Local coalition succesfully protests Felipe Calderon at Harvard University
A coalition of local progressive organizations and individuals protested the policies of the Mexican government represented by its President, Felipe Calderón as he addresses Harvard's JFK Forum on February 11, 2008. The chants of the demostrators filled the air as they remembered the struggle of the mexican people with "Zapata vive, Chiapas vive, Oaxaca vive! ... la lucha sigue y sigue!" (Zapata, Chiapas, Oaxaca are alive! ... and the struggle moves forward!). The coalition included the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement, Mass. Global Action, Boston May Day Coalition, Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society, Socialist Party U.S.A., IWW, Socialist Alternative, Anti-fascist/Anti-capitalist Network, Northeast Anti-Authoritarian Network, Students for a Democratic Society and others.
Calderon came to power after another undemocratic “election” in Mexico. His government continues to repress indigenous people, the labor movement, in particular in Oaxaca, and is responsible, together with government of the United States for the situation of millions of undocumented Mexican workers in the U.S. At the same time, Calderon is now advocating for the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which strengthens the NAFTA agreement that is detrimental to workers in Mexico and the U.S.
In 2006, President Calderon stole the presidency from the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate Andrés López Obrador. On July 2, 2006 Mexicans voted at over 130,000 different polling stations, casting separate ballots for president, senator and federal deputies. International and Mexican election observers noted that there weren't enough independent and party observers present in the process. In many regions, one party dominated, creating opportunities for vote shaving, ballot stuffing, lost ballots and other forms of fraud. The PRD's strongest accusation comes from the fact that ballots in nearly one third of the country were not counted in the presence of independent observers. One analysis of (Federal Election Commission equivalent) IFE results found that in 2,366 polling places only a PAN (Calderon’s National Action Party) observer was present and in those places, Calderon beat Lopez Obrador by a 72-21 margin. Furthermore, PRD observers discovered that sealed ballot boxes were being opened illegally at IFE offices where PAN's observers dominated the process. Given a history of electoral fraud in Mexico, during the nearly century reign of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party now allied with PAN) and the explicit support of Calderon in the Western media, we charge Calderon with manipulating Mexico's democratic process, just as President Bush disenfranchised voters in Florida and Ohio to become president in the United States and demand that democracy be respected in Mexico, without interference from the United States or any other Western power.
REPRESSION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
There are at least 31 indigenous political prisoners, punished for their autonomous community organization, the defense of their territory and natural resources, the defense of their right to freely decide their own community matters, and their refusal to forget their culture and history. All of them organized to improve the living conditions in their regions and communities, yet charges have been invented to keep them locked up. There is paramilitary activity backed by the US and Mexican government against indigenous communities in Oaxaca. This facilitates the expansion of capitalism and empire in Oaxaca has led to an international call for solidarity against this state sponsored repression. What makes Oaxaca and other indigenous struggles in Mexico notable is the commitment of strong currents within it to militancy, to non-violence, to non-hierarchical forms of social structure, to cooperation in place of competition, to local autonomy and, as much as possible, to local self-sufficiency. The jails of Oaxaca now reveal the war unleashed by the state government and those who have served it down through the years. By means of a silent war, the corporations and all the political parties are trying to do away with the Indian peoples, plunder their natural resources, erase their history with blood, and take their territory away from them. Extermination, exploitation, lies, dispossession, and prison have been the only state and federal government policies concerning the Indian peoples of Oaxaca.
On September 25, 1996, the massive repression of the Zapotec men and women of the Loxicha region began when the Mexican Army brutally attacked those who were demanding better living conditions. The result was "200 illegal arrests, 150 cases of torture, 32 illegal searches, 22 extrajudicial executions, 22 forced disappearances, 137 political prisoners or prisoners of conscience, and an undetermined number of sexual abuses, harassment, death threats, and corrupt procedural irregularities" (Civilian Mission for the Observation of Human Rights, March 21-24, 2002).
In this area the demonstrator concluded "We therefore demand: Freedom for all Indigenous prisoners; Stop repression against indigenous peoples; Land, culture, history, language, Indigenous people are not merchandise."
THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
Felipe Calderon inherited and strongly supports the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He supports deepening it in the form of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Neither benefits working people in the 3 countries of North America. NAFTA weakened worker protections in all 3 countries, it increased low-wage, dead-end employment in Mexico while destroying food independence and agricultural employment in Mexico with highly-subsidized US crops. Millions of Mexicans are now forced to seek livelihoods across the border in the US. NAFTA also decreased job growth in the United States by a million jobs. However, as a former Mexican foreign minister remarked, NAFTA was "an agreement for the rich and powerful in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, an agreement effectively excluding ordinary people in all three societies."
In this vein, SPP is being drafted by the North American Competitiveness Council that consists of 30 corporate members. In addition to rewriting regulations entirely in favor of the corporations, it will likely extend US Government Patriot Act-style "security" policies to Canada and Mexico. This extension and recommended pro-corporate policies tend to be adopted by presidential/executive decree rather than through deliberation by elected bodies (Congress or Parliament).
Progressive organizations and unions in all three countries seek alternatives to NAFTA based on principles of real fair trade and solidarity. Other models for Latin American economic cooperation are being developed involving countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Cuba while rejecting US-imposed free-trade regimes. Felipe Calderon is helping lead the opposition to these progressive initiatives.
The demand here was "the termination of NAFTA and termination of the Security and Prosperity Partnership negotiations."
MEXICO/U.S. ROLE IN ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION OF MIGRANT WORKERS
The governments of the United States and Mexico are responsible for the current situation of millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. These workers are on the one hand exploited and abused; on the other the U.S. government persecutes and repress them through raids, detention and deportations. The Mexican government, now headed by Felipe Calderon, pushes millions of workers out of their country and away from their families in desperate search for jobs in the North, while at the same time participating in the North American Free Trade Agreement that produced more exploitation for Mexicans but more unemployment of agricultural workers.
Of particular note is the ill treatment that Mexican authorities provide migrants coming from Central America in transit to the United States. Hundreds of Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans attempting to go through Mexico are robbed, detained, and sometimes killed in the process by corrupt police or gangs. Mexico signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, yet as of now it has not implemented it in full or in consciousness.
The coalition concluded "We, therefore denounce these abuses and demand justice, and fair and humane treatment from Mexico and the U.S. for migrant workers and their families."