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From: <wwnews@wwpublish.com> (WW News Service)
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To: <wwnews@wwpublish.com> (WW News Service)
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Subject: wwnews Digest #475
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 18:32:11 -0400

From: <wwnews@wwpublish.com> (WW)
Message-ID: <005301c231ce$3888f940$6501a8c0@station2>
Subject: [WW] Mexico: Indigenous farmers fight land seizures, win concessions
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 18:22:09 -0400

Indigenous farmers fight land seizures, win concessions

By Adrian Garcia, Workers World,
25 July 2002

Recent revolutionary events in San Salvador Atenco, on the outskirts of Mexico City, have inflicted a mighty blow to the ruling class's neoliberal agenda. They show that the spirit of Emiliano Zapata's call for land and liberty nearly a century ago during the Mexican Revolution is very much alive among the working people in Mexico.

On July 11, mostly Indigenous farmers from San Salvador Atenco and neighboring communities embarked on another of almost weekly protests on the streets of Mexico City.

Farmers have been struggling against the Mexican government's plans to expropriate their land in order to build a six-runway airport in the capital region. The Mexican government claims that the present Benito Juarez Airport is incapable of accommodating the large number of flights that come into Mexico.

This project was proposed without consulting the people who will be affected most. While the government informed the farmers that they would be compensated for their land, the original offer entailed as little as 60 cents per square yard.

San Salvador Atenco's residents refused the offer and just as strongly refused to engage in any form of compromise, though the Mexican government increased its purchase price to about 70 cents a square yard. Even if they gave us all the gold in the world, we wouldn't leave our land, because that is all we have, commented a defiant woman waving a machete.

Farmers armed themselves with machetes and homemade bombs. They engaged in street battles with police, barricaded themselves in the town with burned cars and stolen tractor trailers, and took 12 hostages, including city officials and police officers.

The protesters took three more hostages on July 13. The regime's response was to station 750 officers in riot gear around the town of San Salvador and nearby highways. All 15 hostages were freed early on July 15.


In a great victory for working people around the world, Mexican President Vicente Fox's government conceded to the farmer's demands and released a dozen men arrested during the street clashes with police on July 13.

Most of the events and subsequent developments were broadcast live via the two most prominent television stations in the country.

We have to tell the government: Sit down so you can listen to me, not so that you can impose your will on me, said Ignacio del Valle, a popular local leader who was among those released from prison. Some reports from Mexico claim that the Fox administration may be inclined to cancel the proposed airport project. Despite claims by other ministers that the project would proceed regardless of the recent uprising, Interior Minister Santiago Creel refused to state that the project would go ahead.

This would certainly be a great victory for all oppressed people in Mexico and worldwide. Mexico's Indigenous populations have endured forced expropriations in the past, many times without even an offer of monetary compensation-- in the states of Guerrero and Chiapas, for example. The events in Mexico give hope to all those fighting against capitalism's abuses around the world.

This is now the center of the fight against globalization and the multinationals, proclaimed Juan Blanchen Nieto, an activist from the southern state of Morelos who arrived in Atenco in a gesture of solidarity with the farmers.

San Salvador Atenco has also attracted Mexican anarchists, national farm groups, and even a delegation of university students from the U.S. The supporters have joined the armed farmers in chanting revolutionary slogans and in demanding land and dignity for the oppressed.

The fight for dignity and land, especially among the Indigenous people throughout the country of Mexico, has been a continuous struggle that received worldwide attention with the Jan. 1, 1994, Zapatista uprising in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas. Chiapas's Indigenous masses rose up against the reactionary and neoliberal policies incorporated in the North American Free Trade Agreement on the first day of its implementation. Zapatistas proclaimed that their struggle was not one between war and peace, but a struggle between a dignified life and an undignified life.

The Zapatista uprising inspired movements the world over. Its fighting spirit is evident in today's struggle in San Salvador Atenco. Oppressed people around the world are taking heed of these new, heroic actions of the Indigenous people in Mexico.

Despite facing overwhelming military and economic odds, the Indigenous masses have stood up and said no to their attempted marginalization and continue to demand land and liberty.