Archive for 2009


Posted in News with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2009 by floweroftheword

Another month full of news. Several incidents occurred towards the end of September that required clarification due to conflicting or ambiguous news stories. Therefore, we waited to report them until this month when we had more clarity regarding the facts. They show that the counterinsurgency in Chiapas extends to actors within civil society beyond the Zapatistas and Other Campaign adherents. It seems clear that the state government is preparing for what it thinks will be a “social explosion” in 2010 (or is it merely an excuse for repression?). CSC


1. Repression of Social Protest Spreads to OCEZ-RC, Leader in Prison – On September 30, Chiapas state police dressed up in uniforms worn by Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) workers. They entered the community of 28 de Junio (June 28) in Venustiano Carranza municipality, asking if anyone had service problems. When they reached the home of Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, they took him out of his house, put him in a truck and drove him to the El Amate state prison. Hernandez Martinez, known as Chema, is the long-time leader of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization-Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC). Several members of that organization attempted to follow the vehicle in which Don Chema was abducted, but their car was run off the highway and one person died in the crash. A second man died from his injuries two weeks afterwards. The OCEZ-RC has continuously struggled to recuperate indigenous people’s communal land in Venustiano Carranza. The charges against him have to do with a 2005 land takeover. Hernandez Martinez recently led a successful hunger strike to obtain the legalization of land and the speculation is that the illegal detention (no arrest warrants were shown and the police agents disguised themselves) is in retaliation for that protest action. A national and international campaign to free Chema is underway. Neither OCEZ-RC nor Hernandez Martinez have any current connection that we know of with the Zapatistas or the Other Campaign. Nevertheless, judicial authorities interrogated Hernandez Martinez about belonging to the EPR and the EZLN. After 2 weeks in a state prison, the state moved Chema to a high-security federal prison in Nayarit state, a long way from Chiapas. This, in spite of the fact that the crimes of which he is accused are common state crimes. Is the state afraid that Chema will organize social protests from prison in Chiapas?


2. Arson Attempt at Kinal Antsetik Center – On September 26, an unidentified person sprinkled gasoline around the Kinal Antsetik (Land of Women, in Tseltal) installations and lit a fire. The location includes a capacity building center and workshop for indigenous women and the facilities of Jolom Mayaetik (Maya Weavers), a weaving cooperative. Young women living at the center put out the fire quickly. Kinal’s founder, Yolanda Castro, is an outspoken activist in the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS) in Chiapas and has recently been involved in the resistance to mining. She has suffered break-ins and vigilance due to her activism. Castro has no current connection to the EZLN or the Other Campaign and, to the best of our knowledge, neither does Kinal Antsetik or Jolom Mayaetik.


3. Amnesty International (AI) Wants Clarification of Immigrant Detention and Death – Amnesty International (AI) has asked Mexican authorities to clarify an incident which occurred on September 18 near the city of Comitan, Chiapas. Mexican security forces opened fire on a group of undocumented Central American immigrants resulting in the death of a Salvadoran. The immigrants were in a vehicle belonging to those who traffic in undocumented immigrants. They passed a control post and agents ordered the vehicle to stop. Instead, the driver went faster and the agents followed and fired on the vehicle. AI reports that there were seven in the group. Three men escaped, one died from a bullet wound, two remain in the hospital with serious injuries and one is detained and will soon be deported. AI wants clarification of whether it was members of the Mexican Army or immigration agency that fired on the group of immigrants and clarification as to the beatings they received when captured and already injured.


4. Two More OCEZ Leaders Apprehended, Houses Searched – In the wee hours of Saturday morning (October 24), police and military carried out an operation in Venustiano Carranza municipality and arrested 2 more OCEZ-RC leaders. The 2 detained are Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez and Roselio de la Cruz Gonzalez. From the El Amate prison, both men have denounced that they were tortured. They are accused of land takeovers. Following the detentions, police and soldiers returned to 28 de Junio and Laguna Verde communities (the 2 bastions of the OCEZ-RC) and searched houses, looking for drugs and/or weapons. They did not find any. The state government suspects that members of the OCEZ-RC belong to a criminal gang that traffics in drugs, weapons and undocumented people. It also seems to suspect that OCEZ-RC has connections with a guerrilla organization.


5. Update on Mitziton and the Palenque Toll Road – The Chiapas government finally announced the plan for a new super-highway (toll road) to Palenque. It will not pass through Mitziton. Instead of adopting the plan designed by the Secretary of Communications and Transportation (SCT), which would have cut Mitziton in half, the state chose an alternative plan. The state government also committed to “consulting” with affected communities. The plan announced does not include the location of access roads to tourist attractions, but it does include agricultural requirements which affected communities will be urged to accept. The high-speed toll road will pass through part of the Meso-American Biological Corridor. Therefore, the World Bank and its conservation cohorts have special recommendations for what crops ought to be planted. Some will be for local tourism, but the majority apparently will go to the Yucatan Peninsula’s tourist Mecca, the Riviera Maya.


6. Three Detained with Arsenal in Frontera Comalapa – The Chiapas government released information that on October 12, three men (none originally from Chiapas) were detained near Frontera Comalapa, very close to the Chiapas/Guatemala border. They allegedly admitted to 3 murders and police determined that they belonged to a criminal gang. It claimed that one of them belonged to a group with “the facade of a social organization” and “called OCEZ or OPEZ.” Two of them allegedly claimed that they were sent to Guatemala for training in weapons, disarmament and survival techniques by kaibiles upon the recommendation of a catechist from Altamirano (municipality). During interrogation, the men disclosed the location of a ranch in Frontera Complapa where weapons were stored. When police went to the ranch house, they found a large arsenal of all kinds of weapons, cars and 2 race horses. What is interesting about this press release is that it implicates a “catechist,” and refers to 2 social organizations as being a facade for violent activity. Some Chiapas government officials are leaking slanderous statements to local press about the Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal, individual priests and catechists, as well as Las Abejas, in connection to violent activity. It got so bad that the 2 bishops from that diocese issued a statement denouncing the slanderous attacks!


7. Response to Repression: Demonstrations – On Monday, October 26, social organizations with different political demands converged on the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas to march in protest of diverse issues. Las Abejas protested against the release of those imprisoned for participating in the Acteal Massacre. Pueblo Creyente (People Praying) demonstrated in support of the Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal. OCEZ-RC protested the detention, torture and imprisonment of its leaders and the searches of homes conducted in its communities. Other Campaign members from different municipalities were there with banners demonstrating against the toll road to Palenque because it will destroy jungles, forests and their lands. Several organizations also demonstrated for the release of political prisoners. I cannot remember the last time such a diverse assortment of Chiapas organizations demonstrated together. Approximately 150 members of the OCEZ have remained in a sit-in on San Cristobal’s main plaza ever since, demanding the release of their 3 prisoners and the removal of soldiers and police from their communities. Additionally, 20 OCEZ members “took over” an office of the United Nations in San Cristobal, claiming they were refugees, and demanding the release of the 3 imprisoned leaders.


8. Chiapas Government Cancels Local Elections in 2010 – Mid-term elections for local municipal councils and presidencies, as well as local deputies to the state Congress, were scheduled for 2010. In a somewhat clandestine move, the Congress voted to cancel those mid-term elections and change the state’s constitution. Local deputies will continue in office until 2012 and they will appoint, YES! appoint, the local municipal councils and presidents. Chiapas is governed, at least on paper, by the Party of the “Democratic” Revolution (PRD). Many Chiapas citizens are furious and an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court. As of now, it appears that the government may back down.


9. Gloria Arenas & Jacobo Silva FREE! – Gloria Arenas was released from prison on October 28, after serving 10 years for rebellion. Jacobo Silva, her husband, was released the next day (October 29). Gloria is the former Colonel Aurora and Jacobo is the former Comandante Antonio of the Revolutionary Army of Insurgent People (ERPI). Upon their release, both announced that they will now struggle openly and peacefully with the Zapatistas Other Campaign!


In Other Parts of Mexico…


1. Union Busting ala Calderón – In the wee hours of Saturday, October 10, President Felipe Calderon sent 6,000 soldiers and heavily armed Federal Police to take over the state-owned Central Light and Power installations in Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, and Hidalgo. Immediately following the takeover, Calderon issued an executive order closing Central Light & Power. The government’s official justification for closing Light and Power is that the company’s operating expenses exceed those of other state-owned companies. like the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). It claims the takeover was a pre-emptive strike to prevent a militant union from taking control of the facilities and cutting off power in protest of the closing of Light & Power. However, a week prior to the police and military takeover, the union specifically stated that it had no intentions of striking or cutting off power to customers. Most analysts believe that it is a preliminary move to privatizing an enormous and growing industry. And, the right-wing Calderon government gets the special benefit of busting the SME, a union that has been part of many social protests over multiple issues and has formed strong alliances with social organizations in Mexico. Tragically, approximately 44,000 workers lost their jobs in the government’s move. The SME is calling for mass mobilizations against the closing of Light & Power.


2. The Drug War Numbers – According to reports by Mexico’s Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) and Secretary of National Defense (Sedena), 5, 570 executions have been counted so far this year. The number of people murdered due to alleged ties with organized crime during the nearly 3 years of the Felipe Calderón government now exceeds 15, 400, while during the whole 6-year term of Vicente Fox 13, 000 homicides of this kind were counted.



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 (Frayba).


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 now posted on our web page.


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609

Tel: (510) 654-9587


Day of the Dead/Dia De los Muertos Celebration this Sunday!

Posted in Announcement, Event with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by floweroftheword

dayofthedead09revised*The Wellington Zapatista Support Group invites you to join us for:


*Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life** *Sunday Ist November 2009 –

two events!*


*4pm MUSEUM OF WELLINGTON CITY AND SEA* (Queens Wharf Jervois Quay)


*OFRENDA and Face-painting/Preparation for the STREET PROCESSION*

through Wellington’s streets to *Bar Bodega* (departs 6PM)


*7.30pm **BAR BODEGA *101 Ghuznee Street.


*DIA DE LOS MUERTOS* *Fiesta – featuring: Bella Cajon, Julie Bevan,

Carlos Naverrette, Te Kupu, Sam Kelly, German Renthel, and other

performers – **plus music, poetry, dance, and SPOT PRIZES!!*


Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an annual festival observed

throughout Latin America originating in pre Columbian culture which

celebrates life by honouring the dead. It is believed that on this day

each year the spirits of the dead return to Earth to reconnect with the

living, and re-experience the sensory world. Friends and family honour

the deceased by celebrating in cemeteries, homes, and public spaces with

food, flowers, music, and prayers. Colourful paper cut-outs called papel

picado decorate churches and cemeteries. Fancy dress, especially

skeletons and other deathly outfits, is the norm.


In recent years Mexicans living locally have brought this festival alive

for New Zealanders, and once again invite Wellingtonians and visitors

alike to share in their celebrations of this traditional cultural – and

colourful – event.


At *Museum of Wellington City and Sea/Te Waka Huia o Nga Taonga Toku Iho

*there will be a *Traditional Ofrenda *on display*, *as well as

*Face-painting and Preparation for the Procession.*


Ofrenda’s – or altars – often have a photo of the deceased, and are

elaborately-decorated with flowers as well as objects, foods and drinks

that the dead prized or enjoyed while they lived. It is believed that

displaying their favourite things entices their souls to return to take

part in the remembrance celebrations.


This year’s ofrenda is dedicated to Emiliano Zapata, Commandante Ramona,

Subcommandante Marcos, and the people of Honduras. It will be on display

from 4pm, and remain in place 1- 7^th November. (Photo of Diego Rivera

Ofrenda in Mexico City in 2006 attached, as an example)


There will also be face-painting and preparation for the street

procession, which will leave at 6pm. The public is encouraged to join

in, wear fancy dress, and carry colourful memorabilia of deceased loved

ones. The procession will wind through Wellington streets to end at *Bar



Inside *Bar Bodega (*$10 cover charge) there will be performances* *on

the theme of life and death by a variety of acts, from poet Mercedes

Webb-Pullman to musicians such as Bella Cajon and Te Kupu, to Latin

dancers, and more.


All proceeds from the Bodega event will go to the community of La

Garrucha in Chiapas, Mexico.



Mexican Consulate Closes as The Other New York Demands Freedom for the Prisoners of Atenco

Posted in News, protesta with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2009 by floweroftheword

On May 4th, the third anniversary of the state repression to the people of Atenco, the Mexican Consulate in New York City was peacefully “taken” by the pro-zapatista Movement for Justice in the Barrio (Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio).

The authorities decided to close the Consulate all day. In a press conference, the Consul, very upset, denounced and placed blame on the members of The Other Campaign in New York.


To our sisters and brothers of the People’s Front in Defense of Earth:

To our brothers and sisters the Zapatistas:

To our comrades of the Other Campaign:

To our comrades of the Zezta Internazional:

To our comrades following the International Campaign in Defense of the Barrio and our allies around the world:

A greeting of solidarity from the women, men and children, the socially marginalized from the Other Campaign New York, Movement for Justice in el Barrio in East Harlem zapatista.

Today, May 4, 2009, The Other New York peacefully took the Mexican Consulate in New York to demand the release of 12 political prisoners who have been brutally repressed for opposing the predatory neoliberal development projects that denigrate life and culture, specifically the construction of an airport in Atenco, and for the protection of flower growers in Texcoco.

On this third anniversary of the repression, arrests, rape, torture and burglary committed by military police in Atenco, today, a committee of members of the Movement for Justice in El Barrio was able to enter the offices of the Mexican Consulate in New York, which are under strict surveillance, stepping up the campaign in Mexican heart and memory, demanding the release of prisoners from Atenco. We managed to enter the offices to conduct a peaceful protest demanding the immediate release of prisoners from Atenco.

Once inside, the comrades of the Other New York, cried: “Political prisoners, freedom!, Freedom, freedom to prisoners to fight!” “We are all Atenco,” among other slogans, and with our banners, some with masks simulating prison bars, and also with bandanas, distributed to passers-by DVDs of the video Rompiendo El Cerco (Breaking The Siege), about the repression in Atenco, and informational leaflets explaining the central demands.

Then we demanded to speak to the Consul Ruben Beltran to deliver a letter of demands.

First we were told that he was not there because he was in Mexico, but we knew that this was a lie since the day before the consul was in El Barrio performing a proselytizing act in the imposed celebration of Cinco de Mayo. After a time, the consulate authorities told us that the ambassador was in New York, but was not in the consulate, and then closed the consulate to the public, asking everyone to leave the office.

At the end of our event, the ambassador came.

We delivered a letter, amplified in a banner, with the following demands:

1) Freedom of the 12 political prisoners from Atenco;

2) Cancellation of warrants for the 2 prosecuted;

3) Withdrawal and cancellation of the sentences;

4) Strict respect for the human rights of the detainees and persecuted; and

5) Punishment of those responsible for human rights violations.

At first Ambassador Ruben Beltran said he was willing to talk with all the Mexican residents in New York and listen to all their views, but then threw the blame on us and our cause – the release of prisoners of Atenco – of having closed the services of the consulate and leaving many people without being served.

We believe that reaction of the consul is an act of great injustice and cynicism, as if the government of Mexico does not torture, kill, rape and unjustly imprison its residents for opposing Mexico’s business with large multinationals that make water into a merchandise, these things should not need to happen.

Notwithstanding this, we are pleased to have been able to successfully make this protest against the release of the martyrs of Atenco, as we now know that many Mexicans in New York will be able to learn through alternative means, such as the DVD of Breaking The Siege, that which really happened.

Then in the afternoon of that day, the press went to the consulate because of another event, and the consul took the opportunity to complain about us, denounce us and say that because of us, they had to close the Consulate for the entire day. At that evening event, the consul showed the press pictures of us from different angles.

It should be clear that our demonstration was peaceful.

If there will be reprisals against us for exercising our right to freedom of expression in Mexican territory (as is any Embassy of Mexico abroad), this means that the consular authorities were violating our rights, like they do not respect the human rights of the people of Atenco.

It pains us greatly that the worthy social activists, the true defenders of our land and our country, remain in jail. We do not rest until they are released. Human beings are not merchandise.

They can not stop us and clear us out to build airports and hotels, not in Atenco, not in Agua Azul, and not in our Barrio in East Harlem.

From The Other New York:



Movement for Justice in el Barrio, New York, May 4, 2009.

3 years since Atenco and innocent people are still imprisoned – Let’s take action!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by floweroftheword

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the Mexican State’s brutal violence towards the people of Atenco. Please read below for more information and contact the Mexican Embassy to demand freedom for the political prisoners and justice for all those terrorised by state forces.

If enough of us make a short phone call or send an email, the Mexican Government will get the message that the world knows about their atrocious actions.

In solidarity,

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

Contact details for the Mexican Embassy in Wellington, NZ

Level 8, Perpetual Trust House

111-115 Customhouse Quay

PO Box 11-510, Manners Street

Wellington, New Zealand

Telephone (+64) 4 472 0555

Fax (+64) 4 496 3559



Office Hours Mon – Thurs 0900 -1600, Fri 0900 – 1500

Consular: 0900 – 1400


By Heriberto Salas and Salvador Díaz

On May 3, 2006, the sun rose with a dark stain around the Belisario Dominguez market in Texcoco: the state and local police had posted a guard around the spot where flower growers had sold their flowers for as long as we can remember. The Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), which had participated in a dialogue with Enrique Peña Nieto’s government had counseled and defended the flower growers. The day before, the state government had promised them and the FPDT that they would withdraw their police forces.

At 6 o’clock in the morning, when we met up with men, women, and children carrying baby’s breath, chrysanthemums, and spikenards, joined in their chants, and helped them set up their stands on the curb, we never imagined that we would go through some of the cruelest, most ferocious and heartless repression unleashed in the contemporary history of Mexico.

Yet the flower growers, the FPDT, and the people fell into a shameless trap of the so-called “golden boy,” who in fact is a true Caligula or “golden tyrant,” Enrique Peña Nieto, supported by then prosti-president Vicente Fox Quezada, and the complicity of the PRD lapdogs of Texcoco, all defenders of a barbarous State whose enemies are the most defenseless people.

As everyone knows, the outcome of the repression of May 3 and 4 was two comrades murdered, Javier Cortés and Alexis Benhumea; 207 arrested, including 47 women; and dozens of people wounded, pursued, and disappeared. But that wasn’t all. Our small community, San Salvador Atenco, like the Gaza Strip, Tikrit, or Kabul, was militarily occupied by thousands of vicious police who crudely profaned the peaceful streets of our beloved land just as they raped our comrades, sisters, daughters, and relatives on the road to the Santiaguito prison in those dreadful days.

They were like hordes of beasts who stopped at nothing to bring their brutality down on everyone. Consider the images: A Mazahua indigenous woman covering her legs as she was viciously beaten by the killers; an elderly paraplegic dragged by two buzzards in uniform; a dog beaten by a policeman; 10, 15, 20, 30 police monstrously beating a committed Zapatista militant; warrantless house searches; an elderly woman crying because her three sons were carried away; a barefoot Atenco man forced to his knees in the middle of a new Tlatelolco Plaza de las Tres Culturas; hooligans climbing up on top of the church and searching water tanks for Zapatista militants and Atenco community people. These are the indisputable testimonies that will never be erased from the memory of Mexican people.

From there on…a journey through hell. From the persecution of militants to the torturous process of winning the freedom of our prisoners. From our initial denunciation of the outrageous violation of the supposed State of Law and the smashing of our individual guarantees to the interminable trials with all its delays. The government and its front men have twisted the laws with the same impunity that existed during the Inquisition, charging us with crimes that we never committed, issuing arrest warrants for our most visible comrades, and subjecting our peoples to close-up, unyielding police vigilance. The names of those responsible for the military occupation by the federal and state police are well known: Vicente Fox, Enrique Peña Nieto, ex Director of the State Security Agency (ASE) Wilfrido Robledo Madrid, current Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, then State Attorney Abel Villicaña, ex Under Secretary of National Security Miguel Angel Yunes, among others.

Along this thorny path, we’ve relied on the support and solidarity of the Zapatista comrades of the Other Campaign, who have shown their goodwill and courage from the very beginning in the camp outside the prisons where our comrades have been held. Other workers, farmers, indigenous, popular, and even international organizations have also walked along beside us in this heroic effort. But of special importance is the honorable role played by the group of lawyers who have advised us all through the trials as we’ve fought against an invisible enemy embedded in the institutions of the State itself, one that plays by the same rules and exhibits all the official aberrations and inconsistencies. This united effort has made it possible to get most of our prisoners out of jail.

Needless to say, this State violence responds to the same logic of the finance capital that rules the world. It’s the same violence used on all five continents to snatch peoples’ natural resources from them, from oil to water, corn to rice, mines to forests, rivers to seas, in other words, to seize the wealth of the whole planet.

This war declared on the peoples of the world struggling to conserve their natural resources has reached our town Atenco, because we’ve defended our territory, and the communities in Chiapas who struggle against oblivion; the peoples of Oaxaca, for autonomy; the people of Guerrero, for their rivers and mountains; the peoples of San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas, against the predatory mining companies –all of these places where levels of organization and social consciousness have gained such force that they’ve become a real danger to the government and the transnational companies.

This, and no other, was the main reason for the State offensive against the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land: a high level of organization. A triumphant social movement that was not absorbed by the political parties, a radical, horizontal, anti-establisment, solidarity organization that grew along with its social demands, going beyond the initial struggle in defense of the land.

So an intricate network of relationships was woven along with other movements in the country and other parts of the world. But it reached its peak with the bond formed with the Zapatista movement and the Front’s adherence to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Selfa and The Other Campaign. The April 25, 2006 visit to Atenco by the Sixth Commission headed by SubComandante Marcos was tremendous. The tie between macheteros and zapatistas put the government on alert. And the answer came a week later with the attempt to pulverize the FPDT.

Today the federal and state governments of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto are still holding twelve of our kidnapped comrades, nine of them in the Molino de Flores prison in Texcoco, with sentences of 31 years, 10 months, and 15 days, and three others in the maximum security Altiplano prison at Almoloya, State of Mexico, two of them sentenced to 67 years in prison (Felipe Alvarez and Héctor Galindo), and one, Ignacio del Valle sentenced to 112 years, accused of being the intellectual author of the events of May 3 and 4. The federal and state governments have relied on the complicity of all the political parties and all the institutions of justice in the country, and even though the Supreme Court found in their investigation that the authorities did indeed commit Crimes against Humanity, it didn’t identify the responsible parties and instead, absolved them.

Faced with this ignominious exoneration on February 12, 2009, by the devious Ministers of Calderon’s Supreme Court, which allows presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and his accomplices to maintain their impunity, the FPDT along with human rights and independent organizations, have drawn many outstanding personalities like Eduardo Galeano, Bishop Samuel Ruíz, Manu Chao, and Adolfo Gilly into a current aimed at building the Committee for Freedom and Justice for Atenco, whose aims are the same as those upheld in 2002, when we defeated the expropriation decree––the incorporation of the civil society into the struggle, now oriented towards winning the freedom of our brothers held prisoner and the strict application of the law against those who massacred our people.

In support of these demands on the third anniversary of this attempt against the people of Atenco, we call on all national and international social and political organizations to join in the demand for the freedom of the political prisoners of Mexico and the world on May 3 and 4.


Once again, please contact the Mexican Embassy to demand freedom for the political prisoners and justice for all those terrorised by state forces.

If enough of us make a short phone call or send an email, the Mexican Government will get the message that the world knows about their atrocious actions.

Contact details for the Mexican Embassy in Wellington, NZ

Level 8, Perpetual Trust House

111-115 Customhouse Quay

PO Box 11-510, Manners Street

Wellington, New Zealand

Telephone (+64) 4 472 0555

Fax (+64) 4 496 3559



Office Hours Mon – Thurs 0900 -1600, Fri 0900 – 1500

Consular: 0900 – 1400

For the freedom of the people of Atenco – letter from political prisoner America del Valle

Posted in comunicado with tags , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by floweroftheword

To the comrades of the Committee for Freedom and Justice for Atenco; to the supportive comrades of Mexico and the world:

An intense hug to all of you.

Insofar as possible, I’m following all the efforts undertaken to gain freedom and justice for Atenco and can’t find the words to thank you for embracing us with your strong solidarity. This fills us with dignity, strength, and hope.

The third anniversary of Red May is almost here. They overpowered us, but they’ve never defeated us; they’ve given us life sentences, oblivious to the fact that our spirit is still free and eager to keep struggling, yet we have too many reasons not to surrender in the face of prison bars and persecution.

The exoneration of the repressors by the system of injustice doesn’t mean that they are absolved by history or by the people. Luis Echeverría Álvarez, Enrique Peña Nieto, Ulises Ruiz, Mario Marín, and a long list of tyrants have been condemned by the people!

We know that the national situation is getting worse all the time, not only because of the international economic crisis –a product of the insatiable voracity of the owners of money–, but also because of the deep entrenchment of organized crime in the State itself. And it’s precisely because we’re facing such difficult times that the organization and unity of people on the ground are all the more urgent and necessary.

Out there in the streets, the schools and universities, the factories and the barrios, you are organizing and arguing about what to do. Here, from our trenches in exile or in prison cells, we are standing strong in resistance, too. It’s in the struggle that we come together. In spite of distances, in spite of prison bars, we are together, with our faces towards the Sun.

Thanks to all of you in the far corners of the world for your voices and hands of solidarity. Thanks to all of you in the Committee for Freedom and Justice for Atenco.

América del Valle

(politically pursued by the Mexican State), Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land

PS: Compañero Manu Chao. We are furious about the repressive State’s attempt to expel you from Mexico even though their agents finally had to desist in an effort to conceal their own incompetence. Your courage and steadfastness are a lesson to all of us who believe that solidarity carved out at the side of the people is a right and a duty that knows no borders and needs no permit. Atenco and México are your home, and the laws of the tyrants seek to silence you for simply defending your home with the truth. You are in our hearts and minds. Wherever you are, may the struggle continue because that’s what we’ve decided and because there are thousands of us and more…

A Visit to Chiapas in March 2009

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by floweroftheword

After the three of us finally arrived in San Cristóbal, we began our drive to the Cañadas east of Ocosingo. Getting to Ocosingo from San Cristóbal is a unique experience: the paved highway consists of one “tope” (speed bump) after another. That makes it sort of hard to pass those giant trucks that belch black smoke in your face or the slow lumbering farm trucks. By the time we arrive in Ocosingo, we’re ready for a break at the Hotel Central’s delicious restaurant, aptly named Las Delicias. Next stop is the Ocosingo Market to buy some water and a blanket to replace a sleeping bag remaining somewhere in the labyrinth of the Mexico City Airport waiting to be claimed by someone who is already in San Cristóbal. It’s late in the afternoon as we exit Ocosingo, take the turnoff for La Garrucha and realize that we won’t arrive until after dark because the road is a bit difficult.

Well, the road isn’t the only reason we won’t arrive until after dark. We have friends along the way and we stop and visit a little. The little visits make it a happy trip and more than compensate for all the holes and ruts in the road. It’s warm and dry. No rain. By the time we get to Garrucha, it’s dark and the Good Government Junta is tired. The folks in the Vigilance Committee tell us the Junta will see us in the morning. They take us to the “Hotel Garrucha,” our tongue-in-cheek name for the space underneath the big stage erected for the Comandanta Ramona Women’s Encuentro (Dec. 2007). It now serves as the resting place for those of us who visit Garrucha. The Hotel’s tenured hostess greets us warmly. A kind of permanent peace camper, fluent in both English and Spanish, she helps out everyone who arrives there and doesn’t exactly know what to do. For some of us old-timers who sort of know what to do, she swaps stories with us.
The Junta received us first thing in the morning, but we hung around Garrucha anyway, confused about transportation to Zapata (San Manuel’s municipal headquarters). Folks who recognized us soon began to appear and strike up conversations. We visited with several friends at their homes and, when it was finally confirmed that there was no transportation available, drove our little car over the somewhat challenging road to Agua Dulce, and then on to San Manuel. The weather remained beautiful: warm, dry and sunny. It was late Saturday afternoon and the council decided to wait until Sunday to meet with us. We had lots of time to talk, eat, tell stories and get a good night’s sleep.

On Sunday, we met with San Manuel’s autonomous municipal council and some of the county’s other authorities. What we learned was very helpful and, in part, surprising. Importantly, we were able to clarify the new policy on projects in the region. It seems that there was a decision reached regionally to equalize the distribution of projects among the 4 autonomous municipios (counties) within the Caracol of La Garrucha. It is each county’s responsibility to present a project to the Junta. The Junta puts that project in a file cabinet, according to the category it falls into (economic development, production, health, education, etcetera). When an organization comes to the Junta and says it wants to help in a certain category of project, the Junta goes to the file drawer for that category and looks at the proposals. The Junta selects the proposal submitted by the county that is the farthest behind. The selection is made by the Junta and not by a regional assembly as we were told during our January visit. The person who told us that was in a position to know, but either did not communicate the policy correctly or we misunderstood what was communicated. This is just a temporary policy until the counties are considered more equalized. The hermanamientos (partnerships) continue as before and unfinished projects can be completed. The temporary policy applies to all new projects. This means that those organizations with hermanamientos may work in a county other than the one with which they have the hermanamiento IF they decide to take on new projects. I am not sure who was considered ahead in projects or behind in projects at the time this new decision was reached, but it is obvious that San Manuel is currently considered ahead. I do not know how other money is handled. Our concern was simply to clarify the policy on new projects in order that we could make an informed decision about whether to take on a large new project requiring foundation grants.

There are many factors affecting projects in the autonomous counties. One important factor is the effectiveness of the autonomous council in conceiving a project, getting it approved and in carrying out a project once financing is obtained. Another factor can be the effectiveness of a county’s hermanamiento. Some turn out well and work together effectively and others don’t. The personnel appointed to staff a project also play a decisive role in how much that project really helps the county. In other words, human nature plays a significant role in the degree of success these projects have. It boils down to the differences in human beings. I suspect these innate differences in us play a role in why one county is ahead and another is behind. I don’t think that any policy can equalize the differences in people, but it can certainly try to equalize the number of projects.
We also received important information concerning the secondary school in La Garrucha. The information we received this time is that the building has not been completed. It lacks a second floor. This is totally new information for us. We have asked many times about the secondary school and been told that the building was finished but the teachers weren’t ready. All four of the counties in the Garrucha region have children who have finished their primary school education and are ready for secondary school. But, there is no functioning secondary school within the region and transportation to the secondary school in Oventik is too expensive. Thus, all 4 counties have an interest in seeing this school get up and running. Finding the compañeros to go through the capacity building program for teachers and then go on to work teaching the children may be difficult, but not impossible. The time away from their families and fields is a hardship and keeps some from volunteering, but it won’t deter everyone.

A tour of the primary school in Emiliano Zapata revealed the need for primary school supplies: desks, chairs, paper, pencils, chalk, crayons and pens. I would not be surprised if this were the situation in the majority of schools throughout this region. An experienced education promoter (teacher) told us that it had been decided that each county should have its own capacity building (training) center for teachers. We were told that one of the two counties without such a center was San Manuel. Apparently the construction of these new centers has been approved, but we do not know when they will be ready to ask for funding. Health and education are coordinated regionally and it is not clear to this writer exactly how these decisions are made. We need to probe further into the issue of the secondary school and the capacity building center for education promoters on our next visit to La Garrucha and San Manuel.

The region has seen tremendous advances in health over the past 3 years. Francisco Gómez County now has a Women’s Clinic in La Garrucha (in addition to its regional clinic) capable of providing high-level OB/GYN services to women. This was part of the huge Basque Country health care project that also constructed a basic clinic in each of the 3 remaining counties: San Manuel, Ricardo Flores Magón, and Francisco Villa. All the clinics have dormitories for the health promoters who are on duty there, as well as for those who come for capacity building workshops. La Garrucha has a large building with dormitories to house health promoters from throughout the region when they are in the Caracol for capacity building. San Manuel inaugurated its Compañera Lucha Clinic in December 2008 and it is now serving patients. Francisco Villa plans to inaugurate its new clinic as soon as it gets enough money together to pay for a big celebration. I have no information about an inarguration date for Ricardo Flores Magón, but I have been told that its clinic is complete and operational. As in other regions, the region of La Garrucha has a vaccination program and a maternal health program carried out by its health promoters. San Manuel also has 3 micro clinics, one in each of the 3 canyons that make up the county. Micro clinics are distributed throughout all four counties.

We promised to return in July to follow-up on the Pharmacy Warehouse and to learn more about some of the region’s plans. We are also concerned about the health of a good friend in San Manuel who was sick while we were there.
Oventik and Polhó

We next visited the Caracol of Oventik in order to do a little shopping and also to ask for permission to visit San Pedro Polhó autonomous county (Polhó). After visiting the Junta, we stopped at the Che Guevara store and then continued on to Polhó. A crime against public health is taking place in Acteal, a community within the boundaries of Polhó, which has some displaced Zapatistas living there. Chenalhó County, the name of the official government county, has created a garbage dump adjacent to a camp of displaced Zapatistas in Acteal. The Chenalhó county government dumps all kinds of waste in this open-air dump, including the bodies of dead animals. Acteal is near the county line with Pantelhó, which has also started using the same garbage dump. We asked both the Junta and the representative of the autonomous council what, if anything, they were going to do about the dump. They said they had not yet decided, but it was clear that they would do something. We bought artesanía from one of the two weaving cooperatives in Polhó before returning to San Cristóbal.

We would urge folks who visit Chiapas to take the time to visit the women weavers in Polhó and to buy some of their beautiful artesanía. The purchase of their artesanía enables the women to supplement their family’s basic diet with fruit and vegetables. The women in the two weaving cooperatives are Zapatistas displaced by paramilitary violence in 1997. The basic diet for the camps of displaced people is 3 tortillas per day, one serving of beans per day and meat once a month. The income they earn from selling artesanía goes to supplement that basic diet. One of the cooperatives, Comandanta Ramona, is on the highway, not far from the main entrance gate to Polhó, and it is not necessary to get permission from Oventik to shop there. The other cooperative, Nueva Esperanza, is inside the gate and requires permission to enter.

Although this was a working visit, we were able to enjoy a few meals with friends, dinner at our favorite cheap restaurant, and a cup of hot chocolate at a wonderful place called “Chocolate.” It was also a more “typical” visit than the one in January, in the sense that there were no Encuentros or Festivals. Life was a little slower and people were just going about their daily routines. On the surface, it appeared very calm. We mentioned that to a long-time friend we encountered while in La Garrucha. She raised her eyebrows and rolled her eyes in disagreement with that statement, but did not go on to explain.

Actually, no explanation was necessary.

Given all the fuss and publicity about drug-related violence in Mexico, I feel compelled to add that in spite of what lies just below the surface of daily life in Chiapas, the EZLN’s total ban on narcotics (growing, consuming or dealing) makes its communities an exception to the current drug-related violence experienced by many other (non-Zapatista) communities in Mexico.

Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez
Chiapas Support Committee
March 2009