March 9, 2001

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On New Year’s Day in 1994, as the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, the Zapatista National Liberation Army took over the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Since that revolt and the subsequent retaking of Chiapas by the Mexican military, the Zapatistas have waged a war of ideas. Their latest offensive is a three-week caravan from Chiapas to Mexico City, where the Zapatistas are scheduled to arrive on Sunday. As Thatcher Collins reports from the caravan route, the Zapatistas aim to place the rights of indigenous people at the center of Mexican national politics.



A South Africa this week began its consideration of a case which pits the right of international drug companies to protect their intellectual property against the right of millions of people infected with the HIV virus to have access to drugs which could save their lives. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of South Africa, a trade group representing a number of major international drug companies, sued the South African government over its 1997 Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. That act would have allowed for the production or import of cheaper generic versions of patented anti-retroviral drugs. The companies say that would violate their property rights under the South African constitution and international trade agreements, but health officials and some two thousand protesters who rallied outside the courtroom say that the AIDS epidemic legally justifies setting aside patent protections. For now, the court has delayed the case until April, when South Africa’s leading AIDS pressure group, the Treatment Action Campaign, will offer testimony on the devastation caused by the disease. Host Matt Martin asked Free Speech Radio News correspondent Patrick Bond to describe the scope of the health emergency which has made this issue so urgent for South Africans.



It’s estimated that there are more than 2 million Central Americans in the United States today. Most came during a wave of immigration in the 1980’s when hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans fled war and economic collapse in their countries. So far, there’s been little academic research on the Central American population in the United States, and even less written by Central Americans themselves. But, as Robin Urevich reports, that may be changing, as one California university has developed the nation’s first Central American Studies Program.



The Anglo Dutch Oil Company Shell Petroleum is one of the richest corporations in the world. It makes fourteen percent of its profits in Nigeria, a country which relies almost solely on crude oil for its export earnings. With control over more than half of Nigeria’s crude oil production, Shell effectively controls more than half of the country’s export economy. Villagers in the Niger Delta where Shell operates recently told a human rights commission that the company uses its economic power to violate their rights. They say the company’s monopoly power must be broken  to prevent further abuses and strong-arm tactics. Sam Olukoya has the  details from the Niger Delta.



The bitter two year-old fight over control of the nation’s oldest listener-sponsored radio network is about to spill over on to the floor of Congress. That after the General Manager of Pacifica Radio’s New York station WBAI yanked Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens off the station’s airwaves after he violated a rule laid down by management forbidding discussion of internal matters on the air. The struggle at WBAI is part of a larger conflict over control and direction of the non-profit Pacifica Foundation, which owns five stations across the country. Long-time supporters of Pacifica, which was founded by a group of pacifists, fear that the Foundation’s board is trying to weaken the radical tenor of its stations’ programming. Aaron Glantz has the story.