Machetes in the Air
“Now is the time to prove whether the self-appointed adherents to the Other Campaign are able to respond”
By Alberto Híjar
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Mexico City
May 5, 2006
The brand-new press division of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land wrote in the second edition of its newspaper, in April, about “how to break through a wall of police.” On April 6, the article says, 100 machete-wielding farmers, or macheteros, from Atenco found themselves “ no circunvalados, sino circunBALADOS,” a play on words meaning “not surrounded, but shot at from all sides.” The photos show a criminal bodyguard with a firecracker tied around his waist. He was trying to contain a protest against the closure of a school for handicapped children in the municipality of Papalotla. Three of the students participated in a self defense contingent along with neighbors from Jolalpa, Santa Catarina, Cuatlinchan, Mexquipayac, Acuexcomac, Tezoyuca, La Puri and, of course, from Papalotla and Atenco. A contingent from the Independent University of Chapingo also joined the protest, and after five hours of confrontation, at 6:45 p.m., riot and civilian police and police pulled back. The highway in Acuexcomac and Atenco was closed.
Such has been the tone of frequent confrontations in the Texcoco region, set off by the organized inhabitants of San Salvador Atenco. The people of Atenco are now accustomed to responding to those who count on them to repel forces of the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) government. The newspaper, El Aventador, has as its motto ”the breeze that sets the crowd on fire,“ and prints, after an official communiqué from the Sixth Commission and from Delegate Zero in particular, that “the movement spiraling up from this great grouping (the FPDT) that has defended retailers of different kinds, like the flower vendors from the Belisario Dominguez Market in Texcoco or other merchants who sell their goods on public streets.” One article is called “Flowers against pistols,” the account of the attack on the resistant flower vendors by eighty PRD police officers. The confrontation, initiated at 4:00 a.m. on April 6, followed the attack by 500 riot police, sent by the state secretary of the interior, on flower vendors that had been going on for five days. Before help from Atenco arrived, the flower vendor mobilization repelled the attack until “the women with their machetes hung on their shoulders could sell their fresh merchandise”. The corrupt executive board of the vendors’ union ended up in hiding in an office as a result of the important popular revolt.
But after Delegate Zero’s recognition of the members of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land, calling them his “older bothers,” and after touring the hectares of cultivated land that exist thanks to the opposition to the construction of the airport, and under constant and effective guard, the people of Atenco were placed in charge of Delegate Zero’s security. They also appeared at dangerous moments, such as in Cuernavaca where activists were trapped until the combative macheteros broke through the encirclement. Delegate Zero also recalled the struggle of Gloria Arenas Agís, currently serving a 49-year, 6-month sentence in Chiconautla, During an Other Campaign demonstration in front of the jail to request that she and husband Jacobo Silva Walnuts not be given the maximum sentence, Gloria passed a paper through a hole ten centimeters wide sealed window which read, P. P. FREEDOM, meaning, free political prisoners, in an act of solidarity with the Other Campaign.
Now, on May 3, the news is terrible. A young boy, 14 years old, died when a police teargas grenade exploded in his chest. At least three people from Atenco have been kidnapped; there have been injuries on both sides; the Texcoco-Dairy highway remains closed; and a gas pipe is on the verge of being blown up to repel the brutal and excessive police aggression. At least four hostages have been released, in order to encourage negotiations that will win the unconditional freedom of those that have been attacked.
The popular self-defense movement achieves through these events a level of organization that the state can only respond to through force. The lesson is about repressive power and the criminalization of popular movements, disguised as defense of the democratic “state of law” that in reality obviously does not exist. The government is building an ominous future for Atenco with the assassination of miners, the lack of attention and arrogance in the face of those who died at Pasta de Conchos, and in the frequent attacks against the popular resistance to the plundering privatization proponents associated with the government who are all equal in their positions against the people, as demonstrated by their generous government funding of political parties that are themselves, in fact, companies that serve the powerful businesses focused on globalization and privatization.
“Because the color of the money is never forgotten” was the slogan most heard on May 1, and it was appreciated by those who remember the Salvadoran slogan “Because the color of blood is never forgotten, the massacred ones will be avenged”. The denunciation of political parties registered and financed by the state was ironic, and cemented the growing and popular sentiment to fight state brutality by any means necessary.
What is apparent is that the path of resistance that this produces, is not a purely peasent one because it brings together the hatred of those who used all the State’s resources to construct an airport to benefit big business and their associates in the government of businessmen and for businessmen, as Vicente Fox defined it in his first visit to the United States. The unequal development of the flower vendors, the self-employed bus and tax drivers, the teachers and student — all placed in a precarious position by the lack of state attention given to the most pressing needs of the people — has led, thanks to police, military, and paramilitary brutality and a corrupt legal system, to an organization on the rise, of those who have said enough, and have decided to act in a way reminiscent of the prelude to the Second Declaration of Havana in 1961.
The EZLN’s 1994 cry of “enough” has in the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land its clearest evidence of a process that is not turning back. The fifteen hostages, who at 7 p.m. on May 3, remain in the emblematic Emiliano Zapata auditorium of San Salvador Atenco, are the guarantee of a fair negotiation of power that has found form in the pain for the fallen ones, a departure point of construction of a town fighting and transitioning to a position of power where the political parties and the government institutions only count as enemies. It will be necessary to see if the insurrection and the overthrow proposed by Delegate Zero are viable, or if structures will need to be built among the people, to fight the long-term battle to destroy capitalist barbarism. The attack on leader Nacho del Valle’s house indicates that the government is resorting to striking organizational heads in order to kill the movements, as well as maintaining a media campaign of criminalization and government declarations on law and order in the same indignant and hypocritical tone used by president of the Republic, the Secretary of the Labor and the Secretary of the Interior as well as the president’s spokesman.
Now is the time to prove whether the self-appointed adherents to the Other Campaign are able to respond. Delegate Zero’s May 3 proposal in the meeting at Tlaltelolco, to go immediately to Atenco, was impossible to fulfill because of the military encirclement and the Texcoco highway closures. This is all about war maneuvers.
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