*Original Post contributed to itsgoingdown.org*
English translation of a recent article from Uruguayan journalist, Raúl Zibechi, about contemporary strategies of counterinsurgency being used in Mexico and throughout the world
Counterinsurgency strategies are flexible. They adapt to time and place, and to each sector of the population. They act differently in urban and rural areas, in the face of armed or peaceful actors, deploying in each case the appropriate devices for each situation.
Counterinsurgency strategies are multiple, as demonstrated in practice during the last century in Latin America. They combine massacres with social programs; brutal dictators who at a certain moment promote “democratic openings” which are reduced to calling elections.
Modern counterinsurgency has only one objective: crush those who are different, dispossess them of their territories, reconstruct those territories for the unbridled accumulation of capital and absolute control of the population. In synthesis, modern counterinsurgency seeks to annihilate whatever hint of autonomy from below.
We are seeing the brutal deployment of a counterinsurgency “war of attrition” in Chiapas, against the community of Nuevo San Gregorio and the Moisés Gandhi region, in all six autonomous Zapatista communities belonging to the autonomous municipality of Lucio Cabañas of Caracol 10.
This war, orchestrated from above, is faced with peaceful organizational processes. In such cases, counterinsurgency cannot deploy practices like the “scorched earth policy” that was used in Guatemala against Indigenous people of Mayan roots. To do so would cause the state to fall into complete delegitimization.
Prevented, at least for now, from devastating communities through genocide, the state attempts other strategies that follow exactly the same objective, but slowly suffocate the people in order to dispossess them of their lands and convert those lands into commodities.
Since April 2019, counterinsurgency tactics have been used against the communities mentioned, invading and fencing off lands recuperated by the Zapatista support bases, stealing crops, work materials, and supplies from community stores. Counterinsurgency forces fire their guns for hours, sometimes from sunup to sundown, engaging in physical and verbal aggression.
On August 22nd, 2020, members of ORCAO (Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers) burned a coffee storage warehouse and the community store belonging to Zapatista support bases at the intersection of Cuxuljá, in the municipality of Ocosingo. ORCAO kidnapped community members, threatening and torturing them.
Recent solidarity caravans, made up of 15 collectives and accompanied by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (FRAYBA), have documented that Zapatista families are finding it impossible to cultivate their lands amidst such aggressions (https://redajmaq.espora.org/caravanasolidaria7febrero2021).
This same week, the latest caravan confirmed that armed paramilitaries invaded the recuperated community lands to remove cattle and burn firewood. Before that, they had already surrounded schools, health clinics, water sources, and lands where cattle are grazed.
As can be seen, these are micro acts of counterinsurgency, which represent a war of the highest intensity for campesino families. All of this is happening with the support of armed forces, of the state and federal governments, who have done nothing to stop it.
We are facing a consolidated policy meant to isolate, weaken, and stifle all resistance. The aim is not to kill with a machete, as in the scorched earth massacres of General Ríos Montt, but with the exasperating gradualness of the criminal trickle, of hunger and death by asphyxiation. It is a world war.
On February 3rd, the community of San José de Apartadó (Antioquia, Colombia) released a communique where they denounced state complicity in the harassment, violations, and assassinations, which have occurred weekly for more than 23 years. The communique is testimony that we are facing a global strategy against those who are different (https://www.desdeabajo.info/colombia/item/41632-estado-paraco-su-funcionamiento-ficticio-y-su-funcionamiento-real.html).
Despite being a group of unarmed campesinos, the paramilitaries have assassinated and disappeared more than 300 people of all ages, including boys and girls, for the crime of resisting displacement and the logic of death (https://porlatierra.org/docs/c21b8d4a0cc333bbbfdd2bd6ce4a927d.pdf).
“Direct violence was not enough,” so “they prevented the passage of food to the community,” says the document about their history. With the exhaustion, today only 35 families remain scattered in the villages and only 35 boys and girls who attend the community school.
In all of these cases, it is armed men against boys, girls, and women, who are the absolute majority in these communities.
We must understand the very wide range of counterinsurgency: from aerial bombing in Turkey, Syria, and Palestine, to the relentless daily trickle against Zapatista communities, to mass murder and disappearances like in Ayotzinapa.
Capital has learned that massive assassinations generate massive mobilizations of repudiation, but through the trickle of progressive state terrorism, it can advance with fewer obstacles, eventually drowning communities. It is time to raise our voice to name the crimes and the criminals.