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      Ayotzinapa is the Microcosm of World Struggle for Freedom & Justice

      By Janine Solanki & Azza Rojbi

      This interview was conducted by Fire This Time on March 26, 2015,
      just after a rally for Ayotzinapa in Vancouver, Canada.

      Fire This Time: On behalf of Fire This Time Newspaper, thank you all very much for agreeing to do this interview today as the Ayotzinapa Collective of Vancouver , the women organizers of the Collective. The collective has done a very good job and there has been a very good campaign for Ayotzinapa fundraising. So could each of you explain what you would like individually about the fundraising campaign?

      Montse: So far what we have achieved in the past couple of months with the different events that we have done, I think it is really good. The expectations that I had were, I guess, slightly lower. We have been able to surpass what we were initially aiming in each one of these events. We have of course had a lot of support from the Latin American community. It is not only our work. Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) has helped us a lot, and for that we are really grateful, along with committees, different organizations here in Vancouver from El Salvador and Guatemala and Venezuela and Chile, Nicaragua as well.

      Macarena: We are a movement, we are a Latin American movement, working all together. Because if someone is trying to damage one of us, they are trying to damage all Latin America. Ayotzinapa’s ideals represent, especially these 43 students, represent the ideals of millions in Latin America. This is not just about the disappeared, this is about the situation in Latin America. Latin American people for many years, over a long period of time, suffered because of imperialism and capitalism’s influence on our continent, but no more, no more.

      Manelik : There is also something important about the fundraising, it coming for a special project that is to get a community radio in Ayotzinapa and it will help the people to get more organized and to be used to communicate to all the people and to avoid forced disappearance.

      FTT: So the next question, you have answered already in part. My question was: What is your opinion about the response of the Mexican and Latin American communities to this fundraising campaign? But, you have already answered that. The other part of the questions is: What do you think has been the response of youth and especially college and university students?

      Macarena: When you explain the situation they say “oh, this has happened?” because in the mass media you cannot find information about Ayotzinapa . But, also if you explain the situation, I think that young people are not paying a lot of attention to this, they say, “oh, it’s very sad situation...what has happened in Mexico?” But, when you say you need to do something more, they are not able to. So I think that in this case, people are not responding very well in terms of social conscious, in terms of working for something you believe in. I don’t know if it is just because they have a normal happy life, and they are not worried about other people, or just because they think that the reality in Mexico is completely far from this. But also you can see this in Mexican or Latin American students, so it’s not just Canadian ones. I don’t know if it because university sometimes is just like the rest of the status quo, that they just think of science or humanities in terms of academic stuff and are not very worried about social movements or social issues.

      Montse: I have a variety of approaches to this, because we really have not seen a lot of response from youth and students, that is for sure. Most of the people that attend the rallies and the fundraisers, events, talks and the presentations are usually older people. I don’t exactly know what is the factor that affects this the most. When we think what might be influencing this, it might be the location of the universities. The two big universities here in Vancouver are far away from the venues where we have been holding the events, so that might be playing a role in the attendance of students at these events. I really don’t think this is the only issue, as Maca was saying, there’s a lot of apathy, there’s a lack of social awareness here in Vancouver . I have tried talking to people about this issue and some people are really receptive but that doesn’t go beyond receiving the information. They receive the information, they’re like “oh, that’s really terrible,” and that’s it. They are not willing to move a muscle beyond the point of saying “that is really bad.” I have even come across people who are like “oh, that’s really bad, but you know it’s not a local issue, I don’t see why I should get involved...” Like, if it’s not something that’s effecting me, I don’t care enough to do something about it. Which, I think is really bad.

      Of course, it’s always bad to generalize. We have had people who help that are young, I mean there are a lot of people in VCSC who are really young, and they are helping, so youth is present, but it’s not the majority of the people who attend each one of these events.

      Thinking about the distance issue, we had an event yesterday held at a university. It was a concert/fundraising event and we were happy to see a bunch of students, the majority were students. So, maybe that helps to explain why they are not coming, because the university is kind of far and you have to go to them. It was really good to see that they were interested, that they were there at least, but I really think that there has to be a stronger push, I don’t even know from who. It’s really hard to talk to students in general, but it’s even harder to talk to students who don’t care about whatever you want to say. I don’t know... It’s an interesting challenge that we need to solve.

      Manelik : What I can say is that what I have seen in all the events that I have been, is that there are not young people. Just compare, if I ask my friends in Mexico or Latin America that are at university, they are really doing hard work to make Ayotzinapa more visible.

      Macarena: Ah yes, I understand your point, because in Chile when there is a struggle, the most important part of the people that are doing the demonstration, that are going out onto the street, is young people. But, here it is not young people, it is like this is a dead generation.

      FTT: Beyond Vancouver , how far has this campaign been successful? How has the campaign been in other countries, for example the US, Europe and Internationally?

      Manelik : That’s a big question. What I see is that there is a lot of world support from the community in all the world. Here in Canada, it is big because there is involvement in Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver , and Kelowna also gives some support. Also in Germany, Italy, India, Asia, in most parts of the world, in South America. I think that this is the flag that involves many fights from the memory of many peoples.

      Macarena: I think that the campaign covered different aspects about the problem in Mexico. So, different groups have different understandings about the situation. It is very important to understand what has happened there, why this happened and try to do this together. We have some differences, but the important thing is to not forget the ideals of the Ayotzinapa students, keeping the ideals about the Ayotzinapa students, because sometimes in politics people are taking advantage of the problems, of these disappeared students. It is very important to be careful about this, because we are not joking with this, this is people, 43 students, you cannot use them for your own promotion, you cannot use them to promote your politics, this is just about people and their ideals.

      FTT : How has this campaign been in Mexico? And also what have been the significant things that this campaign for Ayotzinapa has established in Mexico?

      Montse: In general the Ayotzinapa campaign struck a cord in Mexican society. In 1968 there was a massacre of students which has been in the Mexican consciousness ever since and so students are this beacon of hope every single time. Whenever there is a movement and you see students involved, that makes it stronger then compared to those that don’t have students in them. The fact that these 43 students were kidnapped on the way to this protest was kind of like symbolic in a way because it was 47 years after this massacre, it was just outrageous that it would happen again; that students would get attacked by the state, knowing that they were protesting for a good cause. If you add that up to the violence and the narco state that has been present in Mexico for so much time. This was kind of like the drop that overflowed the vessel, if you can say that in English. And so the protests ever since this happened were really strong, really, really, really strong and they have not died out yet, which is something kind of surprising knowing how things work in Mexico, usually protests last a month at most and then people forget. But, Ayotzinapa has not been forgotten. That brings me to the second part, how has this changed Mexico? This has awakened, not everyone in Mexico, but it has awakened a good portion of the society to make them really see that the government is not doing things right, that this is not an isolated state, that something has to be done differently, that there needs to be a change. Ayotzinapa has raised the awareness of thousands of people, and those people now are questioning the government, and not only the current government, they are questioning the type of government that we have. I think if this could become a more generalized state of things, it could bring a good change in Mexico. This is a good spark, but it needs to be used in a good way. It is still in the process, it is difficult, but it is still a hope that something could be done to make things different from the way that they are now in Mexico.

      Macarena: In my opinion, the situation with the 43 students is a very bad situation in terms of that people cannot be disappeared se easily any more. But I think that Mexican society, Mexican communities, farmer communities and Indigenous communities, they are taking more power right now. Because they say that it was a state crime, we cannot allow that these kind of things happen again. We need to be organized, we need to organize our community by ourselves, without any politician, without any governmental institution, just a grassroots movement, with autonomy, self- determination and self-organization. This is Indigenous and farmers building a new movement with self-determination, with autonomy, with self-organization, without the criminal state, all together.

      FTT: Do you think that the Ayotzinapa campaign should be continued? I mean not necessarily the fundraising campaign, but to continue the political campaign and to continue to bring people together, not only to support the Ayotzinapa issue but also other issues similar to it and basically to have for the first time an ongoing campaign for atrocities happening in Mexico?

      Montse: The short answer is yes, I think that this should be continued. I think this momentum should be used as a foundation for future movements. In general, the Canadian community and the Canadian people are not necessarily aware of what is going on around the world. I feel that a lot of people here live in a bubble, and as long as nothing is affecting you, you are not going to pay attention, why would you? If your trees are blossoming in front of your house why would you care about what is going on across the border, or two countries away. It is not necessarily something people think about. Yes, I think we should raise awareness. Yes, I think we should educate people, to make them step out of that bubble, because that is just not the reality. The fact that this is not affecting them, doesn’t mean that they are not involved.

      It is very easy to see connections. As much as we pretend, we are not living an isolated life. I was reading recently, there is another struggle that is starting right now in Mexico with the workers in the valley of San Quitin, in the South part of California, which is California [Province], Mexico. I was just reading the outrageous conditions under which they are working and all the things that they produce are organic stuff. They produce organic strawberries, they produce organic tomatoes, they are forced to work in conditions that nobody would believe still exist because they are close to slavery. We can say, that doesn’t affect me, but if you go to the supermarket, where are all those things coming from? You buy organic strawberries and you are really happy because you are not poisoning yourself, allegedly, with any of the agro-chemicals that come in regular strawberries, but you don’t see how you being comfortable, in a first world country, is affecting the other people, in countries that are not yours. Even though you claim that none of this really affects you, but it really does and maybe you are part of the problem indirectly.

      That is the type of awareness we need to make people come to realize, that they are not living in an isolated life, especially in this “modern” world where you can be eating stuff from thousands of miles away. You don’t know what the conditions in other places are. How can you say, how dare you say, you are not involved, you are not affected, where are your computers being built? Who is making your computers? Under what conditions are those people working? It’s not only Mexico, and it is not only Latin America, it’s the whole world, there’s a very big issue. It all comes down again to the type of system that it is being used, capitalism, consumerism and all of these things that we are involved in. We cannot say we are not connected, I mean we might not see the direct connection, and we may not know anyone in Mexico, but that does not mean that we are not contributing to some extent, or being part of the problem. If we are part of the problem, why not try to be part of the solution as well. So, yes, I think this is a very good excuse for us to raise awareness in Canada and everywhere in the world, to make sure people know that we are all connected. As Indigenous people here say, we are all one, and we cannot just turn a blind eye on issues that are not happening in our backyard, only because they are not happening in our backyard.

      Macarena: I completely agree with Montse, but I want to add some other points to this. I think that this, in this moment is about 43, but that doesn’t mean that we are not paying attention to all the problems that there are right now in Mexico. Mexico has different problems, and these problems come from capitalism, come from the different free trade agreements that Mexico has with countries like the US and Canada. In our countries, in the Latin American countries that have good relations with the US and Canada, we can look at the power of imperialism on the people, we can look at the same thing in Chile, where we have similar agreements. A good example of this is our fight, Ayotzinapa . These students were taken by the police, by the state. The mass media didn’t say anything about this. The first media that explained what was happening in Ayotzinapa was Telesur, that represents socialist ideas because telesur is from Venezuela. Venezuela is supporting Ayotzinapa because they are socialist. All Latin American countries that are supporting the same ideals understand that it is not an isolated problem. This is a problem about capitalism, imperialism and colonialism against our people. I want to say, that if there is something that we have in common, in this moment, and we have ideas that we can say and struggle for, it is anti-capitalist ideas, anti- colonialist ideas, and anti-imperialist ideas. We should not stop the campaign about the 43, but continue fighting against these things.

      Manelik: I agree with Maca and Montse too. Now it is like 6 months from the kidnapping of the 43, but what I can see is it is just the beginning, it is just the beginning of the fever, because we need to release our political prisoners, like Nestora Salgado, and so many others. We need to continue making this struggle bigger, because it is really helping to stop the violence of the state. What I think about what Maca and Montse say is that we are against capitalism, against imperialism and colonialism.

      FTT: Thank you very much for taking the time and for explaining this important struggle.

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