There is too much at stake for social change to be a game. But if it were a game, the side that had the ability to think many moves ahead, anticipate its opponents moves, know what its goal was and move toward it relentlessly, would have huge advantages over the side that didn't.
If you had the chance to see 'Traffic', you know the War on Drugs is a sham. There's a good chance you know that its domestic effects are to imprison thousands and thousands of non-violent offenders who aren't dangerous, cut them off from their families and friends, destroy their life chances, destroy social bonds and devastate their communities, and lock them up in brutal places which are training grounds for crime. You probably know that the money and arms the US sends to countries like Colombia to 'fight' drugs ends up in the hands of paramilitaries who use it to produce drugs and kill civilians.
Perhaps you know about Plan Colombia, the violence of which is beginning to take effect. The Plan that sends $5 billion in military aid to the Colombian government to fight drugs, which translates to sending the Colombian military and paramilitaries $5 billion in advanced weapons to fight guerrillas and progressive social movements. Perhaps you know about the impunity with which trade unionists and human rights workers, journalists and legal workers are murdered in places like Barrancabermeja. Maybe you've read about the familiar process: small farmers, or indigenous people, or afro-colombians, on resource rich lands. Local elites and politicians cut a deal with multinational corporations to split the resources on the lands-- to build an oil well, or a hydroelectric dam. The only obstacle? The people who live there. So make refugees of them, and if they resist, murder them.
But if you're like me, you probably haven't had the chance to hear directly from the social organizations who are resisting this kind of development. You probably haven't had a chance to see the courage, intelligence, and resilience with which they resist and persist in pressing for a negotiated solution to the conflict between the government and the guerrillas. You probably haven't had a chance to see the diversity of the types of organizations, their strength, and their attempts to construct real alternatives to the destruction being meted out to them.
The Canada-Colombia Campaign made it possible for some of us to have that chance. It brought six activists from six different organizations in Colombia to Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa to discuss the situation in Colombia, the connections with North America, and what genuine solidarity between activists here and there could mean.
To call it waffling would be an understatement. But whatever you call it, Mexico's President Vicente Fox has been changing his position on the Zapatistas at least every fifteen minutes. Maybe even every five minutes.
I was talking to a Mexican friend who voted for Vicente Fox in the July elections, and told her I was a Zapatista supporter. She was appalled. "You're not Mexican, you don't know what's going on there. You can't know from spending a few months there. I'm from there and the decisions made by the government affect me and my family. And I'm against the Zapatistas."
"Okay fine," I said. "Now give me a real reason."
August 20, 2000 saw eyes from all over the world watching Chiapas, as the most closely observed elections in the state's history took place under the shadow of a continuing low intensity war. Pablo Salazar, the candidate of the Alliance for Chiapas, won the election by a margin of nearly 10 points. His party was a coalition of left and right parties, whose platform includes complying with the San Andres peace accords with the Zapatistas and reversing the militarization of the state. The electoral victory is cause for cautious optimism for people sympathetic to the Zapatistas.
Today a hunger strike in Chiapas’ prisons has expanded. It started in the state’s Comitan prison on July 3. Four days ago, on July 14, the original group of 23 hunger strikers stopped taking honey and since then have been drinking only water. Today the strike has expanded to prisoners in Cerro Hueco prison.