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(en) EF! Journal - WTO in Cancun? Mexicans Don't Think So - El Pico and Magpie

From dr.woooo@nomasters.org
Date Fri, 11 Apr 2003 15:21:02 +0200 (CEST)


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Most Earth First!ers in the US were either
there or wish they had been there: Seattle,
Washington, on November 30, 1999. The
international meeting of an unelected world
government of, by and for the corporate thieves
was denied that day.

The meetings were shut down. The president
flew into a US city under martial law. The talks
inside broke down just like so many corporate
windows outside. And in the aftermath,
activists had more lawsuits in their favor than
convictions against them. A milestone, if not a
new movement was declared, and thousands
were radicalized. It is time to do it again.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an
international organization run by the most
powerful nation-states and corporations. It
seeks to overrun national and local sovereignty
through treaties that declare that health,
safety, environmental and social laws are
unfair barriers to trade. The
WTO is anti-worker and a champion of
biopiracy, genetically modified organisms, the
patenting of life, the privatization of social
services and the exploitation of the commons.

Fearing a repeat in 2001, the WTO found itself
searching for a willing host city for its biannual
ministerial and finally settled on its only offer:
Doha, Qatar, an Arabian dictatorship, a rich oil
family with a flag. Impossible to protest there,
the solidarity protests around the world are
little remembered. Give round two to the bad
guys. The tiebreaker is this September 10-15,
when the WTO meets in Cancún, Mexico, and
the early odds favor the people.

Manifestación en México

Mexico is a natural international focal point for
the struggle between neoliberal globalization
and participatory democracy. It has more free
trade agreements than any other country and an
active revolution just a half-day's drive
from the planned ministerial. The Zapatistas
just celebrated their ninth anniversary with
25,000 people in the streets of San Cristóbal de
Las Casas, Chiapas. Their armed insurrection
began January 1, 1994, the day that the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
first took hold in Mexico.

The second phase of NAFTA implementation
began this January 1. Mexican peasants are now
forced to compete individually against US
industrial agriculture and its multi-billion
dollar subsidies from the Bush administration.
This is a life-and-death struggle for campesinos,
and they have already responded by smashing
their way into Congress on horseback, with
border blockades, a hunger strike and by
organizing with sympathetic unions.

Other trade agreements and neoliberal
implementation, like the Free Trade Area of
the Americas and Plan Puebla Panamá, have
faced intense protest by Mexicans in the last
several years (see EF!J January-February 2003).

Organización Mundial Commercial

During the next round of WTO meetings, the
powerful seek to make all of this worse for the
common people. For example, governments
participating in the WTO must allow cheap
commodities to enter domestic markets even
though they undercut local farmers and small
business owners. The large subsidies granted to
US farmers make US seed corn cheaper in
Mexico than Mexican seed corn. Rights
established by the WTO for transgenic seed
corporations contradict United Nations policies
that supposedly protect the integrity of
indigenous seed corn. Genetically engineered
crops are currently banned from Mexico. WTO
regulations, however, jeopardize
Mexico's ability to continue this
protection. Meanwhile, genetically modified
corn pollen has somehow dispersed throughout
Mexico, the birthplace of corn.

The WTO Cancún ministerial summit could
also determine the fate of forests and the
viability of alternative forest practices both in
Mexico and worldwide. Similarly, NAFTA
allowed 15 US logging firms into Mexico in the
first 18 months after its implementation.
Logging by these multinational corporations is
rapidly destroying Mexico's biologically
diverse forests in places like the Lancandon in
Chiapas and the Chimalapas in Oaxaca.
Campesinos who have resisted the destruction
of their forests and rivers have faced extreme
political persecution and even assassination. In
southern Mexico, a strong sustainable forestry
movement is countering the destructive WTO
free trade model of logging with efforts at
eco-labeling. The WTO will be deciding how
these alternative movements impact trade.

Also being reviewed in WTO Cancún is trade
related intellectual property rights (TRIPS), the
agreement that allows corporations to patent
living beings as genetic
resources. TRIPS agreements have also
denied countries like Brazil and South Africa
access to essential drugs to fight AIDS.

Acción por la Gente

The good news is that the planning in Mexico to
stop the WTO is even further along than it was
in Seattle. In November, more than 200
activists from around the world met in Mexico
City, with the large majority coming from
throughout Mexico. Groups that represent a
wide diversity of agendas and tactics reached
consensus that the WTO Cancún ministerial
summit must be derailed. There are plans to
make this happen on numerous levels.

The scenario from an action viewpoint is
positively thrilling. The Cancún Convention
Center, where the meetings will take place, is a
rather small, three-story building in the middle
of a 15-mile-long strip of island in the
Caribbean. There are only two small bridges
from the mainland. The airport is on the
mainland and accessed by a single three-mile,
two-lane highway thickly forested on either
side. The island contains more than 100 hotels,
nearly all catering to wealthy internationals.
But the mainland houses all of the staff,
janitors, waiters, maids, drivers, etc. There is
reason to believe that many of these employees
will be instrumental in the resistance.

Closing off the island would require only several
thousand mildly energetic protestors. If the
government chooses to close the island, who
will cook the food and clean the toilets? How
will they get delegates from the airport? And
what about the customers for all the other
hotels? How much force would President
Vicente Fox dare to employ in the face of his
sinking popularity ratings and with the
world's press ready to reduce Mexico
from rising democratic nation
to repressive banana republic? If the meeting is
moved to another location at the last minute, it
is already an admission of defeat.

La Solidaridad

It is clear that on the issue of police repression,
numerous activists from outside Mexico will
surely be needed. It is always easier for
authorities to beat up their own people than
folks from powerful nations around the world.
Mexican activists at the Mexico City meeting
made the request that foreign organizers begin
to mobilize for mass resistance and come to
Cancún.

It will be difficult for South and Central
American activists though. The southern border
of Mexico has tightened considerably in the last
several years. This is due to pressure from the
US to stop immigration from Central American
nations by stopping people before they get to
Mexico. No doubt activists from outside the
Americas will attend, but the cost of plane fare
will prohibit many.

This creates an important role for North
American activists. A call has been made, and
solidarity is in order. The energy for and
destruction wrought by the WTO emanates
foremost from the US. Latin American freedom
has been repeatedly smashed by US
imperialism for more than a century. Failure to
respond with sizeable numbers is another
retreat to privilege.

For many people from the US, Cancún is no
further than a cross-country trip in the US.
Driving and buses are both fairly easy. It is
off-season in Cancún in
September, and very cheap airline tickets may
be available. Tourist visas are readily granted
for 90 days at the border. Passports are not
required but will make things easier. Apply
now. Food and hotels are affordable. If possible,
plan on arriving weeks early to help with
organizing.

Caravans that are clearly
oriented as activist in nature will probably
experience problems. Recently, a truck full of
supplies destined for Chiapas, was refused
entry. Nonetheless, activist communities must
organize for large groups to travel south. The
only trick will be to disperse as
tourists while crossing the
border. Churches, community groups, solidarity
networks and collectives need to start
organizing for this action now.

There is no reason to believe that WTO Cancún
will be any less important than Seattle. In fact,
the current international climate and the state
of politics in Latin America suggest it could be
far more important. Almost no one who was in
Seattle on November 30, 1999, would have
missed it for anything. Many activists rue the
decision that kept them from going.
Don't miss Cancún! If the call is
answered widely, the rich can be stopped by the
organized.

El Pico and Magpie have each recently traveled
in Mexico and plan to return for WTO Cancún.

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