Zapatista News Summary for April 2016
1. Judgement about the tourist highway: The Tsotsil communities of Los Llanos and San José el Porvenir in Los Altos de Chiapas reveal publicly that on January 18th 2016 they were granted an amparo (order for legal protection) against the San Cristóbal de Las Casas-Palenque highway, which the government has been trying to impose on them since November 2013. In the sentence the judge orders the cancellation of the outlines of the construction project, or any other programme, for the highway between the municipalities of San Cristobal and Huixtan, in particular on the lands of the two communities. The communities call for the cancellation of the entire project.
2. Great pilgrimage in defence of Mother Earth. A pilgrimage of more than 200 kilometres in defence of Mother Earth and in memory of the still unpunished and unresolved Viejo Velasco massacre of 13th November, 2006, takes place from 3rd to 10th April 2016, in the Northern region of Chiapas, with indigenous Chol, Tseltal, Tsotsil and Zoque participants. The pilgrimage, starts in the community of Arroyo Granizo and finishes in Oxchuc. The pilgrims denounce the lack of justice for the Viejo Velasco massacre and denounce the dispossession caused by megaprojects; it is made clear that the pilgrimage is intended to set a precedent for the defence of and struggle for the Mother Earth, which is seriously threatened by megaprojects already planned in this zone, which will directly affect many communities. Such is the case of the hydroelectric dam at Boca del Cerro which will affect at least 30 communities in the vicinity of the Usumacinta river. These communities have not been consulted or taken in to account in any way.
3. The displaced of Banavil: On 4th April, Frayba denounces the unjustified delay in dealing with the case of the displaced families of Banavil, Tenejapa, and the fact that the authorities of the Chiapas government are protecting the perpetrators. The displaced families issue a communiqué and join the National Campaign in Defence of Mother Earth and Territory.
4. Risk in Simojovel: On 7th April, Frayba again expresses concerns about the continuing imminent risk to community human rights defenders in Simojovel, especially Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez and members of the Simojovel parish council and the Pueblo Creyente.
5. Primero de Agosto: The displaced families from Primero de Agosto denounce in a communiqué that on 7th and 8th April, members of CIOAC-Histórica from Miguel Hidalgo started to enclose with barbed wire part of the lands of Primero de Agosto. The cioaquistas were carrying firearms and machetes and wearing the “yellow caps of the PRD.”
6. San Isidro Los Laureles: On 9th April, adherents to the Sexta, members of Semilla Digna and the Indigenous National Congress (CNI) from San Isidro Los Laureles, in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza, denounce acts of intimidation in the form of a helicopter overflight with cameras, followed by the firing of gunshots from a vehicle in their community, and call for solidarity with their struggle.
7. The National Campaign in Defence of Mother Earth and Territory: is launched on 10th April, the 97th anniversary of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata. The objective is for everyone to unite in defence of the Mother Earth. Caravans from Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla, Veracruz and Tlaxcala converge in Mexico City for this launch. The campaign is made up of 179 organizations, collectives and associations. It aims to denounce dispossession and share struggles for the defence of Mother Earth, to denounce the corporations profiting from dispossession and to show alternative ways of life.
8. Fourth Forum of Resistances and Alternatives of the Peoples of the Northern Zone of Chiapas: During this forum more than 300 people from more than 60 communities from seven municipalities in the Northern and Jungle regions of Chiapas and from the Petén Front against Dams in Guatemala come together. They reject the construction of the bi-national Boca del Cerro hydroelectric dam on the Usumacinta river, which will lead to the invasion and dispossession of their territories. Work has already started on this dam, the first of five such dams planned for this river, which forms the border between the two countries.
9. Ejido Tila: Ejidatarios from Tila hold a march on 10th April in memory of Emiliano Zapata, and to celebrate the realisation of their ejidal autonomy and free self-determination since the expulsion of the municipal authorities last December. On 13th April a group of around a hundred people come to the ejido in six lorries, led by caciques (political chiefs) from the area, intending to provoke a confrontation, to give the government an excuse for repression. This leads to a very tense situation. The group are expelled, and return a second time.
10. Declaration from EZLN and CNI: On 12th April the EZLN and CNI issue a Joint Declaration on “the cowardly betrayal of the Indigenous Ñatho community of San Francisco Xochicuautla in order to implement the highway project Toluca Naucalpan,” as well as on the assault on community police in Ostula. They call upon all peoples, organizations, and individuals in solidarity to be attentive and to heed the call made by the community of Xochicuautla. The CNI declares itself on maximum alert. Statements in support of Xochicuautla are also issued by Las Abejas and by the ejidatarios of Bachajόn and Tila.
11. Las Abejas of Acteal call a press conference to denounce the usurpation of their name, stamp and logo by a different group from Acteal, Consejo Pacifista Sembradores de La Paz, who are spreading false information and want to take over the physical and symbolic spaces of Las Abejas in Acteal, House of Memory and Hope. In another communiqué a few days later, they offer solidarity to Xochicuautla, Bachajón and Primero de Agosto, and denounce megaprojects and the destruction of Mother Earth.
12. International Political Prisoners’ Day is marked in Chiapas by events in support of political prisoners in Mexico and the world, including a press conference for Alejandro Díaz Santis from Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate. The release is called for of Santiago Moreno Perez, Emilio Jimenez Gomez and Esteban Gomez Jimenez, prisoners from the Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, which issues a communiqué in their support.
13. A gathering is held in the Ejido Chicoasen (where they are struggling against a dam) from 12th to 15th April, for the Non-violent Transformation of Conflict in Defence of our Territory, attended by representatives of communities in Chiapas affected by dams, mines, gas pipelines, and other megaprojects. They issue a pronouncement denouncing these megaprojects and demanding the cancellation of projects which affect life and damage the mother earth and calling on communities not to allow transnational companies to enter their lands.
14: Third anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán. The community spokesperson from the Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón was killed by six gunshots in the doorway of his home on 24th April, 2013. He was killed for defending his people’s land and territory from dispossession by the government and transnationals in order to build a luxury tourist development. The third commemoration of his death is held at his family home, all in solidarity are invited to attend or contribute, and letters are received and read aloud from Mexico, North and South America and from Europe.
15. Repression of teachers: The National Coordinating Body of Education Workers (CNTE), called a national day of mobilization on 15th April against the federal government’s plan to privatize and standardize public education. In San Cristóbal de las Casas there were running street battles after federal police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and beatings. Similar repression also occurred in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, involving tear gas fired from helicopters. At least 24 people were arrested and tortured. In response to this state brutality, on 22nd April, 100,000 teachers marched in Tuxtla in a peaceful and orderly demonstration. Frayba denounces the repression, torture and arbitrary arrests of teachers along with the “generalised violence implemented by the Mexican state.”
16. Poverty figures: An Oxfam report shows that despite the investment of 40 million dollars since 1995, poverty in Chiapas is increasing. Since the Zapatista rebellion, Chiapas has received the most funding of any state to combat poverty, yet still remains the poorest state in Mexico. A study by INEGI shows that in the state of Chiapas 43.8% (754,000) of children live in extreme multi-dimensional poverty.
17. Interview with Sub Moíses: An interview with Subcomandante Moíses, spokesperson of the EZLN, by Ukrainian journalist Oleg Yasinsky, with the group Chto Delat from St Petersburg, Russia, is released on YouTube.
18. 3 major rivers have dried up in the state of Chiapas. The State Director of Civil Protection Luis Manuel Garcia tells Reforma that 40 Chiapan municipalities have been affected, of which four are experiencing extreme drought. “All of the biggest rivers in the coastal area of Chiapas have been practically dried up. The wells from which water for the population is extracted are eight metres below their normal level.” In light of the extreme circumstances, Garcia says they will send a petition to the federal government requesting that they issue a state of emergency decree for three of Chiapas’ municipalities in order to get financial resources from the National Disaster Fund.
1. Caravan against the drug war visits Chiapas. The Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice departs from Honduras on 28th March and travels to New York City for the special session on drugs of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19th April. It crosses the border with Guatemala on 6th April and visits San Cristobal on 7th April where there is a meeting with movements and organisations dealing with issues such as migration and the defence of land and territory. It moves on to Mexico City. The Caravan is a broad initiative of families of victims of human rights violations, civil society organizations and social movements from different nations, which call for a “halt to the war on drugs.”
2. Major disturbances in indigenous territories to allow the entrance of megaprojects
a) San Francisco Xochicuautla: This Otomi-Ñatho community, in the municipality of Lerma, Mexico State, has been resisting the construction of the Toluca-Naucalpan highway and won the definitive suspension of a presidential decree to expropriate almost 38 hectares of its lands. In spite of this, on April 11th, between 700 and 1,000 state police forcibly enter the community, in order to permit the entrance of bulldozers from the construction company Autovan-Teya, a subsidiary of Grupo Higa. They demolish the camp of Peace and Dignified Resistance and a number of houses which are on the planned highway route, beating and evicting people. There is a huge response to this attack, and the state suspends construction and offers damages on 13th The new National Campaign in Defence of Mother Earth and Territory is one of many organisations to respond. At the same time as this attack the community police of the autonomous Nahua community of Ostula in Michoacán are ambushed, and one person is killed.
b) San Salvador Atenco: On 12th April, the Peoples Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) from Atenco report the forced entrance of an army tank into the communally owned lands of Atenco, Mexico State, escorting a group of workers “from a private company that carried out studies for the construction of the new airport. This was all done illegally and intimidating the inhabitants who had met on becoming aware of the incursion. Nevertheless, we managed to expel them pacifically.” The people of Atenco are continuing to prevent work on building the road from taking place, blocking the road and removing construction materials.
In response to this attack, and that on Xochicuautla, Jose Antonio Lara Duque, general director of the Zeferino Ladrillero Human Rights Centre states: “We believe that, given the facts, the local government is trying to justify the Eruviel Law. That is to say, to provoke the peoples who have been defending their land, territory and natural resources. If anybody falls into [the trap of] provocation, it would legitimize the use of lethal force to control the people who are defending themselves.”
3. Special Economic Zones: On 14th April, the Senate passes the Federal Law for Special Economic Zones (SEZ.) The law establishes preferential conditions for national and foreign private companies, to whom it gives concessions for 40 years, renewable for 40 more, and tax and customs exemptions for eight years. In effect, the law plans the expropriation of all territories required to establish investment projects, which will be administered by businessmen, who will be able to operate their own surveillance and security companies. The law has been condemned for being designed only to benefit the rich. One of the five zones is Puerto Chiapas, designed to facilitate exports to Asia.
4. The major issue of dams:
After recent news from Brazil and Honduras, dams are, like mining becoming a major international issue which cannot be ignored. Please read some of the links given in this news summary. The forthcoming dams on the River Usumacinta will soon become a major issue for anyone who cares about the Zapatistas and the communities of Chiapas. The threat goes far beyond the 60 communities which are already being affected. We strongly urge people to start mobilising now, before it is too late.
Dorset Chiapas Solidarity has received the following message from Chiapas: “The situation with these dams is urgent… if they are allowed to be built it means the destruction of Chiapas as we know it completely and the end to movements and to indigenous culture.”
The information below comes from Telesur:
According to researchers, some 200,000 people have been displaced by the construction of dams across Mexico, while advocacy groups warn that the country’s new water law will only continue to make the situation worse. Many of Mexico’s 4,462 dams registered in official records are located on land belonging to indigenous and campesino communities, which are not only located near main water sources but also vulnerable to exploitation, and the communities rely heavily on river resources. Over 660 of the dams are considered to be large.
Some of the largest mass displacements took place in the early 1980s, with tens of thousands of people pushed off their land for large dam projects. Thousands more have been forcibly displaced by new construction since then. Even when families are not forced from their homes, hydroelectric projects impact the entire social fabric of a community, as well as compromising food production and local public health.
Resistance against dam projects also takes a heavy toll. Since 2005, over 40 activists fighting to defend rivers have been killed in Mexico, Central America and Colombia, according to GeoComunes. Among those killed in connection with dam projects in the past decade, at least eight were killed in Mexico and 13 in Guatemala.
Also, with this year’s drastic droughts having a grave effect on the hydroelectric dams on which countries such as Venezuela and Colombia depend for their electricity, dams would not seem a sensible source of future energy supplies. Meteorological predictions from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warn that extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts are likely to steadily increase.
Other sources of news
Boca en Boca has not been produced this month
Followers of Movement for Justice in El Barrio may like to read their latest news: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35625-participatory-democracy-drives-anti-gentrification-movement-in-new-york-s-el-barrio
We draw your attention to this report on the deteriorating social situation in some communities in the northern, highland and border regions: https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/narco-zetas-and-paramilitaries-the-new-reality-in-chiapas/
We recommend this summary of all the news from Mexico, produced for It’s Going Down: https://fallingintoincandescence.com/2016/04/17/insumision-the-state-responds-with-force/ This is the fourth edition of this report, which hopefully will be printed regularly.