The mission of Action for Social and Ecological Justice is to advance and support the struggle for liberation from global inequality, injustice and ecological destruction and create opportunities for dialogue and spaces for transformation toward a socially, ecologically and economically just world.
We work toward this mission by:
We view the institutions, promoters and beneficiaries of the neoliberal model of economic globalization as accelerating the decomposition of both community and ecology throughout the world. Therefore, we consider movements for social and ecological justice as inseparable and their unification necessary to build effective analysis, resistance and alternatives to economic globalization. We view our programs as an essential component of building understanding and unity between shared struggles for social and ecological justice. We both believe and participate in a collective decision making process for an essential transformation towards an ecologically, socially and economically just world. We reject top-down decision making and promote bottom-up non-discriminatory interconnection and dialogue between local, regional and global grassroots social movements.
The mission of Action for Social and Ecological Justice’s (ASEJ) Northeast Links Program is to protect the environment of northeastern North America and support working and indigenous communities within the region in their opposition to the harmful effects of corporate globalization, global trade institutions, and these institutions’ policies upon their economies, cultures, and autonomy.
The Program will accomplish these goals through investigation, networking, building alliances and solidarity in both the region and the Global South, and popular education that also outlines sustainable, alternative models of development.
Greetings ASEJ members and supporters! I would like to take this moment in our new and improved newsletter to reintroduce myself. My name is Jason Ford, Northeast Links Program campaigner for ASEJ. Many of you may know my name from when I was NFN’s Northern Forest Campaigner; at that time my work was focused primarily on National Forest protection, anti-corporate globalization organizing around forests and trade, GE trees, and Northeast indigenous solidarity work.
As ASEJ’s Links campaigner, I will be focusing on developing a cutting-edge program. This program will research how corporate globalization and capitalism affect both the environment and working communities in northeastern North America. It will also work to develop an alliance with unorganized forest products workers, farmers, manufacturing workers, progressive foresters, environmentalists and anti-globalization activists, among others, that is based on opposing “free trade.” And in an effort to connect local to global, the program will connect these various regional communities and constituencies with parallel groups in the Central American region via ACERCA’s Central American work. A major goal of the Links Program will be to facilitate spaces for these diverse groups to meet one another, share experiences, and support one another’s struggles for protected ecosystems, sustainable jobs and economies, and the basic right to determine the needs and destinies of their own communities.
A later phase of Links will be developed in order to make connections with individuals and groups working on proactive and sustainable economic, environmental, and social models such as ecoforestry, organic agriculture, and permaculture, to name just a few. It will be part of the program’s mission to not only make contact with these folks, but to link them with working communities North and South. In the meantime the Links’ Labor Alliance Campaign will focus first on Vermont in order to develop a replicable model of organizing to be expanded throughout the Northern Forest region.
Some of our long-time NFN supporters may be wondering why we have shifted our focus to work not just for native forest protection, but also for economic justice, social justice, and labor struggles.
Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the timber products industry in northern New England, especially paper and pulp, has been in decline. According to the U.S. NGO Public Citizen, from 1993-2000 Vermont alone has lost 365 jobs in the lumber and wood and paper and allied products industries. All throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, paper mills, furniture factories, and small logging contractors have been folding and closing up shop, many of the larger corporations simply moved to another country, leaving empty shop floors and desperate families. Large corporations like Champion International and International Paper have become infamous for not only closing down mills that support thousands of people in their region, but also selling off vast tracts of degraded industrial forest lands and inflaming the regional populace, industry, government, and environmentalists with what to do with their shameful legacy.
But it is not solely the working communities in our forests who suffer at the hands of corporate globalization and so-called “free trade,” but also those on the edges of the Northern Forest-- the small family farmers whose hard work has made northern New England legendary for fine dairy and maple products and vegetable crops. In Vermont, family farms have diminished dramatically while multinational corporate behemoths like Vermont Egg Farms, a multinational factory farm corporation based in Quebec (which may have the dubious distinction of being the first factory chicken farm in Vermont), begin to loom on the horizon, further threatening small farm families.
NFN ENA’s foresight and hard work laid the groundwork for the Links Program, which is our answer to the deadly trend, and toll, of corporate globalization on the Northern Forest’s ecosystems and peoples. In many ways, we are continuing and honoring the cutting edge work pioneered by of one of our dear friends and continuing inspirations, Judi Bari, who worked with Earth First! in northern California, organizing and advocating for both the old growth redwood forests and the rights of mill workers.
From our work for both ecology and labor in the Northeast, to ACERCA’s work to protect the rainforests and the rights of workers in Central America, ASEJ has always seen and made connections between environmental protection and workers’ struggles the world around.
The contemporary development of the Links program began last Spring during the Burlington anti-FTAA convergence of U.S. activists who headed north to Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas protests. In the months before the convergence, we began working with the VT Workers Center, based in Montpelier, and United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) under the umbrella of the VT Mobilization for Global Justice (VT-MGJ). During this time, organizers from all three groups began to have informal discussions about the connections to be made between the traditionally-divided constituencies of labor and environmentalists via trade and corporate globalization.
Since those inspiring days of political conversation and friendship, we developed a unique working relationship with the VT Workers Center and UE. We are now members of the Center’s Steering Committee and are directly involved in labor solidarity work, essential for building our profile with unions and labor advocacy groups. We have provided networking, media skills, and direct action strategy to the organizing struggles of the Berlin Health and Rehabilitation health workers —who became the first organized health care workers in VT history this winter! We have also stood on picket lines for construction workers, including the Burlington Carpenters Union local (workers on the other end of the forest products trade), in their struggle to get a contract bid at Burlington’s Fletcher Allen Hospital.
Currently ASEJ is working with the Lake Champlain Chapter of the Vermont Workers’ Center in supporting workers’ struggles in the greater Burlington and Chittenden County areas. As part of this work I have also recently begun helping to produce a monthly program on our local community radio station–Free Radio Burlington–called “WAGE Labor Radio.”
Future highlights in the Links Program’s Labor Alliance Campaign include a late spring/ early summer briefing paper on trade and forestry and agriculture, and a later state-wide strategy meeting on trade, the environment, and labor issues, and how we can support one another’s struggles.
Jason speaks on issues relating to corporate globalization’s effects on ecosystems, indigenous, and working communities, focusing on forests/environment and trade, including NAFTA, FTAA, WTO, and the World Bank. He also speaks on the alliance/coalition building and analysis model of the NE Links program, which primarily focuses on Northern New England and Upstate New York.
Brendan speaks on several issues including an overview of Plan Puebla Panama and the threats to the cultural and ecological integrity of Central America. He also presents a slide show on rural life in Gualaco, Olancho Honduras where he lived and worked for 2 years, including an overview of how free trade has impacted community and ecology there. He also provides a geopolitical and geo-economic overview of the region’s corporate colonial history, “free trade” and its impacts on the region’s poor, indigenous peoples and land, plus examples of how indigenous movements are mobilizing for autonomy.
Brendan also speaks about Colombia, examining the roots of violence in the region with an analysis of U.S. military and economic policy there. He addresses the impacts of the Andean Initiative (Plan Colombia) and the War on Drugs on indigenous peoples and the Colombian Amazon.
Lauren presents on issues related to Plan Puebla Panama and is also available to speak about rainforests, with presentations geared toward young audiences.
Brian Tokar is an internationally acclaimed lecturer and a leading critical voice for ecological activism since the late 1970s. He has published three books on ecological politics and movements, teaches at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont, and coordinates the Institute’s Biotechnology Project.
Brian lectures on issues such as: the politics and hazards of genetic engineering and the growing worldwide resistance; the political and ecological impacts of globalization; the evolution (and devolution) of ecological activism in the U.S.; and the myths of “free market” environmentalism.
Contact Us: To contact us about speaking at your community or school, call us at (802) 863-0571, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lacandona, The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico 1998. 26 minutes: $20.00 (includes shipping).
This booklet, produced by the NoPPP Coalition in both English and Spanish, is a great introduction to the issues surrounding the Plan Puebla Panama. 2002. $5.48 pp. (English only. The Spanish version can be downloaded here).
#1 Lacandona, The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico. 1999. Accompanies the video. $3.16 pp.
#2 Central American Region: The Linchpin and Achilles Heel of Corporate Globalization. 2002. $3.28 pp.
#3 Understanding the Free Trade Area of the Americas. 2001. $3.20 pp.
Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America is a working project of the Alliance for Global Justice and a member of the Native Forest Network. ACERCA sprang from the necessity of filling a gap left when groups such as the Environmental Project on Central America (EPOCA) disbanded in the early 1990’s. We emerged out of the pressing need for international response to the environmental and human rights abuses occur ring in the Central American region. We are a collective of activists, organizers, researchers, advisors, interns, and volunteers, who together develop strategies and implement ideas. We have been focused on southern Mexico and Nicaragua, having been asked by the peoples of those regions to become involved. Previous delegations to these regions have served as tools to increase awareness of the struggles of indigenous communities. Through these issues, ACERCA works to expose the power imbalance which allows most cultural and environmental destruction to take place. Our video “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico” is available for purchase ($20 includes shipping) and papers on our expeditions to Chiapas and Nicaragua are forthcoming.
As ACERCA evolves, we are expanding our work and areas of concentration to the other regions of Central America. Our identity has developed out of an understanding of the inherent links between the globalization of the world economy and poverty, injustice, militarization, and the destruction of the environment. Our strategy is to use Central America as a lens through which people might more easily view these connections between politics and ecology. Ultimately, we see ACERCA’s efforts as being vital to stopping the tide of destruction, both to the environment and to all the inhabitants of Central America.
Rita d’Escoto Clark
Director, Nicaragua-US. Friendship Office
Gerard Colby & Charlotte Dennett
Journalists/Authors “Thy Will Be Done: Conquest of the Amazon”, Burlington, VT
Associate Professor, Northeastern University/Author
Past Coordinator, Environmental Project on Central America (EPOCA)
Executive Director, Transnational Resourse and Action Center/Author
Campaign Coordinator, Centro Humboldt (Managua, Nicaragua)
Njoki Njoroge Njehu
Director, 50 Years is Enough Network, Washington, DC
Executive Director, Rainforest Action Network
US Representative EZLN, Los Angeles, CA
Institute for Social Ecology, Plainfield, VT
Carlos Beas Torres
Coordinator de Comisiones de UCIZONI, Oaxaca, Mexico
S. Brian Willson
National Co-coordinator, Nicaragua Network
Lauren Sullivan, co-Coordinator
Orin Langelle, co-Coordinator
Sra Desantis, FTAA Campaigner
Arthur Hynes, interim Campaign Colombia Coordinator
Anne Petermann, Development Advisor
The mission of Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America is to protect the ecological and cultural integrity of the Central America region. We will move toward this goal by working with people in ihe US, the international community and Central America who are promoting ecological integrity, social justice, community self-reliance and democratic participation with regard to environmental and social issues in southern Mexico and Central America. We intend to promote a better understanding of the problems faced in Central America by building bridges that facilitate communication among the peoples of the region while also disseminating information to a North American and international audience.
Stretching from southern Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the Isthmus of Panama, Central America is a region celebrated for its natural beauty. Dense rainforests cover the eastern lowlands, lush coastlines sparkle in the Caribbean sun and the mountains echo with the sounds of tropical birds and insects. The fertile volcanic soils of the Pacific plains have nurtured civilization for thousands of years.
Today Central America’s natural environment is under attack. More than two-thirds of the rainforests are gone, and thousands of square kilometers of forest are destroyed each year. Indigenous communities and culture are vanishing. And things are destined to get worse under the current practices of economic globalization.
Multinational corporations, bent on extracting our planet’s remaining natural resources, and using “free trade” agreements to pave their way, are sweeping through the western hemisphere. Central America and all its inhabitants are under attack.
North Atlantic Autonomous Region
Collaborated with Northern and Southern environmental and social justice NGOs to create an active coalition to deal with the rainforest issues of the region.
Organized environmental justice delegations to the region in 1997 and 1998 to investigate plans for massive logging by a South Korean multinational.
Alerted the international community to illegal logging concessions granted to SOLCARSA; Issued numerous Action Alerts; Conceptualized and helped coordinate an International Day of Action for the Nicaraguan rainforest and indige nous peoples that contributed to the withdrawal of SOLCARSA from the North Atlantic Autonomous Region.
Developed a public outreach education campaign to promote ACERCA’s work in Nicaragua.
With the issuance of an International Alert in February 1995, NFN was one of the first environmental groups to explain the relationship between the social struggle in Chiapas and the destruction of the rainforest.
Mounted a delegation to the region in the spring of 1996 to monitor human rights and environmental abuses.
Produced a video documentary “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico.”
Maintains an important relationship with the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.
Developed an on-going multi-faceted public education campaign to broaden awareness to the plight in Chiapas.
We envision a transformation in the relationship between people in the United States and Canada and the diverse peoples of Mexico and Central America that would break the patterns of domination and paternalism that have existed for over 500 years and end the unjust interference of foreign governments, global financial institu tions and multinational corporations.
We wish to build an ethic of cooperation, community and mutual support that helps sustain the ecological and cultural integrity of this region. We are committed to building this ethic through public education and an open dialogue among the inhabitants of these regions. We envision the implementation of practical alternatives to the present social and environmental destruction by putting into practice the principles of ecological sustainability, social justice and democratic participation.
Coalition Launches Campaign Against International Paper’s GE Trees as Mobilization Begins in California’s Capitol
Sacramento – June 21, 2003 – A broad coalition of organizations launched a campaign against logging giant International Paper (NYSE:IP) today for their role in the genetic engineering of trees. The kick off protest took place at an Xpedx store, owned by IP, at 1015 Vine St. in Sacramento. Activists unfurled banners reading “STOP GE TREES” and performed street theater that included a roaming grove of old growth trees. The coalition is demanding International Paper end its research and development of GE trees because of the danger they pose to the environment. The protest took place at the beginning of a 5-day mobilization in Sacramento against the US agenda to export industrial agriculture, including genetically engineered organisms, around the world.
International Paper is a key promoter of GE tree technology in the world today. The giant forest products company funds Arborgen, a corporate venture to commercialize GE trees, as well as the Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative at Oregon State University. In addition, IP is a driving force in moving the technology from the laboratory to its release into nature. The company is linked to one half of all GE tree paper and wood field trials in the U.S.
“By funding, researching, and developing GE tree technology, as well as influencing and advancing neoliberal trade policies throughout the hemisphere, IP is getting all their ducks in a row for successful marketing, trade and commercialization of GE trees,” said Brad Hash with Action for Social and Ecological Justice, based in Burlington, Vermont. “This is a destructive technology solely designed for corporate profit.”
The campaign launch comes just days before US Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman is set to open the Agricultural Science and Technology Expo in Sacramento where more than one hundred trade representatives from around the world will meet. People from across the nation are expected to come to Sacramento to protest the event. The Expo, seen by many as a U.S. dominated agenda-setting session for the upcoming World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun, Mexico, this September, includes a plenary session presented by experts in GE trees.
“GE trees are one of the gravest future threats facing the world’s endangered forests,” said Martin Stephan, old growth campaigner, Rainforest Action Network. “IP still has time to embrace caution and get out of the business of genetic manipulation and into the business of responsible forestry.”
Chile may be the first country to produce genetically modified trees for the global market.
An international campaign against forest destruction in Chile has been front-page news for more than a year.
“These franken-trees would further threaten the biological uniqueness of Chile’s endangered forests,” said Stephan.
Ironically, IP continues to push this technology at a time when major companies such as Home Depot, Kinko’s and others are making strong commitments to protect the world’s endangered forests. More than three-quarters of the world’s old growth forests have already been logged or degraded, much within the past three decades. In the United States, less than five percent of our original forests remain. GE trees are seen as the latest threat to the protection of these rare forests.
“Leading companies, like Kinko’s, have stated their preference to do business with companies that don’t use GE trees. The more IP stakes their economic future to GE trees, the shakier that future will be,” said Liz Butler, campaign director for Forest Ethics, another organizational member of the Stop GE Trees Campaign.
IP and their partners are developing GE trees to express a variety of traits such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, lignin reduction and sterility. Because of their large size, long life span and wide range of pollen dispersal, GE trees pose a unique environmental threat compared to GE food crops.
The Stop GE Trees coalition includes Rainforest Action Network, Action for Social & Ecological Justice, Forest Ethics, Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, Dogwood Alliance, American Lands Alliance, Institute for Social Ecology’s Biotechnology Project, Greenwood Watershed Association, Genetic Engineering Action Network, Family Farm Defenders and the Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap Campaign and the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters.
Forcing “Free Trade” on the Americas: FTAA, CAFTA and the PPP:
Deeply indebted to the north, the World Bank and IMF coerce Latin American governments to privatize state-owned enterprises, reduce government expenditures, and open borders for “free trade”. This “neoliberal” model is forced on the region’s populations by multilateral institutions, which the U.S. dominates, like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB). Additionally, neoliberalism is being promoted globally through the World Trade Organization and in the Americas with agreements such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Complementing these “free trade” agreements in Latin America are a package of massive industrial regional infrastructure projects such as the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) covering the region from Mexico to Panama and the Integration of Infrastructure in the Region of South America (IIRSA) spanning from Colombia to Argentina.
The package of free trade projects proposed for the region, such as the FTAA, CAFTA, PPP and IIRSA are not spreading “freedom” nor “developing” the region as its champions would have it. Rather, these projects are widening the gap between rich and poor and ruthlessly exploiting workers, indigenous peoples, and women and destroying the environment. Growing disenchantment with the failures of this “free trade” model is widely documented even by its champions such as the IDB who begins their diagnosis of the region stating that 62% of all Latin Americans say that neoliberalism has worsened their economic situation; 72% say that privatization has not been a good idea; and 70% say that the state should maintain control of education, health care, water and electricity services.
The FTAA and CAFTA create the regulatory and legal framework for the acceleration of corporate-led globalization in Latin America by guaranteeing multinational corporations control of the regions abundant cheap labor forces, state owned services such as heath care and electricity and vast natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals, forest products, genetic material and commercial agriculture. Combined, the infrastructure megaprojects of the PPP and IIRSA, spanning from Mexico to Argentina, further entice corporate exploitation of the region providing investors with the infrastructure that they demand. Together the FTAA, CAFTA, PPP and IIRSA are pushing to create a singular Latin American free trade zone responding to the wishes of global capital and multinational corporations while failing to respond to the majority of peoples’ needs. As a result people are leaving their communities and immigrating to cities and to the United States in search of economic survival, only to face repression and economic hardship there.
Corporate Globalization: Many Acronyms, One Project
If the FTAA, CAFTA and the PPP have their way they will:Deny countries the right to protect vital local industry, selling essential services such as health care and education, and natural resources such as water and electricity to Transnational Corporations.
Displace thousands of rural and indigenous peoples with massive industrial development projects including hydroelectric dams, mining, oil drilling, commercial agriculture and forestry. Pushing the rural work forces into assembly plant production in already overpopulated urban slums or to migrate to the Untied States.
Deny countries the right to regulate speculative investments-leaving national economies open to the wishes of a few transnational financial corporations.
Give corporations the right to privatize biodiversity and patent and exploit genetic resources and traditional knowledge found mostly in indigenous communities.
Deny governments the right to reject genetically modified crops.
Create and privatize a regional energy market controlled by transnational corporations.
February 26, 2003
ACERCA campaigner for Action for Social and Ecological Justice (ASEJ)
PO Box 57
Burlington, VT 05402
Government offers negotiations in healthcare strike, but will Flores sign the legislative decree?
Monday, October 28, 2002
Organized communities in El Salvador won a major victory against the Plan Puebla Panama when government representatives confirmed that construction on the main loop of the San Salvador beltway would not begin this December, as originally planned. The government has removed from the 2003 budget $30 million destined towards beltway construction, which will delay construction until at least 2004. The $1 billion megaproject is a critical node around which gravitates the entire PPP road network, part of the key infrastructural groundwork for CAFTA; it would destroy communities and the environment as 4,500 families would lose their homes to construction. Communities across the San Salvador metropolitan area have been protesting against the beltway for over a year, blocking highways and chaining themselves to trees. On October 12, some 28,000 Salvadorans blockaded highways, bridges and border crossings at 11 points across the country, protesting against the PPP and CAFTA. Salvadoran President Francisco Flores has already seen his approval rating plummet to below 20% because of his intransigent refusal to end the healthcare strike; apparently worried about fallout in the upcoming 2003 legislative and 2004 presidential elections, he decided to put off the beltway project which has been so widely rejected by the Salvadoran people.
For months, the government has repeatedly refused offers by the STISSS and SIMETRISSS unions to negotiate an end to the month-long healthcare strike. Yesterday, Minister of Labor Jorge Nieto finally announced on national television his willingness to negotiate with the striking unions. Ricardo Monge, Secretary-General of the STISSS, welcomes the government’s offer, but insists that workers will not be fooled by empty promises: “We have always been ready to sit down and negotiate an end to the privatization of health care,” he explained, “but in order for real negotiations to begin in good faith, Flores must sign [the legislative decree outlawing privatization].” Should Flores carry out his threat to veto the decree, Monge predicts a “total social explosion, a crisis of grave dimensions” and warned that his union could not be held accountable for “the actions of individual groups of angry workers.” Today, the Health and Environment Commission of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly begins debate on Flores’s voucher privatization plan On Thursday, over 3,000 doctors at private clinics carried out a one-day solidarity strike; on Saturday, some 6,000 doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, patients and supporters from San Vicente and Usulután marched in Usulután. This week, doctors at the Ministry of Health public hospital network are threatening to call an indefinite strike unless Flores signs the decree.
Electricity workers from the STSEL union entered their sixth day of hunger strike today, protesting against illegal firings, the privatization of electricity generation, and the privatization of health care. Two fired workers and one member of the union’s Board of Directors are camped out in front of a prominent government building, drinking only water as they seek to focus international attention on the Salvadoran government’s labor and human rights abuses. This weekend, they were joined at rallies by workers from across the electrical sector, as well as from other unions in the FESTRASPES public-sector union federation. The STISSS and the SIMETRISSS have also expressed their solidarity and gratitude for the electricity workers’ sacrifice, and a SIMETRISSS doctor is on hand around the clock in case of medical emergency. Hunger striker Roberto Flores, Secretary of Organization of the STSEL, urged US solidarity activists to pressure Flores (see October 23 CISPES action alert), expressing that “whether I live or die depends on the government’s actions.” If the government still refuses to negotiate, STSEL has not ruled out a nationwide strike in the electricity sector that would shut off the lights for much of El Salvador.
When Vincente Fox, in early 2001, announced his comprehensive plan for a major transportation and industrial corridor from Puebla, Mexico all the way to Panama, it immediately drew fire from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Subcommandante Marcos denounced the plan saying, “the Isthmus is not for sale!”
The plan, which calls for vast displacement of native communities, rampant and uncontrolled ecological devastation, and massive industrial development will irrevocably damage this region–rich in culture, biodiversity and natural wealth.
Plan Puebla Panama, the name given by Fox to this disastrous scheme, has already seen tremendous alliances built to oppose it. Because of the PPP’s critical role in providing the infrastructure necessary for the continual expansion of global trans-oceanic trade, it also provides the anti-corporate globalization and global justice movements with a uniquely possible opportunity to effectively halt the expansion of free trade.
Central America has always been an important resource colony for both the United States and the world, offering rich resources and cheap “expendable” labor on the narrowest strip of land separating Atlantic and Pacific. Central Ameria is also critical as the land bridge connecting North and South America. With the globalization of free trade, the aging Panama Canal can no longer sustain the increasing volume of goods from Pacific Rim factories bound for US and European markets.
This growing ship trade can be traced back to the establishment of extensive networks of sweatshops in Asia. Partially assembled products from a low paid work force in Asia need to find their way to the gluttonous Eastern U.S. and Western European markets.
Economic globalization drives the need for transportation alternatives to the clogged and obsolete Panama Canal. For over 100 years, the expansion of capitalism has led to proposals for cross-isthmus dry canal mega-projects for trans-oceanic movement of goods. These mega-projects involve the construction of massive deep-water ports on both coasts, capable of hosting the largest ocean freighters. These ports will be connected by high speed rail lines and highways. This massive transportation corridor will open the region to further exploitation of the region’s forests, minerals and oil and lead to the development of extensive networks of maquiladora sweatshops (where components manufactured in Asian factories can be assembled into finished products). The dry canal megaprojects will also involve the construction of industrial shrimp farms, oil refineries, smelters and vast industrial development, leading to wide swaths of ecological and cultural devastation along the Isthmus.
At least five such dry canals are proposed along Central America’s isthmus, including southern Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and elsewhere. In Mexico and Nicaragua the canals will obliterate some of the richest, most biodiverse rainforest lands, home to indigenous communities.
Although these transoceanic mega-projects have been planned for years, President Fox of Mexico has packaged these plans in a new “regional integration” proposal: the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP). The PPP will include all seven Central American countries and southern Mexico, a region encompassing 102 million square kilometers and 63 million citizens. In Mexico, this region contains the most cultural and biological diversity in the country. The PPP proposes to link the trans-oceanic megaprojects with the development of a north-south industrial and transportation infrastructure.
Funding is anticipated from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and Central American Development Bank. The funds would be invested in new highways, port and airport expansion, tele-communications, and gas and oil pipelines.
Fox touts the PPP as bringing “the fruits of globalization” to Southern Mexico and Central America, advancing Bush’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA-ALCA) south to the Darian peninsula of Panama. Here, Plan Colombia kicks in to complete US dominance over this critical region and to open the Free Trade “gateway” into South America.
The geographical scope of the PPP includes important petroleum assets, 34 million hectares of virgin timber, spectacular fresh water reserves, 30 million low-wage workers, and the World Bank-created “Meso-American Biological Corridor,” a much-coveted gold mine of biodiversity.
In its essence, the PPP has three goals: (1) increase the transportation and industrial infrastructure in the region, improving the capacity for export industries, (2) catalyze a shift of the region’s economy from agriculture to assembly plant maquiladoras and manufacturing, and (3) expand private control over the vast natural resources in the region. Land privatization is key to all of these goals and underpins the PPP.
The PPP is clear about its plan to remove rural and indigenous communities from the lands that have sustained them for thousands of years, and to place them in urban slums located adjacent to sweatshop factories.
What will happen to the land when the people are removed?
Alfonso Romo serves as a PPP advisor and directs Grupo Pulsar, one of Mexico’s most important transnational corporations. Romo is a biotech seed giant and Grupo Pulsar currently has tree plantations in Chiapas (nearly 50,000 acres). More plantations are planned. These chemical-intensive, non-labor-intensive operations will irreparably damage the land without even offering significant local employment. With Romo’s ties to biotechnology there is certainly a future possibility of genetically engineered tree plantations being developed throughout the Central American Isthmus. The World Rainforest Movement has reported that the development of primarily non-native tree plantations in the region is directly due to the demand for raw materials for packaging for sweatshops.
The development of roads through the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua and around the Lacandon Rainforest of Chiapas have led to dramatic increases in the logging of the native forests in those regions. Forests on indigenous lands and in protected reserves alike are being ravaged, legally and illegally, by national and multi-national ventures. Indigenous peoples in forested areas often act as the last line of defense of their forest homeland. With the expansion of road construction throughout the Isthmus and the removal of indigenous peoples from the remaining forested lands, the forests will be opened wide for unchecked clearcutting and high grading.
This transformation of the land from forest to clearing has other impacts on the people and ecosystems. When Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in October of 1998, the most devastation occurred as a result of the massive mudslides and floods that ensued. The areas that suffered the most devastation and the highest losses of life were those areas that had been ecologically damaged and deforested years before. Where the rainforests still stood, the damage was minor, because the soils were able to retain the heavy rains, but where the land was bare, the rain had nowhere to go except into huge river floods, and without tree roots to hold the soil in place, the saturated earth slid off of the hillsides over the communities below.
The United States military has a long and disastrous history throughout Latin America. Currently, US military presence is strongest in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. After Hurricane Mitch, many American troops that were sent to the region for relief efforts never left. It has been reported that 12,000 U.S. troops will be deployed in a joint operation in Guatemala. The PPP both opens a corridor and provides a new excuse for militarization by the U.S. all the way from Mexico to Colombia. US factories, refineries and smelters in such an “unstable” region will require the heavy and on-going presence of the American military.
Indigenous activists in the region report an increase in military operations in Central America since September 11. George Bush’s “War on Terrorism” is being used as an excuse in the region to crack down on activism.
The on-going US Navy bombing of Puerto Rico’s island of Vieques and the presence of the Southern Command of the U.S. military in Puerto Rico, is also key in the overall military dominance of the region.
The PPP is potentially the greatest threat to indigenous communities and culture since the landing of Columbus as neoliberal economics is pitted against indigenous thought and wisdom.
As described above, one of the main goals of the PPP is the privatization of land and displacement of indigenous communities from their homelands. Indigenous culture and language is intimately tied to the land. Indigenous communities and culture in the region are already under assault by the increasingly dominant American capitalist consumer culture, and the loss of their land base will almost certainly sound the death knell for the remaining traditions that the indigenous communities still retain.
Uruguayan-born writer Carlos Fazio states that geo-politics are key to the PPP. To Fazio, the Plan represents a counter-insurgency strategy directed at the rebel, largely Mayan, Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and other armed groups in southern Mexico and Central America. The Zapatistas’ goals of indigenous autonomy and the collective use of land and natural resources are “antithetical” to the PPP. In La Jornada, Fazio stated, “The father of this plan lives in Washington…” describing Fox’s neoliberal affinity and the U.S. strategic, economic, and energy ambitions in the region.
Resistance: Finding the Achilles Heel
This massive remaking of the region is key for the continued expansion of globalization. Without this new transportation infrastructure, global trade cannot continue to expand. The Central American region remains a linchpin for the expansion of global trade. However, because of this critical importance to economic globalization, it is also its Achilles Heel.
If these mega-project developments can be stopped, a serious problem arises for the multinational corporations who need to ship capital goods from ocean to ocean, from South America to North America or who dream of cheap assembly plants throughout the region.
Civil Society Rises Up
The forces against corporate economic globalization are on the rise. Opposition to the PPP has already started in southeastern Mexico and Central America. This spring, some members of civil society organized their own consultation: a meeting about the PPP in Tapachula, a city on the Chiapas-Guatemala border. Present were over one hundred organizations, including groups from most of the southern Mexican states, as well as Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The group met for nearly three days and emerged with a common strategic response to the PPP. At the end of the meeting, the group issued a statement reading, in part:
“Given that any development plan must be the result of a democratic process, and not an authoritarian one, we firmly reject the Puebla-Panama Plan…. We condemn all strategies geared toward the destruction of the national, peasant and popular economy, [and] food and labor self-sufficiency.”
Opposition is also mounting in the U.S. In Washington, DC, on October 1, 2001 approximately fifty people representing 21 organizations gathered to discuss Plan Puebla Panama (PPP). The meeting was called for by ACERCA with Mexico Solidarity Network, Global Exchange and CISPES to build the foundation for a broad US-based movement against the PPP in solidarity with the global south.
The meeting brought together many U.S. based NGOs and representatives from Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Colombia. The afternoon meeting resulted in an informal coalition that will work to support the inhabitants of the region that will be affected by the PPP.
We, in the anti-corporate globalization movement have the opportunity to join with our southern allies in exploiting this Achilles Heel. It is also our responsibility to listen to and support development plans that come from the people of the affected region while dealing a major blow to corporate economic globalization. As one of our southern allies said, “it is time to build corridors of resistance to the PPP.”
This briefing paper was prepared by ACERCA with PPP information provided by Wendy Call, John Ross, and Mexico Solidarity Network
(Action for Community & Ecology in the Regions of Central America)
(Acción para La Comunidad y La Ecología en Las Regiones de Centroamericana)
Plan Puebla Panama: The InterAmerican Development Bank Paves Latin America (top)
-by Brendan O 'Neill
The InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) is literally paving the way for corporate globalization in Central America with the massive industrial development project called Plan Puebla Panama (PPP). PPP and its southern twin, the Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA), threaten the social and ecological integrity of all of Latin America.
PPP and IIRSA are “regional integration” projects that call for the construction of hydroelectric dams and high-impact roadways throughout indigenous territories and intact rainforests, the dredging of deep water ports in fragile ocean ecosystems and the creation of sweatshop factories in industrial development zones throughout the region. These projects, coordinated by the IDB, will be funded by development bank loans, private corporations and public institutions.
PPP and IIRSA will lay the infrastructural foundation upon which “free trade” can be built and expanded over the geographical area encompassed by the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The PPP covers Mexico through Central America, while IIRSA picks up in Colombia where the PPP leaves off, reaching into South America. Critics of the PPP argue that, like the FTAA and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it was created by a handful of regional political and corporate elites. The IDB has only held token “consultations” with hand-chosen organizations in the region and has intentionally excluded those who will be impacted most by the project.
The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is currently being negotiated by the US, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This agreement to advance free trade and to “forge closer economic relations” follows in the same neoliberal vein as NAFTA. Negotiators hope to have an agreement before December 2004. In the words of President Bush, the passing of CAFTA would be another step toward completing the FTAA. Any advancement in CAFTA or the FTAA promises to intensify corporate pressure to implement the PPP and IIRSA.
PPP: Development for Whom and by Whom?
PPP was originally proposed by Mexico’s President Vicente Fox to link the region from Puebla, Mexico, all the way to Panama, with a north-south industrial transportation corridor (i.e. superhighway to move goods) running along the Pacific Coast. In addition, the PPP calls for the creation of key industrial development zones (i.eŠsweatshops), as well as the dredging and privatization of deep water ports that would destroy critical habitat. A series of “dry canals” (superhighways and high speed railways) running east-west across southern Mexico and Central America would connect the ports on both coasts with the industrial zones and the north-south corridor. The dry canals threaten to displace rural indigenous people and destroy the ecosystems of the region.
Other PPP megaprojects include the creation and privatization of a regional energy grid involving the construction of dozens of hydroelectric dams from Panama to Mexico, which would feed industrial development. This promises to flood indigenous communities and ecosystems. Additionally, privatization of basic services and natural resources would enable massive oil, mineral, forestry and commercial agriculture development by multinational corporations.
Resistance to the PPP
Indigenous organizations such as the Organization of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Zone of the Isthmus (UCIZONI) have adamantly rejected a proposal for a dry canal through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. Since the announcement of the dry canal in 1997 UCIZONI declared, “The Isthmus is not for sale!” Thus, resistance to this dry canal by UCIZONI and other indigenous organizations existed long before it was formally incorporated as one of many megaprojects of the PPP.
From March 4-18, Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America (ACERCA) led a delegation of North American activists and grassroots organizers to Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region. Indigenous communities living in the region are opposing a PPP project that would expand the Bilwi-Puerto-Cabezas port into the largest in the Caribbean. DELASA, a private US corporation, is a major player behind this $150 million, three-part business plan that threatens to irrevocably alter the entire region. The company intends to enlarge and pave a road from Managua to Bilwi and to expand the Bilwi-Puerto-Cabezas port. This would result in the displacement of many nearby communities. Indigenous resistance to these projects includes coordination between ACERCA, the Sumu/Mayagna indigenous community organization (SUKAWALA) and the Nation of Mosquita Consejo de Ancianos.
Unified opposition and alternatives to these corporate globalization projects create the possibility for the development of locally based, socially and ecologically just alternatives. While the anti-globalization movement has targeted the World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, we must also target shameless regional banks like the IDB. Opposition to the FTAA has been strong, but to fully combat corporate globalization, we need to unify the struggles against the PPP, IIRSA, CAFTA and the FTAA.
With every proposal of the PPP, whether in the form of a hydroelectric dam or a dry canal, the privatization of natural resources or the creation of sweatshops, there is solidarity, resistance and alternatives being built from the bottom up. At a July forum against the PPP in Managua, Nicaragua, ACERCA dialogued with more than 1,000 activists from around the world about how to stop the PPP in its tracks. The final declaration of this event included a call to Northern activists to participate in an international day of action on October 12, demonstrating our absolute rejection of the PPP and FTAA, in solidarity with Mesoamerican resistance.
To get involved with the Network in Opposition to the Plan Puebla Panama (NoPPP) and to organize for the day of action against the Plan Puebla Panama, contact ACERCA, (802) 863-0571; email@example.com; www.acerca.org.
Brendan O’Neill is the Central America and Colombia campaigner at Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America (ACERCA). He has participated in two international forums against the Plan Puebla Panama.
What is NoPPP? (top)
PURPOSE OF NETWORK
NoPPP is a network of Northern organizations working to stop the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and the model of corporate globalization behind it. Our members seek direction from grassroots organizations and anti-PPP movements in the region of Mexico and Central America. This is a network only, not a coalition nor an organization.
The purpose of the network is to share information between organizations and build strategic alliances to support both the movements in the region and actions taken in the North (U.S./Canada/Europe) to stop the PPP. We seek to include grassroots groups, immigrant organizations, working class groups, students, and all other constituencies that oppose the PPP and the model of corporate globalization for the purpose of sharing information and building alliances across a broad base.
While expected to abide by our binding principals, particularly as it pertains to respecting and working with grassroots southern-based efforts and initiatives each member organization is encouraged to formulate its own work plan to fight the PPP and look for support from organizations inside or outside of the network. Participating organizations should not expect a NoPPP governing body or structure to come up with a campaign plan for members to support.
Communication Mechanisms and Membership Commitments
The PPP organizing member listserve and periodic conference calls are presently the specific communication mechanisms for the whole network. Additionally, organizations are encouraged to build alliances with each other outside the formal NoPPP mechanisms. NoPPP also hosts a PPP informational listserve for anyone that wants information on the PPP -all members should promote this informational listserve to activists and organizations. Members commit to posting all relevant PPP news and announcing organizing events to the over 200 members from all over the world of the informational listserve. We host a NoPPP webpage on the ACERCA website yet we are also considering having an independent web site for NoPPP.
We aim to hold conference calls every two months (sometimes more, during periods of high activity) to update each other on the PPP and actions/movement-building against the PPP. The purpose of these calls is not to discuss structure nor to hash out NoPPP campaign plans, but to find out what members and our Southern partners are doing and to build alliances as organizations within the network.
Before joining NoPPP we ask that you provide the basic information in our NoPPP invitation. On the conference calls NoPPP members provide updates on their PPP work and their southern partners PPP work. If you can’t be on the call we ask that you submit relevant and brief updates to the organizer listserve before the call. This complements our goal of being guided by southern partner’s realities and experiences.
NoPPP may decide on some occasions to endorse a plan of action as a network. This will only happen if all participants in a conference call agree with the endorsement, the decision is then posted to the listserve, where members have a specified time period to comment. The same goes with any other decisions to be made. When taking on a collective task, project or initiative as NoPPP we encourage a non-hierarchical, inclusive, and consensus-seeking decision making process.
Coordination of Calls
In order to ensure that the conference call coordination responsibility does not fall on one organization we have a team of Conference Call Coordinators (CCC), made up of 4-6 organizational representatives. These reps would each be responsible for coordinating 1-3 conference calls per year, in rotating order. The organization responsible creates and circulates a draft agenda (generally consisting of updates on PPP organizing from involved parties), finds a conference call system, arranges to pay for the call, identifies a facilitator and note-taker and post the notes from the meeting. CCC members will commit to the team on a yearly basis.
An Outreach Committee has been formed to recruit more organizations into the network. WE ARE PRESENTLY FOCUSING ON IMPROVING OUR INTERNAL DIVERSITY AND PLURALITY BY SEEKING YOUTH, PEOPLE OF COLOR, WOMEN AND GRASSROOTS COMMUNITY BASED (CBO’s) ORGANIZATIONS TO JOIN. We clarify to any new members that this is an informational and alliance-building space, not a centralized coalition that is going to provide a ready-made campaign. Although, we have an outreach committee we hope that all members will actively engage in our outreach inviting organizations that share our goal to stop the PPP and the model of corporate globalization that is behind it.
To join the PPP informational listserve e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on NoPPP go to http://www.asej.org/acerca
Join NoPPP- Network Opposed to the Plan Puebla Panama! (top)
Greetings from NoPPP,
We, the Network Opposed to the Plan Puebla Panama (NoPPP), cordially extend an invitation to your organization to become a member of our growing network. The network was formed in October, 2001 to respond with solidarity, partnerships, and action to the growing resistance and concern from Mexico to Panama over the largest industrial corporate development project to ever be launched in the region-the Plan Puebla Panama.
The PPP is a plan to integrate the infrastructure and regulatory systems from Puebla, Mexico through Panama by constructing transportation and industrial corridors, dredging deep water ports, privatizing a regional energy grid, and developing key free trade zones. NoPPP echoes those statements drafted at the international forums against the PPP, recognizing that the PPP, Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) fail to respond to the needs of the regions’ poor, indigenous peoples, women, farmers and labor forces. Conversely, we see that these “free trade” projects respond in kind to the needs of multinational corporations at the cost of self-sufficiency, sovereignty, basic human rights and widespread ecological destruction. Our members form partnerships and alliances and share information with other member organizations and southern organizations to stop the projects of the Plan Puebla Panama and develop economic, social and ecologically just alternatives.
To Join NoPPP please mail the following information to:
PO Box 57
Burlington, VT 05401
Or e-mail to: U.S…: Adrian (CIS) email@example.com
Stephen (Agricultural Missions) firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada: Gloria (SJC-Montreal) email@example.com
Organization Name/PPP contact person E-mail
Mailing Address phone:
What have you done related to PPP organizing? What are you currently doing with PPP organizing?
What are the key organizations (north/south) that you are working with on PPP organizing?
To join the PPP informational listserve e-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more on NoPPP go to http://www.asej.org/acerca
To join NoPPP contact ACERCA
PO Box 57, Burlington, VT 05402
(802) 863-0571 email@example.com
www.acerca.org , www.asej.org
Fact Sheet on the PPP (top)
Plan Puebla Panama (PPP)
The Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and the Mexican government have a plan to transform the landscape and the economy all the way from central Mexico to southern Panama. The “Plan Puebla Panama” proposes the industrialization of the region, connecting the region with dry canals, superhighways, a regional energy grid, and constructing a string of new “development zones” of sweatshops. These megaprojects are meant to open doors for transnational corporations from the north intensifying the pressure for the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (CAFTA). Communities throughout Mexico and Central America have called for a complete rejection of the Plan Puebla Panama arguing that it in no way responds to the basic needs of the region’s people and is completely contrary to community-based initiatives for economic, social, cultural and ecological just alternatives.
The PPP: Corporate Welfare
The PPP is already creating the following megaprojects from Puebla, Mexico to Panama:
… North-South Pacific Coast industrial corridor (superhighway to move goods)
… Free trade sweatshop zones and the dredging/privatization of deep water ports that will destroy critical fisheries
… Connection of ports, the industrial corridor, and sweatshop zones with “dry canals” coasts
… The creation and privatization of a regional energy grid involving the construction dozens of hydroelectric dams from Panama to Mexico to feed industrial development while flooding indigenous communities and ecosystems
… Privatization of basic services and natural resources enabling massive oil, mineral, forestry, and commercial agriculture development by transnational corporations
The PPP: more Poverty, Privatization and Plundering
The PPP was proposed by Mexican President Vincente Fox in March 2001, who declared, “The Plan Puebla Panama is much greater than Zapatismo or any other indigenous community.” While the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) is the primary financial institution behind the planning, financing and execution of the PPP, the World Bank is also involved in this corporate globalization project. Additionally, the PPP has drawn transnational corporate investors including: International Paper, Monsanto, Duke Energy, Harken Energy, Applied Energy Services, ENDESA (Spain), and SIT Global.
Join with the III Foro Mesoamericano to Oppose the PPP
Between the 16th and 18th of July, 2002 in Managua, Nicaragua, more than 1,000 delegates from over 350 organizations declared: “We call for mobilizations and demonstrations on the 12th of October as a demonstration of our total rejection of the PPP and the FTAA, to coincide with different expressions of struggle on this day of Mesoamerican resistance.”
Mobilize & Resist on October 12, 2002
For more information contact ACERCA & Action for Social and
Ecological Justice: firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-863-0571; www.acerca.org
Network Opposed to the Plan Puebla Panama Talking Points (top)
The Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and the Mexican government have a plan to transform the landscape and the economy all the way from central Mexico to southern Panama. The “Plan Puebla Panama” proposes the industrialization of the region, connecting the region with superhighways and a regional energy grid, and constructing a string of new “development zones” of maquiladoras. These megaprojects would literally pave the way for corporate colonialism in the region intensifying the push for the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Communities throughout Mexico and Central America have called for a complete rejection of the Plan Puebla Panama as it promises to ruthlessly exploit southern Mexico and Central America’s natural environment, labor, and indigenous communities to serve the interests of transnational corporations.
These are some of the statements that have come out of the 3 international forum against the PPP held in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua:
… There has been no serious consultation with communities affected by the PPP by either the IDB or the involved governments.
… The budget priorities of the PPP are dramatically skewed. In the Mexican government’s 2002 budget for the program ($697.4 million), 82% of funding is devoted to transport projects while only 2.9% is targeted for health or “social development” projects. Meanwhile, there is no specific attention to rural development.
… Few, if any, PPP-related projects call for environmental impact statements. While some of the proposals outline plans for studies of their ecological impacts.
… Public information about the PPP is scattered, incomplete, and confusing. The single largest document available (at www.presidencia.gob.mx) is devoted to general information about the demographics and natural resources of the region, with no details about PPP projects. Documents at the IDB website give spotty details and contradict each other. A country-by-country breakdown of projects and budgets is not available anywhere.
… The PPP responds to U.S. interests, not the needs of communities in the region.
… The development model that underpins the PPP will destroy local and rural economies and will reduce regional food security.
… The lack of public consultation regarding the PPP violates international agreements, including Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on indigenous rights.
… The PPP represents a grave risk to the rich biological and cultural diversity of the region.
… The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor program-which the Mexican government plans to incorporate into the PPP-represents a threat to local peoples’ land tenure.
… One of the PPP’s aims is to reduce migration by Central Americans and Mexicans to the United States, but the plan fails to realistically address the social and economic problems that spur migration.
… The PPP should be canceled and replaced with a regional development plan that: supports sustainable rural development, ecological values, and enhances food security.
A Special thank you to Wendy Call for her extensive contribution which helped generate much of the above information on the Plan Puebla Panama.
PPP’s CORPORATE INVESTORS (top)
Who are some of the multinational corporations that are investing in (and will be profiting from) the Plan Puebla Panama?
… International Paper Company and Boise Cascade are currently purchasing land in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico for plantation forestry. International Paper is also investing in research for genetically engineered trees.
… Grupo Pulsar- a Mexican biotechnology corporation, is investing in Chiapas in plantation forestry, biotechnology, and research on genetically engineered trees.
… ENDESA (a Spanish corporation) is the principal investor in the regional energy interconnection initiative to privatize energy and develop hydroelectric dams.
… Harken Energy, Applied Energy Services (AES), Duke Energy, and Harza are all U.S. energy corporations that are investing from Mexico to Panama in the development of hydroelectric dams and the privatization of the energy grid.
… DELASA Prescott and Follet is U.S.-based investment group that has a 25-year lease on the privatization, port modernization and creation of megaprojects (including factory zones and road expansion) in the port town of Bilwi-Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
Other investors include:
Tribasa, Caros, GAN, ICA, Imbursa, Texas Connection, International Shipholding Corporation, Monsanto, Shell, Dow Chemical, Exxon, Shell, and Hutchinson Holdings.
Adapted from a poster by Mexico’s Citizen Democracy Movement (MCD) and the Mexican Action Network Confronting Free Trade (RMALC). Additional research conducted by the Working Group of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec / GTCI (Mexico) and Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America / ACERCA (USA).
PPP INSTITUTIONAL SPONSORS (top)
Which public and multilateral institutions are financing the Plan Puebla Panama?
Frequently Asked Questions about the Plan Puebla Panama (top)
Written by CIEPAC, Chiapas, Mexico, email@example.com , http://www.ciepac.org/
October 21, 2002 http://www.zmag.org/chiapas1/index.htm>CHIAPAS
Is there a one or two sentence summary of what the PPP is?
On one level the Plan Puebla Panama is very easy to understand. It is a vast infrastructure construction project, designed to please big business, that covers 9 states in south-southeast Mexico and the 7 Central American republics.
Who is pushing the PPP the hardest?
Ostensibly the answer is Mexico, since the PPP was supposedly conceived by the present Fox administration, but its antecedents lie in plans and projects previously designed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for Mexico and Central America. After Fox was inaugurated in December 2000, he put a number of the construction projects in Mexico and Central America into a single PPP package. Fox presented the package to the Central American presidents in a summit meeting in El Salvador on June 15, 2001, which was subsequently approved.
Does the PPP have anything to do with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)?
NAFTA is a 1994 trade agreement that sets the rules for trade among nations, in this case between Mexico, Canada and the US. Now, the US seeks to expand the same rules to all 34 countries in North, Central and South America, plus the Caribbean nations (except Cuba), in a trade agreement known as the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas).
The FTAA, we might add, has a geopolitical dimension of great importance to the United States. It would create a single trading block, from the Yukon to the Patagonia, under US hegemony, that will rival the European and Asian blocks. FTAA carves out the Western Hemisphere for the United States, at least in terms of trade.
So the trade agreements (NAFTA and FTAA) are a necessary prerequisite for the proper investment climate that corporations are looking for. The PPP goes a step further by channeling billions of state funds to develop needed infrastructure to further interest corporations.
How does the PPP tie into other plans?
The PPP ties in with a similar infrastructure project in South America called IIRSA (South America Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative). The PPP and IIRSA seek to create basic infrastructure, or improve that which exists, in an effort to entice large corporations into investing in the area. The improvements in infrastructure would essentially boost corporate profits by easing, for example, the movement of goods in and out of the region, by improving roads. Yet the cost of infrastructure projects would be borne to a large degree by the people of the countries involved, either through direct taxpayer payments, or through loans taken out by participating countries that will eventually be repaid through taxpayer contributions.
Why is the PPP of importance to people who live outside the Mexico-Central American region? Why should it be of particular interest to Americans?
Because mostly American MNC interests will be benefited. The PPP will make it easier for large multinational corporations (MNCs) to invest in a region that is rich in oil, mineral deposits, timber, tourism sites. It is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, making it of interest to pharmaceutical, seed, and genetic-research firms. It is also strategic for the areas geography since it is the narrowest part of the Americas, making it a natural corridor for east-west trade.
But wait. You say MNCs will be interested, but MNCs come in all shape and sizes. The PPP wouldn’t benefit just American MNCs, would it?
Quite right. Investment capital from throughout the world might find it profitable to invest in the PPP area, but for a number of reasons American companies are sure to be the major beneficiaries. Here’s why. For one, it is in the US historical backyard, where the US has had a major say in how things are run since the 19th century, to favor its own political and corporate interests. As US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said with startling frankness, “Our objective with the FTAA is to assure for American corporations control of a territory that runs from the North Pole to the Antarctica, free access, without any hindrance or difficulty for our products, services, technology and capital through the hemisphere”(2). Security strategists have taken renewed interest in Mexico and Central America since the September 11 attacks. George W. Bush proposed a new free-trade agreement with the Central American republics in January 2002. President Bush recently won “fast-track” negotiating authority from Congress.
All of this means that American MNCs are the most closely linked to this region.
Why has this particular area been so designated? Why link the south-southeast of Mexico to Central America?
The official line has to do with promoting foreign investment in an area which, although rich in natural resources, has some of the highest poverty in the Americas. The Fox administration, at the urging of the IDB and the World Bank, touted the Plan Puebla Panama as a way of addressing the region’s poverty in a supposed integration manner. For neoliberal politicians and strategists, poverty must be addressed, but not necessarily resolved (which would entail looking at why people are poor in the first place). Their way of addressing poverty is through job creation that hopefully will come with MNC investment, once large companies are enticed into the PPP area.
Well, if the PPP area is so rich in resources and opportunities, why haven’t MNCs been chomping at the bit to get in and invest?
MNCs are anxious to exploit opportunities worldwide that will increase profits, but precisely because there is competition throughout the world for investment capital, MNCs can be choosy. They want things their way, and that means having basic infrastructure constraints resolved, but obviously at government (i.e., taxpayers) expense. For example, why put factories in an area where there is a shortage of reliable sources of energy? If roads are poor, how are inputs and outputs to make their way into and out of factories? If large tracts of land are necessary for monoculture export crops, have the poor farmers been moved out, or neutralized by some sort of deal cut by the government? Same goes for harvesting interesting plants and microorganisms in areas rich in biodiversity. Have the indigenous people been removed or neutralized, thus facilitating MNC access without lengthy delays and (potentially embarrassing) hassles?
The MNCs want these aspects addressed before investing a dime. This is on top of the usual government giveaways: free land on which to build factories, free utilities and tax holidays for decades, government-financed training of the workforce, and other perks.
Another major component in the works is dam construction. A total of 25 dams is planned for the region that will generate the energy needed for greater industrialization of the PPP area and supply the US market. This aspect harbors the greatest threat for indigenous people in the area, due to the flooding of thousands of acres of presently-inhabited land, and destruction of archeological sites, old-growth forests, indigenous communities and even cities. Between two to five dams are on the drawing board for the Usumacinta River that divides Mexico and Guatemala.
Also, if we look at a map of the PPP region, we see it is the narrowest point of the Americas. Much infrastructure is to be built linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. A ‘land bridge’ in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, at Mexico’s narrowest point, is under construction, which would assure speedy passage of containerized goods for burgeoning east-west trade.
The last four, however, are where the emphasis is being placed; in other words the infrastructure needed to entice the multinational corporations into investing in the PPP area. The greatest funding is for construction or upgrading highways, followed by energy interconnection and facilitation of trade.
These eight components each have separate ‘mega-projects’ some 28 in total
Some private companies have begun to underwrite certain infrastructure costs, but with the intent of getting in on the action early in order to corner the market. One example is found within the energy interconnection component. This plan will link the energy grids of Mexico and Central America, and is slated to cost US$405 million. The Spanish energy company ENDESA is putting in US$45.8 million and in so doing becomes a co-owner of the network.
But this is an absurd simplification. Neither public nor private investment automatically leads to higher living standards for the poor, unless steps have been taken beforehand to eliminate the structural injustices that exist in the economic, political, social and cultural spheres. In fact, investment often deepens poverty, as has been the case during the last 20 years of neoliberal policies, precisely because existing injustices have not been eliminated. Thus the rich and powerful benefit more from investments.
In fact no pro-poor policies are contemplated for the PPP that would address the roots of structural poverty. The plans and projects are designed in collaboration with and for big business, not for the 65 million people who live in the PPP area, the vast majority of whom are in poverty (75% living with less than US$2 a day).
Many activists are against the PPP for a number of reasons, but among the most important is the exploitation of natural resources for corporate profit, with only token consideration, or not at all, for the people who will be directly affected by the projects carried out. The PPP area has on the order of a hundred distinct ethnic groups, the majority of whom have not heard of the PPP. At times those consulted by the government and/or the banks have been brought into the fold with vague promises of particular works and benefits for their groups.
When one begins to see the multiple business connections and interests, it is difficult to avoid concluding that the PPP is more about energy and resource extraction than it is about development.
But if we search for ‘spill-over’ effects, one of the highly-touted benefits that the PPP will bring is, supposedly, jobs for the poor. Not just any jobs, but maquiladora jobs. Maquiladoras are the sweat-shops that have operated on Mexico’s northern border since 1966. Most of them are assembly plants that bring in parts from other countries and use cheap labor to make finished products.
Health and safety requirements, and labor rights, such as the freedom of workers to organize, are laxly enforced on the maquiladoras, and sometimes not at all. Nor do maquiladoras comply with other requirements, such as using locally-made goods as inputs, or transferring technology to the host country. Maquiladoras de-link production from the host country’s needs, and respond exclusively to the needs of the MNCs that set them up.
It would be unfair to deny that maquiladoras have provided employment to over a million people, just on Mexico’s northern border. But apart from the (low) wages they pay, their benefits have been practically nil for the rest of the economy. In spite of certain dynamism (which, in fact, has fallen in the past two years), the maquiladoras’ separation from the rest of the economy makes it virtually impossible for other sectors of the economy to benefit.
Yet this is the economic model that the PPP seeks to encourage in Mexico and Central America. The improved infrastructure that the PPP would bring, plus the low wages paid in south Mexico and Central America, would entice MNCs to set up maquiladoras that, in turn, would absorb, in theory, some of the peasants that are sure to be expelled from their land due to certain PPP projects such as dams.
As Global Exchange has written,
“Policy makers and pundits often try to make it seem that corporate globalization is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the current economic processes known as globalization have been defined and driven by a very small number of corporations. Citizens around the world are creating an alternative: grassroots globalization a peoples globalization that puts economic, social and political justice at the center of trade and investment. Citizens groups from across the Western Hemisphere have written an alternative Agreement for the Americas that offers guidelines for building this socially responsible and environmentally sustainable commerce. (www.globalexchange.org )
Participants at the PPP encounters have sounded a resolute NO! to the PPP. Activists are coordinating education and protest activities on a national level, and, in Nicaragua, agreed to a region-wide day of protest on October 12, 2002. The protests will vary from country to country, but may include sit-ins at border crossings, protest marches at PPP infrastructure works, demonstrations at the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank offices in each country, etc.
Notes within the text: (1) One of the most complete books is a series of essays published as “Mesoamerica, los rios profundos: Alternativas plebeyas al Plan Puebla-Panama” (published by Instituto Maya, Armando Bartra, Coordinator, Mexico City, 2001). We know of no book yet in English on the subject. (2) Osvaldo Leon, “Movilizacion continental contra el ALCA”, January 24, 2002, in ALAI (Agencia Latinoamericana de Informacion), http://alainet.org/docs/1698.html (3) The figure for Mexico during 1994-1998 is 85.1%, according to a Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN) study by Enrique Dussel Peters, “El Tratado de Libre Comercio de Norteamerica y el desempeno de la economÌa en Mèxico” (Mexico City, 2000), ref. LC/MEX/L.431, p. 20. Miguel Pickard
The Center for Economic and Political Investigations of Community Action, A.C. CIEPAC, CIEPAC is a member of the Movement for Democracy and Life (MDV) of Chiapas, the Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade (RMALC) www.rmalc.org.mx, Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas (COMPA ) www.sitiocompa.org, Network for Peace in Chiapas, Week for Biological and Cultural Diversity www.laneta.apc.org/biodiversidad, the International Forum “The People Before Globalization”, Alternatives to the PPP http://usuarios.tripod.es/xelaju/xela.htm, and of the Mexican Alliance for Self-Determination (AMAP) that is the Mexican network against the Puebla Panama Plan. CIEPAC is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Economic Justice http://www.econjustice.net and the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA) http://www.epica.org.
To join the PPP informational listserve e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on NoPPP go to http://www.asej.org/acerca
Place an order now! (top)
After a long delay, we are happy to announce the publication of:
Plan Puebla Panama: Battle Over The Future of Southern Mexico and Central America
The Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) is a $10 billion, 25-year-long series of industrialization projects that is steamrolling through the whole region of Mesoamerica, including 9 states in southern Mexico and the 7 countries of Central America. The plan threatens to displace hundreds of indigenous communities and destroy precious rainforest and wetland ecosystems.
This 48-page, (5.5" x 8.5") illustrated booklet details corporate globalization’s latest threats to Mesoamerica as well as the challenges and resistance the PPP faces.
The booklet covers a range of social and ecological issues that fall under the umbrella of PPP (see table of contents below). It is designed for grassroots education and outreach in North America. It will be a valuable tool for your organizing efforts, helping spread the word about the dangers of corporate globalization as well as the growing resistance to the PPP in Mexico and Central America.
The booklet is the product of a collective effort between the organizations that make up the U.S. - Canada PPP Coalition, with collaboration from Mexican, Central American and North American civil society groups.
Control Through Contamination, a 28-page report, focuses on how “free” trade and genetic engineering interface in Mexico and Central America. The report looks at the dangers genetically engineered crops and foods pose to human health, the environment and farming communities. It also focuses on how free trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) force GMOs onto Mexico and Central America.
This report is a compilation of research conducted over the last two years by S’ra DeSantis who wrote her thesis for the University of Vermont’s Environmental Studies Program on the genetic contamination of indigenous corn in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2002. S’ra DeSantis is an organic vegetable farmer in Vermont. During her off-season she works with the Institute for Social Ecology’s Biotechnology Project.
This report is a joint effort bewteen the ISE Biotechnology Project and Action for Social and Ecological Justice (ASEJ) , both based in Vermont.
$3 each (includes postage).
10- 49= $2.50 each (includes postage)
50 or more= $2.00 each (includes postage)
To place an order, please send a check to:
ISE Biotechnology Project
1118 Maple Hill Road
Plainfield, VT 05667
Make check payable to the Institute for Social Ecology.Control Through Contamination is also available in English and Spanish on the ISE Biotechnology Project’s website www.nerage.org and Action for Social and Ecological Justice’s (ASEJ) website at www.asej.org. The versions on the web are text only and do not include the many photos and art in the print version.
There was a recent article in the New York Daily News on the Plan Puebla Panama, written by Wendy Call , that Action for Social and Ecological Justice/ACERCA was quoted in. The story is also below and the link is:
Paving the Way for Corporate Control:
the Plan Puebla Panama English and Spanish originals published in Viva NY!
of the New York Daily News, September 7, 2003
A wall of cement and rebar, dwarfing the tractor trailers surrounding it, rises from bare red clay that was once rich farm land. Towering over nearby palm-roofed shacks, it will soon be an overpass for a new four-lane turnpike in southern Mexico. The new construction appeared in April just north of Juchitán, Oaxaca, a city of 80,000 indigenous Zapotecs. A victory for the Mexican government, the highway is a bitter loss for many local people. They don’t want their farms, villages and forests cut in half by four lanes of pavement.
Zoila José Juan, a grandmother from Boca del Monte, a village in the highway’s path, is furious about the project.
“Are the indigenous people really going to go back and forth in their cars?” she says angrily. “What cars do we have? We only have our animals to carry our cornŠ There’s no way we are going to teach our horses and burros to go up the stairs [of the overpass] to carry our firewood.”
Construction crews have begun pouring asphalt across the Mexican isthmus, where only 120 miles separate the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Building a link (or “dry canal”) between the oceans across the isthmus-something first proposed by the Spanish conquistadores-is part of the Plan Puebla Panama. The plan, known as the PPP, will connect Mexico and Central America with a highway network, an electrical grid, and industrial parks for sweatshop-style maquiladoras.
This industrial development program will allow easy export of sneakers, clothes and stereos, produced by Central American and Mexican workers paid as little as two dollars a day. The PPP is the brainchild of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The proposed PPP highway network extends more than 5,500 miles. These highways account for 85 percent of the $4.5-billion PPP budget, and many of them will be high-speed, multi-lane roadways designed for tractor trailers carrying merchandise to be sold in Europe and North America.
PEOPLE VS. THE PLAN PUEBLA PANAMA
Believing they have little to gain from the PPP, many local residents oppose it. In fact, a movement against the PPP surged to life more quickly than the program itself. The most recent of four international gatherings was held from July 19 to 24, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, attracting 1,600 people from 15 nations. During the past year, tens of thousands of protesters from Canada to Panama have blocked highways, taken over airports, rattled the gates at Mexican and U.S. embassies, shut down border crossings, and spray painted “No PPP!” on the walls of foreign-owned factories.
Brendan O’Neill, of the Vermont-based Action for Social and Ecological Justice, believes the IDB needs to answer for its actions. “The Inter-American Development Bank’s Plan Puebla Panama represents one of the biggest, yet least known, threats to the cultural and biological diversity of the region.”
The PPP includes a new energy grid for the eight PPP countries: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. The new juice, coming mostly from oil and big dams, will move to factories via power lines bought with PPP funds.
The regional energy grid (known in Spanish by its acronym, SIEPAC) was a narrow victory for PPP planners. After every other PPP country had approved the project, the Salvadoran national assembly nearly rejected the $40 million IDB loan for El Salvador. Some Salvadoran lawmakers feared the $320-million project was designed to serve big corporations, not poor neighborhoods.
United States-based Applied Energy Services (AES) already controls the majority of stock of four of five private companies that distribute 80 percent of all energy in El Salvador. Opponents to the project-such as Armando Flores of the Center for the Defense of the Consumer in El Salvador-point out that Panama and El Salvador, the two Central American countries that already have 100 percent of their energy sectors controlled by private businesses, are also the countries with the most expensive electricity costs per household.
SIEPAC adds millions of dollars to the public debt of each Central American nation-meaning that some of the hemisphere’s poorest people will pay the bill-and increases reliance on hydroelectric dams, which destroy rivers and flood entire villages.
In the end, El Salvador’s SIEPAC loan was approved in November 2002, after IDB officials traveled from Washington D.C. to San Salvador to lobby in its favor.
NAFTA FOR THE HEMISPHERE
Two weeks after that Salvadoran vote, the Mexican Congress erupted in commotion. On December 10, 2002, congressional representatives scrambled out of their seats, sprinted out the back door of the building, and tried to jump the high fence surrounding their meeting place. Out front, protesting farmers puttered around on tractors, smeared manure on the sidewalk, and pelted the walls with rotting vegetables. Cowboys on horseback shattered the glass façade of the building.
It was an anti-NAFTA demonstration. Remember NAFTA? While it cost workers in the United States thousands of well-paid jobs, it cost many Mexicans their livelihood. On January 1, 2003, some of the last protections for small farmers and businesses were phased out, drawing hundreds of thousands of destitute protesters to the streets under the banner, “The countryside can’t take any more!”
NAFTA is the model for a new free-trade zone that will stretch from Canada to Argentina, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The Plan Puebla Panama is intended to pave the way for FTAA, providing the infrastructure that transnational corporations need to move into Latin America. Additionally, the IDB has a twin program, the South American Infrastructure Integration Initiative, which includes many of the countries south of Panama.
Meanwhile, the PPP has a military corollary. Under intense pressure from the U.S. government to reduce illegal immigration, Mexican President Vicente Fox launched Plan Sur (Southern Plan) around the same time as the PPP. Plan Sur includes a beefed-up military presence in southern Mexico. The goal: Turn back Central American migrants desperate to reach jobs in the U.S. Though the PPP is supposedly designed to reduce migration to the United States, it is likely to increase it as more and more rural Mexicans and Central Americans are displaced from their land.
PPP FACES ROUGH ROAD
Although SIEPAC and highway construction move forward, citizen resistance and the sluggish U.S. economy have derailed several PPP initiatives. One doomed project was “Proyecto Millenium” (sic), a highway and maquiladora corridor planned for Puebla, Mexico-the northern end of the PPP region. According to Puebla Governor Melquíades Morales, Proyecto Millenium was canceled “because of the peasants’ demands.”
In November 2000, indigenous Mixtec farmers learned that the government planned to expropriate 44 square miles of land-much of it productive farm land-to build a golf course, country club, luxury homes, and an industrial park. The peasants broke down the door to the Puebla state congress after they got wind of the project. They felt it was the only way to find out what was happening to their land.
Police arrested and beat the organizer of the protest, farmer Concepción Colotla. “We knew we were going to be repressed, but we weren’t scared,” Colotla said later. “Because we knew that without our land there wouldn’t be any reason to live.”
Projects like the Proyecto Millenium follow the regular pattern of the IDB, World Bank and other multilateral institutions: development at all costs. At the end of the day, the people negotiating the course of the global economy don’t have to live with the results of their decisions. That fate is left to the poor, who have no place at the negotiating tables.
The Plan Puebla Panama is getting a lot of media these days. The Plan Puebla Panama and the FTAA were named 16th place by Project Censored, for the top stories that mainstream media missed…or ignored this year.
The story on the Plan Puebla Panama and FTAA, that was the recipient of the award, is also below and the link is:
Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-2003
#16 Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA
Title: “PPP: Plan Puebla Panama, or Private Plans for Profit?”
Author: Miguel Pickard
PUBLIC CITIZEN’S TRADE WATCH, 2002 Report
Title: "Unveiling ‘NAFTA for the Americas’ "
Author: Timi Gerson
LABORNOTES, April 02, 2002
Title: “Plan Puebla Panama: The Next Step in Corporate Globalization”
Author: Tom Hansen & Jason Wallach
ASHEVILLE GLOBAL REPORT/EXTRA! Feb. 03, 2003
Title: “The FTAA is none of your business”
Author: Rachel Coen
Faculty Evaluators: Francisco Vasquez Ph.D., Richard Zimmer Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Jessie Esquivel, Dana Balicki
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is a trade agreement intended to spread NAFTA’s trade rules to an additional 31 Latin American nations by 2005. Working in conjunction with FTAA is Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP) a multi-billion dollar development plan in progress that would turn southern Mexico and all of Central America into a colossal free trade zone, competing in the world wide race to drain wages, working conditions, environmental protection and human rights.
PPP is the brainchild of Mexican president, and former Coca-Cola executive, Vicente Fox. Fox set priorities when first he took office stating, “My government is by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs.” Not surprisingly then, the PPP emerges not as a strategy to end the endemic poverty in this region, but rather to induce private investment/colonization as it turns over control of the area’s vast natural resources- including water, oil, minerals, timber and ecological biodiversity-to the private sector, mostly multinational corporations. Seven hundred and eighty companies of all sizes (Harkin, Union Pacific-Southern, International Paper, Exxon, Mobil, Dow Chemical of Mexico, Union Carbide, and Monsanto) sent representatives to the PPP informational meeting in Yucatan during the summer of 2002.
The ideas for the PPP area consist of: the construction of new ports, airports, railroads, bridges, 25 dams for hydroelectric generation, upgrading telecommunications facilities, including a fiber-optic network, upgrading electrical grids, highway construction and creating wildlife reserves to help facilitate “bioprospecting” by various multinational seed, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies.
The Inter-American Development bank (IDB) is the main backer of the Plan Puebla-Panama. The cost of $3.5 billion, which is 84% of the funds, will initially go for massive road construction and improvement on two stretches of highways. One of the highways will be from the Central America’s Caribbean coast up 1,745 km to the Mexican Border with Texas, and the other highway will run 3,150 km from central Mexico going into Panama city. These two highways are intended as trade routes, to open the entire Mexican and Central American corridor for business. The taxpayers of the eight PPP countries will be the ones paying for the development of the public-works projects that will benefit private transnational capital and assure profits for corporate investors.
Fox wants to transplant the maquiladora, production-for-export model that has been applied with disastrous results in northern Mexico. The American isthmus, the narrowest part of the Americas, will be turned into a state-of-the-art foreign product assembly station. Twenty-first century commodities are increasingly produced in the Pacific Rim, with China’s 1.2 billion people leading the way with the largest and lowest-paid workforce in the world. But transportation is a problem, when the largest consumer bases are located on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and in the upper Midwest. It is much Cheaper to ship these goods unassembled, using modern containerized shipping, but they still must be assembled into finished products before reaching the market. Thus the isthmus offers unique strategic advantages as the shortest land route between Pacific production and Atlantic consumption.
According to Pickard this project will 9nine southern Mexico states and all of Central America into a massive free trade zone, competing in the world wide race to the bottom of wages, working conditions, lax environmental regulation and disregard for human rights.
Under the FTAA, multinational corporations could leverage exploited workers in Mexico against even more desperate workers in Haiti, Guatemala or Brazil. The FTAA would intensify NAFTA’s “race to the bottom” and deepen the negative effects of NAFTA already seen in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. PPP is one more “development” plan, instituted by transnational corporations and international financial institutions that will benefit the corporate bottom line but result in more poverty and displacement. More than 18 percent of the inhabitants of the future PPP area belong to indigenous communities, 40 percent are under age 15, and the majority live below the poverty line.
Update By Miguel Pickard
The Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) was proposed in 2001 by Mexican President Vicente Fox, and was widely commented on in the area it covers, i.e., Mexico and Central America. But within the United States there had been very little information, in spite of the fact that the initiative benefits mostly U.S. multinational corporations. The fact that CorpWatch published the article on its web page meant that it was immediately picked up by numerous activist organizations and given wide circulation, especially to readers in the North. The article helps make clear how enormous areas of land (in the case of the PPP 102 million hectares, with 64 million inhabitants in eight countries), are being “prepared” for MNC exploitation, under the guise of infrastructure “development”, with no informed consent of the people living therein.
Due to efforts of activist organizations in the South, the threat posed by the PPP to people, and especially indigenous communities in the area, was given wide dissemination, especially through well-attended regional meetings that brought together social and civil organizations from Mexico and Central America. Opposition activities ensued from these encounters in practically all of the nine countries of the PPP, alerting governments that civil society was demanding to be heard, and that it had to be consulted, and alternatives discussed. Alternatives obviously had to contemplate the interests of inhabitants, and civil society in general, and not just those of MNCs.
The Mexican government realized by late 2002 that opposition to the PPP had grown enormously and that simply signaling a project as part of the PPP was enough to draw unwanted activist scrutiny and mobilization. In essence PPP publicity, touting it as a way out of poverty for an especially underdeveloped area, had failed. Rhetoric extolling the social virtues of the PPP was exposed as so much veneer for a project that puts natural and human resources at the behest of corporations. In essence the Fox government had to backpeddle on the PPP, purging almost all references to it in official discourse, until new “packaging” could be found.
PPP discourse to date continues “on hold” within the Fox government. Its official PPP web site, for example, was removed from the internet during 2002. What is important to stress, however, is that the PPP megaprojects are continuing full steam ahead, even though they may not be labeled as such. Although now more difficult to detect, activists within Mexico and Central America are on alert and mobilizing to stop large-scale “development” projects that are bereft of civil society input.
A follow-up story on the PPP, and additional information on the PPP, are available at: The Lacandon Jungle’s Last Stand Against Corporate Globalization:
Miguel Pickard, CIEPAC (Center for Economic and Political Investigation for Community Action), San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico
Update By Timi Gerson
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has had disastrous consequences in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. It has forced millions of Mexican farmers off of their land and into sweatshops along the U.S./Mexico border; created ghost towns in the American Mid-West and South with the shuttering of steel and textile factories; and led to successful attacks by chemical companies on Canadian federal bans on toxic substances. NAFTA’s race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards is well known, but equally damaging is its attack on democracy. NAFTA allows corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals when companies feel that " investor rights" have been violated by public health and safety laws, local zoning ordinances or almost anything else that cuts into profit. It is this model - a slow-moving coup d’etat on democracy - that is being expanded via the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
On November 20-21, 2003 the 34 Trade Ministers of the Americas and the Caribbean (all countries except Cuba) are coming back to where it all began - Miami, Florida where negotiations were launched in 1994. Per usual, multinational CEOs will court and lobby ministers at the Americas Business Forum. Outside the security perimeter, plans for a People’s Gala, a march and rally, teach-ins and other activities showing the diversity of opposition to “NAFTA for the Americas” are being coordinated by a broad coalition including: the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Jobs with Justice, the Citizens Trade Campaign, Oxfam America, the National Family Farm Coalition, the Alliance for Responsible Trade and the Latin America Solidarity Coalition among others working with local Florida organizations like the Miami Workers Center, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Unite for Dignity and the Florida Fair Trade Campaign.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, U.S. media pundits cling to the ideological conviction that “free” trade lifts all boats. The reality is that a malaise with Washington Consensus policies of privatization and market fundamentalism is sweeping across the continent (witness the election of corporate globalization critics in Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador). To date, and with almost no coverage in the American press, almost 10 million Brazilians have voted against the FTAA in an informal plebiscite; Americans, Argentines, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans are engaged in similar processes of “consulta popular” or peoples referendum; and national or regional Forums Against the FTAA have been held in Argentina, Bolivia, the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia and Ecuador. In the face of rising international and domestic opposition, the Bush Administration seeks to lockdown as many countries as possible in bilateral NAFTA-style agreements as soon as possible. A Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua is set to be complete by January 1, 2004. The U.S. - Chile free trade agreement was signed June 6, 2003 and will soon be voted on by Congress. These agreements are pieces in the FTAA puzzle. The Bush Administration is pushing a January 1, 2005 deadline for completion of FTAA negotiations with implementation by January 1, 2006. NAFTA was an experiment that failed; the FTAA will be more of the same.
To help stop the FTAA, contact Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch at email@example.com or (202) 546-4996 and check out our website at www.tradewatch.org
Action for Social and Ecological Justice
P.O. Box 57, Burlington, VT 05402 USA
(802) 863-0571 Office / (802) 598-8373 Mobile
(802) 864-8203 Fax
ACERCA (Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America), the GE Trees Campaign and Northeast Links are projects of the Action for Social & Ecological Justice (ASEJ) collective.
Oaxaca, Mexico-Two year battle for protection of indigenous territories and against corrupt government and corporate officials leaves 1 activist dead and 3 in prison. Local community calls for international support to free Zapotec indigenous political prisoners.
Oaxaca, Mexico-Union Hidalgo is a Zapotec indigenous community located on the southern coast of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico with roughly 15,000 inhabitants. In January 2001, local fisherman began to encounter people burning and destroying the coastal mangrove ecosystems on which the local fisherman have relied upon for sustainable small scale shrimp fishing for decades. In February, 2001 upon discovering the destroyed coastal mangroves a commission of local fisherman called the “Comite de Bienes Comunales Guuze Benda” (Communal Lands Committee) and the “Gubiña XXI” filed an official complaint to the Federal Commission of the Environment located in Oaxaca, City. There was an immediate investigation that confirmed the communities reports and ordered the immediate end to the destruction of the mangroves.
This investigation marked the beginning of what was to become a 2 year struggle between the coastal indigenous Zapotec town of Union Hidalgo and a corrupt mayor of the municipality who was also the president of the corporation responsible for the industrial shrimp farm. This conflict eventually led to the murder of a local indigenous protestor and the current imprisonment of 3 indigenous leaders.
During the electoral campaign of 2001, a strong community movement from the Union Hidalgo town campaigned against the PRI candidate Armando Sanchez Ruiz who ran for mayor of Union Hidalgo. The community charged that Armando Sanchez Ruiz and his principal supporters were sponsoring the Camaron Real Pacifico industrial shrimp farm project that had deforested and burnt 600 hectares of coastal mangroves in order to convert them into enormous pools for the industrial exploitation of shrimp. Camaron Real del Pacifico is owned by a rural workers’ union called“UGOCEM” that operates in the north of Mexico known for its promotion and involvement in developing industrial shrimp farms counting on the investment of a U.S. firm called Ocean Garden.
The people of Union Hidalgo testified that the candidate and his supporters traveled in cars with the logotype UGOCEM, the parent company of Camaron Real Pacifico. Eventually, the elections were suspended for two weeks due to various accusations of corruption but in the end Armando Sanchez Ruiz won and assumed the seat of mayor of the municipality of Union Hidalgo in December 2001.
By May 2001, the community of Union Hidalgo organized a forum against industrial shrimp farms declaring themselves against the implementation of industrial shrimp farms in Union Hidalgo seeing how these short-term projects had already destroyed the ecosystems, contaminated local water sources and displaced local shrimp fisherman from their lands.
On September 23, 2002 SEMARNAT (the Mexican federal natural resource agency) received an environmental impact study filed under a different name (than Camaron Real Pacifico) requesting permission to develop an industrial shrimp farm. The environmental impact study was for the same site that had already been burnt and damaged in Union Hidalgo, and proposed to invest $8 million dollars in the project. The president of the proposed project, listed on the environmental impact study, was Sonia Lopez Sanchez, who was also President of UGOCEM in Oaxaca and the treasurer was mayor Armando Sanchez Ruiz.
Many on the list of supporters and investors of the project were affiliated with the PRI party including powerful local “caciques” or local strongmen/landholders. Furthermore, the contract called for the purchase of communally held lands suggesting that the lands were actually privately held.
On the 26 of December, 2002 the people of Union Hidalgo, outraged with the corruption of their mayor, intensified their struggle for justice and against the destruction of their communally held lands and indigenous way of life. This was the first day that Armando Sanchez Ruiz was scheduled to present his first official report as mayor of Union Hidalgo. However, the PRI official was only able to justify the spending of $3 million pesos for community projects and had no explanation for the spending of at least $7million pesos, according to the people of Union Hidalgo. At this point the town formed the Council of Citizens of Union Hidalgo (CCU) with the goal of monitoring and guaranteeing the transparency and good use of municipal resources. Many of those in the UCC were also Zapotec indigenous small fishermen who had long been involved in the battle against the mayor’s shrimp industrial shrimp farm.
On the 13th of February, 2003 the town gathered in the town square and about 1000 people waited for a delegation of state government auditors from the city of Oaxaca meant to investigate the communities allegations. Seeing that the commission did not arrive the townspeople converged on the municipal palace in protest. The municipal president Armando Sanchez Ruiz ordered the police to break up the protests and police opened gunfire on the crowd. Protestors began to fall to the ground and others ran while still others took rocks in their hands to defend themselves. After all was said and done one of the protesters, Manuel Salinas Santiago, laid dead in the street and 10 more protestors were injured by gunfire.
After February 13, 2003 mayor Armando Sanchez Ruiz did not return to Union Hidalgo. However, his successors continue to violently oppress and pursue members of the UCC.
During February and March the town mobilized to the capital city of Oaxaca demanding:
Investigations, audits, and that Armando Sanchez Ruiz be held accountable for the bloodshed on the 13 of February, and that the current leadership be removed.
Since that time there have been 3 more occasions of repression of the CCU including the recent illegal detention of 3 Zapotec indigenous leaders explained in the following action alert:
June 20, 2003
Oaxaca, Mexico-Two year battle for protection of indigenous territories and against corrupt government and corporate officials leaves 1 activist dead and 3 in prison. Local community calls for international support to free political prisoners.
On May 15, 2003, 300 people peacefully blocked the Pan American highway north of the indigenous Zapotec town of Unión Hidalgo. They were there to demand the immediate release of political prisoner Carlos Manzo who had been illegally detained the previous day by police forces in the nearby town of Juchitan. After blocking the road from 10 am to 3pm on May 15 police forces fired tear gas on the protesters and began to brutally beat women and children in an attempt to break up the protest.
On May 14th, Juchitan police forces had illegally detained indigenous leader Carlos Manzo, member of the Consejo Ciuadadano de Unihidalguense (CCU). According to eye witness testimony, Carlos Manzo was leaving a bank in the center of Juchitán (a city near his hometown of Unión Hidalgo) when 8 police officers presented a document, saying they had a warrant for his arrest charging him with robbery and “deprivation of liberty”.
Since the police attack on May 15, two other indigenous activists have been arrested, Luis Alberto Marin and Francisco de la Rosa also of the CCU, joining Carlos Manzo as political prisoners.
The CCU was formed in February 2003, after a conflict between Unión Hidalgo community members and the municipal government, over the suspected misuse of funds by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) mayor, Armando Sánchez Ruiz. The mayor was also charged with being responsible for the creation of an industrial shrimp farm burning 600 hectares of the coastal mangrove ecosystem in indigenous territories.
The ongoing political struggle has led to the Oaxaca PRI state government (known for both corruption and repression) stepping in to support the mayor - issuing arrest warrants on trumped up charges for Unión Hidalgo residents who are active in the CCU.
Many of the indigenous leaders of the CCU have been active participants in a two-year battle to stop an environmentally devastating shrimp farm from being built in Unión Hidalgo. The community is an indigenous Zapotec fishing village. The proposed shrimp farm - heavily promoted by mayor Armando Sánchez Ruiz - would be built on communal lands. It meshes perfectly with the industrial development program, the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), being pushed in the region by the Interamerican Development Bank and the Mexican government. The PPP is a multi-year $10 billion package of industrial development megaprojects connecting Puebla, Mexico to Panama.
The CCU demands the immediate release of Carlos Manzo, Luis Alberto Marín, and Francisco de la Rosa and calls for an immediate investigation into ex-mayor Armando Sánchez Ruiz. The CCU also asks for your support.
TAKE ACTION NOW *****TAKE ACTION NOW *******TAKE ACTION NOW
ACERCA asks that you FAX and E-MAIL the following letter (in Spanish) on behalf of your organization or as an individual to the governor of Oaxaca. Please send a copy of the text that you fax to the CCU at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Lic. José Murat Casab
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, México
Lic. Vincente Fox Quezada
Presidente de la Republica
Los Pinos; México; D.F
Estimado Lic. José Murat Casab:
Me dirijo a usted para deunciar el hecho de que Carlos Manzo, Francisco de la Rosa Ruíz y Luis Alberto Marin, zapotecas del Consejo Ciudadano Unihidalguense de Unión Hidalgo, Oaxaca, se encuentran recluidos, siendo su único delito el reclamar la destitución de un corrupto presidente municipal. Le ruego como gobernador del estado de Oaxaca hacer lo siguiente:
Que se lleve a cabo una investigación pronta y expedita de los hechos a fin de identificar a los responsables y proceder a su procesamiento y sanción de acuerdo a la ley.
Se adopten las medidas necesarias para resguardar la vida y la integridad de los señores Carlos Manzo, David Sánchez Alonso, Ausencio Rodríguez Orozco, Sofía Olhovich, Romel Giovanni Matus Matus, dirigentes y demás miembros del CCU.
La presencia de un visitador de la Comisión Estatal en la comunidad, a fin de allegarse de los elementos necesarios para señalar la responsabilidad de las violaciones de derechos humanos, así como para evitar que se registren acciones que repercutan en la vulneración de los mismos. De la misma forma, se solicita la presencia del visitador en el CERESO de Tehuantepec, para constatar que se están respetando las garantías de seguridad jurídica e integridad personal de Carlos Manzo y los demás presos.
Se integren las averiguaciones previas por los hechos hostiles cometidos en contra de la vida, de la integridad y la propiedad de los ciudadanos del municipio Unión Hidalgo y a la menor brevedad se consignen ante el juez correspondiente.
Se respeten las garantías de seguridad jurídica a Carlos Manzo y los demás presos.
Indigenous political prisoner Miguel Bautista serving a 20 year
prison sentence to have case appealed in Veracruz, Mexico. Meanwhile,
repressive government campaign aims to jail 36 more indigenous
Contact: (Mexico) CARLOS BEAS TORRES (UCIZONI)-cell-011-52-951-547-2098
Miguel Bautista has been a political prisoner in Veracruz, Mexico
since July, 2001 for nothing more than his commitment to indigenous
rights as a Zapotec indigenous leader of 67 indigenous communities in
Sochiapa, Veracruz. In the next 2 months Miguel’s case will be appealed
and Mexican social and indigenous organizations are mobilizing to free
Miguel and denounce the Veracruz government’s plan to imprison 36 more
indigenous leaders from Sochiapa.
Zapotec leader Miguel Bautista was spearheading a multicultural
indigenous struggle to recuperate their own autonomous municipal
government and the lands they have been deprived of for over 70
years. Inspired by the Zapatista uprising and responding to decades
of systematic oppression the indigenous peoples of Sochiapa, Veracruz
are mobilizing to reclaim their rights leading them to form, in
January, 2001, the “Autonomous Municipality of Sochiapa”. Their
struggle for freedom and autonomy has been repressed by the Governor
of Veracruz who has been complicit in jailing Miguel Bautista and in
supporting the arrest warrants for 36 more leaders.
Sochiapa is located in the Mexican state of Veracruz and is a region
of 67 indigenous communities inhabited by Zapotecas, Mazatecos,
Mixes, Chinantecos, Nalmas and Totonacas. The region of Sochiapa,
Veracruz borders the region of Choapam, Oaxaca and both zones have
seen a recent surge in the violation of the rights of their
indigenous inhabitants. In this region political and economic power
lies in the hands of corrupt and powerful cattle ranchers maintaining
strong connections with local drug traffickers and relying on the
complicity of government officials.
Until 1930 Sochiapa had 85,000 hectares of land and its own municipal
government. Since 1930 the inhabitants of the region have been
systemically deprived of their land and of utilizing their own
mechanisms of indigenous self-governance. Today, Sochiapa is
suffering from a campaign of organized oppression by the Veracruz
government who has consistently discriminated against indigenous
peoples, does not allocate resources to fund local development
initiatives and facilitates the harassment of indigenous populations.
The lawyers of Miguel Bautista have appealed his sentence and a
watershed of indigenous and social organizations such as the Mexican
Alliance for the Auto-determination of the Pueblos (AMAP) are calling
on the international community to support their campaign to:
TAKE ACTION NOW *****TAKE ACTION NOW *******TAKE ACTION NOW
ACERCA asks that you FAX the following letter (in Spanish) on behalf of your
organization or as an individual to the governor of Veracruz and the President
of Mexico. Please send a copy of the text that you fax to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send your FAX to:
Lic. Miguel Alemán Velazco.
Gobernador del Estado de Veracruz
Lic. Vincente Fox Quezada
Presidente de la Republica
Los Pinos; México; D.F
Estimado Lic. Miguel Alemán Velazco:
Me dirijo a usted para denunciar el hecho de que Miguel Bautista Alonso de
Sochiapa, Veracruz se encuentra recluido, siendo su único delito el reclamar
sus derechos humanos y indigenas. Junto con Miguel, hay otros 36 dirigentes
indígenas de Sochiapa, que tienen orden judicial para ser detenidos. Los
abogados de Miguel han apelado la sentencia y las organizaciones indígenas y
sociales del Sur de México les hacemos un llamado para que se sumen a una
Campaña Internacional. Le ruego como gobernador del estado de Veracruz hacer lo
La libertad de Miguel Bautista Alonso
La cancelación de las órdenes de aprehensión libradas contra 36
dirigentes indios de Sochiapa.
Respeto a los derechos políticos y territoriales de la comunidad de
Action for Social & Ecological Justice
P.O. Box 57
Burlington, VT 05402
fax: (802) 864-8203
Email us at: email@example.com