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By Sara Mersha
February 11th, 2014
By Barbara Polk
January 27th, 2014
Barbara Polk traveled with other Grassroots International supporters to Honduras and Guatemala in the fall of 2013. The article below provides an overview of the trip and her experiences.
Alfredo Lopez is a hunted man.
On New Year’s Day, 20 years ago, a group of indigenous peoples, known as the Zapatistas, occupied several municipalities of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Not coincidentally, that same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas considered the free trade agreement and the neoliberal political system that spawned it to be a death sentence for indigenous peoples in Mexico. The magnitude of the Zapatista uprising was due to the participation of different indigenous groups which joined forces to change a system that was marginalizing and exploiting them.
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) announced the redistribution of land last month to 140 indigenous and peasant families. The families were part of the largest violent eviction in the recent history of Guatemala in March 2011 when non-state actors, police, military forces and the government forced nearly 800 indigenous Q’eqchí families of their land without notice, destroyed their crops and burned their homes.
In January 1994, the Zapatistas - autonomous indigenous communities who organized themselves in a system of liberated zones within Chiapas, Mexico – emerged out of the jungles with a clear and unified voice in opposition to the system of neoliberalism being imposed upon their lives through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A trade deal between Canada, the US, and Mexico, NAFTA instituted a set of regulations that made it easier for transnational corporations to make profits across borders, no matter what the costs or consequences to people and the environment. As a result, thousands of workers in the US lost their jobs as companies moved their operations to Mexico where the costs of production were cheaper.
The article below orginally appeared in La Jicarita: An online magazine of Environmental Politics in New Mexico following a presentation by Leonardo Maggi (from the Movement of People Affected by Dams) and Sara Mersha (from Grassroots International).
Carlos Henríquez can talk about fertilizer for hours. He knows what mix of ingredients will help certain crops grow better, the right “recipe” for creating well-balanced compost and fertilizers, the best ways to keep moisture in the soil even in dry spells.
Whether it’s life imitating art or the other way around, the assault so dramatically captured in the Hollywood blockbuster film Avatar (2009) is not pure fiction. The reality is that countries and corporations that are hell-bent on extracting every last resource from the earth continue their relentless assaults on indigenous people, their land and waters, their cultures and ways of life, Whether it’s Afro-Brazilians on the Sao Francisco river in Brazil, Dongria Kondhs on Niyamgiri mountain in India, or Lencas in Honduras’ Rio Blanco territory, they all are facing not only the threat of displacement and devastation but violence, intimidation and even, in some instances, assassination.