Saturday, October 30, 2010

Federal Police Reportedly Shoot Student in Ciudad Juarez During International Forum Against Militarization and Violence

by Kristin Bricker

La Polaka reports that sociology student Darío Alvarez Orrantia was shot and gravely injured in a clash with federal police during the 11th Walk Against Death in Ciudad Juarez.  A witness says the shot came from Federal Police vehicle #12428.  The confrontation occurred just outside the municipal headquarters of the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), which rules Juarez.

Alvarez Orrantia survived surgery and is in grave condition, reports La Polaka.  The bullet entered his body in the upper part of his buttocks, meaning that he was shot from behind.  The bullet exited through his gut, exposing his intestines.  His intestines have been perforated in multiple places.  If he survives his injuries, he will likely have permanent complications due to the damage to his intestines, doctors told La Polaka.

The 11th Walk Against Death was part of the International Forum Against Militarization and Violence, which is underway this weekend in Ciudad Juarez.  Alvarez Orrantia was shot just before a scheduled roundtable discussion entitled "Youthicide."

Juarez has been a laboratory where government officials have experimented new tactics and strategies in  Mexico's increasingly violent drug war.  The military occupied Juarez and relieved local police of their duties from March 2008 to April 2010, when Federal Police took over policing duties from the soldiers.  Juarez's mayor and the governor of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, have sought advice and training from Colombian mayors and police.   Furthermore, a new phase of the US drug war aid package the Merida Initiative will focus on "institution building" and "rule of law" in Ciudad Juarez.

Ciudad Juarez has the distinction of being the deadliest city in the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chile Rescue Stirs Up Bitter Memories of Mexican Mining Disaster

by Kristin Bricker, Upside Down World

The rescue of 33 miners who spent 68 days underground following a cave-in a Chilean copper mine has struck a nerve in Mexico, where the widows of 63 miners killed in the Pasta de Conchos disaster are still fighting for justice and the right to give their husbands a decent burial.

On February 19, 2006, an explosion in the Pasta de Conchos coalmine, located in the state of Coahuila, buried sixty-five miners. Only two bodies were ever recovered. Grupo México, the Mexican company that owns the mine, left the other sixty-three bodies in the ground.

As the the Chilean miners were raised to the surface on October 13, widows and other family members gathered at the Pasta de Conchos mine to ask themselves what would have happened if the Mexican government had responded as the Chilean government did. "In Chile they declared that they were alive," said the families in a statement. "They didn't condemn them to death, they weren't discouraged by the 700 meters that separated them, nor by the fact that a rescue beyond a depth of 300 meters had never been attempted before." The Pasta de Conchos miners' location is estimated to be only 150 meters below the surface.

The mining union that represented some of the miners killed in the Pasta de Conchos argues that, in contrast with the Chilean response, "Grupo México, with the [Mexican government's] full complicity, decided to close the mine only five days after the incident, when there was still hope that the trapped miners were alive. It condemned them to death and, above all, covered up the real causes of the tragedy."
Raúl Vera López, the bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, said that he suspects that Grupo México doesn't want to recover the remaining 63 bodies for fear of proving that at least some of the miners survived the explosion and died awaiting rescue. "If they find the bodies all together, with clothing, bones, helmets," argues Bishop Vera, "it means that they were waiting to be rescued."

Grupo México justified calling off the rescue after only five days by arguing that it was impossible that any miner survived the explosion, which Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira said had reached temperatures of 600˚C. The company also presented a 
report that claimed that the air inside the mine could not sustain life. The report was based on air samples taken from air ducts. However, samples were taken from a part of the mine where only 15-26 workers were believed to be working when the explosion occurred.

Carlos Rodriguez of the Center for Labor Reflection and Action (CEREAL) questions Grupo México’s decision to call off the search so soon. “Why wasn’t seismic monitoring used [during the rescue attempt] to locate where people were concentrated?” he asks. “Digital plans weren’t given to the rescuers so that they would know where the miners were working. If [the company] really knew where the workers were, why didn’t it drill? If they would have drilled they could have gotten the methane gas out of there, and they would have found signs of life. Chile searched [for survivors] for 19 days. Grupo México searched for 48 hours, and it declared them all dead after five days.”

Rodriguez believes that despite the companies’ claims, some miners could have survived the blast. “The two bodies that were recovered were not burnt,” he argues. If all of the miners died from the heat of the explosion, “why is it that the only two bodies that have been recovered weren’t burnt?”
Elvira Martínez, the widow of one of the trapped miners, believes that Grupo México has consistently opposed rescue and recovery efforts because it wants to leave incriminating evidence in the ground. “They’re afraid of what could be found. They don’t want the evidence to come out: the safety conditions and, above all, how our family members died in there.”

Rodriguez believes Grupo México’s 
blatant disregard for safety regulations caused the explosion. “They used machinery that was prohibited because it is dangerous. The gas levels were very high. Methane gas, between 11 and 12 percent is explosive. The first measurements that were done following the explosion were at 54%. The ventilation system was extremely deficient.”

The Mexican Geological Service contracted mining specialist Raúl Meza Zúñiga to investigate 
the possible causes of the fatal explosion. Meza argues that the mine was being overexploited, with workers extracting over 250 tons of coal per hour. Meza believes that the dangerously high extraction rate released the methane gas that is naturally found in coal deposits, raising the level of methane gas in the mine to an explosive level. The use of soldering and welding equipment in a mine where gas levels were not properly tested could have caused the explosion.

government-commissioned report on safety conditions in the Pasta de Conchos mine found that the supports that reinforced the mineshaft were not designed to withstand horizontal pressure, such as the pressure produced by an explosion. The explosion caused multiple cave-ins in the mine. The report concluded, “The failures that are described throughout the Pasta de Conchos report are, in almost all cases, systemic failures: of safety, of maintenance, administrative controls, of emergency preparedness, and of emergency response.”

Government Complicity

The Pasta de Conchos mine had many known safety problems for years before the 2006 explosion. Rodriguez accuses the government of not enforcing Mexican mine safety regulations that could have prevented the explosion. “We have safety inspection reports for Pasta de Conchos that go back as far as the year 2000. [The explosion] in 2006 was in danger of happening since 2000,” he argues. “The mines weren’t properly inspected. And if they were inspected, the proper precautionary measures were not required. And if they were required, the company didn’t enact them, because it was cheaper for them to pay the fine than to implement measures to guarantee the workers’ safety.”

The International Labor Organization, which is currently reviewing the Pasta de Conchos disaster, concluded that “the Government of Mexico did not do all that was reasonable expected of it to avoid or to minimize the effects of the Accident which had such devastating effects with the loss of life of as many as 65 miners.”

Bishop Vera argues, “The federal government is essentially covering up a murder that was committed by Grupo Mexico because they've systematically refused to recover the bodies.”

Certain government officials’ financial conflict of interest could have played a role in the Mexican government’s indifference in the face of glaring safety issues at the mine and the subsequent explosion. “The reason why there wasn’t a rescue at Pasta de Conchos,” argues Rodriguez, “is the relationship between economic power and political power.”

Grupo México became Mexico’s largest mining company—and its owner, the third richest man in Mexico—thanks in large part to a 
World Bank-mandated restructuring of Mexico’s mining sector. This restructuring opened up Mexico’s mining sector to privatization, and allowed former president Carlos Salinas to sell off the nation’s state-owned companies to his friends at bargain basement prices. Grupo México snatched up state-owned companies for a fraction of their real values.

In addition to its economic power, Grupo México has significant political power, thanks to the politicians who have worked for the company. At the time of the Pasta de Conchos disaster, two members of Grupo México’s Board of Directors also sat on the Board of Directors of the Vamos México Foundation, which is run by then-president Vicente Fox’s wife.

Several former Cabinet members have served on Grupo México’s Board. Since 2001, 
Juan Rebolledo Gout has served as the Grupo México’s International Vice-President. Gout served in the Salinas and Zedillo administrations, as spokesman for the President and Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, respectively. Luis Téllez Kuenzler served as President Zedillo’s Chief of Staff and Secretary of Energy. He was Grupo México’s Chairman of the Board during the Pasta de Conchos disaster, and he served as current President Calderón’s Secretary of Communications and Transportation. Carlos Ruiz Sacristan was Secretary of Communications and Transportation from 1995-2000; he joined the Board of Directors of Southern Copper Corp. (owned by Grupo México) in 2004. Armando Ortega Gómez has served on Southern Copper’s Board since 2002. He was Grupo México’s General Counsel during the Pasta de Conchos disaster. Just prior to joining Grupo México, Ortega served as the Mexican government’s Deputy Vice Minister of Economy.

“It is this Board of Directors who could have said, ‘We will rescue the miners, no matter what it costs,’” argues Rodriguez. “The people who made the decision to not rescue the miners are the economic powerhouses of this country.”

It is not surprising then, that Manuel Fuentes, a lawyer representing the victims’ families, reports that Minera México, the Grupo México subsidiary that ran the Pasta de Conchos mine, “has not paid a single cent of its fines. Not a single Minera México employee has set foot in jail, and currently there is not a single judicial procedure open” against the company.

On the contrary, Grupo México has only 
strengthened its position since the disaster. The Mexican government awarded the company a mining concession in Zacatecas only two days after the Pasta de Conchos explosion.

Despite a government order to permanently close Pasta de Conchos following the explosion, former governor of Coahuila Rogelio Montenayor Seguy managed to re-open the site’s coal washing facility by setting up a straw company that he claims purchased the plant from Grupo México. In 2007, the same year that the government ordered Pasta de Conchos closed, it awarded Grupo México thirty new concessions, including some in Coahuila. In 2008, Grupo México received another 33 mining concessions.

Faced with such cynicism, the Pasta de Conchos families have brought their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). They argue that they have exhausted all of their legal options, but justice hasn’t been served. The IACHR process will take time, but it is their last hope to hold the Mexican government and Grupo México responsible for a crime the Mexican miners union has termed “an industrial homicide.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Autonomous Supporters Describe Their Last Days in San Juan Copala

by Zósimo Camacho, Contralínea

October 1, 2010

After almost ten months under siege, San Juan Copala fell.  The paramilitaries kicked up the siege this past September 7, and over the following days they occupied the political and ceremonial center of the Triqui culture.  Nothing, no one, stopped them from smashing down doors, tearing down walls, burning homes, and ransacking houses.  Terror took hold for the last thirty families that resisted, and they fled through the hills, carrying the elderly, hurrying up children, falling into gullies.  Many escaped with bullet wounds.  They haven't been treated by doctors.  Under fire for 303 days, now displaced, always invisible, the Triquis that demand autonomy blame MULT [the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle] and UBISORT [the Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region].  They accuse Amado Ortiz and Antonio Cruz [1] of leading the assault.

Yosoyuxi, Copala.  Barefoot, Altagracia Fernández de Jesús hides between her father's legs.  At four years old, she barely speaks.  Her mother, Francisca de Jesús, was shot in the back last September 7 as she tried to leave San Juan Copala.  She is in a hospital in Oaxaca.  Her brother, Elías, was murdered at the age of nine on November 29, 2009, in a classroom when paramilitaries shot up the school.  Her sister, Maribel, couldn't leave Copala's boarding school and stayed in the town center.  Her father, Benito Fernández, a 53-year-old carpenter with wounds on one foot, is desolate. 

For almost a quarter of her life, she's had to remain hidden in her house.  On the rainy morning of September 19, her father took her in his arms.  Sometimes he had to make her walk over the rocky ground while he carried 80-year-old Jacinta González Guzmán on his back.  Sometimes the man rolled through the brush with the old woman, at other times, with the little girl.

Also in that group that was fleeing from the hail of bullets was 53-year-old peasant Gabino Hernández; Margarita López Martínez, 45; Cornelio López Martínez, 51; and Susana López Martínez, 18.  The group was lucky: they weren't found by the armed groups.

They didn't bring any food with them, because at that point they didn't have any.  They fled with only the clothing on their backs, which they still wear.  They left behind their houses, their huipiles, some animals, personal documents, family photographs, altars, mats, cooking utensils, domestic goods, clothing...

But what they mourn is intangible.  They have been expelled from the Chuman'a, as they call San Juan Copala, the Triquis' ceremonial center.  They are concerned for their saints [2], which are prisoners in the church, without the flowers and candles that sustain them.  Their voices crack when they count the years they lived there: 12, 20, 40, 80, according to their ages.  The women who were not born in San Juan, but married there, could forget their age or the year they were born, but they'll never forget the year they moved to San Juan Copala, nor the time that they lived there.

"There is hope that we'll return to San Juan Copala," says Cornelio López.  He had previously spoken strongly and firmly.  But now that he's talking about the Chuman'a, where he worked the land for almost 40 years, his voice cracks.

"First God," he adds with difficulty, "we don't know; God knows..."

From "loaned" homes, the displaced recount their stories and show their wounds.  Most of the time they talk through an interpreter.  The sadness and indignation are translated from Triqui to Spanish.  They explain how each group, each family, each individual managed to evade the paramilitaries.  All agree that the gunfire that kept them in their homes for almost ten months got worse on September 13, when the armed groups took over the town hall.

From there, they spread out day by day, until they occupied the whole town.  They attacked street by street, house by house.  They used a loadspeaker to order men and women to leave their homes and give themselves up; they warned that they would hang the autonomous municipal president, Jesús Martínez Flores, and the men in the community.  Some families began to leave town the next night.  Others decided to resist a few more days.

Those who began to leave and had the "bad luck" to be discovered by the paramilitaries were shot and subdued.  The women were raped, like 42-year-old Natalia Cruz Bautista, who was tortured and humiliated (they cut her hair, took off her clothes, and raped her), and Francisca de Jesús García (who managed to flee, but with a bullet wound in her right shoulder; she is now in danger of losing the arm).

Those who stayed for a few more days heard walls being torn down, plundering, and they saw the flames.  Angelina Ramírez Ortega, 71, was one of the last people to abandon San Juan Copala.  She witnessed the massacre of farm animals and pets, the shooting of houses where smoke from the kitchen gave away those who were resisting.  The woman left when the armed group occupied almost the entire town, on September 19.

She leans against the door of the house that is giving her shelter now.  Battered, she awaits the reporters' questions with skepticism, but respect.  Her grotesquely bruised and swollen left hand and arm stand out.  Her arm is broken at the elbow.  No doctor has examined her. 

She recounts that she left alone before dawn: she waited for the heaviest darkness.  It was raining.  She slipped in the mud and tumbled until she hit the bottom of a ravine.  She doesn't know how long she was unconscious.  The paramilitaries found her. 

Angelina Ramírez says that when she came to, Antonio "Toño Pájaro" Cruz, one of the leaders of UBISORT,  dragged her by her hair and pointed the barrel of a submachine gun at her head.  Thin with a wrinkled face and her white hair stained with blood, she begged him to spare her life.

Through an interpreter, the grandmother explains that she had no other choice but to tell Toño Pájaro that she was old, that she couldn't harm anybody, that she is a widow and that they had already wounded her granddaughters (Selene and Adela Ramírez, both shot; Adela has a bullet lodged in her spine that has paralyzed her).

Toño Pájaro told Angelina to never come back, that she stop thinking that she still has a house in San Juan Copala.  He promised her that if she tries to return or to tells anyone, that she will be killed.

Others didn't leave.  José González Cruz, María Juana Agustina (grandparents who are about 100 years old) and 17-year-old Sofía Martínez were trapped in their homes.  Their whereabouts remain unknown.

All of the displaced insist that one of the leaders of the group that attacked San Juan Copala is Antonio Cruz.  The other, they claim, is Amado Ortiz, from the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULT), from the El Rastrojo community.  They say that UBISORT barely has a dozen armed men, while MULT has an "uncountable" number of armed men.  They say that the majority of the gunmen come from the Rastrojo, Cieneguilla, and Coyuchi communities.  And that amongst the paramilitaries, there were some mestizos (mixed indigenous with Spanish decent) with balaclavas. 

MULT, in the voice of Heriberto Pazos Ortiz and in communiqués, has denied its participation in the occupation of San Juan Copala.

The sun comes up.  The fog begins to rise.  The brush and the plots of cultivated land are an intense green.  The hilly cornfields are yellow.  Clouds of smoke come out of the houses.  The women from Yosoyuxi toss corn tortillas on the griddles.  The displaced from San Juan Copala will eat with their families.    Everything is shared, even the pain.

There are 82 refugees in this community; another 94 are spread out over another four communities and in the cities of Oaxaca and Mexico.  And these are only those who left after September 7.  The total number of people exiled from San Juan Copala since the siege began on November 28, 2009, is over 800.

Since the Autonomous Municipality was founded, the armed groups have murdered at least 15 people and wounded 16.  Leaders of the autonomist movement are amongst the dead.  The region's highest leader, Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez, was executed along with his wife in his own home.  It was an operation that took six months to develop, with masked hitmen. 

The autonomous municipality came out of a MULT splinter group: the Independent Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULTI).  In mid-2006, Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez and the leaders of four other communities broke with the mestizo leadership of MULT, which is lead from Oaxaca City by Heriberto Pazos Ortiz [3].  In addition to the disagreements over the distribution of resources and over the "disciplinary" measures that MULT imposes, MULT created the Popular Unity Party [4].  The Triquis said they felt cheated, and they decided to not join the party.  Both groups accused each other of being traitors.  And the ambushes against those who broke off from MULT began.

In 2007, MULTI promoted the creation of an Autonomous Municipality, based in traditional indigenous governance practices.  They believed that in this way, the indigenous people could be freed from political organizations and parties.  MULTI said that it was willing to dissolve itself as an organization in order to make way for the autonomous government.  Some communities from UBISORT and some MULT members also embraced the autonomous project. 

The two traditional organizations, MULT and UBISORT, antagonists for so long, felt displaced and threatened.  Their leadership rejected the creation of the Autonomous Municipality. [5]

Political power isn't everything.  Federal and state resources [aid] isn't delivered directly to the communities.  Since the 1980s, the money is handed over to the organizations and they decide how to invest it in "their" communities.

In January 2007, San Juan Copala, Yosoyuxi, Paraje Pérez, Santa Cruz Tilapa, Guadalupe Tilapa, and Agua Fría named autonomous municipal authorities who were backed by their respected community assemblies: councils of elders, the mayordomo [a traditional Oaxacan leader chosen through public works], and traditional leaders from each community.

For almost two years, the autonomous project worked: the number of supporters and autonomous educational and health projects grew and took the place of the old projects.  The paramilitary siege began on November 28, 2009.  For almost ten months, residents lived under a state of siege.  The calls for help were not headed, and the paramilitary groups ended up occupying San Juan Copala.  The federal, state, and municipal governments left the Triquis who demanded autonomy to their own fate. 

According to supporters of the autonomous movement, the occupation of Copala was only possible thanks to the assassination of Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez, a great speaker in his Triqui language who enjoyed prestige, even amongst the opposing communities.  He was the highest traditional leader of seven communities and of MULTI.

"Autonomy will go on.  Love live Timo.  I promised Timo that I would give my life for autonomy.  And that's how it will be.  We will not kneel down before MULT or UBISORT," says Miguel Angel Velasco from another community that supports the autonomous movement and has given him shelter.

He explains that he left at the end: on the 19th, with five "little guys," his youngest children.  His adolescent children also left that day, but they took a different route: "If someone was going to have 'bad luck,' we hoped that they wouldn't get all of us."

One of those young men, 16-year-old Pablo Velasco Dorantes,  was wounded by a bullet in his left foot and hand.  Calmly, he explains that in the early hours of September 17, his house was attacked.  It seemed as though it was raining bullets.

In order to leave San Juan Copala, he walked, dragging his foot through 18 km of brush for over five hours.

"And they say that we should sit down and dialogue.  I don't know if you all would agree to dialogue if they run you out of your homes," says an indignant Felipa de Jesús Suárez, 44.

In the houses, the fire dies down but doesn't go out.  Yosoyuxi residents and guests put down straw mats and blankets for the night.  Some prefer to sleep in the backyard in the grass; others lay down with the dogs.

"Narit duini' iue (see you tomorrow)," they say before they stop talking.  Not everyone can get to sleep.

Murders in San Juan Copala Since The Founding of the
Autonomous Municipality
Date Name Age
April 7, 2008 Teresa Bautista Merino 24
Felícitas Martínez Sánchez 20
November 1, 2008 Héctor Antonio Ramírez Paz
November 29, 2009 Elías Fernández de Jesús 9
April 17, 2010 José Celestino Hernández Cruz
April 27, 2010 Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo
Jyri Jaakkola
May 20, 2010 Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez
Tleriberta Castro
August 21, 2010 Antonio Ramírez López 72
Antonio Cruz García 29
Rigoberto González 40
September 5, 2010 Pedro Santos Castro 31
September 18, 2010 David García Réyez 25
September 19, 2010 Paulino Ramírez Réyez 28

Translated by Kristin Bricker.

Translator's Notes:

1.  Amado Ortiz is a MULT leader from the Rastrojo community.  Antonio Cruz is an UBISORT leader whom the autonomous municipality has accused of personally committing various attacks on its supporters.
2.  It is common to put up altars to saints in Mexican homes and churches.  Believers leave offerings for the saints, such as flower, fruits, candles, bread, and alcohol.
3.  Heriberto Pazos Ortiz is not Triqui; he is from Oaxaca's coast.
4.  The Popular Unity Party is billed as the nation's first indigenous party.  However, its candidates are not Triqui; they're not even indigenous.  They have very light skin.
5.  Some UBISORT leaders embraced the formation of the autonomous municipality and left the group.  Here, the author refers to the leaders who stayed in the organization.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coup in Ecuador?

by Kristin Bricker, NACLA

On September 30, about 1,000 Ecuadoran national police officers took to the streets, blocking key intersections and taking over public space, in protest of a new law that eliminated their bonuses and other benefits.
Even though the protesting police represented a small fraction of the 42,000-member force, things quickly spun out of control. The police occupied Congress, helped shut down airports, and held Correa hostage in a hospital for more than 10 hours until an army Special Operations team rescued him. The unrest left 10 dead and 274 injured.
The police rebellion began after Correa used line-item vetoes to change certain parts of the Public Services Law, which reportedly aimed to streamline Ecuador’s public sector by doing away with certain bonuses and forcing many public servants into early retirement. The president’s line-item veto power is provided for under the country’s 2008 constitution, and the president has often used it to overrule Congress.
According to Edwin Bedoya, vice president of the Ecuadoran Federation of Unitarian Working Class Organizations (CEDOCUT), the version of the Public Services Law that Congress originally passed was crafted in negotiations between Correa’s Alianza PAIS party and public servants. “But we saw in the second round of voting that the president had vetoed the agreements and had gotten rid of certain workers’ rights,” Bedoya said. When Congress, including some members of Alianza PAIS, balked at Correa’s changes to the legislation, the president threatened to use his right to dissolve Congress to pass his version of the Public Services law.
But the ensuing rebellion, Correa and others have emphasized, was not a spontaneous uprising. While still being held hostage, Correa declared: “It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and the police.” Many Latin Americans, still rattled by the successful coup against leftist President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras last year, feared Correa would be next. Others argued that calling the unrest a “coup” is an exaggeration, or even that Correa kidnapped himself in order to increase his popularity and political power.
Yet the protests took place in at least four provinces in Ecuador, casting doubt on their spontaneity. And as Correapointed out, the protests were “coordinated with the closure . . . of the airport, coordinated with the attacks on the [state television’s] relay antennas, with the invasion of [government-owned] Ecuador TV’s studios,” and the police takeover of Congress.
Moreover, video footage of the striking police during the operation that freed Correa clearly demonstrates that the police were shooting to kill. Correa told the press that the armored vehicle that drove him away from the hospital wasshot multiple times.
While police held Correa hostage, former Ecuadoran president Lucio Gutiérrez—an outspoken critic of Correa—gave interviews from Brazil, hailing the police rebellion as a coup. “The end of Correa’s tyranny is at hand,” he said, and called for the “dissolution of parliament” and “early presidential elections.” Former president of Congress Alberto Acosta, a Correa supporter turned critic, reported that “ex-soldiers and ex-police, the very people that make up the fat of the Lucio’s party,” were seen in barracks in multiple cities. When police briefly occupied Congress, Acosta added, the representatives who are members of Gutiérrez’s Patriotic Society Party entered and exited freely, while members of other parties “had trouble entering.”
Both Correa and former National Police commander Freddy Martínez, who resigned after his failure to control his troops, argue that outside instigators infiltrated the police, misled police about his austerity measures in the Public Service Law, and provoked the uprising. Labor and indigenous organizations in Ecuador, however, have taken a more nuanced line. The police rebellion occurred, they argue, because Ecuador’s right wing is taking advantage of weaknesses created by Correa’s alienating governing style. Although they opposed any coup attempt and demanded that constitutional order be respected, they also criticized Correa for marginalizing his natural allies in the social movements and leaving himself vulnerable to attacks from the right.
A joint statement from four of Ecuador’s largest indigenous organizations rejected the “right-wing’s actions that in an undercover way form part of the attempted coup” and called upon its members to “be on alert and ready to mobilize.” However, the statement criticizes the Correa administration for violently repressing mobilizations against transnational mining, oil, and agro-industrial companies. The organizations argued, “The social crisis that was let loose today was also provoked by the authoritarian character and the unwillingness to dialogue in the lawmaking process. We have seen how laws that were negotiated [with social sectors] were vetoed by the President of the Republic. . . . This scenario nurtures the conservative sectors.”
Labor leader Bedoya says that on September 30, the CEDOCUT called on all sectors to hit the streets to restore constitutional order. However, like his country’s indigenous organizations, he qualified his organization’s defense of Correa: “We do believe that part of the blame for what is happening lies with not accepting dialogue with social sectors.”
Acosta, who co-founded the Alianza PAIS with Correa, echoed this. “The president and his government don’t know how to dialogue,” he said. “They impose their laws, without even respecting the criteria of the assembly members of their own block.”
Even worse, argued indigenous organizations on the day of the coup, the Correa administration has repressed them just as right-wing governments have. “Faced with the criticism and mobilization of communities against transnational mining, oil, and agro-industrial companies,” wrote the CONAIE, the ECUARUNARI, the CONFENIAE, and CONAICE, “the government, instead of creating a dialogue, responds with violence and repression. . . . The only thing this type of politics provokes is to open spaces to the Right and create spaces of destabilization.”
Bedoya shares this analysis: “Of course the right takes advantage of this, and takes advantage of the most powerful sector, which is the national police and the military, and it begins to sow discontent . . . but the government’s behavior is making that possible.”
Acosta hopes that his former ally will learn from the police rebellion. “History has given to President Correa, once again, the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the origins of the revolutionary process, to rectify. Hopefully he understands it that way.”
“A Citizens’ Revolution,” argued Bedoya, “implies a respect for the rights of all people, of the workers, of organizations’ collective rights, and to establish a dialogue to reach a minimum consensus with the social sectors.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spain's Under Attack

by Kristin Bricker

[Scroll down for English text of sign-on letter.]

Barcelona City Council member Assumpta Escarp has publicly threatened to begin legal action to close Spanish websites that she believes are "justifying violence," a crime under Spanish law. One of the sites she specifically mentions is Kaos en la Red, a website where I publish my articles in Spanish.

Escarp's statements come in the midst of a Spanish media campaign against Kaos en la Red. One recent television "news" report links Kaos en la Red to riots and "urban guerrilla warfare." The news report argued that Kaos en la Red and other websites help Europe's "anarchist triangle" (Spain, Italy, and Greece) coordinate and organize protests.

Kaos en la Red ( is an open-publishing independent media website that is managed by an editorial collective. Articles are filtered through three layers (main page, region/topic page, and open publishing newswire) based on popularity and content. Kaos en la Red argues that, like YouTube, it is an intermediary that allows users to publish content to the web. A Spanish court recently ruled that as an intermediary, YouTube is not legally required to vet and censor material before it is published. Both YouTube and Kaos en la Red remove content that users flag as potentially illegal.

Kaos en la Red is a vital source of information for Spanish speakers all over the world. Users publish news from Spain in both castellano (commonly known outside of Spain as "Spanish") and Catalan (another Spanish language). Kaos en la Red also carries news from the Basque Country in both Spanish languages and Euskara, the language spoken in Basque Country. Kaos en la Red is an important tool for Basques and Basque supporters to denounce the Spanish government's persistent human rights violations and use of torture in Basque Country, one of the many reasons the website is a particularly uncomfortable media outlet for the Spanish government.

Readers all over Latin America, particularly those in México, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Venezuela, turn to Kaos en la Red as one of their primary sources of news and analysis about issues that affect them and their fellow anti-capitalists. That is why I publish my Spanish articles in Kaos: when I ask Mexican activists where they get their news, they always mention Kaos en la Red.

Kaos en la Red is not a threat to the Spanish State because it is an "apologist for violence." Kaos en la Red is a threat because it is an important source of information for anti-capitalists all over the world. And it is precisely for this reason that we must defend it.

I, along with hundreds of other journalists, academics, workers, activists, and organizations, signed the letter below in support of Kaos en la Red, and I urge you to do the same. The letter will be presented at a press conference in Barcelona on October 14.

We are all kaosenlared! No to the criminalization of freedom of expression and opinion

Faced with the constant criminalization of communications media and alternative social movements, and following the Barcelona City Council's petition requesting that the public prosecutor's office evaluate the possibility of opening up a criminal investigation against and other alternative media with the goal of investigating said websites' alleged justifications for violence, we the undersigned wish to express the following:

1. has always maintained a strict posture without inciting any violence in its reporting of information, which has turned it into a communications media that is vital for the dissemination of information published by different authors through its Open Publishing system, as well as by members of its team of collaborators (well-known people from a range of leftist schools of thought from all over the world). This makes an alternative, plural, free, and truthful communications media that never, under any circumstances, protects or promotes any form of violence.

2. In the era of information, Internet, informative globalization, and the proliferation of the so-called fourth generation war--the media war--, the dominant classes are once again trying to criminalize the popular classes' alternative information.

3. We believe that this action is part of a bigger campaign whose ultimate goal is to criminalize social movements--the social movements to whom alternative media gives a voice and a space which is denied to them by the norms of the communications media that are controlled by the lords of the world: capital and the bourgeoisie.

4. The silencing of alternative opinions and of the people who struggle for a better world is evident; one only needs to analyze how those media outlets report any alternative position. Or even how social movements' communiques aren't even published in those media outlets.

5. The communications media that are at the service of the popular and working classes demand peace. Peace which is indivisibly linked to social justice. The people's objectives have absolutely nothing to do with the monstrous pantomimes that we live every day, sustained over a socio-economic structure of submission and modern-day slavery.

6. The leftist anti-capitalist struggle, submerged in labor and social precarity and police and judicial harrassment, needs means of communication against hegemonic power. It is a fundamental part of our right to freedom of expression and organization. A democratic and human right which no civilized person can deny.

7. If and other alternative media were closed, this would violate all Spanish and international law regarding freedom of expression. This legislation holds the articles' authors responsible for imputable acts, not the media that serves as a simple transmission mechanism. There is absolutely no basis for judicial action against the alternative media. "Justifying violence" is only a crime under Spanish Penal Code if it is done for racist, anti-semitic, or ideological reasons (Article 510 of the Penal Code). is exemplary in the defense of minority rights and respect for all democratic ideologies.

8. We express our solidarity and support for and the rest of the alternative media that have been singled out over the past few days, as well as our profound unease over this new attack on freedom of expression.

9. We, the people who work in, write in, and read kaosenlared are against the criminalization of alternative communications media and social movements.

10. Our struggle lies in the battle of ideas and for professional and alternative information. We know no weapon other than the word, reasoned arguments, and critical thinking. We are peaceful people.


To sign on to this manifesto in support of Kaosenlared and freedom of expression and opinion, send your name, country, and profession to

We gratefully request that all of the compañeros and compañeras, readers, and users of Kaosenlared disseminate this manifesto.


[To see the full and updated list of signers, please see the Spanish version of the manifesto in Kaosenlared]