Posts by scott

The Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural


Presented by Art Forces, the Estria Foundation and NorCal Friends of Sabeel, the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural is a monumental work of public art located in Uptown Oakland on 26th Street between Telegraph and Broadway. The mural pays homage to the history of Bay Area public art and expresses solidarity with Palestinians as bombs continue to fall on Gaza.

The Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural adopts the image of the tree as a central motif and global visual signifier to link seemingly disparate issues and distant locations. Spanning 157 feet and reaching 22 feet high, the mural is comprised of nine separate panels, where each artist or team of artists has painted his or her own interpretation of a tree to address social and political issues.

These issues include the shared histories of colonization, environmental exploitation, internal exile of indigenous peoples, resilience and resistance to these injustices. The mural dedication will be held on August 10, 2014 from 1-4 pm and is free and open to the public. The dedication will include poetry, music, traditional Palestinian dance, local stiltwalkers from LocoBloco and an art exhibit From Gaza to Oakland.

This exhibition includes artwork from Gaza artists and photo journalists responding to the recent assault; historical photos of the expulsion of Palestinians from what is now called Israel; print portfolios from Middle East Children's Alliance and work by muralists and friends of Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural.

This exhibition will open in conjunction with the mural unveiling on August 10th and will run through September 30, 2014.

The twelve participating artists come from a wide array of backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. They include Dina Matar, who is participating virtually (Gaza); IROT (Native American); VYAL (Chicano-Native American); Deadeyes (African American); Erin Yoshi (Japanese American); Susan Greene (Jewish American); Emory Douglas (African American); Nidal El Khairy (Palestinian); Chris Gazaleh (Palestinian American); SPIE (Asian American); Fred Alvarado (Latino American); Miguel Bounce Perez (Chicano-Pacific Islander American).


Massacre(s) in Gaza






Elbit: Exporting Oppression from Palestine to Latin America


By Scott Campbell
June 27, 2014
Upside Down World

Surveillance. It’s in the headlines and on the tips of tongues. As technology offers new possibilities for connection, it also offers new means to keep tabs on people. Surveillance has become seemingly ubiquitous, from the NSA reading emails to drones in the skies. As a nation that has for 66 years been ruling over an indigenous population by force, one of the main countries practicing surveillance is Israel. And it is the Israeli defense industry that has been reaping the profits off of the oppression and surveillance of the Palestinian people.

One of the top occupation profiteers in Israel is the defense firm Elbit Systems. The largest non-governmental defense company in the country, its revenue stood at $2.83 billion in 2010. Using knowledge and expertise gained from assisting in the occupation of Palestine, Elbit has made millions exporting surveillance and defense materiel worldwide – and increasingly so to Latin America. While Israel’s role in arming dictators and oppressive regimes in Latin America during the last century is well known, Elbit is at the forefront of a new wave of Israeli arms industry involvement in countries in the region. Elbit has a presence in at least five Latin American countries, as well as along the US-Mexico border. Far from being benign, the application of its technology should raise concern among those working for human rights in the area.

Elbit in Latin America

In 2008, Mexico acquired two Elbit Hermes 450 drones and one Skylark drone for $25 million. This capability was expanded when in 2012, the government purchased two Hermes 900 drones for $50 million. The Hermes drones can be armed or unarmed and are believed to be in the hands of the Mexican Federal Police. While ostensibly to be used against drug trafficking cartels, since the election of Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican state has increased its repression of both social movements and migrants from South and Central America making their way to the US. Using drones to monitor the jungles of Chiapas in a search for Zapatistas or to keep watch over demonstrations in Mexico City does not seem out of the question.

The Colombian Air Force in 2013 acknowledged it was acquiring one Hermes 900 and one Hermes 450. As Colombia’s biggest war is an internal one, surely these will be used in its counterinsurgency efforts against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Army of National Liberation (ELN). Should the peace talks not pan out, the Hermes has multiple payload configurations which may be deployed.

A Hermes 900 drones was bought from Elbit by the Chilean Air Force in 2011. Chile says the use is for “maritime patrol tasks” but acknowledges currently deploying drones on “strategic reconnaissance missions.” Drones in Chile have been used for surveillance of the Mapuche people. And it would be unsurprising were they not to be deployed against the country’s very active student and social movements.

Brazil is likely the largest consumer of Elbit technology in Latin America, where Elbit has its own wholly-owned subsidiary, Aeroelectronica Industria de Componentes Avionicos SA., or AEL. Elbit has contracts to modernize Brazil’s F-5 aircraft, develop its AL-X aircraft, and a $187 million contract to upgrade its AMX fleet. In 2010, Brazil purchased two Hermes 450 drones, as well as a ground station, from AEL. Expanding its air surveillance capabilities ahead of the World Cup, in March 2014, Brazil also purchased Hermes 900 units from Elbit. As demonstrators against the World Cup have seen massive repression, it is likely that these drones played a role in those operations. Finally, Brazil acquired $260 million worth of unmanned turrets from Elbit in 2011. Put to use in Gaza on Israeli Merkava tanks, these turrets “consist of a 30mm automatic cannon, a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, a laser warning system (LWS), commander panoramic sight and smoke grenade launchers…a suitable solution to asymmetric warfare challenges.” Asymmetric warfare such as entering the favelas or putting down anti-World Cup disturbances?

Elbit Building Walls

Along with equipping regimes south of the US, Elbit plays a key role in the infrastructure designed to identify, apprehend or deter a certain class of human along the US-Mexico border. In 2006, the Customs and Border Protection deployed Elbit’s Hermes 450 drones along the border as part of the Arizona Border Control Initiative. Also in 2006, the Department of Homeland Security awarded Kollsman Inc., a US subsidiary of Elbit, part of the $2 billion worth of funding for the Secure Border Initiative. Working with Boeing, Elbit proposed “1,800 towers equipped with cameras and motion detectors stretched across the border.” Finally, earlier this year, Elbit was awarded the first part of a $145 million contract, through its subsidiary EFW, to install “Integrated Fixed Towers” with sensors able to detect “’a single, walking, average-sized adult’ and provide sufficiently high-resolution video of that adult at a range of between 5 and 7.5 miles under conditions of daylight and darkness.”

The technology Elbit is using to profit off of the “Wall of Death” along the US-Mexico border was first deployed in Palestine along Israel’s Apartheid Wall. Stretching more than 700 kilometers when finished, and cutting through Palestinian farms and villages, blocking residents from their family and friends, healthcare, education, land and work, the Apartheid Wall is a key component of Israel’s settler-colonial project in the occupied West Bank. Elbit provides “intrusion detection systems” for the Wall. This involves the use of drones, armed Unmanned Ground Vehicles, and LORROS surveillance cameras. Elbit products are used in the Ariel settlement section as well as around Jerusalem and a-Ram.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Apartheid Wall was illegal, must be torn down, that Israel must pay reparations for the damages caused by its construction, and for the international community to ensure Israel’s compliance. Despite this ruling, Elbit continues to participate in the maintenance of the Wall, thereby being complicit in a grave breach of international law, which is a war crime.

Bust Elbit

July 9 will mark ten years since the ICJ’s ruling, and in response to the international community’s lack of action and the ongoing reign of impunity, Palestinian organizations and coalitions have issued a call to make July the Month Against the Apartheid Wall. The call asks for individuals and organizations around the world to raise awareness about the wall, begin or strengthen boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against companies involved in the wall, and to pressure governments to uphold their obligations as outlined by the ICJ.

It should come as no surprise that Elbit, as a prime occupation profiteer, is a major focus of this campaign. There have been successful campaigns against Elbit in the past, with activists working to successfully get a variety of funds and businesses to divest from Elbit, such as: the Norwegian State Pension Fund; Kommunal Landspensjonkasse, one of the largest life insurance companies in Norway, Danske Bank; the largest bank in Denmark; PKA Ltd., one of the largest Danish pension funds; and ABP, a public Danish pension fund.

From Chile to the US-Mexico border to Palestine, Elbit Systems is actively complicit with human rights abuses. July’s Month Against the Apartheid Wall marks a perfect opportunity to stand up to Elbit and to oppression worldwide. The Palestinian people have spoken and have recognized that their struggle is bound up with that of others, writing, “Israel has succeeded in illustrating that walls are an acceptable model for governments to exclude, marginalize, dispossess, discriminate and segregate one people from each other.” Please join them and concerned groups around the world to help take a small step to stop impunity.

Scott Campbell is a Palestine and Mexico solidarity activist based in the SF Bay Area. He is a volunteer with the Month Against the Apartheid Wall campaign. For more information on the campaign, see the website:

Jackass – Israeli Occupation Forces Edition

A little video I put together. Enjoy.

Some memes dedicated to the Palestinian Authority




"It is Time for Accountability"

Originally published by Mondoweiss.

By Scott Campbell
June 24, 2014

July 9 will mark ten years since the International Court of Justice declared Israel’s wall in the West Bank illegal under international law. The ICJ also ruled that the wall must be torn down, that Israel must pay reparations for the damage caused by its construction, and that the international community should work to ensure Israeli compliance.

None of the above has occurred. Instead, Israel has used the past ten years to complete 70 percent of the more than 700 kilometer long wall. More Palestinians have been boxed in, cut off from their land, work, families and friends, education, and healthcare. Israeli and multinational companies have made millions off of constructing the wall. And shirking its obligations, the international community has stood by the sidelines, letting impunity reign.

Faced with this reality, a large number of Palestinian coalitions and organizations have issued a call for July to be the Month Against the Apartheid Wall. They write, “it is time for a ‘legal intifada’, an intensified popular struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions. It is time for accountability.” The call urges individuals and organizations to raise awareness about the wall, to strengthen or begin BDS campaigns against companies profiting off the wall, and to pressure governments to respect their obligations as outlined in the ICJ decision.

Worldwide, actions are expected to occur in dozens of countries. In the US, the We Divest Coalition has called for a BDS National Day of Action on July 9. And the US Campaign to End the Occupation has encouraged its supporters to “take action against impunity.” Here are other ways to get involved:

The Apartheid Wall forms the backbone of Israel’s settler-colonial project in the West Bank. The court has spoken and where governments have failed, it is up to the people to act. Please join others around the world in making this July the Month Against the Apartheid Wall.

Scott Campbell is a Palestine solidarity activist from the SF Bay Area and volunteer with the Month Against the Apartheid Wall campaign.

Education students radicalize their actions in Oaxaca

By Santiago Navarro F.
Agencia SubVersiones
March 17, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

After nearly a month of protests, members of the Oaxaca State Coordinating Body of Education Students (CENEO) have radicalized their actions. On February 3, they presented a list of 21 demands to educational authorities, not one of which has been resolved.

The protests have included: marches, blockades of streets and main thoroughfares, the taking of toll booths to allow motorists to pass freely, the commandeering of public buses – which they use to transport themselves – as well as of trucks carrying goods from multinational corporations, whose products have been distributed to people nearby and to those waiting for their sick relatives outside of public hospitals.

On March 13, negotiations were to be held between the education students and members of the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education. The students warned the authorities that if negotiations were cancelled, the students would intensify their actions. As that is exactly what happened, the students took over the institute’s building, kicking out of the workers and spraying graffiti on the inside of the buildings and on official vehicles, as well as burning tires and documents.

Among the main demands of the eleven education schools which comprise the CENEO, is that of “mileage scholarships,” which is to say, financial support for students in their final years to pay for transportation to the communities where they carry out their work.

They are also against the education reform, as the standards for evaluation don’t take into account the majority of students in Oaxaca, most of whom are indigenous and whose first language is not Spanish. Similarly, they mention the material conditions mandated by this reform, whereas in Oaxaca there are schools with teachers who teach multiple grades, where only one teacher gives classes to several groups of students and at the same time is the school’s principal.

“We are in disagreement with this reform, and not because we are afraid of being evaluated. There are students who don’t even speak Spanish and they want to introduce English. There is marginalization and poverty. It’s not the same to evaluate a student from Monterrey as it is a student from an indigenous community in Oaxaca,” says Miriam Martínez, spokeswoman for the press and propaganda portfolio – or commission – of the CENEO.

Likewise, another student from the Tamazulapan rural education school, who didn’t want to give her name, tells the SubVersiones team that they are unhappy with the reform because the government has not bothered to inform the public, that there are indigenous communities that don’t know what a reform is and therefore don’t know that at some point they will have to pay for the education of their children, referencing the euphemistically-called “autonomous self-management.” The students are concerned that information about the reform is not flowing and therefore people still can’t grasp that they will have to pay for their children’s education; when there are communities where teachers have had to convince parents to send their children to school.

“There are two graduated classes of compañeros who are already working under this reform, which deals with matters in a way that is inconsistent for communities where there isn’t even electricity and there is a lot of attrition because the students have to go to work in the fields,” says Miriam, who also notes that the majority of the education students have firsthand knowledge of these conditions, as a good part of them come from rural communities where there is extreme poverty.

The students remain on alert for possible repression and act with caution around the media; they don’t approach any journalist without first covering their faces, as they know that when there is repression there is also persecution and selective harassment.

The more than 3,000 students say that if there is not an immediate solution, they are going to intensify their actions even further. For the moment, in the Regional Center of Education Schools of Oaxaca, more than 15 trucks belonging to different companies such as Bimbo, Sabritas, Danone, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and two ADO buses are being held. At the last minute they alerted us that there is already an eviction order against them and they are prepared with various security details to prevent the entry of anyone who is not a CENEO student.

Community leader Nestora Salgado’s life behind bars

By Gloria Muñoz Ramírez
March 17, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

Day and night, Nestora Salgado García inhabits a dark world of artificial light. Fifteen days pass without seeing a ray of sunlight. She has no physical contact with anyone, she is only allowed a hug and cannot touch her daughter or her sister when they visit. Not even the guards speak to her. Instead of the four hours every 12 days for visits that she has the right to, after her family members pass the ordeal of security checks, they are left with only two and a half hours. She doesn’t have the recommended medication for the spinal problem she has suffered from for 12 years. In prison, Nestora lives in punishment for her bravery.

Nestora is an activist, a community leader who loudly and unabashedly denounced the local authorities of the municipality of Olinalá, in the mountains of Guerrero, of complicity with organized crime. Her role as coordinator of the Community Police was conferred upon her in an assembly. This legitimate law-enforcement mandate, recognized by the very government of Guerrero, led her to order, on August 16, 2013, the arrest of comptroller Armando Patrón Jiménez, accused of cattle rustling and of presumed participation in the killing of two farmers. The local official was transferred to the regional House of Justice to be processed according to a community system legitimized in the region for the past 18 years. This isn’t an apparatus of self-defense groups, but an entire system of security, prosecution and administration of community justice, upon which the state government has conferred legality and even financial support.

However, the arrest of the comptroller caused people close to him to accuse her of kidnapping. Five days later, the force of the state arrived aboard 15 military vehicles. The soldiers handed her over to the Marines, who then put her on a plane and immediately afterward Nestora would see the doors of Tepic prison opening. Hours of uncertainly passed, she wasn’t given any information or even allowed to use the bathroom.

Life in prison is doubly hard for a woman with the life and qualities of Nestora. Saira, her daughter, says that in spite of everything her mother remains strong and steadfast after nearly seven months of confinement. “She is alone in her cell, but my mother is strong and she tells me that she will not allow the suffering to kill her, that she will not give her attackers that pleasure.”

After four months of bureaucratic red tape prevented her from visiting her mother, Saira has been able to see her twice. She travels to the jail every 12 days, complying with all the prison’s security regulations. The relatives of other prisoners, she says, are allowed into the visiting area at 12 or 12:30pm. She is let in at 2 or 2:30pm. The difference in treatment is clear, as it cuts almost in half the time to see her, which is from 1 to 5pm.

After walking past the “mocking laughter of the guards,” Saira goes through the security checkpoints. Nestora is not held in the building where she meets with her daughter and other family members. She is taken handcuffed out of her cell and put into a truck. She doesn’t know exactly where she is. When they finally meet they are allowed a quick hug, the rest of the time they are prohibited from touching, a plastic table with a Coca Cola logo separating them. The visit happens on a basketball court with five seating sections.

After the visit, the guards take Nestora away in handcuffs. Only she comes and goes in shackles. The rest of the prisoners go unrestrained. “They don’t even treat the murderers like they treat my mother,” laments Saira. They violate all her rights, she says.

Nestora wakes up at five in the morning every day for her first roll call. She is alone in her four meter by four meter cell. There she eats breakfast and spends the rest of the day without the guards speaking a single word to her. When she is taken to be with the rest of the population, she is prohibited from speaking with the other prisoners. Nestora can make one phone call every nine days and receive visits of up to three people every 12 days.

They keep her away from the others, she can’t have books and, for example, from February 27 to March 11, she did not see natural light. “With tears in her eyes she told me that it was her first contact with the breeze,” says Saira of their recent meeting. Rarely, they let her go out in the sun for one hour a week. They don’t allow her to play sports or any other activity, as the others do. They just began to provide her with clean water, as she had to drink from the tap, which “includes rocks” and she has severe pain in her kidneys. Medication? None.

Nestora Salgado is the sixth of seven children. She married at 14 and had the first of three daughters at 15. They motivated her to go alone to the US, where she gained citizenship as “she didn’t even have a traffic ticket.” She came and went from the US, “always helping the people in the mountains to meet their needs,” until in October 2002 a car accident injured her spine and led her to spend more time in the US to receive medical attention.

The head of the Olinalá Community Police is not just any woman. As soon as she had healed, she returned to her town and due to the growing wave of crime perpetrated by organized crime, she decided to accept the leadership role in the community and to involve herself in the process. She quickly stood out due to her determined attitude and her willingness to denounce criminals as well the officials who acted in complicity with them. The cost has been high, but, Saira insists, “She says that when she is free, she will return to her work with the Community Police.”

She now spends her days again studying grade school, reading the three “worksheets they allow her as her only activity.” As a US citizen, the US embassy has been following her case, but even so, the conditions of her imprisonment are inhumane. “They are punishing her for her struggle, because of that she is a political prisoner,” Saira insists.

Gunmen attack assembly in Álvaro Obregón

Fuera de la Barra Santa Teresa

By Scott Campbell
El Enemigo Común

For more than a year, the indigenous Binnizá community of Álvaro Obregón, in the Isthmus of Oaxaca, have defended their lands against the imposition of a wind park by the multinational Spanish firm Mareña Renovables. As part of that struggle, “the community became aware that the parties and political leaders have only used them for political and personal ends.” In August of 2013, the community held an assembly and decided to return to the traditional indigenous usos y costumbres form of governance, where community leaders are selected via general assembly, without the participation of political parties.

With 1,236 people participating, the general assembly to select the community’s leaders was held on December 8, 2013. Yet on February 8, 2014, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, the Municipal President of Juchitán, which includes Álvaro Obregón, announced that new elections, involving political parties, would be held in Álvaro Obregón on March 2, ignoring the popular and expressed will of the people. Ironically, Vicente Vázquez until recently served as an expert on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 

In a statement released on March 1, the General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón, the Assembly of Elders of Álvaro Obregón, the Community Police and the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory presciently warned of what may happen on March 2 in what would amount to an attempted coup against the community of Álvaro Obregón.

On March 2, community members assembled in the central plaza of Álvaro Obregón to defend the decisions of their general assembly. Around 2:15 PM, gunmen reinforced by the municipal police of Juchitán, opened fire at those who were assembled. There are reports that two people have been wounded by the gunfire and that the Marines have arrived in the community. The situation is very tense. There is no more news coming out at the moment. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Statement from the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of the Land and Territory.

March 2, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell


Individuals linked to the municipal president of Juchitán, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, and to COCEI and PRI leaders, today attacked the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón and its community council. Since yesterday, March 1, 2014, it was learned that five political functionaries from the COCEI and from the municipal president’S office arrived at the house of one of the supposed candidates for local office, Rosalino Martínez Herran, two of whom were recognized as Obet Fuentes Trujillo and Filiberto López, both from Juchitán.

These individuals were paying out 500 pesos to people in exchange for their voter ID cards, promising another 1,500 pesos the next day when the people were to show up at the election called for by Saúl Vicente this past February 8, where a political party-linked authority would be named. Today, March 2, after a meeting in a private home, this sham election began at 1PM.

Meanwhile, in the central square, the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón was being held, where the compañeros of the community council were reaffirmed. At about 2:15PM, a group of people at the election called for by Saúl Vicente launched an attack with bullets, stones and sticks against those in the square. They tried to take the municipal building by force and a confrontation ensued as the people in the community assembly repelled the attack, leaving several compañeros wounded.

Following the attack, the provocations continued, as at approximately 3:30PM one of these individuals went to the house of the commander of the Community Police to spray gasoline on it, with the intention of setting it on fire. Later, they tried to kidnap the son of the head of the community council. Around 4:30, Marines arrived to meet with the head of the community council, who informed them of the events.

For the moment there is an uneasy calm, as it is expected that these individuals and gunmen will continue with their provocations and will try to enter the municipal building during the night or at dawn.

We hold Saúl Vicente Vázquez and the Interior Ministry responsible for the physical and emotional integrity of our compañeros in Álvaro Obregón, the Community Council, the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly in Defense of the Land and Territory, and their family members. And we demand they guarantee their physical security and integrity.

It is important to mention that the municipal president of Juchitán was a representative of the indigenous peoples of Latin America as an expert for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for 2011-2013 and is trying to hold the same post for 2014-2016, and yet is now violating the rights of the indigenous people of Álvaro Obregón for having decided to begin a process of community reform and a reclamation of their indigenous means of governance.

We denounce that these actions are part of the general strategy of the government and businesses to control this community, which is protecting the Barra Santa Teresa against the wind farm megaprojects in the Isthmus.





Self-defense groups and their critics

By Scott Campbell
El Enemigo Común

Since mid-January, when armed self-defense groups launched an offensive against the Knights Templar cartel in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, Mexico, much ink has been spilled evaluating the pros and cons of the self-defense movement. Critiques and speculations have been leveled from the left and right, yet what has largely been absent is an appreciation for the events in situ.

From the right (including the government and mass media), the self-defense groups have been labelled as vigilantes, taking the law into their own hands, armed by an opposing cartel, and threatening to turn into paramilitary death squads a la the AUC in Colombia. Such meritless talking points are not of concern here.

What is of concern is the predominant response from the left, where the self-defense groups have received a lukewarm reception at best. Held at arm’s length, the self-defense movement is chastened for not being like the autonomous municipality of Cherán in Michoacán or the CRAC community police in Guerrero. For not being indigenous, for not having a comprehensive platform, or for cooperating with the government. From behind computer screens, those who are dodging the bullets of the Knights Templar (and occasionally of the state) are patronizingly told what they are not and what they should be doing.

Fortunately for the self-defense groups, they did not wait for nor did they petition the support of the left. For years, communities in the Tierra Caliente have faced murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion and terror at the hands of the Knights Templar cartel, which operated with impunity in the region. Faced with state inaction, or complicity, toward the cartel, the communities decided, via assemblies, to form self-defense groups. Emerging from these community assemblies, they can only be considered legitimate manifestations of the people’s will. The inclusion of landowners and businesspeople in the self-defense groups does negate their popular origin, as all members of the community were targets of the cartel’s actions.

Similarly, the sole goal of ridding Michoacán of organized crime does not make them unworthy of support. Perhaps they are not, as armed formations, environmentalist, anti-capitalist or anti-authoritarian, though many among their ranks may be so. The focus on the cartels is clearly understandable, as it is the cartels who are the main impediment to a life with dignity for these communities. The focus on the Knights Templar specifically, as opposed to other cartels, is likewise easily comprehensible. Far from it meaning that the self-defense groups are armed and financed by rival cartels, it is simply the fact that it is the Knights Templar terrorizing the Tierra Caliente, so naturally they would be the primary target of groups originating from the Tierra Caliente. In numerous interviews, self-defense spokespeople have indicated their groups’ opposition to all organized crime operating in Michoacán and in Mexico.

That the groups are not like Cherán or the CRAC is also a misguided critique. Part of it is based on the fact that the self-defense groups are not wholly indigenous and not wholly rural. Instead of embracing the emergence of urban, mestizo self-organization, somehow this is held up as a point of criticism. Such a perspective is indigenist in the extreme, and a denial of agency based on ethnicity and locality. An oppressed people have the right to organize and rise up, regardless of that group’s composition, and regardless of if it mimics the predominant model of armed formations in Mexico. Finally, many participants are indigenous, it is just not the primary focus of the organization.

Also held up as a distinguishing factor is that the self-defense groups, unlike Cherán or the CRAC, cooperate with the police and army. This is both true and false. Yes, the self-defense groups have agreed to be integrated into the state’s forces. At the same time, the groups have previously shown their willingness to act in opposition to the state, which is precisely what brought so much focus of the plight of the Tierra Caliente and pushed the state into acting against the Knights Templar. Some may critique the move as naïve, but if the main goal is to rid the area of organized crime, the groups remain empowered to do so, and remain armed. The agreement can be seen as a tactical move to achieve their goal. If it becomes a hindrance to doing so, there is no evidence that the groups would not break with the state and pursue their objectives on their own yet again.

Cooperation with state forces, no matter how objectionable, is common to the self-defense groups, Cherán and the CRAC, blurring the lines of any criticism which uses state cooperation as the standard for support or not. Cherán has invited both the Federal Police and the military to set up bases near their community to aid in fending off organized crime. The CRAC recently joined with a rival organization, UPOEG, and became a state-approved formation. Whether this is good or bad is another matter. The point is that the issue is not so cut and dry when it comes to the relationship of the state with self-organized armed groups and communities in Mexico.

The crux of the situation is that the self-defense groups should be evaluated on what they are, not what one would wish them to be or what one would desire they do. And what they are is an authentic people’s movement organized against an oppressive force. To hold them to a standard of purity not even existent among the movements they are critiqued against and held up to is not only intellectually dishonest but also unconstructive. Evaluated based on their own process of formation, their proposals and their actions, the self-defense groups have not given cause to merit recrimination. Ultimately, they will act regardless of what those of us from afar say or write about them. The minimum they deserve is a disinterested, fair evaluation.