Two marches , divided leaders, united peoples

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Yesterday was the big march which was supposed to be the only co-ordinated effort between the different alternative spaces here in Cancun, but unfortunately 24 hours before, according to Dialogo Climatico Via Campesina decided to not march with them and do their own route.  We were all terribly distraught, sad and angry by the news! We didn’t really get a clear explanation as to what the differences were, but rumour has it, that it’s mostly  a history of old divisions between networks and groups here in Mexico which infuriated us the general participants all the more…..how could these national issues between organisations be put in the way of such an internationally important event!!! But, that’s the context of these lands and in some strange way, we had to accept it, if not really understand or repect their decision.

On a practical level , it was explained to us by some of those in the Dialogo Climatico(DC), that the two groups disagreed on the marching distances.  Dialogo Climatico marched 10km yesterday around the centre of Cancun as far as the start of the hotel zone, while Via Campesina and Anti-cop marched about 20km as far as the start of the red zone where the first police blockades are.  With a the heat here in Cancún, DC did not see it as wise to march for so long especially with children and older people in our ranks, with possiblilities of conflicts at the police barriers, which still were 10km from the Moon Palace where the official COP16 is being held. However, word through the grape vine has it that the divisions are stronger than this…..that Via Campesina has openly criticised Dialogo Climatico and some other alternative spaces for ‘selling out’ to the green capitalist solutions being offered at COP16 via REDD+ and green technology transfer mechanisms. These basically opens up new green markets of selling our forests, rivers and who knows what else in the near future! I for one have heard most organisations here at DC speak very strongly against REDD+ but like I mentioned before, Greenpeace and Oxfam are seeing this as a good interim solution, which I see as a fatal mistake! Hence, as Greenpeace and Oxfam are involved in DC, the entire other lot of hundreds of participants and groups have been bad-mouthed by Via Campesina Mexico. Yet Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) and Via Campesina International have strong alliances which leaves FOEI is a precarious position of trying to attend both spaces.

Our Chiapas Caravana had a long heart-felt discussion the night before, about the division in the march and it was really inspiring to hear what many campesinos, activists and indigenous people had to say who had travelled so far to this event..not just Chiapas, but from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, not to mention many foreigners from Europe mainly (though some are travellers in these parts at the moment).  Those who spoke voiced their reasons for coming and that we shouldn’t get overwhelmed by these divisions, that we should transcend them, and remember our common cause and common ground between us.  Despite there being this division, we should be bigger than these supposed leaders that caused the split, and continue with our march with conviction.  And so we did…..

What really pained  some of us though, is that there seems to have been  little communication about the different working groups in the DC on who decides what. There’s been hardly any open decision-making meetings where all the participants can attend…..but not necessarily out of a lack willingness to let everyone participate, but more perhaps out of a lack of people behind the scenes putting in the hard slog.  The core group who put this together, despite the many-named groups on the webpage were very few and worked very hard to get this space together for the past year.  However, there seems to have been a big oversight in my view, in not creating a daily space for the participants to take decisions together…..how does one do this with a few thousand participants though? I think it is possible like I’ve seen done at UK Climate Camps.  Is it down partly to lack of experience of the organisers in being unfamiliar with non-hierarchical structures for organising? Moreso I think it’s the context we find ourselves in.  Grassroots Latin America in what I am seeing here at CO16 has a very different history to us in Europe to state the obvious.  Not only in the organisation but also in the talk styles that are taking place, I feel things are very much in an old-socialist school mode….big long speeches which can be inspiring, but incredibly non-participative, and quite repetitive.  Not only are the leaders unfamiliar with more participative techniques, but also the participants, so having efficient spokes meetings like one might have in Europe, isn’t something that people can learn over night.  It frustrates me endlessly, but there’s something to be learnt in this too. And how people organise and communicate is something I’m passionate about.  This is probably all pretty basic for anyone who’s been here a while, but there are just some small personal insights that I’m living and sharing with you the reader!

So, we marched, we numbered about 3,000 in my opinion. Some said about 5,000, who knows. We marched with many groups (photos laters, can’t download em now eeek!) and local Cancún groups too for worker’s rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights….more than I can remember now.  It was a good energetic march, with the usual speeches at the end, and some nice touches of typical local music and dances.  Some of us wanted to join the Via Campesina and Antic@p marches after ours, but soon found out that they’d blocked off access to that part of town and there was no way in.  However, we all knew that despite the momentary energy we might feel in seeing the cop-lines and the face of those with power, there was never a chance in hell of reaching the Moon Palace considering there was around 10 police blocks in between, police helicopters overhead and word of an unmanned military aircraft also monitoring us from somewhere! We also knew that changing the minds of the COP16 government delegates wasn’t going to be achieved by a march either. So, we returned back to base and later met our compadres who had gone to the Via Campesina march and the AntiC@p one.  They had numbered probably 5,000 they said and there was good energy though they were wrecked after having walked twice what we did in quite some heat.  They reached the front of the restricted red zone about 100m from the first police barricade and that’s where Via ended without any police conflict.

Our friends told us that Anti-c@op numbering about 200, went a tad further to the police line but little enough was done as hundreds of police were in typical kettling formation on 3 sides of the protestors, with 2m high barricades ready for anything! So they didn’t get up to much.  Most of them retreated around 4pm (having started at 10am!) leaving a small group of radical ‘punkies’ still wishing to keep watch over the cops.  Supposedly nothing much more happened.  In one worrying report, some greek participants heard that some Greek tv stations reported that one of the marches here turned violent with windows broken on the route, but none of us saw any of this happen.  It’s complete bullshit if you hear any of those stories.

Another interesting thing for me in the prep for the march was the different forms of organising the groups here have to protect against possible infilrators/police agitators etc.  For example, we cordoned ourselves off as a group with a rope on 3 all sides and all kept watch for unidentified folks just in case! Luckily nothing happened but tis a good to know for the future! We have many experienced groups among our caravan who have suffered from government and military repression here in Mexico, like the Abejas from Acteal Chiapas who suffered a terrible massacre in 1997 and have incessantly campaigned and protested for those who killed their families and friends to be brought to justice.

All in all, it was a disappointing turn out of maximum 10,000 between the two marches, compared to 100,000 in Copenhaguen. Reasons for this? Cancun is further for those in the rich nations to attend, and we might be in Latin America, but again, there’s huge distances and costs for these poorer peoples to reach Cancun to voice their concerns.   What of COP17 which will be in South Africa? Who can afford to attend from the world’s poorest continent? What hope have we really of  COP16 reaching any good decisions without market-reliant solutions? What alternatives have we other than the this UN platform? Will there be a continuation of the Bolivian initiative for an alternative platform? What can we do in the meantime to strengthen our possiblities of taking back power from those who abuse it with COP and green capitalism being only the latest manifestation of the same problem.  As Colin Rajah from Grassroots Global Justice USA, said in a talk today “Climate change is a symptom of a much larger disease, the neoliberal global economic system which is the agenda of the rich and powerful people and governments both in the north and south which do not suffer the consequences of climate change”.  We need to really face up to this challenge in the north….no more tippy-toeing around these issues…..the system has got to change, reformist solutions like green capitalism only leave us with another set of similar or worse problems…. it’s up to all of us to debate and decide how to do this.

good footage from an indy collective here reporting on COP16 – KOMAN ILEL

Divided Alter-summits – egos or wha?

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Monday Dec. 6th

Quick short update…..looks like tomorrow’s march is now split, Via Campesina and Dialogo Climatico had made a pact to have a common march despite having different spaces over god knows what differences, but the latest now is that there will be 2 separate marches tomorrow which is the main one. And Anti-cap will probably have their own due to security stuff…..ie they are more the black-blockers, which is grand enough….

But I’m peeved…seems there’s little enough to be done. I don’t know the folks in charge of the Dialogo Climatico and even though some of the ground are saying this is all bullshit and we should join the two marches, it looks quite difficult how to do this.  We’re gonna meet this eve in our Caravana Chipas and see.  There are no collective meetings for the Dialogo as a whole, and all this hidden hierarchy is doing my head in.

I know little enough about klimaforum10….we hear there are few enough out at the fancy polo club they’ve set themselves up in. They are probably joining the Via Campesina march it seems…

Will keep you updated!

Cancún – 25hrs later…heat, sun, and compas!

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Ok, so net ain’t as simple as I’d thought….this is yesterday’s account…

Sat Dec 4th

25 hours after we left Chiapas, after a road block from some campesinos on route protesting against their leaders having been imprisoned, some dodge trecks of messed up road from the recent floods and a couple of military check points upon entering Cancun, we finally arrived at the Diálogo Climático in just about in time for dinner, though the food ran out before we’d all eaten which wasn’t at all pleasant for some of our indigenous compas.

Open camping with some large communal tents was the order of the day for our possie and most of us were only too happy to have space to stretch our legs after the semi-hellish bus ride.

Sunday December 5th

Breakfast took off a wee bit late this morn around 8.30am and after a brief group meeting to talk some logistics we all took off to participate in the inauguration and other discussion panels scheduled for the day.   The inauguration kicked off enthusiastically with Ricardo Navarro FOE Salvador saluting the crowd with cry of ‘ Zapata vive’ (Zapata lives) to which the crowd replied ‘La lucha sigue’ (the struggle continues).  I soon realised during the day that this is a pretty emblematic cry at many talks.

Ricard Navarro from FOE Salvador at the inauguration of El Diálogo Climático

However, I didn’t really get to see much as I was still sussing out logistics for our group, like registering folk, and helping to suss out the community kitchen run by volunteers which needed a washing area and more signage for people’s donations.  Between one thing and another the day mostly flew.  How is it I always get stuck more in organizing rather than just plainly participating? 😉

Anyhows, at 5pm I finally sneaked off to go see the other camp where Via Campesina and the Anti-C@p crew are.  It’s about a 30min walk from here (supermanzana 21 beside the Casa Cultural ) and made it in time for an interesting meeting to plan a possible march tomorrow which included many colourful actions like possibly throwing some shit at the department of the environment.  As foreigners it’s illegal to engage in any political activity here in Mexico, but I wouldn’t mind taking some photos of this.

The Via Campesina space seems to have more people there though their space is smaller. Both camps seem to have opted for many large old-school type panel sessions with a couple of hundred at them, but it doesn’t make for very participative stuff.  Some speakers are inspiring, but it seems harder to meet and network with people.  This old-school huge socialist-type panel versus audience crap.


And then there’s Anti-C@p which would be more like what I’m used to.  They are camped right beside Via Campesina sharing food, toilet, sleeping logistics.  The crew are mainly Mexico City-based and more radical and participative than the other two camps.  They are also younger, and less racially mixed, but lots of Via Campesina are looking on at their activities.  Anti-C@p don’t seem to have a specific programme going as yet but there’s lots of room for spontaneous workshops and talks so to me that’s a bit of a bonus.  There’s a mural workshop and a ‘pequeñas acciones’ workshop there tomorrow. Beats getting talked at all day long!! Hopefully I’ll get to some of it.

And what about the official COP? Well word has it that Japan are pushing away from wanting to sign a new treaty, whenever it may happen, as they feel it unjust with them only producing 4% of the world’s emissions.  REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation ) is the big thing on the agenda and this mostly being seen as a false solution by most speakers hre at DC, though I heard the head of Greenpeace, Kimu Naidoo, said here yesterday that REDD could be a good intermittent solution…. EEEEK! The ins and outs of REDD seem like an interminable maze for even the experts, but the basic premise is that it opens up forests, rivers, mother nature to being new capitalist markets and being bought and sold more so for carbon off-setting by rich-nations, with many crazy usual consequences….throwing indigenous off their lands for their ‘preservation’ instead of the real translational culprits.  With the corrupt level of governments and rich individuals in these countries, market solutions are in no way ever going to work.

Click here for Live radio in spanish from Dialogo Climatico

Caravana Chiapas a COP16 Cancún – Fuímonos!

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Last night I met the guy behind Submedia TV.  He was at the Palicate Centro Cultural presenting his new flick END CIV which was a true blast of in-your-fucking-face reality of how crazy those who are running the show really are.  Like in The Corporation flick, there’s a diagnosis that considering the actions of the world’s most powerful corporations and first-world government in the light of the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate chaos is just around the corner and this is the make-or-break moment for the human race and much of planetary life; that they are all stark raving PSYCHOPATHS and it’s not possible to ever reason with them or convince them otherwise. Conclusion: it’s time to put all plans into action to save our asses.  Obeying the law never changed anything! WATCH THIS FLICK if yer looking for motivation to rise to the challenge 🙂


This flick was our second wee local kick-off here in San Cristobal before setting off to the COP16 tomorrow afternoon on our 5 bus Caravana Chiapaneca.  Last week Dimitri a Greek activist presented a short documentary he made about COP15 which definitely put us all in the mood to engage in all the great talks, workshops, marches and other events which await us during the week at the Dialogo Climatico.  There are a couple of different alternative spaces this year at the Mexican COP16 because, well, there were some differences between organising groups (clicheé divided left?….don’t know specifics).  So, Via Campesina also have their own space, while the successors of the Klimaforum in COP15, Klimaforum10 seem to be a right wad of gangsters charging $8 a day to participate (and $1,200 to have a stand for NGOs/green businesses!!)  in their semi-luxurry setting about 40km out of Cancún. I’m not sure why exactly Klimarforum09 gave em the rights to the name, but again, it seems like complicated crap not worth getting into now.

So, our road to Cancún is going to be an adventure in itself. If things were simple, it would take us around 18 hours drive to get there, but heck, we’re in Latin America..things aren’t straightforward; they are colourful and full of the spice of life! We are 200 odd folk on our 5 buses, from many local indigenous communities here in Chiapas, plus some randomers from all walks of life.  Our route takes us via Palenque as we’re picking up a group there, but reports says with the latest heavy rains, there has been more landslides and the already-damaged road from heavy floods in the recent rainy season, is now even more blocked up.  With the heaviest rainfall in decades in Chiapas this year (damaging many crops), climate change may well be make our trip all the more meaningful and relevant. And then theres some police check points to greet us on our way into the great tourist metropolis that is pricey-land Cancún.  I’d give us about 27 hrs to get there. I’m gonna need a swim in the sea after that for sure….but wait a sec…most of the Cancún beaches are privately owned by the big mega-hotel resorts….FUCK THAT SHIT! I say we reclaim a beach y’all. 🙂

The official COP16 began Nov. 29th.  Word from the inside ain’t exactly inspiring, but we all knew not to expect much from the usual crew of wine-ing and dining government officials rubbing balding-heads and starched shirts with corporate lobby groups.  So why bother going to COP16? So they know we haven’t forgotten, that we’re all watching as are so many around the world participating in the 1,000 Cancuns events, like my crew back in Eire (Climate Camp Ireland), because NO DEAL IS BETTER THAN A BAD DEAL…to strengthen our grassroots connections, to share grassroots solutions and organising techniques, to energise and cross-pollinate from the ground up.

Still got some packing to do, photocopying info for the bus folk in the moro, so I better hit the sack.

Oiche Mhaith. See you on the other side….i’ll be doing daily updates from Cancún, so watch this space 😉

oh..and some interesting videos getting posted from Cancún: http://redroadcancun.com/

Feliz Cumpleaños al EZLN! – 27 años de existencia

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Esto de los blogs es bastante nuevo para mi. Me cuesta acostumrarme y dejar que mis pensamientos sean mas fluidos. Pero creo que es bueno para mejorar mi estilo de escribir. Ya poco a poco le encuentro el camino mio. Tengo tantos cuentitos pa contar pero uno a la vez!

So, there was a Zapatista party tonight In San Cristobal to commemorate the anniversary of the foundation of the EZLN, (17th of November 1983) Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional. I for one didn’t realise that they’ve been in existence for that long, considering they only made their world political debut after their uprising in January 1994 on the day that NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) came into effect.  But way back when I wasn’t even aware of how korny the 80’s were about to become, a small group of non-indigenous and indigenous rebels joined forces and so the EZLN was born en La Selva Lacandona.

ezln 27 aniversario - TOMI LEBRERO Y NICOLAS FALCOFF

There were Argentinian and Mexican musicians playing at the fund-raising concert tonight and there was CDs, books, tshirts and zapatista coffee for sale to support the ongoing struggle that many zapatista communities face here on a daily basis.  The music was pretty daecent and I bought an mp3 CD from el Maztuerzo from a old-school Mexican rock-band here called  La Botellita de Jerez. It’s really inspiring hearing people speak so openly, honestly and passionately about la lucha (the struggle) and supporting these communities.  People openly condemn capitalism and neoliberalism here.  There’s no if and buts about it; it’s the reality people live every day. ‘Capitalism is death’ is a commonly used slogan.  There’s no hiding it. It is what it is.

And as the music ended, I chatted with various friends I’ve made, many of them foreigners here all attracted by common beliefs, and even though many transcient, like myself, it’s still inspiring to see so much international support here for a people’s struggle with socialist and autonomous beliefs.  ‘See you on the bus to Cancún’ we bid each other adew, where we’ll be heading on Friday with 200 others from Chiapas, many of them from rural communities in these areas going to have their voices heard at COP16 to tell the world of the climate chaos tragedies that they are already living here in Chiapas.

 

Dias de los Muertos

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I really like Mexico’s relationship with death. That’s why I wanted to get over here in time for the Days of the Dead, which are Oct. 31-Nov. 2nd. Mexican culture doesn’t see death as something scary or morbid, but Death is seen as a joker. Death will seduce you to go with him! It’s kinda sexy huh?  But, yeah, they’ve amalgamated the usual US Hallowe’en stuff to theirs now, especially for the kids, who seem to get the best of both worlds here coz some go trick-or-treating many days of that week, and not just to houses…..they’ll go into shops, supermarkets and even ask random folks on the street for a treat, or they’ll carry out some trick….though I didn’t see any tricks, just cutey kids in costumes singing people songs. There’s a gazilion other things on too, school parades and bands marching in costume, free concerts put on by the municipality, other random music groups doing the rounds.


I was well lucky that I met up with 2 cool people  Andrés and Carolina, who are making a documentary about Dia de Los Muertos, so I headed up with them to a nearby indigenous town called Zinacantán.  They had some local contacts and so we were able to take photos of some of the people’s houses and altars , as well as photos of the mayordomos, who are men who are assigned the task of decorating the more important altars in the town(this usually is not allowed).  The Mayordomos are elected every year, and it’s a great honour to be chosen though an expensive duty.  The Mayordomos do a couple of rounds during the evenings of that week visiting the houses of previous mayordomos who have died, and they sing to their altars, while drinking posh, which is the local poitin.

People put altars in their houses to commemorate their dead loved ones, and set out lots of food and flowers for them.  They say that once the spirit has passed through the house, the food no longer has any taste.  Folks here believe that at midnight of Oct 31st a portal opens between this world and the next and the dead can visit us here (similar to the Celts).  Hence they welcome them with their altars, and they also visit their tombs in the graveyard, which is also magnificently decorated with flowers and candles and people picnic there for the day.  On Nov. 2nd at midnight that portal once again closes and they say good-bye to their loved ones.

I’d love to be here again for more Days of the Dead, as each local village has slightly different customs and there’s so much to see and only 3 days to see it! All the same, it was a pretty fun-packed week to arrive in I must say.

Café Zapatista

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14 hours on a bus from Méjico DF to San Cristobal de las Casas en Chiapas.  ‘Las carreteras están malas después de las lluvias’ me dice la señora a mi lado.  So, 14 hours turned into 16…sure what’s another 2 hours to an all-night bus.  My legs just about survived…..i’ve kinda crappy circulation.

San Cristobal de las Casas….one of the most famous cities in Méjico and probably the world, in revolutionary circles at least!  In January 1994, the Zapatista army with Subcomandante Marcos descended into San Cristobal standing up for indigenous peoples’ rights and made history. So, is that what brings me here? Well, I was here 7 years ago briefly, and I really loved the atmosphere of the place, so I wanted to come and live and work here for a while and really get to know the people and the place (more on my reasons in a later post!).  So, 7 years on, the place is way more touristy indeed….but not too bad I think.  “In San Cris you either work in tourism or an NGO ” says my couchsurf host Marco, “or you’re an artist scraping by”.  After the Zapatista uprising all sorts of NGOs and random individuals flocked to Chiapas to support their campaign in many different ways.

I have to confess, I’ve only read bits and bobs on the zapatista uprising so I’ve lots of learning to do, but hey, for those of you who haven’t a clue either, you can learn as I do and I’ll try fill in some gaps in my blog. 😉

I’m just starting my volunteering in Otros Mundos and I think I’m gonna love it. COP16 in Cancun is just around the corner so there’s loads of things to be done in terms of logistics, so I’m gonna be busy. Time for another café zapatista. mmmm!

Crossing the Waters – Mexico City metropolis

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New blog, first blog!! what to write, ehhhh, i’ll get my style-socks on soon enough. Free writing flows hopefully without much editing….

So I’ve landed, after many a drawn-out farewell to all my clann in Ireland. I’m finally here In México D.F. (Distrito Federal), 7 years later….seven years of waiting for good mexican food, hehe! First day, just taking it easy, but a quick walk around in my lovely couchsurfing host’s neighbourhood, and it’s all sights and sounds buzzing beautifully at me, old Volkswagen beetles, food aromas twirling my gastric juices, teasing evening heat (slept in the afternoon after my overnight flight), swaying mexican accents and lingo just warm me right up inside and out. I’m home, sorta!

So, this is Chati, la cuya de mi amiga Joul, con quien me estoy quedando en DF.  Yes, it’s gonna be bi-lingual posts my friends. Disculpen, y aprendan 🙂 She’s a sweet lil spoilt thing who likes to eat cables, and Joul’s clothes sometimes. eeek.

So, when in a city of 20 million folks you gotta expect some chaos, but so far the traffic hasn’t been as nuts as Lima Perú, but the smog sure is mad. I can feel it in the air when I’m out and about. They have many electric buses though, and they limit the number of cars that can enter the city each day depending on whether your number plate ends on an even or odd number, like they do in Bogotá, Colombia. Ta bueno. My ultimate novelty factor was yesterday when I took a bus and it said ‘Solo Damas’, ‘Women Only’….all of a sudden the bit of anxiety I had about traversing this huge city on my own disappeared.  It really was a lovely experience…..I never would have thought it, but with latino macho culture, I do feel more threatened here, so I think these buses are a great idea indeed.

So, I’ve had 5 fab days here in the capital hanging out with my fab host Joul, eating, little site seeing, partying. Now I’m off to Chiapas tonight so we’ll see you on the other side amiguitos.