Republican News · Thursday 19 November 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Adams meets Mexican leaders

The international resonance of the Irish peace process was demonstrated again last week when Gerry Adams visited Mexico City.

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 introduced.

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 Lech Valesa.

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 community.

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 Flanagan.

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 dialogue.

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 Zapatista delegates.

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

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