Passengers hurrying into the main check-in at Edinburgh International Airport on August 22nd were greeted by an unusual sight. A massive banner proclaimed: “MEXICO... Sun… Fun… bloomin’ nice beaches…”, alongside a painting of a palm tree. A somewhat eccentric Mexican tourist board initiative perhaps?
Not exactly. “Torture… Death squads… Human Rights Breaches…” continued the lower half of the banner, with a carefully painted AK47 illustrating the point.
Demonstrators from Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group were denouncing Mexican government repression, particularly in the southern state of Chiapas, where the Zapatista indigenous movement has created over a thousand autonomous “communities in resistance.”
Displaying a placard “Solidarity with the Zapatista communities against evictions”, the protesters distributed hundreds of leaflets to travellers at the busy airport.
At first sight the leaflets appeared to be a tourist brochure. Closer examination revealed photos of armed soldiers and victims of torture alongside the golden beaches and verdant rainforest. After explaining the reality of Oaxaca and Chiapas, and highlighting the attempts to evict the Zapatistas of Bolon Ajaw to build a tourist development at the Agua Azul waterfalls, the leaflet concluded : “Practise solidarity with the indigenous people, who are asserting their dignity by resisting.”
The protest, held right outside the main check-in section of the airport, soon attracted the attention of security staff, but continued for over half an hour until threats of police action prompted the demonstrators to relocate to the centre of Edinburgh.
A spokesperson from the group said: “It is vital that we organise internationally to give solidarity to the Zapatistas against the Mexican Government’s attempts to evict them from their lands.
“These attacks are linked with plans for multinationals and international governments to intensify capitalist exploitation of the whole of central America, through the Plan Puebla Panama.” The demo coincided with leafleting actions at airports in Madrid, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and… Bournemouth.
Since the protest, there have been reports of Zapatistas being injured by bullets fired by paramilitaries in the autonomous municipality of Olga Isabel.
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group is twinned with the “16th February” zapatista autonomous municipality in the Highlands of Chiapas, and raises funds and awareness for their autonomous health clinic and primary schools.