The Autonomous Zapatista People’s Bank : Banpaz

Report: Mexico’s Zapatistas Focusing on Health, Education

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico – The Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN, formed five autonomous governments in Mexico’s Chiapas state in 2003 that are now focusing on creating basic education and health infrastructure, as well as operating the Autonomous Zapatista People’s Bank, or Banpaz, the European Solidarity Brigade said in a new report.

Brigade members spent time last summer in the region under Zapatista control and learned about efforts being made to improve the lives of residents of the 40 autonomous municipalities, the aid group said.

The autonomous communities are run by councils based in Oventic, La Garrucha, Morelia, La Realidad and Roberto Barrios.

Banpaz is making loans of between 5,000 pesos and 10,000 pesos ($400 and $800) to Indians who have health problems, but the “extension of loans to agricultural cooperatives is being studied,” the brigade said.

“The Zapatista Bank was created in January 2008 and is based on a fund collected thanks to the 10 percent toll on roads charged to the government,” the report said.

Indians pay only 2 percent annual interest on loans, while the average on loans from commercial banks is around 16 percent, the report said.

The report, which was prepared by the Madrid Platform for Solidarity with Chiapas, includes videos, audio, photographs and notes from the European Brigade.

The report was released on Saturday by the Centre for the Documentation of the Zapatista Movement.

The European Solidarity Brigade for Chiapas has members from unions and grassroots groups in Greece, Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland and Spain.

Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest states, has a large Indian population, and many indigenous people supported the uprising staged nearly 20 years ago by the EZLN.

The overwhelmingly Indian Zapatistas launched an armed rebellion on Jan. 1, 1994, the military phase of which lasted only a few days.

EZLN supporters in hundreds of communities in Chiapas have declared themselves to be in “rebellion” and refuse to pay taxes and utility bills.

Source: Latin America Herald Tribune 31/01/2011

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