Dawn Paley

Overview of Mega-Mining in Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 20/11/2013

Here’s a piece I did for Watershed Sentinel that provides an overview of Canadian mining in Mexico and how Toronto and Vancouver mining companies (among others) come into conflict with communal landholders.

Exploitative Mining in Mexico

November/December 2013

In rural towns throughout Mexico, life carries on as it has for generations. Sons help their fathers haul wood, women tend to the fire and select seeds, and whole families take part in sowing, caring for and harvesting crops.

Farming is often primary activity for those who live in rural communities. Families grow corn, beans, and other vegetables for personal consumption and sometimes for sale. Eighty per cent of Mexico’s small farmers own land communally. These landholder groups are officially called comunidades indigenas (Indigenous communities) or ejidos, of which there are over 27,000 throughout the country. Some ejidos are in Indigenous communities, while others are in mixed (mestizo) areas.

Decisions about how to use ejido and other forms of communally-held land are made collectively, and adopted via general assembly.

Law of the Land

This is where things get messy. Not because communally-held land is failing the men and women that work it, but because of what’s underneath their feet. Beneath the ground, owned by the people who it sustains, are metals that are in great demand, primarily gold, silver, and copper. A convergence of rising metal prices, favourable government policy, and technology has contributed to the rapid expansion of the mining sector in Mexico over the past decades.

From Chiapas to Chihuahua, farmers in nearly every state in the union have experienced conflict linked to Canadian mining companies. Part of the confusion is made in Mexico: constitutional changes adopted before the North America Free Trade Agreement was passed opened up the possibility for ejido and Indigenous lands to be privately owned, and thus sold. But not all ejidos have gone that route.

Transparent, open negotiation with communal landholders, and accepting communities’ legal right to decide what happens in their lands, would stave off much of the conflict. Unfortunately, it seems, that rarely happens. (more…)

Book Writing…

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 22/10/2013

Dear readers,

I figured a short update was in order… It has been a while since I updated here. Over the summer, I wrote two longer pieces and co-wrote a third on Mexico and Guatemala, none of which have come out yet. I’ll post those when they’re published.

When I finished my Masters in Journalism in late 2010, I decided to write a book. I pretty much knew what it would be about: the “drug war” in Mexico and how it is linked to what took place in Colombia through the 2000s in particular.

Since then, I’ve travelled throughout Mexico and Guatemala gathering info for the book, which has as a tentative title Drug War Capitalism. I now 160 pages in, and am hoping to get 75 per cent of the manuscript completed by November 1, 2013. I’m a couple weeks and a lot of words short of the deadline. Hence all the silence around these parts.

The book is a much expanded version of an essay I published in 2012 by the same title. Links to the essay are below.

Click here to read Drug War Capitalism in English.

Haz click aquí para leer El Capitalismo Narco en castellano.

Cliquez içi pour lire La « Guerre contre la drogue », alibi néolibéral en Colombie et au Mexique en français.

Rule of U.S. Law in Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 19/06/2013

Here’s a piece on legal reforms in Mexico connected to the Mérida Initiative that I just published with the CIP-Americas program.

June 13, 2013

It has been five years since Mexican legislators approved a series of changes to Mexico’s constitution relating to security, the justice system, and organized crime. The changes, it was promised, would make the courts system more reliable and open, and protect the rights of citizens. The reforms introduced spoken arguments in trials, the presumption of innocence and an adversarial criminal process, marking what experts call a “paradigmatic shift in Mexican jurisprudence.”

While the new system has support in high places, it also has its detractors, many of whom point out that the legal reforms were “Made in the USA.”

It’s “the Monroe Doctrine applied in our courts, and, in short, all the way to the Supreme court,” according to Francisco Rodriguez, a Mexican columnist.

For Oscar Castrejón Rivas, President of the Lawyers College of Chihuahua, the constitutional adjustments and the changes to the Mexican legal system that they imply have done little to improve access to justice in Mexico. His organization represents eight law associations in Chihuahua State.

“What has happened, in our view as community members from Chihuahua and also as members of lawyers’ forums, is a counter reform, something very distinct from what was promised by Washington through USAID,” Castrejón said during an interview earlier this year. (more…)

The NGO-Industrial Complex

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 08/05/2013

Here’s a review of Paved With Good Intentions I did recently for Against The Current out of Detroit, Michigan…

May 1, 2013PGI

Paved with Good Intentions:
Canada’s development NGOs from idealism to imperialism
By Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay
Fernwood Publishing, Black Point, NS, 2012
302 pages, $24.95 (Canadian) paperback.

IN ONE SENSE, I came of age with regard to the problems with Canadian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) around the same time that Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay’s new book Paved with Good Intentions was conceived. In late 2003 I had stayed for four months in Johannesburg, South Africa on a journalism internship where I hung around with dedicated grassroots activists who, after years of struggle against apartheid, were organizing against the policies of the African National Congress.

Their struggles were against privatization and displacement, and in favor of economic justice. Every meeting, demonstration, dinner and march meant an inspiring mix of old school trade unionists and commies, militant women, and younger anti-capitalist and anti-colonial fighters. I began to learn what popular resistance against the state and capitalist democracy looks like.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) would not have approved, but it funded the trip and a monthly stipend, organized through the Montreal-based NGO Alternatives. Yet not long after I returned from South Africa, I learned that the same person responsible for setting interns up with the comrades and fighters in Africa was also promoting groups in Haiti hostile to the leftwing Lavalas movement, publishing an article reprinted in a major Montreal newspaper criminalizing the resistance movements and those close to ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Upon learning about this seeming contradiction, I joined other former Alternatives interns in signing off on a letter expressing my discontent with the organization’s role in Haiti. It seemed to me at the time that the people and organizations of Haiti were being sacrificed by Alternatives staff in order to secure money that would allow them to do the projects they really cared about, in South Africa or elsewhere.

My experience with Alternatives taught me that very few things with regards to Non-Governmental Organizations are clear cut or straightforward. Barry-Shaw and Jay’s new book is a useful starting place from which activists can broaden our understanding around one segment of what INCITE Women of Color Against Violence dubbed “the non-profit industrial complex.” (more…)

Tremendous Pharmaceutical Profits or Totally Protected Plunder?

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 22/04/2013

Here’s a piece I did for CIP-Americas Program in Mexico City on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

April 17, 2013img_2748-300x225

Quieter is better. That seems to be the motto driving the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade deal was initially called the P2, and it was a two-way affair between New Zealand and Singapore. Chile and Brunei joined the negotiations, which were renamed the P4. Then the US joined, and the deal was re-branded as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP). Today, negotiating countries are splayed across the globe like a constellation only a highly trained astronomer could recognize. In addition to the first five, the TPP now includes Australia, Malaysia, Peru, and Vietnam. Canada and Mexico recently joined the talks and Japan is vying to participate in the negotiations

The next round of negotiations will take place in Lima, Peru, and proponents are pushing for a final agreement by fall.

But the language of TPP promoters rings hollow for those who have tracked the progress of other trade agreements, like NAFTA. “They’re saying that it’s going to open up opportunities for exporting more Mexican goods to other countries, like to Asia… That Mexico will become more competitive in other markets,” said Manuel Pérez-Rocha, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and member of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC). Pérez-Rocha pointed out there’s little concrete evidence that Mexican exports to Asia will increase as an outcome of the agreement. “Mexico has actually signed many Free Trade Agreements with other countries, and its dependency to the US market hasn’t changed a bit,” he told the Americas Program. (more…)

La «Guerre contre la drogue», alibi néolibéral en Colombie et au Mexique

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 30/11/2012
Merci a Carlos et Estelle Debiasi de El Correo (Paris) pour faire traduire “Drug War Capitalism” en français. SVP partager avec vos contactes aux Quebec et en France, Afrique de l’ouest, et n’importe où il sera lu. 

La «Guerre contre la drogue», alibi néolibéral en Colombie et au Mexique

par Dawn Paley *

Dawn Paley sonde en profondeur la « guerre contre la drogue » en Colombie et au Mexique. Elle explore les mécanismes employés, quantifie le désastre humain et économique, analyse les raisons possibles pour lesquelles la guerre continue, en plus de suggérer d’autres champs d’enquête.

Tant aux États-Unis et qu’au Canada il y a eu des efforts soutenus de groupes militants pour souligner les emprisonnements de masse injustes et la criminalisation des gens pauvres, surtout des gens pauvres de couleur, en ce qui concerne les arrestations en relation avec la drogue. Mais on trouve très peu d’analyses concernant les causes qui sont derrière les mécanismes de cette guerre et l’impact économique qu’elle a sur le Mexique et au delà.

Même avant que le retrait d’Irak ou d’Afghanistan ne soit effectif, les États-Unis étaient déjà impliqués dans une série de conflits depuis la frontière du nord du Mexique jusqu’au Pérou. Les gouvernements et les médias l’ont cataloguée comme la « Guerre contre la drogue ». Il est important d’examiner comment la croissante « Guerre contre la drogue » est connectée à l’expansion de sociétés multinationales qui prennent le contrôle des marchés, des ouvriers et des ressources naturelles.

Au Honduras quatre indigènes ont été assassinés par balle en mai, quand la police hondurienne a ouvert le feu depuis un hélicoptère du Département d’État des Etats-Unis, le tout sous la supervision d’agents en uniforme des États-Unis. Au Mexique sous la conduite des États-Unis, du Canada, d’Israël et de la Colombie, la police et l’armée ont été transformées.

En Colombie, la guerre a duré déjà quatre décennies et des milliards de dollars US sont étés engloutis, pour le moment on la qualifie de lutte contre le crime. Pendant les années 80, l’État colombien est devenu un état paramilitairisé, dans un processus qui selon l’historien German Alfonso Palacio Castañeda « se manifeste par des menaces, attentats et assassinats ciblés et massacres collectifs de fonctionnaires gouvernementaux (principalement mais pas exclusivement de gauche), et de leaders politiques populaires, d’ouvriers, de paysans, de professeurs, de militants des droits de l’homme et membres d’organisations non gouvernementales. »

A travers le mode de financement des programmes anti-narcotiques, l’aide des Etats-Unis à la Colombie a eu pour résultat le renforcement des groupes paramilitaires et policiers non officiels, qui selon des rapports patrouillaient à côté de l’armée colombienne et se sont trouvés impliqués dans la majorité des massacres et des déplacements forcés dans ce pays.

« Dire que la guerre contre la drogue a échoué, c’est ne pas comprendre quelque chose », a expliqué Noam Chomsky, lors d’un discours du mois mai. « Nous avons à nous demander que ce qui est dans l’esprit des planificateurs devant tant d’évidence que ce qu’ils disent essayer d’obtenir ne marche pas. Quelles sont les intentions probables ? » [1]

Les commentaires de Chomsky désignent un champ d’enquête pour les militants et journalistes qui désirent comprendre les guerres actuelles contre la drogue. Chaque fois, c’est plus clair qu’il y a beaucoup de travail à faire pour reconstruire de façon conjointe les motifs de la militarisation dirigée par les États-Unis dans les Amériques. (more…)

Co-ops for Social Change

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 08/11/2012

Greetings from Guatemala! I’ve been here for about a month working on a radio documentary for Free Speech Radio News that will come out on December 25th, among other projects.

In the meantime, here’s a piece I filed at the end of the summer for Watershed Sentinel out of Comox, BC.

Co-ops for Social Change: Co-operatives are falling back into favour as a way to organize for sustainable economic alternatives and social change.

Though Canada has one of the largest co-operative movements in the world, it is – with some exceptions – a rather conservative sector, which has drifted away from grassroots organizing.

“There’s something on the order of a third of all Canadians that have a membership in a co-op … we’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars of assets, Canada has one of the biggest co-op movements anywhere in the world, and the worker co-op movement here is tiny,” said Hazel Corocan, the Executive Director of the Canadian Workers Co-op Federation. The Canadian Co-operative Association reports that there are approximately 9,000 co-ops in Canada, together employing 155,000 people and serving over 18 million members.

Diversity within the co-op sector in Canada makes generalizations difficult. Beyond the bylaws and a yearly meeting, it is hard to think of many parallels between, for example, small-scale workers’ co-ops, and credit unions with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Over the past years, the Harper government has taken an axe to many of the financial supports the government was providing to co-ops to start up and maintain their operations.

“My sense is that there’s growing interest in the worker co-op movement … The interest is growing but the availability of supports is, in most places, harder,” said Corocan, who pointed out that the federal government department devoted to co-operatives had their personnel slashed from 94 staffers to 15.

Co-ops During Quebec Tumult

Over the course of 2012, residents of Québec, and especially of larger urban areas like Montreal and Quebec, have lived through the most intense and tumultuous student strike in Canada. The sustained activities on the streets of Quebec raised the question of whether or not the co-op sector could have, in some way, helped the student movement. (more…)

Forward to Zibechi’s Territories in Resistance

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 27/08/2012

Another reminder to check out Territories in Resistance, the recently released translation of Raul Zibechi’s Territorios en resistencia, published by AK Press out of Oakland, California. If you can’t buy the book, try requesting it at your local library. Below is the forward to Territories in Resistance, which I wrote in March, reproduced here with permission from AK Press. Click here to download the PDF version of the forward.


Before Occupy Wall Street, there was La Victoria.

La Victoria, a shack settlement turned bustling, permanent neighborhood, was born when 1,200 families living in desperate poverty in Santiago de Chile took over an undeveloped sector of the city. The new residents of La Victoria erected houses and buildings without government permits, communally organized a security system, and within months, were running their own school. This year, La Victoria will turn fifty-five.

Raúl Zibechi, a writer whose work on social movements is widely read in Spanish, suggests that La Victoria may have been the first mass organized land occupation in Latin America. “In this new kind of movement, self-construction and self-determination take the place of demands and representation,” writes Zibechi, reflecting on the occupation of La Victoria. “This pressure from below transformed the course of social struggles and the cities.”

The language Zibechi uses to describe the establishment of the encampment at La Victoria over fifty years ago finds echo in the words and practice of Indigenous sovereigntists, members of France’s Invisible Committee, and anti-authoritarian supporters of Occupy Wall Street. Throughout Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements, readers will find a close and compelling resonance between the movements Zibechi describes and various struggles in North America.

There are, of course, many differences between Occupy Wall Street and urban movements south of the US-Mexico border. Unlike the long term occupation carried out in Santiago de Chile, Occupy Wall Street and similar encampments didn’t make it through their first winter. But at the same time, the Occupy movement, which has its origins in crisis and is based in a firm rejection of the political and economic system, shares other important similarities with the movements documented by Zibechi.

Maybe, as in the case of La Victoria, the experience of Occupy will inspire new community-level urban movements in North America to stage and defend public occupations, transforming the course of social struggle. Or maybe not. The future of autonomous, grassroots struggles (including, but not limited to, Occupy) is contested. The aspirations of these struggles could be quelled by state enforced exploitation and repression on the one hand, or by the coercive power of the established left, linked to electoral politics and unions, on the other.

It is at this very juncture that the English translation of Raúl Zibechi’s Territories in Resistance has arrived, and the timing couldn’t be better. Honing in on enduring anti-authoritarian, anti-state, and anti-capitalist social movements in Latin America, Zibechi explores the successes of these struggles, and their challenges, which, he emphasizes, often come from unexpected quarters. (more…)

Territories in Resistance!

Posted in Uncategorized by dawn on 05/08/2012

Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements is a new book by Raul Zibechi, translated by Ramor Ryan, for which I wrote the forward. Pick it up at your favourite local bookseller, or buy it online today!

Political Policing in Mexico

Posted in Mexico, Uncategorized by dawn on 13/07/2012

Dear readers, 

Have a read of this month’s cover story in The Dominion, which looks at Canada’s role in training police in Mexico. I wrote it with help from The Dominion’s fund for investigative journalism.

Canada Boosts Police Power in Mexico

July/August, 2012.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO—The music is loud and the bar is well stocked. I sit timidly with a can of beer, eyes on the entrance. This was a happening nightclub before Juarez was transformed into a war zone. My companion, Julian Cardona, who used to shoot photos for the society pages of a local newspaper, describes what it used to be like here: Hummers triple-parked on the sidewalk, hundred-dollar tips, well-dressed Texans waiting behind velvet ropes to get in. Not anymore. The night I visited, the place was near empty, waitresses busy with their iPhones, a wandering cigarette vendor calling out to make a sale.

It was Cardona’s idea to go to the nightclub; he said it would help me understand the city better. His career has taken an unexpected turn because of the violence: these days, instead of shooting for the society pages, he shoots crime scenes in one of the world’s most violent cities.

Ciudad Juarez, a city that boomed with the introduction ofmaquiladoras, has long been a city with high levels of violence. The murders of women through the 1990s gained international attention. For each dead woman, there were nine murdered men.

But when Juarez transformed into the focal point of Mexico’s war against drug traffickers, things in the city began to change beyond recognition. President Felipe Calderon launched a militarized war on drug traffickers at the beginning of his term in December 2006. At the end of March 2008, thousands of soldiers and federal police officers arrived in Ciudad Juarez as part of a surge against drug traffickers. After the police and troops arrived, the murder rate skyrocketed, violence increased, and kidnappings spiked. Ciudad Juarez became synonymous with everything that is wrong in Mexico. (more…)