Multinational Monitor

MAR 2001
VOL 22 No. 3


Fox, Inc. Takes Over Mexico
by John Ross

Labor After the PRI: Will Fox Ride Roughshod Over Mexican Workers?
by Dan La Botz

Hope for a New Dawn in Chiapas
by Subcommandante Marcos


The Democratic Opposition: Challenging Mexico's New Corporate Clan
an interview with
Carlos Heredia


Behind the Lines

Resistance is Not Futile

The Front
Taiwan's Power Struggle - The WTO's Yes Men

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Review
The Zapatista War Against Oblivion

Names In the News



Resistance is Not Futile

Resistance is not futile. Indigenous challenges to power in Mexico and Ecuador make clear that even the most marginalized populations can stand up to prevailing hegemonic economic and political forces, if they are united, organized, determined, spirited and persistent.

Their inspirational resistance to everyday violence, projected by military forces, paramilitary gangs and political and financial thugs from outfits like the International Monetary Fund, should issue a clarion call to allies in rich countries both to intensify their solidarity campaigns and to challenge directly the core institutions of corporate globalization.

The Zapatistas burst on to the Mexican and international stage on January 1, 1994, when they launched their insurrection in the southern state of Chiapas, symbolically timed in conjunction with the commencement of NAFTA.

The Zapatistas announced themselves as an armed resistance movement, and they have never set aside their arms. But after their initial offensive, the Zapatista Army has limited its use of force to self-defense, instead using words, courage and organizational determination as their weapons.

Zapatista Subcommandante Marcos' internet-broadcast communications have spurred an international solidarity campaign that has protected the Zapatistas and their sympathizers from even greater violence than they have experienced.

Through their statements, their programmatic proposals to provide autonomy to the indigenous and permit them to pursue a path of sustainable development and cultural integrity wholly apart from the neoliberal, free-market nightmare into which Mexico has plunged, and their daring efforts to create and defend democratic autonomous communities outside of the framework of the corrupt Mexican political system, the Zapatistas have pushed against the prevailing social and economic order.

In 1995, the Zapatistas negotiated the San Andres accords with the Mexican government, guaranteeing substantial indigenous autonomy and self-determination. The duplicitous Mexican government never implemented them.

Now, however, Vicente Fox has taken power in Mexico. Fox promises continuity with the last two decades' market fundamentalist policies of the long-ruling PRI, but he also says he will respect democratic norms. And, he has committed to making peace with the Zapatistas.

Fox has submitted the San Andres accords to the Mexican Congress, where the PRI remains a plurality. As Multinational Monitor goes to press, the Zapatistas are preparing for a high-profile caravan out of the jungles of Chiapas to Mexico City, in an effort to secure passage of the accords. The outcome is uncertain, but the prospect of achieving a peace that satisfies basic demands of the Zapatistas seems real.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, a much less well publicized but at least as remarkable indigenous uprising is demanding an end to the austerity measures of the International Monetary Fund -- and perhaps succeeding.

In late January and early February, thousands of indigenous took to the streets in at least half of the nation's 22 provinces, insisting the government retreat from its structural adjustment plans. The protests reprised mass demonstrations from the past two years, including a nonviolent rebellion last year which forced the Ecuadoran president out of office. This year, labor unions and students joined with the indigenous.

As protests escalated following government repression, thousands of indigenous converged on Quito. The government militarized the capital and declared a state of emergency. But the protesters were undeterred.

Their immediate demands focused on the reinstatement of subsidies for cooking fuel and gasoline, the elimination of transportation fare increases, and rejection of a planned increase in the value added tax. The price of cooking fuel alone doubled under the government's IMF-imposed austerity plan.

The broader goal was to break the stranglehold of the IMF over national policymaking. "We do not want the president to leave because one goes, and another comes in and it is the same thing," Ricardo Ulcuango, vice president of CONAIE, a key indigenous federation, reportedly stated. "We want to be heard and to reach concrete agreements."

By mid-February, the government and the indigenous movement had reached a 23-point agreement, which included at least partial victories on the pricing disputes for cooking oil, gasoline and bus fares. The more structural elements of the agreement were worded more generally, meaning ongoing monitoring and vigilance will be needed to ensure the government upholds them. These include measures such as budget increases for agencies dealing with indigenous people, fairly resolving indigenous claims to land and water, seeking consensus on reform of the social security system.

There is reason to be concerned about the government's ability or willingness to deliver on these commitments in the wake of reports days after the indigenous settlement that Ecuador had reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF to tap existing credits and continue with the country's structural adjustment program.

Still, the Ecuadorans had cause to dance in the streets, celebrating what Ulcuango called "a triumph of the indigenous people, of the Ecuadoran people." They had rocked the country and wrung what appear to be significant concessions, if not the rarely obtained full-scale victory.

And they had delivered a message to a world suffering from uncontrolled corporate globalization: Resistance matters, and the resisters can triumph.

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