For the indigenous peoples of Mexico, the winds of war today seem to be the same as those of previous governments. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) government has been in power just four months and the imposition of development projects, dispossession, persecution, harassment, forced disappearances, and murders continue as before.
On May 4, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, indigenous Nahuas belonging to the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero – Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ), held a meeting to coordinate actions at state and federal agencies to pressure them into meeting their social and political demands that had been rejected by the three levels of government. At the end of the meeting, at approximately 6pm, an armed group in Chilapa, Guerrero, kidnapped and later murdered José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián, both members of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).
In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with two ongoing IGD contributors Peter Gelderloos and Scott Campbell about the shifting terrain of US empire globally as well as internally. Touching on everything from new global free trade agreements which seek to remove the United States from the equation, the continuing possibility of world nuclear war, as well as continued attacks at home on workers, migrants, and the poor, we look at life in the US one year under Trump.
But as we discuss the current terrain, our guests return again and again to the reality of declining US hegemony and power, as well as the question of what that means for humanity. The fact that we are living in a country that is losing both economic as well as military supremacy, both in terms of influence and control, is now not a controversial statement, but one of growing academic discussion.
On Tuesday, September 19, a powerful earthquake struck central Mexico. With a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale and the epicenter just south of the city of Puebla, it has caused numerous deaths and widespread damage in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Puebla, Morelos and the State of Mexico, along with reports of loss of life and structural damage as far south and west as the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Dozens of buildings collapsed in Mexico City alone and at the time of this writing at least 230 people have been reported as killed. The earthquake occurred just hours after a national earthquake drill and commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 quake in which more than 10,000 people were killed. The 1985 tragedy is a seminal moment in modern Mexican history not only for the massive devastation caused but also due to the negligence, corruption and opportunism which marked the government’s response, especially when contrasted with the tremendous mobilization and solidarity of civil society in successfully self-organizing rescue efforts in the face of the state’s abdication of responsibility.
Forty-eight years after the Tlatelolco massacre we continue demanding justice for the murdered, disappeared, persecuted, tortured, defamed, and imprisoned, as even though the killers and masterminds have not been tried and punished, those compañeros who fell in the militant struggle remain present in the popular and social struggles today as part of our memory, solidarity, guidance, dignity, strength, inspiration, rage and courage. Today, no one doubts that IT WAS THE MEXICAN STATE who planned and carried out that mass murder, just as it did with the disappearance of 43 teaching college students on September 26, 2014, as from Tlatelolco to Ayotzinapa one can trace a historical continuity that affirms the totalitarian character of the state that today we can characterize as “narco and terrorist.”
In the fall of 2008 while in the city of Oaxaca, I walked with David Venegas in the plaza in front of the Santo Domingo Cathedral, a massive four-block church and former monastery whose construction first began in 1572. We were returning from the courthouse nearby, where Venegas had to report every 15 days. A prominent member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the anti-authoritarian group Oaxacan Voices Building Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL), Venegas was arrested, beaten and tortured in April 2007, held for eleven months on charges of “possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, sedition, conspiracy, arson, attacks on transit routes, rebellion, crimes against civil servants, dangerous attacks, and resisting arrest,” and eventually conditionally released. Until he was found innocent in April 2009, one of those conditions was his semi-monthly presentation at the courthouse. As with any trip he made in public, Venegas had at least one person accompany him to provide some security against being arrested or disappeared.
On January 11, five young people returning home from a weekend birthday gathering were detained by police in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Mexico, where they had stopped to get something to eat. Susana Tapia Garibo, 16; José Benítez de la O, 24; Mario Orozco Sánchez, 27; José Alfredo González Díaz, 25; and Bernardo Benítez Arróniz, 25, can be seen on surveillance footage being taken into custody by members of the Veracruz State Police. Following their detention, nothing more was heard of them until Monday, February 8, when the burned remains of two of them, José Alfredo González Díaz and Bernardo Benítez Arróniz, were found on a ranch in Tlalixcoyan, 40 miles from Tierra Blanca.
Prior to finding the bodies, several members of the State Police were arrested, including Marcos Conde Hernández, the district chief for the area including Tierra Blanca. According to the government version, the police handed the youth over to the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, some of whose members have also been detained.