Monday, February 16, 2015

The Law Is Subservient To The Economics Of Sectors Distant From The General Population

From October 2011 to November 2014, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) sat in Mexico. The PPT is an independent international legal body and the successor to the legendary Russell Tribunal – which enjoyed great visibility between 1966 and 1976 when it judged the crimes of the Vietnam War and the horrors of the Southern Cone dictatorships.

In requesting the PPT’s intervention in Mexico, the petitioning group of organisations, communities and persons declared: “In light of the dense legal thicket enveloping us, it’s urgent for us to find an authority that actually goes beyond the international institutional framework. An authority that would be truly independent and allow us to document in a comprehensive, open (but nonetheless rigorous) fashion every type of grievance.”


The problem is structural, systemic and complex. It was aggravated by the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s to the point where it acquired an irreversible character with free trade agreements and their train of “phase-in” or “review” clauses. In this analysis, the Mexican State is committing a “deviation of power” because “it creates space for corporations while preventing the population from achieving justice through legal or institutional channels. In effect, State bodies are impenetrable, the legal issues are mired in confusion, and public policies, constitutional reforms and laws are confected to abrogate collective rights, infringe on the commons and weaken the social pact.”


The PPT’s Mexican chapter identified free trade as the core element of a systemic dynamic in which the law is subservient to the economic interests of sectors distant from the general population. The 2011-2014 PPT session as a whole is therefore entitled “Free Trade, Impunity and Peoples’ Rights in Mexico.”
Over a three-year period, Mexican civil society documented seven processes summarising an unsustainable situation: generalised violence (tens of thousands of disappeared, repression, militarisation, imprisonment and over 100 thousand assassinations); environmental devastation; precarisation of workers’ rights and repression of independent unions; gender violence and hate crimes; expulsion/inexorable migration; absence of press freedoms and violence against journalists; and the comprehensive attack against peasant life, food sovereignty and collective land tenancy. It is this seventh process that is the subject of the present document.

In 2013, various communities and organisations – most of them close to the Red en Defensa del Maíz (Maize Defence Network) and the Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales (National Assembly of Environmentally Affected Parties) – held workshops in diverse regions and localities to systematically document the grievances arising from: the State’s abandonment of agriculture without concern for the problems of peasants and farmers in rural areas; policies undermining the indigenous peoples and peasant life; the destruction of tenancy systems and of the territories maintained by communities, subsistence and decent living conditions in communities; the voracity of the agroindustrial food system; and of course the irresponsible policy of promoting GM maize and the massive imports of maize of dubious quality for industrial uses.


During twenty workshops, five pre-hearings, a final hearing and a complementary hearing, systematic testimonies resulted in specific rulings and a final sentence bearing on this specific process wherein national and foreign jury members recognised – for the first time in the international legal sphere – the vast and systematic character of the attack against the peasantry and independent food production. (One of the pre-hearings was organised by the Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad [Union of Concerned Scientists]. It consolidated a multi-voice analysis on the dangers of GM crops and biased business-friendly science, i.e., a technoscience that contradicts the authentic principles of the scientific method, which acknowledges complexity and uncertainty as fundamental principles.)

All testimony provided ample evidence that the so-called structural reforms and international public policies promoted since the eighties are responsible, in conjunction with constitutional changes and reforms to laws and regulations, for the dismantling of legal and institutional protections at the expense of peasant communities. The subordination of Mexican agriculture to the interests of an industrialised global food system dominated by a few transnational corporations, the disempowering of the peasantry to the point where it isn’t profitable for them to produce their own food and the interruption or erosion of the living process of creating agricultural and cultural-social biodiversity are all direct effects of these policies and free trade agreements (which function as padlocks to make them irreversible).

The corporations of the global food system are unforgiving to farmers, whether subsistence or commercial farmers, who seek to make a living from agriculture, even under the rules imposed by the dominant model. They are marginalised “as profit rates fall and the corporations act to cut the throats of any who should impinge on their financial stability.” Consumers in both cities and rural areas are affected as they may no longer choose their own food having become the prisoners of public policies and the designs of corporations.

It is a situation of structural violence, a process of dismantling rural environments, social property, peasant life and the possibility of people feeding themselves. Everything to ensure that transnational companies obtain legal certainty and the opportunity to accumulate vast tracts of land or establish oligopolies in key market sectors, such as seeds or grain purchasing and distribution, grain processing and retail sales. The result: a vast forced rural exodus and the inexorable growth of cities with, in turn, repercussions in the form of further aggravation of the problems in the countryside.

read more here

Finishing thus:
In November 2013, the final hearing on Violence against Maize, Food Sovereignty and Peoples’ Autonomy declared in its ruling:

There is an open war, of a criminal character, against the autonomous subsistence of broad groups, including, notably, the indigenous peoples and peasant communities. In dispossessing them of their independent means of subsistence, one condemns them to migration, dependence on assistance programs, misery, marginalisation and death... The imposition of an intensive agroindustrial model –which includes transgenics as one of its most extreme elements – by the Mexican State and corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, BASF or Cargill, not only constitutes an attack against a culture, but also a veritable war against subsistence, spearheaded via the confection of laws to prevent the defence of peasant agriculture and independent [food] production.

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