Podcast: Mexico and the struggle for the genetic commons
In Episode 166 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how a little-noted US-Mexico dispute on trade and agricultural policy has serious implications for the survival of the human race. Washington is preparing to file a complaint under terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement over Mexico's decree banning imports of GMO corn, slated to take effect in January 2024. Concerns about the (unproven) health effects of consuming GMO foods miss the real critique—which is ecological, social and political. GMO seeds are explicitly designed as part of an "input package" intended to get farmers hooked on pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and protect the "intellectual property" of private corporations. Agribusiness, which can afford the "input package," comes to dominate the market. Eased by so-called "free trade" policies, agbiz forces the peasantry off the market and ultimately off the land—a process very well advanced in Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and which is intimately related to the explosion of the narco economy and mass migration. The pending decree in Mexico holds the promise of regenerating sustainable agriculture based on native seed stock. It is also a critical test case, as countries such as Kenya have recently repealed similar policies in light of the global food crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Podcast: anarchism and the climate crisis
With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a "Code Red for humanity." In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Paramilitary violence escalates in Chiapas
Tensions are fast mounting in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Chiapas following a new outbreak of paramilitary violence. Protests have been held in the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez over the past weeks to demand the return alive of 21 residents of the highland village of Pantelhó, who were abducted July 26 amid raids by a self-proclaimed "self-defense force" in which houses and vehicles were also set on fire. On Aug. 10, the state prosecutor who was assigned to investigate the case, Gregorio Pérez Gómez, was himself gunned down on a street in the highland city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. An anonymous defector from "El Machete" self-defense force told national TV news program En Punto on Oct. 7 that 18 of the 21 missing men were publicly beaten to death in the Pantelhó village square. He said their bodies were buried near San José Tercero, the outlying hamlet that is the paramilitary group's principal stronghold. Family members of the abductees have adopted the slogan from the infamous Ayotzinapa case, "They were taken alive, we want them back alive."
Biden admin grants protected status for Haitians
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced May 23 an 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This humanitarian protection allows an estimated 100,000 individuals to apply to remain lawfully in the US. There are three statutory grounds for TPS designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Haiti faces political crisis and human rights abuses, security concerns, and the exacerbation of a "dire economic situation and lack of access to food, water, and healthcare" due to COVID-19, Mayorkas found.
Zapatistas launch symbolic 'invasion' of Spain
Seven indigenous Maya members of Mexico's Zapatista movement set sail May 3 from Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, on a trans-Atlantic voyage meant to symbolically reverse the Spanish conquest of Mexico 500 years ago. Sailing in a 120-year-old fishing boat, La Montaña, the delegation hopes to reach Madrid by Aug. 13, anniversary of the 1521 fall of Tenochtitlán, Mexico's ancient capital, to the conquistador Hernan Cortés. The delegation intends to land at Vigo, on Spain's northern coast, and then continue to Madrid, beginning a tour of some 20 European countries.
Villagers abandoned in Eta's deadly aftermath
Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm on Nov. 3. Two güiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua's North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was to follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala's Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government.
Mexico: Zapatista community attacked in Chiapas
A communal coffee warehouse in one of the rebel Zapatista base communities in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas was burned down Aug. 22, in an attack by a rival campesino group that operates a paramilitary force in the area. The New Dawn of the Rainbow Commercial Center, maintained by small coffee cultivators loyal to the Zapatista rebel movement, was attacked by followers of the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO), according to a statement from the National Indigenous Congress (CNI). The warehouse was located at the community of Cuxuljá, part of the Zapatista autonomous municipality of Moisés Gandhi, which lies within the "official" municipality of Ocosingo.
Fifth Estate Live with Bill Weinberg
Portland-based musician and vlogger David Rovics interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg for Fifth Estate Live. The two discuss Weinberg's upcoming story for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate on the "two faces of fascism" the US confronts at this moment—a Trumpian dictatorship or a post-pandemic "new normality" of complete surveillance and social control. But the moment is also pregnant with possibility, witnessing the mainstreaming of anarchist ideas such as abolishing the police. Initiatives such as cannabis legalization as a first step toward this aim are gaining ground nationally. Looking back, they draw lessons for the current revolutionary moment from the Tompkins Square Park uprising on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s, and the rebellion of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the 1990s—who continue to hold liberated territory in the southern state of Chiapas even today. Watch the video archive on YouTube or listen to the audio version on SoundCloud.
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