Chiapas, Mexico: Coffee Pyre in Acteal: Abejas Cry Out For Economic Justice

Chiapas, Mexico: Coffee Pyre in Acteal: Abejas Cry Out For Economic Justice
April 22, 2001

Holding high a banner reading, "Free Trade Celebrates Greed; God Celebrates
Justice", nearly 100 members of the indigenous coffee cooperative Maya
Vinic symbolically burned a portion of this year's coffee crop on April
17th. The co-op members, part of the Christian pacifist group Las Abejas
made this burnt offering as a sacrifice to God, giving back the fruit of
their sweat and blood deemed nearly worthless by the world market. Said
co-op member Antonio Vasquez, "In this smoke is an aroma that will carry us
to meet a just market and a fair salary for our work."

Coffee prices in Mexico are down a record 40% this year, in part because of
International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies encouraging the importation of
coffee from outside of Mexico. In January, the government of President Fox
gave Nestle Corporation license to import 600,000 bags from Vietnam. Though
Nestle has yet to import any coffee, this contributed to a drop in prices.

The Abejas hope to be approved to sell their coffee to Fair Trade certified
dealers. Fair Trade dealers buy straight from the producer, bypassing large
corporations, and guarantee producers a fair price. While the free market
price pays the coffee grower 30 cents per pound, Fair Trade buyers pay
$1.26 per pound.

Abejas member Jose Alfredo expresses the view of small growers, "These
[IMF] economic agreements benefits only transnational companies. For the
indigenous producers--they don't take us into account." Antonio Vasquez
prayed "In the same ground where lies the blood of our martyrs [speaking of
the 45 Abejas killed by government-sponsored paramilitaries in 1997], let
us offer up the smoke of this coffee as a gift to God. His prayer
continued "that God would move the hearts of the transnational corporations
and consumers to give us a fair price for our coffee." The Abejas' hope is
that the consumers and corporations will hear God's word from James 5:1-6,
read as the coffee went up in flames: "Listen! The wages of the laborers
who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries
of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts."

The following list of certified Fair Trade
dealers,,, already have coffee from
similar situations to Las Abejas available for church, institution and
family purchase.

The Abejas were joined in their witness by CPTers Fred Bahnson, Brevard NC;
Scott Kerr, Downers Grove IL; Chris Schweitzer, Silver City NC; and Lynn
Stoltzfus, Harrisonburg VA.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite
Churches. CPT P. O. Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680 tel. 312-455-1199 FAX
312-432-1213, E-Mail WEB