Members of Global Justice Ecology Project traveled in late March to Chiapas, Mexico, to investigate the emerging local impacts of the REDD+ Program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), and specifically the REDD Agreement signed between Chiapas and California. What we found was an astonishingly complex web of economic development projects being imposed on campesino and indigenous communities without any semblance of free, prior, and informed consent. Among these projects is a government program to delimit Natural Protected Areas in order to generate carbon credits, and to pay some indigenous communities to protect these areas, to the detriment of others. As we’ve seen in other parts of the world, the REDD Program, in both intention and in operation, divides communities and breeds conflict.
Our visit coincided with numerous events, including the inauguration of a “Sustainable Rural City” (apartheid housing for the displaced), a public protest by a community that had previously been evicted from the Montes Azules biosphere Reserve, and the first efforts at community education about REDD in the Lacandon region. To this end, several local campesino organizations convened a gathering in the village of Patihuitz, in the cañada of Ocosingo, April 2 and 3. GJEP was invited to send a message to the gathering on behalf of ourselves and our allies, as an effort to build bridges across struggles and across borders.
Following is the declaration that emerged from that gathering.
DECLARATION of PATIHUITZ
“Divided, we become allies of the Government”
During the days April 2 and 3, 2011, more than 300 delegates of regional campesino and indigenous organizations gathered in the Forum: Indigenous and Campesino Prespectives on the Climate Crisis and the False Solutions, to dialogue and analyze the situation in which our communities are living right now. During these dialogues, the memory of our compañero Porfirio Encino was present among us; eight years after his passing, his acts and his thinking continue to live in our hearts.
We came from different parts of the State of Chiapas to unite with our brothers and sisters from the jungle of Ocosingo; over the course of two days we shared the challenges that we see arising at the local, state, and national level.
Following our discussions, we conclude:
1. The peoples and communities of Chiapas reject policies that benefit only large national and international capital interests. These policies are manifestations of the neoliberal project that dominates the planet, and is provoking more poverty, marginalization, and exclusion of campesinos and indigenous peoples in Chiapas and around the world
2. The poorest of the poor find ourselves in a permanent crisis. In the world and in our country, we hear about the food crisis, the climate crisis, and the economic crisis. But in our communities we have a permanent crisis whose history is in the history of the Conquest and in the governments whose prime objective is the continual enrichment of the dominant class. Public money is used to enrich the political and economic classes of this country, with only crumbs given to the people through poverty alleviation programs, which, themselves, are a business for corrupt bureaucrats and service providers. These programs do not address the root causes of poverty.
3. As indigenous and peasant communities we are being denied the responsibility of feeding our people. Now, it is the transnational corporations that produce, distribute, and commercialize food, and who also want to appropriate the seeds that we’ve developed and improved over the course of thousands of years. The government would prefer that our communities be fed by foreigners, rather than desiging and promoting public policies that support the production, distribution, and sale of food from our own communities, which would simultaneously serve to strengthen peasant and indigenous agricultural production.
4. The current food crisis also signifies an increase in the price of food, which means that every day we have less economic capacity to purchase basic staples. In indigenous and campesino communities, access to food is made even more difficult due to our low levels of income and because the marginalization we suffer makes price increases that much more difficult to bear. For this reason, it is necessary that we be able to continue producing our own food and that small-scale agriculture be recognized as the most viable method for food production and for cooling the planet.
5. Our lands and territories are at risk. The conservation programs that are being implemented today have as their primary goal the transformation of our natural resources into commodities.
6. We express our urgent concern about disinformation regarding the REDD Program as it is being implemented in the Lacandón Jungle. We consider that in the medium and long term it will not benefit the peoples and communities that live here, but that it will benefit the transnational corporations that stand to make huge profits from the carbon market. It will generate the privatization of forests, the expulsion of communities, and increasing financial speculation. Carbon markets are one of the false solutions to global warming being promoted by transnational corporations and governments.
7. In Chiapas, the operation of REDD has already begun stimulating landgrabs from pueblos and communities. Three facts confirm this: 1) the agreement signed between the government of California, USA (the most polluting state in the world) and the government of Chiapas for the sale of carbon credits; 2) the decree of the Law for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change in the State of Chiapas on December 7, 2010, and 3) the signing of the Pact for Respect and Conservation of the Lacandón Jungle in December of 2010 to give economic support to the landholders of the Lacandon community to preserve the jungle and allow the sale of carbon credits to the government of California.
8. Global warming will not be solved by the privatization of natural resources. Its root causes can be traced to current models of production, distribution, consumption, and commerce, which are based in the concentration of capital (more wealth for the few); massive consumption of fossil fuels (oil); overproduction and free trade. All of these are characteristics of transnational capital, which is seeking to continue expanding its dominance over the entire planet.
In these moments, in which peoples and communites, and specifically the Lacandón jungle, are subject to the multiple pressures of landgrabs, incomplete processes of agrarian reform, extreme poverty and conflict over natural resources, indigenous and campesino organizations manifest that:
1. We need access to adequate information in order to decide how to best confront global warming. The Federal and State governments give priority to solutions proposed by transnational coprorations and international governments, rather than hearing the demands voiced by campesinos and indigenous peoples.
2. The REDD program is not a solution to global warming. Its objective is the privatization of carbon, land, air, seeds, water and other resources. Its final objective is that industrialzed countries “buy” the right to pollute, at the cost of the lands, territories, and natural resources of the indigenous peoples and peasant farmers.
3. We demand that conservation programs must be sustained by the vision and practice of indigenous and campesino communities. We are convinced that smallholder peasant farming and community forestry can cool the planet.
4. The production of food is a family and community obligation. The policies of the Federal and State governments should be oriented toward the food sovereignty of our peoples. We close the door to the transnationals.
5. Those of us in this Forum value sustainable peasant agriculture. For this reason we insist that it is the solution to both the food crisis and the crisis of global warming that we are suffering today.
6. We demand that primary and secondary education take into account ecological perspectives on global warming, and the solutions proposed by our peoples. But it is also important that we design and implement our own programs of environmental education, in ways that are autonomous and in solidarity with civil society organizations whose ethic is to accompany popular struggles. We reject those who join our work in order to attempt to discredit us later.
7. As peoples and communities we take the conservation of natural resources into our own hands. We will be fomenting new forms of organization for action and protest to make our initiatives and our proposals heard.
8. We are moving toward a constant mobilization to awaken the consciousness of our compañeros and compañeras throughout the region. We need to generate more information in our communities, aware of the fact that television and the press are all in the pocket of the government, and always speak in the government’s favor. We are aware that the reality behind what the media portrays, is other.
9. We promote the defense of our native seeds, which is necessary to recuperate and restore our agrarian history, in order to improve our crops. We resist the privatization of seeds by interests such as Monsanto.
10. We will implement community laws to procure the conservation of natural resources and the establishment of agroecology for food production.
11. We call for an immediate halt to the theft of lands, territories, and natural resources in the Lacandón Jungle. Respect for the word and the life of those who live here.
12. We reject the rights recently approved by the Congress, which puts our lands and our indigenous and campesino territories at risk. No to the sale of land in our communities! We defend our right to live.
13. This Forum appreciates the message sent by the compañeros of the Global Justice Ecology Project of California and Vermont in the United States of America. In the same sense, we are committed to strengthening and linking our struggles in order to achieve climate justice.
14. We offer our solidarity to the Tzeltal educational project of Guaquitepec in the municipality of Chilón, promoted by Patronato Pro educación Mexicano AC. We denounce the government’s contribution to the theft of lands by those who have appropriated the social and educational infrastructure of indigenous education.
15. From Patihuitz Ocosingo, we send our voice in solidarity with the 35 families of the OCEZ-CNPA-MLN in the municipality of Chicomuselo, who suffered the burning of their houses and the theft of their belongings. We demand punishment of those responsible, whoever they may be.
16. We call for the unity of all peoples and indigenous and campesino communities, and for all of our organizations to defend our lands, our territories, and our natural resources. We call for a struggle in defense of life.
Walk without hurry, but with meaning and with conviction.
Porfirio Encino Hernández
Comisión Ejecutiva Nacional
Comisión Ejecutiva Estatal
Coalición de Organizaciones Autónomas de Ocosingo (COAO Ocosingo)
ARIC Independiente y Democrática
Coordinación Región Avellanal
Coordinación Región Patihuitz
Coordinación Región Agua Azul
Coordinación Región Amador Hernández
ARIC Unión de Uniones
Coordinación Región Patihuitz
Coordinación Región Batzil Winiketie
Organización Regional de Cafeticultores de Ocosingo (ORCAO)
Unión Democrático del Pueblo (UDP)
Patronato Pro-Educación Mexicana AC
Patihuitz, Ocosingo, Chiapas. April 3, 2011