Michoacán Peasant Farmers Defend Their Lands
Rodríguez: Michoacán Peasant Farmers Are Determined to Defend Their Lands, Coveted by Multinational Corporations for a Tourism Mega-Project
April 1, 2006
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Other Journalism correspondent Bertha Rodríguez Santos reports from the Mexican state of Michoacán, birthplace of legendary Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas. In 1939, then-president Cárdenas began the only true land reform program in Mexico's history. Sixty-seven years later, his grandson presides over a state where corrupt officials encourage illegal mining on indigenous land, and poor peasant farmers watch their land being sold off to rich Mexicans and foreign interests.
But Michoacán's peasant farmers are organized, and have already expressed their solidarity with the Zapatista cause. When Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos arrived in the embattled Lake Zirahuén community on Monday, he received a hero's welcome.
"The indigenous Purépechas' battle-tested defense of natural resources stands out in this community's history, explained veteran defender of the peasant farmers Marcos Paz as he welcomed Delegate Zero.
"The memory of the late Efren Capiz, another defender of the campesinos, is everywhere. It was evoked at the beginning of the welcome ceremony when a farmer told how in October 2003, on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Efren Capiz-led Emiliano Zapata Union of Communal Farmers (UCEZ), the town of Zirahuén was declared an autonomous territory, or Zapatista caracol, and would from then on be governed under the EZLN principle of 'commanding by obeying.'
"This, said Marcos Paz, was a response to the government repression at the federal, state and municipal level that the peasant farmers (known as comuneros, or communal farmers, because they protect and work the land collectively) had suffered for decades. "
"After explaining that the caracol of Zirahuén is not alone in its struggle, as 'we have compañeros and compañeras across the country' and 'the strength that we thought we carried alone' has the support of all struggles they have been bringing together throughout the tour, Marcos concluded: 'We expect nothing from the government. The only thing we want is for it to go away, and if it doesn't go away, we are going to bring it down. The only thing we want is for the rich to leave, and if they don't leave, we'll make them leave.'"
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