Friday, May 05, 2006
The Siege of San Salvador de Atenco
The fellow at left is an unlucky citizen of Mexico and those are the police of the citizens of Mexico surrounding him. And they’re not taking him to the hospital.
That can happen to you in Mexico, as it can in the United States or any other country in the world. And it is unacceptable that wherever the people and police clash, the violence is to the death, which is dangerous when that violence is mostly on one side, and organized.
But we have all seen again and again, be it outside an L.A. Laker game or at a rally in Indonesia for union rights, the abuse of the state’s monopoly on power.
Everywhere, the good, sound beating by baton is applied when there is absolutely no reason for it. Subdue, incarcerate, and arraign. That’s the democratic way. No bruises or cracked bones or blood. Because it is not civilized and it is unbecoming of a noble country.
Anyway, the man at left was part of a rebellion in a village outside Mexico City. The government wanted to push flower sellers out of the town square and the flower sellers didn’t want to go. Everybody got behind them, they ran the police out, and took control.
The government dispatched 3,000 police. The local groups armed themselves with Molotov cocktails and blocked the main road into town.
There was hell to pay as the federal agents blasted their way through San Salvador with tear gas canisters and all manner of explosive devices, ploughing through peoples' homes, pulling them out of bed. Beating them. The whole heavy-handed disaster.
If reports from the daily paper La Jornada are in any way accurate, much of the action was captured by a considerable media presence which, of course, would have been notified in advance of an early morning operation.
The raid served the purposes of distracting angry Mexicans from the fact President Vicente Fox had just caved to pressure from the U.S. on a sensible law to decriminalize drugs in his own country.
And let’s be clear, the little town of San Salvador de Atenco and Fox share a mutual past together. A few years ago, Fox decided he wanted to put a new international airport on the spot where the town now sits. The local farmers turned out to be a pretty obstinate bunch, taking up machetes and organizing the Front of Communities in Defense of the Land.
They governed the town themselves for a while, autonomously, before what they call order in Mexico was restored.
Which is why highwayscribery focuses upon this event: they set up a classic Temporary Autonomous Zone, taking control when they needed it, but avoiding permanent government. An important anarchist strophe.
And also because the scribe’s heroine, “Vedette,” sells flowers.
Anyway, the airport was never built and Fox didn’t like the way he came out looking; losing to a bunch of peasants and all that. So he had his reasons.
The government is blaming the whole thing on a small group of violent activists “holding the town hostage,” and by all accounts the government knew where to find them.
Since most media outlets are prone to giving government arguments the benefit of the doubt, we’ll side with the townspeople who are caught in a classic battle for survival before the great and globalized economy.
Need an airport to handle increased business and traffic? Put it where a bunch of subsistence farmers live. The Indians resist? Crush commerce and exchange, push out the flower sellers. Move them along. There are larger interests at play here.
The question now is, How many of the people arrested and roughed up will get out anytime soon? Another question is, how many of them will avoid torture?
We do it, so why shouldn't they?