dorset chiapas solidarity

March 31, 2013

Tourism in Chiapas: A conversation with Hermann Bellinghausen

Filed under: Bachajon, Corporations, Displacement, Indigenous, Journalists, Lacandon/ montes azules, Mining, Tourism, Zapatista — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:21 pm

Tourism in Chiapas: A conversation with Hermann Bellinghausen

Karolina Caicedo Flórez | Itinerant Radio / Alba South

Tourism in Chiapas has become part of the strategy of big business and the government to break the resistance of the Zapatista communities in rebellion, and facilitate their dispossession from their territories.


hermann5Hermann Bellinghausen was born in 1953 in Mexico City. He studied medicine, but currently works as a journalist and writer. He is a correspondent in Chiapas for the newspaper La Jornada, where he writes about the Zapatista struggle and the aggressions suffered by these communities, and about political prisoners and megaprojects in the State. He is also director of the monthly supplement Ojarasca, which covers literature, art and indigenous struggles. He has directed films like ‘Corazón del tiempo’, about the Zapatista struggle. One of his most outstanding pieces of journalism was his reporting on the Acteal massacre. From his deep knowledge of the Chiapas reality, we spoke about the increasing development of tourism in the State and its various implications.


Karolina Caicedo Flórez: What have been the most common strategies of the Mexican government for developing tourist projects in Chiapas?

Hermann Bellinghausen: The first problem for the state, when they want to develop tourist projects, or any type of abusive use of space, is the dispossession of the lands. All the major resorts of Mexico started with dispossession. This is how Huatulco was made. And here it is the same. Chiapas has become popular as a tourist attraction because it has the most striking natural areas in Mexico; it is a place where water is plentiful, full of incredible rivers, landscapes, waterfalls, and great natural wealth. It is on these places where government pressure focuses to develop tourist projects. Furthermore, in the case of  Chiapas, the tourism hook is guaranteed because there is an attractive indigenous culture, there are handicrafts, countryside …. But in Chiapas [tourism] is the spearhead for something else, the real goal in Chiapas is not tourism, but the alienation of territory.

The problem is that these projects have met with the obstacle of the autonomous communities, in total resistance, or simply with organized communities. These have prevented the construction of the road to Palenque, an ambitious highway project which runs through all the traditional territory of the Tzeltal people.

Today the government of Chiapas has a deliberate policy of fostering tourism because it is a source of foreign currency earnings, but I think that this has a limit, there is a finite size for tourism. But if the result is that people lose control of their land, and this means making way for mining, for hydroelectric schemes, for highways, now that is nothing to do with tourism.

Tourist projects are sold as being financially attractive for the inhabitants of these places, and they are told that they will have a job, they will receive income, but what we know is that they become employees or servants of tourism. They go from being the masters of their land to being bartenders, waiters, or slaves; once the owners of the area but now just employees in a place that once was theirs.

hermann1Figure 1 Palenque, photo by Javier Hidalgo

Of course the government carries out projects which apparently benefit people, cooperatives are created such as Agua Azul for example, or Las Guacamayas in the Lacandón Jungle, where it has been possible to have the luxury of making an indigenous group the beneficiaries. They do not even need an outside company, if the interest is greater than that, it can allow for a privileged group to become the beneficiaries of the business directly.

The most obvious case is that of Agua Azul. They have a cooperative, an ecotourist ejido, which is a very rare phenomenon, I don’t know of another. In Agua Azul the population has benefited greatly, they are wealthy, and doing well. But they are counterinsurgents, because they are surrounded by the conflict taking place in Chiapas, and they are the allies of the government against the other communities. We see it in the case of San Sebastián Bachajón, Bolom Ajaw, and other communities around the waterfalls, who are all Zapatistas. There are others which are not spoken of: San Miguel Agua Azul, and Nuevo Progreso, who are Zapatistas and who are also on the river. There the fight has been to strip the Zapatista communities of their land, and, in order to do this, to make use of the groups that are benefiting from tourism projects, who are receiving government programmes and are having visits from tourists, charging them, and receiving foreign currency.


What are the models of tourism development which have driven the Chiapas government?

They have established spa resorts in different parts of the jungle, such as Las Nubes, but they are subsidized; even Las Guacamayas, which seems to be the most successful, relies on the support of the government. Las Guacamayas is a very attractive hotel in a wonderful  spot across from the Montes Azules, next to the River Lacantún. It is like a hotel with walkways, all made of wood, like those used for adventure tourism in other parts of the continent, but subsidized by the government. Whenever television personalities visit, they take them to these places. And of course Agua Azul, because it is on the road between Palenque and San Cristobal, which is already a tourist route, and so has guarded against any claim of the indigenous peoples to exploit Agua Azul.

Now, in the Agua Azul area, a large river basin, what they want to do is to build hydroelectric schemes and dams. The Agua Azul river is just one, but there is also the Turijá river, the Bascal river, all these rivers are in the basin of the Grijalva river. And there is also the Usumacinta river basin, which is in the jungle. They have also spoken of building hydro schemes there, but these have not yet happened, which is why I think the most threatened sites are the ones near Agua Azul and Palenque, because there they have progressed with the highway and construction projects.

Coca Cola is very keen to have the water, as they were under previous governments, especially the government of Fox which was the government of Coca Cola, of which he was the director. They have great interest in the river basin. There is a lot of water in Huixtán and Coca Cola has concessions on it. Another case is Huitepec, the hill of water; Coca Cola is at the foot of Huitepec. So it happens that water is the tourist attraction, but that is only the hook for the real plans.

Chiapas is not Cancun, Chiapas is not Huatulco. Here, tourism is collateral to the real projects: mining, bio-prospecting, dams and energy. Tourism is, I repeat, the spearhead used to get hold of what really interests them, which is the natural resources, and tourism is the way to displace communities or deceive them. You offer them a tourism project, build them little cabins, create a mirage of prosperity, and what happens is they lose control of their lands.

hermann2Figure 2 Agua Azul waterfall, Karolina Caicedo Florez

Could you mention some of the impacts of tourism in Chiapas?

The impact of tourism in any traditional location is that it brings very different people, especially Europeans and Americans, to traditional areas as if they were anywhere in the world. There are then effects on the culture, and on the traditions of consumption, which have a direct impact on the indigenous population of Chiapas, which predominates in the ​​Highlands and Jungle area. A third of the state is indigenous, and it is most attractive to tourists because of its natural resources and because of the items sold by the indigenous.

San Cristóbal de las Casas is a city that has the problem that people come because there are Indians; people in San Cristóbal hate the Indians, but the tourists come to see the Indians, not the coletos. What do they sell? Crafts from Chamula or San Andrés, pictures of Indians, and visitors go to Chamula market to have the experience of an Indian village. If there were no Indians nobody would come to San Cristóbal, well, it would be a colonial town, but what gives it life is that it is truly indigenous, like Ecuador or Peru.

But I’m not sure if the cultural impact of tourism in Chiapas is so very negative, because there is a different social process here from that in other parts of the country. The Zapatista movement has been in contact with foreigners, who in another context would be tourists. Yes, Italians, French, Argentines, Basques come, but it is more about commitment, more militant, so people are more used to dealing with foreigners. San Cristóbal was also always a place for gringo anthropologists, for ethnic tourism, for taking good photos, so here they are accustomed to foreigners, and are less likely to be corrupted by them.

The tourism that comes here is not one of great economic power; in fact it is the misfortune of the coletos, who wanted rich gringos to come, that those who come are mainly backpackers, who are not grand tourism. A few years ago, when they started having inns and hostels in San Cristóbal, the hoteliers were furious because they said it was unfair competition, because they pay less tax, charge less, and because of the way tourism is here, they stopped going to the hotels which were not needed.

San Cristóbal also has much Mexican tourism, especially in the holiday seasons, because on the one hand Chiapas became fashionable, with the Zapatistas, and the soap operas, and secondly, because it is quieter than the rest of country. Nowadays it is risking your life to go to Acapulco, while in contrast you can come to San Cristóbal with your family, and it is attractive. And why is this happening in Chiapas? There are several explanations, but one is fundamental: there is the resistance of the indigenous Zapatistas, who control an area of territory, and that territory is safe: no migrants are passing through, drugs are not circulating, there is none of that illegality which has invaded the country, and there are no armed groups. There are paramilitaries, but what they want is to overthrow the Zapatistas; there is none of what is happening in the rest of the country.

Now the governments, especially all the recent and the current ones, have invented ecotourism, which is a means to justify entering the jungle and the reserves, with the idea that they will protect them. But they have endangered places like Lake Miramar, on the edge of the Montes Azules reserve, the only one of the large lakes in the jungle which is accessible, the others are inside. In principle it is a reserve, with no roads, no nothing, but Miramar can be reached by land or by air. Then they want to set up a tourist project that could do real damage, with roads, hotels, restaurants…..

hermann3Figure 3 Laguna Miramar, Karolina Caicedo Florez

What is attractive is that it is a truly virgin place, and people do not know virgin places, so they pay to go, and that is business. They come from Norway or London to see virgin territory, which is the appeal. But this makes those places no longer virgin. So, the great threat of tourism in Chiapas on the one hand is the appropriation of territory, and on the other hand is what follows after tourism.

For example, in Chiapas there are over fifty mining concessions, but they are halted. Much of the state already has concessions in the hands of mining companies who want everything, not just gold and silver, but also coltan (columbite–tantalite) and other minerals. But it so happened that they killed a leader, Mariano Abarca, and that caused a shock. And the government, wanting to look good, established a moratorium (delayed the mining projects). But when the concessions were given, they were given for a period, and I think that the miners were in no hurry for some reason, they could wait. But now I think that an offensive is underway for those concessions (from Canada, Korea, the US, including Mexico). They are going to apply pressure, and they will meet with resistance because Chiapas is a state where there is a lot of resistance: against the electricity tariffs, against Plan Puebla Panama ….. as well as the autonomous Zapatista resistance.

So returning to the idea of ​​tourism, in many places this it is the way to break the resistance. If they develop tourism projects people will lower their guard, and they will be able to advance. If what they want is to build a dam they will have to displace people, or at least take away their power over their territory. I believe that this is the great danger of tourism, especially ecotourism, because to develop subsequent projects, first they have to get rid of the population, who are not only the rightful owners, but are also the guardians of the land.


Could you give some concrete examples so we can understand why the development of tourism in Chiapas is also a counterinsurgency strategy?

Counterinsurgency aims to defeat the Zapatistas, but also to undermine their prestige. Some years ago the people realized that the Zapatistas have achieved things, so that what they want is to avoid contagion, to prevent people from discovering that they can have a good education system, or that they can have a good clinic, without government money. For example, the Zapatista healthcare system is the cheapest in Mexico, it is effective because it has the idea of ​​prevention, which is the logical idea of ​​medicine, what happens is that institutional and commercial medicine is dominated by pharmaceutical companies, which have to sell their merchandise. So prevention is no use to them: it is very cheap but does not sell their drugs. The Zapatista communities have developed clinics, and the result is that the women are boiling the water, are being monitored when they are pregnant, are vaccinating the children….. what is called preventive medicine. So what counterinsurgency seeks is to prevent people from getting infected, discovering that they can do things differently, to prevent this, to make things costly. So, if they are not very committed to the struggle, they  easily fall victim to anything else.

So I think the goal is to prevent people gaining control over their lives, and their government, and tourism is very attractive because it seems harmless, it puts them apparently in a party situation and what tourism is going to do is to encourage people to leave the countryside, that’s the other goal, to stop being campesinos and to become waiters, because capitalism wants there to be no more campesinos, so it all goes together; you cannot isolate things.

What are the tourist projects that threaten the Zapatista communities? Where does the money come from? What kind of projects are they?

Agua Azul has been a spa for fifty years. The project has been becoming increasingly successful and the community of Agua Azul is very prosperous; now they are no longer campesinos, because they are living from tourism: they are waiters, cooks, entertainers, drivers, tourism agents, which is not bad in itself, all work is worthwhile. But it has irradiated everything surrounding it, which also has tourist value, because it is not the only place which has waterfalls, but the other places are in the hands of campesinos who are not interested in handing them over to tourism, and most of them are Zapatistas or are in resistance.

Agua Clara is a different case, it is a more advanced spa. Agua Clara was a spa before, it was abandoned by the owner and the government established some tourism projects there, with their usual disdain. They did not attach much importance to the projects and put them in the hands of the PRI, the ruling party, and left them to it. Then the Zapatistas, who were also in that place, decided to recuperate the resort because it had been abandoned, and now it is the first Zapatista spa. Not that the Zapatistas have invested in tourism, what they are doing is taking care of the place, they are conducting true ecological tourism, without capitalist investment. The Zapatistas who are there are a bulwark against the privatization of the place.

hermann4 Figure 4 Tourists in San Cristobal de las Casas

What is the position of the Zapatistas as regards these tourist projects? Do they have the same position on all types of tourism or do they have different positions depending on the method of tourism?

They have not talked about it explicitly, but one can see the examples we have been speaking about. Agua Clara is an area of land which is no use for anything else, it is a very wide river bend, with flat areas, so they decided that it would be suitable for tourists. So you can say that there is a minimum of work for tourism, but that the result is the protection of the place; this is how ecotourism sells itself, but in this Zapatista case it is true. But neither do the Zapatistas have a theory or policy for tourism. That is, within a few kilometres there is a place where they oppose tourism and another place where they practice it.

Elsewhere, at the Misol Há waterfall, different groups converge, among them Zapatistas, and there has been an unusual agreement: the Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas have agreed to have a toll booth. But these are very specific cases. Tourism is not a Zapatista issue, either for or against, unless it threatens territories, when they are against it, as for example, in Montes Azules.

The Zapatistas resistance is not against tourism, neither for this nor against that, their resistance is in defence of territory. And the concept of tourism is not a Zapatista one, because it implies a capitalist mentality. Some might say, well, that those who go to the caracoles are tourists, especially Oventik, many arrive like tourists in Oventik, they take a taxi in San Cristobal, go to Oventik and say, I want to know about the Zapatistas, in the same way as they say I want to know about the pyramids, but it is the only place where this happens. There it is possible to talk about a degree of Zapatista tourism, and it is OK, because tourists can have a real experience, if they want to see an autonomous school, a good government junta, there it is, and here they are invited to buy crafts and leave currency. But that is not to say that it is a tourist attraction, but rather that there are people who want to know about it and if it means a minimal outlay of currency it is not wrong, if they want to buy crafts, amber …

So, considering these statements you’ve made, do you think that the now often-used category, “zapaturismo”, is contradictory?

Well, that is a joke, and it isn’t new. A few years ago they created the “Zapatour”, which consisted of people coming for revolutionary sightseeing. But that was not invented in Mexico either, there has always been revolutionary tourism, people coming to have revolutionary experiences. But in the case of the Zapatistas it is less now, because the communities have closed a lot. This experience had an especial value, because while there was movement of foreigners the army could not attack. The presence of gringos, even if they were idiots, was a shield, so it was not encouraging tourism, but visitors were welcome because while there were groups of foreigners present, it was difficult for the army to attack.

Now it does not seem possible, but ten years ago there was an emergency every day in the Zapatista communities, so much happened. So to have a family or a group of French people there, they were a shield. In fact many foreign people came as a shield, and maybe they were sunbathing in the jungle, but they were giving protection, so it made sense, and the Zapatistas never thought of it as tourism.

Do you think that modest ecological tourism projects promoted by the communities themselves, as in the case of Lake Miramar, can be an alternative to the mega resorts that are being implemented in Chiapas?

I am not sure that what is happening at Miramar is that innocent, it relies on outsiders. I find it hard to know what can be done in Chiapas, because there is an insurgency, but I can speak of other communities, in other parts of Latin America, such as Ecuador, where communities which have already achieved sovereignty over their territory, and are maintaining their way of life and their ways of farming and forestry, can have tourist projects under their own control. Even the little planes that take tourists from the city to the tourist attraction, are theirs. And there are even luxury tourist resorts, I do not like them, but they are in the hands of communities. I have not seen this in Mexico, but as there are projects which are aimed at making them submit, not freeing them, I distrust the arrival of tourist projects.

Jan de Vos, the historian of the Lacandón Jungle, in one of his last essays speaks very favourably of tourism, which he believed to be a way to stop the destruction of the rainforest. But I believe that he was wrong, and this is where I differ with him, in his optimism about the role of the state, because he believes that the state can be the agent to enable this to happen, and I think that there is always dispossession behind their actions. There is a current of opinion in favour of beneficial tourism but I, in the context of Chiapas, do not see  much future in it, not beyond what there currently is, I do not believe that communities need to develop tourism projects, if people want to go to see the river they can go and see it, but it is not necessary to build a hotel, and the hotel’s economic profit is not comparable with the cost of maintenance, and as they have to leave their rural work, it means it is not a business for them, it is a business for others.

The government is willing to subsidize such projects in order to weaken the community, and of course, it promotes an image, but not a business. Las Guacamayas is not a business, it’s a nice project, successful, but only because it is subsidized and cheap, nor is it that expensive to subsidize a hotel in the jungle and pay the indigenous, but what it achieves is that people stop being what they were.


To finish, do you think that the dynamics and impact of tourism in Chiapas have been given sufficient importance, or do you think it has been something marginal?

Not enough, because there is much conformity in what outsiders see of Chiapas. Other than from the areas of resistance, there is no critical view from here, whether environmental, or political. Criticism has not been sufficient and it has not been clear. The Zapatistas did not rise up in arms against tourism, but against the system, against the state, against capitalism, and if tourism is a collateral symptom of capitalism, it is one which could have other non-capitalist options. But the problem is not tourism, the problem is land ownership, sovereignty and self-determination.

If tourism is operated within the self-determination of peoples, after they have already obtained their sovereignty, well and good, but it is not the path to self-sufficiency or anything else, which is the government fallacy that says “set up your tourist project and things will be better for you”; no, first let them free themselves, and then they can have have tourist projects or whatever they want, but once they are free and deciding for themselves what is done with the land where they live. On the contrary, tourism prevents this from happening, because it changes the vocation of the space and the people; the river now will no longer be for fishing but for white people to swim in, and the work of the people who live in the territory will not be to sow corn but to serve beer; when this happens the counterinsurgency advances. I say again, here there is counterinsurgency because there is insurgency.

Note: This interview is a shortened and edited version of the one conducted on Itinerant Radio on March 11, 2013; to hear it click here: aquí.


Alberto Patishtán’s Struggle for Freedom and ‘Fair and Equal’ Due Process

Filed under: Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:26 am


Alberto Patishtán’s Struggle for Freedom and ‘Fair and Equal’ Due Process

Fotografía donde aparece Patishtán esposado a su cama en el hospital en octubre de 2012. Foto: Especial

Alberto in his hospital bed, October 2012

Isaín Mandujano, Proceso, 29 March 2013

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas – Imprisoned for thirteen years, the bilingual indigenous teacher Alberto Patishtán Gómez is awaiting a ruling from the Collegiate Court in the legal proceedings against him for the killing of seven policemen, during which failures of due process were incurred, as alleged by his defence.

A positive outcome would end his ordeal; otherwise, he will have to serve his sentence of sixty years in prison. The final decision will come in the first half of April.

Turbulent years in Chiapas followed the Zapatista uprising of January 1, 1994, and three weeks before the PRI would lose both the presidency [ending its 70-year hold on power] and the governorship of Chiapas, On the morning of June 12, 2000, seven state troopers were shot dead in an ambush in the hamlet of Las Lagunas Las Limas in the municipality of Simojovel. Among them were the chief of police of the Secretariat of Security and Civil Protection (SSyPC), Francisco Pérez Morales and the local police chief of El Bosque, Alejandro Pérez Cruz.

The ambushed uniformed [officers] came from the Simojovel Municipality and were heading to the village of El Bosque, governed by Manuel Gómez Ruiz, with whom Alberto Patishtán Gómez had political differences stemming from Election Day….

In the ambush where seven policemen lost their lives, the only survivors were the mayor’s son, Rosemberg Gómez Pérez, who was driving the van, and state policeman, Belisario Gómez Pérez, who ‘played dead’ among the bodies of his five comrades killed in the truck.

The ambush was lethal. One hundred bullets were fired. They were hooded men who had previously prepared trenches to await the passage of the uniformed men.

As soon as the events occurred, speculations began that it had been the work of members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). It was even said that it could have been members of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) or even a paramilitary group, like the one three years earlier that had acted in Acteal, Chenalhó, in order to agitate in the days before the July 2 federal election day.


What is certain is that one week later, the bilingual indigenous teacher Alberto Patishtán Gómez was captured. He was neither Zapatista nor was he of the EPR, nor did he even belong to any political group.

In an interview, Patishtán recalls that his biggest mistake was antagonizing the PRI mayor Manuel Gómez Ruiz, whose son was seriously wounded in the ambush. Like him, another indigenous man was arrested and tortured, accused of murder but released three months later.


From the prison where he is being held, he said that he was the victim of physical and psychological torture from the moment of his arrest.

He also states that all his individual rights were violated from the outset. And that the public defender who represented him at first, a Ladino pretended to defend him but ended up “sinking” him.

Despite the fact that witnesses testified that on the day of the massacre the teacher was in town, meeting his classes at the primary school, the law sentenced him. Other incriminating versions carried more weight, versions that stated that they saw him the day of the ambush.

It is surprising to Patishtán Gómez that the Public Ministry [prosecution] and the judge of the criminal branch who sentenced him to sixty years in prison might have conspired.

In his defence, he claimed that he had never used arms, “not a single bullet shell”, and that alone he would not have been able to kill seven policemen and leave two others wounded. And even less would he have reason to do so since the political struggle in his pueblo was civil and peaceful, never armed.

Activist and Defender

Even in prison, Patishtán hasn’t ceased being an activist and defender of his indigenous brothers. He supports indigenous prisoners as a translator, more than once he has read their criminal files for them.

He has gained the esteem of his fellow prisoners. He brought his work as a teacher to prison where he has taught reading and writing to illiterate indigenous men. The prison was less heavy for him if he kept busy helping his fellow prisoners.

In this process, he joined the indigenous Zapatista inmates with whom he had a great affinity for their work in civic resistance in El Bosque.

Patishtán declared himself to be a member of The Other Campaign of the EZLN and emerged as a leader and spokesman of The Voice of El Amate [fig tree, indigenous]. The other indigenous inmates, the majority of whom are Tzotziles and others are Tzeltales love Alberto Patishtán Gómez.

Imprisoned but Not Forgotten

Almost all were released, but not him. So the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre assumed Patishtán’s defence. In reviewing his file, a number of irregularities were found, violation of due process being the most serious.

Dozens of non-governmental organizations in Chiapas, in Mexico and around the world have spoken out for the freedom of Patishtán Gómez. His photo has been circulated throughout various countries from where his freedom is demanded, mainly in Europe.

Hundreds of letters have been sent to the authorities, judges and magistrates supporting Patishtán’s freedom.


On January 26, 2010, just a year before his death, Bishop Samuel Ruiz García came to his cell in the prison of San Cristóbal de Las Casas to deliver to him the recognition created in his honour by various organizations, the recognition “Jtatic Jcanan Lum” for his hard work in defence of the human rights of his fellow prisoners.

In 2010 Alberto Patishtán reported that he was suffering from glaucoma in his eyes, an irreversible disease that is slowly dimming his sight. His health situation was exacerbated by the lack of health care that exists within the State Centres for Reinsertion and Social Rehabilitation. [Note: his health condition was later found to stem from a brain tumour, not glaucoma].

On October 20, 2011, while he was on a hunger strike in solidarity with La Voz del Amate, he was moved to the Federal Rehabilitation Centre in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico, as punishment for his struggle for freedom and for the defence of human rights. He spent several months at this facility more than 2000 kilometres [more than 1200 miles] away from his family.

His uprooting from Chiapas was at the request of the government of Chiapas, in particular the current secretary of the government of Governor Manuel Velasco Coello, Noé Castañón León, who has occupied the post since the administration of former Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero. Governor Sabines also promised to arrange Patishtán’s freedom but never kept his word.

Chiapas Governor Velasco Coello has now spoken out publicly for Patishtán’s freedom. The freedom of the Frenchwoman Florence Cassez raised hope that Patishtán Gómez might be able to regain his freedom.

Supreme Court

Alberto Leonel Rivero, attorney for the Office for Strategic Defence of Human Rights, AC, succeeded in arranging for the case to come to the First Chamber of the Supreme Court on March 6.

Justices Olga Sánchez Cordero and Arturo Zaldívar voted for the Court to hear and resolve the matter; however, Justices José Ramón Cossío, Jorge Pardo and Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena refused, so they sent the case to the Appellate Court based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez [Chiapas].

The case caused such outrage that even Subcomandante Marcos himself, who had rarely spoken demanding Patishtán’s freedom, broke his silence:

“The justice system rewrites its ridiculousness (which rhymes with Cassez) by denying freedom to Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez and so condemns him for being indigenous in Mexico in the XXI century. But the Professor resists, let alone the indigenous Zapatista communities … “, reads the text of “They and We VII. The Smallest, 6.6. The Resistance” released on March 9, 2013.

Ruling Expected Soon

It is expected that in the first or second half of April, the Circuit Court of Appeals in Tuxtla might resolve if he is to be freed deriving from failures of due process or he is to continue still in prison.

Amnesty International

Last week, Amnesty International (AI) asked the federal courts for the liberation of Patishtán Gómez by stating that they have detected: “serious flaws in the process, including irregularities and contradictions in the testimony of the witness.”

On March 20, AI sent a letter to the judges of the First Collegiate Court Twentieth Circuit in order to make them aware of the organization’s concerns regarding the case of the indigenous Professor Alberto Patishtán.

“After thoroughly reviewing the Patishtán case, Amnesty International has concluded that there were serious flaws in the process, including irregularities and contradictions in the testimony of the witness who identified Alberto Patishtán as responsible for the crimes. This testimony was taken into account, while the evidence indicating that Patishtán was elsewhere during the ambush, was thrown out,” says the agency.

The organization indicated that Alberto Patishtán had no access to an adequate defence, as both his public defender and a subsequent advocate acted with notable shortcomings.

Likewise, AI says that on various occasions it has documented the failure of Mexico’s justice system to guarantee fair and equal [legal] processes, especially when the accused is an indigenous person of scarce economic and social resources.

The organization said that it hopes the Appellate Court will respond with a fair and exemplary verdict that recognizes the progress in the obligation to comply with international human rights treaties, including the right to a fair trial and effective judicial appeal.

“It is essential that it might help establish case law such that cases like that of Alberto Patishtán are not going to happen again,” said AI.


Translation by Jane Brundage



March 30, 2013

Urgent call for everyone to send letters to the courts in support of Patishtan’s liberation.

Filed under: Repression, Uncategorized — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:19 pm
Urgent call for everyone to send letters to the courts in support of Patishtan’s liberation.

“Between 21 March – 15 April we want to send 4,686 letters, one letter for each day Patishtán has been in jail, to the President Minister of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, Juan N. Silva Meza and to Ministers of the 20th Circuit Appellate Court.”

The suggested letters, in Spanish, are here, together with English translations:


English version letter to Juan Silva Mesa       English version letter to the First Collegiate Court of the Twentieth Circuit

The addresses, which are also on the letters, are as follows:

  1. Ministro Juan N. Silva Mesa

Consejo de la Judicatura Federal

2. Los magistrados del Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito

  • By post: Palacio de Justicia Federal edificio C, planta baja, ala A Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo N0. 2641, Colonia las Palmas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, C.P. 29040
  • By fax or phone: +52 961 6170294 extensión 1185
  • By email: 

Please send copies of your letters to:

The call, sent out by Frayba, is from Patishtán’s family, civic organizations, groups and individuals.

This is VERY IMPORTANT, because, now the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation has turned down his case, there are no further avenues of legal appeal left for him.


Please also:


Send the letter to the President already sent out by the UK Network

Prepare for the day of action on 19th April. The UK Network will be delivering several letters to the Mexican Embassy, and everyone is asked to make a phone call.



March 29, 2013

Amnesty International calls for a fair and exemplary decision for the indigenous Alberto Patishtán

Filed under: Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:27 am


Amnesty International calls for a fair and exemplary decision for the indigenous Alberto Patishtán

March 28, 2013

alberto-patishtan-ai-bannerAmnesty International sent a letter to the magistrates of the First Appellate Court of the Twentieth Circuit on March 20th, in order to make them aware of the organization’s concerns in relation to the case of the indigenous Professor Alberto Patishtán. This court must make a decision soon about the motion for the recognition of innocence brought on behalf of Alberto Patishtán.

Alberto Patishtán is an indigenous Tzotzil teacher, from the Municipality of El Bosque in the State of Chiapas. He was accused of participating in an ambush which took place on June 12, 2000, in which seven policemen were killed and two others were injured. After being processed, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for wounding, culpable homicide and being in possession of weapons for the exclusive use of the army, among other charges.

After thoroughly reviewing the case of Patishtán, Amnesty International has concluded that there were serious flaws in the process, including irregularities and inconsistencies in the testimony of the witness who identified Alberto Patishtán as responsible for the crimes. This testimony was taken into account, while evidence indicating that Patishtán was elsewhere during the ambush was discarded.

The organization also believes that Alberto Patishtán did not have access to an adequate defence, as both his public defender and his subsequent lawyer acted with notable deficiencies.

Amnesty International has documented several times how the justice system in Mexico fails to ensure fairness and equality of process, especially when the accused is an indigenous person with scanty economic and social resources.

The organization hopes that the Appellate Court will respond with a fair and exemplary decision to establish legal precedent in the obligation to comply with international human rights treaties, including the right to a fair trial and effective judicial recourse. This is essential to help establish legal precedent so that cases like that of Alberto Patishtán will not continue to happen.

Additional information

On March 6, 2013 the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) decided, by three votes to two, not to resume jurisdiction over the motion for the recognition of Patishtán’s innocence. As a result of this decision the case was returned to the Twentieth Circuit Appellate Court.

On 22 October 2012, Amnesty International sent a letter to the ministers and the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) in which the organization explained the irregularities, and the importance of ensuring that the judiciary assess the evidence in the proceedings in light of the case law of the judiciary from the original sentence issued against Alberto Patishtán, which has led to significant advances in the area of human rights and in guaranteeing the right to a fair and impartial trial.

The letter which was sent on March 20, can be seen here: 20AMR%%% 20Re% 2041.2013.003 20Patishtan.PDF

The letter sent to SCJN in October last year is also available through the following link:




AI asks appeals court to dispense “justice without discrimination” in the case of Patishtán

They demand an exemplary sentence to establish legal precedent and prevent injustice

Herman Bellinghausen, La Jornada

Wednesday 27th March, 2013

The international office of Amnesty International (AI) called on the judges of the First Collegiate Court of the twentieth circuit, in the Federal Courthouse in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, to “respond with an exemplary sentence” that might establish a legal precedent in cases like that of Alberto Patishtán Gomez, “such that in the future the injustice to which he has been subjected may be prevented.”

In a letter, of which La Jornada has a copy, the organization appeals to Judges Manuel de Jesús Rosales and Freddi Gabriel Celis Fuentes to impart justice without discrimination in a case that the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), according to AI, should have resolved favourably, but did not do so. In the coming days, the appellate court will receive the record of the Tzotzil teacher from El Bosque, sent by the [Supreme] Court itself.

Javier Zúñiga Mejía Borja, from the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, based in London, United Kingdom, says: “AI is seriously concerned that the decision of the Supreme Court indicates that its First Chamber does not consider this case to be of major importance, [although it is] tainted by evidence of discrimination against Patishtán’s indigenous status.” [The letter] explains that “[AI] respects the work in recent years of the Supreme Court in issuing decisions that take up the obligations of international human rights treaties and reinforce respect for due process in reviewing other emblematic cases” of other indigenous prisoners, such as Alberta Alcántara, Teresa González, Hugo Sánchez Ramírez, José Ramón Aniceto and Pascual Agustín Cruz.

The agency points out that it had approached the Supreme Court in October of 2012 to call attention to the case of the teacher. At that time, it highlighted the injustice that has occurred, and that in “other cases of manifest injustice of indigenous people sentenced and processed”, the Court had ruled favourably [for the defendants]. Regarding Patishtán, it stressed “the failure to comply with the rights to effective defence, presumption of innocence and equality of parties in the judicial process.”

Right to a Fair Trial

AI admits that “it is not ignoring” the exhaustion “by an inadequate defence” of other legal remedies, such as appeal and direct amparo [protection], but this “should not serve as justification for the Judiciary not to assert the right to a fair trial.”

The agency “notes with concern the comments of the informative card issued by the Supreme Court on March 6, in which assessments are made about the criteria for a ‘public document’ required to defend the motion of recognition of innocence.” It notes that the Federal Code of Criminal Procedures “does not establish criteria to exclude the proper legal precedent by the Judiciary” in this regard. “In fact, the public documents filed by the defence have the legitimate objective of demonstrating that the evaluation of the evidence against Patishtán, which resulted in his conviction, is invalid in light of the case law that the Judiciary has since issued.”

It underscores that it is precisely the objective of Article 550 of that federal code, which “established as a reason for filing a motion of recognition of innocence” the appeal filed by [Patishtán’s] defence last year. And it cites Mexico’s international commitment to fulfil “the principle of the retroactive application of the rule that benefits the defendant.”

Consequently, AI considers that the appellate court “has an obligation to evaluate impartially the evidence presented by the defence, in accordance with the international obligations that are already part of the Mexican Constitution.”

This article translated by Jane Brundage



March 28, 2013

The Self-Defence Groups are the Result of the Impunity in the Country, say Las Abejas

Filed under: Acteal, Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:31 pm


The Self-Defence Groups are the Result of the Impunity in the Country, say Las Abejas

 ** “The law enforcement agencies are at the service of the powerful”

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 25, 2013

884578_591253070887800_1035232225_o“Impunity spreads like a bad weed in our country”, declared the Civil Society Las Abejas. “What we are seeing now in Mexico confirms what we have always said: the bodies for the procurement and administration of justice in Mexico are serving not justice, but the interests of the powerful.”

The Tzotzil organization of Chenalhó emphasizes that, a week after refusing to accept the request for the recognition of innocence of the social activist Alberto Patishtán, “the first chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) agreed the immediate release of Marcos Arias Pérez, accused of participating in the Acteal Massacre on December 22, 1997.”

Fifteen years and three months after that massacre, “the perpetrators and masterminds still have impunity”. Las Abejas “do not want revenge”, they only want justice, because if there is no justice, “cases like that of Acteal are going to be repeated”. And they stress the comparison with the cases of the freed paramilitaries, which are founded on “failures and violations of due process: a pretext for the authorities to twist justice to suit themselves”.

They recall that in 2009 the SCJN decided that the perpetrators of the Acteal Massacre, some of them already convicted, should be freed because of a lack of due process. “Since then they have been releasing the others little by little.” One of the reasons for doing this, according to the Court’s ministers, was that the PGR “had shown a list of names with photos of the alleged paramilitaries to the witnesses.”

Las Abejas provide a comparison: last year, a French citizen, convicted of kidnapping, asked the SCJN for a protective order alleging due process violations. “The authorities had done something worse than the PGR did with the photos of the paramilitaries: they had recorded a fake video of the foreigner’s detention. But as the then president Felipe Calderón wanted her to remain in prison, the ministers denied the protective order, despite the failings in due process.” The ministers alleged that they must also consider “the rights of the victims” something which “they never did in the Acteal case.”

At the beginning of the year the French citizen again asked for the SCJN’s intervention, “but the difference was that now the president was Enrique Peña Nieto, “and he wanted her to leave prison; the ministers forgot about the victims’ rights and once again pulled out the ‘due process’ words and set her free.”

On the other hand, professor Patishtán, an indigenous man unjustly imprisoned for more than 10 years, also filed before the Court for a protective order, because his judicial process has been plagued with irregularities. “But as his case does not interest the President, the ministers denied him legal protection.”

The SCJN years ago refused the request from the “true” Civil Society Las Abejas to deal with the case of the massacre, “but since 2009 the Court has been destroying what little justice we had achieved”. Some “false Abejas,” the indigenous add, “are playing the game of Carlos Salinas de Gortari in order to get revenge on Ernesto Zedillo, and a collegiate tribunal has immediately granted a protective order to allow the case against Zedillo in the United States to remain open”.

For the organization, “the lack of justice and the way in which the authorities use the laws for their own benefit have led some communities in other parts of the country to organize their own armed self-defence, as is the case of our friends from the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities of the Montaña and Costa Chica of Guerrero.” Now, the National Human Rights Commission “has declared that this is illegal and has confused it” with the behaviour of the paramilitaries.

“We want to remember that before the Acteal Massacre, the PGR endorsed this confusion, but in the opposite direction. Now they say that the community self-defence groups are like the paramilitaries.

“Before, the PGR said that the paramilitaries of Chenalhó were nothing more than community self-defence groups. They cleverly ignore the link between the paramilitaries and the government. It is one thing when the people, in the face of impunity, organize to apply justice through their own means, and another very different thing when the government, not satisfied with having its own apparatus of repression, also resorts to deceiving people into repressing their own brothers.”



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network




March 27, 2013

Why does Patishtán remain a prisoner despite his obvious innocence? his lawyers ask

Filed under: Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:29 pm


Why does Patishtán remain a prisoner despite his obvious innocence? his lawyers ask 

** They highlight the “special interest” of the Secretary of Government, Noé Castañón, in the case

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, March 24, 2013

koman-ilel-patishtc3a1nSince at least 2007, a question has been making the rounds among lawyers, bishops, human rights activists and observers of the legal process of Alberto Patishtán Gómez: if the evidence is so overwhelming that he was not involved in the ambush that cost the lives of seven policemen between El Bosque and Simojovel on June 12, 2000, why is he still in prison, sentenced to 60 years? If more blatant cases, with processes based on montages and illegal practices, resulted in the freedom of criminals who were caught in the act or who even confessed, when confronted by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), what walls prevent the profe from going free? Who benefits from his  imprisonment? Who would be affected by his acquittal?

Why did the interest expressed by Margarita Zavala, wife of ex-president Felipe Calderón, have no effect? She twice received Patishtán’s family members at Los Pinos and assured them that she would strive to attain justice for the professor. Not to mention the abundant international support.

It is clear from the journalistic reconstruction of what happened around thirteen years ago at a place on the highway in the northern Chiapas Highlands (La Jornada, March 22 and 23), and the subsequent effects –the fabrication of charges, the police and ministerial mess, the coercion against any resistance–, that we should start looking at the state government at the time. Although, because of the severity of the alleged crimes, it is treated as a federal case, the court preparation and subsequent administration have been carried out by the state authorities, apart from the period when Patishtán was sent to a federal prison in Guasave, Sinaloa, at the request of Sabinas’ Secretary of Government, who now holds the same position in the Velasco government, Noé Castañón León.

In 2000, the state governor, interim for another interim (governor), was Roberto Albores Guillén, who took office after the Acteal Massacre. At the time of the massacre of his agents, he already had grave accounts pending with the official municipality of El Bosque and the autonomous municipality of San Juan de la Libertad. Weeks after the crime, his party, the PRI, lost the elections. Nevertheless, he never stopped holding power, despite the poor attempts of his successor, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, to investigate him. With the arrival of Juan Sabines Guerrero, Albores Guillén regained political space and was able to see his successor in prison. Now, his son, of the same name, is a senator of the Republic, a member of the Cocopa, and a precocious pre-candidate for governor.

The current Secretary of Government, Noé Castañón León, in charge of the state’s internal policy for four years, a member of the Albores Guillén political group, and father of the current leader of the state Congress, who has the same name, presided over the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of the State (STJE, its initials in Spanish) during the capture, processing and final imprisonment of Patishtán. As a magistrate, he also supported the de facto re-municipalization in the so-called “zones of influence” of the EZLN. He is remembered as one of the orchestrators of the “desertions” of alleged Zapatistas (impostors and even criminals), delivering their weapons and everything, on prime time television between 1999 and 2000, in natural settings.

The current Secretary of Government was the head of the STJE from 1995 to 2001, turbulent years in Chiapas. He survived three governors (Javier López Moreno, Julio César Ruiz Ferro and Albores Guillén); the fourth, Salazar Mendiguchía, before the first year of his government accused him of embezzlement of public money, abuse of trust and other crimes that would have been committed during the preceding administration. The four preliminary investigations that they initiated against him didn’t succeed, but he was removed from his position and left the state in December 2001. He would return as Secretary of Government with Sabines Guerrero in 2009, a position that he retains with Manuel Velasco Coello.

Having been at the head of the Chiapas tribunals both before and after the acts in Simojovel and El Bosque, Patishtán’s lawyers question whether any conflict of interest is implied by his current position of being responsible for the internal policies of the state, especially as the review of the case will soon be decided by a collegiate tribunal in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. He has shown a particular interest in the case.

According to what has been documented by Frayba, the official arranged for Patishtán’s transfer to the high-security prison in Guasave (he asked for Islas Marías) in order to stop him being the spokesperson for a hunger strike being undertaken by the Other Campaign prisoners in October 2011.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, March 25, 2013

En español:


English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network





March 26, 2013

“When they arrested Profe Patishtán, Nobody Believed It,’’ says Martín Ramírez

Filed under: Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:58 pm


“When they arrested Profe Patishtán, Nobody Believed It,’’ says Martín Ramírez

 ** He criticizes four governors who have called for his release but do nothing

** The teacher believes that the arrest was for denouncing the corruption of the mayor of El Bosque


[Professor Martín Ramírez, at the curve where the ambush occurred in which seven police died on June 12, 2000 in Chiapas. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago]








Foto[Funeral of one of the police murdered in the zone of El Bosque. Photo: Óscar León]


By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

El Bosque, Chiapas, March 23, 2013

“From the very first day, June 19, 2000, we said that Alberto Patishtán had been kidnapped,” remembers Martín Ramírez López, also a teacher and one of those who have not stopped maintaining, for 12 years and nine months, the profe’s innocence in relation to the ambush in which seven police died, at a sharp bend on the road to the north, which leads to Simojovel, 10 minutes from this municipal headquarters (El Bosque), on June 12 of that year. The same spot had already been the scene of robberies and homicides in previous months.

It is useful to go beyond the forensic reconstruction of the killings (and the theft of some weapons that were never found), and the chronological relationship between the facts and the activities of Patishtán on that day, with the witnesses consistently placing him in Simojovel and Huitiupán, with one exception, Rosemberg Gómez Pérez. He, wounded and lying among dead bodies, “identified” by his voice, according to his June 15 ministerial statement, one of the armed and masked attackers, who inexplicably saved him from the coup de grâce, and “turned out” to be the bilingual teacher, an important critic and public opponent of his father, the then mayor, Manuel Gómez Ruiz; yes, the community leader whose integrity was recognized even by those who had left the PRI, and were then in resistance, as was the case of professor Martín and many more.

Patishtán had just gone to the state capital, with a group of indigenous, to show documentary proof of the corruption reigning in the council of this municipality. He had a leadership position among the teachers and was organizing, with the support of different neighbourhoods in the locality, one of those officialist productive societies called “triple S”, or SSS. When they detained him, “nobody believed it,” Ramírez López remembers. Hundreds of people went out into the streets, they occupied the city hall and sent a delegation to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, “with pay” (they were PRI members), which was neutralized by the government, and other “volunteers,” who exerted pressure, spoke for a minute about his release, and then the occupation was ended.

Governor Roberto Albores Guillén promised that he would free the professor. When he did not fulfill [his promise], the indigenous insisted, and he threatened to blame them for the crime as well. “They saw that he was a hard man, and fear came. Many went back. With the threat from the municipal president they ran away,” Ramírez López says. “We were six teachers who continued to insist, together with Patishtán’s wife.” With the passage of time, she became tired and left him, but that is now part of the personal damage caused by the years of prison that followed.

In May 2000, one month before the ambush in a part of Las Limas, Simojovel municipality, the protesting PRIístas (PRI members) handed over a document “that could only have been written by Patishtán,” and the mayor saw it as a “danger.” According to Professor Martín, “he was at the point of falling, the protection of Deputy Ramiro Miceli Maza was no longer enough; nor was that of the Albores Guillén government.” So the massacre saved him, and even more so did the apprehension of his principal critic and denouncer. “The danger was Patishtán, not the opposition movement; once he was a prisoner, the protest collapsed.”

The ministerial slovenliness in the first statements incriminating him (from the surviving  police agent Belisario Gómez Pérez and the young Rosemberg, from the mayor and from another teacher, Martín Gómez Culebro, on June 14 and 15), as well as those from the municipal police who were openly primed to mention Patishtán as the attacker, and even the statement of Deputy Miceli Maza (June 19, the day of the accused’s apprehension), did not stop them being thought well of in the tribunals. And they miraculously stretched the blame, a month after, to include the driver and EZLN support base Salvador López González.

“The people here always knew that Gómez Culebro was paid to falsify his statements on the orders of the municipal president. Now he has said that he never gave a statement, that they invented everything,” Ramírez López comments.

El Bosque is a relatively small town. Everyone knows each other. Currently, the ex mayor Gómez Ruiz and his son Rosemberg live opposite the Patishtán family. Alberto’s mother, María, a first cousin of Gómez Ruiz, is very sick and does not participate much in the current movement for her son’s freedom, which in El Bosque has hundreds of followers, starting with Maria’s brothers and sisters: Carmen, Julia, Manuela, Demetrio de Jesús and Juan, all Gómez Gómez, and their sisters-in-law Andrea and María. The majority of the official teachers, churches, businessmen, families, even children and youth that don’t yet know the profe back them up.

Many remember, for example, what Rosemberg was like before the ambush which he survived: “15 or 16 years old, an untouchable. He had an escort at all the fiestas and fairs he liked going to. So he always walked around with the police, he was well taken care of,” comments another member of the El Bosque citizens’ movement which insists on the profe’s innocence. Several indigenous, campesinos and women with their beautiful traditional dress begin to arrive for a meeting at the place where Ramírez López talks with La Jornada.

La Jornada collected here some years ago testimony that the same Rosemberg, while drinking heavily, may have expressed remorse “for what we did to the professor” (his cousin, by the way), even confessing that he was rewarded with a new truck for his statement.


Big promises and forgetting

Four governors (Albores Guillén, Salazar Mendiguchía, Juan Sabines Guerrero and Manuel Velasco Coello) have made pronouncements in favour of the profe’s release. “They almost use the same phrases; they have them memorized, like children with the National Anthem,” says Ramírez López ironically, while Manuel, Alberto Patishtán’s brother, arrives at the meeting. “They all say they are in agreement. Do they do anything? They do not. Why do they speak then?”

To cut a long story short, it is worth mentioning that the Zapatista Salvador López González was released during the governorship of Salazar Mendiguchía –who as a candidate promised to free Patishtán–; he inherited from Albores Guillén and the Zedillo government many EZLN prisoners, and ended up releasing all of them. Thus it turned out that one of those accused of the massacre of the police was released based on the inconsistencies and contradictions in the ministerial declarations of the second survivor, Belisario Gómez Pérez. That which the judges considered unsustainable in the case of Salvador, they used to repeatedly condemn, between 2002 and 2004, despite protective orders and appeals, the professor, a faultless community leader (according to numerous testimonies), and now a human rights activist in the Chiapas prisons.

Subsequently, Belisario, the ex-policeman, like the other police widows, “disappeared” from the scene, and there is not even evidence to show that they have been adequately compensated. La Jornada located the former for this report, but considering his current situation and locality, decided not to seek him out this time.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, March 24, 2013

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network






Time for Solidarity with Alberto Patishtán, political prisoner in Chiapas

Filed under: Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous, Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:35 pm


Time for Solidarity with Alberto Patishtán, political prisoner in Chiapas

March 24, 2013

While Mexican justice refuses to take responsibility in the case of the indigenous political prisoner, his defence team, family and friends start a campaign to demand his freedom.


logo-completo-2Faced with the decision of the Office of the Supreme Court not to take the case of the Tzotzil  Alberto Patishtán, perhaps the most iconic political prisoner in Mexico, his family and friends and organizations of human rights defenders are organizing a national and international  campaign to press for his release .

In 2000, Professor Alberto Patishtán Gomez was arrested without a warrant and forced to make a statement without a lawyer or translator. In March 2002 he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for killing seven policemen in an ambush in a place called Las Limas, in the municipality of El Bosque. In spite of reasonable proof offered by the defence that he had not participated in the ambush, and of inconsistencies in the trial, the maximum penalty was given to the teacher; he appealed the decision and received legal protection (un amparo directo), but was sentenced in May 2003, accused of culpable homicide and malicious wounding, robbery, damage and carrying a firearm reserved for the exclusive use of the army.

On October 20, 2011, while Patishtán and other prisoners were on hunger strike in prison in San Cristobal de la Casas, demanding justice for their cases, the teacher was arbitrarily transferred to CEFERESO 8 Norponiente in Guasave, Sinaloa. There he lived in conditions of continual torture which were documented and widely reported by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre. Later, after many protests, he was granted legal protection (amparo) and was able to return to Chiapas. In late 2012, Patishtán was operated on for a brain tumour which had led to him almost losing his sight, and which grew in size due to the lack of appropriate care for his health; after the operation he regained nearly 80 per cent of his vision.

After exhausting the national legal routes (process, appeal and direct legal protection), the  political prisoner’s defence team resorted to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) seeking a motion for the recognition of innocence, an “exceptional” appeal brought following the emergence of new public documents which were in Patishtán’s favour, and appeared “after the sentence was passed”, Sandino Rivero said in previous interview.

However, on March 6, 2013, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), decided not to resume its competence in the jurisdiction of the Patishtán case, with two votes in favour and three against. The Supreme Court put the case in the hands of the First Collegiate Court of the Twentieth Circuit, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, so they could resolve the motion of innocence later in April 2013.

The campaign

Since it seems that Mexican justice is on the side of cases like that of Florence Cassez, and the recent release of another perpetrator of the Acteal Massacre, and not on the side of political prisoners with a history of struggle and resistance, like that of the Tzotzil prisoner, solidarity has risen up around him. Alberto Patishtán Gómez has also been recognized as a human rights defender for his political actions in the prisons he has been transferred to. The Mexican justice system leaves much to be desired in cases like this.

The Patishtán Family, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), lawyers and groups, all believe it is the right time for a campaign of national and international support for Alberto Patishtán. On March 20, they gathered together at the Frayba offices to clarify what happened in court and to convoke the campaign known as “Fighting for  Patishtán’s freedom, let’s celebrate his birthday”.  Among those attending were Patishtán’s  daughter Gabriela, his friends and family from El Bosque, the lawyer in the case, Leonel Rivero, the director of Frayba, Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, and, by telephone from Social Rehabilitation Centre number five in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Alberto Patishtán himself. They made a call for solidarity and the joining of forces in this new stage in the demand for his liberation and the search for justice.

The [new] campaign proposes that, from 21 March to 15 April, 4,686 letters are sent, one for each day that Patishtán has been in prison, to the President Minister of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, Juan Silva Meza, and to the ministers of the First Collegiate Court of the Twentieth Circuit.

Social networks will be another setting for the protest. The actions on Facebook will begin on March 23, when users who join the campaign are asked to change their profile pictures to an image that will appear on Facebook dedicated to Patishtán. Every Friday, the campaign indicates, the users should invite their online friends to join the action.

For Twitter, the goal is for 4,686 messages to be published every Friday with the hashtag #LibertadPatishtan. This would also start on March 23, and would be repeated every week until April 19.

The campaign also involves sending photographs, poems, thoughts, drawings and posters on the theme of the political prisoner’s birthday. The materials are to be sent to the email address  or physically brought to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre, which is located at number 14 Calle Brasil, Barrio de Mexicanos, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

The members of the campaign plan to use these materials in demonstrations on April 19th, Patishtán’s birthday, and afterwards they will be sent to him. On the same date peaceful mobilizations are called for at the national and international level, demanding Patishtán’s freedom. In the worldwide actions people can demonstrate and deliver letters to Mexican embassies and consulates in their own countries.

The Ik’ collective said: “We feel called to show solidarity because in the person of Alberto we see all the imprisoned Tzotzil people; in his serene face are the faces of all the indigenous people of Mexico; in his fight for justice are all the thousands of innocents imprisoned; in his look and prayer are all the believers in a just and loving God.” They finished by stating that “with our actions we will resurrect justice in Mexico. Resurrection today is justice for innocent people in prison.”


You can send your letters to the following addresses:

  1. 1.     Ministro Juan N. Silva Mesa 

Consejo de la Judicatura Federal 

By post: Insurgentes Sur 2417, San Ángel. Álvaro Obregón. C.P. 01000, México D.F.

By fax: +52 (55) 5490-8000 

By email to:,

  1. 2.     Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito

By Post: Palacio de Justicia Federal edificio “C”, planta baja, ala “A”, Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo N0. 2641, Colonia las Palmas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, C.P. 29040

By Fax: +52 961 6170294

By email to:

Please copy your letters to:

We ask you to notify us of all activities you plan for 19 April, together with a photo and/or video of what you did, to so we can inform the national media, and show Professor Patishtán all the support for his freedom.

On 19 April, Patishtán’s birthday, we are asking you to physically deliver messages to the addresses below:

In Mexico City (D.F) – Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, which oversees the work of magistrates and judges in Mexico, at Insurgentes Sur No. 2417, San Ángel. Álvaro Obregón. C.P. 01000, México D.F.

In Tuxtla Gutiérrez – Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito, at the Palacio de Justicia Federal Edificio “C”, Planta Baja, Ala “A”, Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo No. 2641.





March 25, 2013

The Simojovel Massacre – Chronicle of an (almost) forgotten police massacre

Filed under: Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:14 pm



The  Alberto Patishtán Case



The Simojovel Massacre


Chronicle of an (almost) forgotten police massacre 

** Seven uniformed (police) were ambushed and killed on June 12, 2000

** The EPR, paramilitaries and Zapatistas were accused

** A week later, Alberto Patishtán, a teacher, was detained

** The PGJE also blamed an indigenous man, Salvador López

FotoAn old road through the streets of El Bosque Municipality, in Chiapas, the birthplace of Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez.

Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago









FotoAlberto Patishtán Gómez during a medical review in the Hospital of Life, in September 2012. The indigenous professor is a prisoner in prison number 5 in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago]




By: Hermann Bellinghausen

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 22, 2013

The notoriety gained by Alberto Patishtán Gómez’ struggle to attain his freedom has prevented the crime that led to his personal misfortune of spending 12 years in prison (and with 48 more still to serve, according to his sentence) from being forgotten, which is certainly contrary to the wishes of many authorities, at least the state ones, from 2000 to the present, including four governors, literally from every party. What happened on the morning of June 12, 2000 in Las Lagunas de Las Limas, Simojovel? What could be the motive of the perpetrators? What was going on there in those days?

The murder of seven police –the state commander Francisco Pérez Morales, five officers under his command, and the El Bosque municipal commander, Alejandro Pérez Cruz – represented an act of enormous gravity. Today perhaps we have become accustomed to that level of news, but back then, even for the militarized and para-militarized Chiapas, it was extraordinary. It of course occupied all the newspaper headlines the next day.

Three weeks later, the elections would be held in which the PRI would lose the Presidency, and in August the governorship. President Ernesto Zedillo, historically and personally involved with the development of the war against the indigenous of Chiapas, in general, and of those from El Bosque, in particular, was ready to visit the state on Tuesday, the 13th, to inaugurate a highway in the Lacandón Jungle, but suspended his tour. The PRI candidate for governor, Sami David, did the same. The federal Army sent hundreds of soldiers, occupied the place of the ambush, the municipal headquarters, the roads, and immediately entered the Zapatista communities. Nevertheless, the first hypothesis of the Secretary of National Defence was that it could be dealing with “a cell of the Revolutionary Popular Army (EPR, its initials in Spanish)” (La Jornada 13/06/2000), something that surprised people because not then, nor ever, did it have a presence in the zone.

That same day, the hypothesis of the Independent Centre of Farmworkers and Campesinos (CIOAC) seemed more credible, due to their historic presence in the region: they could be “paramilitaries from the Mira” (although with hindsight, the paramilitary group in El Bosque, terrifying and lethal, was known as Los Plátanos from the name of the community where they had settled, together with judicial police: it was from here that they went out on June 10, 1998, to participate in the massacre of  Zapatistas in Unión Progreso. This reporter was present in Los Plátanos, months before the ambush, at a “burning for the media” of marijuana plants with the aim, which failed in the end, of blaming the EZLN).

The federal police initially talked about drug traffickers. The movement of marijuana coming from Huitiupán was no secret.

The massacre was on a Monday. The previous Saturday the Zapatistas had commemorated the second anniversary of what happened in Unión Progreso and Chavajeval and the incarceration of the autonomous authorities of San Juan de la Libertad. Diego Cadenas, then a young lawyer with Frayba, stated to La Jornada on the day of the ambush that that on June 10, when he was traveling to Unión Progreso to participate in the religious acts for the second anniversary of the 1998 massacre, at the military checkpoints at Puerto Caté and San Andrés Larráinzar the soldiers told him that: “individual rights were suspended.” This was not the case.

Two days later, a commando force of between 10 and 15 individuals, with barricades constructed and high-powered weapons, efficiently ambushed the dark green pick up coming from Simojovel, in which eight police were traveling with the official driver of the municipality of El Bosque, the younger son of the Mayor Manuel Gómez Ruiz. Gravely injured, the young Rosemberg Gómez Pérez, who was driving the vehicle with the two commanders in the cabin, and Belisario Gómez Pérez, the Public Security agent who was in the back with his compañeros from the (police) corporation, were left for dead by the attackers, and by surviving became the only eyewitnesses.

La Jornada also reported that this was “the eighth ambush” so far in the year 2000. The attacks had already left 20 dead and an equal number injured. The policemen killed in Las Lagunas were Francisco Escobar Sánchez, Rodolfo Gómez Domínguez, Guadalupe Margarito Rodríguez Félix, Arbey Vázquez Gómez and Francisco Pérez Mendoza. Two of them are still remembered today by cement crosses at the bend where they were riddled with bullets. 85 bullets from AK-47 and R-15 rifles were counted.


The EZLN distances itself and investigates

The day following the ambush, the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee, General Command of the EZLN declared in a brief communiqué: “According to information, the attack was carried out using the tactics of drug traffickers, paramilitaries or the military. The use of the so-called ‘coup de grâce’ is recurrent in these armed groups. The attack took place in an area saturated with government troops (Army and police), where it would have been very difficult to mobilize an armed group without being detected and without the complicity of the authorities. The attacking group had inside information about movements and the number of people ambushed. This information could only be obtained by people from the government or close to it.”

The rebel commanders pointed out: “The EZLN is investigating to clarify the identity and motive of the attacking group. Everything points to those who carried out the attack being from the government (or under governmental auspices), since this would give them a pretext for increasing the militarization of Chiapas, and for justifying an attack on Zapatista communities or the EZLN. It is noteworthy that this act reinforces the climate of instability, with which the official candidate threatens [the state] if he doesn’t win.

“Open provocation or not, the violent act is already an argument for increasing military presence throughout the state, even in zones very far away from the scene of the crime,” the communiqué adds (13/6/2000), detailing that: “in the last three hours, the federal barracks at Guadalupe Tepeyac, in Las Margaritas; Cuxuljá, in Ocosingo; Caté, in El Bosque, and the municipal headquarters of Simojovel and El Bosque have been reinforced even more. Similarly, the number of armed aircraft and flyovers has increased in the Highlands (Altos), Jungle (selva) and Northern Zones.” And finally, “the EZLN disclaims itself from [responsibility for] this act and calls on public opinion not to permit deceit.”


Patishtán’s capture

Nevertheless, the state government of Roberto Albores Guillén, through their prosecutor, Eduardo Montoya Liévano, immediately fostered the hypothesis that the attackers could be Zapatistas, in alleged revenge for the massacre against them ordered by the very same Albores Guillén two years before, although he also recognized that they could be “robbers.” The convoy attacked, he said, was patrolling to “combat gangsters.”

Senator Carlos Payán Velver, a member of the Cocopa, proposed that the legislative commission travel to the state, because the situation was “grave and critical.” Deputy Gilberto López y Rivas, also a member of the Cocopa, pointed out that it had the appearance of “a provocation from the paramilitaries who were set up by the state government itself” (La Jornada 14/6/2000).

On the same date, Víctor Manuel Pérez López, leader of the CIOAC, revealed that in 1997 the Chiapas government armed and financed “dissidents of the Labour Party (Partido del Trabajo)” to fight the short-lived municipal government of this [Labour] party and the CIOAC. “Everyone in the zone knows who they are,” he said, and: “once the objective” of returning the municipal presidency to the PRI had been fulfilled, they “dedicated themselves to robbery and drug trafficking.” They act, he added, “with complete impunity, in broad daylight, even when the military and police undertake frequent patrols.”

By then, in two previous ambushes, four people had been murdered; according to the CIOAC, they were “Zapatista bases.” On January 13, on the road to Chavajeval, heavily armed masked men murdered Martín Sánchez Hernández, and later, on February 1, Rodolfo Gómez Ruiz, Lorenzo Pérez Hernández and Martín Gómez, all of them Tzotziles.

Deputies of the PRD and PAN accused the secretary of Government, Mario Lescieur Talavera, of negligence, and said that the ambush would be used as a pretext for the arrival of more members of the Federal Preventive Police. The tanks, helicopters and the federal Army’s artillery had already arrived.

The episode was ditched; damage control was urged. The government wanted to attain it, so that President Zedillo could travel to Marqués de Comillas on June 19 to inaugurate his highway. That same day, in the El Bosque municipal headquarters, the Army and the PFP captured the teacher Alberto Patishtán Gómez, without showing an arrest warrant. A group of residents, identified as PRI members, “visibly emotional” (La Jornada, 20/6/2000), requested the state Congress’ intervention, maintaining that the detainee was innocent, “they distanced themselves from the violent acts of June 12” and argued that they were not armed nor did they belong to any paramilitary group. No attention was paid to them, instead they were threatened.

Patishtán was kept for one month illegally “under house arrest” in the Safari Hotel in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. His family, friends and co-religionists occupied the town hall and demanded the teacher’s release. Not even their own party backed them up. And not only that, the then PRI deputy Ramiro Miceli Maza, friend of the mayor (municipal president), and godfather of the young Rosemberg, turned out to be key in intimidating and accusing the teacher and community leader, who ended up imprisoned in Cerro Hueco Prison.

Also on June 19, when giving his opinion on the imminent elections of July 3, 2000, Subcomandante Marcos wrote: “Meanwhile, we are trembling here. And it’s not because ‘Croquetas’ Albores has contracted Alazraki so that ‘he lifts up’ his image (probably Albores already looks for money in the promotion of dog food), not for the six hundred thousand dollars that are going to be paid him (with money originally allocated to ‘solve the conditions of poverty and marginalization of indigenous Chiapanecos,’ Zedillo dixit). Neither is it because of the barks from the ‘puppy’ Montoya Liévano (now he is more nervous because it is being discovered that his ‘boys’ –in other words, his paramilitaries– were the ones responsible for the attack on the Public Security (police) in El Bosque, last June 12). No, we are trembling because we are soaked with rain. And it’s the case that, between helicopters and storms, we can’t find a good roof.”


Now against the Zapatistas

The following July 10, after the federal elections, one month after the ambush, state police detained two EZLN support base residents of Unión Progreso in Bochil, accusing them of participating in the crime. They did this even though the Attorney General of the Republic maintained that the attackers had been a group of PRI dissidents, among them Patishtán. These accusations crossed with Mayor Manuel Gómez Pérez, who they had been attacking for months because of his scandalous corruption.

The State’s Attorney General of Justice (PGJE, its initials in Spanish) had his own lines of investigation. “Resorting to the police posted in Los Plátanos, who know about this, the authorities planted weak evidence of a crime on two indigenous men from Unión Progreso” (La Jornada, 15/7/2000). One of them, Salvador López González, was tortured and interrogated without a translator, he signed an ad hoc confession and was incarcerated. In prison he met his co-accused: Patishtán. Without even knowing each other, both were charged with all the weight of the ambush.

La Jornada reported from Unión Progreso: “The police detachment that detained the Zapatistas has had the marijuana plants in Los Plátanos in sight for a long time. The internal violence in that population centre, controlled by a known paramilitary group, has always served as a pretext for accusing and attacking the neighbouring Zapatistas. According to the representative from Unión Progreso, ‘they accuse us of what they themselves do.’ The federal Army has entered Los Plátanos to destroy these crops, the only ones detected in the area, on at least on two occasions, although without detainees.”

Salvador and his brother Manuel “were seized” on July 10. Their families stated: “The Public Security (SP, its initials in Spanish) police beat them, took off their shoes and clothes, and left Salvador unconscious.” With the detainees were a little boy (“who cried a lot”) and a teenager, who “came to advise that they had taken the compañeros away.”

As the captors were not from Bochil, but rather from El Bosque, “they rented a jail for a while.” The detainees were quickly sent to Cerro Hueco (state prison). “Those from the SP put a handful of marijuana and a handful of bullets” on them and they stole 28 boxes of soft drinks from them. Manuel would soon be released.

Exactly one month before, on June 10, hours before the police killings, the SP quartered in Los Plátanos intercepted a truck from Unión Progreso. The driver was the same Salvador. “They interrogated him about a list of names. Since then they wanted to blame the compañeros,” a representative of his community declared: “We don’t know how many are on the list. At best, we are all accused.” (Curiously, Patishtán’s fellow believers had expressed their respective fear with almost the same words when he was detained).

With two scapegoats as dissimilar as Alberto and Salvador, the case started to be “resolved,” or at least forgotten by the national media.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, March 23, 2013

En español:


English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network



March 24, 2013

Fighting for Patishtán’s freedom, let’s celebrate his birthday

Filed under: Frayba, Human rights, Political prisoners — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:05 pm

Fighting for Patishtán’s freedom, let’s celebrate his birthday

19 April – 4,686 days in prison


In a telephone call on Wednesday 20 March 20, 2013 to the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights, Chiapas political prisoner Professor Alberto Patishtán called for a new stage in the quest for justice, and his freedom.

After the unfortunate decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) to not reopen his case, the legal issues of the petition of innocence will be resolved before the First Appellate Court of the 20th Circuit in April. Therefore, Patishtán’s family, civic organizations, groups and individuals believe it is important to carry out activities until then demanding his freedom.

In this context we call people to join us in: Fighting for Patishtán’s freedom, let’s celebrate his birthday.

The following actions are proposed (see next page also):

Between 21 March – 15 April we want to send 4,686 letters, one letter for each day Patishtán has been in jail, to the President Minister of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, Juan N. Silva Meza and to Ministers of the 20th Circuit Appellate Court. (sample letters attached).

You can send your letters to the following addresses:

  • Ministro Juan N. Silva Mesa

Consejo de la Judicatura Federal

2.    To the judges of the 21st Circuit Appellate Court


Please copy your letters to:



Also a call to share on social networks:                                                                      

  • On Facebook from Friday March 23 we ask you to change your profile pictures for freedom of Alberto Patishtán. (image appears in Alberto Patishtán Facebook, and we ask that every Friday you invite your friends to join us in this action.
  • On Twitter we would like to add 4,686 retweets for #LibertadPatishtan every Friday, starting 23 March and continuing every Friday, March 29 and 5, 12 and 19 April – Retweet #LibertadPatishtan
  • The proposed hashtag for this Stage is: #LibertadPatishtan
  • From 21 March to 15 April email a photo, a poem, a thought, a picture, a poster etc about Patishtán’s freedom and/or to celebrate his 42nd birthday to or post or take it in person to Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, Calle Brasil No. 14, Barrio de Mexicanos, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México, C.P. 29240. Everything you send will be used in a rally on 19 April and all your expressions of solidarity and affection will be given to Patishtán.
  • On 19 April, Patishtán’s birthday, we are calling for simultaneous peaceful mobilization actions, nationally and internationally, demanding his release.

It is important on this day to physically deliver messages to the addresses below:

In México City (D.F) – Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, which oversees the work of magistrates and judges in Mexico, at Insurgentes Sur No. 2417, San Ángel. Álvaro Obregón. C.P. 01000, México D.F.

In Tuxtla Gutiérrez – Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito, at the Palacio de Justicia Federal Edificio “C”, Planta Baja, Ala “A”, Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo No. 2641.

Global actions and demonstrations can be delivered to embassies and consulates of Mexico in your home countries.

We ask you to notify us of all activities you plan for 19 April, together with a photo and/or video of what you did, to to inform the national media, and to demonstrate all the support for his freedom to Professor Patishtán.

If you would like to know more about the situation of Professor Alberto Patishtán we invite you to visit where you can find information about his case and actions for his freedom.

Más nos parece mejor rebelarnos Y no renunciar ni a la menor alegría Y rechazar firmemente a los inventores de las penas ¡y, por fin, hacernos habitable el mundo!

Bertolt Brecht

Audio of Patishtán at the Press Conference 20 March 2013:


Translation by Wellington Zapatista Support Group





Patishtán and Solidarity with the Voice of el Amate, a cry for justice

Filed under: Political prisoners, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:11 pm

Patishtán and Solidarity with the Voice of el Amate, a cry for justice

March, 2013

“We are governed by injustice”:  Alberto Patishtán Gomez,

 Prison No. 5 San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

patishtancartel_normalNow hope of a just intervention by the Mexican courts has disappeared, due to the refusal of the Supreme Court to take Patishtán’s case, national and international solidarity remains as an alternative.

On March 6th, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) decided not to resume [its jurisdiction] in the case of Alberto Patishtán Gomez – by three votes against, from the Ministers José Ramón Cossío, Jorge Pardo and Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena, and two in favour, from Olga Sanchez Cordero and Arturo Zaldivar -. They refused to hear the case which was raised with them by Strategic Defence of Human Rights team, which consists of Leonel Rivero and Sandino Rivero. The SCJN has delegated the case to the Tribunal Court in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, which has already ruled against the release of the political prisoner previously.

Leonel Rivero states that he is dismayed because it is a setback in terms of the fundamental rights of people. The lawyer claims that if the Court had decided in favour of the thesis of jurisprudence which now reinterprets the evidence (matters which a few years ago were regarded as legitimate and are now considered illegal), it would have opened up the possibility for thousands of people like Alberto – who were judged inconsistently and never had their fundamental rights and rights to due process respected – to have qualified for that precedent.

Alberto Patishtán, meanwhile, commented, “it was a chance to see justice done in Mexico, the prisoners are going to continue the struggle”. The members of the Voice of el Amate and Solidarity with the Voice of el Amate (la Voz del Amate and Solidarios de la Voz del Amate) noted that “we are outraged because the judges had it in their hands to give freedom in an act of justice. We are very determined to fight with everything needed. We will not surrender or be discouraged. ”


Historical background to the Voice of el Amate

“One of the messages we want to get across is that all you are going to see around us, you  don’t have to just watch, we should not only look at any prison we go to, there is always a reason to fight for the truth”  

Alberto Patishtán

This group of indigenous political prisoners was formed in 2005 from a story interwoven years ago and with its background in groups like the ‘Voice of the Plains’, the ‘Voice of Cerro Hueco’ and now the ‘Voice of el Amate’. They are the voices of a collective, like their history itself.

In Chiapas and Mexico, the jails are full of poor indigenous prisoners, who have been excluded and have no access to legal support, and no one respects their basic rights. But there have been times when these prisons were full of leaders, teachers and farmers, who encouraged collectives and initiatives inside the prisons.

“The most dangerous people were taken to Cerro Hueco, which was the largest prison in Chiapas. In 1998, with the dismantling of the autonomous municipalities, the jails started filling with more than a hundred people under allegations of ‘usurpation of power’; this was when The Voice of Cerro Hueco was set up, a group of prisoners who made denuncias and undertook several initiatives”, says Cecilia Santiago, of the Ik Collective.

Before that, the activist explained, there was a very large group of Zapatista prisoners who were freed in exchange for the former General Absalon Castellanos. “The Voice of Cerro Hueco were not the first Zapatista prisoners, but they identified themselves by this name”, says Cecilia, “and later in the same prison a new group emerged called ‘The voice of Rebel Dignity’ with community leaders and teachers who were organized towards the year 2000”. The last prisoners from the autonomous municipalities left prison in 1999. A group called ‘The voice of dignity’ remained inside; among them was the Tzotzil Professor Alberto Patishtán.

On July 1, 2004, this group were taken on lorries, handcuffed and huddled like cattle, to the Social Rehabilitation Centre (Cereso) 14, known as El Amate [1]. This is where the group began to be known, to understand their basic rights and to organize. Inside, they went several days without food and in poor conditions. The authorities wanted to send them to the federal Centres (CEFERESOS), but the people would not allow it; between 2004 and 2005 they rebelled, mutinied, threw out cameras, doors and locks, and achieved a less rigid system.

In 2005, Alberto comments, in church and performing the devotions of the Catholic Church, they met and became more aware. They decided to form another organization and the Voice of dignity became the Voice of El Amate.


The Voice of el Amate and Those in Solidarity (Los Solidarios)

The Voice of el Amate was founded in 2005 by Alberto Patishtán and Antonio Diaz, along with 12 other prisoners. That same year they declared themselves to be adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, even though they made themselves publicly known as the Voice of el Amate in January 2006 and a series of protests began.

From 2006 to 2008 they remained on a protest for two years inside the prison, and held a hunger strike. As a result, a reconciliation panel was set up in 2008, with the purpose of enabling the prisoners to present their cases for review. Due to the panel, the hunger strike, and to mediation from the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), all the prisoners of the Voice of el Amate, except Alberto Patishtán, were released in the course of 2008.

Inside prison and on the recommendation of the Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), Patishtán met Rosario Díaz Méndez, already a supporter of the Voice of el Amate, so that the Voice brought the two members together. In April 2009, it was decided to transfer him to the CERESO number five in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Alberto brought together another group, who would not be members of the Voice of el Amate but supporters or those in solidarity, because the Voice defines who is a political prisoner. Those in solidarity were prisoners who were unjustly incarcerated, but were not defined as political prisoners because although they were fighting inside the prison to defend their rights, the reasons for their imprisonment were not political ones.

Currently, the group consists of eight people. Francisco Sántiz López, support base of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, was welcomed by this group, which gave him a bed and food at the time. Although during his year and nearly two months in jail he did not belong to the group, their relationship was one of unity and solidarity.


Political Activities and denuncias (complaints)

Cecilia Santiago notes that Los Solidarios “defined itself as a leftist movement, made itself visible within the prison and declared itself in total rebellion against the authorities”. She adds that it earned the respect of the authorities and inmates, and “suffered countless hardships and disasters through being outdoors.” Conducting a sit-in in prison, says Cecilia, requires a high level of organization and cohesion.

Los Solidarios, which became a moral benchmark for conflict resolution, was sought out to resolve issues that the prison itself could not resolve. Another of its characteristic modes of operation – in which it often combines politics and religion – is to send out public letters, through which it has become known outside, but it does not rely on a representative or spokesperson; its level of politicization and organization can be seen through these letters. The members themselves appear as actors, who do not delegate their representation.

The hunger strikes have been another means of making the group heard, even though they sometimes go unnoticed by the public. In 2008, Zacario, a catechist from the Pueblo Creyente, held a hunger strike which Los Solidarios joined days later.

The group are mainly Catholics, from the mystic religious tradition of the Tzotzil Maya of Chiapas. They have held fasts and prayers at various times to demand their freedom, better treatment or to improve conditions inside.

Cecilia Santiago claims the group has changed the prisons; it has celebrated its anniversary “rallies in places where speeches are given, the Zapatista hymn is sung and political statements are made, over a hundred people came to their seventh anniversary. For the rest of the inmates, added Cecilia, it is also an event and a lesson in how the isolation they are in can be broken if “as a society if we mobilize and participate,” Santiago said.

Supports and national and international solidarity

Alberto has received very many letters at a national and international level in solidarity with his demands for freedom. His social support is found among the Pueblo Creyente, teachers, the Tzotzil people, adherents to the Other Campaign, local, national and international solidarity groups, and the ecumenical world.

Pueblo Creyente, which, from a clear evangelizing position achieves political commitment from believers, has sympathized with the Voice of el Amate since 2008, and they in turn sympathized with Zacario Hernandez, a catechist from Pueblo Creyente arrested for a crime he did not commit, and whose freedom was achieved after a few weeks. Since then, Pueblo Creyente has held days of prayer, pilgrimage and a letter to the ministers of the Supreme Court to seek Alberto’s release.


Recognition Jcanan Lum in prison

Recognition Jcanan Lum was an initiative of several organizations. “Alberto Patishtán, beyond being a Catholic, is an ecumenical within Christianity” says Cecilia. He was appointed Minister of the Eucharist by the Diocese of Tuxtla when he was held in the CERESO 14, and likewise, was invited to lead pastoral retreats by this diocese.

Meanwhile, the Voice of el Amate and Los Solidarios are still fighting for their freedom, despite this unfair system, always supported by the hand of their legal defence, Frayba and the thousands of people in solidarity from various countries. The freedom of Alberto Patishtán and of Solidarios de la Voz del Amate depends on strength, support and solidarity. We, who are outside, continue to demand and spread the word for your freedom.


“Torture and Militarization” in Chiapas over the last six years

Filed under: Frayba, Human rights — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:09 pm


“Torture and Militarization” in Chiapas over the last six years

Frayba recounts violations of individual and collective rights

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 19, 2013

The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) released its report Between the Political System and the Living Alternatives, an account of violations to individual and collective rights in Chiapas during the last six years, when “the federal and state governments strengthened the neoliberal projects for territorial dispossession and sought to stop the autonomous processes.”

Frayba emphasizes “the legality of the dispossession,” represented by the Mesoamerica Project for Development and Integration, “a series of plans for infrastructure, eco-archaeological-tourism, combatting poverty, and ‘development,’ aimed at territorial dispossession and genocide, and deepening the division” in the communities “who struggle.” Faced with this, the organized peoples “defend their territory as part of their autonomy, their symbolic, spiritual and material structure.”

Without much difficulty, Frayba presents the justice system as being openly “at the service of the State,” as is proved by the national security strategy, the repression, and the criminalization of organizations, defenders and journalists. In Chiapas, the prisoners suffer “a prison system which is both inefficient and violates their rights.” It emphasizes: “the persistent use of torture as a method of investigation used by officials, the different (police) corporations and the institutions for the procuring of justice”, and documented 105 cases of torture in 18 municipalities during the government of Juan Sabines Guerrero.

The document was presented this afternoon by Abel Flores, of Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), Marina Pagés and Michael Chamberlin (coordinators, respectively of Sipaz and Inicia), the investigator Mercedes Olivera and Víctor Hugo López, director of Frayba.

The armed conflict, according to the report, continued to be marked by counterinsurgency “in a protracted war of attrition” that the government, “with its double face and its media action, has implemented to destroy the processes of resistance, in particular those of the Good Government Juntas and of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, its initials in Spanish).”

During the governments of Felipe Calderón and of Sabines, “mechanisms of terror and control” were used, “in the name of security,” through militarization, torture as a method of investigation, disappearances and murders. The fight against organized crime “remains the perfect justification.” In this sense, “the communications media in the service of the State portray human rights as an obstacle to national security.”

The prisons in Chiapas confirm the routine violation of rights in the prison system. The majority of the prisoners are poor, indigenous or migrants, “in a vulnerable situation.” The criminalization of protest, the persecution of social leaders and the pursuit of [human rights] defenders “speak of a repressive State that changes the discourse, but not the methods”, and whose pretence of “respect for the autonomous communities and the Juntas” is “false and empty of content.”


“Territorial Plunder”

In the six-year government term that recently ended, “the gap between the recognized rights of the indigenous peoples and their exercise was widening every day.” “Legal” territorial dispossession has continued through projects “which include elements of national security and protection for the investments of companies, linked to the governments, which have interests in those territories with great natural wealth.” The neoliberal economic model “has greater impact in the indigenous communities, since companies are occupying their territories in order to dispossess them.”

The communities in resistance, nevertheless, “continue in defence of the lands and territories as laid down in the San Andrés Accords, 17 years after they were not ratified.”

The armed conflict in Chiapas was characterized between 2006 and 2012 by the continuous military presence in the communities, “especially in the EZLN’s zone of influence.” The counterinsurgency strategy was one “of direct confrontation to the application of social projects in conjunction with United Nations agencies, in the context of the Millennium Development Objectives.”

Finally, the report maintains that memory, in the social and community context, “is an ancestral resource of recognition” for the peoples. The investigator Mercedes Olivera emphasized the role of women in “the fight against oblivion,” because they are “the constructors of memory.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

En español:


English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network




March 21, 2013

New International Campaign to Demand Patishtán’s Freedom is Announced

Filed under: Political prisoners — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:15 pm



New International Campaign to Demand Patishtán’s Freedom is Announced

 ** Lawyer criticizes the Court’s decision; there is still hope, he says

** The Tzotzil teacher himself calls for the mobilization by telephone

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 20, 2013

alberto“The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN, its initials in Spanish) was not expecting the reaction of social outrage generated by its refusal to hear the case of Alberto Patishtán Gómez,” said his lawyer Leonel Rivero Rodríguez today. The Court “lied cleverly” to justify its verdict, which happens “very infrequently”. Besides the “obvious fact that he is innocent,” he added, during the press conference in which the new international campaign to demand the release of the Tzotzil teacher was announced.

Colectivo Ik, which accompanies political prisoners of conscience, emphasized in its contribution that “the Governor, Manuel Velasco Coello, the Bishop of San Cristóbal, Felipe Arizmendi, and the EZLN through Subcomandante Marcos all support his release, as well as the whole social movement in the municipality of El Bosque,” including people from different [political] parties, and all the churches with a presence there (Catholics, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals, Pentecostals). “Have we ever before seen an agreement like this among such dissimilar voices?”

“Meanwhile there is no controversy, no sector is opposed to his release or doubts his innocence,” Rivero Rodríguez pointed out.

From prison number five, linked by telephone, Patishtán himself called for “a new phase of protests” from today until April 17, at Mexican embassies and consulates abroad, at the same time as those carried out in El Bosque, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Mexico City by the indigenous movement from his municipality, which has spent 12 years demanding  his freedom and being treated with contempt time after time.  Today there was a protest outside the embassy in London, he announced.

“Despite this new blow of injustice, I will never willingly give up or take a rest from seeking justice and freedom.” In his call he included collectives, churches, students, workers, communities, and also demanded the freedom of his compañeros in Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate.

A prisoner for twelve years, accused of murdering seven police in an ambush in June 2000, once he had been sentenced the issue was never again investigated, which supposes that it was really decided before closing the case, over which a suspicious veil of mystery and oblivion would fall. Or at least that’s what they told those who were charged with keeping Patishtán locked up in five different prisons, including a high-security one in Sinaloa.

Professor Martín Ramírez, spokesperson for the citizen’s movement of El Bosque, stated: “If they had ratified the San Andrés Accords, which the government signed with the EZLN, Patishtán would be free, because there would be better justice for the indigenous. We do not understand why they continue the same practices of 200 years ago. We are in the 21st Century and they continue with torture and contempt, like the SCJN just did. Alberto is a political prisoner for fighting for the citizens”, and publicly denouncing the corruption of the PRI municipal council of El Bosque at that time. “Or is it a crime to be against injustice?” he asked.

Rivero Rodríguez explained his interpretation of the SCJN’s explicit disinterest in the request to take up the case [on its merits]: “It just decided not to resume [its jurisdiction in the case]; it did not reject the petition. It was a split decision from the judges.” The Court “wasn’t up to the challenge” posed by a bold appeal.” As one of the ministers who voted against would say, “it’s not up to the SCJN to open Pandora’s box.”

However, there are chances that justice can be done, Rivero admitted. “The case record must go to the First Collegiate Tribunal (in Tuxtla Gutiérrez), which will decide whether we are right. What was evidence 10 years ago, when he was sentenced, since 2009 is evidence no longer, the proceedings were reinterpreted and now that ‘evidence’ is illegal.”

He even speculated on other alternatives besides the decision of the first tribunal (“that could take some days if the will exists”), like a presidential pardon. With respect to this, he said, “we are not able to pronounce (ask for a pardon) because to do so would be admitting guilt, and we will not do that, but it lies with the President of the Republic, who can do this unilaterally without exceeding his powers or violating the Constitution.”



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, March 21, 2013

En español:


English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the: International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the: Chiapas Support Committee, California, Wellington Zapatista Support Group, UK Zapatista Solidarity Network


A request to write a letter demanding the release of Alberto Patishtán Gomez

Filed under: Political prisoners — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:41 am


Adelante con la libertad de Patishtán – Forward to freedom for Patishtán

A request from the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network for a letter demanding the release of Alberto Patishtán Gomez

Compañeras and Compañeros,

The following letter, demanding the release of Alberto Patishtán Gomez, is ready to print out and send. At the end are the addresses of some government officials it can be sent to. It is only necessary to add the recipient and your name and contact information.

You can also send it to your nearest Mexican government office, embassy or consulate, as well as to the media and other organizations.

We send you all an embrace

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network


Here is the letter:

(The English translation is below)


Marzo de 2013


Por medio de esta carta quisiéramos exigir libertad y justicia para el profesor Alberto Patishtán Gómez, muy bien conocido preso político y defensor de derechos humanos, que el Estado mexicano ha mantenido injustamente en prisión durante casi 13 años.

Nosotros que firmamos esta carta hemos seguido de cerca las acciones por la libertad del Sr. Patishtán, indígena tsotsil y profesor de educación básica, originario del municipio de El Bosque, Chiapas, quien se encuentra detenido actualmente en el Centro Estatal para la Reinserción Social de Sentenciados No 5, (Cerss No. 5), en San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México.

El Sr. Alberto Patishtán está injustamente sentenciado a 60 años de prisión, por lo ocurrido el 12 de junio de 2000, en el municipio de El Bosque, Chiapas. Hechos que claramente Patishtán no cometió. Muchos testigos afirman su presencia a muchos kilómetros del lugar al momento del incidente.

Según información de organizaciones de derechos humanos y abogados expertos en la materia, la sentencia conferida al profesor tsotsil fue el culmen de una serie de violaciones a las garantías judiciales y al proceso judicial, que se dieron durante el proceso de procuración y administración de justicia. Durante su estancia en la cárcel, sus derechos humanos, especialmente con relación a su estado de salud, han sido muchas veces violados.

La Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación ha decidido a no reasumir su competencia en el caso, y por lo tanto ha dejado la responsabilidad al Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito con sede en Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, por hacer la decisión histórica de impartir justicia y libertad a esto preso político y defensor de derechos humanos.

Apelamos a los magistrados del Primer Colegiado de Distrito a que cumplan con su deber jurídico, poniendo en libertad a Patishtan inmediatamente. Apelamos y exigimos también al Estado Mexicano que se haga justicia.

La inocencia de Patishtán provoca que preguntemos ¿Por qué los culpados verdaderos se quedan impunes? ¿Porque hay tanto impunidad en México? Su culpabilidad fue fabricada, pero la muerte de siete policías no ha sido investigada, y los criminales responsables queden libres.

Reiteramos nuestra petición por la libertad incondicional del preso político encarcelado injustamente, Alberto Patishtán Gómez.



Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto

Presidente de la República

Residencia Oficial de los Pinos

Casa Miguel Alemán

Col. San Miguel Chapultepec,

C.P. 11850, México DF

Tel: (52.55) 2789.1100 Fax: (52.55) 5277.2376


Lic. Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong

Secretario de Gobernación

Bucareli 99, 1er. Piso, Col. Juárez,

Del. Cuauhtémoc,

C.P. 06600 México D.F.

Fax: (52 55) 50933414;




Lic.  Manuel Velasco Coello

Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Chiapas

Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 1er Piso
Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México

Fax: +52 961 61 88088 – + 52 961 6188056

Extensión 21120. 21122;



Dr. Noé Castañón León

Secretario General de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas

Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 2do Piso

Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México

Conmutador: + 52 (961) 61 2-90-47, 61 8-74-60

Extensión: 20003;



Lic. Raciel López Salazar

Procuraduría General de Justicia de Chiapas

Libramiento Norte Y Rosa Del Oriente, No. 2010, Col. El Bosque

C.P. 29049 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas

Conmutador: 01 (961) 6-17-23-00. Teléfono: + 52 (961) 61 6-53-74, 61 6-53-76, 61 6-57-24,

61 6-34-50





March 2013

Dear ………

We wish, through this letter, to demand freedom and justice for Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez, the well-known political prisoner and human rights advocate, who the Mexican government has kept unjustly imprisoned for nearly 13 years.

We, the undersigned, have followed closely the actions calling for the release of Patishtán, who is an indigenous Tzotzil and basic education teacher from the municipality of El Bosque, Chiapas, and is currently detained at the National Centre for the Social Reinsertion of the Sentenced No 5, (CERSS No. 5), in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Alberto Patishtán was unjustly sentenced to 60 years in prison for acts that took place on June 12, 2000, in the municipality of El Bosque, Chiapas; acts Patishtán clearly did not commit. Many witnesses testify to his presence many kilometres away at the time of the incident.

According to information from human rights organizations and skilled lawyers, the judgment given to the Professor was the culmination of a series of violations of judicial guarantees and judicial due process which occurred during the course of the procurement and administration of justice. While in prison, his human rights, especially those relating to his health, have frequently been violated.

The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation has unfortunately decided not to resume its jurisdiction in this case, and therefore has delegated to the Court of the First Collegiate Tribunal of the Twentieth Circuit, based in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, the responsibility for making the historic decision to dispense justice and freedom to this political prisoner and human rights advocate.

We appeal to the judges of the First Collegiate Tribunal to comply with their legal duty and to release Patishtán immediately. We demand the Mexican State grant him justice.

The innocence of Patishtán causes us to wonder why the guilty go unpunished? Why is there so much impunity in Mexico? His guilt was fabricated, but the death of seven police has not been investigated, and the culprits are free.

We reiterate our call for the unconditional release of the unjustly imprisoned political prisoner, Alberto Patishtán Gomez.

Sincerely ……….





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