4T Counterinsurgency

By Raúl Zibechi

Counterinsurgency strategies are flexible, adapting to every time and place, to each sector of the population to be fought. They behave differently in urban and rural areas, facing armed or peaceful actors, in every case deploying appropriate devices for each situation.

Counterinsurgency strategies are many, as has been demonstrated over the last century in Latin America. They blend massacres and social programs, ferocious dictatorships that in one moment promote democratic openings, that are then reduced to calling elections.

Modern counterinsurgency has only one objective: to crush those that are different, dispossess them of their territories, rebuild them for the savage accumulation of capital and to have the population completely controlled. In short, they seek to annihilate any hint of autonomy from below.

We are witnessing a ferocious deployment of counterinsurgency, a so-called war of attrition in Chiapas against the community of Nuevo San Gregorio and the region of Moisés Gandhi, in total, six autonomous Zapatista communities belonging to the autonomous municipality of Lucio Cabañas of Caracol 10. 

This war waged from the top, is confronted with peaceful organizing processes. In these cases the counterinsurgency cannot deploy the scorched-earth policies that were introduced against the Mayan indigenous people, because it would fall into complete delegitimización.

Impeded, for now, from razing communities through genocide, they practic other strategies that pursue the same objective, but slowly, suffocating communities in order to displace them and convert their common goods into merchandise. 

Since April of 2019, they have been attacking the aforementioned communities, invading and fencing off lands reclaimed by the Zapatista bases of support, stealing their crops, work materials and community stores. They shoot their guns for hours, sometimes from the dawn until nightfall, with physical and verbal attacks.

On August 22, 2020 members of ORCAO (Regional Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo set fire to the warehouse and community store at the crossroads of Cuxuljá, all in the official municipality of Ocosingo. They have kidnapped community members, threatening and torturing them.

As the solidarity caravans have documented, which are made up of 15 collectives and accompanied by the Fray Bartolomé Center for Human Rights (Frayba), they (the invaders) are making it impossible to cultivate their land.  (https://bit.ly/2NiBaOo).

This very week, the last caravan verified that armed paramilitaries entered into the reclaimed community land in order to take the cattle and burn their firewood. They had previously fenced off schools, health clinics, water sources and lands where the cattle grazes.

As one can see, this is about counterinsurgency micro actions that represent a war of the highest intensity for the campesina families. All of this is happening with the support of the armed forces, and the state and federal governments that haven’t done anything to stop it.

We are faced with a consolidated policy to isolate, weaken and stifle all resistance. The aim is not to kill with a machete like in the massacres of the scorched-earth campaign of General Ríos Montt, but with an exasperating gradualness of a criminal trickle, of hunger and death by asphyxiation. It is a global war.

On the 3rd of February, the peace community San José de Apartadó (Antioquia, Colombia), release a communique that denounces state complicity in the harassments, rapes and murders that have been taking place every week for 23 years. The communiqué is testimony that we face a global strategy against those that are different. (https://bit.ly/3a6T5R2).

Despite being a group of campesinos without guns, the paramilitaries have murdered and disappeared more than 300 people of all ages including girls and boys for the crime of resisting death, displacement and the logic of death. (https://bit.ly/3rG63Li).

Direct violence was not enough for them, later they stopped the passage of food for the community, according to the document about their history. With the attrition, today only 35 families remain scattered in the villages and 35 children attend their own community school.

In all cases they are men armed against, girls, boys and women, which are the absolute majority in the communities. 

We should comprehend the wide range of counterinsurgency: from the aerial strikes in Turkey, Syria, and Palestine to the relentless daily trickle against the Zapatista communities, to mass murders and disappearances like in Ayotzinapa.

Capital learned that mass murder generates broad mobilizations of repudiation, but by way of the the steady drip that State terrorism promotes, it can advance with fewer obstacles, burying the communities alive. It is time to take the floor to name names and criminals.

This article originally appeared in La Jornada on February 12th, 2021. This English interpretation has been republished by Schools for Chiapas.