no development without peace

If you take the road from Ocosingo to the ancient Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, make sure that you take…

If you take the road from Ocosingo to the ancient Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, make sure that you take something for ‘el mareo,’ sea sickness.

On the winding, two-lane highway that cuts the mogul-like landscape, you’re sure to get sick, even in first-class buses with decent suspension.

Ginger tablets work for me.

They seem to do the trick with out the potentially negative side effects of some other well-known remedies.

A calmed stomach will definitely heighten your enjoyment of the scenery as you come down from the pine-clad highlands around San Cristobal de las Casas towards the more tropical lowlands of the Yucatan.

About halfway, a turnoff to the north leads to the Cascadas Agua Azul, the waterfalls of Agua Azul.

I can testify to the invigorating renewal of a dip in a natural pool after a few days in the area’s sticky humidity, especially when those days were spent in a village with no running water let alone a shower.

Off the road and further up the Agua Azul river, residents of the small village of San Miguel can reach home only by using the village boat to cross it.

They also built a cable way to haul produce and supplies from one side of the river to the other.

Lately though, they have been having trouble. A paramilitary group with the suspected complicity of the government has been harassing them.

Corn fields were raided in fall.

Villagers have been threatened and robbed.

“The worst was when they cut the cable for the basket three times and destroyed with machetes the community’s boat,” one San Miguel villager reported in a Radio Zapatista interview on Monday (www.radiozapatista.org).

“We were left isolated.”

Land issues lay at the heart of the conflicts that are spreading across Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico.

Indigenous communities traditionally held their land communally.

No one member had the right to sell the land that belonged to everyone.

The bloody 1910 to 1919 Mexican Revolution won constitutional protection for these traditional rights.

Pressure for developments such as logging timber, using water for hydro-electrical projects and irrigation or access to mineral rich lands has led to an erosion of this protection.

Government legislation now permit’s the sale of ejido lands. As well, the government has made it increasingly difficult for communities to form new ejidos.

The villagers of San Miguel accuse the Chiapas police of selling grenades and bullets to the paramilitary force that is harassing them.

In a context of violence they fear that they will be driven from their lands.

There can be no development no matter how humble without peace and there can be no peace without justice.

The 2007 Development and Peace speaker Antoine Libert Amico, co-ordinator of CIEPAC, a socio-economic research organization in Chiapas, Mexico, will speak at CYO Hall at 4th and Steele on Thursday, March 22nd at 7:30 p.m.

His talk, Dilemma of Development: People or Profits First, will focus on the pressing challenge to put people’s needs first in the economic development of the Global South.

Libert Amico’s organization has seen land issues as one of the main problems in the indigenous and campesino communities where CIEPAC has been working.

They have identified PROCEDE, a government program seeking to privatize communal landholdings as a key force doing the groundwork for multinational corporations hoping to purchase the resource-rich lands in the region.

We have a rare opportunity to listen next Thursday to a firsthand account of an on-going struggle for justice in the Global South. Please join us.