Published in the Boulder Daily Camera 1/27/96
GUEST OPINION by Evan Ravitz and Elisa Facio
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 http://www.vote.org/v. 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
Elisa Facio is assistant professor of ethnic studies
at the University of Colorado.