The NGO is Desarollo Economico Social de los Mexicanos Indigenes or DESMI, which in English stands for Economic and Social Development for Indigenus Mexicans. In the early 90's they broke off from the catholic church and now work in 16 communities in the state of Chiapas, helping develop collectives and offering small loans for community projects. They also offer support on Fair Trade issues and cooperatives.
They are funded primarily by international organizations like Oxfam and others. They accept no support from the Mexican government, although at one time they were approached by the state governor (Pablo Salazar) to work on a joint project. The project was later revealed to be an effort to divide the indigenous communities and was soon rejected both by the indigenous communities and DESMI.
In the afternoon, we attended a meeting with Amando Figueroa, lawyer, teacher and one time governor of the state of Chiapas, or at least he was elected governor by a majority of people in the state of Chiapas. Figueroa was supported by the Zapatistas and others had the election stolen from him and he narrowly escaped a government arranged assassination attempt.
It was truly amazing to get to meet this man who has been a critical part of the history of the Zapatistas since their public debut in 1994. In fact, Figueroa can be seen walking alongside Subcommandante Marcos in the first images captured by the national media. You can see his picture here. He was a charming and thoughtful man who has also drafted a proposed state constitution for Chiapas and another that would revamp the constitution of Mexico. It was remarkable to get to meet him, sitting in his home office.
He also extended the invitation that Marcos made to people all over the world to converge on the autonomous community of Oventik on the 8, 9 and 10th. We will be there.