We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Friday, June 13, 2008

CHIAPAS: A Voice of the People

The following letter represents a voice of the people of Chiapas that should be heard within the political decision-making processes that are drastically changing the area. First read the letter regarding "the other campaign" and the plight of the people of Chiapas even under a "leftist" state government (PRD). Then, visit the link that follows. It outlines Plan Mexico or the Merida Initiative which seeks to arm Mexican police and allow them to continue committing the atrocities against which the people of Mexico are organizing. Here we see different interests between the ruling officials and the people. Empowerment of the people will come through participatory practices that give people a decision-making voice in their community and government. PRD should be accepting and learning from "the other campaign" in order to better understand the opinions of constituents. -Editor

La otra campaña

Communiqué from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

September 22, 2007


To the People of Mexico:
To the adherents of the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign:
Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:

The EZLN communicates to you the following reflections and decisions we have made:

I. Reflections

At this time, the state government of Chiapas and the federal government (of the PRD-PRI and the PAN respectively) are waging a campaign against the Zapatista communities. “Official” evictions, paramilitary attacks, invasions sponsored by officials, persecutions and threats, have become once again part of the surroundings of the indigenous communities, the Zapatistas, who have set upon constructing their own destiny and improving their living conditions, always without losing their indigenous identity.

Just like in the worst times of the PRI, of Absalon Castellanos and “Croquetas” Albores Guillen, the PRD government of Chiapas is attacking the poor and needy, while catering to and benefiting the powerful. Just like any right-wing government, that of Juan Sabines in Chiapas continues the repression and dispossession, but now under a left-wing flag and with the double sponsorship of the two “presidencies” of our country: that of Felipe Calderon (of the PAN) and that of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (of the PRD, and, above all, of himself).

In contrast to other occasions, these aggressions have been met by the silence of those voices that before rose to protest and to demand justice, and that now fall silent, perhaps so that we are not reminded that they applauded AMLO’s support for Juan Sabines and his recent call to support PRD candidates for the municipal presidencies and the local congress.

In this way, what we have been saying for the last 3 years has been confirmed: above there are no principals nor convictions; there are, rather, ambitions and conveniences. And another thing we said has also been confirmed: the institutional left is nothing more than a shameless right, a left rubber-stamped by the right.

The same crime has a different judgment: if the repression is carried out by the PAN, then one must mobilize and detain fascism; if its is carried out by the PRD, then one must lose one’s memory, hush, do ridiculous juggling acts, or applaud. In Chiapas there is a real step backward in government policy. This time it does not carry the shield of the confessional right, but rather of the “modern” and “legitimate” left.

We will do what we have to do: resist. It does not matter if we have to do it alone. It wouldn’t be the first time; before we became coffee-shop kitsch, alone indeed we were.


There are many aspects upon which to reflect, voice opinions, and take positions. This will be done another time another way. For now we just want to say that the determining factor in our country is not the supposed “neo-independence” of the legislative powers with respect to the media. Above, politics is the art of simulation, and the real agenda of organized crime (that is, of the government) is not demonstrated in the declarations of politicians.

What we want to say now has to do with the double effort, civil and pacific, which we are currently undertaking as Zapatistas: the Encounter of Indigenous Peoples of America, and the Other Campaign.

The first represents an event without precedent. Outside the official national and international circles, delegates and representatives of the original peoples of the American continent will come together to meet each other directly, to see and listen to each other. That is, to begin to respect each other. The fact that the encounter will take place in the besieged territory of the Yaqui Tribe in the Mexican State of Sonora symbolizes our permanent struggle to make ourselves visible and give ourselves the voice and ear that those above deny us.

The days 11, 12, 13, and 14 of this October, in Vicam, Sonora, Mexico, we will be represented as Indian Peoples, to whose brown blood we have added the color of the Zapatistas.

With regard to the Other Campaign, it represents for us the only serious effort to construct a national movement from below and to the left.

It is interesting that those who before criticized this effort now use the same words that we have used to refer to the political class, to the necessity to listen and to organize from below.

As a sign of our commitment to those who are now our compañeros and compañeras, in addition to carrying out encounters in our own territory so that they may know us better, we regularly send one or more delegations of the EZLN out to visit the places where others struggle in order to know them better.

Thus we made a first journey throughout all of our country, and now that we are making an outline of a national plan of struggle, with the feeling and thinking of all those who form the Other Campaign, we have made a second visit to the north of Mexico.
As we have done on other occasions, each time that we leave our territory to visit other parts of our country, the EZLN has addressed the existing political-military organizations in order to respectfully ask them not to carry out actions that could endanger the life and liberty of our delegates in their civil and peaceful work.

In every case, we have received the attention and respect of those revolutionary organizations, and in some cases we have received their sympathy for our political initiatives.

These are organizations with which we maintain differences in formation, structure, method, analysis, and history, but we recognize and respect them. Their existence and persistence, like ours, is due to the grave living conditions of our people and the lack of spaces for political participation and struggle. Currently, one of these revolutionary organizations, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), is carrying out a political-military campaign to demand that two of their companions in struggle be returned alive.

The demand for the appearance of these disappeared is not only legitimate, it is also a denunciation of the current dirty war that that adoring lover of military uniform, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, is re-editing for the present.

As Zapatistas we think that we can not ask of the Popular Revolutionary Army that they permit our delegation to travel through the territories where it has presence or influence and to declare a ceasefire and suspend the campaign that it maintains with the just and legitimate demand for the presentation of its disappeared.

On the other hand, the nervous stupidity of those in charge of the official repression has become more acute with the recent actions of the EPR, and it could be, if the leadership of the Popular Revolutionary Army was to generously agree to a ceasefire so that our delegation could carry out its work, that the military government of Felipe Calderon would launch an attack and later attempt to lay responsibility for this attack on the EPR using inexistent disputes as an explanation.

Not long ago a government official said that the disappearances denounced by the EPR were not carried out by the government, but rather by another revolutionary organization. But it is well-known that it was indeed the government that detained them and has them still, and thus it is the government that must return them alive.

II. Decisions.
Compañeros and Compañeras:

For these reasons that we have here tried to synthesize as much as possible, we have decided the following:

First. The Sixth Commission of the EZLN will suspend the journey of the second phase of the Other Campaign to the states and regions of the center and south of the country that it had announced for the months of October, November, and December of 2007. In its place, we will carry out civil and peaceful actions in defense of the Zapatista Communities.

Second. The EZLN will comply with our commitment, as part of the organizing commission, to attend the Encounter of the Indigenous Peoples of America. A delegation of Zapatista leadership will travel precisely for that purpose to the territory of the Yaqui Tribe in Vicam, Sonora, Mexico, October 11, 12, 13, and 14, to be present in this important meeting, key for the future struggle of the original peoples of our continent.

Liberty and Justice for Atenco!
Liberty and Justice for Oaxaca!

For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Sixth Commission of the EZLN

From the mountains of the Mexican SoutheastSubcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, September of 2007.


LASC Position on the Merida Initiative

June 2008


As Congress enters the final stages to approve the Merida Initiative, an aid package to Mexico and Central America that seeks to further militarize the region under the guise of the U.S.’s “war on drugs/war on terror,” we find manifold reasons to stand in opposition:

1) Money for Central America through the Merida Initiative would mark a significant increase in funding for military/police equipment and training in the region at a time when the need is for anti-poverty and crime-prevention programs.

The Merida Initiative, also known as Plan Mexico, builds on the troubling model of Plan Colombia, which has poured billions of dollars into a failed military approach to combating drugs while doing little to address rural poverty and urban unemployment. Central America has already become a satellite for U.S. military and police training in Latin America, despite the poor human rights records of some governments in the region. With the opening of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in 2005, El Salvador—already the second largest recipient of military training in the region—became the hub of police training. The ILEA has the capacity to train 1500 students per year, more than the current Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation, also known as the SOA. U.S. officials refuse to acknowledge the corruption, misconduct and human rights violations committed by the Salvadoran police. To the contrary, the Merida Initiative now proposes to further support ILEA and further equip those police. Meanwhile, the Initiative wholly ignores the root problems that continue to compel regional involvement in drug trafficking—poverty and unemployment.

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