------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 21:09:50 -0500 (EST) From: "vincent scotti eirene\\'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Reply-to: "vincent scotti eirene\\'" <email@example.com> To: peacemail.d-list.....@duncan&porter.house Subject: ZAP
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Group Says NAFTA hurting Mexico's poor by Jonathan Potts Pittsburgh Tribune Review December 15, 1997
While labor unions argue that NAFTA is driving American jobs to Mexico, a University of Pittsburgh student is trying to draw attention to what he says are the destructive effects the trade treaty has to Mexico's poorest region. It all began for Ron Douglas- a sophomore film student and self described anarchist- when he learned about a rebel uprising in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas that began in January 1994. The rebels uprising timed to coincide with the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement. By the time Douglas learned of the unrest in 1995, he had to rely on underground newspapers and the internet for news of the conflict between the Mexican government and the revolutionary Zapatista Army for the National Liberation. "In 1994, when it first happened it hit all the newspapers....but then you kind of didn't hear anything else about it for awhile," Douglas said "About a year later I found out what was going on again. "Now, there are a lot of organizations that do strictly news about what is going on in Chiapas." On New Year's Day 1994 armed rebels attacked government troops and seized control of several small towns in the southern state of Chiapas. The rebel army took its name from Emiliano Zapata, a hero of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Douglas, a 23-year-old native of New Brighton, Beaver County, has formed the Zapatista Alliance of Pittsburgh to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Chiapas-mostly native Mexicans- and work for peace in the region. Douglas sought help from veteran local activist Vincent Scotti Eirene, 45. Eirene, who runs the Duncan and Porter House, a homeless shelter on the North Side, said that since 1975 he has been arrested at numerous demonstrations, many of them protesting nuclear weapons. Manuel Lombera, the Mexican Consul in Philadelphia said the conflict in Chiapas has less to do with NAFTA and more to do with century-old desire of Mexico's native peoples to determine their social, economic, and political destinies. Douglas and Eirene said that what makes the Zapatista movement unique is that much of it is taking place in cyberspace, through the internet. Even the rebels are communicating with the outside world through fax machines and cellular phones. "For a lot of us who are anarchists in political philosophy, this fits right in to this type of hyper democracy," Eirene said. "A lot of what this is about is democracy, the lack of it," Douglas said. The Pittsburgh Zapatista organization only has about eight members, but Douglas said that as many as 45 people have attended their meetings, which included slide shows and film screenings. The group recently held a rice and bean dinner to raise funds to send Douglas and other ZAP members to Chiapas next summer. Douglas said they will join work crews building schools, hospitals, and other humanitarian projects. Douglas said the Chiapas uprising was spurred in part by the repeal of an article of the Mexican constitution that protected communal land from privatization. The repeal, said Douglas, was prompted by NAFTA. ZAP plans a demonstration against a local corporation to protest its business practices in Mexico. Douglas and Eirene would neither name the company nor say when the demonstration will occur. "The next time we contact you will be a nonviolent confrontation with one of the local corporations that's directly involved in Mexico's economics, and has directly benefited from NAFTA," Eirene said. In 1994 San Jose Mercury News article reported that the majority of people in Chiapas and the surrounding area make earn their living by working on communal farms, and that for years they have demanded more land from the government. the article said the region has a thirty percent adult illiteracy rate and that there is little electricity and running water. Other reports blame the plight of native Mexicans on corrupt local politicians who have allowed ranchers to chase communal farmers from their land. Douglas claimed NAFTA is "turning Mexico into one big factory." Lombera, the Mexican consul said the government had reached and agreement with the Zapatistas that would have granted the people of Chiapas greater political autonomy, but advisors to Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon have questioned the constitutionality of the agreement and have stalled its implementation.
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