Archive for the Otherpress Category

Judge Declares APPO Adviser David Venegas Innocent of Drug Charges

Posted in Otherpress with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2009 by floweroftheword

by Kristin Bricker – April 21, 2009

Reprinted from

Innocent Verdict Means Judge Acknowledges that Police Planted Cocaine and Heroine on a Movement Leader

April 21, 2009 – Today Oaxacan judge Amado Chiñas Fuentes absolved APPO adviser David Venegas of charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroine. Venegas’ defense team argued that police had planted cocaine and heroine on Venegas after his arrest in order to imprison him and later charge him with sedition, conspiracy, arson, attacks on transit routes, rebellion, crimes against civil servants, dangerous attacks, and resisting arrest.

The government tried Venegas on all charges except for the drug-related ones. The court declared him innocent of all charges and released him on March 5, 2008, after he’d served nearly eleven months in jail. With the drug charges still pending, he was released on bail and forced to report to the court every week for over a year, severely limiting his ability to travel.

Today’s innocent verdict means that the judge has accepted Venegas’ defense that Oaxacan police planted the drugs on him. The drug charges are the last of a series of false charges that Venegas has had to fight for just over two years.

In a statement released by his collective VOCAL, Venegas stresses that it was grassroots support that led to his freedom. “This innocent verdict, far from demonstrating the health or rectitude of the Mexican legal system, was pulled off thanks to the strength of the popular movement and with the solidarity of compañeros and compañeras from Mexico and various parts of the world. The legal system in Mexico is corrupt to the core and is a despicable tool used by the authorities to subjugate and repress those who struggle for justice and freedom.”

The statement goes on to say that VOCAL is committed to fighting for the freedom of Oaxaca’s political prisoners. Furthermore, “We aren’t satisfied with having won our compañero’s unconditional freedom. Having demonstrated the bad government’s lie, we will now focus on imprisoning the Oaxacan peoples’ repressors, who are responsible for this arbitrary and illegal detention: from the police who carried out the detention and repression up to these thugs’ highest bosses.”


Posted in News, Otherpress on April 5, 2009 by floweroftheword

The latest news from the Chiapas Support Committee:

*[We’re just back from Chiapas and this news summary includes some information we learned on our visit. The volume of news is extremely heavy this month! We’ll get a Calendar of Events out to everyone soon. The next 4 weeks or so are very busy ones for the Chiapas Support Committee. We hope you’ll join us at one or more of these events.]*

1. International Women’s Day Festival in Oventik a Success – In a communiqué dated January 28, 2009, the EZLN announced a Festival on March 7 and 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day in honor of Mama Corral, a social activist from Chihuahua and an adherent to the Other Campaign who died recently. Thousands attended the Festival in Oventik. It featured sports (soccer, basketball and volleyball), cultural events, including music for dancing, and political events. The Festival was organized by the EZLN’s comandantas. As in the Comandanta Ramona Women’s Gathering in La Garrucha, men were only able to participate in a supportive role. This gathering is yet another showing of the EZLN’s ability to draw large crowds of supporters to various types of events, demonstrating the advancing cohesion and strength of the Other Campaign with support from the International Campaign.

2. Mullen and Clinton Visit Mexico – At the beginning of March, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Mexico and met with military and intelligence officials there. “I share the serious concern that organized crime and drug trafficking cause you, and I appreciate your vigorous efforts to improve security. More than anything I wish that we might work together to find ways of improving cooperation between the military forces of our neighbors,” Mullen said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mexico on March 25 and 26 to talk about drug violence, immigration, and the tanking economies of Mexico and the U.S. Drug violence in Mexico (more than 5,000 Mexicans were killed in drug related violence in 2008) clearly has the U.S. government’s attention and both Mullen and Clinton expressed security concerns. Although there were discussions about Plan Mexico, referred to politely by government officials as the “Merida Initiative,” the precise substance of those discussions was not revealed to the public. The U.S. considers Mexico’s drug cartels a security threat, both on the U.S. border and throughout the United States in organized crime operations. Two of us were in the Tuxtla Airport during Clinton’s speech in Monterrey on March 26. It was broadcast live with simultaneous Spanish translation. Other folks in the cafeteria showed no interest in what she said. President Barack Obama, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are also scheduled to visit Mexico soon. Hmmm! Some commentators in Mexico wonder if the U.S. Marines will follow.

3. National and International Campaign for Liberty and Justice for Atenco – Last month, Mexico’s Supreme Court found “grave human rights violations” during a May 3 and 4 police assault on the town of San Salvador Atenco, but refused to attribute responsibility for them. During the two days of terror, police arrested more than 200 people, sexually assaulted at least 30 women, killed two young people, invaded dozens of homes without warrants, and beat hundreds of people in actions that were broadcast nationally on TV. Among those who remain in prison are 3 of the leaders of the Peoples Front in Defense of Land (FPDT), the militant Atenco organization that prevented the construction of an airport on their farmland. They are sentenced to more than 67 years in prison and are held in a maximum-security prison. The Campaign for Liberty and Justice is headed by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Bishop Raul Vera, father Miguel Concha and supported by Manu Chao, among many others. The web page (in Spanish) for this important campaign can be found at: <http:; The campaign includes a large commemoration event in Atenco on the anniversary of the May 3 & 4 police rampage. The Chiapas Support Committee will present videos about Atenco on May 3 in Oakland in support of the political prisoners. More info about our video event will be sent out during April. The FPDT is an important part of the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign!

4. PRI Officials Place Garbage Dump Next to a Camp of Displaced Zapatistas – The autonomous Zapatista municipality (county) of San Pedro Polho is located in the Highlands of Chiapas. The name of the official county governing the same territory is Chenalhó. Many thousands of indigenous people in this county were driven into refugee camps of internally displaced people during the latter half of 1997 by unchecked paramilitary violence that culminated in the Acteal Massacre on December 22, 1997. 45 women, men and children were murdered. 6,000 displaced Zapatistas remain in makeshift camps within San Pedro Polho, while the paramilitaries occupy their land. They cannot leave their camps to work due to death threats made by the paramilitaries and, therefore, they have little food. Chenalho County’s PRI government has now decided to add to their misery by placing a garbage dump adjacent to one of the refugee camps in Acteal. “Four or five times per day, the trucks from Chenalhó county empty all kinds of waste and dead animals barely 300 meters from the Zapatista camp at Acteal,” La Jornada reported, commenting that this resembled “bacteriological warfare.” Chiapas Support Committee members visited the region’s Good Government Junta and also spoke with a Polhó official during a visit to the headquarters of Polho. When asked if the garbage dump was still there, they said: “Yes.” Asked what they were going to do about it, they said they were “still deciding” what to do.

5. Campaign to Free Political Prisoner Alberto Patishtan Gomez – Last month we reported the release of five more political prisoners belonging to Other Campaign organizations in 2 Chiapas prisons. Their release left Alberto Patishtan Gomez the only one of the original group of 2008 hunger strikers who remains in prison. Patishtan Gomez served as spokesperson for the Voice of El Amate. His case is legally more difficult because of the federal charges of which he was convicted. The approximately 49 liberated political prisoners and their families founded an organization called Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices). Voces Inocentes is asking all Other Campaign and International Campaign adherents to take action in support of Patishtan Gomez.
This campaign occurs amid a hunger strike by prisoners from organizations not connected to the Zapatistas or the Other Campaign, a confrontation between prisoners and police, and a sit-in by family members at the state capital demanding freedom for 23 political prisoners.

6. Resistance to Toll Road to Begin – Last month the Chiapas state government announced that construction of the toll road between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque would begin soon. Specifically, the government would begin acquiring the right of way to the 8-mile stretch of road between San Cristobal and the Rancho Nuevo military base. The toll road is a key piece in the overall plan to convert the region between Agua Azul and Palenque into a mecca for national and international mega-tourism. While visiting Chiapas, the Chiapas Support Committee learned that resistance to the toll road is also ready to begin. We were told that communities are already preparing the letreros (hand-made signs). Construction of the toll road affects lands in 3 Zapatista Caracols: Oventik, Morelia and Roberto Barrios.

7. Ejido Owners Assert Rights to Famous Tourist Attraction – The ejidal assembly of Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, in Salto de Agua County, Chiapas, neighbors of the Misol-ha Waterfall, announced that they plan to establish a ticket booth at the entrance to the celebrated water spot that attracts thousands of visitors all year. The ejidal assembly, in which harmoniously participate members of different organizations, including EZLN support bases, made the determination in the face of a lack of governmental response to a very old demand with respect to their territorial rights over the road that joins the site with the Ocosingo-Palenque Highway. The Misol-ha Waterfall is one of the tourist attractions encompassed in the tourist mega-project in the region extending from the Agua Azul Cascades to the Palenque Archaeological site. This action occurs within the context of an accord reached by the state government to respect the Zapatista settlement of Bolom Ajaw and the Zapatista nature reserve of Huitepec in exchange for a promise not to take over any more land. Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero promised not to evict any settlements or communities that were occupied before he took office.

8. Eviction Attempt Fails in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas – On March 26, local San Cristobal police attempted to evict indigenous people from land on the northern edge of San Cristobal de las Casas. On March 9, 500 indigenous families took possession of land belonging to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI, its initials in Spanish) land. The result of the failed eviction was: 15 police agents injured, seven patrol vehicles and several private vehicles damaged, as well as hundreds of makeshift homes destroyed and four people detained by police. The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) issued a denunciation of the failed eviction, saying: “The municipal council, presided over by Mariano Diaz Ochoa, has been characterized as not seeking dialogue with social groups and organizations in the municipality, provoking confrontation in society, criminalizing social action and realizing acts of discrimination.” Frayba asked for the State Congress to investigate the eviction. The 500 families remain on the land. They are members of Council of Indigenous Representatives of Los Altos of Chiapas (Criach).

Two of us were in a taxi going toward the San Cristobal bus station when we heard sirens and the taxi was stopped while a long line of police vehicles passed in front of us. All we could see was one damaged private vehicle in the middle of the line of police trucks. The taxi driver told us they were coming from the eviction.

9. Good News! OPIM’s 4 Political Prisoners Released – On March 19, 4 political prisoners from the Guerrero community of El Camalote were released from prison. All four are members of the Organization of Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples (OPIM, its Spanish acronym). They had been prisoners since April 17, 2008, accused of murdering Alejandro Feliciano García, a Mexican Army informant, in January of last year. Raúl Hernández Abundio, alleged material author of the homicide, remains incarcerated. OPIM is an adherent to the Zapatista Other Campaign. Orlando Manzanarez Lorenzo, one of those released, is the OPIM leader in El Camalote.

10. Another Disappearance in Guerrero – On February 7, 2009, Salvador Nava Torres disappeared at a checkpoint installed by members of the Mexican army’s 93rd battalion in the La Montaña Region. Nava’s wife, Elvia Franco Mercado, and his sister, Jazmín Nava, denounced in a recent Chilpancingo (the state capital of Guerrero) press conference that the authorities have not reported his whereabouts. Accompanied by Javier Monroy Hernández, coordinator of the Committee of Families and Friends of Kidnapped, Disappeared and Murdered in Guerrero, the women said: “there were witnesses that said Salvador was seen in a military truck and that he had a hood on.” From December of last year to the present, six disappearances occurred in this region.

11. Murder in Morelos Over Water Dispute – Communal authorities reported that Efrain Soberanis Sanchez was murdered by a group of masked men that shot four bullets at him when he was arriving home on Monday night, March 9. He had just been elected as a representative of the Nahua community of Hueyapan to go to the state capital to protest the cutting off of his community’s water supply. Hueyapan is one of the indigenous communities belonging to the Communities in Defense of Land, Air and Water, an organization that belongs to the Zapatista Other Campaign. It became known to some of us by means of the documentary film “13 Communities in Defense of Land, Air and Water,” shown at the Latino Film Festival in San Francisco this year and later in Marin County. After failing to attend to the dispute over water for years, the government reconnected the water supply after the murder.
Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.

The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center.

We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.
News Summaries from previous months are posted on our web page:

Gathering Our Dignified Rage

Posted in Otherpress with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2009 by floweroftheword

This is visionary stuff –> both a primer on the organizing that has taken place over the past three and a half years since the Zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and a proposal on where we need to head in the context of our global crises… a rewrite of an earlier piece updated for the current context and in preparation for the First Global Festival of Dignified Rage. Enjoy!

Gathering Our Dignified Rage
Building New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihood and Exchange
by Kolya Abramsky

to read more click *here*

Zapatistas defend autonomy, State aggression escalates

Posted in Commentary, News, Otherpress with tags , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2008 by floweroftheword

Zapatistas defend autonomy
State aggression escalates

June 07, 2008 By John Gibler

This past Wednesday, June 4, a military convoy of about 200 Mexican soldiers and federal and municipal police attempted to enter Zapatista villages under the pretext of searching for marijuana plants; something patently absurd in communities that have maintained a self-imposed “dry law,” prohibiting all drugs and all forms of alcohol throughout Zapatista territories for nearly fifteen years.
The convoy first stopped at the entrance to the Garrucha Caracol (the regional seat of the Good Government Council, or Junta de Buen Gobierno). Four soldiers stepped out into the road, others photographed and filmed the Zapatistas from their vehicles, but the community began to draw people together, shouting at the soldiers to leave, and gathering slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks. The soldiers quickly got back in their vehicles and continued down the road.

The convoy joined a second convoy down the road where they all descend and set off walking to the Zapatista support community of Galaena. A police officer from Ocosingo, Feliciano Román Ruiz, guides the soldiers through the trails towards the community.

In Galaena, the men, women, and children organized to bar the soldiers’ entrance to the community.

According to the Zapatista communiqué denouncing the events, the Zapatistas shouted at the soldiers to turn back. The soldiers said that they had come to destroy the marijuana plants they know to be near by. The Zapatistas denied growing marijuana and began to gather slingshots, machetes, rocks, and sticks to defend their land.

The soldiers turned back, but warned that they would return in two weeks, and they would enter the community no matter what.

But they did not leave; they walked to nearby San Alejandro where some 60 soldiers had already taken up position around the community, automatic weapons drawn.
The people of San Alejandro, also a Zapatista support community (bases de apoyo) also confronted the soldiers and barred their passage.
Soon the soldiers withdrew.

“People of Mexico and of the world,” the Good Government Council of La Garrucha wrote in a denunciation of these events released on June 4 and published in La Jornada online on June 6, “it will not be long before there is confrontation provoked by [President Felipe] Calderón, [Chiapas governor] Juan Sabines and Carlos Leonel Solórzano, municipal president of Ocosingo, who send there dogs of repression…”

Aggressions against Zapatista support communities have been building steadily since Calderon took office in December 2006. The military bases in Chiapas have been restructured to include Special Forces and air-borne capacity throughout the state. The government has reorganized various paramilitary organizations.
This has been extensively documented by the San Cristóbal-based organization CAPISE (Center for Political Analysis and Socio-economic Investigation).

Paramilitary organizations have invaded Zapatista territories throughout the state, often attacking Zapatista support communities.

In recent weeks the aggressions have escalated.

On May 19, federal agents and soldiers, arriving in helicopters and military convoy, entered the community of San Jerónimo Tuliljá, in the Caracol of La Garrucha, breaking into houses and pushing people around without explanation.

On May 22, a large group of armed men from the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) invaded the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia, cutting off the community’s electricity and attacking people in their homes throughout the night. The gunmen wounded over 20 Zapatistas, six of whom were taken to the hospital in serious condition.

But the aggressions are almost daily: kidnapping Zapatista supporters and taking them to local jails on invented charges, contaminating local wells, invading lands, cutting corn plants, leaving death threats for the community.

“It is as if we are seeing the preparations for what will be another Acteal,” said Subcomandante Marcos in a recent interview published in book form in Mexico, referring to the December 22, 1997 paramilitary massacre of 45 indigenous men, women, and children gathered in a church in the community of Acteal.
“But now they are not looking for a conflict between aggressors and defenseless people, but really a confrontation,” he said.

Zapatista autonomy is not only a threat to the perceived legitimacy of the state, but it is the structure of resistance that maintains and protects Zapatista territories, land recuperated through the 1994 uprising and cared for and cultivated since.

Ernesto Ledesma of CAPISE says that over 74,000 hectares of Zapatista territory are under thereat of invasion. The federal, state and local governments, and all three national political parties in Mexico, including the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) have joined together in the aggression against the Zapatistas, he says, using direct paramilitary land invasions, bureaucratic trickery through the federal secretary of agrarian affairs, and through federal expropriations.

“We are not drug traffickers,” the Good Government Council of La Garrucha wrote, “we are what we all well known to be, brothers and sisters and Mexico and the world. It is clear that they will be coming for us, the Zapatistas; they will be coming from the three levels of bad government, and we are ready to resist, and if necessary to comply with our slogan, which is: live for the fatherland or die for liberty (vivir por la patria o morir por la libertad).”

This is a brief and dramatic lesson in autonomy: with slingshots and machetes the Zapatistas are ready to refuse entrance to their communities to the soldiers and federal police. Most of the daily work of autonomy goes unseen and unreported: collective land management, autonomous schools and health clinics, community dispute resolution. But autonomy also means rejecting the authority of the state, rejecting the legitimacy of the state; and this rejection comes not only in the form of eloquent communiqués, but also staring down the soldiers with nothing other than a farm tool in hand.

John Gibler is a Global Exchange Media Fellow and author of Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt, forthcoming from City Lights. Gibler has been living and writing from Mexico since 2006. He has reported for Left Turn, In These Times, ZNet, Z Magazine, New Politics, Common Dreams, Yes! Magazine, Colorlines and Democracy Now!.

To read the Good Government Councils communiqués, Enlace Zapatista:

CAPISE is organizing observation brigades in Zapatista territories:
A long interview with Subcomandante Marcos was just published in book form in Mexico: Corte de Caja,

Background information on the aggressions against Zapatistas in English:

The New Government Provocation Against Zapatismo

Posted in Commentary, Otherpress with tags on June 17, 2008 by floweroftheword

“The New Governmental Effort to Make Out the EZLN to Be an Accomplice in Organized Crime Attempts to Take Advantage of the Wave of Anti-Narco Sentiment”

By Luis Hernández Navarro
La Jornada

June 12, 2008

Since the January 1994 insurrection, various administrations have wanted to associate the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN in its Spanish initials) with drug trafficking. They’ve never been able to demonstrate such a link, but they try time and time again.

This past June 4 the tired old story played out again. Only this time the threat is greater than in the past. On that date over 200 agents from the federal Army, the Attorney General’s office, and state and municipal police, with their faces painted, entered the Zapatista territory of La Garrucha with the pretext of looking for marijuana plants. Hundreds of residents from the Hermenegildo Galeana and San Alejando communities fended them off with machetes, clubs, and slingshots.

Zapatista communities prohibit the cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs. It’s not even permitted to drink or sell alcohol there. This isn’t a new fact. The rebel commanders have made this law public since the beginning of the armed uprising. The measure remains in effect under the civil authorities who have been put in charge of the autonomous municipalities and the good government councils. The same can’t be said for the PRIista [translator’s note: members of the Institutional Revolution Party which ruled Mexico with an iron fist for over 70 years] communities, where illegal drugs are grown in collusion with the police.

In a communique directed at then-president Ernesto Zedillo, dated February 10, 1995, one day after the military offensive that tried to detain, by means of treachery, Subcomandante Marcos, the insurgents stated: “we want to tell you the truth, if it’s what you don’t know: the criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers are you, they are the same people who make up your cabinet, they are your very own soldiers who traffic drugs, who force the indigenous peasants to plant marijuana and other narcotics. You haven’t realized this, Mr. Zedillo? Yes, we Zapatistas, because we live amongst the people, are the same people who have fought against the planting of drugs, against the drug trafficking that your very own soldiers do and have done within the territories we’ve controlled.”

Unfounded, the accusation has been repeated year after year. In 2004, the newspaper Reforma published the news that “on average, every two days members of the Mexican Army enter Zapatista territory in order to destroy marijuana and poppy fields which in the past year have considerably increased in number.” Days afterwards, Gen. Jorge Isaac Jiménez García, commander of military operations in the zone, denied that the marijuana fields belonged to EZLN sympathizers.

The police-military provocation this past June 4 against the rebels is not an isolated incident. It forms part of and endless aggression. The government harassment against the insurgents has been constant since the arrival of Gov. Juan Sabines in 2006.

Various peasant groups close to the state government try to take possession of the lands that Zapatista support bases have occupied and worked since 1994. Paramilitary groups such as the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC) harass the autonomous municipalities. The Army has established new positions, made its presence felt in the region, and carried out unusual movements of a clearly intimidating character.

Jaime Martínez Veloz, representative of the Chiapas government on the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation (Cocopa), has explained very clearly the agrarian dimension of the current anti-Zapatista offensive. “The Mexican government,” he said to the International Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH in its Spanish initials), “I am convinced that in the attitude of trying to confront the EZLN with peasants and indigenous people in the zone, gave land titles to people in need of land, but it entitled them as ejidatarios [trans. note: communal land owners] of the same lands that the Zapatistas occupied. It made them ejidatarios, and obviously it creates a conflict. In the same area there’s those who occupy the land and those who have a title to it. This was already happening in the first years, ‘95, ‘96… and the repercussions of that, well, now they’re surfacing.”

Curiously, those responsible for agrarian, rural, and tourist policy in Juan Sabines’ government are people like Jorge Constantino Kanter, representative of the plantation owners and ranchers affected by the Zapatista eruption, or Roberto Albores Gleason, son of ex-governor Roberto Albores, who committed countless human rights violations.

The June 4 operation was carried out in the place were just a short while before Subcomandante Marcos had been present. By the looks of it, his presence in La Garrucha worried the governmental authorities. The spokesperson of the rebel group hasn’t appeared before the public for months, and his silence makes the intelligence services nervous. But the red flags that warn of the increasing governmental intolerance when faced with the peaceful civil initiative of the rebels have been raised for some time. En route to the first Continental Gathering of the Peoples of America [sic: Indigenous Peoples of America] in Vicam, Sonora, from October 11-14, 2007, police and military checkpoints detained a convoy that was transporting the Zapatista delegates, forcing the indigenous commanders who were going to attend the event to return to Chiapas.

An opinion poll recently carried out by Felipe Calderón’s administration demonstrates that, in addition to the broad public support for the anti-drug campaign, despite the passing years, 26 percent of those surveyed support the Zapatistas. This is not a negligible percentage under the current circumstances.

The new governmental effort to make out the EZLN to be an accomplice in organized crime attempts to take advantage of the wave of anti-narco sentiment in order to try to erode the current positive opinion of the rebels and deal it a repressive blow. A resolute blow with a long history. Does the federal government really lack unresolved conflicts so much that it needs to enflame one that it hasn’t been able to resolve for years?
Original published in Spanish – La Jornada, June 10, 2008
Translation by Kristin Bricker