Mexico Unconquered

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Mexico Unconquered
Chronicles of Power and Revolt

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Murder in Oaxaca

"MEXICO CITY —Brad Will filmed his own murder. Holding a professional, high-definition digital camera neck-high in his two hands, he faced down Juarez Avenue, the camera rolling. He stood amidst the protesters from the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly, or APPO, as they attempted, with rocks and bottles, to repel the armed attack of police and local officials trying to dislodge the thousands of people assembled in a months-long occupation of Oaxaca City in 2006."

-John Gibler, Fifth Estate Magazine, Vol. 44 #2 Oct 1, 2009

Dispatches from Mexico

"John Gibler, a Global Exchange human rights fellow, has been reporting on events in Mexico since January 2006. His writings cover the presidential election controversy, the Zapatistas' 'Other Campaign,' and the ongoing people's rebellion in Oaxaca."

-John Gibler, Global Exchange Oct 29, 2009

Mexican Political Prisoners Gloria Arenas and Jacobo Silva Released

"Gloria Arenas Agís was released from prison around 7:30PM on October 28, ten years after Mexican federal agents abducted, tortured, and then—after several days of being held incommunicado—arrested her and her husband Jacobo Silva Nogales on charges ranging from terrorism and homicide to rebellion.

One day later, on October 29, Jacobo Silva was released from federal prison in the state of Nayarit, to where he had been recently transferred after nine and a half years inside Mexico's highest security prison, known as the Altiplano."

-John Gibler, Upside Down World Oct 29, 2009

The Hidden Side of Mexico's Drug War

"They came shooting. Three military Humvees raced up the sole dirt road that leads to Puerto Las Ollas with soldiers firing mounted machine guns into the dirt paths and lean-to houses. Helicopters crested the mountain ridge that borders the tiny village. Soldiers leaned out of the side, firing. It was mid-morning June 9 and no one expected it. 'I was fixing a tin roof when they arrived shooting,' says a 19-year-old who was there that day. The young man watched from a rooftop as soldiers ran through the village, apprehending women and children. He managed to escape into the steep mountainside. 'You see soldiers beating 13-year-olds and it makes you rage,' he said."

-John Gibler, Upside Down World Oct 29, 2009

Indigenous Protest and State Violence in the Peruvian Amazon: How the Media Misrepresents

"With the authorship of violence obscured, the citations of government speculation and slander coupled with a failure to even engage with the indigenous participants' perspective, serves to insinuate the old colonial stereotype of 'uncivilized' and 'barbarous' 'Indians' and to subtly displace the responsibility for violence on those who suffered the attack."

-John Gibler, The Huffington Post Jun 12, 2009

Speaking of Justice
"John Gibler is a Global Exchange human rights fellow in Mexico who has been covering social movements since January 1st, 2006.  His writing and photographs have appeared in score of independent media. Gibler's book   'Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt' takes a look into the history of Mexico and how the country got to where it is today. A country split by a huge financial divide, Mexico is portrayed as a nation of people who don't need much more provocation to be pushed towards rebellion again. Scott and John discuss governmental corruption, social movements and the powerful drug cartels."
-Scott Drake, Speaking of Justice Apr 7, 2009

U.S. Security No Match for Mexican Drug Cartels
"The Obama administration announced this week it is sending hundreds of federal agents and crime-fighting equipment to the Mexican border to try to make sure violence from Mexican drug cartels doesn't spill over into the U.S. John Gibler, author of 'Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt,' appeared Friday on CNN's 'American Morning' to talk about U.S. border security efforts."
-John Roberts, CNN's "American Morning" Mar 27, 2009

Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn
"Will sending Federal agents to the border stop the Mexican drug cartel from killing? Rene Enriquez, former gang member once recruited by the cartels and investigative reporter, Chris Blatchford join us. Later writer and author, John Gibler joins us from the border in El Paso."
-Barry Lynn, Culture Shocks Mar 27, 2009

Obama Sending More Federal Agents, Money to Mexico Border for Drug War

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Mexico today, a day after the Obama administration announced it would send more money, technology and manpower to secure the United States-Mexico border and bolster the Mexican government's anti-narcotics operation. We go to the US-Mexico border to speak with independent journalist John Gibler." (59 minutes)

-Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Mar 25, 2009

Mexico Unconquered - Special 17:37 minute full interview

"Mexico has been in the US news a lot this week: the U.S. sent its top military officer there to pledge support to quell escalating violence near the border; Mexican military troops stormed a maximum security prison in Juarez to deal with a massive riot; and U.S. college students have been warned from traveling to certain places in Mexico for Spring Break, due to possible local violence. But recent news hasn't highlighted continuing struggles for liberation across Mexico – and one author says that although we’re taught that the conquest of Mexico is something that’s buried in the past, there is an ongoing story between a violent and powerful elite and everyday people who rebel. John Gibler’s new book is called Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt… Aura Bogado recently sat down with him and asked him what it’s like to write about a nation that is deeply divided."

Click here to listen to the full interview.
-Free Speech Radio News Mar 6, 2009

Supply Chain News: Just How Risky has Mexico Become as Sourcing Location?

"'The drug cartels have penetrated every layer of the institution of the state in Mexico from the municipal through the state and into the federal levels. Thus, the drug war itself--the war between the various fighting cartels--is something that's replicated internally within the state,' says reporter John Gibler, author of the recent book Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt. 'The warring cartels that are fighting out on the street are also fighting within the structure of the state. Hence you have the constant back-and-forth assassinations of police and military officers, civilians, and people involved in the various anti-drug agencies. One gang will find the 'Deep Throat' of another gang inside a given institution and then have them killed,' he says."

-Supply Chain Digest Feb 2, 2009

Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt

"Mexico Unconquered is about the ongoing social struggles that grip Mexico, the overwhelming violence of the state on the one hand and the vibrant and massive peoples' movements for land, autonomy, freedom, and dignity on the other.

The book traces contemporary social conflicts in Mexico from the period of the Spanish Conquest, through the early years of Independence, and the political chaos following the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution, when the modern state in Mexico was reconfigured from the remains of centuries of colonialism into an autocratic one party state with only minimal and cosmetic dressings of electoral democracy.

The bulk of the book is divided between the exploration and denunciation of state violence and contemporary forms of conquest and the chronicling and study of peoples' movements and contemporary forms of revolt (rebelión in Spanish). 

What does the book try to communicate? Moral outrage and social dignity. The book tries to disrobe the ideologies of the state used to rationalize horrid violence (seemingly innocent concepts like the rule of law, poverty, and migration) and to awaken moral outrage at the realities hidden under the glaze of normalcy. But instead of leaving the reader with the despair of finding such brutality under the surface of everyday reality in Mexico, the book tries to communicate the immense strength and dignity of the ordinary Mexicans taking stands against the brutality. Here the book tries to communicate the urgent importance of gripping this spirit of revolt when facing seemingly intractable enemies, of risking the impossible (to quote Slavoj Zizek quoting the Paris walls in 1968)." 

-John Gibler, ZNet Jan 26, 2009

Bordering on Insanity

"'This is the land of stolen futures; the land of stolen families, stolen villages; this is the land of the eviscerated present, where possibilities hang dry and collapsed in the air, still visible, haunting, unattainable: here all paths lead through the desert, across an invisible line drawn in the heat, into another world—a world known here as 'el otro lado,' the other side—a world where survival implies at least tacit acceptance of the law of transnational apartheid,' writes John Gibler, author of an important new book on Mexico. 'No one is spared'. . . .

Gibler, 35, is an activist, an author and U.S. citizen whose new book, Mexico Unconquered: Chroniclles of Power and Revolt, was just released by City Lights. For the last several years, using Mexico City as a base, he's been roaming around the country writing about the trouble spots he is irresistibly drawn to—Chiapas, Oaxaca, Atenco, Juarez. His book eloquently and movingly answers the question: Why do they come here?. . . .

Mexico Unconquered shows the range of his investigations: he has devoured the work o fother writers, from Charles Bowden on the drug trade, Noam Chomsky and Fanon and Galeano on colonialism, Robin Hahnel on the global economy, and Subcomandante Marcos on the ongoing adjustments to Zapatista policy and practice. Gibler's 12-page bibliography in Mexico Unconquered is as good a reading list on Mexico as you could find."

-Martha Gies, Street Roots Jan 23, 2009

The Murder of Sali Grace

"San José del Pacifico, Mexico-Marcella 'Sali' Grace Eiler, a young woman with several years of forest defense, train hopping, banjo playing, and dumpster diving already under her belt, stepped into La Taberna de los Duendes (The Gnome's Tavern) around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 14, 2008, just two weeks shy of her twenty-first birthday.

At that hour of night, San José del Pacifico is pretty much shut down.  A village of some 500 residents that is no more than a sprinkling of houses and cabins for rent on either side of a narrow mountain road that winds through thick pine forests, San José is a common stop on the international backpacker trail and well-known for the hallucinogenic mushrooms that grow wild in the forest.

A single large room with a high wood ceiling La Taberna was deserted that night in September save for its three owners, Heriberto Cruz, Davide Santini and Francesca Aldegani, who were all watching a movie on television. 

Sali entered hefting a backpack over her shoulders. She said, 'Good evening, my name is Sali, my friend Julieta recommended that I come here, that perhaps I could organize a dance performance here.'"

-John Gibler, ZNet Jan 10, 2009

The Rule of Impunity: Mexican Government Ignores Overwhelming Evidence, Charges Oaxacan Activists with Brad Will's Murder

"On October 27, 2006, Brad Will stood on Juarez Avenue in the municipality of Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca, Mexico. He was filming a violent clash between armed, civilian-clad municipal police and officials and members of the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly, or APPO.

Brad, a longtime New York City activist and independent journalist, traveled to Oaxaca in early October 2006 to report on the protest movement led by the state teachers union that sought to oust governor Ulises Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled Oaxaca with an iron fist for almost 80 years.

Brad stood amid the APPO protesters and other journalists, filming down the length of Juarez Avenue where armed officials were firing at the protesters. Brad was shot and fell to the ground, his camera still running, having recorded the sound of the shot that hit him. Brad was shot from straight on, just below the chest, and yet his killer does not appear in the camera frame at the moment of the gunshot. Brad died on the way to the hospital. He had been shot twice."

-John Gibler, The Indypendent Oct 22, 2008

The Murder of Brad Will: The Rule of Impunity

"On October 27, 2006, Brad Will stood on Juarez Avenue in the municipality of Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca, Mexico. He was filming a violent clash between armed, civilian-clad municipal police and officials and members of the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly, or APPO.

Brad traveled to Oaxaca in early October 2006 to report on the protest movement led by the state teachers union that sought to oust governor Ulises Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, after his failed attempt to beat and arrest striking teachers during a June 14 pre-dawn raid."


-John Gibler, Upping the Anti Oct 22, 2008

Ignoring Evidence, Mexican Authorities Charge Activists with 2006 Murder of Independent Journalist Brad Will
"Mexican authorities have arrested two activists in the murder of the independent journalist Brad Will. Speculation has long centered around police officers and pro-government militants in Will's death. Some were initially arrested in the months after the shooting, but ultimately released. But today the government is accusing two members of the popular movement APPO, the group opposed to state governor Ulises Ruiz. Will's family has criticized the charges, calling the arrests a sham. [includes rush transcript]

Guest: John Gibler, independent journalist who has extensively covered the uprising in Oaxaca, where he also knew Brad Will. He is author of the forthcoming book Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt, out in January from City Lights Books."
-Democracy Now Oct 20, 2008

Plan Mexico and the US-Funded Militarization of Mexico

"We broadcast a report from Mexico produced by Inside USA (Al Jazeera English) on the US role in Mexico's growing drug war. And we speak about the Plan Mexico initiative with Avi Lewis, Laura Carlsen and John Gibler."

-Democracy Now! Jul 31, 2008

What's really wrong with "Plan Mexico"

"Inside USA's Avi Lewis recently sat down with Jorge Chabat, Laura Carlsen and John Gibler (on the radio broadcast) to discuss 'Plan Mexico'. . . the transcript is available from Democracy Now!

Mexican support is falling for the military approach even before the funding (which is NOT going to Mexico, but to U.S. companies like Bell Helicopter and DynCorp and possibly Blackwater — something I’m putting together information on now, and hope to put up next week) becomes available.  I think the U.S. is more interested in creating a market for the military contractors than "fighting drugs" and — this is the scary part — to use anti-narcotics efforts as a rationale for clamping down on all opposition to the present administration."

-The Mex Files Jul 31, 2008

Death Squads in Oaxaca
"SAN JUAN COPALA, Mexico — Driving through the back roads of western Oaxaca state in southwestern Mexico, one could often hear 94.9 FM, Radio Copala, "The Voice that Breaks the Silence." In one of the station's tag-lines played several times a day, a slow, piercing violin gave way to the languid voice of a woman singing in Spanish: 'I am a rebel because the world has made me that way, because no one ever treated me with love, because no one ever wanted to listen to me.'"
-John Gibler, In These Times Jun 10, 2008

Zapatistas Defend Autonomy—State Aggression Escalates
"This past Wednesday, June 4, a military convoy of about 200 Mexican soldiers and federal and municipal police attempted to enter Zapatista villages under the pretext of searching for marijuana plants; something patently absurd in communities that have maintained a self-imposed 'dry law', prohibiting all drugs and all forms of alcohol throughout Zapatista territories for nearly fifteen years."
-John Gibler , Znet Jun 7, 2008

Mexico's Ghost Towns-The other side of the immigration debate


Cerrito del Agua, population 3,000, has no paved roads — either leading to it or within it. No restaurants, no movie theaters, no shopping malls. In fact, the small town located in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas has no middle schools, high schools or colleges; no cell phone service, no hospital. Its surrounding fields are dry and untended. The streets are empty."

-John Gibler, Dandelion Salad Jun 4, 2008

Mexico's Ghost Towns
"Cerrito del Agua, population 3,000, has no paved roads — either leading to it or within it. No restaurants, no movie theaters, no shopping malls. In fact, the small town located in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas has no middle schools, high schools or colleges; no cell phone service, no hospital. Its surrounding fields are dry and untended. The streets are empty."
-John Gibler, In These Times May 29, 2008

Counterinsurgency in Chiapas
"Around 3 p.m. on Jan. 2, nine shots were fired into the air. The perpetrators withdrew, leaving behind a button-down shirt with the cuffs tied to two lone trees in the cornfield. Machetes had hacked the shirt and cut a thick cross into one of the tree trunks at chest height. A bullet case was embedded at the center of the cross."
-John Gibler, In These Times Jan 23, 2008

Street Battles in Oaxaca
"At 8 a.m. on November 2, police came to remove the last barricade. After clearing away the rubble and city buses used to block the major Cinco Señores intersection, several hundred riot police and special forces from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) took positions along University Avenue on either side of the Autonomous State University of Oaxaca. Two groups of police forces armed with submachine guns, tear gas grenades, riot shields and batons prepared to advance, with military helicopters circling overhead and anti-riot tanks gunning their motors behind. Only the charred skeleton of an old bus, stretched across University Avenue halfway between the two police lines, remained."
-John Gibler, In These Times Dec 27, 2007

Militarizing Mexico's Drug War

"'In the helicopter is where they began to beat us,' recalls Sara, a 17-year-old who was released on May 16 after a week in military detention. (Her name has been changed to protect her identity.)

'They threw me really hard into the helicopter,' she says. 'They kicked me all over my body. Then one got on top of me; I could hear the other girls screaming. The soldiers said that this would take the whore out of us, that we were going to hell, that they were the law.'"

-John Gibler, In These Times Jun 19, 2007

New Generation Drawn by Leftist Mexican Cause
"The growing number of leftist movements in Latin America is attracting a new generation of young American leftists to places like Mexico. They often report for Web-based media outlets. Brad Will, a New Yorker who worked for Indymedia, was killed covering a recent protest in Mexico."

Features John Gibler, author of Mexico Unconquered.
-Lourdes Garcia Navarro, All Things Considered, NPR Dec 17, 2006

Oaxaca in Crisis
"It appeared as if the conflict in Oaxaca would come to an anti-climactic end. After a week of heated internal debate, on Thursday, Oct. 26, the Oaxaca local Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers voted to end their five-month strike and return to classes the following Monday."
-John Gibler, In These Times Nov 1, 2006