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(en) Mexico, Chiapas, Informational Bulletin 1 - 3, On The Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World

Date Mon, 08 Jan 2007 14:45:06 +0200

Informational Bulletin 1: - Compañeras and compañeros -- Today at 13:49, time zone of the southeastern combat zone, Comandante Felipe, of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee (Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena – CCRI) of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, inaugurated the First Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World, with the presence of over one thousand people from 40 countries of the world and approximately 2,000 zapatistas from communities in the tzotzil region.
"We sincerely hope that this first Encounter becomes, for us and for all the peoples of Mexico and the world, the beginning of a true path to exchange and share experiences in struggle and organization, in order to unite the struggles of all peoples before a common enemy, respecting each other independently of our ideas, ways, and methods," said Comandante Felipe before hundreds of solidarity collectives, women's groups, human rights organizations, student committees, neighborhood educational projects, groups of Mexicans and Chicanos from the US, young anarchists, "libertarios"and punks, experiments with autonomous resistance and peasant associations, among many more present at the Oventik Caracol.

In an unprecedented event in the EZLN's 13 years of public struggle, 232 authorities from the various levels of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion (Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas – MAREZ) and the five Good Government Councils (civilian structures of the autonomous government in resistance) got together to launch the Encounter, during which they will share the construction of their autonomy in the areas of health, education, commerce, gender, land recovery, media, art, and culture. And they will listen to experiences in struggle and resistance against neoliberalism from other peoples of the world. Also present at the encounter was Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés, from the EZLN's Intergalactic Commission.

By 11:00 AM there were 1,042 people at the Oventik Caracol, from 40 countries in four continents. From America, there were collectives and individuals from 18 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

From Europe there were compañeros and compañeras from 19 countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Catalonia, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Basque Countries, Poland, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine. From Asia, there were people present from Israel, and from Oceania there were brothers and sisters from Australia and New Zealand.

"Today we begin to listen to each other to see how we resist the bad governments and build alternatives for a world where those who command, do it by obeying," said Oventik's Good Government Council, in its role as the Encounter's host.

"This is our struggle, yours and ours, because everywhere there is poverty, misery, ignorance, marginalization, and exploitation. All the peoples of the world suffer these problems, that's why we continue struggling to achieve the just demands of indigenous peoples," said the autonomous authority.

The Encounter inaugurated this afternoon with the topic Autonomy and Self-government. On the 31st there will be three workgroups: health, education, and women. On January 1, the topics will be communication, art and culture, commerce, and land defense, and, finally, on January 2 the encounter will close with a discussion on the preparations for the Intergalactic Encounter.

At the time of this report, hundreds of men and women continue arriving from Mexico and many countries of the world.

Comision Intergalactica del EZLN

Informational Bulletin 2: First Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World “We the Zapatistas are Free to Organize Ourselves, to Govern Ourselves, and to make our own Decisions without being Exploited...”

By Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN

January 6, 2007

The last day of the year started today at the Zapatista Caracol of Oventik, in Chiapas, with two morning workgroups during which the Zapatistas shared the everyday construction of their autonomy in the areas of education and health, in the context of the discussions of the First Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World.

Thousands of community supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and over 1,500 men and women from 40 countries around the world joined at 8:00 AM the two workgroups where autonomous education, the development of educational curricula in resistance, the Zapatistas’ health system, the challenges, obstacles, and small achievements of their work are being discussed.

Yesterday afternoon and evening representatives from each of the five zapatista Good Government Councils discussed the topic: Autonomy and the Other Government. During the session, 35 compañeros and compañeras from several countries also shared their experiences.

The compañeros Jesús and Roel, from the Good Government Council of the Caracol La Realidad, explained that “one of the most important challenges of the Other Government is the participation of women as authorities. When the Councils were created,” explained Roel, “there was only one woman, but after three and a half years of work we can now say that we are almost even, although there is still a long way to go.”

To “command by obeying,” they informed, “means that the people decide the direction and the ways in which we are to work.” And they explained that there are seven principles for the Other Government: to obey and not to command, to represent and not to substitute, to go down and not up, to convince and not to conquer, to construct and not to destroy, to propose and not to impose.

On the controversial issue of Zapatista justice, the speakers explained that there are different types of problems, to which “we look for solutions ourselves. The first thing we do is investigate the case, and then we bring together the parties in conflict. The authority remains neutral in order to be able to listen to the arguments of the parts and, based on that, to apply justice to the guilty, where the punishment is usually to do work for the benefit of the town, the municipality, or the zone. In the Other Government justice can’t be bought or negotiated. The power of money doesn’t have a say in Zapatista justice,” concluded the autonomous authority of one of the regions of the jungle.

In turn, Oventik’s Good Government Council pointed out that, for the Zapatistas, “autonomy is a universal right that allows us to live in a humane way, with freedom, justice, democracy, and our own laws anywhere in the world. Autonomy can’t be understood with one word; instead, we need to speak of the different aspects and rights: the right to life, to politics, to justice, to freedom, to democracy, to health, to education, to the territory, etc.”

Oventik’s autonomous representatives, frustrated at a 13 years of governmental oppression, feel that “the bad government has betrayed us, has tried to annihilate us to do away with our just struggle. Many compañeros and compañeras have been assassinated by the military and by paramilitary groups, and there are still thousands of people displaced by the war.”

Currently, they explained, there is no single law or judicial system to apply justice. Rather, each municipality develops its own internal rules. Because of that, “we see the need to develop general norms that can guide us in all municipalities in the region.”

Representing the Good Government Council of the Morelia Caracol, the compañera Ofelia and the compañero Beto pointed out that in that region “the autonomous educational and health systems are being developed in an equitable way.” In this context, they explained, one of its responsibilities is “to promote, develop, and improve autonomy in the towns and municipalities.” Another of its functions, said Ofelia, is “to distribute equitably the economic resources that, thanks to the solidarity of men, women, children, and older people of Mexico and the world, reach us directly or through other means.”

On the topic of justice, Beto said that “our role is to search for and build a common agreement, not to apply the law. As authorities of the Good Government Council we are a bridge, we build a dialog and not a negotiation, and through this dialog we reach an agreement. Even though,” he admitted, “it’s not always easy.”

Josefina and Miguel, representing the autonomous authorities of the Roberto Barrios Caracol, said that “now, we the zapatistas are rescuing our culture… As indigenous peoples, we must organize ourselves again. We are capable of governing ourselves, of serving the people, of making our own decisions and agreements, of making proposals, and of having our own thoughts.”

They explained that the zapatista authorities do not receive a salary for their work. “We the zapatistas are free to organize ourselves, to govern ourselves, and to make our own decisions without being exploited by capitalist ideas. Because of that we had the idea to build a new society and a new struggle, the idea to build unity as indigenous peoples of the world…”

As residents of one of the regions with the greatest paramilitary presence, the representatives from Roberto Barrios denounced that “the harassment by the paramilitaries in the region and in the autonomous municipalities continues, as well as the bad government’s programs, which are based on capitalist ideas and are designed to divide or discourage the people, because this is a low intensity war against the people.”
Representing the Caracol of La Garrucha, Elías, Estefanía, Joaquín, and Isabel stated that “indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy within the Mexican state,” and they reaffirmed “our way of being and working collectively, our language, and our ideas, which are different.”

“We, as peoples, have been practicing autonomy in our everyday acts, so what we are demanding is that what already exists be recognized. But the bad government doesn’t want to recognize our autonomy because, as we’ve already explained, they would not be able to take over and deprive us of our riches and natural resources. It would be hard for them to apply their economic plans to exploit our resources for their own benefit,” said the autonomous authorities.

They explained that “the autonomy we want and for which we struggle isn’t against the country’s sovereignty. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the country to form a different nation. That’s the excuse used by the enemies of indigenous peoples to deny us the right to autonomy that we demand as peoples. What we are definitely sure of is that autonomy strengthens democracy in our country.”

The talks by the representatives of the Good Government Councils were followed by a question and answer session where zapatista autonomy was further discussed. Afterwards, compañeros and compañeras from other countries of the world shared their experiences and struggles, in particular in defense of political prisoners.

Today, in addition to the workgroups on the Other Health and the Other Education, a workgroup is scheduled this afternoon to discuss the issue of women, their challenges and horizons. And, in the evening, the zapatistas and the peoples of the world gathered together today in Oventik will celebrate, with music, dance, and cultural activities, the thirteenth anniversary of the armed uprising that surprised the world on January 1, 1994.

Comision Intergalactica del EZLN

Informational Bulletin 3: Women’s Struggles and The Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World “We Need to Organize an Encounter for Women to Exchange Ideas and Join Struggles”

By Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN

January 6, 2007

During this second day of the Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World, which counted with the participation of almost 2,000 compañeros and compañeras from 44 countries of the world, work was developed on the Other Education, the Other Health, and Women’s Struggles.

In the session on the Other Education participated, as in all other sessions, autonomous authorities from the five Good Government Councils and the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion (MAREZ), who explained how the people organize education autonomously and in resistance.

The autonomous representatives specified the number of schools built in their territory, some of them with resources from national and international solidarity, and many more with funds from the communities themselves. They also spoke of the importance of training education promoters, who are elected by community assemblies to be trained to teach in their communities.

They explained that Zapatista education relates the 13 demands of their struggle with four knowledge areas: life and environment, math, history, and languages. True education, they said, originates from the people and is not imposed by bad governments.

The speeches by the Zapatista authorities were followed by those of compañeros and compañeras from many countries around the world. Among them was Mixper, a Chicana of Huichol origin, from the APC Collective and the educational project Semillas del Pueblo, who explained that in the US people of color, the children of migrants and indigenous peoples, are marginalized, ridiculed, treated as inferiors, and their dreams are stolen in public schools.

The school Academia Semillas del Pueblo was built on the dreams of the people from the community in order to rescue indigenous identity and traditions and to develop students with a strong indigenous identity.

Juan Chávez, from a group of students in resistance from the Technological University of Oaxaca, outlined an alternative educational project called “Community Brigade,” which offers free support on math, physics, and history that the government doesn’t provide.

From Argentina, a compañera from Red Trashumante said that this project was born in 1998 within a difficult context of despair and fatalism. A group had the idea to travel around the country asking how people were feeling. Traveling on board a yellow bus called “Quirquincho,” they offered mobile workshops to reflect on the Argentinean reality through the word and through art. It is called Trashumante because they search for the best lands.

From the University of California Berkeley and Radio Zapatista, a compañero stated that in that university a collective of Zapatista students and professors are promoting change through, for example, Spanish classes for Latino students, which use community service and Zapatista concepts as a way to stimulate reflection on their own reality.

Brothers and sisters from Mexicans Without Borders also participated, in addition to compas, from Ya Basta (Italy), Schools for Chiapas (US), and a people’s adult prosperity school in Madrid.

Simultaneous to the workgroup on the Other Education there was a session on the Other Health, in which autonomous representatives of the five Good Government Councils highlighted the importance of rescuing traditional medicine in indigenous communities. They spoke of how they organize health in resistance by training health promoters and building small health clinics, micro clinics, and Zapatista hospitals.

The representatives from communities in resistance expressed their position regarding abortion. They pointed out that abortion often happens unintentionally because of the harsh conditions of the communities. “Many women suffer this problem; they don’t practice it or want it, it happens because of the conditions of indigenous life,” they said.

During the question and answer session, the representatives highlighted the importance of strengthening sexual education and reproductive health. They also talked about mental health problems, the importance of vaccination campaigns without government participation, the use of ecological stoves that avoid the harm caused on women by firewood smoke inhalation, and the importance of education on family planning.

The speakers explained that their precarious health system provides free care to everyone in the Zapatista communities, including people who are not Zapatistas, because “healthcare is a right for which we can’t discriminate, like the bad government does.”

After the Zapatistas spoke, twenty compañeros and compañeras from many parts of the world shared their experiences with alternative healthcare. The Colectivo Brigada Callejera, from Mexico City, spoke of their work with sex workers in that city, while another collective from Michoacán talked about the importance of physical therapy in healthcare. “Capitalism causes illness and provides only partial cures,” stated the collective.

From Chile, Ximena Castillo spoke of mental health and of her work in a community rehabilitation center for schizophrenia. Gisela Morales, from Monterrey, explained that she works in a marginalized area where communities hunt reptiles as food. “We should avoid reproducing the system within us and create a different paradigm. We need to remember that Earth and nature are the oldest doctors and hospitals,” said Gisela.

Edgar Ibarra, from South Central Farm in Los Angeles, California, explained that their self-managed community project was born in 1992 and had 14 acres of land where people could grow their own food, in addition to having workshops on traditional medicine and agriculture. The community was evicted from the land, although they still have a location where they continue offering basic health services based on medicinal plants.

Among the participants was also an independent missionary; a doctor from Mexico City that works with the Chinese barefoot doctors; a compa from the Totonaca Sierra that promotes a community health project; a collective from Yucatan; an experience with musical therapy in Buenos Aires; and a moving story of an indigenous woman in Canada. Brothers and sisters also participated from Guatemala, Amatlán (Morelos), Costa Rica, and Mexico City.

Women’s Struggles

A symphony of 20 Zapatista women presented today, with clarity and force, the difficulties faced by indigenous women, the challenges faced by women in struggle, the participation of Zapatista women in autonomy, their small achievements, their immense problems, their perspectives, and the long path of their struggle for equality in communities.

One by one, the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol, Zoque, and Mame Zapatistas spoke of their life in their communities where male chauvinism is still common, communities in which their own partners deny them political participation or mock them, and where men sneer at other men who perform duties that are traditionally considered the work of women.

They repeatedly spoke of the importance of organizing as women, of participating in acts of resistance, of what they consider to be their own limitations such as not speaking Spanish and sometimes not knowing how to read or write. “But we are learning little by little and we are becoming aware,” they said.

The Zapatista women were straightforward and fearless in answering all questions asked by an avid audience, regarding their forms of organization and the difficulties they face. They said that they now have the right to decide, together with their partners, how many children they want, though they recognized that oftentimes “there are husbands that don’t obey.”

All of the participants agreed that “we need to organize an Encounter for women to exchange ideas and join struggles.”

While recounting their big and small achievements, the women of the EZLN said that there are men that already do housework (like taking care of the children, cooking, taking care of the animals, etc); that women participate more and more in the work on autonomy (health, commerce, education, municipal authorities, as members of the Good Government Councils, etc); they highlighted that there are insurgent women at various military levels, in addition to militiawomen and members of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee.

During the presentations from the peoples of Mexico and the world, a message was transmitted from the women of Kurdistan, who are creating a brigade named after Comandanta Ramona. Other participants were Regeneración Cuidado Infantil, a childcare collective from New York; compañeras from La Otra en el Otro Lado; from the Red de Apoyo Zapatista of Madrid; from the Independent Women’s Movement in Chiapas; from the Workers Front of the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute); from the Women’s Rights Center; from Colectivo Rompiendo la Noche from Nuevo Leon; and from the collective Lucio Blanco, of Tamaulipas.

At the end of the work session, Zapatista women asked a question to the participants: “What do you plan to do about mistreatment, rape, and violence toward women in the world?” The response from the audience was: “To raise our voice, to educate, to denounce…”

This workgroup was coordinated by Comandanta Sandra and Comandante Moisés, from the Morelia region, who agreed that this December 31 “we celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of our struggle, when we said enough to discrimination and contempt for indigenous women.”

A cultural program with dance and music followed to greet the Fourteenth year of Zapatista struggle.

Comision Intergalactica del EZLN
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