Economic interests threaten Indigenous initiatives in the Lacandón: Network for Peace

** The NGO points out that environmentalists foreign to the zone promote privatization

** The collective repudiates the militarization and criminalization of protest on the southern border

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

The temperature has risen in the Lacandón Jungle, in Chiapas. The chain of conflicts that involve all the specter if nits indigenous population are the result of years of pressure against the communities and a latent engineering of conflicts, but also of the political evolution of the peoples of Maya origin that inhabit it. The sustained construction of Zapatista autonomy is confronted with the creation of paramilitary devices. Besides, the cooptation of organizations, the confrontation created by authorities and powerful private interests, the imposition of decrees, programs, titlings, unfulfilled agreements and evictions, seem to reach a limit.

After weeks of threats, protests, aggressions and reactions in the region, the civilian organisms that are members of the Network for Peace in Chiapas declares before “the climate of violence, tension and conflict that lives around the Lacandón Jungle and Montes Azules Biosphere” (Reserve).

They pointed out that not only was the militarization increased since May 14 because of the “second phase” of the Operation Southern Border (Operativo Frontera Sur), where the Army, the Mexican Navy, the Attorney General of the Republic, the National Institute of Migration and the Federal, state and municipal police participate.

Twelve days before, members of the CIOAC Historic assassinated Galeano, a Zapatista in La Realidad, and attacked many more, as well as their autonomous patrimony. In other latitudes of the Jungle things are also occurring.

In April, an historic agreement was ratified –without the government or private parties mediating or interfering, in a scenario where that was the rule– between the Lacandón Community Zone (CZL, its initials in Spanish) and the Rural Association of Collective Interest Union of Unions Independent and Democratic (ARIC-ID), which recognized the agrarian right of three villages.

As the Network for Peace reports, different events have increased the violence and tension around the delimitation of the Lacandón Breach (la Brecha Lacandona) and the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve since April 28.

“The indigenous communities and peoples that inhabit this region have constructed proposals and initiatives, some since more than 30 years ago,” for obtaining the recognition of their agrarian and autonomic rights.

Those proposals “are seen threatened by economic and environmental interests foreign to the peoples involved and by the climate of confusion, impunity and violence that is lived in the original and principal nucleus of the unresolved armed conflict.”

The Network point to “parallelisms.” On April 29, in San Javier (Ocosingo) the assembly of communal wealth of the Lacandón Zone was suspended due to the fact that a group la interrupted it violently.

“Late in April, the media reported news of the kidnapping of Julia Carabias, ex Environment Secretary, an academic, founder and members of Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos, an NGO pointed to by the CZL’s members and by other sectors as responsible for generating division and introducing projects oriented towards the zone’s privatization.”

In that “rarified” atmosphere, the police arrested the CZL’s advisor Fernando Gabriel Montoya Oseguera, who the state attorney general’s office “pointed out initially as the author of the kidnapping,” although it finally assigned him to prison as the “the probable responsible party” of attempts against the peace which would have occurred 13 years ago, in a takeover of the Altamirano city hall. In response, organizations blocked the Jungle highway and the city of Ocosingo, demanding his release.

In April 2012, the Network visited the communities of San Gregorio, Salvador Allende and Ranchería Corozal, members of the ARIC-ID, with whom the CZL agreed to recognize the possession of the lands that they have inhabited for more than 30 years inside the de Montes Azules. “Different interests” have impeded it since years ago.

They salute the new Zapatista stage

The Network expresses concern that: “in response to disagreement” from the CZL and ARIC-ID, the governmental measures would incur violations of the rights of the peoples, like the various evictions between 2003 and 2012 and the arrest of community authorities.

The Network for Peace, composed of a dozen organisms related to the (Catholic) Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, rejected the privatization of the indigenous territories “and the intervention of external actors that break the processes of dialogue and agreement.”

It repudiated the militarization and criminalization of social protest on the southern border and pronounced itself: “for inclusive processes in the management, conservation and administration” of the Montes Azules and the six other natural protected areas in the Lacandón. Finally, it greeted: “the announcement of a new stage” of Zapatismo.

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