Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Galeano Quotes from We Say No

"I am a writer who would like to imagine the future rather than accept it: a hunter of scattered voices, lost and true."

"When Black slaves escaped from the plantations of Surinam in the seventeenth century, the women filled their luxurious tresses with seeds. When they arrived in the jungle, they shook their heads to fertilize the free land."

"The dry grass will set fire to the damp grass." - Ancient African proverb.

"After all, community, the community-based mode of production and life, stubbornly heralds another possible America. This prophetic voice speaks from the most ancient of times, and still resounds despite five centuries of attempts to impose an obligatory silence. Community is the oldest and the most obstinate of all American traditions. As much as it pains those who decry socialism as a foreign notion, our deepest roots are in community: communal property, communal labor, shared lives, lives based on solidarity. Private property, on the other hand, a way of life and work based on greed and selfishness, is indeed an import, brought by the conquistadores since 1492."

"Our collective memory remains stubbornly alive: a thousand times slain, a thousand times reborn in the hiding places where she licks her wounds."

Eduardo Galeano.

Quote of the Day - March 17th, 2010

"We say no to the neutrality of the human word. We say no to those who invite us to wash our hands of the crucifixions we witness daily." - Eduardo Galeano.

"Progress to those who see the light, charity to those who tremble at its rays." - Jose Marti.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Second Brainstorm for the Chico Mendes Justice and Sustainability Tour!

A great example occurred to me the other day as I was watching the news on Democracy Now! An Iraqi artist/activist named Waafa Bilal has tattooed his back with the names of Iraqi cities, 5000 red dots representing dead American soldiers, and 100,000 dots in invisible ink representing dead Iraqis. He has done this in an attempt to display the devastation in human life caused by war, in this case the Iraq War, but war in general yields the same results.

I can relate to this, I love what he is doing, to make sacrifices, to carry out an action with some fanatical passion, which is often a good thing, to put on a manifestation loaded with emotional and ideological significance, with nothing to hide, nothing to colorcast in moderation, and everything to expose. We have to express the part of ourselves that makes us want to martyr ourselves. Only negative people wrongly assume that extreme actions are always bad. When people don't listen, it helps to do something tremendous to get their attention. Its also a matter of personal contribution, its not enough for me to do average deeds. I have a need, in my life, to do something epic and extreme to get a point across. This will be my masterpiece of expression and contribution to the struggle for social justice and Revolutionary change.


A small detail which I can add to the tour itself is that I would welcome friends and companeros to join me for the tour, in its entirety or in parts.

The fundraising and awareness work will take place in large part before departure, building links for endorsements and sponsors will be carried out in the next year to year and a half. Sponsors will eventually figure important, but the first order of business will be to get as many endorsers on board as possible to strengthen the campaign.

After departure, fundraising and hopefully awareness events also will continue with a domestic administration team charged with making sure that everything is running smoothly and positively on the North America end of things.

Perhaps a lot of these ideas right now seem broad and unpolished, but that is the goal of the brainstorms, to keep on building and perfecting the campaign. No more ideas for the immediate. The next steps will be to begin networking for endorsements.

The various countries I will be going through, the various stops, and various communities will cumulatively add as a collection of experiences to the weight and momentum of the tour.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Expansion of Mexico's Neoliberal Sphere

First published in America Latina Community Newspaper March 2010.

On the night of October 10th, 2009, a joint force of military and police hopped the walls and seized the buildings of Luz y Fuerza del Centro (Central Light and Power). Luz y Fuerza is the public company which has provided electricity to 25 million people for decades in Mexico City and surrounding areas in the center of the country. A few hours later the Electrical Workers Union (SME) in charge of Luz Y Fuerza, one of Mexico’s most independent, democratic, and militant was abruptly liquidated by decree in the middle of the night.

Simultaneously, 44,000 workers, most of whom belonged to the SME, amidst one of the worst economic crises in Mexican history, were put out of work. Mexico, along with Colombia and Peru, is one of the countries in Latin American most adherent to Washington’s wishes, and this decree is right in line with the neoliberal policies of the PAN (National Action Party) government of Felipe Calderon and predecessor Vincente Fox. This brazen neoliberal attack to overtake a public resource by military force, was quite simply a move to replace a democratic, progressive union, with a bureaucratic, conservative one, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) which for years has made gradual moves towards privatization. In Latin America there is a strong history of neoliberal policies leading to mass privatization to go along with mainly U.S. brokered free trade agreements.

In Mexico, a country where unions are notably strong and represent significant political leverage, the SME has a rich history of community involvement and solidarity with popular organizations and social movements, and for years has generated challenges for right-wing governments. Amongst other initiatives and campaigns, the SME installed power lines for Zapatista communities in the jungle state of Chiapas in the 1990s, in the 1980s they helped earthquake victims with rebuilding efforts in the working-class communities of Mexico City, and shut off power in the city in support of striking university students. They have also done various other types of solidarity work with campesino organizations and student groups, and have exchanged reciprocal support with the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO).

But even aside from its extracurricular solidarity work, the SME’s biggest crime may have been simply being a fully democratic, effective union, winning living wages and job security for its employees through strong collective-bargaining negotiations, resisting privatization, and not being aligned with the ruling political class.

Now nearly five months removed from the initial events the people of Mexico City have decided to fight back. As early as January and February a campaign has been launched in the capital entitled the No Pague!, Do Not Pay!, where consumers have pledged to withhold payment on their electrical bills until the 18,000 or so SME workers who have not accepted severance packages are rehired. Secondly the campaign demands a freeze on electricity rates, and lastly and very importantly, a halt to the privatization of all energy resources. Typically public services after privatization tend to see ludicrous price hikes and a significant drop off in consistency and quality of service. This has definitely been the case since the takeover of Luz Y Fuerza, especially with service and repairs neglected in working-class neighborhoods, and consumers have no contract legally binding them to payment of services with the CFE. Rates have more than doubled since October under CFE management.

Customarily, the justification or pretext for the takeover of public companies such as this one, is that they allegedly suffer from inefficient management or production, and the aims are clear; to charge more for services, and to maximize returns by outsourcing to private contractors staffed by low-wage, non-union workers, which is also the case with Luz Y Fuerza which is now being dissected in similar fashion.

What has transpired in Mexico City with this generous, progressive, and benevolent union is not a minor occurrence that can be allowed to be forgotten quickly or easily, it is a very blatant and serious violation on the democratic rights of workers and families. As much as the resistance efforts in Mexico, it is also the responsibility of the Latin American Solidarity and Labor community here in Canada to make sure that the truth is revealed about the agenda, and values of the ruling politicians in Mexico City.