On Mutual Aid and Confronting State Power in Disaster
By [signatories] at Noticias de Abajo Medios Libres
23 September 2017 (original post in Spanish)
Translated by Scott Campbell for It’s Going Down and Falling Into Incandescence (original post[s] in English)
To the people of Mexico
To the Indigenous Governing Council
To the National Indigenous Congress [CNI]
To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation [EZLN]
To the National and International Sixth
We are individual and collective adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, EZLN and CNI sympathizers, and people from below and to the left in solidarity with the suffering of our brothers and sisters, victims of the recent earthquakes and the predatory system that is only death.
As in 1985, those who claim to govern remain totally surpassed by reality. Today their wonderland can’t be seen, not even by them. Meanwhile, we are the ones from below who suffered the consequences of these natural and socio-environmental disasters. Like 32 years ago, today the Mexican people are the ones going into the streets and towns to help, to give what little they have to help the other, the one who suffers, the stranger, the brother. Some who have much, contribute much. Among those who have little, they contribute what they can—sometimes everything that is in their hands. Those who have nothing give their heart and offer to serve where needed. They are the ones who fill the streets and coordinate to gather aid and distribute it. Small business owners support by giving food and drink to those who give their time and effort. True hope emerges from these smiles and glances of solidarity.
To this communal, creative, inventive, self-managed response, the bad government responds in the only way it knows how: with violence, labeling a repressive military occupation as civilian protection. Far from meeting its obligation—which is to help the victims—it sends the army, marines, and different police agencies to occupy civil life and prevent an encounter among those from below. With acts of banditry, its agents of violence steal the aid people have gathered and divert it in order to distribute it conditionally, promoting its figures, governments, institutions, and parties. At the sites of the disaster, the state intervenes among those working, to keep them from even communicating and coordinating.
During this time, we have seen how a version of Plan DN-III, named Plan-MX, has been implemented. As we’ve seen, the army goes to the disaster sites, where the people have already been taking part in successful life-saving work for hours or days, and arrogantly pushes the rescuers out in order to take control of the location and work in a way that is useless, increasing the risk of death for those who are trapped in the collapse. At other sites, their entry is friendly and collaborative in front of the cameras, wearing the hat of solidarity with the people, but they change the strategy and impede or obstruct the rescue efforts.
In any case, when a victim is rescued, they rush to stage a show for the media in which they appear as the heroes who risked their lives for Mexico. We could say that what the bad government has put together is not an operation that prioritizes saving lives, but a production that is seeking to revive its own corpse, the victim of a much larger collapse: of its legitimacy. A moment came when they stopped all rescue activity and didn’t allow anyone to come near, nor did they give information, abandoning those who could have been rescued and letting them die amid the ruins of the fallen buildings. That they do very well. They are experts in murdering and disappearing the people.
For us, men and women from below and to the left, what the bad government and its criminal partners such as the television stations show is a deep contempt for life. For them it is just a macabre spectacle that suits their interests in militarizing daily life and in rebuilding the social image of an army that, far from defending the people and what remains of the nation’s sovereignty, has proved to be the main protector of transnational capitalist interests and an implacable murderer of the people, especially those who resist the expropriation of their territories, waters, culture, and communal lives.
We also warn of the attempted eviction and forced displacement of victims (earthquakes come in very handy for this). In rural communities as well as in the cities affected, disasters serve as a pretext to clean out the people from areas that interest big capital. In the cities, primarily Mexico City, the earthquake serves to accelerate the process of gentrification and to give new land to the real estate mafia associated with politicians of all stripes, whose buildings erected in recent years were the most damaged—reflecting the laxity in the application of laws, if not the adaptation of them towards eliminating building safety requirements.
We reject the cowardly proselytizing use that partisan politicians in towns and cities in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla, Morelos, the State of Mexico, and Mexico City are making of the aid that they do not contribute to and that in the distribution of which they discriminate against those who are not loyalists or who don’t submit to them. And also the intentional forgetting of the inconvenient victims, those who do not give up their lands to the capitalists pushing projects of death, windfarms in Oaxaca, mines in Puebla, real estate projects in the Federal District. In the city, real estate companies are the megaprojects of death that colonize national territory and act with the patronage and complicity of the authorities of the bad governments.
As if that were not enough, they show they are in a great rush to return to a seeming “normality,” though to do so they must disappear the people who remain trapped in the rubble, some alive, others not. They seek to hide the real magnitude of the tragedy and the enormous corruption of those who run today, and ran yesterday, the government at all levels. Lives don’t matter, nor does the dignity of the dead. For them, a dignified funeral doesn’t enter into their monetary or political calculations. What matters is that it “doesn’t smell like death” and that the number of victims, the official one of course, doesn’t increase.
For us, any victim, alive or dead, who isn’t recovered will represent a forced disappearance, because it is the bad government that is trying to disappear them and toss them among the rubble, depriving their relatives of the possibility of rescuing them alive or even of giving them a dignified farewell.
We greatly regret that this official contempt is accompanies by that of the middle class, which is being helped without distinction during these moments of anxiety. Our Otomí brothers and sisters, who live on various properties in the Condesa neighborhood and its surroundings, suffered damage to their homes. In response, they have decided to resist by remaining in front of their lands. This resistance has been attacked by angry, discriminatory and racist cries from this same middle class, whose solidarity is selective and performative when it appears at all.
We will not allow our brothers and sisters to be attacked and forced to move to the shelters that they reject. We join them in the struggle to preserve their spaces that will have to be rebuilt in a self-organized manner and with support from below. For these middle-class types there are first- and second-class victims.
We urgently call on society to reject the attempt to conclude the search for survivors and bodies. This is and should continue to be the priority, not the machinery or the fabric from a textile factory or the pretty image of the rose-colored city. We will not allow a new state crime against earthquake victims. We don’t care about protocols that put a time limit on life, we care about life. We know that in other cases people have been trapped alive for many days, even weeks. Machinery should not enter to remove rubble so long as one person remains to be rescued.
We are going to promote self-organized rebuilding, which is not only rebuilding of physical infrastructure but of the social fabric that the bad government has destroyed.
We defend the development of autonomous indigenous communities attacked by counterinsurgency.
We defend the civilian worker, builder and defender of lives.
We will not give up the rescuing of victims alive and dead.
We will not give up territories, autonomy, or organization.
We will not allow popular relief to be monopolized by the army, the state, and capitalist businesses.
No one without rescue!
Not one more disappeared!
No to the diversion of relief!
We want to rescue everyone!
Army and Marines out!
Long live life!
Long live popular organization!
—Autonomous Brigade members and those in solidarity, adherents and sympathizers to the Sixth, meeting in the Café Zapata Vive on September 21, 2017.
Featured image source: Noticias de Abajo Medios Libres