Archive for Chiapas Support Committee

JANUARY 2010 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

Posted in News, noticias with tags , on February 2, 2010 by floweroftheword

1. Chiapas State Congress Passes Indigenous “Rights” Law – On December 30, 2009, the Chiapas State Congress passed a law regarding Indigenous Rights and Culture without consulting indigenous peoples in the state. This new state law conditions these rights on not conflicting with the state or federal Constitution or any state or federal law. In other words, rather than creating new indigenous rights, the new law merely reinforces the counter-reform passed by the federal government in 2001 and enforces the rights of government.

2. Cocopa Asks Chiapas Governor Not to Publish the Law – The Commission for Harmony and Pacification (Cocopa, for its initials in Spanish), met with deputies and senators who make up the local Congress in Chiapas. Cocopa’s president, Jaime Martinez Veloz, asked Governor Juan Sabines not to publish the new law on indigenous rights and culture and to consult with the state’s indigenous peoples before passing any law about them. Martinez Veloz pointed out that consultation is required by international law (Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization).

3. Human Rights Defender Receives Death Threats – Adolfo Guzman Ordaz, a human rights defender in Comitán, Chiapas, received a note slipped under the door of his home threatening him with death threat. That allegedly occurred on January 6. Earlier the same day, state preventive police had gone to his home looking for him. Their motive is not known. Guzmán Ordaz was not at home, but later that afternoon the note arrived. He had previously received a phone call on December 25 saying it would be his last Christmas. Guzman Ordaz works for the civil organism Enlace, Communications and Capacity Building (ECC, its initials in Spanish). Ministerial police broke into Guzmán Ordaz’ home last November without a warrant and terrorized his wife and small children.

4. Opddic Invades Zapatista Ejido – Bolón Ajaw is a small indigenous Zapatista village that was under siege off and on for years by its PRI neighbors in Agua Azul ejido. At some point in the last year or so, the Zapatistas reached an agreement with the state government to convert the “recuperated” land on which Bolón Ajaw sits into a legal ejido. The violent attacks by PRI members belonging to the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic) seemed to stop for awhile. However, on January 21, 57 Opddic members invaded the new ejido (collective farm), carrying pistols, machetes and radios and began to construct 3 cabins while smoking marijuana, which is strictly prohibited in Zapatista communities. Bolón Ajaw has a spectacular virgin waterfall and is adjacent to the Agua Azul Cascades tourist area.

5. 2 Indigenous Communities Evicted from Montes Azules – Federal and state police report that on January 20 they evicted two indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon Jungle. The communities are known as El Suspiro (aka El Semental) and Laguna San Pedro (San Pedro Guanil). Police allege that 2 men from Laguna San Pedro were detained for possession of firearms. Police say they took the community’s remaining members to a state-run aid organization for shelter. Police reported that El Suspiro residents fled into the woods. The request for eviction came from members of the “Lacandon Community.” The Good Government Junta in La Garrucha denounced the eviction and stated that those evicted from Laguna San Pedro are EZLN support bases. (An article on the evictions is attached in a pdf file.))

6. The Politics of Mining and Elections in Chiapas – On January 13, Chiapas police detained Walter León Montoya pursuant to an arrest warrant. León Montoya is a former federal PRI deputy (congressman) and is currently a representative of Canacar, a national organization of truckers. León Montoya is accused of being the “intellectual author” of the murder of anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca. The Network of Those Affected by Mining (REMA), Abarca’s organization, criticized the accusation and detention as scapegoating and a ploy to give the Black Fire mining company impunity. Curiously, or should we say conveniently, León Montoya filed a lawsuit against the PRD government of Juan Sabines over the cancellation of 2010 elections in Chiapas! His arrest apparently means he cannot pursue the lawsuit. Looks like another slick move by Governor Sabines.

In Other Parts of Mexico…

1. Mexico’s “Anti-Drug” War Claims 7,724 Lives in 2009 – El Universal reported that a total of 16,205 lives have been lost since 2007, when Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, sent the federal Army out into the city streets to perform police functions in a war against drug traffickers and organized crime.

2. Judge’s Decision in Brad Will Murder Case Appealed – A district court judge in Oaxaca granted a protective order to Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, an APPO member accused of the murder of Indymedia journalist Brad Will. The Attorney General of the Republic filed a timely appeal, so Martinez Moreno will remain in prison while the appeal is pending.

__________________________________________________

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.

http://www.chiapas-support.org

_______________________________________________________

Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609

Tel: (510) 654-9587

Email: cezmat@igc.org

http://www.chiapas-support.org

Advertisements

FELIZ AÑO! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Posted in News, noticias with tags , on February 1, 2010 by floweroftheword

DECEMBER 2009 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

1. 16 Years of Zapatista Resistance! – January 1 marked the 16th Anniversary of the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. The Zapatistas closed the five Caracoles to the public (both national and international) on December 30 with signs announcing that they would reopen after January 2, 2010. Meanwhile, the Mexican Army moved into Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, with 26 armored tanks and 600 additional soldiers, to “dissuade” any possible confrontations.

2. San Cristóbal Seminar in Honor of Andrés Aubry – On December 30 and 31 and January 1 and 2, an international seminar of reflection and analysis took place at Cideci in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. The 4-day gathering coincided with the publication of a book from the gathering 2 years ago in which the EZLN and some leading anticapitalist and antisystemic thinkers participated. It also coincided with the 16th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising, leading to much speculation about whether any Zapatistas would appear or participate in the seminar. That did not happen.

3. A New Cocopa Arrives in Chiapas – The Mexican Congress (federal) appointed a new Commission of Harmony and Pacification (Cocopa, for its initials in Spanish), as required by the 1995 law of the same name. Its legal mandate is to mediate between the federal government and the EZLN in a process of dialogue and negotiation to reach peace agreements. The new Cocopa is currently lodged in San Cristobal, trying to make contact with the EZLN. The commission did not explain why the EZLN should return to dialogue and negotiate with a government that failed to implement the first agreement it reached with the EZLN, known as the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture.

4. Scathing Human Rights Criticisms of Mexico – Mexico came under scathing attack from 3 sources this month for its human rights abuses. On December 9, Amnesty International accused the federal government of being complicit in serious human rights abuses committed by the Mexican army, often under the guise of fighting drug trafficking. AI accused the government of inadequate responses and ineffective investigations at all levels, leading to a general climate of impunity among security forces. A recent AI study found that human rights abuses by the army tripled under the Calderon administration.

On December 10, the Inter-American Human Rights Court accused Mexico of egregious human rights violations related to the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. Ruling on a case from 2001, the court found Mexico guilty of violating the most fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution, including the right to life, personal liberty, judicial protection and equal treatment. The wide-ranging decision ordered Mexico to repair the damages, fully investigate and process the crimes, sanction those responsible, and publicly recognize the state’s international responsibility for its egregious failures.

On December 21, Alberto Brunori, representative of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that cases of impunity almost always go hand in hand with smear campaigns designed to discredit denunciations of human rights abuse. He maintained that Chiapas is one of the states where there are serious cases of impunity and it is “difficult for humanitarian defenders to work,” because of situations of insecurity and the smear campaigns against them. Brunori was in Chiapas to meet with government officials, campesino organizations and to attend the 12th commemoration of the Acteal Massacre.

5. The US Delivers 5 Helicopters to Mexico – Oblivious to the rampant human rights abuse by Mexico’s security forces, the United States delivered 5 Bell-412 helicopters to Mexico’s Secretary of Defense on December 15. John Brennan, an advisor to Barack Obama on internal security and counterterrorism, personally handed over title to the helicopters as part of the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico) to help Mexico in its “War Against Drugs.” Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the Senate was approving more money for Plan Mexico.

6. OCEZ Ends Its Protest on Cathedral Plaza – On Christmas Eve, as a result of negotiations with the Chiapas government, the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ) removed its sit-in on Cathedral Plaza in San Cristobal de las Casas. The Chiapas government agreed to legalize certain disputed lands occupied by OCEZ members and to study the possibility of legalizing others. It also agreed to give OCEZ 1,150,000 pesos for a number of “productive projects,” with which its communities can start small businesses. Another meeting on the agrarian issues will take place on January 13, 2010. The state government also agreed to pay lifetime pensions to the widows of the two men killed in the accident that occurred while they were attempting to stop the detention of Jose Manuel Chema Hernandez Martinez. It also agreed to pay disability benefits to a man who was paralyzed as a result of that same accident, and to reimburse OCEZ for the truck that was in the accident and its expenses for maintaining the sit-in.

7. Chiapas State Congress Passes Anti-Abortion Law – The local Chiapas Congress approved the “Law of Responsible Paternity,” which grants rights to persons from the moment of their conception, and revokes the penalty of prison against women that abort but imposes psychological treatment on them “to reaffirm the values of maternity.” The legislation was approved over strong protest by women’s rights organizations. The bill now goes to the 118 municipalities for approval as it involves a change to the state Constitution.

In Other Parts of Mexico…

1. Mexico City Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage – Gay activists in Mexico City received a Christmas present from Mexico City’s Congress. It approved legislation granting same-sex couples the right to marry. The law sets a precedent in Mexico and will also give gay couples the right to adopt children. The law is scheduled to take effect in March. There is currently an intense backlash against the legislation led by the Catholic Church.

2. Charges Against APPO Member in Brad Will Murder Reversed – A district court judge in Oaxaca granted a protective order to Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, an APPO member accused of the murder of Indymedia jounalist Brad Will. This means that Martinez Moreno will be released from prison if the Attorney Generak of the Republic does not appeal within the next ten days. The judge found a lack of evidence against the accused and absolved him of the crime.

3. Lack of Health Care Cited in Guerrero Deaths – The Guerrero Network of Civil Human Rights Organisms reported that 22 people died in an indigenous region of the state in the last two months because of a lack of adequate health care facilities. 46 communities do not have even a casa de salud and those that have one lack medicines. Clinics in the region do not have doctors or nurses 24-7, and some clinics completely lack doctors. This same situation is also found in rural Chiapas. It is one of the first problems the Zapatistas began to address and advance in. It is why the Chiapas Support Committee’s Pharmacy Warehouse Project, and others like it, are so important.

__________________________________________________

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.

http://www.chiapas-support.org

_______________________________________________________

Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609

Tel: (510) 654-9587

Email: cezmat@igc.org

http://www.chiapas-support.org

OCTOBER 2009 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

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.

http://www.chiapas-support.org

_______________________________________________________

Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609

Tel: (510) 654-9587

Email: cezmat@igc.org

http://www.chiapas-support.org

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.
Comments

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
cezmat@igc.org

OCTOBER 2008 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2008 by floweroftheword

1. Massacre in Chiapas re: Chinkultic Archaeological Site – On October 3, state police opened fire on unarmed indigenous residents of Miguel Hidalgo ejido, ultimately killing 6, injuring 17 and leaving 36 held in police custody. 4 of the dead were summarily executed with a shot to the head by police. The stage for this tragic incident was set on September 9, when indigenous campesinos living near two government-run sites, Lagos de Montebello National Park and Chinkultic Archaeological site, occupied them. They said that the government agency involved, known as INAH, was not taking good care of the sites and was charging too much for admission. The INAH went to court to evict the campesinos. A court ordered the eviction of Lagos de Montebello National Park and federal and state police carried out that eviction without incident on October 3. There was no court order to evict the Chinkultic archaeological site. Nevertheless, some of the police split off from the group that went to Lagos de Montebello and, instead, went to the Miguel Hidalgo ejido, where the campesinos lived who were occupying Chinkultic. Of the 4 who were summarily executed by police, 3 were seriously injured. The fourth man was taking them to the hospital in his truck. Police pulled the driver out of his truck and killed him along with the 3 injured men. Miguel Hidalgo has no connection to the Zapatistas, the Other Campaign or any other social or political organization. Its residents have generally cooperated with the government and, in fact, were negotiating over the occupation and care of Chinkultic when the massacre occurred. 3 low-level state officials have been fired and several state police officials are under house arrest. Several other patrol officers are in jail. The state government of Chiapas is giving every possible kind of attention (and lots of goodies) to Miguel Hidalgo residents. Chinkultic has not yet been returned to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH, its initials in Spanish).

2. EZLN Extends Invitations to the “World Festival of Dignified Rage” – On September 15, the EZLN issued a communique detailing plans for an end-of-year celebration of its 25/15 Anniversary (25 years since the EZLN’s founding and 15 years since the Jan. 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising). The celebration will take place in three locations: Mexico City (December 26-29 ); Oventik (December 31, 2008 and January 1, 2009); and San Cristóbal de las Casas (January 2,3,4,5). The communique stated that participation in the Festival would be by invitation. The Chiapas Support Committee was honored to receive an invitation this week (October 27). Information about activities is now on the Enlace Zapatista blog in English, Spanish, French, etc. http://www.ezln.org.mx (click on Enlace Zapatista).

3. “Former” Opddic Members Given Control of Agua Azul Ticket Booth – Last month we reported on the new toll road planned between the Chiapas cities of San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, one part of a mega-plan for tourist “development” in the Northern Zone of Chiapas. The mega-plan, formally known as the San Cristobal-Palenque Planned Integral Center and billed as an “eco-archaeological tourism” project, includes “theme parks” at the beautiful Agua Azul Cascades and the exquisite archaeolo-gical site of Palenque, bridges over 3 rivers, hotels, restaurants, related businesses and an expansion of the Palenque Airport. Although Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, did not specifically announce the toll road while he was in Chiapas this month, he did promise more dollars for tourism. And, La Jornada reported that the “former” Opddic paramilitaries who attacked the Zapatista community of Bolom Ajaw have now been given the legal right to operate the ticket booth that collects entry fees to Agua Azul. Moreover, the state government has anointed these same “former” paramilitaries as the official guardians of the Agua Azul Cascades park, uniforms and all! Not surprisingly, these guardians of the Cascades immediately requested the eviction of Bolom Ajaw, although they have no rights or jurisdiction over Bolom Ajaw’s land.

4. Opddic Members Attack 9 Year Old Zapatista Boy With Machetes – On October 10, 3 Opddic members attacked nine-year-old Carmelino Navarro Jimenez and his sister-in-law, Manuela. Both were on their way to the coffee field where Carmelino’s father and brother were working. Two of the attackers were armed with pistols, the third with a machete. Carmelino fell as he ran away from the attackers and was then struck with a machete. Manuela was able to escape and reach the coffee field to get help for Carmelino, who required 15 stitches for his wound. These are the same Opddic leaders who attacked Carmelino’s father and brother last year. Arrest warrants were pending against the three, but were never detained by police. This occurred in the community of Bayulubmax, Olga Isabel autonomous municipio (county), in the Northern Zone of Chiapas. Amnesty International has expressed its concern about future danger to Carmelino’s family.

5. Oventik Junta Reports Paramilitary Threats to Polho – On October 31, the Zapatista Good Government Junta in Oventik released a denunciation regarding a series of incidents involving Zapatista bases in San Pedro Polho autonomous county and local Chenalho paramilitaries. The Junta alleges that the paramilitaries are members of the Cardenista Front and the PRI political party, that they are the same paramilitaries responsible for the 1997 Acteal Massacre, that the Chenalho municipal president is supplying them with high-caliber weapons, and that they are planning another attack against the autonomous Zapatista camps of those displaced by the 1997 paramilitary violence.

6. APPO Supporter Arrested in Oaxaca, Charged with Brad Will’s Death – As Brad Will’s friends in the United States and Mexico remembered the 2nd anniversary of his brutal murder while filming events in Oaxaca, police arrested Miguel Cruz Moreno, an APPO sympathizer, accusing him of Brad’s murder. This is contrary to the evidence which clearly shows that the bullets came from a place where APPO supporters were not standing. Those who were in the place from which the bullets were fired were municipal police and paramilitary types collaborating with the police. This arrest fits into the analysis of Mexican human rights groups that social movements and social protest are being criminalized.

7. Good News from Guerrero: El Camalote Prisoners Free – On October 20, a district judge in Guerrero granted a protective order to 4 of the 5 members of the Me´phaa Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (OPIM) who were jailed 6 months ago. The protective order means that they were to be set free the following day. The 5th man must remain in jail pending a trial. All 5 are from the indigenous community of El Camalote and were jailed for alleged involvement in the death of a paramilitary. OPIM is adhered to the Other Campaign.
_______________________________________________________
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:
http://www.chiapas-support.org
———————————————————————————————-
The Chiapas Support Committee is a grass roots all-volunteer human rights organization in Oakland, California. We work with indigenous and campesino organizations in Mexico. We have an hermanamiento (partnership) with San Manuel autonomous Zapatista municipality. In the Bay Area we provide public information about Chiapas through community events, our newsletter (Chiapas Update), our listserv and web site. We organize delegations to Chiapas and also recruit and certify human rights observers and volunteers. We participate in the Other Campaign and the International Campaign. Our contact information is below!
_______________________________________________________
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587
Email: cezmat@igc.org
http://www.chiapas-support.org

Chiapas Update Newsletter September 2008

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2008 by floweroftheword

Monthly News from the Chiapas Support Committee (California)

including:

Pages 1-2 – An excellent article on Plan Mexico (the Merida Initiative) by Abigail Andrews;

Pages 3-4 – A report on the July visit to Chiapas and San Manuel by Todd Davies;

Page 5 – Update on status of Chiapas Political Prisoners

The newsletter is in pdf format – just click to download.

You will need Adobe Acrobat to view or print.

Download Chiapas Update Sept 2008 (pdf file)

To download Adobe Acrobat (FREE) click here
saludos
Wellington Zapatista Support Group

JULY 2008 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

Posted in News with tags , , , on August 12, 2008 by floweroftheword

[Dear Friends, As this News Summary goes out, we are very concerned about the constant efforts to take land away from subsistence farmers, both Zapatista support bases and Other Campaign adherents. Also of concern is the amount of money buying campesino loyalty to the government as opposed to the Other Campaign or the Zapatistas. Combined with the military and police incursions, this counterinsurgency strategy creates an explosive atmosphere of constant threats and confrontations in the communities.]

1. Is There Gold in the Chiapas Hills? – The community of Cruzton, in Venustiano Carranza Municipality (County), has experienced harassment by state police ever since last April 27, when approximately 500 Chiapas police kicked in doors and broke into houses in Cruzton, a pro-Zapatista community. They detained 6 men, took them away to an undisclosed location and released them without charges later in the day. In early July it was learned that the state police had set up an improvised camp on lands farmed by Cruzton residents for their survival, including the spring from which the community draws its water. Twenty (20) alleged “owners” of a nonexistent ejido are also in the camp carrying high-powered automatic weapons. There are 8 arrest warrants against Cruzton residents and they are not permitted to farm their cornfields. The occupation of these cornfields has uncovered the motive for the occupation: Gold exploration! On July 22, the Cruzton families decided to enter the cornfields to clean them and to clean the natural spring. Members of the Other Campaign in the Jovel Valley were there as observers. Police attacked the families. There were several injuries and a member of the Other Jovel, Victor Manuel Escobar Pineda, was arrested and jailed. On July 23, the police returned, took down the camp and left the site. One week later, on July 30, Cruzton campesinos were able to once again work their corn and bean fields.

There are 44 families in Cruzton: 2 families are EZLN support bases; 28 families are Other Campaign members and 14 families belong to the PAN political party. The mining companies involved are Canadian: Fronteer Development Group and Radius Gold, through their Mexican subsidiaries. The amount of land involved is much larger than that of Cruzton. While as of right now Cruzton is the only community to suffer an attempt to take away its farmlands, mining concessions affect much of the central portion of the state of Chiapas.

2. 7 Chiapas Political Prisoners Released – On July 24, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) reported that 3 political prisoners belonging to The Voice of Los Llanos (the name of the prison in San Cristobal Municipality) were released from prison. Frayba also reported that 3 political prisoners belonging to The Voice of El Amate (the prison in Cintalapa Municipality) were released on that same date. The six had participated in the hunger strike of February/March of this year and were retaliated against for their participation. They were included in the petition the Chiapas Support Committee circulated in March and April as part of the campaign to free political prisoners in Chiapas. Of that original group, 8 remain incarcerated. The lawyers from Frayba worked tirelessly to free these 5 men and 1 woman. They continue working to free those 8 who remain in prison. The seventh person released on July 24 was Victor Manuel Escobar Pineda, the school teacher arrested and jailed in Cruzton on July 22.

3. Huitepec Hill Zapatista Ecological Reserve – Atop the beautiful forested Huitepec Hill, near the tourist town of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, the Zapatistas established an ecological reserve in March 2007. The municipal government of San Cristobal, controlled by the San Cristobal coletos (elites), belonging to the PRI political party, have been plotting to take it away from the Zapatistas ever since they established the reserve. That threat seemed imminent during July, when it became known that the San Cristobal mayor was offering public works (roads) to indigenous communities living on the hill in exchange for their support in evicting the Zapatistas. So far, most communities have not supported him. San Cristobal’s housing boom is believed to be the mayor’s motive for the eviction. Real estate developers are anxious to build expensive homes on the site. The Good Government Junta in Oventik has jurisdiction over the Huitepec Hill nature reserve.

4. Caravan of Human Rights Promoters in Chiapas – Over 300 national and international human rights promoters arrived in Chiapas on July 29 to spend 2 weeks there visiting the Caracoles of La Garrucha, Oventik, Morelia and the Huitepec Ecological Reserve, as well as other Zapatista sites recently threatened by provocations from the Army and police. Arriving in a caravan of buses from Mexico City, the human rights promoters are dividing into brigades that visit different locations. One brigade visited Cruzton on July 31. Other brigades report harassment along their route. It appears that the solidarity caravan will be in Chiapas to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Caracoles and the Good Government Juntas on August 8 and 9.
_______________________________________________________
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:
http://www.chiapas-support.org
———————————————————————————————-
The Chiapas Support Committee is a grass roots all-volunteer human rights organization in Oakland, California. We work with indigenous and campesino organizations in Mexico. We have an hermanamiento (partnership) with San Manuel autonomous Zapatista municipality. In the Bay Area we provide public information about Chiapas through public events, our newsletter (Chiapas Update), our listserv and web site. We organize delegations to Chiapas and also recruit and certify human rights observers and volunteers. We participate in the Other Campaign and the International Campaign. Our contact information is below!
_______________________________________________________
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587
Email: cezmat@igc.org
http://www.chiapas-support.org