Culture Change e-Letter
Opposing the Plan Puebla Panama and FTAA
"Free trade" for Mesoamerica:
roads, dams and death
Report by Jan
A monumental scheme
pushed by several governments promises to strip the environment and many local
cultures of their wealth and put it in the pockets of big corporations.
Its name? Plan Puebla Panama.
The name is
confusing because it encompasses much more than Panama (and it is more than a
highway-construction scheme. Plan
Puebla Panama (PPP) is a road/dam/maquiladora monstrosity related to the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other similar entities such as the
Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement (FTAA).
The PPP is supposed to
cost $20 billion and take 25 years.
Dams and other facilities for power generation and distribution have huge
financial costs, but also ecological and human costs that are far greater.
Opposition to Plan Puebla Panama is strengthening. It's as if the
Zapatistas are spreading over several countries. The Indians of Chiapas,
honoring the revolutionary hero Zapata and his name, declared war on the Mexican
federal government and on NAFTA, taking up arms and securing their territory on January
1, 1994, the day NAFTA went into effect. The Mexican government was and still is in cahoots with the non-Indian land-grabbing class, and NAFTA was
the last straw for the rebels.
There is oil in Chiapas,
along with rich timber and other resources including human labor. Not only
does the neoliberal capitalist agenda plan to take land away from the local
people, it intends to enslave them as workers no longer able to provide for
their own subsistence. The Indian segment of the Chiapas population has
resisted steadily, with help from Mexicans everywhere and North Americans who
have provided support. One reason for concern over the PPP - as has been
the case with NAFTA - is the Lacondon rainforest in Chiapas, also targeted
for ranching and biopiracy of the flora. Today's Mayans are
threatened with the loss of their culture which features sustainable
Plan Puebla Panama's series of
industrialization projects steamrolls through the whole region of Mesoamerica,
including 9 states in southern Mexico and the 7 countries of Central
America. Sixty four million people would be drastically
Regardless, NAFTA and PPP supporters push
onward towards ever greater riches for the few, and domestication and
enslavement for everyone else. Maquiladoras are factories providing
cheap labor for U.S. corporations, sited near the U.S. border and polluting
massively. Corporations' quest for profits have already resulted in
factories in Central America, but the PPP would turn the region into a
production/extraction zone where local self-sufficiency would be effectively
PPP threatens to displace hundreds of indigenous communities and destroy
precious rainforest and wetland ecosystems. While
the region constitutes only 0.5% of the world's land mass, southern Mexico and
Central America contain over 7% of the known species on the planet.
There are two international
highways to be constructed, involving up to 90% of the total funding for PPP,
"so that nothing stands between consumers and their hair dryers,"
according to the Network Opposed to the Plan Puebla Panama (NoPPP). There
exists already a Transportation Corridor that when completed will link a chain
of highways from Tapachula, Mexico and Panama, linking ports of the countries on
the Pacific coast. The two main highways to be constructed are (1) the
Pacific Corridor Road Integration Project. The route is
approximately 3,156 kilometers long, from Hidalgo, Mexico and ending in Panama
City. (2) The Atlantic Corridor Road Integration Project will cover
a route of approximately 1,925 kilometers.
According to the Action
for Social & Ecological Justice:
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 ... a region encompassing 102
million square kilometers ...
"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 regions populations by multilateral
institutions, which the U.S. dominates, like the World Bank, International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB)."
Subcomandante Marcos of
the Zapatista Army delivered this statement through supporters to Cancun as the World Trade
Organization meeting on agriculture collapsed in September:
"In the complex
equation that turns death into money, there is a group of humans who command a
very low price in the global slaughterhouse. We are the indigenous, the
young, the women, the children, the elderly, the homosexuals, the migrants,
all those who are different. That is to say, the immense majority of
and sisters, there is dissent over the projects of globalisation all over the
world. Those above (in the meeting halls), who globalise conformism,
cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction and death. And those below who
globalise rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory
and the construction of a world that we can all fit in, a world with
democracy, liberty and justice.
"We hope the death
train of the World Trade Organisation will be derailed in Cancun and
People from across the Americas will converge from November
19th to November 21st, 2003, in
Miami, Florida to voice their opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas
agreement (FTAA) For Miami direct action discussion and our Cancun
photo-journalism, see http://www.culturechange.org/WTOprotests.html
War from the U.S. and
The proponents of Plan
Puebla Panama and FTAA all know the consequences of their actions. So,
their agenda - if imposed - will be viewed by local peoples as an act of war.
War will not be explicitly declared by the "free traders" (the corporations and
their government) against the peasant farmers and Indians, for already the
government/corporate policies, backed
up by the federal-controlled armed forces, equate to low-intensity warfare.
When people are forced off their land by divisive measures, they end up in
corporate sweat shops and assembly plants that spew toxic chemicals into the
environment and their bodies. This is already war.
An anti-globalization activist wrote on the internet a concise analysis of the
role of war:
"Economic oppression and
military repression are flip sides of the same coin. The economic terrorism
inflicted on the poor that accompanies 'free trade' could not stand without
the repressive military apparatus that brutalizes people who rise up to
resist. Those who oppose the globalization of greed and those who work
to end US training of repressive foreign armies are joined in one
If a wider guerilla war of
resistance is waged
against PPP, NAFTA and FTAA, it will be pounced on by the servants of corporate
power including the "intelligence community," militaries of the U.S. and other countries, and the
corporate news media. Israeli intelligence/counterinsurgency has already
been used as a surrogate for U.S. interests in Central America. As fed up
as the U.S. public is of unnecessary wars, yet another war will be launched -
unless derailed by U.S. citizens - with
some plausible excuse propounded in Congress and in corporate editorials (such
as Ronald Reagan's "Freedom Fighters" for killing Nicaraguans).
In Columbia, we already
have the example of Plan Columbia being a lucrative Drug-War
expansion of U.S./corporate military power. Not only is there mucho oil in
Columbia, but the cocaine trade is not something that U.S. financial interests
and freebooters can allow just anyone to control. Hence, civil war in
Columbia is described to the tax-paying U.S. public as terrorism involving drug lords.
year on Columbus Day sixty thousand people gathered in small towns throughout
the U.S. and on dirt roads in Central American villages, as well as in the
largest cities and in the middle of the largest highways. From Canada to
Colombia, they protested in front of U.S. embassies, Inter-American Development
Bank (IDB) and World Bank offices, Spanish embassies, monuments to Christopher
Columbus and the headquarters of corporations involved in the PPP. Teodosio
Angel of the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Isthmus's Northern Zone
(UCIZONI) explained a few days before the demonstration:
will block roads, ports and borders and will protest multinationals like
Coca-Cola, to demand that corporations and governments stop robbing our natural
resources and basic rights. For 510 years, governments and corporations
have ignored us, and it continues today with the PPP."
The Central American Free Trade Agreement is a proposed commercial pact
between the United States and five countries in Central America: El Salvador,
Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
CAFTA is modeled after the now-infamous North American Free
Trade Agreement. The same negative effects caused by NAFTA - such as the
devastating impact on working people in the United States, Canada, and Mexico -
are expected to happen to many people living in countries participating
in CAFTA if a CAFTA agreement is reached. NAFTA has resulted in the loss of millions of jobs, as well as
toxic dumps, habitat destruction, and contamination of Mexican indigenous corn
varieties by genetically engineered organisms.
Civil society groups in Central America and the United States
oppose the CAFTA in its current form and call for trade that respects democracy,
food security, and public services.
From October 20th to October 24th, trade delegates met in
Houston to continue negotiating their CAFTA agenda in secret without any form of
public consultation. Demonstrators in the streets called attention to
CAFTA, although the corporate media deprived the nation of coverage.
Eco Bloc to strut in
As opposition to FTAA and PPP is not limited to
Mesoamericans, North American activists - many of whom shut down the Seattle WTO
meeting - are going to
make a strong statement in Miami and disrupt the meeting. "Miami is where
the action will be, for all who believe in justice and want to oppose U.S.
corporate imperialism," says the Eco Block.
"On Climate Change and Social Change" is a recent ZMag article
by Doyle Canning, who calls for acting "for the Earth and the future
in the streets of Miami as an Eco Bloc at the upcoming protests of the Summit of
the Americas." Miami protests against FTAA will "point out the proposed
expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) via the Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA)."
The Eco Bloc will mobilize to show
how "the FTAA will
accelerate ecological disaster and erode environmental protection throughout
the Western hemisphere..." In a positive vein, Eco Bloc will
"amplify the voices of peace activists, trade unionists, students, food
sovereignty movements and others who will be marching to stop FTAA."
Eco Bloc Miami's slogan is "We Are Stronger Than Greed or Fear."
Eco Bloc's larger project is to build "an ecology movement in America capable
of interrupting the train wreck economy" Eco
Bloc "is a step towards further opening the space for integrative
ecological activism to confront corporate rule and endless war, and to build
an ecological future, in 2004 and beyond."
The term Eco Bloc refers to direct-action street
fighters referred to as the Black Bloc who distinguished themselves in
Seattle, for better or worse, and who hung back in Cancun.
Advertising one's tactics
may not be the smartest strategy, although new readers may become inspired.
Along the same lines: For the FTAA
meeting, members of the Articulate Rebellion Media Group "will break numerous laws in Miami in order to exercise
our First Amendment
rights of free expression." They plan to occupy hammocks hanging off of tall
buildings in downtown Miami. These men and women will "risk our lives and
liberty to attract media attention and send programming over cell phones and the
world-wide-web to people all over the world who are interested in the protests
against the FTAA Free Trade deals and Bush militarism."
Inspiration for peaceful
Activists in Arcata, northern California were heartened by the joyful, multi-cultural experience of
activists in Cancun opposing the WTO. Just talking with returned
demonstrators back in Arcata and seeing two video presentations of positive
protests and individuals' testimony in Cancun, instilled hope that the Battle of
Seattle and the victory at Cancun can be repeated in Miami and beyond. A
new song from Arcata reflects these influences:
in our hearts
But we don't know
just how far
'Til it's coming
or how deeply
In the meantime
love your family
like a star
With each heartbeat
where you are
In a forest
in a prison
If you're there for
I'm the new growth
I'm sure ready
for some change
Monkey wrench the
truck and car
By not spending
Life is joyful
Peace and battle
versus observing and preparation
These are not yet
revolutionary times for many of us. The idea of a revolution must be
defined for our times. It is no longer a switching of power among classes, as
Marxism dictates. Many thoughtful intellectuals and activists further reject
the idea of any power-change type of attempted revolution, violent or not, successful or not.
This makes sense because larger forces - the collapsing economy and nature in
revolt - are what mainly will guide us to the real transition of the future.
Meanwhile, the corporate establishment is getting away with murder.
The main challenge for social change is to reject corporatism and its companion:
A new way of living also rejects individualistic, anti-community separatism as
well. This is the kind of
revolution that would go deep enough to give us a chance at survival.
Today, everybody's life
is being disrupted by the mainstream economy.. Some of us feel it more
than others, but the feeling is growing. The whole world will feel the
reverberations of the last gasps of the industrial
exploitation system. Its collapse will lift a great weight off our
necks, but that's when upheaval and an unprecedented creative challenge result
in our remaking our daily lives
into what will hopefully be a sustainable culture.
Come the collapse and
cultural revolution, today's driving fools - consumers, warriors, oppressors
alike - will become grounded and will start looking around for bikes, bike
carts, canoes, good shoes, horses, and even trains.
A major source on Plan Puebla
Panama and its ramifications is available through http://acerca.org/
Plan Puebla Panamá booklet: The Battle Over the Future
of southern Mexico and Central America
Some of the multinational
corporations that are investing in (and will be profiting from) the Plan
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. (The
logging corporations clear-cut the forests, depleting topsoil and causing
erosion, making rainforest recovery slow and difficult.)
Grupo Pulsar- a Mexican biotechnology corporation, is investing in Chiapas
in plantation forestry, biotechnology, and research on genetically engineered
ENDESA (a Spanish corporation) is the principal investor in the regional
energy interconnection initiative to privatize energy and develop
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
To get involved in anti
FTAA activities and get links, see
To learn more about the Zapatistas, visit http://www.ezln.org
Media and Statements from
Articulate Rebellion Media Group:
"Our Miami Flyer with photos from the Cancun Banner action in Mexico
Citys La Jornada:
Open Letter to America Latina; color photo of Cancun Banner-hang (Novedades
Newspaper, Quinta Roo
"From Cancun to Mexico City and Miami, We
risk our lives for those whose lives are at risk. - Que Se Vayan Todos -
Get involved in the campaign against CAFTA
The CAFTA Coalition will be in Miami from November 19-21 to protest the FTAA,
along with thousands of people from throughout the Americas. Find out more at www.lasolidarity.org.
The Coalition is also planning local and national mobilizations for the week of
December 8-12, when negotiators will gather in Washington DC to try to conclude
CAFTA talks. Find out more at www.cispes.org/cafta.
on biopiracy and genetic engineering: Biopiracy is the theft of
genetic information of indigenous medicinal and food plants needed by the
local people. Once the genetic information is stored, the biotech
corporations do not care about the plants' possible extinction. The
pollen drift of Bt corn (containing Bacillus thuringiensis) has infected
indigenous crops cultivated for thousands of years by Mayan farmers. -
Culture Change editors
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