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WTO CANCUN - latest updates

The next ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization will take place in Cancun, Mexico on September 10-15. From the 8th on, a huge mobilization will greet the meeting with creative protest and visions of alternatives. Below is our report on some of the preliminary organizing we did last week in Cancun and Mexico City.
Lisa Fithian and Starhawk from RANT went to Mexico from July 27 ­ August 7th
where we met with organizers and local activists in Cancun and with
campesino organizers in Felipe Carillo Puerto, three hours south. We went
to Mexico City on Aug. 1st and spent the weekend with students at an
encampment focused on the WTO and then attend a three day gathering meeting
of Via Campesino. We also met with lawyers coordinating the legal support
for the September mobilization. Our primary interest was plans for
nonviolent direct action. Here is a quick summary of what we learned.


IN CANCUN ITSELF
================

Cancun is a new city that was created as a tourist center for the Mexican
economy. As such there is no history of social movements or many activist
based organizations. And thus few organizers have much direct action
experience.

The Comite de Bienvenida or the Welcoming Committee in Cancun is focusing on
logistics - finding spaces for camping and the forums as well as food.
They are also working with the global network of NGO's called Our World is
Not for Sale in organizing the forums, fair trade fair, etc. There is more
than enough work for what is basically a small group of people and they have
been having trouble locking down specifics. They are negotiating with the
city but there are only so many places for up to 10,000 people to camp.

Another local Cancun group, more youth and arts, is emerging and they are
focused on organizing youth and beginning to do outreach and mobilization in
the local community. They are very interested in bring a cultural component
to the streets in the form of puppets, drum processions and so on. They
have a base that hang in the Parque las Palapas which is the cultural center
of Cancun City

Puente de Cancun is a small group of internationals sponsored by Global
Exchange that is 1) providing info bulletins to the world, 2) organizing the
media convergence and 3) serving as a link to internationals.

We felt that a convergence space for organizing and supporting the street
actions is needed, and Mike, who was working with the Puente, was very, very
helpful to us, and is looking into housing/convergence space. We are
fundraising to help cover the costs and people can make donations to RANT in
order to secure one. More info below.

Two of the students from Mexico City are also going down to Cancun this week
and will be on the ground organizing from now on. They both have a good bit
of direct action experience which is great.

Finally on Cancun ­ the criminalization campaign has begun. There were
daily articles about foreign instigators, over 200,000 coming, about folks
bringing explosives and so on. The usual. But this all has a chilling
effect. Also two years ago at the WEF protests the police were pretty
brutal so there is a memory of that and some desire on the part of the
Comite not to see direct actions. All of this is evolving however as it is
clear that there are different sectors with different visions and plans...


Students:

The student activists we worked with are great and inspiring and
experienced, sophisticated organizers. Over the weekend encampment, they
formed a new group, Alianza Global S-9/Global Alliance S-9, to be a
coordinating body for all the groups planning street actions particularly on
the 9th.

They came from numerous groups and several cities and have some clear ideas
about what they would like to see happen. While many want to go it is very
expensive since the whole trip will be about 10 days with bus travel and
all. The students are hoping that international activist will contribute
to help reduce the individual cost thereby allowing more to go.

They are writing a letter and where people can send money, but short of that
RANT is also willing to help get money where it needs to go. (Info below)


Campesinos:

Via Campesino and its related Mexican compesino organizations, (UNORCA being
one of the main ones) are planning to mobilize 5-10,000 people. Again,
numbers depend partly on money. They are organizing their own forums on
the 8th and 9th and then planning a day of action on the 10th which is the
opening day of the Ministerial and the day focused on agriculture.

They are planning actions across the hemisphere to disrupt international
commerce as well as a plan to march to the Convention Center to deliver a
declaration. Their intention is to get inside to read it.

They will march on September 10 and probably support whatever actions take
place on September 9, although it seems unlikely that they will take a major
role in them. The student made a proposal to them and they have a big
meeting soon to make a final determination on their plans.


ROUGH CALENDAR
================

Aug 30
Festival in Cancun, Student trainings in Mexico City

Sep 1
Convergence Center opens we hope

Sep 2
Alternative Media-Tech Convergence

Sep 4,5
Student busses leave Guadalajara and Mexico City, respectively.

Sep 6
Training Weekend, evening assemblies/spokes begin

Sep 8
Students arrive in Cancun, evening Assembly to plan actions. Campesino Forums
begins

Sep 9
WTO delegates begin to arrive. Proposed action day. Actions will depend on
numbers and logistics, but some powerful ideas are in the works. Compesino
forums begin, NGO Opening Forum.

Sep 10
Ministerial Opens, focus on agriculture. March and possible actions by Via
Campesino. Alternative Trade Fair ­ through the 12th out on the island

Sep 11
Zapatista Encuentro / Dia de la luto - memorials for victims of war and
violence, anniversary of the coup in Chile as well as 9-11 in U.S., Street
processions, offrendas, cacerolazo (beating pots and pans - a South American
political tradition), and a Chilean pena at night are suggestions.

Sep 12
Services under discussion at ministerial: suggestion to be in the streets of
Cancun City offering services to people - free food, water, medical care, etc.

Sep 13
Mass March against War and Free Trade.

Sep 14
Ministerial Closes, possible Fiesta on the beaches?

Sep 15
Mexican Independence Day

<< Editor's note: In Europe, parallel days of action in solidarity with the
Cancun actions have already been called. The largest and most international
will be in London, where four days of action are to target the DSEi arms fair -
see  http://www.dsei.org for details >>



OTHER ASPECTS
===============

Legal:
Legal support is being organized by a Mexican human rights organization. We met
with their representatives who seem to have a great plan. They will aid
internationals who have problems with immigration and provide support for the
actions, and they seem to have this base well covered. A legal Handbook is
almost complete that will be translated into English and put on line on the
Comite's webpage.

Medical:
Various teams of street medics are coming down from the U.S. and we believe that
this, too, will be well covered.

Housing:
Campsites for the major moblizations of campesinos and students are still being
negotiated. We have people looking for houses to rent for groups of
internationals and for a convergence space, but don't yet have anything
confirmed.

Visas:
The Mexican government is requiring a special visa for accredited
journalists and delegates who will be entering the Conference Center area,
but we have been told that unaccredited people should just come on a regular
tourist visa. Passports are required for those flying into Mexico.

Weather:
Hot, hot, hot, oppressive or rain, rain, rain. Come prepared!
Mosquitos also can be a problem, so some good nontoxic bug juice could come in
handy.

Theft:
Theft is a big problem in Cancun and Mexico City. We recommend an
under-your-shirt money belt for your passport and cash and a wary eye when
on busses, the subway, or in crowds. Don't bring anything of real value or
consider insuring it. The Puente House was just broken into and computer
equipment etc stolen.
There are cheap internet café's everywhere!

What's Needed from Internationals:
Being there! Cancun is hard to get to for a lot of Mexicans, and internationals
are needed and welcome in order to get the numbers we need for a large-scale
mobilization. Internationals present will also change the dynamic with the
police, the Mexicans believe.

If you can come to Cancun, do! Internationals are needed and wanted, and it
will be an incredible opportunity to meet and work with people from the
global south, from students to campesinos.

If you can't come to Cancun, consider donating some money to help students
and campesinos from Mexico come. Cancun was chosen because it is isolated,
expensive and inaccessible. Students and campesinos, the major groups
mobilizing, have little money but much courage and determination. Many
would like to come, but can't afford to. With support and solidarity from
the north, however, we can mount a large and effective mobilization that can
derail the meeting.

And if this ministerial fails it will be the third failure in a row, dealing
a potentially fatal blow to the organization. The struggle for global
justice will still continue on many fronts, but the tide will have turned.


Fundraising:

Funding is needed to bring more students and campesinos to the actions. Anyone
who can't come is be encouraged to make as big or as small a donation as
possible. RANT will help get the money to Mexican student organizations or
convergence space.

$100 will sponsor one student's travel costs to Cancun. We also need money
for supplies for the permaculture projects, art supplies, flyers, etc. Even
small amounts can help.

Tax deductible donations can be made to:
Daughters/Sisters Foundation (Make check out to Daughters/Sisters, earmark
it RANT/CANCUN)
PO Box 4492
Rolling Bay, WA 98061
EIN: 91-188-5041A

OR if you do not need a tax-deduction send money directly to
Lisa Fithian
1405 Hillmont St.
Austin, TX 78704

Checks made out to RANT and what you want it to go for on the memo line!!!!!


Action Support and Coordination: Experienced people who can help coordinate
actions, run communications, and volunteer as legal observers or to help
staff the legal office will be extremely useful. Spanish may be a
requirement for some roles.

A few links:
Comite de Bienvenida:  http://www.cancuncommittee.org
PGA Cancun webpage:  http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/cancun/index.htm
Indymedia Cancun:  http://chiapas.mediosindependientes.org/
Mexican Space / NGO's  http://www.rmalc.org.mx/
Fair Trade Symposium:
 http://laneta.apc.org/pipermail/acancun-l/2003June/000176.html

The WTO official web-site ( http://www.wto.org/)


Contacts:

Puente de Cancun - bridge to internationals/organizing media convergence
998 887 9326
 noomc@buz.org

Juventude Global - local Cancun youth/cultural organizing
Hector Rodriguez (52) 998 896 1822

Student organizing:
Alianza Global S-9  ags9@yahoo.com

Everardo 0445551536067
 kapitalbailable@hotmail.com

Legal

Comision de Derechos Humanos y Abogados
C/0Wolf
 Cancundh@hotmail.com

Juan Antonio Vega
5523 9992
 redtdt@redtdt.org
 cancunddhh@hotmail.com