Insects, from Delicacy to Tool against Hunger
By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 22 2013 (IPS) - The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s recommendation to consider using edible insects as a food source to combat hunger may have particular repercussions in Colombia and Mexico, two Latin American countries that have a tradition of eating insects and a high degree of biodiversity.
Mexico has 300 edible insect species, according to a study published in May by the entomology department of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), titled “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security”.
But local researchers have identified more than 500 species in the centre, south and southeast of Mexico, a mega-biodiverse country with a poverty rate of 47 percent.
“Insects are a viable, cheap source of high quality food that could be even better than the packaged foods that are consumed at present,” researcher Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Biology Institute, told IPS.
In her view, “This country is ready for mass consumption of insects, but people need education about techniques and ways of marketing them. Protecting them is not a concern. There are no official measures,” said the expert, who has been carrying out research since the 1970s on the benefits of insects, and has reported 549 edible species.
The issue acquires an environmental dimension, particularly on International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated this Wednesday May 22.
Eating insects or entomophagy is an indigenous tradition in Mexico, attested to by the Florentine Codex, written by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590) who described the consumption of 96 species.
Some insects provide up to three times more protein, weight for weight, than beef, and their nutrient concentrations are surpassed only by fish, according to the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO).
The Mexican insect menu is made up of blood-sucking bugs, worms, beetles, butterflies, ant and fly larvae, bees, wasps and “chapulin” grasshoppers. They can be grilled, fried or served with different kinds of sauces.
In recent decades, several of these delicacies have vaulted from kitchens in poor rural homes to tables in fancy restaurants.
In Mitla, a town close to a Zapotec archaeological site of the same name in the southern state of Oaxaca, a small business uses moth larvae (Hypopta agavis) that feed on American aloe leaves to make a hot spicy salt to accompany mescal, an alcoholic drink distilled from the same aloe plant.
“We follow a homemade recipe. Grinding is done by hand and we use a hand mixer. We also package by hand,” Diana Corona, the commercial manager of the firm Gran Mitla which produces 300 kilograms of “sal de gusano” (larva salt) a month, told IPS.
It takes 300 grams of ground larvae, 300 grams of dry chili peppers and 400 grams of salt to produce one kilo.
The larvae or worms are collected from August to October and frozen to ensure continuous production, as from November to the following May harvesting is banned throughout the country.
The FAO publication says that more than 1,900 species are part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people worldwide. The favourites are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.
Collecting and farming insects could create jobs and income, and could have industrial-scale potential, the authors say.
“That could be achieved if the insects are farmed and marketed in large quantities. But producers need to be aware that their resources are being depleted,” said Ramos-Elorduy, who is investigating the productivity of insect species that feed on maize and pumpkin, and seeking ways of increasing it.
“Collecting techniques are the same everywhere, but there is no legislation stipulating proper techniques. People do not know what they are. Besides, wages are very low,” she said.
In their research paper “Edible insects in some locations in Central Region of Mexico State: Collection techniques, sale and preparation”, Ramos-Elorduy, Andrés Juárez and José Manuel Pino warn that “this valuable food resource is in danger of disappearing, due to a variety of environmental and socio-economic problems.”
The paper, published in December, concludes that “impacts on the environment, cultural change and changes in land use are causing the consumption of insects to decrease, especially among young people.”
Corona, of Gran Mitla, agreed that measures should be taken to protect these species. “Regulations are needed for collection and marketing. Insects are part of the Mexican diet and the resource must be protected,” she said.
For the same reason, many collectors are reluctant to talk about where they find their insects and grubs, and how they capture or harvest them.
The FAO report recommends automated infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to ensure stable, reliable and safe production. It also stresses that insect biomass could be used as the raw material for animal feed.
In Colombia, a snack available from street stalls is the crunchy “hormiga culona” (Atta laevigata), a leafcutter ant species, sold toasted and salted. The origin of this and other dishes is native culture.
But “going into the rainforest for large-scale extraction of insects is a touchy issue, because they are found in wildlife habitats,” Colombian biologist and regional planner Jaime Bernal Hadad told IPS.
Colombia has a poverty rate of 33 percent, and it is the second most mega-biodiverse country on the planet, after Brazil.
“In tropical ecosystems, although there is a great diversity of species, there are only relatively few individuals per species,” said Bernal Hadad. “Large-scale extraction could lead to the extinction of species, or create environmental imbalances.
“Beetles on fallen trees in the forest help decomposition and the balance of those forests,” he said. “Wasps and bees have an important role in pollination. And while there are native groups who eat beetles and prize them highly, they are minority groups and do not create problems.”
In Bernal Hadad’s view, farming insects “is an interesting option. But other factors come into play, such as the issue of cultural acceptability and consumption.
“Of course, in Europe it may be regarded as exotic, but if we consider marginalised populations in Latin America, the issue is very different,” he said.
The fight against hunger “cannot ignore structural issues,” he said. Moreover, “it is worth asking whether the proposal could be controlled or if it would become another method of interfering with conservation, not as a result of ranching and the timber industry, but because of insects,” he said. “Then we would continue to reproduce the destruction of natural systems, without real solutions.”
Paramilitary Activities Against Indigenous Continue in Chiapas, Mexico
In a press conference, the activists remarked that “the paramilitary-like activities have been observed as a policy of the State” through which government officials:
“fund and organize these groups far and wide throughout the country in order to undermine the efforts of the people to defend their social rights,” while simultaneously evading their responsibility for the facts.
In the case of the ejido [indigenous community where land is owned communally] “El Carrizal” in the Chiapas municipality of Ocosingo, the member organizations of FNLS have been intimidated and assaulted by armed groups under the control of Javier Ortega Villatoro – including Los Petules and the CMPECH [the Popular Movement Coordinating Committee of the State of Chiapas] – that have terrorized local residents through assassinations and disappearances.
In the same way, FNLS representatives added, communal land owners in the indigenous area of Venustiano Carranza have been victims of a series of unjustified homicides and imprisonments, which local authorities misleadingly describe as simple “domestic conflicts” between farmers in order to protect the armed groups truly responsible for these acts.
Meanwhile, in the Tila municipality of Petalcingo, paramilitary groups affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary (PRI) party and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) are squaring off with each other, at a time when both are also responsible for the violent acts against members of FNLS.
Carmen Hernández Pérez, resident of Venustiano Carranza and member of the Emiliano Zapata Farmer’s Organization, lamented that in recent years there has been at least 36 murders linked to these armed groups, without any subsequent investigation by authorities whatsoever.
Rio Florido community resident Francisco Santiz further added that only a few days ago, the paramilitaries of El Carrizal had tried to carry out forced kidnappings and assassinations in the municipal seat of Ocosingo. Spanish original
Rios Montt trial: Fight over Guatemala genocide continues
They refer, of course, to the latest twist in the labyrinthine case of genocide against the country’s most notorious military leader, Efrain Rios Montt.
The highest court in Guatemala has now overturned the historic judgement against the former president, who has spent just one day of his 80-year sentence in prison.
Similarly, the headlines all quote the same date: 19 April.
That is the day to which the case has now been re-set. Survivors and victims’ families who gave testimonies after that day about the systematic rape, starvation and forced displacement of their villages now face having to return to court to deliver their evidence again.
At times the Rios Montt trial seems almost too convoluted and complex to fully understand without a doctorate in Guatemalan law. And even then, it is far from simple.
A judge from an earlier stage in the proceedings, Patricia Flores, ordered the trial suspended over what she said were unconstitutional procedural errors made in the evidentiary phase.
When the head of the three-judge tribunal hearing the case, Jazmin Barrios, pressed on regardless, Mr Rios Montt’s lawyer accused her of bias for which he was thrown out of court.
The half-day which the former leader spent without a lawyer by his side may have put the prosecution’s entire case in jeopardy.
Dozens of witness statements must be reheard, the concluding arguments remade and a new sentence reached, the court has ordered.
Needless to say, Mr Rios Montt’s defence team are also pushing for the judges to be dismissed and for new judges to be installed.
Judge Jazmin Barrios was involved in a dispute over alleged procedural errors
“This was to be expected,” Edwin Canil told me with resignation. Mr Canil is a survivor of a brutal massacre of an Ixil indigenous community by the army during Mr Rios Montt’s time in power.
With tears in his eyes, he told us of the slaughter of almost his entire family in 1983, of being forced to live in refugee camps in the Mexican state of Chiapas and of the dawning realisation when he went to university years later that it had not been the actions of small renegade groups of soldiers but rather a state policy to destroy his people.
He subsequently dedicated his life to working with one of the main human rights organisations, the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), to bring the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Mr Rios Montt.
“I told people recently that [the guilty sentence] wasn’t the end of this, but only the start.”
Legal question marks
For Mr Rios Montt’s lawyer, Francisco Garcia Gudiel – the man who was thrown from the courtroom last month and whose absence gave the grounds to overturn the sentence – the constitutional court’s decision was “justice”.
“There were a series of deficiencies and violations in the process” against his client, he told the BBC earlier this week, and he repeated his claim that the lead judge was biased against him.
“What does it mean when a judge is hugging [Mr Rios Montt's opponents] after the sentence was passed, as if to say, ‘I have delivered what you wanted’?” he asked rhetorically.
Mr Garcia Gudiel strongly believes the case against Mr Rios Montt will “fall of its own accord”, saying there were so many legal question marks over the process that it is not possible that the genocide sentence will stand in its current form.
His critics accuse him of trying every legal trick in the book to block the case, put obstacles in the way of the judicial process and keep the 86-year-old former military leader out of jail.
For now, he has certainly achieved that final aim. A day after he was sentenced, Mr Rios Montt was transferred to a military hospital after fainting. His lawyer disputes the suggestion that it was an act.
“He is very unwell. He has a serious heart condition, suffers from hypertension, problems with his prostate and problems in five of his vertebrae which make it difficult to remain seated for long periods of time. He legs are asleep constantly.”
Nevertheless, he insists his client is ready for the legal fight ahead.
So, it seems, are the victims.
“We knew they would do this, and after this they’ll enter an appeal, and then another and so on,” says massacre survivor, Edwin Canil.
“They haven’t even begun to get politics involved,” he says. He points to a law being proposed in parliament which would allow all prisoners aged 80 or over to serve their sentences at home.
“This has got a long way to go yet. It’s just a question of who gets tired first: them or us. But we’re still here and staying firm.”
Salafiti in Tunisia
Quando, circa 3 mesi fa in occasione del Forum Mondiale, siamo andati in Tunisia e con la carovana multiculturale ci siamo addentrati nella Tunisia profonda, abbiamo toccato con mano quanto contradditoria fosse e sia la situazione sociale nella madre di quella che è stata la primavera araba: le spinte più progressiste, moderne, tecnologiche, comportamentali, comunicative si mescolavano e si contrapponevano con il peggio del conservatorismo, del fondamentalismo religioso e sociale.
Quello che ieri si è prodotto a Tunisi e in altre città dell'interno, con gli scontri tra gruppi salafiti e forze di polizia, con l'arresto del portavoce di Ansar al Sharia e di Amina, rappresentano bene il cortocircuito sociale che si sta vivendo in tutta l'area maghrebina, qui, in Tunisia, il partito di governo Ennahda utilizza queste contraddizioni per puntellare la propria posizione – già fortemente contestata – e per presentarsi come la formazione politica in grado di gestire la complessa realtà sociale, affiorata con la primavera araba, e garantire stabilità contro tutti gli estremismi.
Ennahda,ha bisogno, da un lato, di prendere e distanze dal radicalismo salafita e, dall'altro, di proporsi come paladino dei veri valori islamici, infatti, secondo un recente sondaggio il partito Nidaa Tounes, nel quale si riconosce gran parte dei riformisti e dei laici, conterebbe sull'appoggio del 44,7% della popolazione mentre Ennahda si manterrebbe intorno al 32%. Un quadro che sconvolgerebbe l'attuale composizione del Parlamento.
In Tunisia si consuma, dunque, senza esclusioni di colpi, lo scontro tra islam moderato e radicale: gli aderenti ad Ansar, con la loro politica assistenzialista, sostenuta dai finanziamenti arabi wahabiti, nelle zone più depresse, alla stregua di quanto fanno i Fratelli musulmani in Egitto, Hezbollah in Libano e Hamas a Gaza, si sono radicati tra gli strati sociali più bisognosi e giovanili della popolazione. Dopo la «primavera» del 2011 che ha portato alla caduta del regime di Ben Alì, la penetrazione salafita è cresciuta di giorno do giorno: i fondamentalisti hanno trovato terreno fertile nella crisi politica e nei conflitti sociali provocati dalle condizioni di povertà in cui si trovano tanti tunisini.
Veniamo ai fatti, così come ci vengono riportati dalle agenzie.
A inizio maggio il Governo tunisino, dopo aver ammesso la presenza di gruppi qaedisti sul territorio tunisino, aveva deciso di vietare la riunione annuale del gruppo integralista Ansar al-Sharia nella città di Kairouan, a 150 chilometri da Tunisi. Incontro che avrebbe dovuto tenersi ieri, il 19 maggio. La reazione salafita non si è fatta attendere, infatti già la settimana scorsa è stata segnata da una serie di incidenti tra la polizia e gli estremisti, a cui sono seguiti centinaia di arresti, tra cui quello del portavoce di Ansar al-Sharia, Seifeddine Rais.
Ieri invece la violenza è esplosa intorno a mezzogiorno nel quartiere occidentale di Tunisi, a Ettadhanen City, quando “circa 700 salafiti, muniti di proiettili e coltelli, hanno iniziato a manifestare in barba ai divieti governativi”, scrive l'Afp. A quel punto è scattato l'intervento della polizia in assetto antisommossa e il risultato è stato uno scontro protrattosi fino alle 15, con un morto, centinaia di feriti e numerosi altri arresti.
Sempre ieri a Kairouan, città nel centro del Paese, è stata arrestata la femen tunisina Amina Tyler un attimo prima che si esibisse in una delle sue clamorose proteste a seno nudo per rivendicare la libertà e i diritti delle donne, provocatoriamente, proprio davanti alla moschea in cui si erano radunati decine di islamici radicali.
Dans le cadre de la soirée "Chili – Mexique : Solidarité avec les Peuples en résistance" organisée par l’Association Terre et Liberté pour Arauco, notre groupe Les Trois Passants (Libérons-Les!) présentera le court métrage "MEXIQUE, 1er DÉCEMBRE 2012". La vidéo nous donne un aperçu assez clair de la répression par l’État mexicain de la mobilisation populaire contre l’investiture présidentielle d’Enrique Peña Nieto. Nous vous invitons à cette soirée de solidarité. Le produit de la vente d’empanadas sera envoyé à notre compagnon adhérent à la Sexta zapatiste, Francisco Kuykendall Leal “Kuy” qui a été gravement blessé par la police lors de la répression du 1er décembre et lutte actuellement pour sa vie.
Venez nombreux et nombreuses !
EN SOLIDARITÉ AVEC DES PEUPLES EN RÉSISTANCE AU CHILI ET AU MEXIQUE TERRE ET LIBERTÉ POUR ARAUCO VOUS INVITE À UNE SOIRÉE DE PROJECTIONS
MERCREDI 29 MAI À PARTIR DE 19 HEURES
AU CENTRE CULTUREL – CINEMA LA CLEF
21 RUE DE LA CLEF 75005 PARIS
(Mo Censier Daubenton)
20h – 21 h30
CAIMANES : LES EAUX VOLEES (AGUAS ROBADAS)
Chili, 2013, 60’
Film produit et réalisé par Elif Karakartal et Alfonso Ossandon, à partir d’un projet collectif du Comité de Défense Personnel de Caimanes, avec le soutien de la Municipalité de Los Vilos.
La résistance des habitants du petit village de Caimanes – situé à 200 km au nord de Santiago du Chili, en amont duquel une puissante entreprise minière a fait construire le plus grand bassin de déchets miniers d’Amérique Latine qui a asséché ses cours d’eau et pollué son réseau d’eau potable. Treize années de lutte face à l’incommensurable pouvoir économique et à la complicité des autorités locales et gouvernementales. Mémoire historique de quelques épisodes clefs de cette lutte non violente, ponctuée des réflexions actuelles des habitants de Caimanes et des commentaires sur le vif de quelques communicants qui les ont soutenus.
Débat en présence de la réalisatrice Elif Karakartal.
21h 30 – 22h 30
MEXIQUE, 1er DÉCEMBRE 2012, vidéo de 30’ réalisée par Emergencia MX, présentée par le groupe de solidarité Les Trois Passants (Libérons-Les !).
1er décembre 2012, le pouvoir mexicain réprime la mobilisation populaire contre l’investiture présidentielle d’Enrique Peña Nieto. Bilan de la répression : plus de 90 détenu-e-s, de nombreux blessé-e-s et un adhérent à la Sexta porté disparu. La projection est dédiée aux inculpés du 1er décembre et à notre compagnon adhérent à la Sexta zapatiste, Francisco Kuykendall Leal, blessé à la tête par une grenade lacrymogène lancée par la Police Fédérale Préventive et actuellement à l’hôpital, dans un état toujours critique. Dans ce contexte de criminalisation, l’État a déclenché une véritable chasse contre les militants sociaux, les mouvements politiques, les étudiants, les professeurs et les groupes anarchistes. Cependant la résistance continue sa route ainsi que la solidarité et l’organisation.
Débat avec le groupe de solidarité des Trois Passants.
• Expositions sur les thèmes des films projetés
• Stands d’information.
•Ventes de poleras et bijoux mapuche et CD du
groupe Wechekeche de jeunes musiciens mapuche urbains.
• Buffet latino et végétarien
• Participation aux frais : 5 €
Le 1er décembre 2012 à 4 heures du matin, alors que la mobilisation contre l’investiture-imposition présidentielle d’Enrique Peña Nieto avait commencé, les forces de l’ordre ont réprimé de façon brutale les manifestants et manifestantes qui avec rage et dignité, étaient sorti-e-s dans la rue pour faire entendre leur colère contre un système qui prend uniquement en compte ses propres intérêts sans se soucier du reste.
Enrique Peña Nieto est le reflet et la synthèse parfaite du Parti Révolutionnaire Institutionnel, organisation responsable depuis presque 100 ans de tous types de massacres et d’abus : assassinat de plus de 200 étudiants à Tlatelolco en 1968, de 45 indigènes à Acteal en 1997, répression des 3 et 4 mai 2006 lors de laquelle le terrorisme d’État a balayé Texcoco et Atenco (sous le mandat local du même Enrique Peña Nieto, gouverneur de l’État de Mexico à cette époque), réforme de l’article 27 de la Constitution pour privatiser les terres communales, signature de l’ALENA (L’Accord de libre-échange nord-américain) avec les terribles conséquences économiques et humaines engendrées, attaques perpétrées contre les Bases d’Appui Zapatistes non seulement par le PRI et ses raccourcis du PRD, PVEM mais aussi par le PAN… La liste d’abus est longue. Aujourd’hui, Enrique Peña Nieto rend hommage à tout cet arbitraire.
Les évènements du premier décembre confirment une fois de plus la brutalité policière et la répression qui caractérise l’État Mexicain, reprises et élargies par Peña Nieto, mais aussi par le maire de la ville de Mexico Marcelo Ebrard, connu aussi pour sa répression et sa persécution des mouvements sociaux, des étudiants, des compagnons militants de la Sexta de l’EZLN et des compagnons anarchistes.
Depuis cette répression, le compagnon adhérent à la Sexta zapatiste, Francisco Kuykendall Leal, se trouve dans un état grave. Il souffre d’un traumatisme crânio-encéphalique qui l’a pratiquement laissé paralysé.
Outre son militantisme, Kuykendall a une passion particulière pour le théâtre ; il est directeur, producteur et acteur. Tous ceux et celles qui le connaissent l’appellent « Kuy ». Le théâtre est pour lui un outil pour transmettre les différentes réalités, les luttes, les douleurs, les résistances ; ainsi il s’en sert pour mener la lutte, pour sensibiliser et faire passer un message. Ce 1er décembre, Kuy n’est pas rentré chez lui comme il avait l’habitude de le faire, ni vu ses compagnons de lutte comme d’habitude. Il s’est retrouvé dans un lit d’hôpital. Il résiste toujours, il s’accroche, comme d’habitude… car il a l’habitude de se battre.
Dans ce même contexte, Teodulfo Torres Soriano, adhérent à la Sexta zapatiste, a été porté disparu depuis le mois de mars. Ses compagnons et sa famille ont commencé une campagne de diffusion pour l’apparition en vie de Teodulfo et lancé un appel à la solidarité. Il faut souligner que le compagnon est un témoin fondamental de la répression exercée par la police sur les manifestants du 1er décembre. Non seulement il était présent lors des faits mais il a enregistré en vidéo l’agression subie par Kuykendall. Par sa condition de témoin oculaire, Teodulfo était obligé de s’exprimer sur les faits et les arrestations arbitraires qui ont eu lieu ce jour-là. Il devait rendre son témoignage le 27 mars 2013. Cependant il n’a jamais assisté au rendez-vous prévu pour le 27 mars, et c’est à partir de ce moment précis qu’il est porté disparu
Cette criminalisation des mouvements sociaux, des défenseurs de droits humains, des mouvements d’étudiants et de professeurs, bref de tous ceux et celles qui s’organisent, se solidarisent, résistent aux politiques capitalistes et se battent pour la construction d’un autre monde, s’est accélérée depuis le 1er décembre 2012, lors de la mobilisation contre l’imposition présidentielle d’Enrique Peña Nieto.
Nous n’oublions pas !
Tiens bon, compa Kuy !
Apparition en vie de Teodulfo Torres Soriano !
Solidarité avec tous et toutes les inculpé-es du 1er décembre !
Israel and Mexico swap notes on abusing rights
Jimmy Johnson and Linda Quiquivix The Electronic Intifada
21 May 2013
Mexico has gone public about military coordination with Israel in Chiapas, home to the Zapatistas liberation movement.
Earlier this month, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, Mexico’s newly-appointed secretary of public security in Chiapas, announced that discussions had taken place between his office and the Israeli defense ministry. The two countries talked about security coordination at the level of police, prisons and effective use of technology (“Israeli military will train Chiapas police,” Excelsior, 8 May [Spanish]).
Chiapas is home to the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), a mostly indigenous Maya liberation movement that has enjoyed global grassroots support since it rose up against the Mexican government in 1994. The Zapatistas took back large tracts of land on which they have since built subsistence cooperatives, autonomous schools, collectivized clinics and other democratic community structures.
In the twenty years since the uprising, the Mexican government has not ceased its counterinsurgency programs in Chiapas. When Llaven Abarca was announced as security head in December, human rights organizations voiced concerns that the violence would escalate, pointing to his history of arbitrary detentions, use of public force, criminal preventive detentions, death threats and torture (“Concern about the appointment of Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca as Secretary of Public Security in Chiapas,” Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (Frayba) Center for Human Rights,14 December 2012 [PDF, Spanish]).
Aptly, his recent contacts with Israeli personnel were “aimed at sharing experiences,” Abarca has claimed. This may be the first time the Mexican government has gone public about military coordination with Israelis in Chiapas. Yet the agreement is only the latest in Israel’s longer history of military exports to the region, an industry spawned from experiences in the conquest and pacification of Palestine.
Weapons sales escalate
The first Zionist militias (Bar Giora and HaShomer) were formed to advance the settlement of Palestinian land. Another Zionist militia, the Haganah — the precursor to the Israeli army and the successor of HaShomer — began importing and producing arms in 1920.
Israeli firms began exporting weapons in the 1950s to Latin America, including to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic under the Somoza and Trujillo dictatorships. Massive government investment in the arms industry followed the 1967 War and the ensuing French arms embargo. Israeli arms, police, military training and equipment have now been sent to at least 140 countries, including to Guatemala in the 1980s under Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator recently convicted of genocide against the Maya.
Mexico began receiving Israeli weaponry in 1973 with the sale of five Arava planes from Israel Aerospace Industries. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, infrequent exports continued to the country in the form of small arms, mortars and electronic fences. Sales escalated in the early 2000s, according to research that we have undertaken.
In 2003, Mexico bought helicopters formerly belonging to the Israeli army and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Gabriel missiles. Another Israeli security firm, Magal Security Systems, received one of several contracts for surveillance systems “to protect sensitive installations in Mexico” that same year, The Jerusalem Post reported.
In 2004, Israel Shipyards sold missile boats, and later both Aeronautics Defense Systems and Elbit Systems won contracts from the federal police and armed forces for drones for border and domestic surveillance (“UAV maker Aeronautics to supply Mexican police,”Globes, 15 February 2009). Verint Systems, a technology firm founded by former Israeli army personnel, has won several US-sponsored contracts since 2006 for the mass wiretapping of Mexican telecommunications, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Trained by Israel
According to declassified Defense Intelligence Agency documents [PDF] obtained via a freedom of information request, Israeli personnel were discreetly sent into Chiapas in response to the 1994 Zapatista uprising for the purpose of “providing training to Mexican military and police forces.”
The Mexican government also made use of the Arava aircraft to deploy its Airborne Special Forces Group (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE). GAFE commandos were themselves trained by Israel and the US. Several would later desert the GAFE and go on to create “Los Zetas,” currently Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug cartel (“Los Zetas and Mexico’s Transnational Drug War,” World Politics Review, 25 December 2009).
Mexico was surprised by the Zapatistas, who rose up the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Mexican government found itself needing to respond to the dictates of foreign investors, as a famously-leaked Chase-Manhattan Bank memo revealed: “While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.”
Today, faced with a people in open rebellion against their own annihilation, the perception of stability continues to be an important modus operandi for the Mexican government. For Israel, the Oslo “peace process” and the Palestinian Authority’s neoliberal turn has similarly helped cultivate an illusory perception of peace and stability while the colonization of Palestine continues.
Indeed, “creating an atmosphere of stability” was the stated goal of the recent Mexico-Israel contacts, and the desire for at least the perception of it might help explain why an Israeli presence in Chiapas is now going public, or rather, according to journalist Naomi Klein, is being “marketed.”
Yet managing perceptions can only remain the short-term goal of governments whose shared ambition is to annihilate. And just as Israel shares with Mexico its military experiences against Palestinians, it is equally likely that Israel could apply some of Mexico’s counterinsurgency tactics to its oppression of the the Palestinian people.
The military relationship between Israel and Mexico is how the Zapatistas themselves have long recognized their connection to the Palestinian struggle.
This message was underscored by Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos when Israel was bombing Gaza in early 2009 (“Of sowing and harvests,” 4 January 2009). Despite the distance between Chiapas and Gaza, Marcos stressed that their experiences made the people of the two territories feel close to each other.
It is worth recalling Marcos’ words: “Not far from here, in a place called Gaza, in Palestine, in the Middle East, right here next to us, the Israeli government’s heavily trained and armed military continues its march of death and destruction.”
Linda Quiquivix is a critical geographer. She can be reached at www.quiqui.org.
Jimmy Johnson is the founder of Neged Neshek, a website focused on Israel’s weapons industry. He can be reached at jimmy [at] negedneshek [dot] org.
Mining and Displacement Put Mexican Millionaires on the Forbes List
The wealth of Mexican businessmen who top the millionaires list of Forbes Magazine is based “on the theft of the nation’s commons” says Francisco Lopez Barcenas, author of the book on mining legislation in Mexico, “Mineral or Life”.
The top three men on Mexico’s list (Carlos Slim, German Larrea and Alberto Bailleres) all own mining companies. Article 27 of the constitution states that natural resources may be licensed “but it must first always be distributed as national wealth [not to three people], to further development for Mexicans and to protect them,” says Barcenas, who adds that none of these stipulations are met in the case of mining. He also explains that it affects the rights of Mexicans to water and food since mining as an industrial activity receives preferential treatment.
Mexican Entrepreneurs: Exploitation and Speculation
Carlos Salinas de Gortari, president of Mexico from 1988 to 1994, delivered public concessions to [private] Mexican mining groups, mainly Grupo Mexico (Larrea), Peñoles (of Bailleres) and Grupo Frisco (Slim, the richest man in the world), ensuring them control of much of the [country’s] mining. This was done even before he reformed Article 27 of the Constitution and issued a new mining law.
“When you change the foreign investment law, which grants complete access of foreign capital to the mines, it ensures a part to Mexican businessmen,” says Barcenas. After granting the concessions, came the Mining Law that granted exploration and exploitation permits, and allowed concession periods of nearly a hundred years. That, says Barcenas, gave way to speculation.
“Almost every project, according to miners, takes no more than 15 years to complete. Why do they want a hundred? Because the longer they have, their price will be much higher in the stock market; the business is not only to exploit the mineral, it is speculating on our national heritage” stresses the Mixtec lawyer. The Mining Law also allows joint concessions, which are of greater value in the stock market.
It is widely thought that Canadian companies do most of the mining that occurs in Mexico, however Barcenas highlights that this is not entirely true. He explains that all mining projects can be found in the Vancouver Stock Exchange. “It can be Mexican or American capital that goes to Vancouver, and after relocating it enters the speculative economy and then from there it comes to Mexico, but as Canadian capital,” he says.
The production of metals soared in Mexico in 2010; by 2011, its value exceeded 20 billion dollars and came in third place among productive sectors of Mexico, according to the Mining Chamber of Mexico (Camimex).
Another factor that enables the easy high profit gains for these mining businessmen is that they only “pay between five and 111 pesos weekly for each hectare of surface area, no matter the type of mineral or amount mined,” says the lawyer and historian. Mexico is “the only country in Latin America where entrepreneurs pay no taxes on the production and export of ore,” he added. Colombia, even with a very similar mining law, charges 30% of the value of the mineral extracted.
An illuminating comparison is the case of the Mexican state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos. “Oil is another mineral that the state has reserved for itself to exploit. If you see the amount of taxes they pay, there is no comparison with that paid for other minerals,” says Lopez Barcenas. Mexico is now the largest silver producer in the world and tenth in gold, according to the Camimex, but while much of the Mexican state revenue comes from oil, “not a dime” is contributed by other minerals, says Barcenas.
Easy Pickings for Mining in Mexico
The “Why Mexico?” section on the website of Revolution Resources – the company accused of illegally mining in the sacred territory of Wirikuta[i], indicates that in addition to pro-mining laws, Mexico is the most politically stable country in Latin America.
During the Salinas administration, the Foreign Trade Bank and the government of Canada conducted workshops on investment opportunities in Latin America, recalls Barcenas. They concluded that in addition to permissive laws in Mexico, the government was willing to change the minimum requirements in some of its [mining] laws since there were no NGOs that would fight for the environment.
Francisco Lopez Barcenas added that the assassination of mining opponents creates more favorable conditions of mining activity, noting “In [the case of] the San Xavier Mine, a mayor opposed to changing the land use law was murdered; in Chicomuselo, Chiapas, Mariano Abarca was killed; in San José del Progreso, Oaxaca, Bernardo Vazquez was killed.” The murders of Ismael Solorio and Manuelita Solis, in 2012 in Chihuahua, could also be related because they fought against the illegal drilling by the Cascabel Mining Services Company, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company, Magsilver.
Damage and Resistance
In October 2012, Humberto Gutierrez, president of Camimex said that in Mexico there is enough gold and silver to exploit for another 500 years. The gold mined in the decade from 2000 to 2010 (419,000,097 kilograms) easily doubles the amount extracted during 300 years of Spanish colonization (191, 825 kilograms).
For Barcenas, the concern is not running out of ore but the way mining is done. “Everything is open mining, and to extract 500 years more would turn the country upside down,” he says.
Many communities who rent their lands are unaware of the harm that mining causes to the land. Current practices destroy almost all the surrounding area because the mineral is found in veins but dispersed in the ground and so requires turning up the earth’s surface to extract it.
The agrarian reform law now allows for ejidal lands to be rented out for 30 years leases–”the life of a whole generation,” says Barcenas, for very low prices. What is not made explicit is that when the mined land is returned back to the community it will often be practically useless.
For example, in Mezcala, due to protests the price for renting land was increased considerably, but the problem “is that people emigrated because they no longer had anything to do,” says Barcenas. Eventually the money ran out, and after a few years the community was completely destroyed. More than migration, says the lawyer, it was a clear case of forced displacement.
Mining activities also lead to a violation of the right to food. For the State to guarantee the right to food “planting and sowing should be a preferred activity, however, the Mining Law says that this activity [mining] takes preference above all other activities.”
It also affects the right to water. In the north, farm workers protest because the National Water Commission regulates their access to water, but does not limit use for mining.
Unlike in the late eighties, social protest has increased significantly toward mining, says Barcenas. In the past two years, resistance has increased dramatically in Mexico first, because of the environmental destruction caused by mining, and secondly because of the low prices paid by the companies for leasing land from the communities (about 1,000 pesos per hectare). More recently, indigenous peoples’ demands for cancelling mining concessions argue that they violate their right to consultation.
One form of protest “is the legal route, demanding that basic rights are met, that leases are annulled, and that concessions are canceled because they do not respect the right to consultation,” Barcenas notes. The other form is grassroots organization, with two national groups: the Mexican Network Against Mining and the National Assembly of Environmentally Affected Communities, and many regional organizations. The third form is public denouncements made by those directly affected, according to their ability, expresses the expert.
Barcenas says that to make mining somewhat acceptable, it is necessary to remove its preferential status. Concessions should be reduced to only the time needed for a project, companies should pay for the water they use and should pay fair prices for leasing a community’s land.
However, he notes that that is not the main concern. “Communities want to remain as communities and the people want to defend their right to territory,” he concludes.
Translation: Clayton Conn
Mexico – Ground Zero in the Fight for the Future of Maize
By Emilio Godoy
Native varieties of maize, like these drying in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern state of Chiapas, are key to preserving crop diversity.
MEXICO CITY, May 8 2013 (IPS) - In the 2011 action-thriller “Unknown”, scientists are persecuted by the biotech industry because they plan the open release of a drought- and pest-resistant strain of maize that could help eradicate world hunger.
There are certain parallels with the situation today in Mexico, the birthplace of maize, which is at the centre of the global fight to protect the crop’s diversity from the onslaught of genetically modified varieties.
“It’s the first time in history that one of the most important harvests in the world is threatened in its centre of diversity,” Pat Mooney, the head of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), an international NGO, told IPS.
“If we let the companies win, there will be no chance to defend them in other parts. What is happening here is of key importance for the rest of the world.”
Civil society organisations are raising their guard against the possibility that the government of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may approve commercial cultivation of transgenic maize, a move widely condemned by environmentalists and other activists, academics, and small and medium producers due to the risks it poses.
In September, the U.S. corporations Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow Agro-sciences presented six applications for commercial plantations of transgenic maize on more than two million hectares in the north-western state of Sinaloa and the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas.
Moreover, in January these companies and Syngenta presented 11 applications for pilot and experimental plots to grow transgenic corn on 622 hectares in the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa and Baja California. And Monsanto has applied for an additional plantation in an unspecified area in the north of the country.
Since 2009, the Mexican government has issued 177 permits for experimental plots of transgenic maize covering an area of 2,664 hectares, according to the latest figures provided by the authorities.
But large-scale commercial release of GM maize has not yet been authorised.
“They are going to serve up transgenic maize on every table in spite of the fact that food sovereignty depends on growing native corn,” said Evangelina Robles, a member of Red en Defensa del Maíz (Maize Defence Network) which campaigns against GM corn. “As a result, we have to demand its prohibition by the state,” she told IPS.
Mexico produces 22 million tonnes of maize a year, and imports 10 million tonnes, according to the agriculture ministry. The country purchased about two million tonnes of GM maize from South Africa over the last two years, and is set to import another 150,000 tonnes.
Three million maize farmers cultivate about eight million hectares in Mexico, two million of which are devoted to family farming. White maize is the main crop for human consumption, while yellow maize, for animal feed, is largely imported.
The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy (CONEVAL) estimates the country’s annual consumption of maize at 123 kg per person, compared to a world average of 16.8 kg.
The historical link with pre-Columbian indigenous cultures gives maize a strong symbolic and cultural significance throughout Mesoamerica, the area comprising southern Mexico and Central America, where it was domesticated, producing 59 landraces or native strains and 209 varieties.
In the state of Mexico, adjacent to the capital city’s Federal District, small farmers have found their native maize to be contaminated with GM maize, according to tests carried out by students at the state Autonomous Metropolitan University.
“We swapped seeds and decided to do some tests. Now we are more careful when exchanging, and over who participates in the fair, although we still have to carry out confirmation tests,” activist Sara López, of the Red Origen Volcanes (Volcanoes Origins Network), an association of small farmers that has been organising producers’ fairs since 2010, told IPS.
Environmental, scientific and small farmers’ organisations have discovered GM contamination of native maize in Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Puebla and Oaxaca.
Contamination is “a carefully and perversely planned strategy,” according to Camila Montecinos, from the Chile office of GRAIN, an international NGO that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.
Transnational food companies “chose maize, soy and canola because of their enormous potential for contamination (by wind-pollination),” said Montecinos, one of the experts participating in the preliminary hearing on transgenic contamination of native maize at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, an international opinion tribunal which opened its Mexican chapter in 2012 and will conclude with a non-binding ruling in 2014.
“When contamination spreads, the companies claim that the presence of transgenic crops must be recognised and legalised,” in order to pave the way for marketing the GM seeds, to which they own the patents, she said.
Mexico’s environment minister, Juan Guerra, has said that all available scientific information will be examined before a decision is made.
But that will not be easy. The National Confederation of Campesinos (Small Farmers), one of the main internal movements in the ruling PRI, has had an agreement with Monsanto since 2007 under which the company is to “conserve” native varieties.
Meanwhile, the Peña Nieto government still has not approved regulations for the format and contents of reports on the results of releasing GM organisms, and the possible threats to the environment, biodiversity, and the health of animals, plants and fish.
“For 18 years, corporations have been unsuccessful in convincing the people that their products are good. Maize is being used as a means of political and economic control. People need maize to be alive,” the ETC Group’s Mooney said.
The transgenic seeds on the market are herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready and Bt (for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene they carry for pest resistance) versions of cotton, maize, soy and canola. While they are legally grown in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, they are banned for example in China, Russia and the majority of the EU countries.
Recent studies published in the United States show that transgenic crops do not significantly increase yield per hectare, do not reduce herbicide use, and do not increase resistance to pests, in contrast to biotech industry claims.
“We are analysing what legal action to take against the new applications (to plant GM maize),” said Robles, of the Maize Defence Network.