[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #15 in December 2015]
The movement sparked by the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa is part of a larger struggle of indigenous people, campesinxs and students against state violence and capitalist expansion. The Popular Assemblies in Mexico have been setting a course for actions to blockade and disrupt the workings of transnational capital, to create forms of self-organization and self-governance from below, and boycott electoral politics. Autonomous groups in Chicago responded with protests, assemblies, teach-ins, public fora. We also organized a series of occupations and blockades of the Mexican Consulate. These direct actions faced repression from a layered security apparatus of transnational private security firms, US State Department and Chicago Police. They forced into visibility the collusion between political/economic elites on both sides of the border in the repression of the Mexican rebellions and the active suppression of their spreading in the diaspora. The actions also provoked emotional and intimate exchanges, as some people distanced themselves from what they saw as “violent” protests and tactics, others chose to participate or witness. The struggle to occupy the Consulate opened up a collective exploration of struggle politics, the nature of violence and the ethics of conflict. Following are excerpts from a series of written and audio communiqués released by Semillas Autónomas over this period. You can also listen to the second audio communiqué in Spanish, below:
The Mexican Embassy in the United States has instructed consulates to “minimize the impact” of the protests taking place in solidarity with Ayotzinapa. The story they are selling us is this: the federal government is fighting crime and making great progress towards justice. Uprisings destabilize the promise of justice and prosperity; stay calm and return to “normal”.
President Obama has announced “administrative relief” for immigrants, the latest show in a long series of reform spectacles. We are promised probation for categories of desirable immigrants in exchange for expanding the conditions that cast us as disposable lives. The message is this: you should be grateful and cooperate. Uprisings destabilize the promise of status and prosperity; stay calm and return to normal.
The United States and Mexico are enforcing a social peace that is a social death. They call it the War on Drugs. This is not about fighting organized crime and the narco cartels, whose operations are intimately linked with both governments and transnational finance. Instead, the War on Drugs is a way to govern through deathmaking, disappearance and terror, to govern not in the interests of living beings but in the interests of capital. This war is not just against the students from Ayotzinapa, but against the consciousness and lifeways they represent.
The true “organized crime” is created and maintained by the state and by corporate interests who seek to expand their control over the people, lands and resources of the Americas. In the killings and disappearances, the state is the author and executor at the service of capital.
The state disappears those who arm themselves in self-defense against the narcos, mining companies and government occupation. The state disappears the Yaquis who fight in defense of ancestral waters and the right to exist. The state disappears those defending the lands from resource extraction, those who refuse to acquiesce to their own destruction. The state disappears the women it has displaced to the maquilas. The state disappears all who stand in the way of the neoliberal restructuring of life, those who create autonomy and threaten the interests of multinational corporations. The state disappears migrants into a classification system of permits and papers, of degrees of unfreedom. The state disappears red, black and brown peoples into prisons and detention centers, into borders, into graveyards, into the living death of servitude and assimilation.
If we do nothing, if we say nothing, if we remain passive and well-behaved as is the expectation, they will continue to kill and disappear us. We are poor. We are the people that the middle class, the class that has money, regards as a nuisance, as garbage, as vandals, as useless and without worth, people without education, ignorant people. We are the social class that has been impoverished, where there is no land, where there is no education, where there is not water even, because they are stealing it all, where we are dispossessed and disappeared and murdered for thinking, existing, surviving.
To the US and Mexican narco-capitalists, to those who govern from “above,” we are the waste of society, we are better off dead or brought to nonlife as servants to their papers, permits and ID’s. They want to convince us that this form of government and rule is the only way to organize our communities, our lives.
We will no longer stand in line. We refuse to be converted to numbers, to become obedient, lifeless things. We occupy today to affirm our humanity, our survival, our rage and defiance, to face and confront this space that should belong to us.
This is what social movements call narco-capitalism: a form of globalization in which national governments are key players in the global drug trade, and the drug trade plays a key role in expanding the control of transnational corporations over land, resources and people. Meanwhile, these same governments adopt an official policy of “War on Drugs” as a pretext for increased militarization and for subjugating their people.
The US-sponsored War on Drugs in Mexico since 2006: 100,000+ people murdered and 30,000+ disappeared; mass graves in Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and other states; a rise in attacks against transmigrants; increase in torture and executions; expansion of the drug trade and of extraction industries; mass economic displacement, land and water dispossession of indigenous peoples and campesinxs; neoliberal “reforming” of education, labor, judiciary, energy and finance.
The United States has been funding this war through the Merida Initiative and other “anti-narcotics” programs. About $3 billion has gone to transnational logistics and consulting firms that “restructure” Mexican society to make it friendly to foreign investment, or to buying weapons from US manufacturers and paying private military companies. The same thing happens with the $11.3 billion that Mexico has spent. The US private sector and government also facilitate the transfer of military-grade weaponry into the hands of the drug cartels – over 90% of the weapons used in narco killings originate in the United States. The US sponsors the slaughter of Mexicans by Mexicans, thus justifying an increase of military intervention south of the border. As in the case of Colombia, an increase in US-backed (para)militarization correlates with high levels of displacement and dispossession of people living in areas of strategic economic importance, and these displacements serve the interests of mining companies and other transnationals.
The United States has a history of training military and paramilitary forces in the use of terror. This targets indigenous peoples, campesinxs, students, workers, activists, all those who resist or who could resist, including communities organizing armed self-defense. The goal of terror is political: it is not only about killing people, but also about silencing, intimidation, eliminating political resistance and destroying lifeways. The United States has perfected the use of terror over decades of experimentation in Central America and the Middle East: it is called counter-insurgency.
Is Chicago connected to Iguala and the attack on the Ayotzinapa students that took place there? One of the buses the young students tried to commandeer had a stash of narcotics destined for Chicago’s La Villita, a major hub in the cross border drug trade. The students, so the official story goes, accidentally interfered with the shipment and were thus punished by the narcos.
But Chicagoiguala is not just a drug corridor. Chicagoiguala is where we live, an integrated global supply-chain linking captive labor, extraction, assembly plants, finished commodities, planning processes and financial flows. It is how logistics firms and consultants “restructure” the state, channeling public moneys and migrant remittances into infrastructure projects that open up new territories for transnational extraction. It is how Mexican economic and political elites are organized in the US as Latino politics, whose function is to de-indigenize and manage the mass migration. Chicagoiguala is a border zone where our struggles for liberation are disarticulated by “immigration reform” politics and the electoral spectacle.
Chicagoiguala is a counterinsurgency corridor.
Nestora Salgado is a Comandanta in the indigenous community self-defense force of Olinalá, Guerrero, and a leader in the CRAC-PC (Regional Coordinating Committee of Community Authorities). She was extrajudicially captured by Mexican federal forces in August 2013. Salgado is an emblematic symbol of defiance against state and narco violence. Through her work against patriarchy and gender-based violence, womyn have become central participants in the political process of self-determination and self-defense in Olinalá.
The CRAC is a legally constituted entity, but its purpose and demands exceed and subvert the framework of the law. Guerrero’s constitution allows for the formation of indigenous ‘community police’ under State Law 701 which recognizes original people’s right to self-determination. However, CRAC is not an attempt by indigenous people to police themselves or to collaborate with established police forces, but rather represents an effort to build counter-power, foment ungovernability and build networks of defense against the encroachment of organized crime, the state, and transnational corporations. This collective project has found itself in a relative deadlock with neoliberal plans of extraction and development. As a result Mexico, the U.S. and Canada have worked together to strengthen, arm and paramilitarize organized crime networks with the intent of displacing indigenous people from their traditional lands and securing their economic interests in the region. The imprisonment of Nestora Salgado, as well as many other fighters such as Gonzalo Molina and Arturo Campos, is a direct result of this same politics of economic and military intervention, which seeks to disarticulate the process of indigenous autonomy and self-determination.