<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Marcos, Between the Garbage of Tamaulipas: “Calderón Will Not Finish His Six Years”

Delegate Zero Asks the Press to Take Pictures of Blanca Navidad and Ask, “How is it Just that a Worker and His Family Live Like This?”


By Murielle Coppin
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Tamaulipas

December 15, 2006

November 21st, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas: The odometer on the Zapa-bus hit 9000 kilometers (from its exit from the DF on October 7th for the second stage of The Other Campaign) upon arriving in Tamaulipas, the final of the 32 states visited by Delegate Zero and The Other Campaign in its search for the truthful words of people “from below” and their daily struggle to better their conditions of living.


Photo: DR 2006, Alice Serena
Huge hotels such as Best Western, Holiday Inn, Camino Real flirt with the National Highway that goes to Nuevo Laredo, a modern and industrial border city. Chains of fast food – Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken – join together conveniently in a gigantic commercial plaza where they stare at the hungry. Between the auto malls of Dodge, Mitsubishi, General Motors and Volkswagen lies hidden a drab cemetery. The Silverado Rodeo apparently conquered the traditional jaripeos and bull fighting stadiums. Thousands of the trailers and packing containers are nicely lined up waiting for their first – or their nth – trip to the United States, a waste. The police control around Delegate Zero and the Caravan intensifies. Apart from the uniformed police, some suspicious “citizens” walk around, observing. Their light armored trucks and 10 cm thick gold bracelets show that they are most likely narcos. In fact, the two cartels in the border state of Tamaulipas, that of Osiel Cárdenas and that of Golgo, hold more influence in daily life than do the local authorities and businessmen.

The bus stops along a green little cross, one of the many scattered along the border highway, honoring the many who have died. Only eight meters down shines the Río Bravo. Accompanied by Martha Ojeda, a representative of the Coalition of Maquiladoras for Justice, the group painfully ventures down and stops at one of the eight fetid dump sites. The unbearable smell causes Delegate Zero and other visitors to plug their noses. Surprised by the commotion, some of the distracted drivers barely escape an accident. In this place the black waters from the industrial park of the maquiladoras, Finsa (with such multinationals as Sony, Catterpilar, Teleflex), are dumped into the river which ends up in the Gulf. The water treatment plant built by the government only processes organic wastes and not chemical toxins.


Photo: DR 2006, Anna Mauri
Now thirteen years old, the Free Trade Agreement not only tripled production in Nuevo Laredo, but also tripled the wastes from the factories. They have completely destroyed the fauna and flora and, worse, negatively affect the public health. Cancer risk, allergies and skin diseases have increased in a worrisome way in this border zone. Many babies are born with anencephalia and mental retardation. Martha sighs and says, “The deaths are not reflected in export figures. Since there is only one dump site (for many maquiladoras) we cannot blame a single one.” The decentralization of environmental law makes it so that the problem is passed into the hands of the municipalities, who are incompetent with these issues.

Martha explains, sarcastically: “It’s one of the prices to be paid for development, a gift that the FTA has left us,” this “gift” being a development supported by special government programs to attract companies to México. Martha clarifies: “Different states compete for these companies: they give them free energy, water, no taxes, they train people for three months so that they can fully produce the conditions for generating employees… but what they generate is death.”


Photo: DR 2006, Alice Serena
The treacherous river appears tranquil. For this reason, many Mexicans try their luck and attempt to cross the waters at this place, unaware of the currents and toxins that threaten their lives during the passage that will take them from one disgrace to another. Martha says: “If you pass this [many suffocate], then you face the ‘Calvary of Fire’ [in the US]. There is a lot of persecution and racism there.”

Many never succeed in crossing the border or have been kicked out [from the US] after doing so. Some of them settle in the border zone because of work opportunities found in the maqualidoras. Their starving wages obligate them to occupy lands where they can only construct huts. Blanca Navidad (White Christmas) is one such settlement, today hosting Delegate Zero and the caravan. Some 400 families share the space which lies close to one of the garbage dumps. The connotations of peace, tranquility and snow, evoked by the name of the settlement, sound ironic with the sun’s intensity, the extreme misery, the injustice, the abuse of power and violence that is suffered by its inhabitants on a daily basis.

On December 22, 2004 the settlers came to occupy this inhospitable land. Little by little and by together saving some money, at the end of the month they build their wooden houses. After one year of tolerance, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party in its Spanish initials) mayor, Daniel Perez Treviño, declared the settlement illegal. He proposed to the settlers that they should buy a piece of land in one of the territorial reserves, which would have been impossible for economic reasons. On the 1st and 2nd days of February, 2005 the mayor sent bulldozers to destroy a block of 20 to 30 houses in Blanca Navidad. Some houses were burned with all of the belongings still inside, amongst which were the blankets and toys that the president himself gave to them as presents for Christmas a few months prior.

Rosy (pseudonym) said, “When I came back from work, there was already nothing left of my house. It took one year to build it, they tore apart and destroyed everything. My stove, my dishes, my food, my papers, amongst which were my birth certificate and my high school diploma. They took my gas tank, I could not recover anything. I came here because my husband left me. I am a single mother to four children.” In this aggressive displacement there were also various deaths. One elderly woman died of a heart attack, a youth was shot for trying to defend himself, three children were burnt alive in their own home, many were detained and jailed and women were beaten. “It looked like a war,” said Rosy.


Photo: DR 2006, Anna Mauri
A couple days after the violence, the settlers organized a rally in Nuevo Laredo to demand an explanation from the mayor. One settler stated: “Many people came to support us with clothing and food, lunch, tacos. We made barricades because the patrols came, as if we were drug dealers, and we were surrounded.” One year later, the response of the mayor remains pending. “Why did he first allow us to live here for a year and then say that we had to go?” sighs Rosy.

Spontaneously, three other women were directed by a reporter to tell their stories. They are no longer afraid, they are fed up with the situation and need to release their tension. A person such as Subcomandante Marcos, who explicitly comes to their settlement to get to know their reality, is welcomed with open arms. Hundreds of settlers congregate around the charismatic spokesperson of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation in its Spanish initials). It’s not surprising that the majority of them are women. In an ultra-neoliberal and macho country such as México, they are the most vulnerable elements. Many have been abandoned by their husbands “for someone more beautiful,” they say. There is no other way for a good life.

The young women work in one of the many maquiladoras. If they are older than 35 years they aren’t given work. Rosy sells shampoos, medicine and bread that she makes herself, here in the colony. Juana, an older woman, sells second hand clothes and toys. Others are sex workers. All search for a way to survive. Going out to work becomes a risky activity not only because of the dangerous working conditions, but also because at any moment the police can come to your house and search it. The threats to evict them continue. Two days prior to the arrival of the “Sup” (Subcomandante Marcos), other houses were burned to intimidate them. They knew that there was going to be a movement and that the people are organizing.


Photo: DR 2006, Martina Morazzi
A lawyer comes to the platform and begins speaking. He explains with a certain arrogance that the third judge granted the suspension of the order. “Trust us… it is a long process… but we have already found several shelters. We are professionals, we must live also.” Ironic laughter answers him. A woman whispers, “Lies. The lawyers come to give help but don’t do anything, they come threatening that if we don’t give them 500 pesos for the shelter, they will evict us. For what? We have no light, no electricity. We don’t bother anyone.”

Marcos asked the press: “I ask you to take photos and videos and to tell me, ‘How is just that a worker and his family live like this?’, working more than 8 hours a day for 50 pesos. Then take a picture of the mayor’s and governor’s houses, or Vincente Fox and Martha Sahagún’s ranches. And we ask, how much time have they worked? They haven’t done anything for six years except go on television saying stupid things, and getting on their knees in front of Bush. Look at the house of the owner of Sony, who brings his poisonous industry to this side because he is not allowed to on the other side.”

Delegate Zero continues his speech, denouncing the differences between the rich and the poor: “When a rich man goes to live, first they put the house, the street, the garden, the light, sewage, telephone and then he goes to live. And the working people, when they come, there is nothing. With pieces of carton and wood they make their little home. Then they must fight so that they can obtain a sewer system, electricity, water… and then they are evicted because they are illegal.”


Photo: DR 2006, Murielle Coppin
He finishes with a call to unite the North and the South in a “civil and peaceful movement, as in 1920 but with no arms. We rise together at the same time. We strike down the politicals at one time…we will make them fall. Calderón will not finish his six years in office. The past elections were the final ones in this country with this political class.” What Marcos proposes is something different, a true democracy in which “the mayor obeys instead of giving orders” and in which “the minimum salary is 800 pesos, instead of 40,” in which “the maquila workers are the owners.” He convinces the excited people by saying, “we are more, we have more strength.”

Promising that “Blanca Navidad will never be alone again,” Delegado Zero and the Caravan left the settlement to travel to the meeting of adherents – and most importantly with ex-workers from the maquiladoras – of the Other Campaign. Rosy murmurs, “You must be very careful because there are many levantones,” a type of “express-kidnapping” in which some armed mafiosos grab their enemies to take revenge on them, or even innocent people, and kill them, or simply take their money.

Originally published Decemeber 5 in Spanish

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America