K.Appel on Denial of right of communication for indigenous

From: Kerry Appel
The Human Bean Company


My name is Kerry Appel and I am the owner of The Human Bean Company, which is a fair trade coffee company. I am also a member of a group of businesspersons in the United States called "Business for Equitable Trade and Human Rights in Chiapas" or BETHRIC. Recently I was in Chiapas for some meetings with the members of the Sociedad de Solidaridad Social Mut Vitz, which is the coffee cooperative from which we buy our coffee.
During the course of one of the meetings the subject of communication came up. Mut Vitz has applied two or three times to TelMex for a telephone line for their office and bodega which is in La Estacion, El Bosque, Chiapas. The coffee buyers in the United States, Germany and Switzerland have been having a very hard time communicating with Mut Vitz and we've been waiting a long time to get this problem resolved. So far TelMex has refused to install a telephone line for Mut Vitz, saying at one time that the area is part of the "conflict zone" and no telephones would be installed there.
We decided that the president of the cooperative and the secretary and I would go together to the governor's office in Tuxtla Gutierrez the next day to petition the governor for help in getting a telephone line. We urgently need to have telephone, email and fax communication available in order to continue to do business. To the credit of the governor's office they did give us a document, AUD. 1009, 5 de marzo, to present to the management of TelMex in order facilitate the installation of a telephone line for Mut Vitz.
However, we were shocked by the reaction of the management of TelMex in Tuxtla Gutierrez. We talked to a tall, well dressed manager there. He looked at the document from the governor's office and said to us, "The government doesn't have any influence over us. We are a private company and our only obligation as a private company is to make profits." He slapped his pants pockets repeatedly as he talked. "It isn't profitable to install telephone lines in the indigenous communities and we don't have any obligation to do so." He said this right in front of the indigenous leaders of the coffee cooperative.
"I disagree." I said. "There isn't any other way for them to get a telephone and I would think that you have an obligation to provide communication service to all citizens, especially since there doesn't exist a competitive alternative."
"Oh, there is competition." He said, "AT&T is in Mexico too. Let them ask AT&T for telephone service." But then he added with a smile, "Of course AT&T has also chosen not to go into the indigenous communities." "Well, how then are they supposed to get a phone so that they can participate in the commercialization of their products?" I asked. "We have a long list of indigenous communities that have requested service." He answered. " They can gather 500 signatures from their community and put their name on that list. We will install phones in the larger communities first and then later we will install phones in the smaller ones."
"How long will this take?" I asked him.
"It could take 6 months or it could take 6 years." He replied, "And then, when they do get a phone it will only be one phone for the whole community and it will be a rural public phone and they cannot use a fax machine or electronic mail."
"But that won't help them. They have 700 members in their cooperative who live in 29 communities. They need a private business line for their cooperative located in La Estacion."
"I'm afraid that won't happen." He said. In light of this policy I have to ask the public and the government and TelMex one question, "With the Zapatista March to Mexico and all of the discussion about recognizing indigenous rights and ending the marginalization and exclusion of indigenous peoples, how can it be possible that TelMex can effectively deny the basic right of communication to a large segment of the Mexican population?" We urge TelMex to review and to revise their policy and to give a telephone to Mut Vitz and to other indigenous communities. Mut Vitz is not asking for charity. They are ready and willing to pay for the service and they deserve the same services as other Mexicans in more "profitable" segments of Mexican society. And we urge the Mexican government to incorporate the Cocopa Law into the Mexican Constitution so that they can move on to other mesas of dialogue such as "Access to Means of Communication".

Kerry Appel
The Human Bean Company
Denver, Colorado, EEUU

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
E-Mail to:jeeni@criscenzo.com
©Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo