Originally aired on February 13, 2008
On this past Monday (February 11th) there was a demonstration in sympathy with the Zapatista Movement against the Mexican President Felipe Calderon held in Boston. Calderon was invited to speak at the Harvard Business School. It was a nice homecoming for Calderon, who was trained how to wage war against popular movements by Harvard’s JFK School of Government, where he received his Masters of Public Administration.
There were a number of radical leftist groups that put out a call for some sort of demonstration against Calderon’s visit to Boston. Among those groups were the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement, the Mayday Coalition, Harvard Students for a Democratic Society, and the Socialist Party USA. There were of course also sympathetic groups of liberals as well as the anti-immigrant right-wingers that held their own demonstrations on Monday.
But the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM, for short) held its demonstration for a very different reason. BAAM has been placing a lot of focus and using a lot of energy on solidarity work with the people’s revolutions in Mexico: the popular movements in Oaxaca and the autonomous Zapatista communities in Chiapas. But BAAM has also been doing a lot of work in the poorer suburbs of Boston where Harvard has been secretly buying up real estate so that it can expand its campus. So BAAM members see a parallel between Harvard’s imperialism in their own backyard and Mexico’s imperialism in the indigenous lands of Chiapas.
For those who don’t know, the Zapatistas are a part army, part indigenous political movement, and part world-wide social movement. On New Year’s Day of 1994, the day NAFTA went into effect, the Zapatistas declared their autonomy from Mexico. The state they live in, Chiapas, is one of the richest in natural resources and one of the poorest economically. They saw the neoliberal capitalist policies of NAFTA as making the situation worse. One of the goals of the Zapatista Movement is to make sure the resources of Chiapas are used to benefit Chiapas. The Zapatistas have established a number of horizontal autonomous communities throughout Chiapas where they operate as much as they can without interference or support from the Mexican government.
However, the government has been continually waging so-called low intensity warfare against the Zapatistas ever since their initial uprising was put down. But there are now signs that the Mexican government is preparing to re-escalate its war against the Zapatistas. Naomi Klein recently reported for The Nation that “on the fifty-six permanent military bases that the Mexican state runs on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase in activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded, new battalions are moving in, including Special Forces – all signs of escalation.”
As soon as Calderon got into office he started fighting back against the people’s assembly movement in Oaxaca. Most of our listeners should recall the situation in Oaxaca last year. Well, now that the mainstream media is out of Oaxaca, the government probably feels safe turning their attention to the Zapatistas, using the opportunity to clean house.
This is why BAAM and other radicals thought it was a necessity to hold a demonstration on Monday. About 50 people showed up from BAAM and the other leftist groups for the demonstration. They were met by approximately 20 police from a number of different forces, but the demonstration remained largely unconfrontational. Because the Mexican government might be about to wage a full-scale war against the Zapatistas, support from the international community is crucial at this time. For this reason, BAAM has issued a call to solidarity with Chiapas, demanding respect for indigenous autonomy and a halt to the repression in Chiapas. They are calling for an international day of action this Friday, the 15th, in front of all Mexican Embassies and Consulates.
You can find out more information at their website baamboston.org