In 1994 the Zapatistas reclaimed land in Chiapas Mexico from greedy and absentee landlords, because they believe that the land belongs to those who work it. The last 18 months has seen a new phase of attacks against the Zapatista communities aimed at retaking their land and resources for exploitation by corporations. The attacks have also been aimed at adherents to the Zapatista initiated ‘Other Campaign’ made up of communities struggling from the left and from below. Today all over the world people are demonstrating to highlight the repression as part of the 1000 Rages, One Heart Campaign.
WHY TARGET STARBUCKS?
Over a number of years Starbucks has consistently exploited the land and resources of Zapatista and other indigenous communities in Chiapas through their partners Conservation International. Starbucks offers organic shade grown Mexican coffee from Chiapas grown close to the Montes Azules biosphere reserve via Conservation International. A recent report suggests that shade grown coffee does not guarantee biodiversity conservation, despite Starbucks claims . Conservation international is a greenwash organisation in partnership with some of the most notorious environmental offenders and abusers of workers rights such as BP, Disney, Ford, McDonalds, Rio Tinto, and Wal Mart. Despite claims that they pay a fairer price for coffee the majority of Mexican coffee producing communities lack basic services such as drinking water, electricity, healthcare and education. Conservation International has been accused of making excessive demands in an attempt to gain control of coffee harvests so as to sell them, against the farmers’ wishes, to companies like Starbucks . In the past Conservation International has provided aerial photographs of settlements in an attempt to evict Zapatista and other indigenous communities, which it blames solely for environmental destruction in the area , considering indigenous people to be “ignorant” . The NGO Global Exchange has investigated these claims and found that most environmental destruction is concentrated around military camps while indigenous groups use sustainable organic agricultural techniques. In January 2010 there were unexplained evictions of Zapatista and other indigenous communities from the Montes Azules area by heavily armed federal police using helicopters to displace people to Palenque City and flame throwers to burn homes.
CORPORATE GREED VERSUS WORKERS AND COMMUNITY CONTROL
Starbucks are been found guilty of illegal anti-union activities on numerous occasions. They have threatened to push down wages in any unionised shops. The Starbucks Workers Union has had to fight against low pay, understaffing, poor health and safety and a lack of guaranteed hours. The union has also demanded affordable health care and paid sick days as Starbucks doubled health insurance costs in July 2009 amidst soaring profits . In stark contrast in recent years the Zapatistas have been developing their own autonomous health service free to users.
Demonstrations throughout Mexico and Europe in September and October, as part of the 1000 Rages, One Heart Campaign, have helped make possible the return of 170 Zapatista supporters to their homes in San Marcos Avilés. They were expelled by supporters of political parties that support the privatisation of land and resources, because they built an autonomous school.
As recently as the 22th of October, a group of Zapatista supporters from Agua Clara, were attacked and threatened by those who support the privatisation of facilities in tourist areas. However Zapatista supporters and Other Campaign adherents in Bolon Ajaw, Mitzitón and San Sebastián Bachajón have successfully resisted corporate tourist developments in the last 18 months.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES