Protests against Oligopolies, Inequality, Mining, & Dispossession in the Mexican Countryside (#23JMX)

“…The rich man came and broke [my yoke-ring],

He took off with all my corn,

Without even leaving me enough to eat,

And he presented me with my ‘bills’,

… What a shameless boss!

… My beloved said to me:

Don’t work for that man any more,

He’s just stealing from us,

… Long live the revolution,

And the end of supreme government…”


  • El Barzón (Mexican revolutionary song) [1]


El Barzón” (“The Yoke-Ring”) is a civil society organisation of farmers in Mexico which takes its name from the song above (about injustice in the countryside). Formed officially in 1994, it aims to “correct the political and economic causes of the recurring crises in the country that impoverish the population and stop the nation achieving sovereign, fair, and sustainable development on the basis of true democracy”. [2] Over two decades under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the group has fought to protect Mexican agricultural workers and ensure that they have not had to suffer from the economic effects of peso devaluation as much as they would have otherwise. It is considered partly responsible for the defeat of the PRI in the 2000 elections and, in December 2002, members of the group even entered the Mexican Congress on horseback along with other protesters. [3] On July 23rd 2014, El Barzón called for a protest in Mexico City (which will be discussed later in this article).


The leader of El Barzón, Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar, has warned that the Countryside Reform (Reforma al Campo) announced by President Peña Nieto is distinctly neoliberal in character. [4] Instead of dealing with the real problems in the agricultural sector, he affirms, the reforms will simply continue with the policy of hand-outs and ignore calls for profound change. He also insists that the so-called reforms will just continue to encourage the growth of inequality and the enrichment of a small number of private companies.


The true solution, for Ramírez, is to dismantle the oligopoly of countryside businessmen, which uses its money to take ownership of resources and the means of production. As a result of this current system, he says, small producers find it impossible to compete, and therefore have to sell their produce at extremely low prices. Meanwhile, the new reforms will only ‘reorganise rules’, leaving this vicious cycle completely intact. As an alternative, Ramírez proposes the creation of a public company capable of gathering, marketing, and selling agricultural produce. This, he says, would help producers to earn a living wage and ensure that consumers were not subject to the abuse of large corporations. Business speculation, he affirms, has seen the price of beans, eggs, and chicken rise unexpectedly, and can only be dealt with through greater competition and regulation. (One criticism of Ramírez is that, although his hopes for greater justice are honourable, his plan ill-advisedly seems to believe in the capitalist system rather than in true democratic control of the economy.)


On July 22nd 2014, a movement against mining corporations raised its voice in Mexico City, protesting at the Ángel de la Independencia on the ‘World Day against Toxic Mega-Mining’. [5] Numerous organisations showed their opposition to the abuses of foreign mining corporations, claiming that the reforms proposed by Peña Nieto will simply contribute to further destruction of land and communities in Mexico. In particular, they said the changes will open the door even wider for multinational mining corporations to enter the country and take control of water, land, and natural resources. The existent laws are already too relaxed, declaring as they do the ‘preferential’ nature of the corporate mining activities over all others (Article 6 of the Mining Law of 1992), but the currently proposed reforms will simply exacerbate the situation, the protesting groups insisted.


Francisco Cravioto, from the Centro de Investigación y Análisis Fundar, affirmed that, according to official data from 2012, mining concessions exist on 16% of Mexican land (and this figure doesn’t mention whether this land is in protected areas or places where productive agricultural activities are already present). According to the current law, landowners are obliged to give their land to mining corporations for exploitation or ‘temporary occupation’. Cravioto argued that such allowances (which are given mostly to foreign companies) are unjustified, as they barely contribute to the wealth of the country – with only 114,000 jobs (of a temporary nature and only representing around 0.2% of the economically active population) being created as a result.


Organisations and communities from eight states of the Mexican Republic have presented an initiative for a new Mining Law, which would place the consent of inhabitants as a priority and would abolish harmful and polluting forms of exploitation. Unfortunately, however, the government has ignored these groups. Sergio Serrano, meanwhile, from the Pro San Luis Ecológico collective, continues in his attempt to form a citizen initiative to propose a new Mining Law and Water Law, and hopes to collect at least 110,000 signatures in order to support his proposal. He says that the most recent Energy Reform will simply facilitate increased exploitation and occupation of land by adding even more concessions to the 900 already in existence.


Meanwhile, a day after the anti-mining protest, on July 23rd, thousands of agricultural workers marched in Mexico City against the ‘privatising’ and ‘dispossessing’ reforms of President Peña Nieto. Under the motto of #ElCampoEsDeTodos (the Countryside Belongs to Us All), protesters included El Barzón members, ejido inhabitants, indigenous groups, and consumers from around the country. El Barzón claimed that it was marching because “Mexico has over 119 million food consumers and more than 30 million producers, but a tiny handful of companies control the market, paying miserable salaries to peasants and fixing high prices in the city”. [6]


These protests are simply two in a long of examples of social organisation against neoliberalism in Mexico. Yaquis have acted to defend their water in Sonora; the Wixáritari have stood up to Canadian mining companies in San Luis Potosí; communities have taken the decision to defend themselves in the absence of government support in Guerrero, Michoacán, and elsewhere; and the Zapatistas from Tojolabal, Tzeltal and Tzotzil communities have resisted oppression and dispossession in Chiapas for over 20 years, forming an alternative to the dominant political model.


With all of these popular struggles throughout the country, the protests of the 22nd and 23rd of July are not at all surprising, but they show that, after 20 years of the injustices compounded by NAFTA, there are many Mexicans who are conscious of the dangerous effects of allowing neoliberal reforms to continue. They also give us hope that awareness, dignified rage, and just resistance to the current system are growing on a daily basis. And, wherever we may be in the world, we can draw inspiration and lessons from these struggles, using them to strengthen our own resistance.



[1] Amparo Ochoa – “El Barzón”

[2] Website of “El Barzón”

[3] Protesters Enter Congress on Horseback

[4] (@RHashtag #RevistaHashtag #BocaDePoleno)


[6] El Campo Es De Todos

23JMX El Barzón protests


About Ed Sykes

Independent journalist. Co-founder of Phoenix Media Co-operative. Author of Rojava: An Alternative. Ex-Canary editor and writer (2015-2020). Aka 'Oso Sabio' - see @ososabiouk on Twitter.
This entry was posted in Anarchism, Autodefensas, Autonomy, Bourgeois Democracy, capitalism, Climate Change, Democracy, dignity, Education, Enrique Peña Nieto, Environment, Exploitation, EZLN, Imperialism, Impunity, independence, Injustice, International Relations, justice, Libertarian Communism, Michoacán, Murder, Neoliberalism, Nestora Salgado, Oppression, Policías Comunitarias, politics, PRI, rebellion, revolution, Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, socialism, Trade Unions, Zapatismo, Zapatistas and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Protests against Oligopolies, Inequality, Mining, & Dispossession in the Mexican Countryside (#23JMX)

  1. Pingback: Protests against Inequality, Mining, & Dispossession in the Mexican Countryside | dorset chiapas solidarity

  2. Posted this on Dorset Chiapas Solidarity. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Infinite Dispossession: David Harvey’s View of Mexico | Resistance Is Fertile

  4. Pingback: Infinite Dispossession: David Harvey’s View of Mexico | dorset chiapas solidarity

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