Indigenous struggle in Chiapas will come ‘out in the open’ for Pope Francis’s visit

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2016 by floweroftheword

The pope’s plans to address legacy of violence, discrimination and poverty in southern Mexican state is bound to rouse Mayan people – and the Zapatistas


A woman and child walk past a billboard welcoming Pope Francis in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico. He will visit Mexico between 12 and 17 February. Photograph: Moysés Zuñiga/AFP/Getty Images

David Agren in Acteal, Mexico

The killing began when masked paramilitaries burst into a Catholic prayer meeting and opened fire. Those who escaped the initial attack were chased for hours through the canyons and cloud forests which surround this Tzotzil Indian community of corn and coffee farmers in southern Mexico.

Forty-five people died in the assault on a Catholic activist group known as Las Abejas, or the Bees; 21 were women, 15 were children. The perpetrators were linked to the then (and now) governing Institutional Revolutionary party.

The 1997 Acteal massacre was one of the worst mass killings of Mexico’s recent history, and it remains a potent reminder of indigenous struggle in Chiapas, a state still suffering from widespread poverty, discrimination and political corruption.

“Eighteen years have passed … and we continue denouncing grievances committed against us by party officials, who are manipulated by a government that keeps causing us pain and suffering,” said Las Abejas leader Sebastián Pérez Vázquez.

Indigenous Mexico’s fight for recognition and respect was symbolised by the Zapatista uprising which burst into the open on 1 January 1994, the day the country entered the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – an arrangement the government insisted would vault Mexico into the first world.

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Indigenous women of the Las Abejas civil society commemorate the 17th anniversary in 2014 of the massacre of 45 Tzotzil people in the Acteal community. Photograph: Alamy

Later this month, Pope Francis – who has put the poor and excluded at the centre of his papacy – will come to Chiapas as part of his six-day visit to Mexico. He will celebrate mass in several Mayan languages and address the injustices facing indigenous people, who in recent years have departed the Catholic church in droves for evangelical congregations and even mosques started by Muslim missionaries.

Two decades after the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), he will find that the state and its indigenous population remain firmly on the periphery of Mexican society.

Federal government figures show poverty, inequality and hunger rates have remained stubbornly high – despite billions of pesos spent on roads, schools, clinics and a spate of social programmes.

Critics in Chiapas contend that the wave of spending has been as much about controlling rebellious communities as raising the population from poverty.

“The situation here in Chiapas has not changed over the last 20 years,” said Pérez. “Even though the people are wiser to the situation, things have stayed the same.”

Pope Francis will arrive in southern Mexico as a somewhat unwelcome guest. Priests in the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas say the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto wanted the pope go elsewhere, proposing the placid state of Campeche on the Yucatán peninsula as an alternative. The government feared that the papal visit could stir up latent indigenous discontent, the priests said.

“The visit is going to give an opportunity for everything in Chiapas that’s simmering under the surface to boil over,” said diocesan spokesman Jesuit Father Pedro Arriaga. “It’s going to again show that the Zapatista movement is still here, that indigenous marginalisation continues, that poverty persists, that [government] health clinics are very deficient. All of this will come out into the open.”

Sources in the federal government say its concerns over the papal visit to Chiapas were logistical, not political.

Churchmen in Chiapas also see the visit as a vindication of the work of the state’s former bishop Samuel Ruiz, who led the diocese for 40 years until his retirement in 2000, but ran afoul of land-owning elites, politicians and the Vatican.

Pope Francis plans to pray at the tomb of Ruiz, who shared a similar pastoral approach. He rode to remote Indian pueblos on mules, preaching in their local languages and organising them into Catholic communities – behaviour seen as a challenge to the rule of local landowners. He trained hundreds of catechist instructors and ordained married, indigenous deacons – a solution to perpetual shortages of priests – as he built a church which incorporated and appreciated indigenous cultures. The Vatican banned such ordinations in 2001, but Pope Francis has permitted the practice to resume.

Some of Ruiz’s catechist instructors and deacons subsequently joined the Zapatistas, though the bishop opposed violence. He was appointed a mediator in the conflict and helped broker the San Andrés peace accords between the EZLN and Mexican government – an agreement the Zapatistas allege was never fully respected.

“The government never understood that the Zapatistas preferred to live with dignity than live with refrigerators,” says Dominican Father Gonzalo Ituarte, a former diocesan vicar. “The problem that we had with the Zapatistas [is that] what they proposed is the same thing we had proposed for many years.”

The Zapatista struggle won worldwide attention, while its pipe-smoking spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, became an icon of the anti-globalisation movement. Thousands of foreign “Zapaturistas” poured into the state, providing a presence some analysts suspect kept any army excesses in check.


Zapatista rebels stand in line during a rally in the early 1990s in the main square of San Cristóbal Las Casas’ cathedral. The Zapatista National Liberation Army launched its uprising on 1 January 1994. Photograph: Reuters

Today the Zapatistas have largely withdrawn to their autonomous communities though they can still mobilise their masses. An estimated 40,000 Zapatistas emerged unexpectedly for a march in five municipalities coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a month later, Peña Nieto went to the Zapatista stronghold of Las Margaritas to launch his landmark social program, The Crusade Against Hunger. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was brought in to lend legitimacy to the launch.

In a New Year’s 2016 message, EZLN spokesman Subcomandante Moisés said Zapatistas settlements were “better than 22 years ago”, but also better than those in non-autonomous communities, which have been supported by government programmes. But some observers say government money has already caused the movement to splinter.

The offers can be enticing for the inhabitants of impoverished communities as government officials and political parties hand out everything from sheep to bicycles to bags of fertiliser – especially at election time. (Mexico’s social development secretariat did not respond to interview requests, though it says in adverts that programmes are non-partisan.)

The social investments have produced some successes. “Thanks to this programme, we were able to study,” said Margarita Martínez, a Tzotzil linguistics professor.

“[But] it’s also a form of control on the part of the government,” she added. “In the campaigns, there are times in which they tell people, ‘If you don’t vote for this party, they’re going to take away your benefits.’ It’s not true, but people believe it.”

And while grinding poverty persists, change of a different kind is slowly happening in Chiapas.

Martínez, 35, recalls coming to San Cristóbal de las Casas as a girl and not being allowed to walk on the sidewalk. Those prejudices persist – when she arrived at her university wearing traditional costume of a woollen skirt and colourfully embroidered shirt, security guards presumed she was a cleaner – but nowadays, more indigenous people have trained as professionals or occupy prominent places in commerce.

Parents are still teaching native Mayan languages such as Tzotzil and Tzeltal to their children, but young people are also using it to produce poetry, rock music and even hip-hop. Parents dress their children traditionally for Catholic events such as baptisms and first communions, too.

Indigenous art is also flourishing. Painter Saúl Kak opened an exhibit in the Casa de la Cultura in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, showing the struggles of the displaced Zoque people. His paintings touch on political topics and including a piece with the familiar Coca-Cola font spelling the words, “toma con conciencia”, (a word play on the familiar slogan, reading, “consume with consciousness”,) to protest mindless consumerism.

“This would have never happened 25 years ago,” says John Burstein, director at Galería MUY, which represents Kak. “There’s no way the Casa de Cultura would have brought in an indigenous artist.”

Back in Acteal, members of Las Abejas say they see some small signs of hope in their struggle, too.

“Many people,” Pérez says, “have stopped selling their consciences for a little bit of money or a sack of corn flour.”

Mexican woman jailed for combatting cartels: ‘It is a sacrifice that had to be made’

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2016 by floweroftheword


Nestora Salgado is a Seattle-area resident who returned to her native Mexico and led a vigilante-style – but legal – community police force, which mounted patrols to protect residents from cartel operatives.

A dual US-Mexico citizen, Salgado was arrested in August 2013 after people detained by her group alleged they had been kidnapped. A federal judge cleared her of those charges, but a related state case has kept her imprisoned.

The International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University Law School has been pursuing her case at the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, Switzerland, for about two years. In a decision reached in December and communicated to her lawyers on Tuesday, the five-member panel called her arrest arbitrary and said Mexico should not only free her but compensate her for the violation of her human rights.

The UN group found that she was arrested for community policing, which is protected under Mexican law, and that authorities ignored her American passport. She was denied contact with her lawyers and family for almost year, the panel said, and in prison she has been denied adequate medical care and access to clean water.

“In the first place, there is no doubt that the arrest and detention without charges is illegal and thus arbitrary,” the UN group said. “Furthermore, the military arresting civilians for presumed crimes when national security is not at risk is worrying.”
The ruling is not binding on Mexico, but it could increase pressure to release her, said Thomas Antkowiak, the law clinic’s director.

“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with the government in Mexico, the federal government mainly, and those have gone nowhere. We’re hoping this is going to inject new life into those negotiations.”

The clinic also plans to ask the US State Department to press for her release, he said.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, was not immediately available to discuss the ruling on Tuesday. Mexican authorities typically do not comment about ongoing cases, though Guerrero’s governor called for her release last year.

Salgado grew up in Olinala, a mountainous town of farmers and artisans in Guerrero. She moved to the US when she was about 20, settling in the Seattle area, where she waitressed and cleaned apartments. She eventually began making trips back home, and she became involved in the community police following the killing of a taxi driver who refused to pay protection money to a cartel.

A state law allows Olinala and Guerrero’s other indigenous communities to organize their own police forces.

Salgado was accused of kidnapping in connection with the arrest of several teenage girls on suspicion of drug dealing, and of a town official for allegedly trying to steal a cow at the scene of a double killing. The Guerrero state government said following the arrest that authorities had received complaints from the families of six kidnapping victims, including three minors, and that ransom had been demanded.

“She’s endured over two years of illegal detention, without evidence or a trial against her,” Antkowiak said. “She’s a political prisoner.”

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Nestora Salgado’s Arrest “Illegal and Arbitrary”: UN Group on Arbitrary Detention

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2016 by floweroftheword


Proceso, 3rd February 2016.

A United Nations panel has determined that Nestora Salgado’s arrest in August 2013 was due to her activities with the community police, protected by Mexican law; therefore, the arrest is illegal and arbitrary. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Geneva, Switzerland, reached its conclusions last December, but they were announced yesterday by Salgado’s lawyers.

The panel noted that the activist was not allowed contact with lawyers and family for almost a year, and during her time in prison was denied adequate medical care and access to clean water. The five-member panel called her arrest arbitrary and noted that Mexico should not only release her, but compensate her for violation of her human rights. The UN group stated: "First, there is no doubt that her arrest and detention without [demonstrated] charges is illegal and therefore arbitrary. It is also worrisome that the Army arrested a civilian for alleged crimes, when national security was not at risk."

Thomas Antkowiak, director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the Law School of the University of Seattle, said that the determination has no legal force in Mexico, but could increase pressure for her release. [Salgado is a naturalized U.S. citizen and resided in Washington state.] The clinic took her case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Antkowiak argued: "This is a very important channel for applying political pressure. We have an impartial and international panel saying she was illegally detained. I think it’s an important step."

He added: "We have been in negotiations with the government of Mexico, principally with the federal government, but that has not led us anywhere. We hope this will inject new life into the negotiations."

He noted that the Clinic also plans to ask the State Department to advocate for the release of Nestora Salgado, accused of kidnapping in connection with the arrest of several teenagers who were suspected of trafficking drugs, and a local official who allegedly tried to steal a cow at the scene of a double homicide.

Antkowiak said that Nestora "has suffered more than two years of illegal detention without evidence presented against her or a trial being held. She is a political prisoner."

Translated by Jane Brundage

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The Lessons of Zapatista Women Activists for Today’s Social Movements

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2016 by floweroftheword


The role of indigenous women in the Zapatista movement is little known.

By James Tracy

Images of the Zapatistas have always been striking—indigenous peasants with wooden rifles declaring war on the Mexican government; with their faces covered by black ski masks or red bandanas, they symbolically became the face of the faceless, the voice of the voiceless.

On January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), made up of mostly indigenous peasants from Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas, declared war on the Mexican government. It was the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed. Coming three years after the end of the Communist bloc, the Zapatistas offered a unique political perspective that combined indigenous perspectives with an organizing model called “leadership through obedience,” reflecting both anarchist and socialist political traditions. They became one of the major catalysts for the anti-globalization/global justice movement, and the Zapatista ethos offered an alternative to both stale, orthodox leftist party building and the expanding global neoliberal project. Quickly mastering the art of rebellion at the dawn of the internet era, the Zapatistas became a major source of inspiration for young activists, many of whom travelled from North America and Europe to directly work alongside the Zapatistas.

Hilary Klein was one of those young activists. She spent much of the 1990s working in Zapatista communities. Since returning, she has organized at Make the Road New York and currently works the Centre for Popular Democracy. Her new book Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories is the first English-language study of the role of indigenous women in the Zapatistas.

Why did you go to live in the Zapatista base communities?

I didn’t go to Mexico intending to live in Zapatista communities. When I went to Chiapas in 1997, I was only planning to stay for about six weeks. I went as a human rights observer—responding to a call from the Zapatistas who were facing consistent attacks from the Mexican armed forces. The presence of outsiders often prevented these attacks and, when they did happen, at least we could document them and get the word out.

But once I got there, I was captivated by the Zapatista movement—the courage, the dignity, the willingness to take risks and the commitment to building something new. And I was particularly struck by women’s role in the movement. There were so many extraordinary women leaders, and Zapatista women had already achieved some pretty remarkable transformations in gender roles. At the same time, these things were still very much evolving. I felt like history was unfolding before my eyes. How could I leave?

So I decided to stay and work with women’s economic cooperatives in Zapatista communities. I ended up being there for six years instead of six weeks.

What about the Zapatistas captured the imagination and attention of radicals in North America and elsewhere?

It’s important to remember the historical context. The Zapatista uprising was in 1994—at the tail end of the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, capitalists were claiming victory and “the end of history.” Activists and organizers around the world knew that wasn’t the case, but for my generation, it felt like there was a collective question in the air—of what a new wave of liberation movements would look like. The Zapatista movement stepped onto the world stage right at that moment and was one particularly inspiring answer to that question.

Images of the Zapatistas have always been striking—indigenous peasants with wooden rifles declaring war on the Mexican government; with their faces covered by black ski masks or red bandanas, they symbolically became the face of the faceless, the voice of the voiceless. Many people were touched by a movement that was so specific to its own context—peasants in southern Mexico calling for land and indigenous rights, while at the same time being so universal. The Zapatistas presented 11 demands that people all over the world could relate to (work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace), and they identified global capitalism as the common enemy—whether you’re a worker, a student or a housewife, young or old, living in the city or in the countryside.

I’m thinking of the Zapatistas’ creation story. The popular narrative was that a group of university-educated revolutionaries from the country’s urban areas went to Chiapas to organize indigenous people, but were transformed and organized in a completely different way by the people of Chiapas. Were there similar dynamics with the internationalists who came to support the Zapatistas?

There’s a lot of truth to that creation story. It’s overly simplified, of course, but the Zapatista movement’s ability to draw from different revolutionary frameworks, to adapt different political and cultural traditions, contributed to it being such a compelling social movement, and so resilient over the years. In terms of the internationalists, it’s much harder to generalize because so many people from so many countries spent time in Chiapas. But it was fascinating to see that relationship evolve over time.

Right after the uprising, the Zapatistas welcomed any type of solidarity. They needed the resources, and they needed the presence of outsiders—internationalists as well as supporters from other parts of Mexico—as protection against the Mexican armed forces. But as the Zapatista project of indigenous autonomy became more and more established (the Zapatistas developed their own local and regional government, health and education infrastructure, and economic structures based on cooperation and solidarity), the EZLN made it increasingly clear that solidarity projects had to respond to the needs identified by Zapatista communities and to respect their leadership.

In the late 1990s, a number of groups stopped working in Zapatista villages altogether because they weren’t willing to be told what to do by a bunch of indigenous peasants. But others stayed on, and I think developed a much healthier relationship, one based on mutual trust and respect.

Before your book came along, there wasn’t much of an understanding about the role of women in the Zapatista movement. Why was it that so many people’s understanding of zapatismo stopped at Subcomandante Marcos?

Subcomandante Marcos was the spokesperson chosen by the EZLN, and the Zapatistas are very careful about what information they share about themselves. So in some ways it was their own choice that when most outsiders heard about the Zapatista movement, it was through Marcos’s voice. Marcos is a brilliant writer, poetic and articulate, and succeeded in reaching a wide audience. But a cult of personality developed around him that was not particularly helpful. Subcomandante Marcos has stepped back, by the way, and the new Subcomandante is an indigenous man named Moisés.

Information about Zapatista women was available if you were looking for it, but you had to dig past all the stuff about Marcos. And I did think there was a real gap, not only in terms of information, but really in terms of Zapatista women’s voices—that’s one reason I wanted my book to be a vehicle for Zapatista women telling their own stories.

How did your understanding of women in social movements change as a result of writing this book?

I wouldn’t say that my understanding “changed” so much as deepened and evolved. I had the incredible opportunity to witness women’s leadership in the Zapatista movement strengthening over time and to see the interconnected relationship between women’s increased political involvement and changes in so many other areas of life—in the family, in health care, in education. Something that has also really stayed with me are the parallels between women’s involvement in the Zapatista movement and other social movements, in this country and around the world. Very different contexts, of course, different challenges and opportunities, but so many of the same themes come up again and again.

In the United States, feminism is again a subject of intense debate stemming from (to name a few) campus violence, online misogyny and even Hillary Clinton’s run for President. Are there lessons people can draw from your book to deepen this debate?

Definitely. In this country, women’s issues are often framed as a very individual problem. I think one of the most powerful lessons from Zapatista women is that women’s rights and a people’s collective rights are not mutually exclusive. Zapatista women have fought for their rights as women and their rights as indigenous people at the same time. With campus violence, for example, for a long time, cases of sexual assault were treated as isolated incidents. In Zapatista territory, women addressed the problem of domestic violence by working to change an institutionalized culture of violence. They included women’s right to live free of violence in the Women’s Revolutionary Law, they fought for a ban on alcohol in Zapatista communities, and they have carried out ongoing political education and consciousness-raising about violence against women. There might be some interesting lessons here for the women fighting to change the culture of violence on college campuses.

As far as Hillary Clinton’s run for president, I think the main lesson there is that Zapatista women provide an example of what women’s leadership can look like without emulating traditional masculine leadership or the exploitative power dynamics inherent in capitalism.

Do the Zapatistas still matter today?

Absolutely. Even though the Zapatista movement is not in the international spotlight as much as it was 15 or 20 years ago, it’s still alive and well (which is pretty impressive given the counter-insurgency waged against them by the Mexican government for more than two decades).

The Zapatista project of indigenous autonomy still provides a model of local and regional alternatives to global capitalism. The Zapatistas still play an important role supporting and inspiring other social movements.

In Mexico, for example, after 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa were kidnapped and presumed killed in September 2014, a protest movement erupted against the government’s corrupt and violent involvement in the drug war. The EZLN held a series of public events with family members of the 43 disappeared students and other students from Ayotzinapa, many of whom refer to the Zapatista movement as an important reference point for them. And Zapatista women—and their stories of courage and dignity—remind us that revolutionary struggles cannot achieve collective liberation for all people without addressing patriarchy, nor can women’s freedom be disentangled from racial, economic, and social justice.


Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 by floweroftheword

Home of the Compañero Manuel blog on the Zapatistas & Mexico


1. Zibechi: A Left for Century XXI– Zibechi talks about the “will to sacrifice” that the life Che Guevara inspired, and the need for that will to sacrifice in today’s left.

2. Oxchuc: From a post-electoral conflict to a social one– This update on the occupation of the municipal building in the municipio (county) of Oxchuc, Chiapas, reveals a history of political bossism and the influence of Zapatista ideas on the citizens’ movement in the indigenous county. The citizens are protesting the election and alleged corruption of the mayor and her husband.

3.Child victims of the War in Chiapas– After 15 years, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights facilitated a settlement agreement between the government and victims of an anti-personnel grenade explosion in Chiapas.


4. Mexico City’s Water Crisis – For anyone interested in Mexico City’s water crisis, the Guardian has an in-depth piece in both English y el español:



Child victims of the war in Chiapas

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 by floweroftheword

A public apology without the aggressor present; they accuse the armed forces of being a power superior to the civilian government


Pedro Faro, Director of Frayba (speaking), government officials and the victims (the 4 on the right) at the public apology.

By: Angeles Mariscal

Ever since military personnel arrived in Chiapas in 1994 to carry out actions against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the human rights violations increased: Frayba

The federal government asks the parents of Angel, Ricardo and José, victims of the explosion of a military grenade, for public forgiveness. Representatives of the Armed Forces refused to attend the event, whose realization was brought about with the intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Angel Díaz Cruz, just 9 years old, died from the impact of an anti-personnel grenade that Mexican Army personnel had “forgotten” some 500 metres away from El Aguaje community, in the municipio of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Ricardo and José López Hernández were injured.

The acts occurred in September 2000. Now, 15 years later, the Mexican government held a public act of recognition of the Mexican State’s responsibility, and asked the family members of the victims for forgiveness.

The big absence at the event were any representatives from the Armed Forces, whose members utilized a piece of land as a training field that the El Aguaje community used to collect mushrooms and to graze their flocks of sheep.

“The only thing that these poor children did was to look for mushrooms to eat.” They saw the grenade and thought it was a toy, and they brought it inside of the house where it exploded, explained the father of Ricardo and José, who also spoke in the name of Cristina Reyna Cruz López, Angel’s mother.

“My family and the residents of El Aguaje are now obliged to live with all kinds of noises provoked by the explosives, the mortars and the machine guns, which provoked a lot of fear,” he remembered.

The family of the injured boys and of Angel denounced the act to judicial authorities. The Military Prosecutor’s Office demanded jurisdiction over the investigations and, beginning at that moment, access to the record was closed to the family and its representatives, without reparations being made for damages or medical attention being given to the two survivors.

With help from the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), the family took the case to the IACHR, which after several years of investigations, concluded that the Mexican government was responsible for not carrying out its practices in safe zones far from the civilian population, and that it denied the victims access to justice upon bringing the case to military jurisdiction.

According to the Mexican government, Infantry Major Raúl Anguiano Zamora and Lieutenant Emilio Sariñana Marrufo were arrested for these acts. The families don’t know what the penalty given to them was because they were never notified of the process.

The IACHR asked the government and the victim to reach an agreement for an amicable solution, which includes the public apology that took place today, and that Homero Campa Cifrián, Assistant Secretary of Human Rights for the Secretariat of Governance gave, as well as the Governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello.

Homero Campa reported that the families would be indemnified for the damages and that a school will be constructed in El Aguaje that carries the name of Angel Díaz Cruz.

Pedro Faro, current director of the Frayba, explained that the IACHR has had to intervene in three other cases where the Mexican Army has violated the human rights of Chiapas residents, in situations that include the torture and homicide of civilians where they arrived to set up their camps.

He explained that ever since military members came to Chiapas in 1994 to carry out actions against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), human rights violations have increased.

Faro emphasized that despite the fact that the Mexican government has committed to stop human rights violations, the Mexican Army has maintained the contrary. “Today we lack the principal character of this story (…) The Mexican Army is not present because it is untouchable in Mexico; it’s clear to us that it is a supra power to civilian government,” he emphasized.

For his part, José López Cruz demanded that the agreements the Mexican government signed today “are totally fulfilled.”


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Friday, January 29, 2016

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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Zapatista News Summary for January 2016

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 by floweroftheword


No real Zapatista news this month, but plenty news from Chiapas, where it is the usual story of forced displacement, paramilitary violence, imprisonment, forced disappearances and killings at the hands of federal, state and municipal governments against indigenous communities, but at the same time of the growth in solidarity between these communities, and of dignity as they walk in defence of mother earth, the land and territory.

1. New Year Communiqué. The EZLN communiqué, “on the 22ndanniversary of the beginning of the war against oblivion”, a long text incorporating different ideas and acting as an assessment of the past years, is widely read, circulated and published. Presentations of the book “Critical Thought against the Capitalist Hydra, volume one” continue, as do meetings of reflection on the Escuelita. The book is being translated in to Italian, French, German and English.

2. Other communiqués of solidarity. On 1st January, the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón issue a communiqué in solidarity with Las Abejas, and on 2nd January the Ejido Tila releases one of solidarity with other adherents to the Sixth: against paramilitary actions by the government towards Las Abejas, against repression of the community San Isidro los Laureles and thanking the Ejido Bachajón for their solidarity.

3. Community of San Isidro Los Laureles fears eviction. On 2nd January, members of the the Tsotsil community of San Isidro Los Laureles, municipality of Venustiano Carranza, denounce a threat of eviction from their reclaimed lands, fearing a repeat of the violent eviction of 1994, in an “operation of the White Guards.”. On December 20th 2015, the community had decided to reclaim “about 165 hectares from three properties.” The members of the community declared that, “our grandfathers, grandmothers and parents who were serfs worked these lands. Since 1940 they have worked on minimum wage and have never received loans or bonuses. We reclaim these lands for our families because we no longer have anywhere to live or work for the livelihood of the families as indigenous people.”

4. Paramilitary activity reported again in Ejido Tila. In a communiqué issued on January 5, 2016, the ejidatarios of Tila, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, report the names of those who form “a small cell of paramilitary groups who have been organizing inside” their ejido. They also claim that, “the political landscape is full of lies” on the part of the “current mayor of Tila, Chiapas, Prof. Edgar Leopoldo Gómez Gutiérrez,” and that “on a number of occasions the removal of the town council has been requested and this request has not been heeded.”

5. Tenth Anniversary of death of Ramona. The 6th of January 2016 represents the tenth anniversary of the Death of Comandanta Ramona, “the smallest of the small”, who is widely remembered.

6. Threats to displaced families from Primero de Agosto. On 6th January members of CIOAC-H fired shots at the displaced Tojolabal families from Primero de Agosto, described as “EZLN sympathisers.” The aggressors said, “the government knows what we are doing,” as they continue to operate in the area with total impunity. They threaten to rape the women and to come with high calibre firearms to cause maximum violence when they evict the community from their temporary encampment.

7. Radio stations dismantled. On 7th January, the Zoque Language and Culture Centre in Chiapas denounced the dismantling of two highly influential radio broadcasting stations in indigenous communities after the layoff of 50 percent of its staff by the Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples.

8. Confrontations in Oxchuc. Inhabitants of Oxchuc have been attempting to prevent the municipal president (mayor), María Gloria Sánchez Gómez from the PVEM, from taking office, saying her election last July was fraudulent. After months of negotiation and conflict, the government arrest 38 people, who had been asked to come to San Cristobal to negotiate, on 8th January. A major conflict breaks out in Oxchuc, and the protestors detain 37 workers for the state and municipal authorities trying to break up a roadblock on the road to Ocosingo and Palenque. All are released a few days later. The Permanent Commission of Justice and Dignity of Oxchuc says it is no longer a post-electoral conflict, it is now a social one, against the political bosses [caciques) who dominate many Chiapas municipalities, against the will of the majority of the people living there.

9. Provocations continue against San Francisco Teopisca. On 10th January, campesinos from San Francisco, municipality of Teopisca, denounce acts of harassment, threats of violence and the failure after 19 years of the three levels of government to consider their land demands. The group are part of Semilla Digna, a group formed by communities adherent to the Sixth in Chiapas to defend land and territory.

10. Possible reactivation of mining in Chicomuselo is denounced. On 10th January, thousands of people gather to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of campesinos in a clash with farmers and police in the municipal seat of Chicomuselo. Several organizations from the border highland region emet to express their rejection of the current political system and demand the cancellation of mining concessions that the federal government has granted in the town of Chicomuselo, to companies such as Blackfire, without prior consultation or consent, and without informing the residents of the communities.

11. Solidarity and Support towards the displaced families of Banavil. On 12th January, Frayba opens a photographic exhibition in San Cristobal de las Casas in support of people like the Tseltal families from Banavil, Tenejapa, who were forcibly displaced from their homes and lands on 4th December, 2011. The exhibition, entitled “20 windows on forced displacement, looks of solidarity and accompaniment,” shows pictures of peoples displaced with violence from their lands over the last 20 years. “Forced displacement in a context of counterinsurgency warfare to eliminate experiences of autonomous organization is a daily violation of human rights in Chiapas.”

12. Xochicuautla in solidarity. On 12th January, at a press conference at the offices of Frayba), authorities of the Otomí-Ňätho indigenous community of San Francisco Xochicuautla, located in Mexico State, along with members of the Indigenous Peoples’ Front in Defence of Mother Earth, condemn the “illegal imposition of the Toluca-Naucalpan highway project by Enrique Peña Nieto and the Higa Group,”which is destroying their forests. They express their solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Chiapas in resistance against dispossession, denounce the murders of indigenous inhabitants of Bachajón in order to impose a resort at the waterfalls of Agua Azul, and offer their support to San Isidro Los Laureles, Las Abejas and the Ejido Tila.

13. Lack of medical attention denounced. On 18th January, ejidatarios from the community of La Pimienta, municipality of Simojovel, denounce the failure of the federal and state government to provide the medical services which were promised after babies were given contaminated vaccinations by IMSS staff last May, leading to the death of 2 babies and the serious illness of 29. They demand fulfilment of the agreements made.

14. Prison conditions denounced. Roberto Paciencia Cruz, unjustly imprisoned in Cereso No 5 in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, writes several letters. On 5th January he commemorates 11 years since the foundation of the Voice of Amate, an indigenous group organized within the prison against injustice. On 13th January he denounces a scarcity of food in the prison, and on 21st January he denounces a denial of visits, after those attempting to visit him were denied entry to the prison.

15. Support for Las Abejas. The Latin American Network of Sites of Memory, which brings together 39 institutions from 11 countries, announces its concerns and condemns the acts of persecution and murder against members of civil society organization Las Abejas of Acteal, and the revival of the paramilitary group known as Peace and Justice. The Network calls on the government of Mexico and the state government of Chiapas to clarification the repeated acts of persecution, threats, attacks and killings directed against members of Las Abejas., under the mantle of paramilitarism and impunity.

16. Chimalapas. The Caravan of Civil Observation and Solidarity for Chimalapas visits the community of San Francisco La Paz in the municipality of Santa Maria Chimalapa, Oaxaca, on 10th and 11th January. It tells the federal governments of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz of its concerns about the increasingly tense social climate in the area, and calls for the immediate implementation of the agreement to remove and punish the invaders. The Caravan declares its support for the call for justice for the people of Chimalapa and also its rejection of government attempts to silence this resistance. It asks the people of Mexico and the world join the call for the defence of this territory, which is “the most biodiverse in Mexico and Mesoamerica.”

17. Armed group from CIOAC-h attacks another community in Chiapas. Around one hundred members of CIOAC-h attack the ejido November 20, in the municipality of Las Margaritas, on 15th January, leaving one person killed and ten seriously wounded. The reason given for the attack is the refusal by a group of women to carry out activities specified in the Prospera programme. CIOAC-h has attacked various groups and organizations in the border area, including the EZLN. The founders of this organization, Luis and Antonio Hernández, have achieved political and governmental positions through CIOAC, and now their children are taking over; this attack was led by the son of one of the leaders.

18. The defence of land and territory against dams and mining. On 21st and 22nd January, representatives of 12 organizations, movements and parishes met in the town of Tonalá in the "Chiapas Meeting of Peoples Affected by Dams and Mining" to share experiences and define a common defence strategy against the increase in mining, dams and other infrastructure projects being imposed without the people being consulted. The “Declaration of the Gathering of those in Chiapas affected by Dams and Mining” is issued.

19. 25th January marks the fifth anniversary of the death of jTatik Samuel Ruiz García. Several thousand members of the Pueblo Creyente from different parishes in the area make a pilgrimage in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in defence of their human rights and of the mother earth. They read a letter written to Pope Francisco, who is to visit Chiapas in February. The annual award Reconocimiento jTatik Samuel, jCanan Lum 2016 is given by bishop Raúl Vera López to representatives of the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, Michoacán; the parish council of Simojovel and the community of Las Brisas, municipality of la Trinitaria, Chiapas, for being guardians of the earth.

20. Public apology for El Aguaje case. On 28th January, Frayba reports that, 15 years after the event, the Mexican state has made an act of public apology, and signed an agreement to pay damages to families from the community of El Aguaje, located in Rancho Nuevo in the municipality of San Cristobal de Las Casas, who have been the victim of violations of their human rights. On 17 September 2000, children playing found an object on a traditional trackway of their community. When they accidentally dropped it, it exploded, killing one child and seriously injuring two others. The object was a live grenade, property of the Mexican Army.

21. “With the encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ we are defending the rights to the land, territory, and forests.” Preparations are being made for the forthcoming Latin American Meeting in San Cristobal de Las Casas, February 13th and 14th, to be held in the context of the Pope Francisco’s visit to talk about the content of the encyclical “Laudato Si” and to send a message to the world regarding the invaluable contribution made by the peoples and communities to protect nature through the defence of territories, biodiversity, ecosystems, and cultural diversity. Organisers include the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests and Frayba.

The following article from Desinformémonos sums up the situation of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas on the eve of the visit by Pope Francisco:


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