Archive for chiapas

Paramilitary Attack on Zapatistas in Bolón Ajaw

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

Paramilitary Attack on Zapatistas in Bolón Ajaw

As we reported in our January 2010 Chiapas/Zapatista News Summary, 57 residents of Agua Azul ejido, belonging to the PRI (political party) and suspected of belonging to the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic, its initials in Spansh), entered Bolón Ajaw Zapatista community on January 21, smoking marijuana and displaying guns. The “Opddicas,” as they are referred to by the Zapatistas, constructed 3 cabins on Bolón Ajaw’s recuperated land.

There is a long-standing history of violence and provocation by the PRI members from Agua Azul ejido in this region. The conflict is about controlling the land. While the PRI members have no legal right to Bolón Ajaw’s land, the Mexican Army and the state government allow them to use any means they see fit to try to take the land away from the Zapatistas. What makes this land so desirable is the spectacular turquoise waterfall located on Bolón Ajaw’s land, located adjacent to the internationally famous tourist attraction, the Agua Azul Cascades (shown above). The PRI members know there is a lot of money to be made from tourism and want to expand their control of the tourist area into Bolón Ajaw. That coincides with the state and federal governments plans for a mega-tourism corridor between Agua Azul and the Palenque Ruins, a majestic Maya archaeological site. As the governments’ plans for developing the region have become known, entry fees collected from tourists have been the cause of numerous clashes between PRI members and Zapatista supporters in the region of the Agua Azul Cascades. The government has promised the PRI members a cut of the profits if they displace the Zapatistas who do not want to make the land part of a tourist project, but want to preserve the natural setting, including the virgin waterfall.

On February 6, armed conflict erupted in and around Bolón Ajaw. According to the government, the end result was 1 PRI member dead from a gunshot wound, some 20+ PRI members injured, many from gunshot wounds, and 7 PRI members detained by the Zapatistas. As if on cue, the PRI members went running to the Attorney General of Chiapas claiming that the Zapatistas mounted an armed attack on them. The Attorney General found it convenient to believe the PRI members and issued press statements accusing the Zapatistas and demanding immediate release of those “kidnapped” (detained).

The Zapatista Good Government Junta in the Caracol of Morelia issued a long state-ment describing and denouncing the incident. The Junta first reminded us that after the January incident in Bolon Ajaw it warned that the Zapatistas would defend the land and its riches. It went on to state that it was the armed Opddic members from Agua Azul ejido who ambushed unarmed Zapatistas and, therefore, it was the armed PRI members who shot wildly and killed one of their own members. 3 Zapatistas were injured by bullets, one gravely. The Junta reported that all those detained were released.

The Junta made a proposal as a basis for dialogue between the parties. The government, however, is insisting that the dialogue be held at the Government Palace in the capital city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez and that Governor Juan Sabines be present to preside over the dialogue. Moreover, the government insists on the presence of a Zapatista from Bolón Ajaw. And, what worries everyone is that government officials are insinuating that if the Zapatistas do not go to the Government Palace, the Army will enter to resolve the problem militarily. The implications of this are ominous.

A truce between the federal Army and the Zapatista Army has existed ever since the 1995 passage of the law promoting peace and dialogue in Chiapas. This has kept both the federal Army and the Zapatista Army from using their weapons. If that law and the truce were deemed broken, the Mexican Army could enter into Zapatista communities to detain people, destroy autonomous institutions (government headquarters, schools, clinics, economic projects) and occupy the communities. Because the state government set such ridiculous conditions for dialogue, the Morelia Junta believes that this is what President Felipe Calderón wants to happen.

The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) acted as a “communications bridge” between the government and the Junta, delivering messages back and forth. Frayba issued a statement saying that dialogue was not possible now due to the intense military presence in the zone around Agua Azul and the conditions set by the government. As of February 16, a “large number” of intelligence agents are reportedly operating in the Agua Azul region, some in plain clothes; military helicopters are flying low over the communities; and security forces are stationed in the area, patrolling constantly.

Chiapas Support Committee

P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609

(510) 654-9587

Action Alert: Violent Evictions in Chiapas

Posted in Announcement, denuncia, News, noticias, protesta with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by floweroftheword

Elder Indigenous woman takes part in march for world peace in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico. The Indigenous Peoples’ march was led by Bishop Felipe Arizmendi on March 14, 2003, days before the U.S. began its “official” bombing of Iraq.

Chiapas, Mexico 2003

photo: Langelle/GJEP

This photo is relevant today for many reasons. Next month is the 7th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and even though that war has slowed down, the attack on Afghanistan intensifies. This photograph was also taken just after an emergency delegation went to Chiapas regarding forced evictions of Indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon jungle. Today in Chiapas, there are violent evictions taking place in the Lacandon jungle–this time to make room for oil palm plantations.

In 2003:

In March 2003 Orin Langelle travelled to Chiapas on an emergency investigative delegation to look into threatened evictions of Indigenous communities from the Lacandon jungle, and to examine the level of ecological destruction there. Some communities were already relocated. The delegation, including journalists, photographers and organizers, visited threatened communities in the Lacandon, met with organizations working in the region and conducted overflights of the jungle, documenting the ecological damage.

Why the evictions? Conservation International (CI) teamed up with the Mexican government to declare that Indigenous communities, including Zapatista support base communities living in the Monte Azules Integral Biosphere Reserve were destroying it. This provided a supposedly ecological pretext–protection of the Monte Azules–as the reason for evicting these communities.

Our delegation proved that most of the communities had been conducting sustainable organic agriculture in the jungle for years. They outlawed slash and burn farming and practiced regular crop rotation to protect the soil. In fact, we found that it was the military that was causing massive destruction of the rainforest–which we witnessed on our overflight of the jungle.

This developed during the Mexican government’s thrust to push the Plan Puebla Panama mega-development scheme. One of the PPP plans calls for the establishment of new timber plantations in the region.

Now in 2010:

México: Violent evictions in Chiapas for establishing oil palm monocultures

from World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, February 2010,

What follows is a communiqué from the Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) reporting on the violent situation that local communities and Indigenous Peoples of the Lacandona forest in Chiapas are presently going through.

Appeal to international solidarity to protect the Lacandona Forest in Chiapas (Mexico), February 2010.

The Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) is hereby denouncing the arbitrary treatment suffered by various communities in the Lacandona forest, in the area declared as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, in the State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Last January, the Chiapas State Congress approved funding for the construction of a palm oil processing plant. Shortly afterwards, dozens of families from the Municipality of Ocosingo were evicted from their territory, in order to give way for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations.

Dozens of heavily armed police arrived in helicopters and with aggressive violence evicted men, women and children from their homes, which they then burnt down and with no explanation, removed the community to the city of Palenque.

While the government talks about conservation and protection of the zone, it evicts those who have been truly responsible for making this conservation possible. At the same time, it replaces local ecosystems by oil palm monocultures.

Oil palm plantations are being promoted under an “ecological” mask, as if the production of agrofuels based on palm oil could be a solution to climate change. Apart from the falsehood of these affirmations, no mention is made of the serious negative impacts they generate such as violation of the local population and indigenous peoples’ human rights, as is presently the case in Chiapas.

Furthermore, monoculture oil palm plantations are one of the main causes of deforestation and therefore contribute to climate change through the release of carbon stored in the forests, while destroying the means of subsistence and food sovereignty of millions of small farmers, Indigenous and other communities, and generating serious negative environmental impacts. The plantations require agrochemicals that poison the workers and local communities and contaminate soil and water. Monoculture oil palm plantations eliminate biodiversity and deplete fresh water sources.

In sum, monoculture plantations for the production of paper and agrofuels (such as in the case of oil palm) worsen the living conditions and opportunities for survival of the local population and are only beneficial to a small handful of companies that become rich at the expense of social and environmental destruction.

For this reason, we are appealing to the international community to condemn the plans for the expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations in Mexico, denouncing this situation by all means at your disposal.

To Protest these evictions, contact:

Physical address:

187 Featherston Street

Level 2, AMP Chambers

Wellington 6011

New Zealand

Postal address:

PO Box 11-510, Wellington 6142, New Zealand

Phone: +64-4-472-0555

Fax: +64-4-496-3559


(or your local Mexican Embassy)

Support the work of Global Justice Ecology Project for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Forest Protection

For ongoing updates on the progress of Global Justice Ecology Project, please visit our Website:

Climate Connections blog:

Facebook page:

Follow us on Twitter:

Thanks for all your support.

From the staff at GJEP,

Anne Petermann, Executive Director

Orin Langelle, Co-Director/Strategist

Camila Moreno, Lawyer/Researcher (Porto Alegre, Brazil)

Hallie Boas, New Voices on Climate Change Coordinator (Berkeley, CA)

Aja Lippincott, Assistant to the Directors

Letter and receipt of donation from our compas Zapatistas

Posted in comunicado, EZLN Communique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2010 by floweroftheword

Thanks to everyone who has made a donation, attended one of our events or participated in our other fundraising efforts.

Please see below photos of a letter and receipt (plus english translation) we just recieved from the Zapatista communities we are working with.

Keep your eyes and ears open for events we have coming up this year!

Saludos Rebeldes, WZSG


Caracol in Resistance

Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer

Good Government Council

El Camino del Futuro

Chiapas, Mexico

14 February 2010


By way of this letter we send a cordial revolutionary greeting to your group in New Zealand, on the part of the authorities of the council of good government.

We thank you for your support that has helped us here in the good government and we hope that you continue to assist us as you know well that we are not earning much money as we are in the resistance, as we work to build Autonomy. This is all that we request, and we hope this finds you well and working.


the council of good government

Ausencio Lopez, Rolando Gomez, Gorki Gomez


Caracol in Resistance

Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer

Good Government Council

El Camino del Futuro

Chiapas, Mexico


The council of good government of El Camino Del Futuro met with Julie webb Pullman of the New Zealand Zapatista Support Group .

A donation has been delivered to the council of good government of $1,000 dollars ($14,000 Mexican Pesos) and some books for the autonomous education programmes.

The council of good government received this donation and also the educational books and we thank you for your support. Your group has helped us since 2006 and we hope to continue together into the future.


The authorities of the council of good government

Ausencio Lopez, Enoc Guiterrez, Gorki Gomez


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



Posted in News, noticias with tags , , , on October 11, 2009 by floweroftheword

Whenever we have a hard time keeping up with the news in Chiapas, years of experience tell us that it usually indicates an escalation of the “low-intensity” conflict; the counterinsurgency. The essence of the so-called “low-intensity” war, as the counterinsurgency in Chiapas has often been called, is that it ebbs and flows as counterinsurgency campaigns begin and then run their course. There is little doubt that a counterinsurgency campaign is now underway against the Zapatista and Other Campaign communities in resistance. The violence is escalating and we can hardly keep up with the news. CSC

1. San Manuel Zapatistas Attacked by Armed PRI Members – A September 1 attack by Aric-official and Aric-UU left 1 member of Aric-UU dead, 8 Zapatistas injured, 8 Aric members injured and 7 Zapatistas taken prisoner. The Zapatistas taken prisoner were tortured for 36 hours until government officials and human rights organizations arrived. Aric-official and Aric-UU are 2 factions of the Aric peasant organization affiliated with the PRI political party. They are pro-government but not paramilitary. However, the Opddic inserted itself into this land dispute on the side of the Aric groupings, its fellow members in the PRI. The Opddic, pointed to as a paramilitary group, supplied guns to the Aric members and Opddic members also joined in the attack. San Manuel is the Chiapas Support Committee’s partner Zapatista municipio (county). For a detailed account of this attack, See:

2. FPDT (Atenco) Opens 2nd Stage of Campaign to Free Political Prisoners – The Peoples’ Front in Defense of Land (FPDT, its Spanish initials) launched the 2nd stage of its campaign to free Atenco’s 12 remaining political prisoners. The new stage of the campaign began in Chiapas with a visit to Las Abejas, in Acteal. The FPDT went to the Pacific Coast region of Chiapas for meetings with Other Campaign members and to Oventik for a long meeting with the Zapatista Junta in the Highlands. The FPDT also held a large public meeting in San Cristobal with social organizations struggling to free their political prisoners. An FPDT delegation plans to visit social organizations in 12 states between now and the end of November seeking support for their cause. Besides gathering support for the liberation of the 12 FPDT members, the delegation also carries a message of unity against the repression of social protest.

3. Update on Mitziton Situation – Earth movers are at Mitziton’s door, ready to carve up their land for the new toll road to Palenque. Meanwhile, the heavily armed Army of God members continue to threaten violence. They beat up a 17 year old boy and cut down the letreros (hand-painted signs) proclaiming resistance to the toll road. The ejido commissioners also denounced them as criminals that traffic in “undocumented brothers.” The commissioners allege that the state government has known about this human trafficking for 10 years and has just covered it up.

4. Another Armed Attack: Opddic Members Beat Up Frayba Lawyer and Shoot an Other Campaign Member in Jotolá – On September 18, a human rights lawyer from the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) was stopped as he was leaving Jotolá community by a tree trunk blocking the road. Members of the Opddic, alleged to be a paramilitary organization, placed it there to block his exit. They pulled him from his vehicle and hit him repeatedly and said they were going to lynch him. When inhabitants of Jotolá and San Sebastián Bachajon heard the commotion and went to rescue him, the armed Opddic members opened fire. One Other Campaign member from San Sebastián Bachajon was wounded by a bullet in the muscle of his left leg.

5. Mining Company Announces Withdrawal from Chiapas – On September 25, Linear Gold Mexico sent a letter to the governor of Chiapas announcing its withdrawal from the state due to resistance from some ejidos and communities. Before it withdrew, however, La Jornada reports that it extracted 1 million ounces of gold and 4.4 million ounces of silver from Chiapas territory. The withdrawal followed a major mid-September march through municipalities along the Chiapas border with Guatemala to protest the effects of mining.

6. The War in Guerrero – According to an article in Milenio, a war is taking place in the Mexican state of Guerrero without the public’s knowledge. According to this article, skirmishes between the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo Insurgente (Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People, ERPI) and the Mexican Army take place frequently. The Army claims they are skirmishes with narcotraficantes (drug traffickers) and that the ERPI is involved with them. The ERPI says the narcotraficantes are involved with the Army in counterinsurgency. The gist of this article is that the state of Guerrero is on the verge of exploding. [We wonder if the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico) is funding the counterinsurgency in Guerrero?]


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


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


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. (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:
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