Mexico Denies Visas to Evo Morales and other World Leaders
“Muchísima Policía” at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Meeting in Cancún
By Noah Friedsky
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
September 7, 2003
SEPTEMBER 7, 2003; CANCÚN, QUINTANA ROO, MÉXICO: Two days before the protests officially begin, I was welcomed to Cancun by a kind of repression tourism. Actually the airport was free of any dangerous looking hippies or black-bloc anarchists, and the police presence was minimal. The steady stream of expectant tourists anxious to reach their air-conditioned rooms flowed as usual.
If you don’t know Cancun, it is a place divided into the Hotel Zone, an unmatched strip of endless luxury hotels, bars, beaches and Downtown Cancun, a very new city that’s grown to service the tourist industry. Only one road links the 2 distinct worlds—thus a perfect place for the WTO, as they only have to block protesters on one road.
On the hotel-drop van from the airport, the start of the hotel strip seemed quite normal: bronzed, scantily clad bodies wandering about their hotels, each bigger and gaudier than the last. The beach paradise known worldwide was very much intact…turquoise waters, blazing sun, a nice breeze. It was almost hard to notice the navy battleships idling not far off the coast. And if you didn’t know about the no-fly zone, you would have thought it was just a lazy afternoon sky. But as we rolled closer to town, there was no ignoring truck after truck of military patrols. In between them you could spot a few billboards thanking Telmex for being the communications provider for the WTO conference and welcoming the delegates to beautiful Cancun.
The driver/tour guide pointed to the very-buff men dressed in white, pretending to clean the streets, explaining that they are undercover cops. Block after block, he explained to the tourists en route to their beach vacation, that on the streetlamps are hidden video cameras. He explained that the globo-phobes (the locals’ name for anti-globalization activists) are “sleeping all over town, in encampments, but that most haven’t arrived yet, they are still in Italy.” But he said, all the police have arrived, from virtually every state in Mexico. As we passed the first run down, rain-stained building, he said it was the policemen’s dorm for the week.
But the real security began when we neared the Camino Real and the Hilton, where the World Trade Organization (WTO ) will make its decisions. The police and military patrols were replaced by men-in-suits patrols. The temporary metal walls, some already erected, were mostly lying in piles. The driver said simply, “muchísima policía.” And at Cancun point where the hotel district meets the road for downtown, there was nothing for him to stay. Tourists went about their drinking and carousing outside Planet Hollywood, amid a three-ring circus of surveillance, security, and weaponry.
Back in the offices of the capital, and all the way in Washington DC, Mexican government officials were taking even tighter precautions. The office of Foreign Relations, led by Luis Ernesto Derbez who was visiting Washington yesterday, denied peasant leaders from Bolivia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Cuba, Thailand, India, and Haití visas to enter Mexico. Wanting to voice their concerns about the agricultural trade policies the WTO will set, campesino groups from across Latin America had taken great pains to fulfill the requirements for a visa to come to Cancun. But 38 leaders including Evo Morales, the indigenous candidate who finished second in Bolivia’s last Presidential Election were denied entry to Mexico. It seems that with Rigoberta Menchu on the speaker list, the quota for one indigenous leader is full. This is the spruced-up face of the new, “more inclusive and democratic” WTO: if you lead a successful social movement, you are not even allowed on the perimeter.
It seems Mexico is worried about terrorists making trouble in Cancun. It would be interesting to see the prospective “terrorists” go to trial in front of a truly independent judge. In the streets we have Evo Morales, whose main alleged offense has been as “the intellectual author of violence.” He has frequently called for roadblocks in his native Bolivia. Met with tear gas, helicopters and machine guns, his rock-carrying followers have been involved in bloody confrontations with police. Businessmen have sued him for lost business due to roadblocks. In the hotels, we have an organization of highly paid men who for years have argued that the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies are more important than providing cheap generic drugs to millions of Brazilians and Africans dying of AIDS. The lost business—caused by their unequal trade policies—translates into hundreds of millions of farmers struggling to feed themselves. It is true that in the coming week we will see pictures of protestors involved in physical confrontations with the legal authorities. But in the Camino Real, while the economists sign off on “improved” trade deals, what we won’t see are the faces of the millions of people dying of hunger and preventable illnesses while waiting for balanced and humane trade. Perhaps one day, Evo Morales will be able to refuse the WTO officials a Visa to enter his country.
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