dorset chiapas solidarity

April 15, 2014

Convocation for the “Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!”

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:38 pm


Convocation for the

“Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives!

The Bachajón struggle continues!”

From Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014

bachajon circulo_Mesa de trabajo 26 copia 6 English round large


To our sisters and brothers of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón:

To our compañer@s adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón

To our Zapatista sisters and brothers:

To the people of Mexico and the world:

To the independent media:

To the Committees of the True Word:

Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group, the Committee of the True Word from Kolkata, India and the Committee of the True Word from Alisal propose that we join together our hands, our voices and our struggles to carry out the

“Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón
struggle continues!” from Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014

This initiative is supported by the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents to the Sixth.

Compañeras and Compañeros:

We send you greetings and embraces from New York, Dorset, Kolkata and Alisal.

On April 24th, 2014, it will be a year since the cruel and cowardly assassination of our beloved compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán, activist, community leader and spokesperson for the indigenous Tzeltal community of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, in the municipality of Chilón, Chiapas, Mexico. He was killed by six gunshots in the doorway of his home.

Still there is no justice. There has been no effective investigation into his murder, and Juan’s killers and those who ordered his execution remain safe in impunity. Meanwhile the efforts continue to dispossess Juan’s people, the ejidatarios adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle from the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón.

The three levels of government, with their army, their police, their allies in transnational corporations, their locally-funded paramilitary groups and their lackeys from the political parties, do not cease their attacks and their plundering, using deceptions and lies, threats,
violence, imprisonment, torture and even murder to achieve their ambition to seize the ancestral common lands of the ejido in order to construct a luxury tourist complex beside the beautiful waterfalls of Agua Azul.

Now there has been a second assassination, another vile attempt to force our compañer@s to give up their just and dignified struggle and resistance.  On March 21st, 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, aged only 22, was shot down with over twenty bullets. Juan Carlos worked in the construction of autonomy in the recuperated land of the Virgen de Dolores. He was a regional coordinator of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón. No one has been arrested or charged with his murder. We respond with sorrow, but also with rage.

We demand justice! The killers must not remain unpunished! No more impunity!

Compañeras and Compañeros,

Although the war against the people does not end, neither does the resistance of those from below.

Despite the continuing racist repression directed against the original people of these lands, despite displacement and occupation, aggression and murder, the tireless struggle of the indigenous Tzeltal people of Bachajón to defend the basis of their life, the mother earth, the land and the territory, also has no end.

The ejidatarios will not give up their common lands, which they inherited from their grandparents, so they can be used for the building of hotels and golf courses, roads and helipads. They will not allow the mother earth and her richness of nature, jungle and water, to be destroyed by the greed and rapacity of those who would be lords of all.

For our sisters and brothers in struggle from San Sebastián Bachajón, Juan Vázquez Guzmán still lives, he is still there beside them, fighting, so they can never give up their resistance. He often told them that their struggle was “for the life of the people and to continue being what we are”.

Juan Vázquez Guzmán denounced repression and corruption everywhere, and he fought for the rights of his people and for the liberation of their prisoners. On a national and international level he made people aware of the threat to the lands of Bachajón from those from above and their plans to build an “eco” tourist megaproject.

His words had strength and his vision and heart were free from fear in the struggle for the defense of the territory. We remember his warm smile, his contagious laughter, his love for the land and the people and his commitment to the creation of another world.

But the capitalists, the governments and the corporations, in their greed for more money, more plunder, more profit, plan to destroy the whole of the mother earth, and to rip out the heart of the planet. They want to turn the water, the trees, the earth, the air into commodities. It is only the organized resistance of the autonomous communities, from below and to the left, against the wars and the destruction of our natural resources, which can save the mother earth for our children.

Compañeras and Compañeros,

We call on all people of good heart and all the children of the earth who strive, day after day, to construct another, better, world, one with freedom, justice, respect and dignity, each according to their own customs, ways, times, and geographies:

1.     To carry out the “Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!” from Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014

2.     To show our solidarity with the just and dignified struggle against dispossession of the women, men, children and elderly of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón

3.     To screen the film Bachajón – Dispossession is death, Life is resistance, available in Spanish and with English subtitles, in as many countries and places and as many times as possible:

4.     To keep alive the memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and to commemorate  the anniversary of his savage assassination on April 24th, 2014, along with his compas, who here invite us to join them:

5.     To organize any other solidarity activities that you may choose, in your own places and according to your own different methods of struggle

We ask you to please let us know as soon as possible if you are able to accept our proposal and if you will be able to participate in the “Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!” from Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Please confirm your participation by email to:

Juan Vázquez Guzmán, beloved compa, we embrace you. We will always be thankful to you for having given so much inspiration to each of us in our own struggles.

You are the heart of your people, and you gave your life for your people.

Your life is like a seed of hope that is growing in the hearts of every child, woman, man and old person from San Sebastián Bachajón and in the hearts of compañeras and compañeros from around the world.

We believe that everyone should know of your dignified life and the dignified resistance of your people.

We demand a full investigation of your assassination, and punishment of those responsible.

Your voice will not be silenced, nor will the work of your heart be ended.

Juan Vázquez Guzmán, beloved compa and brother, guardian of the land, the struggle continues.


Land, Freedom and Justice for the Ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón!

Stop the aggressions against the adherents to the Sexta!

No more impunity!

No more forgetting!

Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives!

Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano Lives!

The Bachajón struggle continues!


With love and solidarity,

Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group, the Committee of the True Word from Kolkata, India and the Committee of the True Word from Alisal


For further information in English:



Detention of human rights defenders Ms Enedina Rosas Veleza and Mr Juan Carlos Flores Solís

Filed under: Human rights — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:49 pm


Mexico – Detention of human rights defenders Ms Enedina Rosas Veleza and Mr Juan Carlos Flores Solís

!cid_part1_05090505_05060401@frontlinedefendersOn 14 April 2014, a judge in Cholula confirmed the detention of human rights defender Mr Juan Carlos Flores Solís pending trial. The human rights defender has been held in detention since his arrest in Puebla, Mexico on 7 April 2014. He faces charges of extortion, rioting, theft and damage to a hydraulic’s infrastructure, which could lead to a maximum prison sentence of 32 years and which he strongly denies.

Juan Carlos Flores Solís is a member of Frente de Pueblos en Defensa del Agua y de la Tierra de Morelos, Puebla y Tlaxcala – FPDATMPT (The People’s Front in Defence of the Water and Earth of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala). The organisation works together with Nahua communities to protect the rights of 22 communities potentially affected by various large-scale developments in the area, including the proposed construction of a gas pipeline through their community (Proyecto Gasoducto Morales). The developments are supported by the Italian company Bonatti and the Spanish companies Abengoa, Elecnor and Enegas. FPDATMPT opposes the pipeline as it will be constructed in the vicinity of the volcano Popocatépetl, which may pose a serious risk to the inhabitants of the region.

114763-pue-02On 14 April 2014, a Court in Cholula ordered that Juan Carlos Flores Solís be detained pending trial for charges of extortion, rioting, theft and damage to a hydraulic’s infrastructure. On 7 April 2014, the human rights defender was arrested at approximately 12pm as he left the Puebla State Commission on Human Rights. Twelve men in plain clothing got out of four white, unmarked cars that had intercepted Juan Carlos Flores Solís as he exited. The men subdued the human rights defender and drove him away in one of the cars without providing reasons for the arrest. Fifteen people who were accompanying Juan Carlos Flores Solís witnessed the event. At 6pm that evening, one of the human rights defender’s companions received a call informing him that Juan Carlos Flores Solís would be transferred to a Social Rehabilitation Centre.

The arrest and charges followed the submission of a complaint by Juan Carlos Flores Solís to the Puebla State Commission on Human Rights regarding the detention of another human rights defender, Ms Enedina Rosas Veleza, arrested on 6 April 2014. In her case, witnesses report that the police failed to show an arrest warrant or to identify themselves, and used firearms to threaten those nearby. Enedina Rosas Veleza is in detention pending a hearing on charges of aggravated robbery and obstruction of public works. She faces a possible sentence of nine years. There are reportedly at least 12 other arrest warrants out against environmentalists who oppose the Proyecto Gasoducto Morales.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern regarding the detention and charging of Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Enedina Rosas Veleza. Furthermore it is concerned that the actions relate solely to the human rights defender’s legitimate and peaceful human rights work, in particular in defending the rights of those affected by a gas pipeline project.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Mexico to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Juan Carlos Flores Solís and Enedina Rosas Veleza, and release them without delay, as they are being targeted solely for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Mexico are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.



April 14, 2014

Convocatoria para “Dos Semanas de Acción Mundial: ¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive! ¡La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!”

Filed under: Bachajon, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:06 pm


Convocatoria para

“Dos Semanas de Acción Mundial:

¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive!  ¡La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!”

Del 24 de abril al 8 de mayo del 2014

bachajon circulo_Mesa de trabajo 26 copia 5 Spanish round large


A nuestras herman@s del Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón:
A nuestr@s compañer@s adherentes a la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona:
A nuestras hermanas y hermanos zapatistas:
Al pueblo de México y el mundo:
A los medios de comunicación independientes:
A los Comités de la Palabra Verdadera:

Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, Grupo de Solidaridad con Chiapas de Dorset, el Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Calcuta, India, y el Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Alisal proponen que unamos nuestras manos, nuestras voces y nuestras luchas para realizar las

“Dos Semanas de Acción Mundial: ¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive, La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!” del 24 de abril al 8 de mayo del 2014

Esta iniciativa es respaldada por l@s ejidatarios de San Sebastián Bachajón, adherentes a la Sexta.

Compañeras y Compañeros:

Les enviamos saludos y abrazos de solidaridad desde Nueva York, Dorset, Calcuta y Alisal.

El 24 de abril de 2014, se cumplirá un año desde el asesinato cruel y cobarde de nuestro querido compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán, líder comunitario y vocero de la comunidad indígena tzeltal del ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, municipio de Chilón, Chiapas, México. Fue asesinado en la puerta de su casa por seis disparos.

Aún no hay justicia. No ha habido una investigación efectiva sobre su asesinato, y sus asesinos y los que ordenaron su ejecución permanecen seguros en la impunidad. Mientras tanto, continúan los esfuerzos para despojar al pueblo de Juan, los ejidatarios adherentes a la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona del ejido San Sebastián Bachajón.

Los tres niveles de gobierno, con su ejército, sus policías, sus aliados en las empresas transnacionales, sus grupos paramilitares financiados localmente y sus lacayos partidistas, no cesan sus ataques y sus saqueos, mediante los engaños y las mentiras, las amenazas, la violencia, el encarcelamiento, la tortura e incluso el asesinato, para lograr su ambición de apoderarse de las tierras comunales ancestrales del ejido para la construcción de un complejo turístico de lujo al lado de las hermosas cascadas de Agua Azul .

Ahora ha habido un segundo asesinato, otro vil intento de obligar a nuestr@s compañer@s a renunciar a su justa y digna lucha y resistencia. Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, que tenía sólo 22 años de edad, fue derribado con más de veinte disparos el 21 de marzo de 2014. Juan Carlos participaba en la construcción de la autonomía en la tierra recuperada del predio Virgen de Dolores. El era un coordinador regional de la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona del ejido San Sebastián Bachajón. Nadie ha sido detenido o acusado de su asesinato. Respondemos con dolor, pero también con rabia.

¡Exigimos justicia! ¡Sus asesinos no pueden quedarse sin castigo! ¡No más impunidad!


Compañeras y Compañeros,

Aunque la guerra contra el pueblo no se acaba, tampoco la resistencia de los de abajo.

A pesar de que no hay una conclusión a la represión racista dirigida en contra de
los pueblos originales de esas tierras, del desplazamiento y la ocupación, la agresión y el asesinato, la lucha incansable de los indígenas tzeltales de Bachajón para defender la fundación de su vida, la madre tierra, la tierra y el territorio, tampoco tiene final.

Los ejidatarios no van a entregar sus tierras comunales que heredaron de sus abuelos para que ahora sean usadas para la construcción de hoteles y campos de golf, carreteras y helipuertos. Ellos no permitirán que la madre tierra y su riqueza natural, la selva y el agua, sean destruidos por la codicia y la rapacidad de los que serían los Señores de todos.

Para nuestros hermanos y hermanas en la lucha de San Sebastián Bachajón, Juan Vázquez Guzmán todavía vive, todavía está allí a su lado, luchando, para que nunca rindan su resistencia. Les dijo que su lucha era “por la vida de nuestro pueblo y porque queremos seguir siendo lo que somos.”

Juan Vázquez Guzmán denunciaba la represión y la corrupción en todas partes, y luchaba por los derechos de su pueblo y por la liberación de sus presos. A nivel nacional e internacional hizo que la gente tomara conciencia de las amenazas a las tierras de Bachajón por parte de los de arriba y de sus planes para construir un megaproyecto “eco” turístico.

Sus palabras tenían fuerza y su visión y corazón estaban libres de temor en la lucha por la defensa del territorio. Recordamos su sonrisa calurosa, su risa contagiosa, su amor por su pueblo y su tierra y su compromiso por la creación de otro mundo.

Pero los capitalistas, los gobiernos y las corporaciones, en su codicia por más dinero, más saqueo, más beneficios, tienen planes para destruir la madre tierra en su totalidad, y arrancarle el corazón del planeta. Quieren convertir el agua, los árboles, la tierra y el aire en mercancía. Es solo la resistencia organizada de las comunidades autónomas, desde abajo y a la izquierda, contra las guerras y destrucción de nuestros recursos naturales que puede salvar a la Madre Tierra para nuestros hij@s.


Compañeras y Compañeros,

Hacemos un llamado a tod@s las person@s de buen corazón y a tod@s los hij@s de la tierra que se esfuerzan, día en día, por construir otro mundo, mejor, uno de libertad, justicia, respeto y dignidad, cada uno de acuerdo a sus propias costumbres, modos, tiempos y geografías

1)    para realizar las: “Dos Semanas de Acción Mundial: ¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive, La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!” del 24 de abril al 8 de mayo.

2)    para mostrar nuestra solidaridad con la justa y digna lucha contra el despojo de las mujeres, hombres, niños y ancianos del ejido San Sebastián Bachajón.

3)    para proyectar el nuevo video: Bachajón – Despojo es muerte. Vida es resistencia, disponible en español y con subtítulos en inglés, en cuanto tantos países, lugares y veces como lo sea posible:

4)    para mantener viva la memoria de Juan Vázquez Guzmán y conmemorar el 24 de abril de 2014 el aniversario de su asesinato salvaje, junto con sus compas, que aquí nos invitan a unirnos con ell@s:

5)    para organizar algunas otras actividades solidarias que ustedes deseen en sus propios lugares y de acuerdo con sus propios métodos diferentes de lucha;

Les pedimos a tod@s que por favor nos hagan saber lo antes posible si aceptan nuestra propuesta y si participaran en las  “Dos Semanas de Acción Mundial:
¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive, La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!”  Del 24 de abril al 8 de mayo del 2014

Favor de confirmar su participación por correo electrónico al:

Juan Vázquez Guzmán, querido compa, te abrazamos. Siempre estaremos agradecidos contigo por habernos dado tanta inspiración para cada una de nosotr@s en nuestras propias luchas.

Tú eres el corazón de tu pueblo, y diste tu vida por tu pueblo.

Tu vida es como una semilla de esperanza que crece en los corazones de cada niñ@, mujer, hombre y ancian@ de San Sebastián Bachajón y en los corazones de los compañeros y compañeras en todo el mundo.

Creemos que tod@s deberían saber de tu vida digna y de la resistencia digna de tu pueblo.

Exigimos una investigación completa de tu asesinato, y el castigo para los responsables.

Tu voz no será callada, ni el trabajo de tu corazón terminado.

Juan Vázquez Guzmán, querido compa y hermano, guardián de la tierra, la lucha continúa.

¡Tierra, Libertad y Justicia para los ejidatarios de San Sebastián Bachajón !

¡Alto a las agresiones en contra de los adherentes a la Sexta!

¡No más impunidad!

¡No más olvido!

¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán vive!

¡Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano vive!

¡La lucha de Bachajón sigue!

Con amor y solidaridad,

Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, Grupo de Solidaridad con Chiapas de Dorset, Inglaterra, Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Calcuta, India y el Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Alisal


Para más información:



April 13, 2014

Religious character to the conflict in the Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas ejido, Palenque is denied

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:35 pm


Religious character to the conflict in the Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas ejido, Palenque is denied 

 ** Four residents are demanding one third of the land, say representatives

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

1ccardenasRepresentatives of the Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas ejido, in Palenque Municipality, Chiapas, maintained that the conflict that exists in their community is not of a religious nature, but rather about land. And contradicting reports in the local press, they reiterated that the problem with the four residents who demand one third of the ejido’s lands continues unresolved. The ejido has been made up of a total of 40 families (La Jornada 2/2/2014) for the last 28 years.

Arturo Pérez Oleta, new ejido commissioner of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a Chol locality very close to the Palenque archaeological zone, contradicted the versions that the problem in the community “has already ended,” and insisted that the reason for the conflict is not religious. While the people with whom they have the difference “are of a different religion than the majority, it was not the motive for the difference that they took on a new religion and would freely exercise their cult.”

The differences are exclusively agrarian, Pérez Oleta and Bartolo Gutiérrez, of the vigilance council added: “Those four individuals have been supported in their religious organization (whose legal advisor is Sergio Natarén Gutiérrez, involved in the defence of the material authors of the Acteal Massacre) in attempting to take possession of a wide area of ejido lands, as the agrarian demand #1318/2012, promoted by them before the Unitary Agrarian Tribunal District 54 in Comitán de Domínguez, demonstrates.”

They warn of latent tension 

The defender of the Presbyterian group is Fernando García Martínez, a lawyer from the Agrarian Prosecutor’s office in Palenque. “They are demanding that one third of the total ejido area be awarded just to them,” the ejido representatives pointed out. In 2012, they attempted to murder the ejido secretary and to introduce people from their church alien to the community.

For his part, the lawyer for the ejido owners, Ricardo Lagunes Gasca, explained that: “the agrarian lawsuit is in the final phase of allegations and soon the agrarian tribunal will issue a decision.”

Nevertheless, “the tension remains latent.” On March 30, Juan Álvaro López, one of those who filed both criminal and agrarian complaints against the community, attacked Felipe de Jesús Cruz Damas, son of the former ejido commissioner Leonarda Damas Cruz. “Despite the fact that Felipe was the victim of the attack, Álvaro López went to the Selva District prosecutor’s office in Palenque to present a complaint as the victim.”

Given the constant harassment and violence of the four people who seek to appropriate land from the community, the ejido authorities decided to “denounce these acts and alert public opinion and the competent authorities that a quick and effective intervention is necessary for an in depth and lasting solution to the conflict, which is of agrarian origin and not religious.”

On March 8, 2013, the ejido owners had signed a document in which it is admitted that the problem, which has gone on for three years, “is not of a religious but agrarian character, but the only ones that did not sign were the Álvaro López group.” And last January 8: “we met in the ejidal house with the assistant secretary and the delegate from the state’s Government office, officials for religious issues from the municipio and the state, and the conflictive people: Rubén Martínez Álvarez, Pascual Álvaro López, Juan Álvaro López and Micaela López Vázquez.” The ejido representatives added that “once again,” the officials “explained to these people that the problem is not as they say it is, it has nothing to do with religion; that it is agrarian and as such has to be settled. It was there that they signed the same document that they did not sign a year ago.”

Commissioner Pérez Oleta concluded: “Although the Palenque press published that the problem in our ejido has ended and that there is now peace, that is a lie, because the conflict continues and the provocations and threats from those individuals have increased.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, April 12, 2014

En español:


English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the International Zapatista Translation Service




April 12, 2014

The Zapatista women resist within the resistance

Filed under: Women, Zapatista — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:43 pm


The Zapatista women resist within the resistance

The Revolutionary Women’s Law provides access to political and military posts, a living wage, education, health, the right not to be abused and to choose their own partner.


Each morning Fabiana wakes at 4:30, as do all the women in her community. She grinds the corn that she has boiled the night before to form a soft dough which she makes into balls, which crushed and cooked on the griddle make tortillas. Fabiana, a Tzotzil Maya, is 23 years old, with a husband and two children, and is a support base of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

She works at home nearly all day, every day, carrying her youngest child. However, her husband helps with some tasks traditionally considered “for women”, such as shelling the corn or plucking the birds, and sometimes he takes care of the children while she cooks.

“I was born in the village of San Juan Chamula, in the Highlands of Chiapas. When I was 10, my family became Zapatistas, and the Good Government Junta gave us a piece of land in this community,” says Fabiana. “I met my husband here. We are very happy with our two children and we decided we did not any want any more.”

Triply oppressed

The ability to plan how many children to have is one of the laws established by the Revolutionary Women’s Law, which the Zapatistas drafted in 1994. The law is in force in the territories under the influence of the EZLN, and also provides for the right of women to hold political and military positions, to be able to enjoy a living wage, education, health, not to be abused, and to choose a partner.

Resisting within the resistance

The Zapatistas themselves, in the textbooks about the participation of women in autonomous government which they published in August 2013 for the course “Freedom according to the Zapatistas,” which developed within the framework of what was known as the Zapatista Escuelita (a week-long course where each participant could live for a week in a community in resistance, as a guest of a family), note that in the last 20 years there was a great step forward in their communities, although they still cannot talk about gender parity. As they have written, the difficulty the Zapatistas have in accepting that they can hold political positions is as much for men as for women, from a background that does not make them conceive of themselves as subjects with rights.

They have learned the path of resistance to neoliberalism, so they can learn the path of resistance to patriarchy. In fact, they are already doing so, they do not agree with much of their organization and their culture and they are changing it. It is slow but they are taking charge of the changes they need.



Return of the Displaced People from Ejido Puebla

Filed under: Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:21 pm


Return of the Displaced People from Ejido Puebla

CHIAPAS: Familias desplazadas del Ejido Puebla, del municipio de Chenalhó anuncian retorno para el lunes 14 de abril.


The 17 families displaced from Ejido (also known as Colonia) Puebla, in the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, have announced at a press conference that they will be returning to their homes on Monday, 14th April. They have called on the media and members of civil society to accompany their return, which will leave from Yabteclum, Chenalhó, at 9am on Monday. Don Felipe Arizmendi, Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, will be present.

The families, who have been taking refuge in Acteal, say the problems in their community started a year ago with the seizure of the land where the Catholic chapel was situated. The problems in their community have not been resolved, they say, but they need to return in order to work in their corn and coffee fields so they can feed their families. However, “it is a return without justice,” and they fear that “the attacks may happen again.”



Luis Villoro and the Voice of the Caracol

Filed under: Indigenous, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:40 pm

Luis Villoro and the Voice of the Caracol

Luis Hernández Navarro, La Jornada, 6th April, 2014

sem-luis3“The next century will belong to indigenous people”, proclaimed Jesuit priest Ricardo Robles, under the shade of the enormous ceiba tree of La Realidad (five years before that Caracol was created). “Their worldview and their values will open the way for a new era”, he continued.
Having spent many years living among the Rarámuris, almost becoming one of them in the process, Robles was speaking to Luis Villoro, Gilberto López y Rivas and other indigenous leaders whilst waiting for a meeting with the leadership of the EZLN. In different ways and for different reasons, Robles’s prediction was shared by most of those present, and by Villoro in particular.

Villoro and the Zapatista Uprising

In 1994, the Zapatista Uprising disrupted President Salinas’s elite project of authoritarian ‘modernisation’, renewing the hope that a different world was possible and stimulating a wide-reaching debate about Mexico’s future. And, in that process of reflection, indigenous people played a central role.

However, not everyone shared their optimism or empathy with the Chiapan rebels. In the national crisis that followed the rebellion, a number of anti-indigenous prejudices – many of them centuries old – suddenly came to the surface. Opponents of the indigenous struggle jumped on their high horses of arrogance and ignorance all too often. With hatred and naivety, they claimed that recognising the rights of ethnic groups would balkanise Mexico, reinforcing the power of local chiefs and legalising privileges. They affirmed that indigenous communities were trying to establish reserves like American Indians in the USA, denouncing what they called attempts to legalise the remnants of an antidemocratic past.

Opposition to the recognition of indigenous rights came from all fronts, as politicians, lawyers, and academics challenged what they judged to be an attack on Mexico’s national integrity and a step backwards for the nation’s fragile democracy. University figures such as Roger Bartra, for example, spoke of how “the indigenous cultures are a mere collection of ethnic ruins that have been left behind after the destruction and liquidation of the best elements of indigenous traditions as a result of modernisation”.

Luis Villoro, 21st June 2009, at the Primer Encuentro Continental Americano Contra la Impunidad, organised by the EZLN

Luis Villoro, 21st June 2009, at the Primer Encuentro Continental Americano Contra la Impunidad, organised by the EZLN

In this discussion, Luis Villoro played a key role. Together with indigenous leaders and intellectuals like Pablo González Casanova and Alfredo López Austin, he used his political authority to back the indigenous cause and, with patience, tried to explain the falsities of his opponents’ arguments.

The philosopher had encountered many of these fallacies before, having previously reflected on them in depth. In his book The Great Moments of Indigenism in Mexico, written in 1949 and reedited at the insistence of Guillermo Bonfil in 1987, he tore apart the “history of ideological cover-ups” regarding indigenous people – something practised by societal elites for centuries. His debate with the opponents of indigenous rights after the Zapatista Uprising was, in part, a return to the debunking of untruths that he had undertaken in that book.

Editing books and defending indigenous rights, however, was not just an intellectual pursuit for Villoro. In a discussion with his colleague Carlos Oliva about the roots of his philosophical reflections, he spoke of how his book was inspired by an overpowering childhood understanding of “the poverty and destruction of indigenous communities” and the “profound wisdom” that could be found within them. And, in spite of not being indigenous himself, he had always felt that it was possible to embrace and “get closer to the Other” – in this case indigenous communities, and that there was value in doing so. As a result of this belief, he was able to tear down his own personal barriers.

From the very beginning, Villoro saw the Zapatista Uprising as the first manifestation of a new wave of indigenous consciousness in Mexico. It was a show of ethnic discontent and an insistence on the recognition of the indigenous right to autonomy that would spread throughout the country. “Chiapas”, he pointed out, “is simply the first announcement of rebellion in the very soul of Mexico”. With his philosophical motifs of reformation of understanding, the choice of lifestyle, and having a firm grasp of national history, he judged the 1994 rebellion not as a local problem but as the forerunner of a new form of thinking and living – an alternative to ‘modernity’.

He had reflected for many years on the end of two central ideas in modern thought, derived from universal and singular reason: the Nation State and progress towards a rational culture. He had also reflected on socialism as one of the expressions of such modern thought. And, with the arrival of Zapatismo, he used this theoretical arsenal to analyse, explain, defend, and debate with the movement with outstanding clarity and passion.

Villoro and Socialism

Villoro was never a Marxist, but he studied the school of thought in depth, using many of its conceptual tools creatively in his own intellectual work. He was, however, a moral socialist, a revolutionary in his own way, and a believer in the role of the People in the crafting of history.
“Socialism”, he wrote in his 1974 work Political Signs, “is not only based on a scientific theory of society and history, but also on a choice of values: the choice between the liberation of humankind and the dehumanising and oppressive State”.

Sub Marcos accompanying Luis Villoro as he receives a recognition from the EZLN, 4th January, 2009

Sub Marcos accompanying Luis Villoro as he receives a recognition from the EZLN, 4th January, 2009

Analysing the Chilean Coup of 1973, he concluded that, in Latin America, “revolution is not a dream of hot-headed adventurers, but the only escape from the violent siege of those who wish to subjugate us; it is not the destruction of democracy but its true attainment; it is not crime but the only defence we have against crime”. The alternative, he affirmed, could only be built upon a base of authentic and independent popular mobilisation, capable of fighting for its own goals. Such a movement, he concluded, would need to propose as an objective the adoption of a different model, which could only be socialist.

But what type of socialism was the author of Plural State, Plurality of Cultures referring to? In Marx, he claimed, there are two irreconcilable elements mixed together: that which aims to be scientific and that of political action as a decision of values – a moral choice. For Villoro, the claim of scientific Marxism is erroneous, and socialism is simply the idea of adjustment – an ethical demand.

Two decades later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and with the ‘triumph of neoliberalism’ as the backdrop, he again spoke about the meaning of socialism. Born from the rationalisation of an ancient passion which has been present throughout history, he says, socialism is simply the yearning for justice and solidarity, and the dream of a community in which individual interests coincide with community interests. He saw it as an urgent task to claim socialism’s character as a moral programme.

Liberalism, he affirmed, cannot solve the problems that led to ethical thought. What causes inequality and injustice – in the form of marginalisation and unemployment in developed countries and poverty and backwardness in the Third World – is the competition of the capitalist market. And that Market knows nothing about justice.

While liberal ideology contains no programme to deal with the evils of the Market, neoliberalism is even worse, promoting competition between individual interests in the Market and shunning any sense of community. For Villoro, this system is born from a vacuum, marked by the absence of any recognisable sense of historical consciousness.

Meanwhile, regressive ideologies like nationalism and religious fundamentalism, which have brought the world to the point of destruction, are capable of filling, in a negative way, the vacuum of consciousness left behind after the end of State socialism. Such ideologies, according to Villoro, give individuals hope of forgetting about their abandonment and feeling like part of a community.

In After Scientific Socialism, Villoro explained that, in order to confront these tendencies, a new way of thinking is necessary. And such a system of thought would need to “give a new rational expression to the secular passion for equality and community, in which the supreme values that socialism fought for were recuperated. The society driven by competition between individual interests would need to be replaced by one of community solidarity in which the common good prevailed”.

Winds of Resistance

Villoro listened to the voice of the Caracol in August 2003, when Zapatistas announced publicly the creation of their Committees of Good Government. This autonomous form of government would focus on ‘ruling through obeying’, and would aim to repair damage rather than to punish. Solidarity, forged by work in the community, would replace the idea of individual benefit. The voice of the Caracol is that of an autonomous community, in which everyone enjoys the same rights, feels the warmth of friendship, embraces the hope that a different society is possible, and lives with dignity.

The philosopher found in the Zapatista Uprising, and the EZLN experiences of autonomy and self-management, a movement based on the ethical values he had defended throughout his life, and one that was capable of transforming society. He also found in the EZLN the materialisation of the secular desire for justice that preceded socialism and brought it into being.

He saw in the indigenous communities the proponents of an independent movement with enough power to end the fictional domination of ‘modernity’. It was a movement capable of moving from a homogenous State to a pluralist one, in which differences were respected and radical democracy was the aim. It had the vision of moving from a centralised government to a participatory democracy – from individualist association to true community.

In the resistance of indigenous people, he found the key to the achievement of coexistence, with different values that were capable of bringing about radical change in the structure of society. In the people of the American continent, a conflicting language to the modern West had been found, spelling out its dreams through the wishes of the community: union with nature, cooperation in work, and celebration in solidarity.

Just as Robles had said back in La Realidad, Villoro also warned that the twenty-first century would belong to the indigenous people – that their vision and values would open the path to a new era. And, right until the end of his life, he defended that conviction with reason.
“Philosophy”, he explained, “is not a profession, but a way of thinking – one in which, through hard work, one constantly tries to conceive the Other, without ever understanding it completely”. And in the attempt to understand it, he said, one has to deal with numerous complexities and doubts.

For Villoro, philosophy was “truthfulness in the face of prejudice, illusion, and deception; authenticity in the face of alienation; and freedom in the face of oppression”. And, true to himself, his values, and his convictions, he was, in his own way, the philosopher of the Caracoles.

Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from an article by Luis Hernández Navarro, originally posted at




April 10, 2014

Second Escuelita Textbook now available

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:12 pm

Two Escuelita Textbooks are now available

Autonomous Government I and Autonomous Government II are now available for download,

• Autonomous Government I:

• Autonomous Government II:


April 6, 2014

In solidarity with the Zapatistas

Filed under: Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:08 pm


Thefollowing article has just been published in the UK paper Peace News:

In solidarity with the Zapatistas

The recent attacks on the community of 10 de Abril are followed by a week of National and International Solidarity.

Mexico Drug WarFollowing recent attacks in Chiapas, a Week of National and International Solidarity “If they touch the Zapatistas, they touch all of us” has been called, to be held from 16th to 23rd February, 2014, to “denounce the counterinsurgency war” and emphasise that “the Zapatista communities are not alone.”

The new aggressions were made against the iconic Zapatista community of 10 de Abril, by government supporters from the group CIOAC democratic who live in a nearby community, and who have been threatening and provoking the Zapatistas in this area since 2007, with the aim of dispossessing them from their lands. Six Zapatista support bases (BAZ) were injured, three of them seriously, and one is in danger of losing his sight. A shocking attack also took place on staff from a local hospital; when they came to give assistance, they were attacked and prevented from attending to the injured.

Following the historic Zapatista uprising of 1st January, 1994, which transformed the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous people, huge areas of land and territory were reclaimed. Prior to 1994, many people worked their ancestral lands as servants of the landowners who used the lands for cattle ranching, and treated their workers with abuse and contempt. In March 1995, in what became the community of 10 de Abril, the serfs descended from the rocky hillsides to the fertile valley and reclaimed their heritage. They now work their own land again in community as free men and women, growing coffee, corn, beans, vegetables and bananas, and have made part of their territory an ecological reserve.

The first attack came on January 27, when 250 people destroyed the signs at the entrance to the community, and cut down 9 pine trees, 40 oak trees, 35 coffee trees, and three banana trees, taking away “a total of 41 pickup trucks” full of timber to sell.

Three days later, 300 people arrived in 18 pickup trucks, “ready to do violence,” with machetes, rocks, sticks and clubs. “They were paid 100 pesos each as a wage for the violence with which they attacked us.” Emergency help was requested from the San Carlos Hospital in Altamirano, but the aggressors blocked the road, took the ambulance, the driver, a doctor and a nun captive, and beat them.

Two other nuns were following the ambulance in a pickup truck. Sister Patricia Moysén Márquez relates how they were stopped by a large number of people carrying sticks and machetes, who threatened to burn the vehicle, and pulled the nuns out. She describes how they “started to defile us, trying to take the keys away from me. As I resisted, they began to undress us. They put their hands wherever they wanted and held both of our arms. They hurt us, tore my jacket and took out the keys and my purse where I have all my documents. I asked them to return it to me but they refused.”

She continues: “We identified ourselves as being from San Carlos Hospital and said that we were going because of a call for help due to the fact that there were injured. Their reaction was that they were going to burn the truck because we were from the government. We said that we were not from the government, but rather from the church. We said that we were going to see the wounded from whichever religion or party. The problem that they had was not our affair, nor were we going to solve that, only to help the injured.” As has been pointed out, the attack was in clear violation of international law, as the Geneva Convention guarantees “the rights of people in times of war, specifically the right of medical personnel to be considered neutral, in order to treat the wounded.”

This attack can be seen as part of the low intensity, or counterinsurgency, war which persists in Chiapas. One of the main tactics is funding, training, arming and promoting the development of paramilitary-style “shock” groups of local indigenous, disguised as democratic agricultural organisations, or in some cases as evangelical churches, and lured by the promise of land, guns, money, status and material possessions. They are ordered to attack, threaten, harass, provoke, undermine and ultimately destroy the BAZ communities.

Faced with all this provocation over the last 20 years, the BAZ have, with great dignity, continually resisted the temptation to respond with violence. Without their non-violent resistance, the conflict would have been very much more serious.

In response to the attacks, pronouncements have been released from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US as well as from groups in Mexico. The UK Zapatista Solidarity Network, in addition to releasing a pronouncement, is organising publicity, meetings, and a protest outside the Mexican Embassy in London.

The campaign emphasises that communities like 10 de Abril, and the staff from the San Carlos Hospital, “are an example and a hope for a different world, one in which what happens to others concerns and moves us. Community systems of healthcare, education and culture are the hope that a new world is being born, and are an example which needs to be cared for by every one of us.”



April 5, 2014

Va Por Kuy: Deadly “Non-Lethal” Weapons and Disappearance Under Peña-Nieto’s Reign

Filed under: Other Campaign — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:26 pm


Va Por Kuy: Deadly “Non-Lethal” Weapons and Disappearance Under Peña-Nieto’s Reign

Written by Andalucia Knoll

On December 1st, 2012 Mexican president Enrique Peña-Nieto took power and tens of thousands of people were in the streets protesting inauguration the historically corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) return to power. In the middle of the protests tweets started to circulate on the internet that someone had been killed in the streets by a rubber bullet.

Photo of tweets commenting on Kuy’s shooting

Later in the day it proved to be just a rumour and while many had been beaten and arrested,  it appeared that no one had been killed. Fourteen months later the original rumour regained its veracity when Juan Francisco Kuykendall Leal, a teacher and activist who had been hit in the head by a police projectile at the inauguration protest passed away. Kuykendall Leal known as Kuy by his friends had spent more than a year in a fragile existence between life and death. Hospitals extended a revolving door to him but never gave him proper treatment and the government refused to acknowledge their role in his injury and illness, did not assist with his medical bills and refused to investigate the case.

Had Kuy been assassinated on inauguration day, his death most likely would have been on the cover of most Mexican newspapers and would have hit the international press. Instead he suffered a long drawn out death that made it easier for media outlets to ignore his assassination and allowed government impunity to prevail.

Return of the PRI: Ushering in Repression


To put Kuy’s death in context it’s important to examine why thousands of people took to the streets to protest his inauguration. President Enrique Peña-Nieto was formerly governor of Mexico State and is responsible for ordering a police operation against a protest of flower vendors who were defending their right to sell their goods, in conjunction with the People’s Front in Defence of the Land of Atenco. This brutal police operation involved 2,500 Federal Preventative Police, State and Municipal police, left a death toll of two unarmed students, more than 47 women sexually assaulted by police, and over 200 people detained, some of whom served four-year prison sentences.

During his election campaign the student-run movement Yo Soy 132 emerged, mobilizing thousands of people in the streets to protest Peña-Nieto. As a non-partisan movement the protests mostly focused on criticizing his history of repression and close connections with the media monopoly Televisa who continually published favourable stories about him. When the election results were declared on July 1, 2012 with Peña-Nieto as the winner, tens of thousands more people took to the streets claiming fraud, denouncing violence at the polls, and the alleged purchase of votes which they believed allowed the PRI to return to power.

1vaporkuysanlazaroNaturally, Kuykendall would be among the tens of thousands protesting on inauguration day, December 1st, 2012. At the age of 67 he had a long trajectory of participation in social movements both as a professor actor and theatre director. He took to the streets that day with his friend and fellow activist Teodulfo “El Tio” Torres. Shortly after they had arrived at the police barricades surrounding the House of Representatives building in the centre of Mexico City, police opened fire on the protestors. A projectile hit Kuykendall in the head at close range and blood poured from his head. El Tio along with other protesters carried his body in search of medical assistance. They used police barricades as a stretcher to try and stabilize him.

Later in the day university student Uriel Sandoval was hit in the face with a rubber bullet and lost his right eye. Dozens of protesters and bystanders were arrested, some spending close to a month in jail on bogus charges. Kuy entered an induced coma in the hospital.

Kuy Survived Police Bullets in ‘68 to be Killed by “Non-Lethal” Weapons in ‘12

Kuykendall was no stranger to government repression and December 1st, 2012 was not the first time that he had been on the receiving end of police projectiles. He was a survivor of the famous and tragic Tlatelolco massacre when police snipers opened fire on a non-violent student protest in a public plaza, one week before Mexico was to host the 1968 olympics. He escaped the barrage of bullets, by taking refuge in the apartment of a Cuban doctor who lived in one of the apartment buildings surrounding the Tlatelolco Three Cultures plaza. To this day there’s still no official number of how many people died but the estimates depending on who you talk to are between 25 and 1500 people.

The student movement of ‘68 erupted just one year after he moved to Mexico City from the northern state of Tamaulipas. According to his partner, Eva Palma, it was just the start of his life dedicated to social struggle. Speaking to Upside Down World she commented that Kuykendall “was an artist of the people” and that as an actor and director of the theatre company Mitote he “focused his activism on producing theatre pieces on social issues and bringing these plays to marginalized communities, workers on strike, women, and children among others.” Eva and Kuy met working together on a theatre piece shortly after the ‘94 Zapatista Uprising. When the Zapatistas launched the Other Campaign in 2006, they signed on as adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, denouncing all institutional parties and focusing on a politics from below. They formed La Otra Cultura, or The Other Culture dedicated to creating and performing theatre pieces related to the Zapatista struggle. In an article in the weekly Mexican Magazine El Proceso, writer Juan Carlos Cruz Vargas commented that Kuykendall brought theatre to “places where the streets were made of dust, the buildings grey and poverty is the daily bread” and that Mitote “offered a window into other realities using popular art, far away from the misery.”

Just ten days before his assassination, Kuy performed the play Es hora de hacernos agua for the 29th anniversary of the birth of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Speaking in front of the Monument of the Revolution in Mexico City, Kuy introduced the play stating “we have to keep struggling every day for a better world” and discussed the significance of a refrain about cauliflower written by Subcomandante Marcos about how each rebellious compañero inspires the next to stop being apathetic and continue on in the struggle.

Even though Kuy had health insurance, his partner Eva Palma commented that he never received proper medical care. She said the hospitals treated him as a “hot potato” that no one wanted to attend to and were continually trying to release him to her care; a care that she says she was unable to provide. “It’s as if they just wanted him to die faster, and ensure that it didn’t happen within their hospital,” commented Palma. She says from the beginning he developed infections from his catheter within the hospital and they released him before these infections were resolved. They claimed that they he was more likely to be re-infected in the hospitals, but Palma asked “if they were so insistent that I care for him at home, why didn’t they send me a nurse to help me care for him?” In the end Eva commented that his bed sores had become so deep and infected that they eventually led to his death in the hospital on January 25th, 2013.

Amnesty International demanded “a full and impartial investigation” as well as of “other abuses on December 1, 2012, which ensure that people responsible accountable to justice. Fernanda Kuykendall, daughter of Juan Francisco, revealed that the Public Prosecutor has initiated an investigation into the murder of her father.

“Finally, the MP (Public Ministry) determined that it was a homicide, and the authorities will have to clarify the facts (…) It’s on the death certificate,” Fernanda stated in a radio interview. However, the government declared that it was homicidio culposo which translates to manslaughter, implying that his murder was not intentional. Activists have questioned how it could have been unintentional where there are numerous videos that have been released which show that police officers fired a projectile at him at close range.

The campaign “Va Por Kuy” released a statement after his death declaring President Peña-Nieto, The Head of National Security, and Mexico City’s mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera. Va Por Kuy also wrote that “from above they are preparing to deal us such a hard blow that we won’t rise up for a long time. But they will not achieve this because we know how to re-articulate and respond in an organized way.”

Peña-Nieto’s presidential term ushered in a wave of repression that was unforeseeable to even those most of critical of the PRI. It is hard to go to a protest these days and not find numerous people wearing bicycle helmets, not because they came on two wheels but because they fear that they will meet the same fate as Kuy. Since the inauguration, there have been numerous arbitrary detentions, assaults on the press and protesters at nearly every large mobilization including marches commemorating student massacres, protesting transit hikes, education reform or privatization of natural resources. Police have upped their weapons arsenal and increasingly used water cannons, black hawk helicopters, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The government has also passed a protest law regulating the hours in which you are allowed to protest and obliging protesters to comply with good customs. Additionally they have approved an anti-terrorist bill which would increase prison sentences and label any activists who are accused of attacking private or public institutions even as a means of social protest as terrorists.

El Tio, the friend of Kuy who was beside him when he was shot, disappeared in March 2013, days before he was set to go and testify about what happened on December 1st. It is unknown whether it was a forced disappearance motivated by political means but many of his friends and family believe that is the case. They say that repeatedly mysterious people have appeared in front of his house to take pictures. While it is unknown what happened to El Tio, it is known that the government has been completely inept in their investigation of the case. Mexico City has one of the highest quantities of security cameras in the world, yet their footage has not been used to discover the whereabouts of Teodulfo nor the occurrences of December 1st.

Claudia is part of the collective Mujeres en la Sexta and has helped organize events in public plazas and protests in front of government buildings demanding justice for Kuy and Teodulfo.

“We have to keep making links of what happened to Kuy, which is a public assassination and the disappearance of Teodulfo which is part of the same case. The struggle is to bring these cases to the general public so that they know that the repression has risen to such levels,” commented Claudia.

“Non-lethal” Weapons- A Global Instrument of Repression

Mexico’s repression of social movements and increased usage of chemical weapons is hardly an isolated incident. Governments across the world, particularly in the Middle East and Latin America, are approving measures which grant them more authority to crack down on protests. Companies that produce “non-lethal weapons” are the ones to profit as governments increase their arsenals.

On March 11, 2014, Berkin Elvin passed away at the age of 15 after spending 269 days in a Coma. He had left his house to buy bread and was hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police cracking down on Occupy Gezi protests. Thousands of people took to the streets across Turkey and across the world to protest his death.

In NY the War Resisters League is coordinating the Facing Tear Gas campaign, aimed at uniting movements across the world who have borne the brunt of increasing chemical warfare. Ali Issa, one of the coordinators of the campaign commented on the governments usage of rubber bullets and tear gas, “‘Nonlethal weapons’ are in fact quite lethal, to people like Juan Francisco Kuykendall as well as to their movements. In this moment of global uprisings, their increasing presence in the hands of the police means that we must roll back militarization if we are ever to see the world that Kuy was trying to build for all of us.”

Investigating Kuy’s Death

Kuy’s lawyer Barbara Zamora commented that the government refused to properly investigate his death. She commented that family members of Kuykendall filed a complaint with the government following his injury, demanding an investigation into the excessive use of police force.  The government responded by saying that the weapon that injured Kuy was not in the arsenal of the police forces and therefore had to come from fellow protesters. However, they refused to state what kind of weapon it was.  Zamora says that “it is absurd that the government would blame protesters when they were the only ones using weapons that could have caused this type of injury.” Along with Kuy’s family members, Zamora is filing a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to denounce the Mexican government’s assassination of Kuy. “We have to believe in these international human rights bodies because we are not left with any other option here to demand justice,” remarked Zamora.

Recognizing that often this process takes years, family members and friends of Kuy say they will continue to Mobilize for justice in the streets. In the coming months members of the Va Por Kuy campaign are organizing various events to commemorate Kuy’s life and his tragic death. Claudia commented that “we cannot accept this as a normal state of being and we have to keep living Kuy’s legacy and continue the struggles that he was involved in.”


Andalusia Knoll is a freelance multimedia journalist residing in Mexico City. You can follow her on twitter @andalalucha



On Mexican Isthmus, Indigenous Communities Oppose Massive Energy Projects

Filed under: Displacement, Indigenous — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:59 pm


On Mexican Isthmus, Indigenous Communities Oppose Massive Energy Projects

Santiago Navarro

Asamblea de juchitanThe wind corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, stretching across the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz, is one of the most important in Latin America in terms of corporate investment and profits. Of the 28 farms in the region, all of which are located principally on indigenous communal lands, construction is halfway complete. This has led to an assault on the way of life and sacred places of the indigenous communities who live in the region, who have been fighting for almost two years to stop the megaproject.

“Of the 15 wind farms that have already been constructed, 10 are on communal land and this is illegal. We are worried because they are attacking our way of life, our health, and the sea,” says Carlos Sanchez, ex-coordinator of the community radio project Totopo, located in the municipality of Juchitán de Zaragoza in Oaxaca. Sanchez also affirmed that the so-called clean technology has begun polluting aquifers with lubricants and other substances that wind turbines require. Additionally, the concrete platforms that form the base of the turbines interrupt traditional agriculture and the vibrations generated cause fish to leave the area and have pushed migratory birds to take alternative routes.

In these communities the local economy is based on fishing and agriculture. The great majority of them do not have paved streets or hospitals, and few of their residents speak Spanish. This region of Mexico has deep-rooted traditions and has maintained its native Zapotec language. More than once the government and multinational corporations have offered to pave the streets and build more schools in return for permits to build wind farms. Some people have been convinced, often through deception or bribery, to sign lease contracts, but those who have maintained their resistance consider this to be a war against indigenous peoples.

Transnational corporations such as Iberdrola, Acciona, Fenosa Natural Gas o Gestamp, Gamesa, Endesa, Eoliatec, Preneal, General Electric, Enron, Energy of France, and Coca-Cola, have launched the offensive in the name of renewable energy, a sector that promises huge profits.

“We will see an explosion in the clean technology sector, which will generate huge business opportunities for the corporations and governments that understand this reality. Because the nation that leads the world in clean energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century,” stated Juan Verde Suárez, advisor to President Barack Obama on international trade, the Hispanic vote, and sustainability, in 2012. In that same year China secured its place as the undisputed leader of the clean energy industry, surpassing the United States with an investment of 67.7 billion dollars–50% above 2011.

The ecological crisis provoked by climate change has been the main argument used globally to push for political and economic promotion of a green economy. The same discourse has been used in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This region is considered to have great potential for the megaprojects that make up the Mesoamerica Project, a geo-strategic project that extends from Mexico to Colombia and revolves around free trade agreements established primarily with the United States. This economic framework looks to develop a Regional Electricity Market, infrastructure, and highway, maritime, and port transportation services, to increase the flow of merchandise.

The Isthmus region has a production capacity of between 5,000 and 10,000 megawatts in wind energy alone–enough to provide electricity for 18 million inhabitants. This energy, however, is slated primarily for use in the production chains of huge corporations like Wal Mart, FEMSA-Coca-Cola, Heineken, CEMEX and Bimbo, rather than consumption in the communities where it is produced. Meanwhile the price of electricity and fossil fuels is on the rise for everyday Mexicans.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions has been the main reason given for promoting this type of wind energy production. Since wind energy is determined by Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol to be a “Clean Development Mechanism,” it receives financial support from industrialized countries. Under this system, corporations that invest in renewable energies receive financing from their governments and local governments, generate profits through the production of energy, and at the same time are able to sell “pollution permits”—carbon credits—to other countries or businesses that are unwilling or unable to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Resistance to the wind farm project began with information

“The Mexican Federal government has granted a lot of liberty to corporations to do what they want with our communal lands. We, the original people of this region, matter nothing to the government, we are persecuted and murdered…”, stated a recent emission of Radio Totopo.

Since 2006 Sanchez, together with other members of his community in Juchitan’s 7th Section neighbourhood, have been concerned about the effects of the wind farms. With rudimentary equipment they decided to start a community radio project, Totopo Community Radio. The radio was the first alternative media for communications in the Zapotec language. Since its inception, it has aimed to inform the indigenous towns of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec about the implications of the Mesoamerica Project in the wind corridor, Sanchez noted.

IMG_4017Before the creation of the radio station, these indigenous communities had not received information in their native language about the project. From the beginning the radio has represented a threat to groups that benefit from the wind farms, such as the leaders of the Coalition of Worker, Peasants, and Students of the Isthmus (COCEI by its Spanish initials), an arm of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and government employees of other political parties. But above all, the radio has represented a threat to corporations looking to invest in the region, such as Fenosa Natural Gas.

On March 26, 2013 the government attacked our communications area. The persecution by the state police and the hit men hired by the corporation Fenosa Natural Gas has tried to weaken us,” maintains Sanchez, a founding member of the radio who served as its coordinator for seven years. Throughout his time with the radio he received constant death threats. He reports that once he was stopped and beaten by a paramilitary group, allegedly hired by and made up of members of the Coalition.

Despite being subjected to attacks and persecution, members of the community radio currently have a daily transmission using a ten-watt transmitter and are looking to acquire a thousand-watt transmitter. They consider the radio to be their best tool in the struggle against the wind farm projects.

In 2013 the Popular Assembly of the People of Juchitan was formed, which now runs the radio. For several months the assembly maintained a barricade to defend more than 2,000 hectares of communal land, resisting the aggression of hired hit men, the police, and the army with only sticks and machetes.

Fenosa Natural Gas has begun the construction of its first wind farm in Latin America on these indigenous communal lands. It is planned to produce 234 megawatts– the third largest in the region. The company claims it will invest five billion pesos and its energy production will replace the emission of 420,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Based on this, Fenosa has begun the process of registering the project as a clean development mechanism with the United Nations.

Currently the communities protesting the project that make up the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus (APIIDTT) are: San Dionisio del Mar, San Mateo del Mar, San Francisco del Mar, San Blas Atempa, Santa Rosa de Lima, Juchitán, Santa María Xadani, Unión Hidalgo, Álvaro Obregón, and the communal lands of Charis and Zapata. They are on constant alert due to the advance of the projects. Their strength lies in the use of the assembly and consensus decision-making in the villages. In the case of Alvaro Obregon, a part of San Dionisio del Mar, inhabitants decided to declare themselves an autonomous municipality and renounce their relationship with the state and federal government and the political parties.

Autonomous Municipality

Alvaro Obregon is an indigenous Ikojts (Huave) community of approximately 3,171 inhabitants in San Dionisio del Mar. The community has opposed another wind farm project that the corporation Mareña Renewables hoped to construct in an area called La Barra Santa Teresa, also part of the municipality of San Dionisio del Mar. This megaproject would consist of more than 132 wind turbines with an energy capacity of 396 megawatts.

Mujeres-Alavaro ObregonThe Ikojts fought back for almost two years, with constant road closures, demonstrations, and confrontations with the police and paramilitary groups, until the wind farm project was suspended (record 739/2012). Even so, attacks and intimidation toward the community have not stopped.

“Saúl Vicente Vázquez, organized direct aggressive actions toward the autonomous municipality on March 2 with a group of hit men and with the support of the government. They are trying to put the brakes on our autonomy,” reported Alejandro López, a member of the community assembly. He also said that although they have achieved the legal suspension of the project, Mareña Renewables will likely move the project to a different community.

On Jan. 1, the council of elders and the general community invoked Convention 169 of the United Nation’s International Labour Organization and declared themselves an autonomous municipality. Mexico Convention 169 ratified the Convention in 1990, thereby promising to protect the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. However, Vicente Vázquez, the current mayor of Juchitán who at one point served as a member of the United Nations on indigenous matters, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the decision. The assembly complains that later he staged a community assembly by paying people to attend, and named a new authority.

‘We as indigenous people have seen high levels of corruption in the three levels of government. The law is a dead letter to the government. That is why we decided to use Convention 169 and the San Andrés Accords proposed by the Zapatistas,” maintained Pedro López Orozco, member of the assembly of Alvaro Obregon and of the town’s community radio. He added that they will continue to defend their autonomy.

The community’s declaration as an autonomous municipality has revived a spirit of the struggle in these towns, and with the San Andrés Accords as a guide, the Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus decided to hold a session of the first National Indigenous Congress March 29 in Alvaro Obregon. They look to strengthen a corridor of resistance instead of a wind corridor, affirming that there will be going back in their defence of their land and the construction of their project of autonomy.

A few days after the Americas Program visited Alvaro Obregon to report on the process of autonomy and the fight against the wind energy developers, community members announced that twelve members of the Community Police were arrested by local Juchitan police under orders from Saúl Vicente Vázquez. The government charged that it is illegal to name Community Police. The bulletin sent out by the organization held the local and state governments responsible for any confrontation that might occur in the community that could put the safety of Assembly members in danger, for trying to forcibly install illegitimate officials in Alvaro Obregon.



NAFTA Linked to Massive Human Rights Violations in Mexico

Filed under: Human rights — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:06 pm


NAFTA Linked to Massive Human Rights Violations in Mexico

Kent Paterson

violencia_maiz_1-640x290In a series of preliminary opinions, an international tribunal of conscience has condemned massive violations of human rights in Mexico.

Now wrapping up a four-year process of evidence gathering,  members of  the Mexican chapter of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) have found grave threats to  the environment, food sovereignty, indigenous autonomy, and  democratic rights of self-expression and organization of the Mexican people.

A common denominator is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to PPT representatives and collaborators.

“Groups and movements participating in the tribunal have documented ways in which NAFTA has been pernicious to Mexico’s social, economic and cultural life,” says Dr. Zulma Mendez, member of the Group for the Articulation of Justice in Ciudad Juarez and a participant in the gender violence and femicide section of the PPT.

According to Mendez,“The unequal relations of power that are present in NAFTA and which help to make it attractive to U.S. interests have been addressed:  Transnational corporations that divest communities of a viable future through practices that turn communities into mass production spaces, workers into a pair of arms, and life as disposable…”

Mendez noted that this process has often been violent, prompting the Mexican Tribunal hearings under the title  “Free Trade, Dirty War, Impunity and the Rights of Peoples.”

The Peoples’ Tribunal

Headquartered in Rome, Italy, the PPT is a successor of the famous Bertrand Russell Tribunal that exposed U.S. war crimes in Vietnam during the 1960s.

The PPT has since spoken out on human rights violations in El Salvador, East Timor, Afghanistan and other nations across the globe, but convincing the organization to scrutinize Mexico wasn’t easy, says Dr. Camilo Perez Bustillo, visiting professor at New Mexico State University and a member of a PPT-Mexico commission examining migration and forced displacement.

Perez says Mexico’s long-standing international reputation as a global defender of migrant rights and a refuge for asylum seekers made it difficult to convince the Tribunal leaders to examine human rights violations taking place within the country.

“In a way, the PPT process was designed to move through that contradiction,” Perez adds. “Mexico is looked at differently than it was before.”

After being presented with careful documentation, the Tribunal agreed to open the case against the Mexican state and hearings have proceeded under seven issue areas: the dirty war, femicide and violence against women, violations of labor rights, migration rights and forced displacement, food sovereignty and GM corn, environment and the right to information and freedom of expression.

Now a meticulous evidence-gathering process undertaken by the PPT, coupled with increasing human rights abuses connected to the so-called drug war and other causes, is contributing to a growing recognition of and concern regarding human rights violations, he says.

The jury members who hear evidence of accusations of rights abuses from Mexican civil society groups at the many PPT hearings and pre-hearings, hail from academia, the legal profession and civil society, both inside the country and abroad.

They include, among others, PhillipeTexier (France), director of the U.N.’s El Salvador Mission in 1991-92 and later a committee member of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; Miguel Concha (Mexico) renowned human rights defender and president of the Fray Francisco Vitoria O.P. Human Rights Center; Silvia Rodriguez (Costa Rica), professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the National University of Costa Rica; Esperanza Martinez (Ecuador), biologist and co-founder of Oilwatch; and Emilie Smith (Canada), Anglican minister and co-president of the Oscar Romero International Christian Network in Solidarity with the Peoples of Latin America.

As the PPT’s investigation in Mexico reaches a conclusion, a landmark work that dissects human rights abuses in the context of corporate globalization is emerging.

Recent 20-year NAFTA anniversary reports, including the ones released in March by the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club and other U.S. environmental organizations, have also taken the trade and investment pact to task for its detrimental effects on workers and the environment, but the PPT’s report might be the most exhaustive examination of the free trade regime on a NAFTA member nation.

In their initial opinions, PPT members describe how unfettered capitalism is invading and infecting virtually every nook and cranny of public life, with its repercussions on a broad range of human rights.

Based on voluminous reports from multiple sources and first-hand testimonies, the PPT examines the effects of mines, dams, highway and commercial construction, water thefts and pollution, corporatized agricultural and food systems, and other attacks on the rights of peoples to a safe and healthy environment, basic needs and culture.

With Mexico known as the cradle of corn and corn culture, the PPT devotes considerable discussion to the centrality of the staple crop and its cultural and social significance. This area focuses on threats to small-scale corn production from corporate farming and genetically modified corn, which is contaminating native varieties.

“The tragedy of Mexican corn is paradigmatic of the global collapse of culture in the wake of ‘free trade’, and in Mexico this has had a very marked and painful place…”

Tribunal hearings analyze how NAFTA and Mexican government farm programs rooted in the liberalization of the agricultural economy not only impact rural communities economically, but how the broader- if less understood-transformation of Mexico’s food production and consumption system affects the nation’s pocketbooks and personal health.

Hearings presented eveidence that while NAFTA corn imports soared to $2.5 billion by 2011, the prices paid to Mexican producers fell 64 percent between 1985 and 1999.  A similar trend was cited for beans. Yet, during the first 8 years of NAFTA from 1994 to 2002, the cost to consumers of the basic basket of goods increased 257 percent, according to the PPT.

In parallel fashion, the share of the Mexican population that was either obese or overweight rose 12 percent from 2000 to 2006, as unhealthy and often imported food replaced traditional cuisine. Overall, 55.7 percent of the population suffered food insecurity in 2011, according to testimony presented to the PPT.

In their preliminary recommendations, PPT jurors call for a moratorium on the further spread of genetically-modified corn in Mexico and the reversal of laws that promote the transgenic crop. Internationally, the PPT appeals on the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization to take up the defense of corn and oppose patents on plants and animals.

Although the Tribunal’s work has been considered “politicized” by some, the jurors are chosen among nationally and internationally recognized experts on the issues, and the rulings are based on violations in specific human rights agreements Mexico has signed and national law.

As for environmental transgressions, the PPT does not limit responsibility to the Mexican State per se, but also holds transnational corporations and the governments of the United States and Canada accountable for assaults on communities and ecosystems. Familiar names cited in testimony before the  PPT include Halliburton, Monsanto, Wal-Mart of Mexico, Home Depot, and the convenience store chain Oxxo, among numerous others. The PPT hearings also brought evidence regarding the murders of environmental activists, including anti-mining activists Mariano Abarca in Chiapas (2009), Bernardo Mendez Vasquez in Oaxaca (2012) and Ismael Solorio in Chihuahua (2012).

The PPT notes that Canadian companies dominate 75 percent of the mining industry and that 16 percent of Mexico’s national territory has been contracted out to mining companies.

In a comprehensive overview for the PPT, veteran pro-democracy activists Dr. Felix Hernandez and Dr. Raul Alvarez of the ’68 Committee compiled 5,000 cases of repression dating back to the army’s 1946 massacre of protesters in Leon, Guanajuato, to the present day.

In hearings related to the dirty war, the so-called drug war, which intensified as the NAFTA economy grew, figures in prominently. According to PPT testimony, the northern border state of Chihuahua, Ground Zero for narco-tainted violence, has been one of the most dangerous places for human rights defenders in recent years.

The tribunal reports the killing of 17 activists in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Chihuahua state from 2009 to 2012 alone, including anti-femicide activist Marisela Escobedo, Raramuri land rights attorney Ernesto Rabano and six members of the Reyes Salazar family near Ciudad Juarez, which the PPT characterized as constituting a “particularly dramatic”  attempt to exterminate an entire family.

Evidence provided before jurors revealed a consistent  modus operandi of government repression, including tactics of infiltrating demonstrations with paid provocateurs, splashing ink on protester’s clothing  to identify them, trailing activists, threatening dissidents, and mistreating, isolating and even torturing detainees.

In this scenario, corporate media like the Televisa network, which concealed images of the 1968 student massacre back in the day, prop up the status quo by sensationalizing protests and not giving voice to the grievances of people in the streets.

Pre-Hearing on Repression

Rooted in international law, the PPT has identified war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Mexico in recent years, based on the definitions of the Geneva Convention, International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute.

PPT jurors and grassroots organizations presenting testimony rs urge Mexican legal institutions to institute reforms, punish human rights violators, create a special human rights prosecutor, restrain from the use of force against social movements, guarantee genuine press freedom, and comply with U.N. recommendations. The preliminary rulings appeal to the U.N. to visit Mexico and investigate torture, and recommend the International Criminal Court open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2006, when drug-connected violence escalated.

In the months ahead, the PPT plans a public hearing in Mexico City on the status of youth, while it wraps up work on migration and other issues. Another public hearing on U.S.-Mexico border militarization could also be in the works.

According to Camilo Perez, the migration commission is considering the movement of peoples from the standpoint of forced displacement, whether economic or violence-driven.  While he compares Mexico’s experience with Colombia’s, the legal scholar cautions against viewing the drug war as the primary factor behind forced displacement.

“Before, behind and beyond the drug war, there was a war on human rights in Mexico, a war against the poor, the indigenous movements, criminalization,” he says. not clear.

The urgency of the migrant crisis taken up by the PPT was again crudely illustrated in March, when seven migrants from the Central American Free Trade Agreement zone were thrown off the train known as “The Beast” in southern Mexico for not paying $100 “transit fees” to criminals. Two of the migrants were killed as a result of the brutal attack.

Perez stresses that, the migration hearings have explicitly linked the humanitarian crisis in the treatment of migrants to NAFTA and U.S. border security policies, which for example, created the circumstances that allowed immigrant smuggling networks and criminal assaults on migrants to flourish, and laid the groundwork for human rights atrocities like the 2010 San Fernando Massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants in northern Mexico.

Washington and Central American governments will also be held accountable by the PPT for violations of migrants’ human rights, and the tribunal’s final verdict will definitely include a “cross-border perspective,” Perez says.

Since the PPT is a civil society initiative with no official standing, the question arises whether the organization’s deliberations and upcoming verdict will make any difference on the ground. Both Perez and Mendez are optimistic.

The PPT’s legacy, Perez affirms, is one of spotlighting human rights violations and influencing international public opinion and institutions. PPT collaborators like Dr. Jorge Bustamante, founder of Mexico’s El Colegio de la Frontera Norte and a former U.N special rapporteur  on the human rights of migrants, have widely-recognized professional reputations and enjoy access to influential quarters.

“Perhaps most importantly,”Perez says, “the PPT is not an end but a beginning for local organizations to come together and move forward on issues laid out in the expert opinions and final verdict.”

Education professor and U.S.-Mexico border activist Zulma Mendez likewise regards the PPT as a beacon for future strategic work.

“In the case of the Mexican chapter, the tribunal has provided groups with the opportunity to come together to render testimony and (document) human rights abuses,” Mendez writes in an e-mail.

“This collective memory, produced by people and organizations, provides an important record that will guide future actions including the possibility of building a case against the Mexican State in international courts.”

Mendez says a key accomplishment so far has been a reexamination of NAFTA and opening discussion on how Mexico can legally withdraw from the trinational business accord.  Putting the issue back on the national agenda “would be a victory,” Mendez says, since NAFTA is “treated as a given, something that can’t be touched and dismantled.”

The PPT’S final verdict on Mexico is expected to be delivered in November 2014.

Kent Paterson is a freelance journalist who has covered Mexico, the U.S. Southwest and Latin America for many years and a regular contributor to the CIP Americas Program

For More on the Mexico Chapter of the People’s Permanent Tribunal from the Americas Program:

“Tribunal Denounces Privatization, Pollution and Plundering of Mexico’s Water”, Alfredo Acedo, Sept. 27, 2013.

For more information on the PPT’s case against the Mexican State (Spanish):



Letter from London

Filed under: Bachajon, Human rights — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:02 pm

Letter from London

Embassy of Mexico in the United Kingdom,

16 St George Street,

London W1S 1FD

April 4th 2014

Dear Madams and Sirs:

Sadly we are writing yet again to express our concern about human rights abuses in Chiapas.

ajuanAs you probably are aware on 21 March 2014 Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, age 22, was ambushed and killed with over twenty gunshots while he was driving a small passenger truck up to the San José Chapapuyil crossroads in the direction of Virgen de Dolores, Chiapas, a community which is an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon.

The Chiapas state authorities are seeking to downplay his murder as an act of inter-community conflict, but what is really happening in Bachajón is a struggle for the defence of the land worked by the ejido members who support the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle.

At the time of his murder, Juan Carlos held the post of regional Coordinator of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle for the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón. Juan Carlos’s murder comes nearly eleven months after the April 24th 2013 assassination of the previous coordinator Juan Vazquez Guzman.

Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is, unfortunately for those who live there, in the way of Mexican government and private businesses who have plans to develop the area for tourism, resulting in the displacement of the local people. In fact, according to short report in Proceso magazine 12 February 2014 Peña Nieto inaugurated the new Palenque airport, but ignored petitions submitted by the indigenous inhabitants of the area.

On 27 February 2014 London Mexico Solidarity group, member group of the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network, visited you at the embassy, and we spoke about our collective concern about a new pattern of human rights violations in Mexico.

After the Zapatista uprising in 1994 until the election of Fox in 2000, we saw an increased militarisation of the zone and an increase in human rights violations. During the PAN years, social development and assistance programmes became the most vicious arms of the counter insurgency war. As we mentioned in that February meeting, we are extremely concerned about the growing boldness of political assassinations in Chiapas, and we base our concern on the ferocity of police conduct Peña Nieto, then governor of Mexico state, ordered in response to the flower vendor protests in San Salvador Atenco in May 2006.

We hope you will convey our concerns to the authorities back in Mexico. We hope the repression and political violence in Chiapas will end. And we hope not to have reason to write you again anytime soon.

Yours sincerely,

London Mexico Solidarity Group


Report on London Mexico Solidarity Group visit to the Embassy Feb 2014  

27 February 2014, Thursday about 5pm, the London Mexico Solidarity Group visited the Mexican embassy to discuss the failed San Andreas Accords (signed in Feb 1996, yet never implemented) and the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Chiapas. This was something we did in support of the week of international solidarity with the Zapatistas and as part of marking the Zapatistas’ 20 years of autonomy.

Prior to our visit Luis had made a flier to distribute on that day. Hector, Joao and Claudio made a banner for the group’s long-term use, which was inaugurated that day. Joao has the banner.   We met at the Mason’s Arms (pub) around the corner from the embassy and went over the plan. Five of us attended – Joao, Claudio, Denise, Adriana and Will. As we approached the embassy we noticed a police van with 6 coppers. The police had obviously been alerted cos they came up to us within 30 seconds of arriving at the embassy, asking what we were doing there. While some of us affixed the banner and began leafleting, we explained our business, and asked them whether they’d heard of the Zapatistas. ‘No’ was the unsurprising reply. One replied that he and his wife had been on a gap year in Mexico in 1996, it was the end of their year of travel. They didn’t see much of Mexico, they were ready to go home. We spoke of the human rights situation they would have met in Chiapas if they had visited Chiapas at that time, and suggested some books and films he might watch. They seemed satisfied they didn’t have a potential riot on their hands. Joao and Claudio gave out information to people passing by outside while the rest went inside.  

Unlike in Mexico where they ask you to show ID when signing in the visitors’ book, they merely asked our details. We then sat down at a meeting withAlejandro Estivill, the Deputy Head of the mission and Stephanie Leon, who has been assigned the Human Rights brief at the embassy. And a woman they never introduced who had also greeted us at reception who we take was Tanya Gonzalez, the woman copied in on the emails.  

Adriana joined her greeting to Alejandro (the deputy head of mission) with a friendly but heart-felt attack on his lackadaisical response to the embassy hosting a book launch for her last year. Initially he had responded enthusiastically and then completely dropped the ball. It was an interesting tone to begin the meeting. Then we sat down, and began by generally expressing our displeasure at recent human rights abuses in Chiapas and the Mexican government’s continued failure to implement the San Andres Accords. We made our points quite clearly, indeed with a bang on the table courtesy of Denise! We spoke about Peña Nieto’s reputation post-Atenco, and the patterns of repression we’ve noted in the on-going war of counter insurgency. The PRI militarised and attacked; the PAN years divided with social development programmes, and the return of the PRI with Peña Nieto and the growing boldness of human rights violations, as evidenced by the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán a year ago and the latest attacks and theft of lumber in January 2014 on the community 10 de abril. We fear this suggests a return to armed bellicosity.  

They listened and then spoke of the ‘complexity’ of the situation in Chiapas, though they did truly seem torn about what to do. They said that they would relay our points back to Mexico, and asked that we send them copies of human rights reports and articles that expressed our concern. Denise sent a call out to for that and responded with a list to the embassy the Monday (3 March) after our visit.   We asked them whether they had actually visited the state, and Estivill rather sheepishly replied that he had not for a long time. We didn’t ask what he had done there, but some comments suggested it was PRD related development work.  

We also talked about the energy reform bill of earlier that week, climate change, the crumbling capitalist system, and the impunity of Zedillo and the ‘Abejas’ long-running struggle for justice. They seemed perplexed but certain of the course of development. Yet they listened.  

It remains to be seen if our visit has any effect, but at least we have made our views known. And amongst those of us taking part in the face-to-face meeting, we felt it was worthwhile doing. We thought we’d visit again in about another 6 months time. This sort of diplomatic lobbying is tedious and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s important that the Mexican authorities know that there are people in the UK who are watching what they are doing in Chiapas. And on 27 February, the authorities representing Mexico in London sensed a bit of that.


April 4, 2014

Reclaiming Our Freedom to Learn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:49 pm


Reclaiming Our Freedom to Learn

by Gustavo Esteva


        A primary school in the Zapatista village of Oventic, the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Aaron Cain.

Years ago, we started to observe in villages and barrios, particularly among indigenous peoples, a radical reaction against education and schools. A few of them closed their schools and expelled their teachers. Most of them avoided this type of political confrontation and started instead to just bypass the school, while reclaiming and regenerating the conditions in which people traditionally learned in their own ways.

The people in the villages know very well that school prevents their children from learning what they need to know to continue living in their communities, contributing to the common well-being and that of their soils, their places. And school does not prepare them for life or work outside the community. In many communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico, parents no longer delegate their children’s learning to school.

They know by experience what usually happens to those who abandon their communities to get “higher education.” They get lost in the cities, in degraded jobs. A recent official study found that only eight percent of graduates of Mexican universities will be able to work in the field they graduated in. Lawyers or engineers are driving taxis or tending stalls. In spite of such awareness, people still hold the illusion that higher education offers something to their children. They don’t feel comfortable depriving their children of such an “opportunity.”

Life Without Teachers

We once did a thought experiment in which we took a suggestion of author John McKnight—imagining a world without dentists—and applied it to the teaching profession. For a few minutes many apocalyptic descriptions circulated around our table as we imagined a world without teachers or teaching. But then something radically different started to come into our conversation. We imagined a myriad of ways in which the people themselves would create a different kind of life.

One of the most important conclusions of our conversation was the explicit recognition that we learn better when nobody is teaching us. We can observe this in every baby and in our own experience. Our vital competence comes from learning by doing, without any kind of teaching.

After the exercise, a very practical question came to the table. We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world. That is exactly what the Zapatistas are doing in the south of Mexico. How can we create our own new world, at our own, small, human scale, in our little corner in Oaxaca? How can we deschool our lives and those of our children in this real world, where the school still dominates minds, hearts and institutions?

The most dramatic lesson we derived from the exercise was to discover what we were really missing in the urban setting: conditions for apprenticeship. When we all request education and institutions where our children and young people can stay and learn, we close our eyes to the tragic social desert in which we live. They have no access to real opportunities to learn in freedom. In many cases, they can no longer learn with parents, uncles, grandparents—just talking to them, listening to their stories or observing them in their daily trade. Everybody is busy, going from one place to another. No one seems to have the patience any more to share with the new generation the wisdom accumulated in a culture. Instead of education, what we really need is conditions for decent living, a community.

Our challenge thus became to find ways to regenerate community in the city, to create a social fabric in which we all, at any age, would be able to learn and in which every kind of apprenticeship might flourish. In doing this radical research, we surprise ourselves, every day, when we discover how easy it can be to create alternatives and how many people are interested in the adventure.

We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world.

So we created our university, Unitierra. Young men and women without any diploma, and better yet no schooling, can come to us. They learn whatever they want to learn—practical trades, like urban agriculture, video production, or social research, or fields of study, like philosophy or communication. They learn the skills of the trade or field of study as apprentices of someone practicing those activities. They also learn how to learn with modern tools and practices not available in their communities.

As soon as the young people arrive at Unitierra, they start to work as apprentices. They discover that they need specific skills to do what they want to do. Most of the time, they get those skills by practicing the trade, with or without their mentors. They may choose to attend specific workshops, to shorten the time needed to get those skills.


A classroom at Unitierra. Photo courtesy of

Our “students” have been learning faster than we expected. After a few months they are usually called to return to the living present of their communities to do there what they have learned. They seem to be very useful there. Some of them are combining different lines of learning in a creative way. One of them, for example, combined organic agriculture and soil regeneration (his original interest), with vernacular architecture. He is not offering professional services that allow him to move towards the middle class standard of living by selling services and commodities. He is learning how to share, like peasants, what it means to be a cherished member of his community and commons, as has been done through time immemorial—before the modern rupture.

Discipline and freedom

In Unitierra we are not producing professionals. We have created a convivial place, where we all are enjoying ourselves while learning together. At the same time, both the “students” and their communities soon discover that a stay at Unitierra is not a vacation. True, the students have no classes or projects. In fact, they don’t have any kind of formal obligation. There are no compulsory activities. But they have discipline, and rigour, and commitment—with their group (other “students”), with us (participating in all kinds of activities for Unitierra), and with their communities.

Our “students” do not belong to communities. They are their communities. Of course, they can enjoy themselves and have very long nights of pachanga and many fiestas. But they have a responsibility to their communities, that is, to themselves. And hope. That is why they can have discipline, and rigour, and commitment.

Our “students” have the internal and social structure that is a fundamental condition for real freedom. If you don’t have them, if you are an individual atom within a mass of a collective, you need someone in charge of the organization. The workers of a union, the members of a political party or church, the citizens of a country—all of them need organizers and external forces to keep them together. In the name of security and order, they sacrifice freedom. Real people, knots in nets of relationships, can remain together by themselves, in freedom.

“True learning,” Ivan Illich once said, “can only be the leisurely practice of free people.” In the consumer society, he also said, we are either prisoners of addiction or prisoners of envy. Only without addiction or envy, only without educational goals, in freedom, can we enjoy true learning.

An Immersion in Liberated Spaces “Nations and Identities,” a new study abroad program, will explore how the people in Canada, India, and Mexico are reclaiming their commons or creating new ones. In dialogues with the Mohawk, in Quebec, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, and tribal India, and with non-indigenous groups in all three countries, participants will observe how each is affirming their respective identities and conceiving political horizons and convivial ways of life beyond the nation-state.

In Unitierra we have been fruitfully following a suggestion of Paul Goodman, a friend of, and source of inspiration for, Ivan Illich. Goodman once said: “Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now! Whatever you would do then, do it now. When you run up against obstacles, people, or things that won’t let you live that way, then begin to think about how to get over or around or under that obstacle, or how to push it out of the way, and your politics will be concrete and practical.”

We call Unitierra a university to laugh at the official system and to play with its symbols. After one or two years of learning, once their peers think they have enough competence in a specific trade, we give the “students” a magnificent university diploma. We are thus offering them the social recognition denied to them by the educational system. Instead of certifying the number of study-hours, as conventional diplomas do, we certify a specific competence, immediately appreciated by the communities, and protect our “students” against the usual discrimination. Most of our graduates are surprising us, however, by not asking for any diploma. They don’t feel the need for it.

We are also celebrating our wise and our elders with modern symbols. We thus offer diplomas of Unitierra to people who perhaps never attended a school or our university. Their competence is certified by their peers and the community. The idea, again, is to use in our own way, with much merriment and humour, all the symbols of domination. Or rather, as Illich says, to misuse for our own purposes what the state or the market produces.

Our diplomas have no use for those who wish to show off or to ask for a job or any privilege. They are an expression of people’s autonomy. As a symbol, they represent the commitment of our “students” to their own communities, not a right to demand anything. Nonetheless, 100 percent of our “graduates” are doing productive work in the area they studied.

But playing with the symbols of the system is not only an expression of humour. It is also a kind of protection. What we are doing is highly subversive. In a sense, we are subverting all the institutions of the modern, economic society. In packaging our activities as one of the most respected sacred cows of modernity—education—we protect our freedom from the attacks of the system.

In my place, every I is a we. And thus we live together, in our living present, rooted in our social and cultural soil, nourishing hopes at a time in which all of us, inspired by the Zapatistas, are creating a whole new world.


44Esteva_mug58.75Gustavo Esteva is a grassroots activist and de-professionalized intellectual. He is the author of many books and essays, former advisor to the Zapatistas, and member of several independent organizations and networks, Mexican and international; he lives in an indigenous village in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.



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