Published in the Boulder Daily Camera 1/27/96

GUEST OPINION by Evan Ravitz and Elisa Facio

U.S. policy helped fuel rebellion in Mexico

The arrest, 14-hour interrogation, and eviction from Mexico of Denver documentary-maker Kerry Appel (Camera, Jan 12) is the resurfacing of the 2-year `Mexican standoff' in Chiapas from media obscurity.

Kerry is likely in trouble for his excellent video "Politics, Profits and Zapatistas", aired by KBDI Channel 12 on December 13th, about the Mayan rebellion whose goals were affirmed by 97.5% of the 1.3 million Mexicans who voted in the Zapatista's nationwide 'consulta' last September. Denver's NBC News Producer Rick Salinger refused to use it, saying: "We have a business relationship with the Mexican government-controlled TV channel and we wouldn't want to offend them."

We have a copy of the video and am planning to show it soon. Please call 440-6838. Evan lived in Chiapas and next-door Guatemala for several years, and witnessed the first round of peace talks in February 1994. We can also tell you how to subscribe to the Chiapas internet email list, which the N.Y. Times has credited with saving lives. Please write:

The video shows how U.S. policy, including the unpopular NAFTA, helped cause the "world's first postmodern revolution", as Carlos Fuentes, Mexico's most celebrated author and former Ambassador to France calls it. It shows Chiapas as a dirt-poor colony of Mexico which in turn is exploited like it was a U.S. colony. That's how bananas from thousands of miles away can sell here for less than local apples: laborers are paid minuscule or no wages in Chiapas. The Zapatistas call NAFTA "a death sentence for the poor" for several reasons.

First, NAFTA gutted Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution which guaranteed that traditional community-owned lands would remain so. Now they can be bought or stolen in shady deals like those suffered by U.S. Indians last century. Article 27 was won by the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution in which Indian hero Emiliano Zapata and 20% of all Mexicans were killed.

Second, `free trade' is no level playing-field. Mayans growing corn with digging sticks right up to the tops of the volcanoes (because the good land was stolen centuries or years ago) now compete with American agribusiness with giant tractors and center-pivot irrigation subsidized by us taxpayers.

The Zapatistas captured, briefly, the international media spotlight on their revolt 1/1/94, the inception of NAFTA, brightly enough to stop their massacre by the Mexican Army. Amnesty International and others have since documented widespread torture, rape and pillage, taught to Mexican officers by the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. American exports of cattle-prods and other torture devices are documented in Kerry's video. As the Secretary of the ruling PRI party in one Chiapas town says in the video: "The application of justice in Mexico is based on torture." More of our tax dollars at work.

The Zapatistas say they "lead by obeying", having "made all the strategic decisions by referendum", which led to the `women's laws' and the national "consulta" in September. Most polls showed a majority of U.S. citizens opposed NAFTA, which demonstrates the failure of Congress to represent us. The availabe alternative is to streamline the use of referendum and initiative laws -which exist in 24 states including Colorado.

This legislation by citizens -as the Swiss enjoy four times a year- is also the goal of our foundation. You can see our extensive web site on participatory and electronic democracy, with links to the Zapatistas, the Swiss, the Dalai Lama and others who champion real democracy, at People Rule! Viva Zapata!

The National Commission for Democracy in Mexico is calling on us to protest "the Mexican government's intensified campaign against foreign tourists" in letters to the Mexican Embassy in Denver. Contact us for further information.

Evan Ravitz is director of The Voting by Phone Foundation in Boulder. Elisa Facio is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado.