Local committee shows solidarity with Zapatistas against U.S. and Mexican neoliberal policies
February 1997

Members of the Gainesville Committee for Humanity Against Neoliberalism, Food Not Bombs, the Civic Media Center, and other concerned citizens held a demonstration Jan. 31 at the Federal Building in downtown Gainesville to protest the Mexican Federal Army's threat of an impending attack on members and supporters of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

The protest was organized in response to an urgent call for action from the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico. After receiving a public appeal for solidarity from the Zapatistas themselves, the NCDM and other Zapatista solidarity groups called on people of conscience around the world to gather at Mexican embassies and consulates to protest the Mexican government's actions and to call for a renewal of the peace negotiations which have ground to a halt since last fall.

Recent reports from the Frente Zapatista Liberacion Nacional, the political wing of the Zapatista struggle, describe increased troop buildups and other hostile activity by the Mexican military in and around rebel Indigenous communities in the state of Chiapas. Thousands of people in dozens of cities around the U.S. and the world turned out to show support for the Zapatistas and the democratic hope that they represent for the indigenous people of Mexico. The following is the text of a press statement read by Ernesto Longa of the Committee for Humanity Against Neoliberalism:

"Why demonstrate in front of the federal building? We do so to demonstrate to our government that we are not ignorant of our country's history. We have studied Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile and have learned that wherever the U.S. has substantial economic investments, popular social movements for economic justice, political democracy and cultural liberty are put down. The role of the U.S. in the supplying and training of death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador, resulting in mass slaughter, is still fresh in our minds.

We are not fooled when our government sends weapons and personnel to Mexico earmarked for fighting drug trafficking. The experience of the Colombian people tells us otherwise. We know it is to monitor, intimidate, harass, torture, and kill any persons, organizations and movements that desire a better life and still have hope that it can be achieved.

The Zapatistas are such a movement. The justice they seek is an end to the power of the handful of businesses, among them the Mexican state, which export the natural resources of Chiapas (such as oil, electric energy, coffee and corn) while the indigenous people of the region reel under the weight of ecological destruction, agricultural waste, hyper-inflation, and extreme poverty.

The democracy they seek is the right to freely elect their own administrative authorities, and their conception of liberty is very much rooted in the maintenance and preservation of their communal lands. These demands, combined with the immense popular support the Zapatistas have won regionally, nationally and internationally disturb the agents of Trans-National Corporate capitalism.

To give an example, Chase Bank, a principal financial backer of the Mexican bailout of 1995, stated in an internal memo that "the government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and security policy." And in February of that year the Mexican army did in fact move into Chiapas, in a week long effort, to hunt down the movement's leaders. Amnesty International reported widespread illegal arrests and torture by the military.

Now we have heard that the Mexican government has paid its debt to the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund ahead of time. We ask: was this to ensure that the Mexican stock exchange not be impacted by the effects of a sudden social explosion in Chiapas? Is there to be another offensive by the Mexican federal army to demonstrate to Wall Street that all is good and safe for investments?

We are here today to demand that our government desist from its support of the longest single party dictatorship in the world. We are a committee for humanity and against neoliberalism and are here to demonstrate that the Zapatistas are not alone, that their struggle is just and dignified and we will not allow them and the hope for humanity that they create be erased. Down with the PRI! Up with Chiapas!"

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