Convinced that the circumstances of the "social conflict" that emerged in 1994 "have been registering a significant decline," the federal government recently set in motion one of the most important counterinsurgency programs with specific objectives in Las Canadas of the Selva Lacandona.
Based on economic projects of all kinds, the program anticipates a wide governmental presence in 116 communities of Las Canadas of Ocosingo, Las Margaritas and Altamirano primarily - where there is a high presence of EZLN support bases - with a budget close to 109 million pesos, which will, in theory, directly benefit 3309 growers.
This ambitious program - the first of its type in its detail and selectivity, and, according to non-governmental organizations, designed by the Department of Government - was begun simultaneously with the propaganda offensives of the "desertions" by purported zapatistas. And the government is willing to support it, even through the use of public force.
This is one of the explanations for the police-military operations that have been being carried out on a daily basis for a month now in Las Canadas. "The government will guarantee that aid will reach the communities, and, if it is necessary to use public force for that, then it will do so," recently declared state Attorney General, Eduardo Montoya Lievano, who justified the situation arguing that zapatista sympathizers had stolen animals and destroyed tools and materials donated by the government to several communities.
The program has managed to create an inter-institutional coordinating body, with the participation of the five primary state departments, whose efforts will be "under the coordination of the state government and the agreement of municipal officials."
According to the document - La Jornada has a copy in its possession - in which the lines of action, methodology and objectives are specified, funds are included in the program from one of the so-called "adaptable" loans from the World Bank, for the Rural Development Program in Marginalized Areas, the first of this kind in the entire world, and which operates in Mexico as one of the 28 components of the Alliance Program for the Countryside. ("An adaptable loan consists in having a first stage, in which the board of directors of the bank will be involved in the approval of the start-up, and which results in a series of adaptable loans sequentially programmed, during which the subject of the credit can make modifications as to the rate, and it will be more feasible to acquire an increase in the funds assigned to the subsequent stages, through an agreement between the World Bank management and the borrower, in this case, Mexico." The definition is from Transparency, Civil Society, in their information summary of April of this year).
Of the 108,860,564 pesos for the counterinsurgency program in Las Canadas, 4,767,128 are from the 47 million dollar credit line approved by the World Bank on December 23, 1997 - one day following Acteal - specifically for the Developement Program in Marginalized Areas, that seeks "to improve the wellbeing and income of small owners in 24 marginalized areas in Mexico, who are among the poorest in the country," according to the assessment document drawn up by the World Bank - also in La Jornada's possession - whose translation into Spanish is "not official."
In the document, a copy of the credit request for 47 million dollars to the World Bank is included, dated November 6, 1997, and signed by the then Secretary of Agriculture, Francisco Labastida Ochoa.
As for the counterinsurgency program in Las Canadas, the federal government states, in the 33-page text, that currently "the situation of the social conflict" that arose in that reigon in 1994 "contrasts with the communities' interest in picking back up their principal economic activities, given the importance of meeting the most urgent necessities for food and income."
Under these new circumstances, it explains, "favorable conditions are opened for promoting economic programs that favor detente and the rebuilding of the social fabric, as the basis of a comprehensive and sustainable development of the region," for which it specifies "the conjunction of forces and resources, which stand a greater chance based in an inter-institutional coordinating body." Participating in this coordinating body are the Departments of Agriculture, Social Development, Environment, Communication and Transportation, and Agrarian Reform.
The government's activities directed towards strengthening economic activities have "the experience of the Alternative Advisory Consultancy, Civil Association (directed by Diana Orive, brother of Adolfo, who has vast experience in the manipulation of the masses) which, through its acceptance in an important number of communities in that region, has identified existing demand and serves as coadvisory body for the presentation of viable alternatives of economic development, and also monitors specific projects and handles the basic services of technical assistance and training," it notes.
It mentions that the program's objective is to administer, with the technical support of the Alternative Consultantcy's office, economic programs in 116 communities of Las Canadas. These programs - through coordination and complementary funds from the different levels of government - will assure technological improvement and sustainable use of rural resources, in order to increase production and improve the standard of living of campesino families who live in the region.
It adds that the technological improvement of traditional economic activities will be undertaken, under formulas that will allow the rapid revival of production and will gradually consolidate technologies, assuring the preservation and sustainable exploitation of the natural resources in the mid and long term, for the purpose of reaching sustainable development in the economy and culture of the communities.
The docuument includes a comprehensive description of the geography of Las Canadas, as well as descriptions of the socio-demography, land, and production units, use of the soil and agricultural production methods, economic descriptions and the destination of the production, and economic organization and degradation of the natural resources.
The program anticipates the opening, repair and paving of roads, support for ranching, coffee culture - this will be the most heavily supported sector - economic reforestation, technical assistance and the installation of 115 satellite phones in an equal number of communities in Las Canadas, which will benefit 37,000 residents. According to the text, 95% of the economically active population in Las Canadas carry out farming activities, and the lack of other employment options "causes young persons to aspire to remain campesinos, which leads to great pressure on the land, while strong social explosiveness mounts."
It establishes that, of the 18,242 economic units in the zone, the majority are involved in farming and forestry activities. In the area of production, it notes that maize is cultivated on 39,748 hectares, from which 40,828 tons are produced, yielding 1.02 tons per hectare. The production basically goes for self-consumption, but there is a deficit of 28.5%, and it is estimated that this will be on the order of 15,000 tons for 2001.
It explains that, during the 80's, second and third level organizations were established, of whom the most significant is the Rural Association of Collective Interests (ARIC, Union of Unions), which "has suffered various splits, giving way to the ARIC-Independent and Democratic and the ARIC-Official, ruptures which are most noted for the segment that formed the EZLN."
Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada La Jornada June 29, 1999. _________________________ Translated by irlandesa