Zapatista News Summary May 2016

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A. EZLN and CNI

1. Galeano: 2nd May marks the second anniversary of the attack on the Caracol of La Realidad in which the teacher Galeano was murdered, before being reborn as Subcomandante Galeano, and one year since the homage to him.

2. CNI and EZLN denounce repression in Chablekal, Yucatan: In a joint communiqué, the EZLN and CNI condemn an attack on 3rd May by police who beat and use tear gas against the Maya residents of Chablekal, Yucatan, who are trying to prevent the eviction of an elderly couple. Seven people are arrested but freed after intense protests. The police intrusion is seen to be “violent and disproportionate.” The inhabitants of the community are being attacked for defending “what remains of their territory from the theft and displacement they have suffered over the last few years on behalf of speculators and new landowners.”

3. CNI and EZLN issue a joint communique on aggression against Álvaro Obregón, Oaxaca: The EZLN and CNI denounce an attack made on 14th May on the Binizza people of Álvaro Obregón, Juchitán, Oaxaca, who are struggling against a wind energy project being imposed on their territory. The police and bodyguards of the PAN-PRD candidate Gloria Sánchez López fire gunshots at members of the community, injuring six people who are attending an assembly. One municipal police officer is killed after the community police intervene to defend the community members under attack, leading to fears of an attempt by the government to crush the entire autonomous project.

4. Zapatista Autonomous Justice: An important new book is published in Spanish, Zapatista autonomous justice: Tzeltal jungle zone,by Doctor Paulina Fernández Christlieb.

5. The books Critical Thought against the Capitalist Hydra: Volumes II and III of Critical Thought against the Capitalist Hydra are published in Mexico and are presented at various events. They represent the rest of the contributions made at the seminar/seedbed of the same name which was held in May 2015, and are published in the order the presentations were made. Volume I is now being translated into English, French, Italian, German and Greek.

6. ‘Comparte for Humanity’ Festival: Various preparatory events are being held for this festival, in towns and cities in Mexico, and in Barcelona (where it will be held on 29th and 30th July). The EZLN’s words are “We are hoping that the compas of the Sixth in Mexico and in the world understand what you might call the subliminal message of the convocation, and organize activities—in their own geographies and in accordance with their own calendars—either before, during, or after the festivals/gatherings convoked by the Zapatistas.”

The festival will take place from 17th to 22nd July in the Caracol of Oventik, when only Zapatista bases of support will participate, and then from 23rd to 30th July, 2016, in CIDECI, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, when all registered artists will be able participate. Attendance is open for listeners and viewers for both parts, but requires registration. Entry is free. Registration closes on 15th June.

7. "May, between authoritarianism and resistance": On 30th May, the EZLN issue a communiqué about the teachers’ movement, signed by Subcomandantes Moisés and Galeano, putting an end to various pieces of apocryphal information that have been circulating. The communiqué makes clear that the EZLN fully supports the teachers in their fight against the education reform, and asserts that with the repression and the refusal to dialogue and negotiate, the government is violating the law and the constitution, while the teachers are “in resistance and rebellion.” There is a good summary in English about the teachers’ resistance here.

B. Chiapas

1. Droughts: According to the National Water Commission (Conagua), rainfall in Chiapas during April was 19% down compared with figures for the previous twenty years. At least 40 municipalities in Chiapas are seriously affected, and the impact on food production is a matter of great concern. In the indigenous municipalities of the highland region of Chiapas this drought is affecting the supply of drinking water, and has led to the drying up of rivers and wells.

2. Collective work in the Ejido Tila: Chol ejidatarios of Tila announce how they are moving forward in their newly established autonomy, and the collective work they are doing as agreed in their assembly, such as cleaning up the town, recuperating public spaces, acting against drugs, and other work for the community such as maintaining the water and sanitary systems. 26th May is the festival of the Lord of Tila, and they say they are well prepared for the arrival of many pilgrims.

3. Meeting in Chicoasen: A declaration is issued, the Declaration by Original Peoples, Organisations and Communities in Defence of Mother Earth and our Territory, following a meeting held in Chicoasen in April. All megaprojects for the building of mines or dams are rejected, and the withdrawal of arrest warrants against the residents of Chicoasen demanded. The ejidatarios of Chicoasen are in struggle against the building of a second dam in their territory.

4. Members of CIOAC take possession of Tojolabal indigenous lands: Residents of the Ejido Guadalupe Victoria, municipality of Altamirano, denounce the invasion of their lands by 15 people who abandoned the community voluntarily after the 1994 uprising, led by caciques from the PRI, saying they are there under orders from the government. Sixteen years after abandoning their land, these former community members applied to the land court in Comitan to get the land back. The ejidatarios say that the invaders are supported by members of CIOAC and by the government, and that they threaten to attack them when they go to the city. They issue a “demand that the government does not support those ex-ejidatarios so as to avoid confrontation.”

5. The Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel give thanks for water and face serious attack: In a ceremony held on 3rd May, the Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel bless and pray at their springs, giving thanks for the sacred gift of water. They pledge to plant trees to protect the springs. Then on 4th May an urgent communiqué is issued following an armed attack on the town of Simojovel by up to 150 paramilitaries and members of the PRI who throw tear gas, molotovs, stones and rockets in the streets and the central park, which are thronged with people. This is condemned as a direct attack on the population, aimed to spread terror, and as a threat to the parish council and priest, permitted with impunity by the government. They reveal that two similar attacks happened during the previous month.

6. Authorities do not allow the displaced of Banavil to return: The displaced families from Banavil, Tenejapa, hold the ejidal authorities of their community responsible for their physical safety, after the authorities circulate a video saying they will not permit the displaced people to return to Banavil. The displaced Tseltales repeat once again that the government of Velasco Coello has been “deaf and blind” to their situation of forced displacement and the forced disappearance of their father, and call for justice.

7. Recuperation and attacks in Bachajón: On 5th May, ejidatarios, adherents to the Sexta, from San Sebastián Bachajón denounce in a communiqué that political party members have taken over the tollbooth and impeded the officially elected ejidal commissioner’s access to the ejido. At the same time, they announce that they have recuperated some hectares of land belonging to them in the San Juan region, in the municipality of Chilon. On 8th May, they denounce an attack on a community member and his family in Xanil by the leader of a group of paramilitaries and his two sons who also serve as state police. Three policemen are detained by the ejidatarios until those responsible are punished. At the same time the Bachajón prisoners thank everyone who supported them on Political Prisoners’ Day.

8. Seventeen years of unjust imprisonment: On 11th May, Alejandro Díaz Santiz completes seventeen years of unjust imprisonment for a crime he did not commit. That is the equivalent of half his life. “His only crime was to be poor and indigenous.” Alejandro spends the day fasting.

9. Cruztón celebrates and then denounces: On 5th May, the community of Cruztón in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza in the highlands of Chiapas, an adherent to the Sexta and a member of the CNI and of the group Semilla Digna, celebrates the ninth anniversary of the recuperation of 249 hectares of its lands. A few days later, a member of the organization is detained and tortured by the group Nuevo Guadalupe Victoria in the community of the same name in a long-standing dispute over the road to a burial ground (panteón.)

10. Unresolved conflict among Las Abejas of Acteal: In October 2014, a small group, the Consejo Pacifista Sembradores de la Paz (Pacifist Council of Sowers of Peace,) split from the main Civil Society Organisation Las Abejas, which was founded in 1992. Recently the newly separated group has been claiming to be the main organization in Acteal, and attempting to discredit both the original Las Abejas, and the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba.) This has caused a lot of confusion, and a press conference is called to attempt to clarify the situation. Hermann writes an article explaining what has happened in more detail.

11. Attack on San Isidro los Laureles: The Tsotsil community of San Isidro los Laureles, adherent to the Sexta and member of Semilla Digna and the CNI, recuperated 165 hectares of its land, known as El Refugio, in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza last December. On 12th May, the community was raided by 40 trucks of police and paramilitaries who invaded the community and opened fire. They then ransacked homes, burned possessions and destroyed crops. The “white guards” were led by local caciques who claim the land as theirs. The community was displaced, because the attackers were “shooting to kill.” The 60 families have regrouped on nearby land. They have lost 70 hectares of corn which have been harvested and stolen by the attackers. Among those sending messages of solidarity are the community of Candelaria el Alto, and the CGT who highlight the recent increase in acts of government repression against the peoples in movement. Candelaria el Alto itself receives threats after offering its solidarity.

12. Expansion of CIOAC in Chiapas: The paramilitary-style group Central Independiente de Obreros Agrícolas y Campesinos (CIOAC), an organisation closely linked to the Chiapas government, has been growing in power and “expanding its actions and its tentacles in Chiapas.” When the above eviction (item 11) was taking place, CIOAC were holding, with impunity, a roadblock in the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez. It needs to be understood that certain municipalities in Chiapas are in a state of almost permanent conflict among caciques and their supporters as to who holds power, and an increasing number of paramilitary-style attacks are happening and scarcely being reported.

13. Zinacantán Mobilizes Against Water Privatization: On 15th May, the Pueblo Creyente of Zinacantan declare an alert against water privatisation. They say the municipality plans to tax water use. A pilgrimage in thanks for water is held to the main spring to denounce this.

14. Chicomuselo communities denounce mining companies in their territory: Residents of several communities in Chicomuselo, who remain alert to the risks of mining exploration in the region, arrest four people on 17th May who say they are promoting a mining project in the Ejido Grecia. The communities denounce that the mining companies continue to divide the communities by offering money to set up projects in the region, leading to great social and environmental damage.

15. Primero de Agosto: The people of this community have now experienced one year and three months in forced displacement, without any justice for the aggression perpetrated by CIOAC. They express their solidarity with the peoples of Simojovel and Banavil.

16. Conflict in Chenalho: A violent conflict has been going on in the municipality of Chenalho over the election of a woman as mayor last year. For the last two months a faction has been trying to force her out of office. After they kidnapped two state Congressmen on 25th May, she was forced to resign. A fight between supporters of the two candidates from the community of Ejido Puebla resulted in the death from gunshot wounds of a fourteen-year-old girl and an elderly man. Several others have been seriously injured, and houses burned. Two people are disappeared, and 257 people (80 families) are displaced from ejido Puebla – 80% of the population. The Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas has denounced the serious situation of social division that exists in the municipality of Chenalhó along with an uncontrolled use of weapons that could lead to even more violent events, and has offered mediation.

17. Dams: Information published in La Jornada and other publications last month stated that work had started on building the Boca del Cerro dam on the Usumacinta river. Activists have since visited the site and confirmed that no work is yet underway, and that the communities are strongly opposed to any work taking place on the river. If built, this dam would be an environmental catastrophe.

18. Water: Coca-Cola are now digging their third well near their plant in San Cristobal de Las Casas. More than 5,000 people living in the vicinity already have no water supply and have to buy their water.

C. Other

1. San Salvador Atenco, the struggle continues: The Peoples’ Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) from Atenco and members of the surrounding communities, members of the Fire of Dignified Resistance, who are all threatened with losing their lands to the new Mexico City airport, are much in the news this month. 3rd and 4th May mark the tenth anniversary of Mayo Rojo (Red May) and the terrible attack and brutal repression unleashed on the town of San Salvador Atenco by now-president Enrique Peña Nieto in 2006. Two days of marches, concerts and activities mark the continuation of the struggle. The members then return to fighting and blocking the construction of a new road to the airport, by planting trees and removing construction materials along with other actions. Among the risks posed, the new airport threatens the water supply for Mexico City and surrounding areas.

On 23rd May, the FPDT declare themselves on maximum alert. They denounce that workers from the airport group have illegally entered the territory of Nexquipayac, escorted by more than 200 members of the federal, marine, state and municipal police, with the intention of marking out the perimeter fence of the airport. This violates their court-ordered injunction (amparo.) “These illegal incursions are acts of provocation that the government is mounting to stir up the people and thus justify the repression against the communities and members of the FPDT. The utilization of workers for the airport who come from our own peoples is being used as a tactic to divide the people and make us fight amongst each other.” Similar incursions continue to take place in the various communities affected. On 29th May, the Fire of Dignified Resistance hosts the First Popular Encounter against the Eruviel Law.

2. Mining: Me’phaa Indigenous communities in the state of Guerrero, accompanied by their advisers from the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre, have urged the Supreme Court to set a legal precedent and declare the 1992 mining act unconstitutional, arguing that it violates international treaties that Mexico has signed and ratified.

3. Kidnappings increase: During the current administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (from December 2012 to April 2016), kidnappings increased by 19 percent, according to a monthly report by the civil organization Stop Kidnapping. During this period, an average of six people a day have been kidnapped, and that is just the ones we know about.

4. Disappeared Activists: The Committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees denounces that the Mexican state security forces have disappeared 83 political activists — among them students and human rights defenders — since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December 2012.

5. The teachers’ struggle: Huge demonstrations and battles with police are ongoing in many parts of the country, especially in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan and Chiapas, with the levels of repression increasing. Running street fights are occurring in Tuxtla and San Cristobal, with many parents coming out on the side of the teachers in their opposition to the education reforms as support for the strike continues to grow. In Chiapas, teachers’ marches on 19th and 25th May are attacked by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets from the ground and from helicopters. The government has frozen the union’s bank account, and says it has fired more than 3,000 striking teachers from the CNTE union, whose strike started on 15th May. The president refuses to negotiate. Various apocryphal statements attributed to the Zapatistas and photos of non-existent demonstrations are circulated, until, on 30th May, a communiqué signed by Subcomandantes Moises and Galeano is published on the Enlace Zapatista website, entitled "May, between authoritarianism and resistance." Civil human rights organisations have condemned the use of violence and called for an end to the harassment, repression and criminalisation of the teachers’ movement. They call on the international community to show solidarity and condemn the human rights violations committed by the Mexican state.

6. Human Rights crisis: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reveals that it is going through a severe financial crisis that will have serious consequences on its ability to fulfil its mandate and carry out its basic functions. In 2015, the IACHR received 1,164 complaints from its 35 member-states, 849 of which involved Mexico, constituting 73 percent of all complaints. Mexico has 32 human rights organizations at the local level and one national human rights commission, which means that although the Mexican government spends more than US$200 million every year to address human rights, it is the country with most complaints for human rights violations filed before the IACHR, which the IACHR say reveals a deep mistrust of Mexico’s human rights institutions. The human rights situation in Mexico has come under heavy scrutiny, with many international organizations lambasting the Mexican government for allowing impunity to reign.

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