Adams meets Mexican leaders
The international resonance of the Irish peace process was
demonstrated again last week when Gerry Adams visited Mexico
The warmth of his reception and the interest in Sinn Fein's
strategy for peace and justice in Ireland was evident in the
press attention his visit generated and in the breadth of the
political meetings Adams had. He and his party were met at the
airport by Patricia Mendoza, Director of the Centre of the Image
Gallery, Trisha Ziff and Pedro Meyer who was instrumental in
organising the trip.
The primary purpose of the visit was to open the exhibition
Hidden Truths - Bloody Sunday at the Centre of the Image on
Thursday 12 November and to launch a book of essays, photos and
images, which accompanies the exhibition.
A reception at the gallery was attended by members of the Irish
community of Mexico and by leading Mexican artistic and political
figures. Also in attendance were California State Senator, Tom
Hayden and Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo who had travelled to
Mexico for the event.
The curator of the exihibition and editor of the book, Trisha
Ziff, said that the response to the exhibition was extraordinary.
Tony Doherty and Elaine Brotheton, relatives of two of the men
killed on Bloody Sunday, who both worked on the exhibition, were
Gerry Adams's first engagement on Friday was at Anahuac
University where he was the guest speaker at a lecture organised
by the University President Fr Raymond Cosgrave. During the
event, the Academy of Mexican International Law conferred their
Order of Law, Culture and Peace on Adams. Previous recipients of
the award include Perez de Quellar, Boutros Boutros Galli, and
Adams used the opportunity to call for the scrapping of all third
world debt owed by the developing countries to the World Bank,
IMF or developed countries.
He said: ``The disastrous impact of Hurricane Mitch has
highlighted the awful consequences for poverty stricken Third
World countries of the heavy burden of debt owed to Western Banks
of the developed countries.
``Since its emergence in the 1970s, the debt crisis has arguably
been the greatest impediment to development in the Third World.
``Developing countries pay four times as much in debt repayments
as they receive in either bilateral or multilateral aid. The
current collective debt of developing countries stands at around
a colossal $2 trillion, which represents a monthly transfer of
over $16 billion from the Third World to the industrialised
North. These figures are almost beyond our comprehension but yet
bind millions of people to a life of poverty as those in the most
vulnerable and marginalised within developing countries shoulder
the debt burden.
``The debt issue became a crisis for Northern governments only
when Mexico declared it could no longer meet its repayments in
1982. The fact that a blanket of poverty had descended on Latin
America because of debt concerned Northern bankers less than the
prospect of a global financial crisis caused by developing
countries defaulting on their loans to the IMF and World Bank.
``The consequences of this mean that debt is being paid with the
health, welfare, education, and in some cases, the lives of
people in the developing world.
``Sinn Féin believes that meaningful development in the Third
World is only possible through the cancellation of all
outstanding debts owed by developing countries.
The next engagement was with the Foreign Affairs Minister Rosario
Green and Under Secretary Juan Rebolledo in their office at the
Department of External Affairs, where the Minister and Mr. Adams
spoke about the progress of the Irish peace process.
The Sinn Fein party then met with members of the Commission of
Concord and Pacification of Chiapas (COCOPA) (see story below).
That evening, the Mayor of Mexico City, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas,
received Gerry Adams at his office in City Hall. The meeting was
also attended by Federal Deputies Gilberto Rivas and Carlos
Zubieta. On the eve of departure from Mexico, Adams attended a
private reception where he met leaders of opinion in arts,
literature, politics and church leaders.
In Los Angeles on Wednesday 12 November Gerry Adams met with the
leadership of the Latino community. The meeting, organised and
hosted by California State Senator Tom Hayden, was attended by
prominent political and cultural figures from LA's Latino
At a fundraising event that evening at the Track 16 Art Gallery
people from both the political and film worlds attended. Gabriel
Byrne, Martin Sheen and Harry Dean Stanton were among the
prominent actors and a welcoming address was made by Fionnula
In San Francisco on Saturday, Adams was presented with a
proclamation on behalf of Mayor Willie Brown, which designated
the day as Gerry Adams Day. California State Senator John Burton
also spoke at the reception and press conference.
At a packed community event that evening in the Russian Centre,
Adams welcomed the H-Block 3; Pól Brennan, Terry Kirby and Kevin
Barry Artt. He thanked all those who had campaigned on their
behalf, particularly their lawyers who had done much stalwart
work to gain their release.
At a fundraising breakfast on Sunday morning Mayor Willie Brown
joined Gerry Adams at the podium and reiterated his support for
the peace process.
Chiapas civil society to take San Cristobal
By Nick Jones
The struggle for a peace settlement continues in the South-East
of Mexico. This week the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
(EZLN) is calling a mass meeting of civil groups from around the
country to decide on the next step in their fight to achieve
freedom and justice for all Mexicans.
The meeting will take place from 20-22 November in San Cristobal
de las Casas, one of the towns the Zapatistas occupied during
their historic insurrection in January 1994, a decisive moment
that put the indigenous people of Mexico onto a world stage and
transformed the Mexican political landscape irrevocably.
The Federal Government's attempts to resolve the conflict by
military force (in January `94 and February `95) brought millions
of people onto the streets and forced them to back off and
initiate a process apparently aimed at finding peace through
A parliamentary commission drawn from all the main political
parties (COCOPA) began talks with the EZLN in 1995, in the town
of San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas. This led to the signing of the
first of the San Andres Accords in February `96, which dealt with
the area of Indigenous Rights and Culture. The COCOPA - who have
proven their real interest in finding a solution to the conflict
and had a brief meeting with Gerry Adams during his recent visit
to Mexico (see story above) - drew up a bill for Congress that
was accepted by the EZLN, but to date the Government has ignored
this initiative and has unleashed harassment, murder and
repression on the Zapatista communities.
1998 has seen waves of killings and looting by the army, as the
government sought to silence all voices of resistance it could
not hope to buy off.
The Zapatistas' response has been to call a ``Consulta'' - a
nationwide plebiscite to ask the Mexican people to decide
directly what should become of the San Andres peace accords.
This is an awesome undertaking in a country the size of Mexico,
hence the meeting in San Cristobal this week to plan every aspect
of the whole venture. Mexicans from every walk of life - with the
exception of the death squads and their backers - are invited to
join in and help with the preparations.
A delegation from the EZLN will also meet with the COCOPA in San
Cristobal at the same time, after the commission's attempts to
arrange talks in the Zapatista village of La Realidad were foiled
by massive military manouevres in the area.
The Mexican army, with 65,000 soldiers based in Chiapas, has
clearly no intention of facilitating peace talks. The challenge
now is to stave off the threat of open civil war in Mexico, and
support groups around the country and around the world are
calling on the government to guarantee the safety of the
For further information on the conflict in Chiapas the Irish
Mexico Group can be contacted c/o LASC, 5 Merrion Row, Dublin 2.
Tel. 01 6760435