Mexican production of corn and sugar cane ethanol.

"Where before we expected a deluge of cheap cereals, we now see an opportunity to generate the productive potential of the country," said deputy farm secretary Francisco Lopez Tostado, speaking at an event where peasant farmers signed a deal to work with biotechnology giant Monsanto. At the event, where farmers in cowboy hats clinked glasses of wine with government officials and company executives, National Corn Producers' Confederation head Garcia said better prices and attention from the government might be fleeting. "What worries me is that everyone turns to corn now, but do nothing more than look," he said, calling for bigger government projects to organize farmers with small plots into more competitive groups.

Mexico's government last week struck a deal with millers and retailers to cap the price of corn-based tortillas, after protests broke out over high prices and the central bank became worried about inflation. Farmers are mostly unaffected by the deal.

Source: Reuters: 04/30


Veracruz state prosecutors now say that a 73-year-old grandmother wasn't raped or beaten by soldiers but died of natural causes - capping a bizarre two-month saga that has roiled the nation's political circles and called into question President Felipe Calderon's commitment to human rights. The prosecutor's office, which initially claimed that soldiers had murdered the woman, released its revised findings in a news conference in the state capital, Xalapa. Juan Alatriste Gomez, a special prosecutor who'd been assigned to review the case, said there were no witnesses to the alleged crime and that an anal tear originally cited as evidence of an assault could have come from any number of "diverse reasons."

State prosecutor Emetrio Lopez, who'd lodged the original charges against the soldiers, said he agreed with Alatriste's findings. How the initial investigation into the case was botched is still under investigation. The original investigators in the case have been suspended temporarily. The office's findings backed a controversial investigation by Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission, which found that Ernestina Ascencio had died of internal bleeding.

That conclusion fueled weeks of news stories and opinion columns that raised questions about Calderon's commitment to human rights, his close ties to the army, and the military's presence in the mountainous Zongolica region, where Ascencio's home village of Soledad Atzompa is located.

Based on an initial autopsy and Ascencio's reported deathbed declaration, Veracruz authorities initially said in late February that Ascencio was sodomized and beaten to death by four soldiers from a nearby army encampment. Amid the region's outcry, the outpost and two others were quickly dismantled, and the Defense Ministry promised to track down her killers through semen samples. But the storyline took a different twist after the human rights commission, which often sides with indigenous groups against the military, exhumed her body and embarked on a second investigation.

Calderon stepped into the controversy by revealing the commission's conclusion that Ascencio had died of natural causes days before the commission formally announced that the woman had succumbed to acute anemia caused by internal bleeding in her digestive tract. That conclusion surprised human rights advocates, who accused commission President Jose Luis Soberanes of covering up for Calderon and the military. But Soberanes has remained firm, repeating before a congressional committee last week that his group had found that no rape had been committed, semen samples didn't exist, and the state's investigation was flawed. The commission even devoted a portion of its Web site to the case, posting Soberanes' statements, press releases and a 13-page document titled "Thirty Questions about the Case of Ernestina Ascencio."

Source: McClatchy Newspapers: 05/01


Jeans factories have given jobs to thousands in the city of Tehuacan, the heartland of Mexico's denim industry, but they are pumping blue chemicals into rivers used to irrigate cornfields downstream. Dozens of industrial laundries, some of which put the finishing touches to jeans for export, discharge a cocktail of bleach, dye and detergents into Tehuacan's wide valley with almost no government controls,
residents say.

In just one example of the widespread pollution, a dark blue sludge fills a ditch behind a high-tech Grupo Navarra factory, where jeans are laundered for brands made by Levi Strauss & Co and Gap Inc. E.J. Bernacki, a Levi Strauss spokesman based in San Francisco, said Grupo Navarra had failed an independent audit of its laundry facilities last year. "They were not in full compliance and we did give them a corrective action plan," he said, adding that the Levi Strauss policy was to help factories that do not meet its standards to correct the problem. "If they do not make any changes or show interest in compliance with our regulations we would begin a process of disengagement," Bernacki said. No one at Grupo Navarra, which is controlled by a Mexican businessman, was available to comment.

Mexico is popular with garment firms because it is close to the United States, meaning a quick turnaround on fast-changing fashion lines. Since the sector's peak in the 1990s, many firms have left for cheaper China, but hundreds of thousands of Mexicans still work in assembly plants. In Tehuacan, 118 miles southeast of Mexico City, about 35,000 people work in garment factories. Water from the denim laundries runs through Tehuacan, where it mixes with municipal sewage and is discharged untreated in a foaming green torrent to a river that feeds irrigation systems in the downstream village of San Diego Chalma.

Farmer Mariano Barragan, 67, uses the water on his few acres of corn planted in fields a few minutes' drive from the center of Tehuacan. "Sometimes it comes out blue, sometimes yellow, sometimes black," said Barragan, crumbling between his fingers the bluish gray crust the dirty water leaves on the soil. "I know when the chemicals are strong because the leaves shrivel and my skin starts itching." Barragan said health authorities have told him not to plant tomatoes and root vegetables because of a risk of contamination. But corn is permitted and is sold locally and to buyers from Mexico City.

Locals say they do not know if the wastewater presents a long-term risk to their health, but some complain of chemical odors that irritate their throats. "They let the strong chemicals out at night. It wakes you up because it catches in your throat," said Gerardo Diaz, who lives next to an open sluice bringing effluent from a small jeans laundry.

Most major jeans firms now require their suppliers to use water treatment plants and monitor wastewater for dangerous substances. Grupo Navarra uses a modern treatment system and last week the water coming from the factory was clear. However, activists say the company does not always switch the plant on. "This is clear evidence that Grupo Navarra lies," said local rights activist Martin Barrios, digging a stick into the slimy indigo-colored mud. Gap stopped bleaching and dyeing at the factory in 2005 but does launder jeans there.

Industry leaders in Tehuacan blame most of the pollution on the dozens of small-unregulated laundries that wash, bleach and dye jeans for Mexican brands. "We all know Mexican firms demand less than the international brands," said Javier Lopez, spokesman for the city's industry chamber. "Sometimes the attitude is that the water is contaminated anyway by unregistered factories and animal waste." Tehuacan is also a center for pig and poultry farming.

Just outside Tehuacan, two rusting government signs stand on a derelict plot of land, promising the construction of a plant to treat the city's wastewater. The signs have been there for more than five years but building has not begun.

Source: Reuters: 05/02


The above articles were originally published and copyrighted by the
listed sources. These articles are offered for educational purposes
which CIS maintains is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

end: Mexico Week In Review: 04.30-05.06

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