Zapatista News Summary for January 2016

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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: https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/chiapas-the-darkness-they-wont-show-the-pope/

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