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economic justice | health wto cancun actions


Traveling to Cancun for the WTO? Here are some suggestions from street medics -- what to do now, what to bring, how to stay healthy so you can stay in the streets.

Come to Cancun for the WTO meeting, and show the WTO ministers what the people really think!

While you are preparing for the demos, consider the following:

1) Get your gear ready. See below for suggestions on what to bring.
2) Get enough sleep. You probably won't sleep enough while you are in Cancun, so try to arrive well rested.
3) Start drinking lots of water, 12+ glasses a day. This will prepare your body for the heat and humidity, which could easily lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Even better than straight water, make your own rehydration fluid by adding 1 teaspoon of salt and 4 teaspoons of sugar to one quart of water. Add lemon juice for flavor. The sugar helps with absorption, and the salt replaces chemicals lost in your sweat.
4) Eat healthy foods. As much as you can, avoid fried and fatty foods, refined sugar and refined flour. All of these foods stress your body, especially liver. The liver filters toxins (like tear gas and pepper spray) from your blood, so it is especially important to have it working well during demonstrations.
5) Consider herbal remedies that support your liver -- milk thistle and dandelion are especially good.
6) Other herbs that may be helpful to take before and during the demos: echinacea and astragalus to strengthen your immune system, rieshi and ashwaghanda to support the adrenal glands, which control your stress response. See an herbalist for more info, or if you have any medical conditions that might complicate taking these herbs.
7) Be aware that there may be a tropical storm or hurricane in Cancun during the first two weeks of September. If you are camping, make a back-up plan for a place to stay.

1) Lots of mosquito repellent (see below for more info). If you tend to scratch bites, also bring something to decrease itching so you don't have sores that could easily get infected.
2) A mosquito net for sleeping. You can get them pretty cheap at discount camping good stores.
3) Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Oil-based sunscreens may trap tear-gas, pepper spray and other chemical weapons on your skin, so try to bring water-based sun screen.
4) Clothing that covers all your skin, both for protection from mosquitoes and chemical weapons. Ideally, bring an outer layer that is water proof or non-absorbant, such as Coolmax or other synthetic fibers designed to wick but not absorb.
5) A hat that will protect you from the sun and maybe from hard things hitting your head
6) Shoes that are closed-toed, sturdy, and well broken in. Blisters suck. A second pair of socks will help prevent them. Bring extra socks so you can change socks often. This will help prevent blisters, fungal infections and other foot problems.
7) Any medications you take on a regular basis. Consider bringing extra meds just in case you end up staying in Cancun longer than you plan to.
8) Something to carry water in (you can purchase these in Cancun, tho supplies may run short). The risk of dehydration and heat-related problems will be very high in Cancun. For more information on heat-related illnesses see the info sheet It's Hot! It's Humid! It's Sunny! at  http://www.bostoncoop.net/balm/
9) Something to purify water. The tap water in Cancun is not safe to drink. Foods washed in tap water and any street food is also unsafe. There is lots of bottled water available in Cancun but again, supplies may run short with the crowds and crowds of demonstrators in town. In addition to avoiding contaminated foods, you may be able to prevent diarrhea with apple cider vinegar Take one teaspoon each morning, and one teaspoon after eating any food that may be contaminated. Also bring whatever diarrhea remedy that works for you. For more info on traveller's diarrhea see  http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/travelersdiarrhea_g.htm
10) Personal protective equipment, if you are concerned about chemical weapons exposure (tear gas, pepper spray, etc). Gas masks can be very hot, and they will be hard to get into the country. You can also protect your eyes with swim goggles or a ski mask. Just be sure that these items don't have foam next to your skin, since that will trap chemicals. For your mouth and lungs you can bring a respirator (the kind used for painting, available at hardware stores), or a bandana that you can soak in apple cider vinegar (works better than other vinegars and is less irritating to your skin), or even lemon juice or water in a pinch. A mask under the bandanna will protect your skin from getting irritated.
11) Condoms, dental dams and any other very-personal protective equipment you might need.

For more info in preparing for a demo see  http://action-medical.net/static/library/h&s.htm

1) Set up legal support in your home community. Although there will be legal support in Cancun, it's good to have folks at home who can advocate for you if needed.
2) Consider setting up a support network for when you get home, in case you are stressed out and need some emotional support.
2) Make copies of your legal documents (passport, driver's license) and leave one copy at home. Consider bringing a copy to Cancun, so you can give it to someone local in case you need it.

For more basic travel information see  http://www.cdc.gov/travel/camerica.htm

We will be there! We are planning to have a clinic and other resources for demonstrators. Come find us for whatever you need. Look in the convergence space and other common locations for information on where to find medics.

We will be doing trainings in the days before the demonstrations -- depending on the need and the interest, we may have anything from 2-3 hour "what every protestor should know" trainings, to a 24 hour street medic training. We'd love any and all help, so let us know if you want to participate in the medical side of the demos.

Dengue, a mosquito-borne illness, is all over the Cancun area. This illness causes a high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and rash. In some people in can cause a more severe form with bleeding and shock. There is no specific treatment for Dengue, other than rest, fluids and medications to reduce fever such as acetominophen (but not aspirin). For more info on Dengue see  http://www.cdc.gov/travel/dengfvr.htm

Malaria is more common in rural areas, so if you plan to travel outside of urban areas you might want to prepare yourself. See the CDC site for their recommendations. There are also effective herbal therapies (and others) for prevention.

You can prevent Dengue with a few simple precautions.

1) Bring lots of mosquito repellent, and use it, especially at dawn and dusk. Reapply if you are sweating or get wet. You can decrease possible toxicity by washing the repellent off at the end of the day. Using repellents along with sunscreen can decrease sun protection, so consider using a higher SPF sunscreen.

DEET-containing repellents are most effective, although there is some controversy about their toxicity. The higher the concentration of DEET (up to 50%) the better and longer the protection. See  http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/wnv/wnvfaq4.html for specific info on concentrations and duration of action.

Although the CDC states that any concentration of DEET can be used on children, studies have shown that DEET in concentrations of higher than 10% can be toxic to children under 10 years old. There are no known contraindications to using DEET if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but anyone who will be handling small children should be sure no DEET is on their hands (washing with soap and water is sufficient).

For more info on mosquito repellents see cdc.gov/travel/bugs.htm


If you have any brains . . . 26.Aug.2003 20:42


Might as well leave them at home . . . . .

Indeed... 26.Aug.2003 23:37


so much more comfortable to sit around and watch tv . God, doing something is such a hassle!

La Policia 27.Aug.2003 00:12


The Street medics have a professional approach to personal medical safety here, but no one has mentioned La Policia. The Mexican police have few of the restraints that US cops do. For example, they use preventive, uncharged detention. They don't have to charge you with a crime to arrest and detain you. It is enough for them to believe that you are interfering with a lawful commercial function and off you go to the carcel.

You can count on them not to wait until confronted before using chemicals on a protest crowd. They will use tear gas just to move or break up a crowd as it forms. They will charge protesters with clubs, and strike with the clubs as part of an offensive maneuver, not just in close-quarter combat like the local US popo. When they strike, they will not restrict strikes to non-vital areas, but will strike for the head and face.

In addition to the policia, count on seeing the military in counter-protest actions. The military will be armed with serious weapons, and will use them to prevent their positions being overrun. That means bullets are possible. US protesters are not used to that, at least not since Kent State.

Count on the Mexicans to be watching the air terminals carefully, and using profiling, harass protesters as soon as they land. There's no PC movement in Mexico at all, and profiling is widely used by all authorities. Prepare to have ALL your luggage searched, with attitude, if you fit their profile. The way to avoid the profile is blend in with the tourists. Wear tourist-type clothing, carry tourist luggage, not backpacks, and above all, look happy to be there.

Protesting the WTO in Cancun will be dangerous, not only to your health, as Street Medics have pointed out, but to your safety as well. If you're not prepared to be knocked around and spend some time in jail, maybe MLF does have the right idea: stay home, watch it on TV, and hit the streets once the WTO gets back to the US of A.

The Watchman, sees long odds in this game.

Watchman 27.Aug.2003 06:38


Global problem...global solution. "Letting the Mexicans handle it" isn't an option. Thanks for el sabor verdad from the men in blue all the same.