Zapatista News Summary for February 2016
A: THE PAPAL VISIT
1. Visit of Pope Francis. The Pope comes to Chiapas as part of his visit to Mexico, in a visit charged with anticipation, especially among groups such as the Pueblo Creyente, because of the focus on the indigenous peoples and the Pope’s commitment to the Theology of Liberation, walking beside the poor peoples of the earth.
Every group in struggle seems to write a letter, issue a statement or make a film, trying to gain the Pope’s attention, but also to promote their particular struggle. Among others, 30 indigenous communities from Michoacan release a statement demanding Pope Francis apologize for the genocide committed with the complicity of the Catholic Church against their people during the Spanish invasion of the Americas in the sixteenth century, and for the fact that for over 500 years, the original people of the Americas have been ransacked, robbed, murdered, exploited, discriminated and persecuted.
On celebrating mass before thousands of indigenous people in San Cristobal, Pope Francis announces the decree formally authorising the performance of liturgical ceremonies in indigenous languages, and asks the indigenous population for forgiveness (pardon) for the exclusion they have suffered for more than 500 years. In a hugelysymbolic act, he kneels to pray silently at the tomb of jTatik Bishop Samuel Ruíz.
2. Latin American Encuentro with the encyclical Laudato Si, in Defence of Territory, Lands and Forests. As a consequence of the papal visit, over 120 people from indigenous nations and organizations gather in San Cristóbal de Las Casas on 13th and 14th February to discuss Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, together with theologians and with campesino, human rights, and environmental groups from 17 countries. Along with theencyclical, participants present and discuss their struggles and the threats to their lands, forests, water, and territories, and the urgent need for action by the peoples from below and to the left in the radical defence of Mother Earth against plundering and destruction.
Frayba is one of the organisers of the encuentro: “On behalf of the Frayba team we embrace you and give you a warm and cordial welcome to the land where rebellion and resistance continue to be sown through self-determination and autonomy, in the face of the threat from the neo-liberal system which is responsible for dispossessing, exploiting and exterminating the peoples of the world.”
3. Camp in the Plaza. By 12th February, hundreds of people are camped out in the Plaza de la Resistencia next to the cathedral in San Cristobal de las Casas, preparatory to the papal visit. They include ex-prisoners, and victims of forced displacement and paramilitary attacks. In the bitter cold, the situation is denounced as a humanitarian emergency. Their attackers enjoy impunity and government support, the displaced people demand a return to their homes, freedom for prisoners and an end to extrajudicial executions. Meanwhile in the mountains Las Abejas issue a welcome to Pope Francis, who they say comes to defend and bring peace and justice to the people of Mexico; they are fasting and praying for peace. The groups all withdraw from the Plaza before the papal visit.
B: FORCED DISPLACEMENT
4. Figures for forced displacement. Figures show that currently more than 200,000 people in Mexico are living in forced displacement through violence. Of these, over 30,000 are in Chiapas, where many poor people have been forced by militants from the PRI to leave their lands and way of life because they will not accept government “aid” programmes. This figure is equivalent to 5,320 families, according to Somos el Medio.
5. The displaced of Shulvó. On 3rd February, displaced indigenous Tsotsil people from the community of Shulvó, Zinacantán, in the autonomous municipality Vicente Guerrero, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, set up an indefinite sit-in (plantón) and encampment in the north of the Plaza beside the cathedral in San Cristóbal. They denounce that they are being criminalised for being supporters of the EZLN, and demand conditions for the return home of the 47 people from 9 families who were displaced from Shulvó on 9th December, 2015, the punishment of those responsible, and reparation for the damages incurred. The attack was led by Manuel Martínez Jiménez, municipal president of Zinacantán, in a joint operation by the CFE and PRI paramilitaries in the area. The PRI members responsible for the displacement are insisting each family pay a fine of 100,000 pesos if they intend to return to their community. The inhabitants of Shulvó denounce harassment and monitoring of their encampment, and anticipate eviction from the plaza before the Pope’s visit on 15th February. They withdraw their encampment, and on February 28th a table of dialogue is held in the community, with mediation from Fray Gonzalo Ituarte. A statement in their support is issued by the autonomous municipality of Vicente Guerrero.
6. Primero de Agosto. A Press Conference held at the offices of Frayba marks a year of forced displacement, on 2rd February, for the Tojolabal community of Primero de Agosto, and demands a resolution of the case, return and justice for the displaced people, and punishment for crimes committed by the ejidatarios, members of Cioac-H, from Miguel Hidalgo. Tragically María Fernanda Méndez Pérez, born prematurely in the temporary encampment last October, dies on 7th February at the age of four months, as a result of the conditions of vulnerability resulting from the displacement, government neglect and medical negligence. The community denounce that the Hospital de la Mujer in Comitán refused to transfer the baby to the Paediatric Hospital in Tuxtla.
7. One year since the death of Antonia López Méndez from Banavil. On 21st February, the first anniversary of the death of another child victim of forced displacement, the Tseltal Antonia López Méndez from Banavil, who died at the age of eleven without adequate medical attention, is marked by the displaced families. They return temporarily to their community of Banavil, accompanied by a solidarity caravan, to remember her, according to their custom as original peoples. They offer their solidarity to the displaced families of Primero de Agosto.
8.More attacks in Los Chimalapas. Another attack on two communities is reported. As mentioned in the EZLN communique, campesinos from the border with Guatemala and elsewhere are being displaced and sent to this region. “Do you know that there are frequently conflicts in Los Chimalapas, land problems, between Oaxacan and Chiapan campesinos? Well, those are going to increase. The federal and state governments are using that place as a relocation site for those who are kicked off their lands. This is what governmental populismdoes: it doesn’t resolve problems, what it does is make them bigger and then transfer them to other geographies so that they explode on other calendars.” Tension continues, made worse by the fact that mining companies are exploring and prospecting in the region.
C: THE SAN ANDRES ACCORDS
9. The San Andres Accords: 20 years later. 16th February 2016 marks twenty years since the signing of the San Andres Accords by the federal government and the EZLN, following five months of negotiations and dialogue about indigenous rights and culture in the Tsotsil municipality of San Andres Larrainzar, renamed San Andres Sakam’chen de los Pobres by the Zapatistas. This event represents the first attempt at recognition by the Mexican state of the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Following the signing, the government promised to draw up a legal framework to recognise the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, autonomy, to their territory and natural resources. This framework was to be incorporated in to the constitution, but the resulting proposal was weak and watered down and the dialogue broke down.
Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox and their administrations completely betrayed the Accords, but a precedent was established for autonomy and the construction of an other country. At the same time the government chose the path of war, counterinsurgency, militarisation, lies, deceptions, government aid programmes to control and co-opt, violence, impunity, displacement and dispossession. Some believe that in the last twenty years the situation of the indigenous people has worsened, due to the systematic plundering of their natural resources, cultural heritage and knowledge. While some legal advances in the field of indigenous rights and culture have been achieved, and the government has signed international treaties that are a tool for defending indigenous peoples, the EZLN have chosen to follow their own path to freedom and justice, putting the accords in to practice in their own communities and territories. See this excellent article.
D: LAND RECLAMATIONS, AUTONOMY AND MEGAPROJECTS
10. San Francisco Teopisca On 7th February, campesinos from San Francisco Teopisca release a communique denouncing the fact that 32 animals (cattle) of the former proprietor Pedro Hernández Espinoza have been abandoned on their lands so that they feel obliged to feed them. They demand respect for their recuperated lands.
11. Attacks on Ejido Tila. On 8th February thousands of ejidatarios from Tila march, by agreement of the General Assembly, to show the general will of the people for self-government and self-determination and against government repression. This follows an attempted police operation and outstanding arrest warrants against 20 individuals. On 22nd February, dozens of human rights and peace organizations send a letter to the Chiapas and federal authorities in which they warn of possible repression of the Chol ejidatarios of Tila who declared their autonomy last year in defence of their territory.
12. Ejido Candelaria in defence of mother earth: the struggle against the superhighway. The Ministry of Tourism confirms the relaunch of the megaproject for the construction of the San Cristobal-Palenque highway. Communities in Chiapas are organizing to protect the sacred Suyul Lagoon and their communal lands from this planned multi-lane highway. Ejidatarios from Candelaria have travelled from community to community along the proposed highway route, leading to the formation of a united front of opposition, the Movement in Defence of Life and Territory. The ejidatarios of Candelaria issue a communique on 17th February, as part of the Pope’s visit, making clear their comprehensive rejection of the construction of this highway, and their defence of their mother earth and native seeds.
13. Chicoasen lawyer released. Ejidatarios from Chicoasen, who are defending their lands against the construction of the Chicoasen II dam, announce the release of their lawyer, who has been imprisoned for several months, and that their struggle continues. They have been struggling for over 40 years for the recuperation of their lands, and many of the ejidatarios who have arrest warrants against them, are over 70 and in a delicate state of health. Following the building of the Chicoasen I dam, the ejidatarios have an amparo against the second dam, which they wish to have honoured.
14. San Isidro los Laureles. On 27th February, the community of San Isidro los Laureles, municipality of Venustiano Carranza, Adherents to the Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, part of Semilla Digna, members of the CNI, denounce intimidation and harassment by white guards carrying high calibre firearms. They fear another violent eviction. Las Abejas make a statement in their support.
15. Simojovel. The Pueblo Creyente of Simijovel denounce the increase in threats and aggressions against their parish priest Father Márcelo Pérez and the growth of the campaign of defamation against him. The price on his head has now reached I million pesos. They also denounce the poverty, violence, institutionalized corruption, impunity, alcoholism, drug trafficking and existence of narco-politics in Simojovel.
16. Bachajón. Emilio Jiménez Gómez and Santiago Moreno Pérez, indigenous Tseltales from San SebastiánBachajón, who have respectively spent two and seven years unjustly imprisoned in Cereso 17 at Playas de Catazaja, Chiapas announce that their resistance and struggle continues, and call for solidarity. They express their solidarity with other prisoners from below and to the left.
17. Supporters of the Voice of el Amate reach agreement. On 4th February, members of the ex-prisoners’ organization Supporters of the Voice of el Amate, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, hold a press conference about their demand for damages for having been unjustly deprived of their liberty. They establish a sit-in in front of the cathedral in San Cristobal de Las Casas, where they remain until an agreement is signed with representatives of the State Government, promising to meet the damages in staged payments. They announce other commitments also made by the government including the liberation of Roberto Paciencia Cruz, unjustly imprisoned in the State Centre for Social Reintegration (CERSS) No. 5, and of Alejandro Diaz Santiz, member of The Voice of el Amate, held at Villa Comatitlan maximum security prison, who they said was being immediately transferred to San Cristobal de Las Casas prison “as a sign of goodwill.”
Roberto Paciencia Cruz subsequently denounces the consequences of torture, which have a led to deterioration in his vision. He cannot afford to buy the spectacles prescribed. He demands his release as promised.
F: Five communiques or letters issued by the EZLN.
18. The first two communiques compare advances in the Zapatista communities to the situation of the non-Zapatista communities which are affiliated with political parties.
The first, “Meanwhile,” signed by Subcomandantes Moisés and Galeano, and “entirely written using free software,” announces to members of the Sixth and the National Indigenous Congress that activities will be convened in the coming days. It speaks of the indigenous men and women who live in communities which in one way or another are affiliated with the political parties. It tells for example how the government uses social programmes to dispossess people and take their land through tricks and deceit. Likewise, it describes the pillage of indigenous peoples’ lands, which contain materials such as uranium, amber, sulphur, or potential tourist attractions, through the same methods of deceit or coercion. In order to gain any respect, it seems, the partidistas are now passing themselves off as Zapatistas. Also described is the situation of the women in the partidista families.
The second, with the same signatures, tells how the situation in the Zapatista communities continues to improve, with more young people joining the organisation. Preventive healthcare has grown, as has crop production, and primary education is available everywhere. There is a demand for higher education. Those who have grown most are the compañeras, who, for example, have a collective in each of the autonomous municipalities where they are proving to be much better administrators than the men. All this despite it being a dark period, with “the rearming of the paramilitaries, the increase in military, air, and land patrols, and everything the bad governments do to try to destroy us.”
19. Arrest warrants expired. On 22nd February, the Federal Judiciary Council of Mexico announces that, after 21 years, the 1995 orders for the arrest of the man then known as Subcomandante Marcos, and twelve other members of the EZLN, on charges such as terrorism, sedition, mutiny, rebellion, and conspiracy, have expired. Marcos, now Galeano, responds with a note to the Council saying “why don’t you self-prescribe this?”
20. Letter from the Sup. On 28th February, a letter is published from Subcomandante Galeano to Juan Villoro Ruiz, entitled: “The arts, the sciences, the original peoples and the basements of the world.” The letter concerns, among other things, the coming storm, the failing of the machine, the fact that humanity can exist without the machine, the role of the arts and sciences, and the creation of a better world. The indigenous peoples in the basements of the world are the ones most likely to survive the storm and the only ones with the ability to create "something else". The aim of Zapatismo is defined as to make a world where a woman can be born and grow up without fear.
21. Convocation to Activities. On 29th February, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés issues a call to three forthcoming Zapatista activities for 2016:
We convoke artists, formal and natural scientists, compañer@s of the national and international sixth, the National Indigenous Congress, and whatever human being who feels called, to the following activities:
– ONE: TO THE FESTIVAL AND SHARING EXCHANGE “CompARTE FOR HUMANITY” which will take place from the 17th to the 30th of July 2016. All those who practice ART can participate. The festival will have two major events: The first will be at CIDECI, San Cristóbal de Las Casas. The other will be at the Caracol of Oventik, where only Zapatista bases of support will offer their artistic expressions.
– TWO: To the FESTIVAL IN HOMAGE TO THE NATIONAL INDIGENOUS CONGRESS for its 20 years of struggle and resistance, to be held on October 12, 2016, at CIDECI. The CNI will hold its own activities before and after this.
– THIRD: To the gathering “The Zapatistas and the conSCIENCES FOR HUMANITY” to be held from December 25, 2016 until January 4, 2017, at CICECI. Participation in the discussion will include ONLY invited formal and natural scientists, in addition to, and as students, Zapatista young people, bases of support.
More details are to follow.
For recent news see also: https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/boca-en-boca-40-february-2016/