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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Court Statements Doris Reed
Doris Reed PDF Print E-mail
Your, honor, I have visited Central America and Mexico seven times since 1994, on delegations to learn how United States foreign policy affects the poor people of Latin America. We met with religious and human rights activist, farmers, community leaders, economic think tanks, lawyers, women?s groups, labor organizers, health workers, physicians, and a chamber of commerce.

Sadly, we found U.S. foreign policy not to be increasing prosperity and democracy in the region, but quite the opposite. We found it directed to gaining control of the region?s natural resources, creating huge pools of dirt cheap labor, and gaining advantaged access to the region?s markets; for the benefit, not of the people or the economies of the region, but for the benefit of trans-national corporations. The former School of the Americas, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is an essential link in maintaining the military muscle necessary to further these goals.

In Mexico, for example, between 1997 and 2000, in a three year period, 2200 Mexican soldiers were sent to study at the School of the Americas, (SOA). In 49 of the preceding years, less than 800 Mexican soldiers studied at the SOA. All over Latin America, SOA graduates have gone on to become high officers and generals in their nations? militaries (including becoming chiefs of their country?s intelligence gathering apparatus). Their military activities have had to do with civilian targeted warfare in their own countries and not protection against foreign invaders. Right now, 18 SOA graduates are top officials in the civilian targeted terror warfare in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Since 1995 or ?96, indigenous populations of southern Mexican states have suffered from low intensity warfare: that is, terror warfare carried out by paramilitary units who are trained by the Mexican army, which, in turn, is commanded and trained by SOA graduates. All over the region, indigenous families have been being driven out of their homes, routinely suffering rape, torture, capricious assassination, burning of their homes and stealing of their animals.

To find out more, I joined a delegation with Witness for Peace in the summer of 2000. We visited Xoyep?, a refugee camp for families of the Abeja sect. The Abejas, (pronounced a-BAY-huh), are Christian, deeply religious, and pacifistic, refusing to take up arms. They too had been driven out of their homes, by paramilitary squads, into the cold wet winter of the high mountains of Chiapas. 1100 of them were crowded onto a space that formerly had supported only 11 families. In late December of 1997, 45 Abeja women and children were brutally massacred in a church in Acteal while praying and fasting for peace. Soldiers from a nearby army camp stood on a hill overlooking the church. They watched, but did nothing to stop the massacre.

Once we had arrived in Xoyep, Abeja spokespersons told us "the paramilitaries are indigenous like us". They went on to say, "the army has systematically organized paramilitary squads in every indigenous village. Then, the soldiers trick them and incite them into attacking other indigenous villages". They continued "We know the paramilitaries and the army are working together. They carry the very same weapons, they drive the very same tanks and trucks, and we see them driving together on the road."

This technique of inciting indigenous peoples to kill each other was used extensively in the U.S.- CIA- instigated 36 year Guatamalan Civil War, and is now in use in Colombia against indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations who live on land with undeveloped natural resources.

After Colombia, Mexico receives the next largest amount of U. S. military aid in this hemisphere.

One might ask how all of this is related to gaining control of resources for the benefit of trans-national corporations. And one could also ask how this might not be related to the drug war. About the drug war, in 1997, only 10% of the Mexican students at the SOA took counter-narcotics courses. In 1999, no Mexican students did.

About control of resources by corporations, the Center for Economic and Political Research for Community Action (www.ciepac.org) showed us maps of natural resources in Chiapas. According to these maps, Chiapas is rich in undeveloped oil and natural gas. It has some undeveloped strategic minerals including uranium. It has a great deal of potential for hydro-electric power, and is rich in biodiversity, (which some pharmaceutical companies are interested in). We were also shown maps of regions in Mexico with the highest militarization, (presence of military installations such as army bases, army checkpoints, and where military personnel have taken over work normally done by civilians, (tasks such as delivering of mail, police work, reforestation, etc.). These areas of high militarization correspond very directly with areas in which there is a lot of interest by foreign investors. The southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca are such states.

Another question might be "how is low intensity terror warfare in a southern Mexican state related to U. S. Foreign policy in which the SOA plays such a significant role?"

During negotiations for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Treaty), Mexico was required by the United States to repeal Chapter 27 of its? constitution. Chapter 27 had specifically forbidden the buying and selling of indigenous land. Chapter 27 was essential in preserving the territorial integrity (staying together) of indigenous land and had largely prevented takeover of indigenous land by others. The struggle to put Chapter 27 into the Mexican constitution had been very hard won, and had finally come about as a result of the revolution of 1910. It is unlikely that the indigenous populations of Mexico were consulted about the repeal of Chapter 27.

NAFTA went into effect on January 1, 1994. On that day, in protest against the repeal of Chapter 27, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, without firing a shot, took over a number of indigenous villages. After efforts to implement a peace treaty failed, due to lack of good faith negotiations by the Mexican government, low intensity, civilian directed terror warfare, in which SOA graduates play an integral role, has raged ever since.

Thus, a legal protection for indigenous people on their land is removed from the Mexican constitution, under pressure by the United States, with the result that indigenous populations are driven off of their land (which is rich in undeveloped resources). These resources then become increasing available for exploitation by those with the money to exploit them, such as corporations. The dirty work is done by the indigenous peoples themselves, who attack each other, having been pressured and instigated into forming paramilitary units by the Mexican army, which, in turn, is under command, all too often, of graduates of the School of the Americas.

 

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