** The corruption of numerous actors flourishes in Chiapas, officials as well as campesinos
[Tin roofs aid brick walls. Photo: Hermann Bellinghausen]
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
Mezcalapa, Chiapas, May 3, 2013
The Emiliano Zapata Rural Village, one of the five sustainable rural cities that the previous state government promoted so much, without ever having finished it, is now found in ruins, inhabited by different groups, without any type of services but, yes, a solid brick construction, without roof and unfinished. This would be the rural city with the best construction. The failure leaps into view, and shows a history of corruption by many actors, governmental as well as campesino organizations, deliberately divided by state action.
“The government says that the rural village (RV) is now finished” a campesino ironizes that actually lives there. “With the ruins that are here it’s already finished, some houses are falling down. They are the ruins of Juan Sabines.”
It’s not easy to avoid a certain post-apocalyptic sensation in this group of 60 half-finished houses (there were going to be 270), which would now be covered by the vegetation of this tropical zone in northern Chiapas, near Tabasco and Veracruz, if it weren’t for its current residents. Some are ex members of the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization-Movement for National Liberation (OPEZ-MLN, its initials in Spanish), for whose members this housing cluster would be destined. Other families are Zoques and campesinos from the region. To the OPEZ, which for now has abandoned the place, they are “invaders.”
Before it ended, the Sabinas administration didn’t want to know about this RV, to the degree that the Institute for Population and Rural Cities, created ad hoc for the ambitious project of 25 units like that in Chiapas, ignored it since 2012 and hardly even mentions it on its official web page. In January of last year, the government still had the impetus to create a new municipality here, previously part of Tecpatán: now Mezcalapa. Months later everything went downhill. OPEZ leaders were put in prison for misappropriation of funds and the head of the previously-mentioned institute, Alejandro Gamboa, was dismissed despite being one of the people closest to Governor Sabines, formally a PRD member like all the actors of this episode and of its debacle.
History of campesino resistance
The UNAM investigator Dolores Camacho Velázquez, who studies this case, exposes in a work (currently at the printer) a resistance and struggle that modified the government’s original idea original of rural cities.”
The famous “stoppage,” the product of the fall of a hill in October 2006 onto the Rio Grijalva and several population centers, caused damages in Ostuacán and other municipalities like Tecpatán and Malpaso, where the water stopped up by the disaster ended up flooding lands of communities that are adjacent to the rivers that empty into the affected zone. “Five localities were flooded in Tecpatán: Rubén Jaramillo, Los Guayabos, Ricardo Flores Magón, Genaro Vázquez and Nuevo Limón. Excepting the first, which is on lands recuperated in 1994 after the Zapatista Uprising, the other four communities are legally recognized properties, according to OPEZ leaders.”
Those affected were installed in shelters, the investigator adds. “The governor visited them and offered to resolve the problem. Six months after the promise they remained in shelters. Due to the fact that many of those affected belonged to OPEZ, they mobilized and organized the shelters to pressure the government to comply with its offerings.”
In 2010, an OPEZ leader told Camacho: “The government obviously moved its army of officials into the shelters to control everything. We said: ‘we are an organization and we control here, the government does not have to meddle in the community’s decisions.’” They began to take actions to pressure the authorities, roadblocks and demonstrations. The media barely made note of them, “but they achieved that the government would establish work groups. The construction of rural cities had already been decided, but for some reason all the governmental and media attention was put into Juan Grijalva.” It was the most celebrated community affected, and gave way to the first rural city, Nuevo Juan de Grijalva.
The government offered one more in Tecpatán, and OPEZ conditioned it on participating in the process. It was conceded to them, and they (OPEZ) took steps to obtain the participation of architects related (to the organization), belonging to the Francisco Villa Popular Front of Mexico City, where this organization has efficiently erected large residential units in Iztapalapa. It could be the best of worlds, but it all failed.
The “village” that wasn’t
The current residents of the shell of the “rural village” swarm spectral, completely outside of the great promise. They have no work, no electric energy and no water. And they are no longer members of OPEZ. The sun is inclement now and the water vats are dry. What’s left for them is the river. The greater part of the buildings are inhabited by families that do not own anything in the world, but they hope to stay here and convert it into a town, like its neighbor, the San Marcos ejido, where they rent 20 hectares for planting some milpas.
The mayor of the new municipality of Mezcalapa, from the PVEM (political party), has also made them promises, but only gave 10 sheets of tin to each family in exchange for their vote, and so now there is a roof. “Not one would be able to buy them,” a man says in the shade of those tin roofs with bitterness. About the lack of moldings and windows, the inhabited houses have curtains or boards nailed to the windows to avoid the inclement weather outside. There is almost no furniture, barely hammocks, wooden benches, and rustic chairs. Many sleep on the ground; “firm,” that indeed, as cement.
Some eight of the families are from the original group, now in a split from OPEZ called the Peace and Freedom Organization, A.C. The rupture was violent. One member of the new group, Luis David Sánchez Gómez, El Chocolate, was dead from a shot in 2011. “They also shot at me when I ran into the woods,” Roberto says, who laments the corruption of all, and admits:
“There is a saying that goes: ‘separate the group and you will win.’ [Divide and conquer?] They did their intelligence (from the government), they attained it and it’s better for them.” For a long time, the homeless victims lived in the Emiliano Zapata camp, on the Huimanguillo (Tabasco) highway, close to here. The authorities acquired 111 hectares so that the families would be temporarily installed, while the RV was being built. Today, that camp, although it continues inhabited by some OPEZ members and by “invaders” waiting for “something,” is an even greater ruin. It is flat terrain mined with square sections of cement where 273 wooden cabañas were, and they were demolished at the time of the debacle.
“No one could live there, everyone ‘bedeviled’ by the heat. The elderly and the children would suddenly wake up dead. There were no conditions,” Luis says, a young man in the RV. “They distributed 120,000 pesos to many and they returned to their communities. We couldn’t. The ground in flooded, one is not able to live there now,” adds Roberto, a native of Nuevo Limón. “They told us that we were going to have a clinic, school. They gave us nothing, not even a road.” In fact, to reach the RV one travels a dirt road in very bad condition, and the children completely lack a school.
The leader of OPEZ, Caralampio Gómez Hernández, and his son Pablo César, were incarcerated in 2012 for alleged fraud in the amount of 20 million pesos. The organization carried out protests and occupations. Roberto, dissident of theirs, considers them guilty, “but not only them; those from the government did the real robbery, and we don’t know if the ones from Francisco Villa also did. We don’t trust anyone now.”
He mentions the case of another OPEZ leader that left the RV “and now has 500 head of cattle on his ranch, in Buenavista.”
The impressive Cerro del Mono (Monkey Hill), a famous point in the La Sepultura Reserve, of great height and an unusual shape, like a barnacle, with a summit inclined at the peak, distinguishes this locality at its back that was going to be a dignified development of the “Millennium,” impelled by the State, philanthropic corporations, revolutionary organizations and the UN, and is now one more phantom hoy of progress.