Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for Counterinsurgency

(by Renata Bessi & Santiago Navarro F. via El Enemigo Comun)

Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

“In 2006, a team of geographers from the University of Kansas carried out a series of mapping projects of communal lands in southern Mexico’s Northern Sierra Mountains. Coordinated by Peter Herlihy and Geoffrey B. Demarest, a US lieutenant colonel, the objective was to achieve strategic military and geopolitical goals of particular interest for the United States. The objective was to incorporate indigenous territories into the transnational corporate model of private property, either by force or through agreements. Demarest’s essential argument is that peace cannot exist without private property.

“The Bowman Expeditions are taking places with the counterinsurgency logic of the United States, and we reported them in 2009. These expeditions were part of research regarding the geographic information that indigenous communities in the Sierra Juarez possess. The researchers hid the fact that they were being financed by the Pentagon. And we believe that this research was a type of pilot project to practice how they would undertake research in other parts of the world in relation to indigenous towns and their communal lands,” said Aldo Gonzales Rojas in an interview with Truthout. A director for the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in the state of Oaxaca, Rojas ensures that indigenous laws are being instituted and applied correctly in the state.

According to researcher and anthropologist Gilberto López y Rivas, “The agents on the expeditions consider the types of communal property in these lands, both collective and autonomous, to be an obstacle for the development plans currently being very aggressively executed, where there is capital from mining companies, pharmaceuticals, energy companies, among others,” he told Truthout. This is despite the fact that these communal lands in Mexico, for example, were recognized after the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and are lands that indigenous communities have possessed since time immemorial.

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Geographer and University of Colorado professor Joe Bryan, affirmed in an interview with Truthout, that, as a point of reference in this offensive against communal lands, the Southern Command of the United States military, one of the 10 command units belonging to the US military that are deployed across the world, covers the area from South America, Central America, to the Caribbean. “They have turned their gaze to see that there is no state presence and an absence of private property. They are looking for communal areas and present these areas as belonging to drug trafficking and organized crime groups. In this way the Southern Command is looking to become a partner with the governments and nonprofit organizations in Latin America, and with this in mind, for example, that operation called Continuous Mission – that promotes health services to communities – [is] another way of occupying territories and of counterinsurgency.”

As the ideologue of these expeditions, Demarest considers collective land ownership to be the birthplace of delinquency and insurgency, and thus believes that collective property must be destroyed. He graduated from the School of the Americas, which is under the administration of the US Army and was founded in 1946 in Panama, with the objective of training Latin American soldiers in war and counterinsurgency tactics. In recent years, graduates from the School of the Americas have participated in assassinations in Colombia, formed part of the drug trafficking organization The Zetas, in Mexico, and were involved in the coup in Honduras in 2009, as was demonstrated by activists through a School of the Americas Watch lawsuit against the Department of Defense in February 2013. “Demarest is one of the coordinators of these expeditions. He was trained in the School of the Americas, later served as military attaché for the United States Embassy in Guatemala in 1988 and 1991, where a counterinsurgency project was implemented that caused terrible massacres of indigenous populations,” says López. […]

In Oaxaca, a police officer takes pictures, attempting to document the presence of activists in Oaxaca’s Triqui indigenous region. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)
In Oaxaca, a police officer takes pictures, attempting to document the presence of activists in Oaxaca’s Triqui indigenous region. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

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Read the full article “Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for Counterinsurgency” at El Enemigo Comun

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