The fifth ministerial of the WTO collapsed after 21 nations withdrew from negotiations on multilateral trade agreements. Thousands of people gathered in Cancun in September to protest the devastating effects of globalization and privatization fueled by the WTO. Farmers, students, indigenous people, anti-authoritarians and others worked together to stop the meetings. Here is one account of the events in Cancun, from a Mexican protester.
After arriving in Cancun, we immediately went to the convergence space to find out what was being organized and who had arrived so far. We had plans to help out primarily with the Eco Village, since friends from the US were involved in the project.
We got to the Eco Village on our second day in Cancun. People from Mexico, the US, and Peru were there, and we helped with several construction projects. The main project was a washing station for utensils and hands. Although we built a structure to collect rainwater for cleaning, it didn’t rain much that week. We also made string pump, that was used to get water pressure manually.
Compost and recycling were arranged and people gave workshops on using them. Many farmers weren’t aware of this before and became very interested. Some of them asked us to come to their communities and do workshops on the subject. There were also large displays on permaculture.
The Eco Village was in good order before the protests began, and people used the space at all hours for meetings and workshops. The first demo was held on Sept 9, but many people were still arriving and it was small and a bit unorganized. That night, there was a large meeting to plan for the next day and week. One of the things organized for the week was the anti-authoritarian bloc. Comprised of punks, anarchists and similar creatures, people in the bloc came from North America, England, Australia and other places. There were more than 200 of us, and the campesinos respected our work. They asked for our help and our protection.
The police had shut down the way to the damned WTO meetings, and people called the location of the fence “Kilometer Zero.” The fence was long, with hundreds of armed police behind it. They carried guns and had trucks with water cannons. From the first night, everyone wanted that fence down.
The farmers’ protest happened on Wed, the 10th. Students and the anti-authoritarian bloc supported thousands of farmers from around the world. It was a really diverse demo, and there were puppets and posters against WTO, corporate power and capitalism. Korean farmers were at the front, by the fence. As many people have heard, one Korean farmer, Lee Kyang Hae, killed himself in protest. There was so much happening so quickly that many of us didn’t know about his death for several hours. Afterward, there was more momentum to get the fence down, even though it was very hot. As we worked, it got cloudy and more comfortable. We felt as though the weather was cooperating with our efforts.
Some people started throwing rocks at the police as we pulled the fence down, and they threw them back, wounding several protesters. The farmers called for people not to be violent, so people left the confrontation and reassembled. Afterward, people held some memorials for Lee Kyang Hae. It was intense, with lots of workshops and actions happening simultaneously.
On Saturday the 13th, Infernal Noise Brigade accompanied the last demonstration. It was well planned, and huge. Korean women worked at cutting the fence, supported by men and the Orange Block (students). Eventually, all women worked on the fence, and it was pulled down by ropes threaded through it.
The police erected another fence closer to the main meeting buildings, with less space for protesters to escape. As we worked on knocked this fence, police began to surround us. Another group of protesters formed a barricade to protect us, and we got down the fence. Since there was nowhere to go, we stared down the police, knowing that we were stronger than any fences that they could put up. Then, we left quietly.
THIS IS NOT THE END
Maybe I’ve missed a lot of details, but I’m trying to give a vision of what I lived in Cancun at the protests. In their meetings, the assassins of the WTO could not reach an agreement, understand each other or even respect their own rules. The fight against WTO, other international trade organizations and the absurd system that we live under, is still happening and won’t stop. The movement creating a better world continues, helping us remember that life can’t be bought or sold. We find our happiness outside the system. We can build our own world, build a free space like the Eco Village. I will live my life here and now, knowing that I must make it happen.
Another world is possible, if only we learn to build it. In Cancun, it was possible for a while, and we must make it longer.