Interview/Mexico: Between an institutional crisis and self-management efforts

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Lorcon

We publish the interview of our two colleagues from the Mexican Anarchist Federation, done on August 2016, covering the volatile situation of the country. Evidently, this interview isn’t a thorough report of the complex situation of Mexico, but the main points of these last years are confronted and tackled through an anarchist perspective: structural reforms (particularly in education), the issue of land distribution, drug trade, the indigenous community and gender violence.

R1: Mexico is currently on the verge of a social war due to a rapacious and wild form of capitalism that has corrupted the lives of everybody and all social sectors: in the workplace, education and even in rural areas through the confiscation of land from the farmers, now backed by the law. Similarly, the drug trade controls both the neighbourhoods and the State as a whole, hence why we refer to Mexico as a “Narco-State”. From 2006 until nowadays this system has provoked the death of more than 130.000 people: 130.000 assassinated by hit men, known as “sicarios”. There are now more than 25.000 missing people due to the current state of Mexico: if a drug trafficker wants economic manpower in this country they usually invade a village with a jeep, full of hired assassins, and kidnap people to make them work for them as slaves and if anyone resists they are murdered and buried in a ditch. When the 43 students disappeared from the Rural School of Ayotzinapa we all expressed our solidarity with the families of the missing students, but the real number of missing people wasn’t 43: in total, it was between 25.000 and 30.000.

D: How are you organizing yourselves as an anarchist movement in Mexico? What is the situation in the country?

mess2R2: This system also provokes the systematic assassination of women, directly tied into sex trafficking. This is entirely caused by impunity because nowadays it isn’t legally possible to report a violent friend, father or brother, so lots of women are killed by their own relatives. All of this happens within a context in which the social decomposition of the Mexican state is increasingly creating the destruction of social relationships and collectivism.

R1: Just to give you an idea on what my colleague is saying, this year (from January until April) in a locality of Mexico almost 12.000 women were killed purely due to their gender. These homicides are a sex-based hate crime known now as Femicide.

R2: In such a context, as anarchists we are directly impacting this trend through several methods. For instance, we are working with indigenous communities and certain social sectors not only to associate ourselves with their struggle, but to also position ourselves through our anarchist ideas in the discussion, organization and resistance of certain sectors of the country.

R1: We look for ways to help the indigenous community in their fight against the confiscation and expropriation of land. We have also been involved in meetings organized by indigenous members in defence of the earth and against mining extraction and drug trade. With all these means of communication and meetings we produce counter-information, publish our own newspaper and with the students we discuss problem surrounding the drug trade, dealing with these fundamental questions: who gets richer from this business and which are the sectors in society that suffer the most negative consequences from the drug trade? We also examine the social cynicism and despair generated by the working conditions and we contribute to these fights. In Mexico we call this process “generating tension and exposing the contradictions”. We create political tension, discuss problems with the workers and participate in very specific actions: on the 1st of December 2012 there was an unprecedented clash in the history of Mexico between many protesters and security forces.

In that moment we launched the fighting strategy of the Revolutionary Anarchist Alliance, formed by students, our Federation and anarchist sympathizers. We managed to gather 1000-2000 anarchists for marches against the systematic repression conducted by our government. The police invaded some of the strikers inside their own homes, so they had to end leaving their houses.

R2: A media witch-hunt masterminded through the big means of communication emerged against anarchists: TV, radio and widely diffused national newspapers. This hostility was aimed against anybody opposed to the political parties of the country. Anarchists and people from the non-institutional opposition were persecuted through raids in their houses and received constant death threats if they continued protesting.

R1: We call this media and police violence.

D: Another question: how have you intervened in the teacher’s protests of these past months?

R1: We have just created an “autonomous group of teachers”. With the new education reform a new law devoted to the evaluation of the teaching staff has been introduced. This evaluative law is an idea, a mandate from the organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organization of entrepreneurs that demands that the government must evaluate its own teachers in order to certify the professional quality. What the government refers to as “quality education” to us means privatization: one the one hand you fire one and a half million teachers, permanently taking away all their rights, and on the other hand you replace them as temporary workers. With the new educational law the intervention from external and economic figures has been planned: it is a reform that steers towards privatization. The educational reform belongs to something known as “structural reforms”. The current government, guided by Enrique Peneñeto, has started organizing and promoting structural reforms that were mandates, dictated by international financial organisms like the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Mexican government started this with the “Pact for Mexico”, a pact between the political and economic class. The economic class can count on the support of Parliament members from left, centre and right-wing groups to ensure that there will be no opposition so that they can quickly pass all the structural reforms. They also passed a new work-related law in which the worker is stripped of all his guarantees and rights achieved through the Mexican revolution. There will be a healthcare reform after this educational one, there have already been financial reforms and an energy reform that has led to the privatization of all the energy industry. Particularly, on the educational reforms we have identified crucial problems: All educational workers, teachers and academics will stop being permanent workers and become workers with temporary contracts through “academic certifications” or “educative quality”. The government promised that there would be a wage increase for teachers, which was another lie.

R2: The educational law represents a severe restriction of worker’s rights disguised as a reform of the education sector, so that public opinion or people that don’t belong to this particular sector endorse it and discredit all the current teacher mobilizations. It is a pejorative reform of work conditions because workers at schools will have to lose all their rights from this supposed evaluation that will certify the quality of teachers. It supposedly defends the children’s rights towards education and providing a quality education, without ever defining this quality education.

Therefore, “Quality” is a word used to translate through capitalistic-industrial terms the educational matter and such evaluations are completely anti-pedagogical: 12 hours where you have to answer to questions on a series of laws, which you need to memorize to obtain a good assessment, instead of actual pedagogical topics used in the classes. Furthermore, this evaluation is unfair because, by standardizing the exam, it doesn’t take into account the enormous differences between rural and indigenous schools and so-called “superior schools” coursed by the rich. Another extremely negative aspect of the “educational reform” is that through it the state removes the financing of education by transforming schools into private institutions, thus forcing families to fully pay for everything. In the education system of Mexico only 1% of the internal product was invested, now not even that, and many people are unaware of this. We have informed workers and families about this particular factor and contributed, through whatever means possible, to create a movement that nowadays seeks to oppose this reform: in different places, states and cities of the republic, families are occupying schools with teachers and many representatives of the local community.

R1: Let’s say that the first factor is work. The Mexican government has sent their spokespersons to reassure teachers, telling them that they would only be evaluated to guarantee the quality of education. However, 80% of the teachers realized that this law reduces education into another commodity and deprives workers of their rights and autonomy.

D.: What is the relationship between the anarchist movement in Mexico and indigenous movements?

R1: We could say that this relationship is limited, in the sense that only some organizations are working with the indigenous communities. From 15 years the Anarchist Federation of Mexico and the Autonomous Collective have been carrying out work with indigenous communities and villages, especially in the area of Oaxaca. How do we do this? We have organized this through different ways, taking part in workshops with young people, women and farmers. In these workshops we all learn from each other respectively. It is like a self-sufficient training collective; everything is learnt, especially regarding agricultural matters. These indigenous communities then bring all the information that they have learnt into their own communities and share it.

For instance, in Oaxaca, which is a big region with 500 indigenous villages, it is very difficult to move an entire community to the city to attend a meeting. Hence, delegations come to the city meetings we arrange and then coordinate workshops in each of their communities. The second thing we do is express our solidarity and support with their demands for respect of their traditions and participate in their fights for the implementation of an organizational indigenous autonomy. For instance, in the coast, where they enslaved for many years the indigenous communities of the region, our comrades through the Zapatista Alliance have taken the land from the German owners and have collectivized it (70.000 hectares). Some tourist businesses were interested in acquiring it because we are referring to an area that is an hour and a half away from Puerto Escondido, a popular tourist destination. However our comrades refused because these are hectares that belong to indigenous communities. There are already indigenous groups that are working autonomously in the agro-alimentary sector: agricultural production and poultry companies where workers are organizing theirselves autonomously and the earned money is equally distributed between them. We are contributing in whatever ways possible to these events and we are constantly learning.

D.: Are there any self-organized groups against drug cartels, even if they aren’t strictly anarchist?

R1: At this moment we have Mexican people affected by an economic and political system, purposefully imposed by the ruling class, which has inflicted tears and blood through a government of death. However this suffering and pain is now transforming into anger. Mexico is angry, thus all forms of self-organizational fights have spread, directed towards those at the “top”. Many people are mad not only because of all the liberticidal reforms that have taken place in the country, but also because ever since 2006 there have been 130.000 homicides connected to drug cartels and we have almost 30.000 missing people. Some groups formed by our comrades, workers and indigenous members in the area of Guerrero have responded to these massacres by creating a community police: armed groups opposed to drug trafficking cartels, trying to guarantee the security in villages.

R2: Yes, in some regions people organize theirselves that way because the military and police are strictly connected to the drug trafficking cartel.

R1: In Mexico it is well-known that the Narco-State rules the country.
To give you a specific example of this, the 43 “missing” students of the rural school of Ayotzinapa, discussed everywhere in the media, were arrested by tmess4he police and killed later on by hit men of a cartel group, known as “Los Rojos”. The same state of the government has links with the drug trade: the government of the city of Veracruz has notorious connections with the cartel members of the group Los Zetas. Indeed, drug trafficking groups are ruling Mexico and many people know that even the military are deeply involved with cartels. In fact, as a way to not invest training their own members, the cartels prefer recruiting labourers directly from military schools in order to have members that know how to handle weapons and expand their turnover.

In particular, there have been two indigenous villages that were the first to arm and organize theirselves to fight against the government and the cartels, military, police and armed groups connected to the drug trafficking trade. Our comrades were there and resisted. It was a process of self-defence that has claimed many lives but continues, it resists. This trend has spread across many self-defence groups and many people nowadays begin to understand that it is important to oppose with weapons a criminal government comprised by drug traffickers and their accomplices.

Many villages have started arming theirselves, activating many strong movements of self-defence against cartels in the country. There is a self-defence coordination and this has started spreading across many villages, on the internet you can even find many videos. When the police and other institutional representatives of the drug trade arrive into a town where there is a clear disagreement between the community and the municipal president, the self-defence forces must confront the hit-men that are waiting for them, a confrontation is unavoidable. Wherever they manage to regain control, these groups of self-defence promote a new self-government system in which the local population are encouraged to organize theirselves in order to guarantee the safety of the villages from the violence and oppression of the cartels. When this happens the Mexican government sends in their military to fight against these self-defence groups instead of targeting actual drug traffickers.

D.: From what you have said, it is evident to see that in Mexico the government is the drug trafficking trade. This dismantles the whole argument of characters like Saviano that, in Italy, with the book “Zero Zero Zero”, have spread the idea that the drug trade is fought with more state-intervention, with more government action. This is also an idea diffused in the Anglo-Saxon world.

R2: The extension of the self-defence movement has started to resemble some of the revolution processes that the country had previously known with events like Morelos’ campaign (Mexican war of independence) or the advance of the Zapatistas during the era of the revolution: arm, arrive in a village, take a village, arm the population, teach it self-defence methods and then go into another village and repeat the same process.

What the Mexican government does is kill and attempt to split and divide the movement into two: this is what happens to some of the self-defence groups that are offered military support from the government, entrusting it legally to the defence of some of these villages, like in Michoacan. Meanwhile, those that continue fighting suffer attacks or are imprisoned in high security prisons, like in the case of dott. Mireles, one of the promoters of this disseminated campaign of defence. Firstly, they tried to kill him in an assassination attempt and then they imprisoned him in a high security prison.

As anarchists we participate as much as we can in this resistance movement that, not having a specific political ideology, possesses many libertarian features and fights with courage against the political, economic and military system that dominates and oppresses Mexico.

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“Get out Aguirre, Murderer”

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com) for Theory Without Borders (https://theorywithoutborders.wordpress.com/)

Taken from newspaper Umanità Nova, year 96, number 28: http://www.umanitanova.org/2016/09/23/tra-crisi-istituzionale-e-spinte-autogestionarie/

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