dorset chiapas solidarity

February 17, 2015

From Chiapas to Rojava: seas divide us, autonomy binds us

Filed under: Autonomy, Women, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:43 pm


From Chiapas to Rojava: seas divide us, autonomy binds us

Post image for From Chiapas to Rojava: seas divide us, autonomy binds us

Despite being continents apart, the struggles of the Kurds and Zapatistas share a similar purpose: to resist capitalism, liberate women and build autonomy.

Image: Tierra y Libertad by Matt Verges

Power to the people can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people.

― Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism

Only six months ago very few people had ever heard of Kobani. But when ISIS launched its futile attack on the town in September 2014, the little Kurdish stronghold quickly became a major focal point in the struggle against the religious extremists. In the months that followed, Kobani was transformed into an international symbol of resistance, compared to both Barcelona and Stalingrad for its role as a bulwark against fascism.

The brave resistance of the People’s and Women’s Defense Units (YPG and YPJ) was praised by a broad spectrum of groups and individuals — from anarchists, leftists and liberals to right-wing conservatives — who expressed sympathy and admiration for the men and women of Kobani in their historical battle against the forces of ISIS.

As a result, the mainstream media was soon forced to break its silence on the plight of the Kurds of Northern Syria, who had declared their autonomy in the summer of 2012. Numerous articles and news stories depicted the “toughness” and determination of the Kurdish fighters, often with a dose of romanticization. Nonetheless, the media attention was often selective and partial. The very essence of the political project in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) went unreported and Western journalists generally preferred to present the resistance in Kobani as an inexplicable exception to the supposed barbarism of the Middle East.

Unsurprisingly, the victorious flag of the YPG/YPJ brandishing the iconic red star was not a pleasing image to the eyes of the Western powers. The autonomous cantons of Rojava represent a homegrown solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, focusing on gender equality, environmental sustainability and horizontal democratic processes including all different ethnic and social groups, while simultaneously resisting the terror from ISIS and rejecting both liberal democracy and capitalist modernity.

Although many in the West preferred to stay silent on the issue, the Kurdish activist and academic Dilar Dirik has rightly claimed that the ideological foundations of the Kurdish movement for democratic autonomy are key to understanding the spirit that has inspired the Kobani resistance.

Enough is enough!

As the battle for every street and corner of the city intensified, Kobani managed to capture the imagination of the global left — and of left-libertarian groups in particular — as a symbol of resistance. It was not without reason that the Turkish Marxist-Leninist group MLKP, which joined the YPG/YPJ on the battlefield, raised the flag of the Spanish Republic over the ruins of the city on the day of its liberation whilecalling for the formation of International Brigades, following the example of the Spanish Revolution.

It was not necessarily the battle for Kobani itself, but the libertarian essence of the cantons of Rojava, the implementation of direct democracy at the grassroots, and the participation of women in the autonomous government that gave grounds to such historical comparisons. But Rojava was not just compared to revolutionary Catalonia. Another striking comparison — with the struggle of the Zapatistas for autonomy in the south of Mexico — might in fact be key to understanding the paradigm of the revolution in Kurdistan and what it means for those who believe that another world is possible.

Ever since it first appeared on the scene in the early 1990s, the Zapatista movement has probably been one of the most symbolic and most influential elements of the revolutionary imagination worldwide. In the morning of January 1, 1994, an unknown guerrilla force composed of indigenous Mayas took over the main towns of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state. The military operation was carried out with strategic brilliance and combined with an innovative use of the internet it resonated around the globe, inspiring international solidarity and the emergence of the Global Justice Movement.

The Zapatistas rebelled against neoliberalism and the social and cultural genocide of the indigenous population of Mexico. Ya Basta!, or ‘Enough is Enough!’, was the battle cry of the rebellion which was the “product of 500 years of oppression,” as the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated. The Zapatistas rose up in arms right as global capital was celebrating the presumed end of history, and the idea of social revolution seemed to be a romantic anachronism that belonged to the past. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was soon forced out of the cities after intense battles with the federal army that lasted for twelve days. However, it turned out that the deep horizontal organization of the indigenous communities could not be eradicated by any state terror or military campaigns.

The masked spokesperson of the rebel army, Subcomandante Marcos, challenged the notion of the historical vanguard and opposed to it the idea of “revolution from below,” a form of social struggle that does not aim to take over state power but rather seeks to abolish it. This conceptualization of autonomy and direct democracy then became central to many of the mass anti-capitalist movements we have seen since — from the protests at Seattle and Genoa to the occupations of Syntagma, Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park.

A shared historical trajectory

The roots of the struggle for democratic autonomy in Rojava can be found in the history of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the organization that has been central to the Kurdish liberation movement ever since its creation in 1978. The PKK was established as a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group in Northern Kurdistan (Southeastern Turkey) combining a form of Kurdish nationalism with the struggle for social emancipation. Under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan it grew into a substantial guerrilla force that managed to withstand the attacks of NATO’s second biggest army in a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 40.000 people over the course of thirty years.

The Turkish state displaced hundreds of thousands and reportedly used torture, assassination and rape against the civilian population. Yet it did not manage to break the Kurdish resistance. Since its inception, the PKK has expanded its influence both in Turkey and in the other parts of Kurdistan. The leading political force in the Rojava revolution — the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — was founded as the PKK’s sister organization in Syria after the former had been banned in the late 1990s. Currently, the two organizations are connected through the Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK), the umbrella organization that encompasses various revolutionary and political groups sharing the ideas of the PKK.

The ideology uniting the different civil and revolutionary groups in the KCK is called democratic confederalism and is based on the ideas of the US anarchist Murray Bookchin, who argued in favor of a non-hierarchical society based on social ecology, libertarian municipalism and direct democracy. After Öcalan was captured by the Turkish state in 1999 and sentenced to life imprisonment, he rejected the PKK’s Marxist-Leninist past. Instead, he turned towards Bookchin, leading to a conviction that local and regional autonomy for Kurdish communities is in fact the most viable solution.

Although the Zapatistas are famous for their autonomous self-governance and rejection of the notion of a historical vanguard, the roots of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation were similarly Marxist-Leninist in nature. Just like the PKK, the Zapatistas’ ideas of self-governance and revolution from below were a product of a long historical evolution.

The EZLN was founded in 1983 by a group of urban guerrillas who decided to start a revolutionary cell among the indigenous population in Chiapas, organize a military force and eventually take state power through guerrilla warfare. Soon they realized that their vanguardist ideological dogma was not applicable to the cultural realities of the local communities, and they started learning from the indigenous peoples’ traditions of communal governance. Thus Zapatismo was born as a fusion between Western Marxism and the experience and knowledge of the native American population that has been resisting the colonial Spanish state and the federal Mexican state for five centuries.

This shared ideological trajectory of the two guerrilla organizations demonstrates a historical turn in contemporary understandings of the revolutionary process. The Zapatista uprising and the construction of autonomy in Chiapas marked a break with the traditional strategy of foquismo, inspired predominantly by the Cuban Revolution. The rejection of vanguardism was made very clear in a letter Subcomandante Marcos wrote to the Basque liberation movement ETA, wherein he clearly stated: “I shit on all revolutionary vanguards on this planet.”

In Chiapas, it is not the vanguard that leads the people — it is up to the people themselves to build the revolution from below and sustain it as such. Now this is the logic the PKK has been shifting towards in the last decade under the influence of Murray Bookchin, demonstrating its transformation from a movementfor the people into a movement of the people.

Cantons and Caracoles

Probably the most important similarity between the revolutions in Rojava and Chiapas is the social and political re-organization that is taking place in both regions on the basis of the libertarian socialist worldview of the PKK and EZLN.

The Zapatistas’ struggle for autonomy originated from the failure of the peace negotiations with the Mexican government after the uprising in 1994. During the peace negotiations the rebels demanded that the government adhere to the San Andres accords, which gave the indigenous people the right to greater self-determination over education, justice and political organization based on their traditions as well as communal control over land and local resources.

These accords were never implemented by the government and in 2001 President Fox backed an edited version that was passed by Congress but that did not meet the demands of the Zapatistas and the other groups of the indigenous resistance. Two years later, the EZLN created five rebel zones, or Caracoles(“snails” in English), that now serve as administrative centers. The name Caracoles represented the particular revolutionary temporality of the Zapatistas: “We are doing it ourselves, we learn in the process and we advance. Slowly, but we advance.”

The Caracoles include three levels of autonomous government: the community, the municipality and the Council of Good Government. The first two are based on grassroots assemblies; the Councils of Good Government are elected but with the intention to get as many people as possible to participate in the councils over the years through a principle of rotation. The Caracoles have their own education, healthcare and justice systems, as well as cooperatives producing coffee, creating handicrafts and rearing cattle, among other things.

In some way, the cantons in Rojava resemble the Caracoles. They were proclaimed by the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) in 2013 and function through the newly established popular assemblies and People’s Councils. Women participate equally in decision-making processes and are represented in all elected positions, which are always shared by a man and a woman.

All ethnic groups are represented in the different councils and its institutions. Healthcare and education are also guaranteed by the system of democratic confederalism. Recently the first Rojavan university, the Mesopotamian Social Sciences Academy, opened its doors with plans to challenge the hierarchical structure of education and to provide a different approach to learning.

Just as is the case with the Zapatistas, the revolution in Rojava envisions itself as a possible solution to the problems of the whole country and the region as a whole. It is not just an expression of separatist tendencies. As a delegation of academics from Europe and North America that visited Rojava recentlyclaimed, this genuinely democratic system points to a different future for the Middle East — a future based on popular participation, the liberation of women and a just peace between different ethnic groups.

A women’s revolution

Gender has always been central to the Zapatista revolution. Before the dissemination of autonomous forms of organization and the adoption of women’s liberation as central to the struggle, the position of women was marked by exploitation, marginalization, forced marriage, physical violence and discrimination.

This is why Subcomandante Marcos claims that the uprising started not in 1994 but already one year before, with the adoption of the Women’s Revolutionary Law in 1993. This law set the framework for gender equality and justice, guaranteeing the rights to personal autonomy, emancipation and dignity of the women in rebel territory. Today women participate at all levels of government and run their own cooperatives and economic structures to guarantee their economic independence.

Women still form a large part of the ranks of the Zapatista guerrilla force and take high positions in its military command. The takeover of San Cristobal de las Casas, the most important city the EZLN captured in the 1994 uprising, was headed by Comandante Ramona, who was also the first Zapatista to be sent to Mexico City to represent the movement in negotiations with the government.

The mass involvement of indigenous women in the political project of the Zapatistas is easily compared to the participation of women in the defense of Kobani and in the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) more generally.  The bravery and determination of Kurdish women in the war against ISIS is a product of a long tradition of women’s participation in the armed struggle for social liberation in Kurdistan. Women play an important role in the PKK and gender liberation has long taken central place in the Kurdish struggle.

The Rojava revolution has strongly emphasized women’s liberation as indispensable for the liberation of society as a whole. The theoretical framework that puts the dismantling of patriarchy at the center of the struggle is referred to as “jineology” (jîn meaning woman in Kurdish). The application of this concept has resulted in an unprecedented empowerment of women — a remarkable achievement not just in the context of the Middle East but also in comparison to Western liberal feminism.

The women’s assemblies, cooperative structures and women’s militias are the beating heart of the Rojava revolution, which is considered incomplete as long as it does not destroy the patriarchal structures at the basis of capitalist society. As Janet Biehl wrote after her recent visit to Rojava, in the Rojava revolution women fulfill the role that the (male) proletariat fulfilled in the revolutions of the 20th century.

The road to autonomy

The Ecology of Freedom is probably the most important among Bookchin’s works, and the concept of social ecology developed in this book has been actively adopted by the revolutionaries in Rojava. Bookchin was convinced that “the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.” By connecting capitalism, patriarchy and environmental destruction, he identified their combined abolition as the only way forward towards a just society.

A similar holistic approach has been advocated and implemented by the Zapatistas as well. Sustainability has been an important point of reference in Chiapas, especially since the creation of the Caracoles in 2003. The autonomous government has been trying to recuperate ancestral knowledge about sustainable land use and combine it with newer agro-ecological practices. This logic is not only a matter of improving the living conditions in the communities and avoiding the use of agrochemicals, it also constitutes a rejection of the idea that large-scale export-oriented industrial agriculture is superior to the “primitive” way the indigenous people work the land.

The similarities between the system of democratic confederalism that is being developed in Western Kurdistan and the autonomy being constructed in Chiapas go far beyond the few points I have stressed in this article. From slogans such as Ya Basta! — adapted in Kurdish as êdî bes e! — to the development of grassroots democracy, communal economic structures and the participation of women, the similar paths of the Kurdish movement and the Zapatistas both demonstrate a decisive break with the vanguardist notion of Marxism-Leninism and a new approach to revolution — emerging from below and aiming at the wholesale liberation of society and its reorganization into a non-hierarchical direction.

Although both movements have received some bitter criticism from the more sectarian elements on the left, the very fact that the only major and successful experiments in revolutionary social change originate from non-Western, marginalized and colonized groups, should be considered a slap in the face of the white and privileged dogmatic “revolutionaries” of the global North who have hardly been successful in challenging oppression in their own countries but who still believe it is their judgment to decide what revolution looks like.

In reality, the struggles in Rojava and Chiapas are powerful examples to the world, demonstrating the vast potential of grassroots self-organization and the importance of communal ties to counter the social atomization wrought by capitalism. Moreover, they are forcing many on the Western left — including some anarchists — to reconsider their colonial mindsets and ideological dogmatism.

A world without capitalism, hierarchy, domination and environmental destruction — or as the Zapatistas would say, a world in which many worlds are possible — has often been depicted as “utopian” and “unrealistic.” Yet this world is not some future mirage that comes to us from the books: it is already being constructed by the Zapatistas and the Kurds, allowing us to re-imagine what radical social change looks like and providing a possible model for our own struggles back home. The red stars that shine over Chiapas and Rojava shed light on the way to liberation. If we need to summarize in one word what brings these two struggles together, it would definitely be autonomy.

Petar Stanchev is finishing a degree in Latin American Studies and Human Rights at the University of Essex. He has previously lived and studied in Mexico and has been involved in the Zapatista solidarity movement for four years. This article was originally published at Kurdish Question and has been edited and republished with the author’s permission.



Time for Hope

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:28 pm


Time for Hope

 By: Gustavo Esteva


The disappearance of a loved one is one of the worst evils that someone can suffer. It isn’t just the uncertainty that it provokes. It’s wondering every day if it won’t be happening to him what happened to many that have appeared, whose cadavers showed signs of savage and atrocious torture before being murdered. How to avoid desperation? How to confront serenely the mystery of evil, this overwhelming evil that pursues us?

In the last two years in Mexico one person disappears every two hours. Every two hours! We now have tens of thousands of families in that drama. There are many others whose loved ones were savagely murdered and millions of displaced. One third of the population has felt obliged to live outside of the country.

The family members of the Ayotzinapa students have permitted us to live together with them the drama that is profoundly moving and to experience at their side a form of response that isn’t sunk in desperation. They woke up millions, inside and outside the country. With surprising spirits, with as much courage as imagination, they don’t leave anyone at peace. They don’t want those that were asleep to go back to sleep, to return to indifference, to occupy oblivion, or those above to wash their hands.

Even the United Nations, with its hands and tongue tied by the structure and rules that define the organism, has had to react. The UN Committee against Enforced Disappearances not only just recognized formally that state of things. It has also criticized the Mexican government for the impunity that prevails in the face of those daily crimes and for not attributing the priority that is required to the search for the disappeared. It required investigating “all the state agents and organs that could have been involved, as well as exhausting all the lines of investigation.” The committee formulated a recommendation crucial to remembering the responsibility of the high commanders of those that commit the crimes.

A combination of blindness and cynicism persists in those who occupy the business of governing and in their friends and accomplices. Indifference, apathy or fear also persists in many people. Likewise, fervent adhesion to some charismatic leader and his cohorts persists, on the part of those that still believe that he could stop the horror first, and later follow the progressive path of other Latin American leaders. Although the discontent is more general all the time, even among the sponsors and beneficiaries of the current government, many don’t know what to do, others don’t consider the paths that don’t pass through the electoral exercise realistic, and still others are disposed to changing everything… so that nothing changes: may all those responsible for our drama be replaced; may they present sharp blows to the leaders and may there be a great clamor, but all that inside of the framework in effect, within the nation-State, representative democracy, the economic society, development, capitalism… They believe that it’s too illusory or dangerous to attempt anything else.

At the same time, the citizen mobilization expands and gathers strength and organic form. On February 5 two parallel initiatives got underway that on the path will be able to interlace for diverse longings. The agreement in their diagnosis of the current political crisis is impressive, although important differences are appreciated in the reaches and styles of their proposals. The two illustrate, each in its own way, the desire and capacity of giving organic form to the generalized discontent, to the resistance, to rebellion and to a transforming impetus. Instead of paralysis and desperation, the national drama is generating lucid brave and organized reactions.

One more of those initiatives will take form today, upon a multifaceted commission of university students, activists and members of the National Indigenous Congress being in installed in Cuernavaca. It proposes contributing to dialogue and agreement among the diverse cultures that we are. Its members are convinced that there will be no justice, peace and security in the country while the social order is not constructed on diversity. It’s about giving concrete meaning and efficacy to the idea that the Zapatistas formulated 20 years ago: we must construct a world in which many world fit.

The current effervescence has already permeated all social layers and even reaches the most isolated corners of the country. Our demons were let loose a long time ago and created this unsupportable state of things in which we are submerged. Now, the forces that will be able to conquer them have been set in motion, by serenely advancing in the national reconstruction. The genie escaped from the bottle and it will not be possible to put it back in. Thus, the hope of giving full reality to our emancipation is nourished every day.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Monday, February 16, 2015




February 16, 2015

National and international brigade visits the Ejido Bachajón

Filed under: Autonomy, Bachajon, Corporations, Indigenous — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:29 pm


National and international brigade visits the Ejido Bachajón


Agencia SubVersiones

Photos: Koman Ilel, Daniel (Piratas for TM), Patxi, Valk and R.Rahal.

Following the violent eviction on 9th January last, when state forces dispossessed the camp set up on the recuperated land of the ejido (on 21st December 21, 2014), the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón -adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle- together with independent ejidatarios established a new regional headquarters; located in a part of the territory which was taken from them in 2011, in order to develop tourist mega projects.

On 9th February, at the end of the work of the brigade and one month since the eviction, it was reported that the ejidatarios affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the same municipality announced that if no action was taken within ten days by the police, they themselves would undertake the eviction; the deadline expired on Tuesday 10th February.

The work of the brigade


As they were targeting them again with the threat of another violent eviction, on 6th, 7th and 8th February, a national and international observation brigade in solidarity with San Sebastián Bachajón convened by the Network Against Repression and for Solidarity (RvsR) was undertaken. The participants were thirty-three people belonging to different groups and organizations from Mexico, Italy, France, Spain and Argentina and from the free (autonomous, alternative or whatever they’re called) media.

Night was falling when the brigade was received in the new regional headquarters. Lighted by torches and bonfires, a double row of compañeros and compañeras from the ejido offered a few words and some dinner to the newly arrived members of the brigade. It was not until the next morning that a formal start was made to the work of the committees. In a first sharing a historical account was given from the official establishment of the ejido, in 1980, when the files that defined the communal lands and property which was granted were received. It was in 2004 when the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) changed the boundaries of the ejido lands arbitrarily.

In this way began the process of struggle that led to the adherence of much of the ejido to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, during the other campaign, which also began as a result of repression by the state. In 2009, the first eight ejidatarios were imprisoned; in 2011 the eviction of the toll booth at Agua Azul, which was administered by the ejido was carried out. At that time 117 people were detained, who reported having been tortured and beaten after having experienced a violent eviction, they were gradually released in an operation of punishment and bullying.


The work of the brigade included the documentation of the problems and sharing the everyday work of the men, women and children in the community to learn deeply how their lives have been affected by the theft, violence and aggression. To do this various committees were formed, whose aim was to accompany the different tasks of the compañeros of San Sebastián Bachajón, such as security and the kitchen.

On Saturday 7th February, a committee from “El otro Valle de Chalko” came to the community and created a mural on one of the fences of the headquarters in a show of solidarity and support.

The work of the brigade continued until Sunday 8th in a farewell ceremony. The RvsR gave a banner to show support and representatives of Bachajón spoke words of thanks to the members of the brigade, reiterating the need for solidarity and support in this continuing struggle.

“The land is a victim”


The State and the “officialist” ejidatarios (affiliated with the PRI) try to exercise terror towards the dignified inhabitants of San Sebastián Bachajón to put an end to their struggle. At a meeting of the brigade with relatives of the political prisoners and the assassinated the word was clear: the fight to defend our Mother Earth will continue.

In this brief but powerful encounter, relatives of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, killed in 2013 and 2014 respectively, shared their stories and pain. They alleged that Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano was accused of murdering his brother and was serving a sentence on a charge of attempted murder.

About this case, their father said: “My son was murdered, for the conflict about the ejido land (he) received more than twenty shots while traveling in his truck, my son Juan Antonio was imprisoned in Yajalon. It is for the defence of Mother Earth and the territory that the officialists and the bad government do not want to see us organized, why they kill and send our compañeros to jail.”


Also present were relatives of Emilio Jiménez Gómez, accused of robbery with violence of a foreign tourist who at the time of the confrontation did not recognize Emilio as the attacker but despite this, he was forced to sign a statement that he was not allowed to read. Esteban Gómez Jiménez, prisoner in el Amate, is charged with murder, robbery, possession of weapons and organized crime. Santiago Moreno Perez has spent five years in prison for manslaughter. Mario Aguilar (along with Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano) was arrested at Virgen de Dolores and in the same way was accused on charge of attempted murder, both were threatened and tortured by the police.

It should be noted that governmental strategies for the imprisonment and murder of those who make them uncomfortable are woven together between authorities and companies. The tourism and transport industries seek to acquire land and build megaprojects that only exploit the land and its native inhabitants. The offences are alleged initially by companies and later, despite not being ratified, are used to prosecute and imprison.







February 15, 2015

UN Grills Mexico Over Handling of 43 Missing Students

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:40 am


UN Grills Mexico Over Handling of 43 Missing Students

by Jen Wilton.

GENEVA—“Let us stand for a minute of silence,” Emmanuel Decaux, chairperson of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), told those gathered on February 2 in this Swiss city to discuss the grave problem of involuntary disappearances in Mexico.

A high-level government delegation and a sizeable civil society contingent traveled from Mexico to attend the two-day event. Several family members of missing young Mexicans were also at the hearing, including parents of students abducted by local police in Iguala last September. The disappearance of the 43 students from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa thrust Mexico into the international spotlight.

“We have been searching for our children, but we cannot find them,” Bernabé Abraján Gaspar, whose son Adán was one of the 43 students, said. “We have demanded of our government that they help us.”


“We hope the UN will call on the Mexican government to tell us the truth, and return our children to us,” said Hilda Legideño Vargas, mother of missing Ayotzinapa student Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño. “It is the only thing we want.”

“I am searching for my daughter Alejandra, who disappeared in 2009 in the state of Chihuahua,” Olaya Dozal explained. Her daughter was just 16 at the time of her disappearance. Dozal and her family live in Cuauhtémoc, a city that has had extraordinarily high rates of disappearances in recent years.


Dozal saw the committee sessions in Geneva as a window of opportunity. She made the journey to advocate not just for her daughter, but for all people in Chihuahua who have faced similar fates. She would like to see the Mexican government help in the search for missing people, using all the techniques and technology available to them.

“In fact, they do nothing,” she lamented.

Guadalupe Fernández, whose son José Antonio Robledo Fernández went missing in the state of Coahuila in 2009, agreed the Mexican government has done nothing to help the many thousands of victims of forced disappearances. Speaking at a rally in front of the Palace of Nations, she told the gathered crowd that while the government fails to act, “we continue to live with this torment.”

Daniel Joloy from Amnesty International said that Mexico faces a grave human rights crisis. Cases of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture have risen alarmingly within the wider context of the US-backed war on drugs, launched in 2006.

Committee Criticizes Mexico

The committee pressed Mexican officials for basic information on involuntary disappearances. “How many alleged cases of enforced disappearances have been received in Mexico?” the rapporteur for the Mexico report asked. “We need to ask you that question again and again.”

The government delegation was unable to provide accurate figures, leading the rapporteur to conclude it will be hard to find a solution without knowing the full extent of the problem. Joloy said the Mexican government has been unwilling to shoulder its responsibility: “Even here before the Committee of Enforced Disappearances they do not acknowledge how grave the problem is.”

“It is very important to start a search within the first 72 hours,” the rapporteur continued. He queried why this had not happened in the case of Iguala, despite clear protocols issued by the Attorney General. Family members and classmates of the 43 students were forced to initiate their own searches and received little support from authorities.

(Credit: Jen Wilton)

The rapporteur went on to say he was “shocked” to read that remains of another 40 people had been found in mass graves dotted around the town of Iguala. “Why has it taken so long for the Attorney General to open its own investigation?” he asked, stating that an immediate and systematic enquiry should have been launched.

“We continue to face challenges that we need to overcome,” Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in his opening statement. With reference to the forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students, Gómez Robledo said that there had been “an unprecedented criminal investigation,” while affirming that poverty, exclusion and corruption played an important role.

However, civil society groups point out that Mexican officials tried to close the case of the missing Ayotzinapa students in January, saying they had exhausted all angles. “What we would like the government to do is to wait for scientific proof,” María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez from Tlachinollan, a human rights NGO that has been active in Guerrero for over 20 years, stressed. “The parents need certainty and they need proof.”

“Mexico lacks a legal frame for preventing and sanctioning enforced disappearances,” Joloy explained. “The codification they currently have is not in accordance with international standards.”

“Now they are starting to speak about a general law against enforced disappearances,” Joloy continued. “What has been evident today in the session is that the government does not have clarity on how they will approve this law, what the law is going to contain and how it will function as a way to tackle enforced disappearances.”

Real People Behind the Numbers

In terms of the wider issue of involuntary disappearances, Undersecretary Gómez Robledo said that only when perpetrators had been punished and the disappeared persons found could Mexico “move from pain to reknitting the social fabric.” He reported that Mexico is open to help from foreign governments, stating the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany had already offered assistance.

“We welcome constructive criticism,” Gómez Robledo stated, but said “we should not just indulge in condemnation.”

The committee asked when Mexico’s Ante Mortem-Post Mortem database, designed to help in the identification of missing persons, would be adopted nationwide. Eliana García Laguna of the Office of the Attorney General said that to date only 102 people have been identified through the database, which was launched in early 2013. Officials estimate that more than 20,000 people are currently unaccounted for in Mexico.

(CREDIT: Jen Wilton)

“We do not forget that behind the numbers there are real disappeared people,” García Laguna stated. However, another delegate member confirmed that there are still six Mexican states that do not recognize enforced disappearance as a crime.

The committee asked pointed questions about the controversial practice of arraigo, in which people suspected of connections to organized crime can be detained without charge for up to 40 days. The length of time can be doubled with a court order.

“We are aware of the abuses that arraigo can give rise to,” Gómez Robledo admitted. However he confirmed the practice would not cease when a new criminal justice system comes into effect in 2016. Rapporteur Luciano Hazan questioned why the Mexican government would keep the practice of pre-charge detention when it greatly increases the risk of forced disappearances.

A Community in Mourning

“It is very hard for the families; it is very hard for all the community,”Aguilar Rodríguez said of the Ayotzinapa case. NGO Tlachinollan has accompanied families of the 43 missing students since their abduction in September.

“Most of them had to leave their work, their families, their other sons and daughters,” Aguilar Rodríguez continued. “What makes it even more painful is that they don’t receive respect from the authorities. What they want is to be treated with dignity.”

“Without a doubt, what needs to change is the control that criminal groups have in state institutions,” Ruth Fierro Pineda, from the Centre for the Human Rights of Women in Chihuahua, said. She went on to explain, “What organizations like ours do is accompany the families of missing people, because often times we see that they are ignored if they are not accompanied by organizations.” Fierro Pineda said Mexican authorities often treat disappearances as isolated incidents, when instead they should look at the wider context and look for connections between cases.

Ayotzinapa “is the tip of the iceberg,”Aguilar Rodríguez was careful to point out. “It shouldn’t be seen as something different.” Many thousands of families are currently living with uncertainty as to the whereabouts of loved ones, but she feels that Ayotzinapa “should serve as a turning point” for the situation in Mexico.

Joloy said that near total levels of impunity in Mexico “send a message to the perpetrators that they can still commit these crimes.” He added, “That is how we get to a situation in Mexico where we have more than 26,000 people disappeared. It is alarming and the government is doing so little to actually address the problem.”

International Pressure Needed

“We leave with the clear knowledge of the challenges we face,” Gómez Robledo asserted. He said the delegation would not leave Geneva with the sense of a job well done, as there is still hard work ahead. However, human rights advocate Fierro Pineda countered, “Above all, we hope that the Mexican government will move beyond pretense, to take action to help locate all disappeared persons.”

While Joloy felt the CED sessions were a good opportunity for constructive dialogue, he was quick to point out Mexico has a poor track record of turning advice from international bodies into action. “Mexico today has more than 2,000 recommendations, but nothing is done with those recommendations.” He added that very few recommendations from a 2011 report by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances have been adopted by Mexico to date.

Fierro Pineda said the Mexican government gives the impression they are committed to improving human rights, as they have signed various treaties and they receive visitors from international human rights bodies. Mexico also has advanced legislation in certain areas, but she adds there is a large gap between what is written on paper and reality on the ground.

“International cooperation is fundamental and the Mexican government has proven in the past that they are very sensitive to international pressure,” Joloy clarified. “That is why international communities should always keep pressuring Mexico in order to change their practices with regards to human rights.” Aguilar added that the international community must be clear that the current crisis extends beyond the 43 families of Ayotzinapa.

Mexican students living in Europe also attended the UN sessions, hoping to build greater solidarity with those on the ground in Mexico. “It was important to make contact with the NGOs from Mexico, to create a connection and perhaps coordinate with them,” one of the students said. “I wanted [the parents] to know they are not alone, we will continue to help them, and that we are at their service.”

Committee chair Decaux concluded the session by thanking the family members of the missing Mexican youth for attending. “We are deeply touched by your presence,” he said. “We are very aware of the deep hurt you have felt as a result of enforced disappearances.”

“The only thing we hope is that they return our children to us,” Legideño Vargas said quietly in an interview. When asked what they will do when they return to Mexico, she was quick to respond, “We will continue searching until we find them.”



February 14, 2015

Cherán K’eri: Political parties are dead to us in this town

Filed under: Autonomy — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:08 pm


Cherán K’eri: Political parties are dead to us in this town

Cheran TV

By Niñx Salvaje.
In April of this year, the Purépecha municipality of Cherán K’eri, Michoacán is celebrating four years of its uprising to end the presence of organized crime in its territory. Following the uprising, indigenous women and men not only managed to throw out to the narco cartel, but also expelled all authorities (police, local government and political parties) that supported the illegal activities in the community. They decided to retake their traditional forms of self government to start a long process of building their autonomy. A few months back they inaugurated a new weapon to continue defending their traditions and reaffirm their rejection of the institutional political method: a communal television.
Photo: Regina López

From self defense to autonomy

When the community of Cherán K’eri began to organize, one of the fundamental demands of the population was security. The process of self defense that initiated and remains in effect today has results that cannot remain unnoticed: the smiles of the people and the life that animates the plazas and streets is noticeable starting at the entrance of the town.

“We now have confidence in our peace, our children walk to school without worry, as does everyone else. We no longer feel that fear that we once had”—shares one member of the community.”

The council of Honor and Justice is in charge of the security of the municipality: while the communal patrol (ronda communitaria) is controlling the city’s entrances and exits, as well as resolving the internal problems of the community. The “Guardabosques” (guardians of the forest), are in charge of protecting the rural zones furthest from the center of town, where the forest is. Each day and by turns, two groups of six people patrol the territory with their truck. It should be noted that for the indigenous Purépecha men and women, the protection and preservation of their forest is both a traditional and spiritual obligation, and therfore it is an essential part of their struggle. Their defense not only includes their security, but also the enormous work of reforestation, whose effects can already be seen.

In addition to having strengthened their system of communal security, the people of Cherán changed their entire system of governance. The main council, formed by a group of 12 individuals, lxs K’eris, coordinate the actions of the other councils and commissions. However the ultimate authority of the community is the assembly: in each one of the four neighborhoods that form Cherán, the communards come together to carry forth proposals and make decisions at the general assembly. “Previously, to my memory, never did a municipal president convene a neighborhood general assembly, and much less allowed the people to say what was on their minds. The people couldn’t give an opinion, they (the municipality) only did what was convenient to them.” commented a member of the community. Now, “the agreements come directly from the coordinators of the bonfires, from the bonfires, from the neighborhood reunions”, states another.

It is worth remembering that thanks to the community pressure that was also exerted in the legal arena, the municipality of Cherán K’eri was completely recognized on a federal level as an autonomous municipality. With this victory, Cherán achieved setting a national precedent so that other indigenous municipalities of Mexico can also exercise that right to free self determination.

The struggle has not ended yet

Even though there has been great advancement in the construction of a new world, the residents of Cherán also know that their struggle is barely starting, and that surely they will have to confront more challenges in the future. The upcoming year is particularly critical: while the Electoral Institute of Michoacán had agreed that the appointment of the authorities of Cherán shall be created by practices and customs, the residents know that the political parties will try to take advantage of the municipal elections that will take place in the state to attempt to return to their community.

Nevertheless, their position is firm: they will do all that is possible to impede their entry. In a system in which the drug traffickers, political classes and transnational businesses work hand by hand to impose their control upon the territories and plunder the natural resources –in this case the forests- the residents are conscious that to return to a system of political parties would represent a huge risk for the defense of their territory.

“For us here in the town the political parties are dead, because they never did anything when we began to defend the forest. Why? Because all of the parties are backed by organized crime. And whoever does not want to see that wants to remain blind to what is happening. That is what I think of the parties: that they are shit.” declares one woman. A youth also comments- “They have asked me many times: What will you do the day that this town returns to the parties? What would I do? I would be the first fucker to return to the front and say “no fucking way here”. No to the political parties, no to that bad government, no to that narco-government”.

TV Cherán: a new weapon for the community

To support the struggle of the people and prepare to defend their autonomy, the “Jóvenes Unidos por Cherán” Youth United for Cherán –together with collectives in solidarity such as the co-operative ManoVuelta and the network of independent media Tejemedios– have been working in the construction of a new weapon: their communal television. It was inaugurated on Nov 29, 2014, with the support of all the councils and assembly. During the first transmission, a declaration of agreement of TV Cherán was announced:

This communal TV will exist to strengthen our autonomy and support our organization. In the communal TV, there will be no discrimination, zero institutional religions, will function without commercials and without political parties or groups that hold power.

Photo: Niñx Salvaje

Through the diffusion of subject matter produced with and from the community, TV Cherán has as its objective to value the sense and life of its people and its reflection, as well as to strengthen its organization. In its program, one finds material that focuses on the Purépecha traditions and customs, its culture, celebrations, cuisine, music and also a newscast, as well as info related to its autonomous government: regularly the distinct councils present to the TV the advances in their work. In the TV the town assembly is valued as its maximum authority and it defends its practices and customs as an alternative to the institutional political route; it is clearly anti-electoral and anti-political party.

With this television station, the members of the team enroll in the long path towards the re-appropriation of the present and future of its community. “Many times we state that the youth are the future, but that is not true, the youth are the present, and the future are our children and our grandchildren, and it is for them that we have to fight, for the generations that are yet to come.”, clarifies one youth.

Although this project was thought of to strengthen the internal process of the community, it is also a strong medium to communicate outwardly, to weave relations of solidarity and invite others to share the struggle. Thus, a woman shares in one of the newscasts produced by the television: The powerful rulers are used to obtaining things by the most vile, cruel and unjust manner and always wants to have power over us. But as we give the power to the people, the people can also choose to withhold power. I call out to all of my country to create consciousness. If we do nothing, we will always be trampled.

Photo: Kino Luiggi


This article, along with more photos, was originally published in Spanish by Agencia SubVersiones.

Mexican Group Denounces Rights Violations against Yaqui Tribe

Filed under: water — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:01 pm


Mexican Group Denounces Rights Violations against Yaqui Tribe

Tomas Rojo, spokesman of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico

Tomas Rojo, spokesman of the Yaqui Tribe, denounces the Independence Aqueduct in front of Mexico’s Supreme Court. | Photo: Clayton Conn / teleSUR

A civil commission made up of rights groups delivered to Mexico’s Supreme Court a report on the state’s violations of the indigenous Yaqui Tribe.

Civil and human rights organizations along with representatives of the indigenous Yaqui Tribe delivered a report documenting what they affirm are a list of human rights violations committed against the northern Mexican native group by Sonora state and federal authorities to Mexico’s Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

According to the Civil Mission of Observation, the 2014-2015 report “exposes the grave human rights violations against the Yaqui Tribe such as the right to prior consultation to the construction, authorization and operation of the Independence Aqueduct.”

Formed in May 2014, the group made up of rights defenders, legal advisors and representatives of the indigenous tribe was tasked to monitor the Sonora state and federal government’s process of transparent and “good-faith” consultation over the state’s plan to construct and operate a 172 km long aqueduct.

The mega-project transports more than 60 million cubic meters of water per year from the Novillo dam, which is fed by the Yaqui River, to supply the growing urban complexes of Hermosillo, Sonora and the agro-industry in the region.

According to the Yaqui and activists, the project openly violates a 1940 presidential decree by then President Lazaro Cardenas, which guarantees that at least 50 percent of the water from the Yaqui River pertains to the Yaqui Tribe.

In May 2013, Mexico’s Supreme Court did announce a judicial ruling in favor of the Yaqui, calling for the suspension of the Aqueduct. However, the tribe and activists denounce that the ruling has not been carried out or implemented.

The tribe also demands the release of two of its spokesmen, Mario Luna and Fernando Jimenez, both detained in late 2014 by Sonora state authorities.

Toma Rojo, current spokesman of the tribe, says the detention of their leaders represents the state’s attempt to criminalize the indigenous group for its struggle to defend its rights.

“The authorities have invented and constructed the charges against Mario and Fernando so as to criminalize our demand for respect of our ‘uses and customs’ and constitutional rights as indigenous people,” said Rojo.

The Yaqui affirm that the Yaqui River and the water resource represents cultural importance as much as it does economic importance for the tribes agricultural activity. They declare that the Aqueduct is an affront on their culture, identity and existence.–20150211-0033.html




UN Slams Mexico over Enforced Disappearances

Filed under: Human rights, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:57 pm


UN Slams Mexico over Enforced Disappearances

Students from Ayotzinapa Teachers Training College Raul Isidro Burgos hold pictures of missing students outside the General Attorney building in Chilpancingo, in Guerrero, Oct. 7, 2014.

Students from Ayotzinapa Teachers Training College Raul Isidro Burgos hold pictures of missing students outside the General Attorney building in Chilpancingo, in Guerrero, Oct. 7, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

A U.N. committee accused Mexico of failing to adequately prosecute and convict individuals responsible for enforced disappearances.

The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances has published its concluding observations Friday about Mexico’s efforts to combat enforced disappearances at the request of the relatives of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

“The grave case of the 43 students subjected to enforced disappearance in September 2014 in the state of Guerrero illustrates the serious challenges Mexico is facing in terms of the prevention, investigation and punishment for enforced disappearances and searching for the disappeared,” the U.N. panel said.

Also read: Justice for Ayotzinapa

The experts voiced concern at “impunity regarding numerous cases of enforced disappearances.”

The recommendations from the U.N. panel calls on the Mexican government to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), under which all signatory parties are required to fully investigate enforced disappearances and bring all those responsible to justice.

However, two weeks ago, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said there was sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that the students were murdered and their bodies burned by local cartel members.

The relatives of the disappeared have stated that the case cannot be closed until the authorities can prove beyond any doubt that the victims were killed and/or all of their bodies are positively identified.

The Mexican government ratified the ICCPED in 2010, which stipulates that all signatory parties’ allow the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances authorization to hear individual cases of alleged disappearances and issue recommendations.

However, last year, following the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review of Mexico, Mexico objected to giving the U.N. panel on disappearances the ability to hear cases brought up by individuals amid concerns that this mechanism would be abused.

According to official figures, almost 50 percent of the 22,322 disappeared people went missing between 2012 and 2014 under the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.


Enforced Disappearances/Mexico–20150213-0018.html




February 11, 2015

Report from the brigade of observation about the situation in San Sebastián Bachajón

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:42 pm


Report from the brigade of observation about the situation in San Sebastián Bachajón



National and international brigade visits San Sebastián Bachajón and reports that the Regional Headquarters is in danger of eviction

The ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón who are organized in defence of their lands are threatened with eviction from the new Regional Headquarters of San Sebastián Bachajón in the coming days. Political party-supporting ejidatarios from the same municipality announced that if public forces do not execute the eviction within ten days, ending on Tuesday 12 February, they themselves will do it. This was explained by compañeros and compañeras from the Network against Repression (RvsR), and other groups who participated between the 6th and 8th of this month in a brigade of observation to San Sebastián Bachajón.

In a sharing on Monday 9th February, many brigadistas told various free media in San Cristobal de las Casas of the current situation of the struggle in the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón as well as the experiences they shared with the compañer@s ejidatari@s.

Listen to the audio of the sharing:


The brigade of observation accompanies the ejidatarios of Bachajón

The brigade was composed of 33 people from various countries and four free media from different locations in Mexico. Participants accompanied the ejidatarios in struggle for three days. In addition they addressed the conflict through interviews about different subjects, conducted a questionnaire to report the current situation of the ejidatarios, painted several murals in the facilities of the new Regional Headquarters and collaborated on cooking tasks and security. The short time of the sharing allowed both the members of the brigade and the Tseltales to share their experiences and find together an everyday and closer context. Also, relatives of political prisoners of the struggle and relatives of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano shared their experiences and emotions with the brigade. It was also moving when the RvsR gave the Headquarters a banner with the slogan: “Justice and freedom for Bachajón, the Compañeros are not alone, the Sixth Lives,” at the time of departure.


Ejidatari@s welcome the brigade and explain the historical process of the struggle



During the welcome, the compañer@s from San Sebastián Bachajón who were present lined up to receive the brigade. During this time, the national and international brigadistas were presented and the ejidatari@s gave a brief historical account of the process of struggle for the defence of the ejido San Sebastián. During their presentation they explained how the conflict began in 2004, when the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) changed and violated the boundaries of the area that supposedly belongs to the  national government, reducing the territory of the ejidatarios. A year later, the ejidatarios and ejidatarias decided together with the ejidal commissioner to install a toll booth at the entrance road to the waterfalls of Agua Azul, which was managed transparently by the whole community. In 2007, however, a new ejidal authority was imposed illegally, who is linked to the political parties. This act drove the ejidatarios who were not party members to create their own commissioner and control committee. Government repression began at this time through imprisonment and murder. They also explained the current situation following the recovery of lands since 21st December, the subsequent eviction on January 9, the road block and the construction of the Regional Headquarters.


Meeting with the families of the political prisoners and of those who were killed

During the visit of the brigade, relatives of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano talked with the compañeros and shared their feelings. Also, relatives of political prisoners explained how public forces with the complicity of the authorities have been creating crimes and imprisoning people who are not to their liking. Such is the case of Esteban Gomez Jimenez, who is in el Amate and accused of homicide, robbery, possession of weapons and organized crime. Similarly the case of Emilio Jiménez Gómez, accused of robbery with violence of a foreigner who never identified him as guilty and who was then forced to sign documents by police which he could not even read. At the meeting they also remembered the three compañeros imprisoned in Yajalón accused of shooting someone during the celebration of el grito in their community. Finally they also spoke of Santiago Moreno Pérez, who has spent five years in prison and is accused of murder. In addition, the brigade collected the cases of Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano and Mario Aguilar, held in Our Lady of Sorrows, who have been formally arrested for attempted murder. Both were tortured by police and threatened.








Tensions maintained in San Sebastián Bachajón

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Indigenous — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:04 pm


Tensions maintained in San Sebastián Bachajón


20150208_123909_Mx_Chiapas_Bachajon_w1024_par_ValK (1)

On 29 January, ejidatarios from San Sebastián Bachajón, Chilón municipality, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, published a communique which reports that they will maintain their posture of defending their lands and that, toward this end, they have installed a regional headquarters for the ejido between the Agua Azul crossroads at the entrance of the waterfalls of the same name and the limits of the Tumbalá municipality.

They denounced furthermore that since the displacement operation they suffered on 9 January 2015, police presence has been constant, such that they have called on Governor Manuel Velasco Coello to immediately order the withdrawal of public security forces and to discontinue intimidation and repression.

They reported as well that the ejidal commissioner, Alejandro Moreno Gómez, together with his security advisor are organizing shock-groups that “fire into the night with high-caliber weapons,” thus frightening local residents.

They noted lastly that “private meetings are being held between the Chilón delegate Francisco Demeza Hernández and Carlos Jiménez Trujillo, a local deputy, to plan for [more] looting, such that our comrades are guarding the regional headquarters and are charging the quotas at the entrance of the Agua Azul waterfalls.  We hold the three levels of government responsible for any type of attack or confrontation that could develop.”

For his part, the “official” ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón, Alejandro Moreno Gómez, has told the media that “at present we are being affected by a group of approximately 100 persons, men and women who hail from different municipalities of the state of Chiapas, adherents to an organization called the Other Campaign or the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, who have violently appropriated ejidal lands […].  We demand respect for the autonomy of the ejido and for non-violence.  They must put down their arms and opt for the path of dialogue and social peace.”

The first report of the caravan of adherents to the Sixth who went to visit San Sebastián Bachajón ein January stresses the attempt made by the ejidal commissioner to “portray these events as an inter-communal conflict that only has to do with the internal politics of the Bachajón community rather than the interests of the government and tourist firms.”




German activists reject security agreement with Mexico

Filed under: Ethics — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:36 pm


German activists reject security agreement with Mexico



German activists in front of the Ministry of the Interior. Photo@México Vía Berlín

On 3 February, dozens of persons protested in front of the German Ministry of the Interior against a security agreement that is planned with Mexico.  The activists submitted a list of 7,830 persons who reject the support Berlin provides for police and juridical authorities in Mexico.  These signatures are the results of a campaign promoted by the German Coordination for Human Rights in Mexico which has repeatedly pronounced itself against this type of agreement given that, as it argues, conditions do not exist in Mexico for a collaboration of this type.  The petition’s website explains that “this agreement would not serve to regulate the police who are systematically torturing their people, killing innocents, and raping women, besides being involved in the forcible disappearances of tens of thousands of people for decades.”  In response to the German government’s argument that corruption is limited to the local and municipal levels, the activists note that “this is a disingenuous argument, to claim that the problems have to do with the local police […].  The impunity of the security forces is the functional reality of all levels of the Mexican government, and only in a very limited set of situations can it be broken using particular tactics.  For the German police to collaborate with these structures would be to legitimate the principle of impunity.”

Present at the protest was a Mexican delegation, which included the bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and members of the Network in Solidarity Decade against Impunity.  After the protest, close to 40 activists met with officials from the Ministry, including Peter Steck and Siegfried Helmut Mueller. Bishop Vera handed over the list of signatures against the controversial security proposal and expressed the same sort of worry evinced by the other activists: “At this time, as Ayotzinapa has shown, the police, the Army, and organized crime act jointly together against the people of the country.  And the federal government knows that part of civil society disagrees with this, such that they feel insecure.  And this force that you are giving to the police will not be used to fight organized crime but instead people like us.”  For his part, Peter Steck promised the activists that he would transmit the information to be considered in the negotiations regarding the security accord.




Protect human rights activists working against enforced disappearances.

Filed under: Human rights — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:15 pm


Protect human rights activists working against enforced disappearances.


(Geneva)- In the context of last week’s first review of Mexico before the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), ISHR and other Geneva based organisations met with Mexican NGO Tlachinollan and families of victims of enforced disappearances who travelled to Europe to make formal accusations against the Mexican government for its handling of the case related to 43 disappeared students in Iguala (Guerrero). Human rights defenders reminded the CED, in its first special two-day hearing about Mexico, that this case comes in the context of 23,000 other reported cases in the country.

During the meeting, parents of the victims emphasised the on-going repression and risks faced by activists working on and protesting against enforced disappearances all over the country, as well as the defamation[1] many of them face due to misleading or false governmental declarations.

‘It is apparent that rather than ensuring a strong level of dialogue for families, protection for human rights defenders and safe spaces for protests, the Mexican authorities have been insensitive in their attention to victims, have failed to respond to threats against activists and have been heavy-handed in their policing’, said Ben Leather, Advocacy and Communications Manager at ISHR. ‘Enforced disappearances represent a nationwide human rights crisis yet this response appears to be equally widespread and on-going’.

For instance, last July members of victims group “Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos de México” (Fundem) denounced that masked policeman in Queretaro confronted peaceful demonstrators in a march against enforced disappearances, injuring and threatening people.[2]

In November eleven demonstrators were detained and charged with felonies in a major march held in Mexico City. All of them have testified to have been poorly treated – some even tortured – and sent to high-security prisons, limiting their possibility to contact families or attorneys.[3] They were only released nine days after, when charges where dropped due to the lack of evidence.[4]

In December, family members and colleagues of the disappeared Ayotzinapa students in Guerrero were allegedly attacked by drunken federal police officers while preparing the “Light in the Darkness” concert. According to eyewitnesses, the police arrived at the location where family members and students were working and verbally assaulted them, pointed firearms at them, threw rocks and other objects and sprayed them with tear gas. The police left hours later, having caused injuries to a number of persons present.[5] ‘What happened here if proof that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of families and people peacefully protesting for the missing students’, said one of the parents during the concert.[6] Last month, colleagues of the disappeared students alleged fresh abuses by federal police who intervened to prevent protesters from occupying a roadside tollbooth.[7]

During the same month, newspaper Reporte Indigo published an article based on leaked information suggesting that Mexican State intelligence agency CISEN had the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center under surveillance, had alleged that the centre has links with ‘subversive groups’ and considers their internationally respected staff, Abel Barrera and Vidulfo Rosales, to be ‘radical and dangerous to the governability’ of the country.[8] Furthermore, interim Guerrero Governor, Rogelio Ortega, has made public statements questioning the legitimacy of the organisation, which has previously won awards from Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Center, amongst others.[9]

In the same context of defamation, on December 10, the Secretary of the Marines (SEMAR), Vidal Francisco Soberón stated during a public interview that the organisations that accompany the family members of the disappeared in Ayotzinapa are manipulating them and seek benefits for themselves in order to reach their own objectives.[10]

Moreover, in last week’s meeting, Hilda Legideño and Bernabé Abraján, – whose sons are amongst the 43 disappeared students – told ISHR that the fact that the Mexican authorities have failed to implement the commitments to a regular high-level dialogue, agreed with President Peña Nieto last October, has left them with no option but to continue protesting. However the response, they say, has been to repress those protests and to misinform through the press. ‘We ask them to find our children, but they just send us more police, more army and more riot squads’, said Ms Legideño.

The problem is not limited to this case. Peace Brigades International (PBI) has previously documented how victims and activists have suffered re-victimisation, harassment and mistreatment by the authorities who ought to be searching for their loved ones,[11] whilst human rights defenders supporting the families of enforced disappearance victims have faced physical attacks and threats, as well as surveillance and raids by the security forces.[12]

The CED’s session coincided with the release of a new document demonstrating the range of problems with the implementation of Mexico’s Protection Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders.[13] ‘The passing of the Mexican law represented a huge step towards the legal protection of defenders, emblematic internationally’, said Mr Leather. ‘Yet almost three years on from its approval it is high time the Mexican State guaranteed the Protection Mechanism has the resources, capacity, coordination and transparency to function in practise’.

In response to the allegations by defenders working on enforced disappearances, ISHR demands that federal and state authorities take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of those protesting and working around the issue. ISHR also urges the authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the family members of the disappeared students, thus permitting them to continue with their search for justice and fight against impunity.

For more information, contact Ben Leather, +41787794859,

Photo: Sofia Gonzalez, flickr




February 9, 2015

Chiapas: Pilgrimage of the Believing People to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel Ruíz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:32 pm



Chiapas: Pilgrimage of the Believing People to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Don Samuel Ruíz.



On Saturday 24 January, the Believing People of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas diocese held a pilgrimage through the streets of this city to commemorate the struggle and path of Don Samuel Ruíz García, the former bishop of Chiapas, who died four years ago.  Close to 10,000 believers, including Ch’ol, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Tojolobal, and mestizo men and women, participated in the pilgrimage which left from two points in the city toward Peace Plaza, where a mass was celebrated in honour of “jTatic Samuel.”  The banners that were carried during the event demonstrated the concern the pilgrims have for Mother Earth and the struggles they are undertaking to defend it, employing texts such as “no to mining,” “no to the highway,” and “our Mother Earth, the life-root of our people, we will defend.”


The pilgrims also expressed their solidarity with the struggle for justice carried out by the families of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, as their banners also showed.



Several activities to observe the fourth anniversary of the death of Samuel Ruiz García, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de las Casas


Beyond the pilgrimage and mass that were held on 24 January, several other activities were organized in observance of the fourth anniversary of the death of the bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Samuel Ruiz García.

On 27 January, the jTatik Samuel Museum was inaugurated in the El Caminante Communal Center of San Cristóbal de Las Casas (km 1.5 on the road toward Chamulá, passing Esquipulas).  The new space contains five rooms that show the life and work of bishop Samuel Ruiz García, as well as the history and religions of Chiapas, from before the Spanish conquest, Evangelization, and the most recent history after the EZLN’s armed uprising.

Maldonado Quiroga, a member of the administration of El Caminante, detailed that the museum was created after seven years of data gathering by 11 individuals who comprised the council for the space.  All 11 spent time next to Don Samuel during some point of his life.

On 26 January in Mexico City, there was held an event entitled “Sparkles in the darkness: the teachings of jTatic Samuel Ruiz four years after his passing,” in which several persons who were close to Don Samuel participated.

Raúl Vera, the bishop of Saltillo, recalled for example that “he changed my life, because I entered the indigenous world through the heart of Don Samuel.  I never stopped seeing the future that God was building, and I saw that the evidence that we could create a new world was that we were attempting to so at that very moment.”



Call for the 2015 jTatik Samuel Jcanan Lum Award


On 23 January, the 2015 public call to propose candidates for the “jTatic Samuel jCanan Lum Award” was launched.  The announcement was made by Monseigneur José Raúl Vera López, bishop of Saltillo and the honorary president of the organizing committee.

The call recalls that the award has the goal of “making known and inspiring the work of women and men, organizations, and collectives that have distinguished themselves by their contribution to the people in the creation of communal and/or regional alternatives, as well as by their work directed at unity and peaceful social transformation […].  We want to recognize their love for the people, their resistance, their service, their search for alternatives amidst the suffering and marginalization of their communities, amidst the destruction of the Earth, the defence of human rights, the defence of the dignity of all, and their struggle for peace, justice, and liberation.”

“jTatic Samuel jCanan Lum” is a charge that the Mons. Samuel Ruíz García received in the community of Amatenango del Valle by Ch’ol, Tojolabal, Tseltal, Tsotsil, and Zoque peoples on 14 October 2009.  There, he was recognized as the protector of their people, who love and defend him for being someone who cares for life, nature, and the Earth.  With reference to the same, the jTatic Samuel Jcanan Lum Award seeks to support individuals or groups and stimulate them by giving voice to their social work.

The proposals must be made in writing, physically, or electronically before 31 October 2015 to the following address: Calle Brasil No. 14, Barrio de Mexicanos, CP 29240, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México. Tel. and fax: 967 6787395, 967 6787396 E-mail:

The awarding of the next wave of Recognitions will take place in January 2016 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, in observance of the Episcopal Anniversary of jTatic Samuel Ruiz García.




How citizens lead the search for Mexico’s disappeared

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:52 pm


How citizens lead the search for Mexico’s disappeared

Relatives of the disappeared in Mexico create the first independent forensic and DNA database to sea

More than 27,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006 [AFP/Getty Images]
More than 27,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006 [AFP/Getty Images]


We are convinced that the greatest revolution in forensic science and human rights is happening in Mexico. This revolution is in the hands of relatives of disappeared persons, who silently, but consistently, have embodied a new form of scientific and political citizenship. People working in factories, office jobs or dedicated to commerce who used to be apolitical have become active agents of change due to the disappearance of a loved person.

This “awakening” (as many relatives describe it) can be exemplified by Letty “Roy Rivera” Hidalgo, mother of two and former teacher, that after the abduction of Roy Rivera from her own house in Monterrey Nuevo Leon, has become one of the most active leaders in the search for the disappeared in Mexico. The transformation of

We are convinced that the greatest revolution in forensic science and human rights is happening in Mexico. This revolution is in the hands of relatives of disappeared persons, who silently, but consistently, have embodied a new form of scientific and political citizenship. People working in factories, office jobs or dedicated to commerce who used to be apolitical have become active agents of change due to the disappearance of a loved person.

This “awakening” (as many relatives describe it) can be exemplified by Letty “Roy Rivera” Hidalgo, mother of two and former teacher, that after the abduction of Roy Rivera from her own house in Monterrey Nuevo Leon, has become one of the most active leaders in the search for the disappeared in Mexico. The transformation of Letty started after waiting for months for police officers to do their job.

In the face of their dereliction of duty, Letty started her own search for truth. Armed with basic knowledge of computer systems, Letty learnt how to trace the calls that were made from the mobile phone that her son was carrying that day. After a couple of days she managed to find sixteen locations from where the mobile phone of her son had been calling.

She even took photos of these houses and took the evidence to the pertinent local authority. Then, she insisted for weeks to the local authorities in Nuevo Leon, who finally decided to visit one of the locations she gave them. Inside, they found three persons who had just been kidnapped; along with guns and members of organised crime. Nonetheless her son was nowhere to be seen.

Families of missing Mexico youth seek answers

Regardless of her success in locating the so called “security houses” (places in which kidnapped people are kept), the authorities decided to dismiss her petitions to look into the other possible locations. Four years on and she is still looking for her son. But now, she does the same for hundreds of people who have disappeared in Mexico through FUNDENL, the organisation that she leads.

Together with other relatives of disappeared persons in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Letty has been fundamental in organising effective opposition to “governmental truths”, including the first ever citizen-led exhumation in 2014, supported by the Team of Peruvian Forensic Anthropologists and the recently created Citizen-Led Forensics (or Ciencia Forense Ciudadana in Spanish) , and its partner organisation Gobernanza Forense Ciudadana.

Letty is just one of the sixteen members that today, are part of Citizen-Led Forensics, an ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council, UK) sponsored project based at Durham University that aims to transform the relationship between science and its “publics” as we know it. The idea for this project was born in 2011 while living in Colombia and doing an ethnographic research on forensic science. It was then where we thought of a new model to make the right to the truth a reality.

Our feasibility study, carried out during 2013 was possible thanks to the support we received when Arely won the Global Impact Competition of Singularity University in 2012. The idea was to analyse the possibility that relatives of the disappeared could govern technologies usually controlled by “experts” to find the truth about the whereabouts of their loved ones. By the time we finished this first ethnographic study, Mexico had almost reached half of the death toll, and approximately half the number of disappeared persons that Colombia reached in 50 years of violent conflict.

The innovation at the heart of Citizen-Led Forensics is simple. Along with relatives of disappeared persons we have created a budding forensic system in which tools such as DNA and forensic databases are public goods, governed by people that have become forensic experts in their own right, while searching for their loved ones. We are convinced this project is a game changer because it breaks the monopoly of truth of the State.

According to Human Rights Watch and the Mexican Commission of Human Rights, since 2006 there have been approximately 27,000 disappeared persons in Mexico and the numbers are still rising. Even more, none of these numbers count the thousands of migrants that have disappeared in their transit through Mexico.

In Citizen-Led Forensics we believe that “the path of the one is the path of the many”. That is why we need to create a transparent national database. We cannot keep searching for the disappeared 43 at a time. The revolution in human rights and forensic science we are envisioning cannot be possible if we do not start changing the rules of the game one by one. This means that we have to break in the pristine spaces, reserved for scientific experts and bring the public forum back to forensic science. Thus we say, rephrasing Bruno Latour: “Let us into your laboratories and we will change the world.”

Ernesto Schwartz-Marin holds a PhD in Genetics in Society from University of Exeter, UK. He is an International Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University and the Principal Investigator of the ESRC Transformative Project Citizen-Led Forensics. Since 2012 he acts as the Chief Innovation Officer at Gobernanza Forense Ciudadana.

Arely Cruz-Santiago is a Doctoral Researcher based at Durham University, Department of Geography. She holds an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the same university and a BA in International Relations from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM. She is the Co-Investigator of the ESRC Transformative Project Citizen-Led Forensics. Since 2012 she is president of the Mexican NGO Gobernanza Forense Ciudadana.

Source: Al Jazeera




February 8, 2015

Tourist Development Behind State Repression of Non-Violent Indigenous Movement

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Indigenous, Women — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:09 pm


Tourist Development Behind State Repression of Non-Violent Indigenous Movement


By Martha Pskowski

“We organized to take this land. Why? Because we know that the government is dispossessing land all over the country. On December 21stwe woke up at 6am to recuperate this land. Four hundred of us compañeros and compañeras from the community arrived.”

The masked representative of San Sebastián Bachajón, Chiapas, describes in a Jan. 1 interview how residents of this Tzeltal indigenous community reclaimed the entrance to the Aguas Azules waterfalls on Dec. 21, 2014. Government officials at the tollbooth handed over the building without resistance to the non-violent indigenous movement led by the residents of San Sebastian Bachajon.

Movement members set up an encampment at the tollbooth, where over one hundred people remained on guard at all hours. However on Jan. 9, 2015, several hundred state and federal police evicted them from the encampment to regain control of the tollbooth. This triggered a new series of confrontations with the movement in Bachajón. Currently the state has control of the tollbooth, but the movement has resolved to continue organizing to defend the tollbooth and their entire territory against state encroachments.

“Cancún in the jungle”

Bachajon’s territory borders the famous Aguas Azules (Blue Waters) waterfalls, a major tourist attraction in Chiapas. The local community has been fighting to maintain their territorial rights as an indigenous community against incursions by the state government, which intends to develop the site as an international tourist attraction.

The Aguas Azules falls lie between the municipalities of Chilón and Tumbalá, Chiapas. They form part of a state-wide tourism development plan that successive governments have tried to implement, going back to Governor Robeto Albores Guillén, who created the “Comitan Declaration” in 2006 promising to, “Build a new Cancún in Northern Chiapas.”


The declaration lays out a broad plan for the area. “They did it in Quintana Roo and it is possible in Chiapas. The Federal Government should commit to develop a tourism program in the coming years that includes Palenque, Agua Azul, Misol-ha, Toniná, Yaxchilán, Bonampak and Playas de Catazajá.”

This regional strategy coincides closely with the Plan Puebla-Panamá, renamed the Mesoamerica Project, of which Chiapas is a pilot state. The development of Aguas Azules is part of the “Palenque Integral Planned Center”. The Center would include a luxury hotel at the waterfalls, an international airport in Palenque and construction of the Palenque-San Cristóbal highway. The development would bring immense environmental degradation, pollution, and land grabbing to the region.

All of these development projects include language about poverty reduction, protecting nature and fostering economic growth, but the communities that live in the areas destined for mega-tourism are taken into account only as low-level service employees or folklore for the visitors. Chiapas’s state tourism website has a video of the Aguas Azules waterfalls, displaying a virgin landscape devoid of any human presence. It only includes one short note on the “cultural aspects” of the site: “The indigenous Tzeltal people live here and preserve their traditional dress, especially the women.”

TRhe residents of Bachajón know what lies behind the discourse of a development scheme that reduces the complex cultural fabric of the communities of Chilón and Tumbalá to their traditional clothing. Referring to the hotel slated to be built in their territory, a representative says, “It won’t benefit us. They won’t let us work there when they build the hotel. They are going to use us a service people, nothing more, just to wash the bathrooms and pick up trash.”

Popular support grows for the autonomy movement in Bachajon

For two weeks in December and early January, the Zapatista movement of southern Mexico, along with Mexico’s National Indigenous Congress and the adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, held the first ever “World Festival of Resistances and Rebellions.” Participants came from around Mexico and around the world. The movement in Bachajon adheres to the Sixth Declaration, a call the Zapatistas issued in 2006 to unite movements worldwide against neoliberalism and for autonomy in local communities. They took part in the Festival, which was inaugurated in Central Mexico the same day the movement in Bachajon reclaimed a part of their territory. They called for Festival participants to support their efforts for autonomy and encouraged alternative media collectives to visit the community.


The battle for Bachajon did not begin with the latest conflict. Since 2006 community members have organized to reject the tourism development that forges ahead without respecting the basic rights of indigenous peoples to consultation and consent for projects in their territories.

Bachajon is an ejido, the form of communal land ownership founded after the Mexican Revolution, and maintains a local government that is legally required to hold assemblies and include all residents who have land rights. However, the movement’s representatives say that the local government, led by Alejandro Moreno Gómez, “Never holds assemblies, never reports on their activities, there isn’t access to information… …they don’t tell us how much money is being collected at the tollbooth.”

Due to these complaints, in recent months more community members have joined the resistance movement and no longer recognize the legitimacy of the local government, which acts in cahoots with the state officials who have violently attempted to take over the tourist site.

Although a growing number of residents support the movement, another part of the community supports Moreno Gómez and the activities of the state government. This group maintains ties to paramilitaries in the area, and staged a blockade on the highway Dec. 31A representative of the autonomous movement says, “It is a tactic to give the state authorities a pretext to enter and not only remove the blockade, but remove those of us who have re-taken the tollbooth.”

While the government’s discourse insists that the conflict in Bachajon is an intra-community dispute in which the government serves as mediator, in the interview residents explain how the local, state and national governments have acted in collusion with sectors of the community. These actions not only justify the displacement of the community, but also the repression that has reinforced it.

Criminalizing of the struggle for autonomy

After ten days guarding the entrance to the community and the tollbooth, on January 9 at 6.30 am, more than 900 members of the state and federal forces violently evicted the encampment. During the attack, eight residents of San Sebastián Bachajon were apprehended and held without knowledge of their whereabouts for over eight hours before being released. After the eviction, ten police vehicles remained at the site to prevent a recuperation by the autonomous movement.


The next day, Jan. 11, the opposing group blockaded the Ocosingo-Palenque highway, one of the most important tourist and transit routes in Chiapas. When police arrived, the movement succeeded in driving them off with sticks, machetes, and slingshots. Meanwhile, the police shot back with rubber bullets and firearms. Only three residents of Bachajon were mildly wounded, but bullet casings scattered the highway after the attack.

On Jan. 12, a police helicopter was spotted flying over the near-by community of Xanil. The occupants were taking photographs of houses below, making residents concerned more state or paramilitary attacks against movement leaders could follow.

That afternoon, more than five police vehicles, with 160 officers, approached the blockade but were forced back by trees that the autonomous movement had felled to block the highway. Meanwhile, a paramilitary group under the direction of ejido authorities used an alternative route, effectively surrounding the blockade. While their presence did not lead to direct confrontation, ultimately the movement decided to lift the blockade. Since the blockade has been lifted, the autonomous movement in Bachajon has travelled to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, to provide information on recent events to solidarity organizations, and invited international observers to the community. On February 2, 2015, they announced the opening of a new regional centre for the Sixth Declaration in the community of Bachajon.


January’s confrontation is not the first act of repression against the movement. State police and paramilitaries have violently repressed the movement for autonomy in San Sebastian Bachajon, in a strategy that has been characterized as low intensity warfare. The repression began in full in February 2011, when police descended on a community meeting, detaining 117 community members, all affiliated with the movement for autonomy. The government took over the toll booth and since then the total number of arrests has continued to grow. Of these 117, some were quickly released, while others spent months or more than a year in jail. The final two prisoners were not released until December 2013. Other former prisoners from the community are Miguel Vázquez and Antonio Estrada, both adherents to the Sixth Declaration, who were released in December 2014.

The most recent unlawful arrests were on September 16, 2014, when Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano (whose brother Juan Carlos was assassinated), Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández were taken into custody. They are still imprisoned and report that they were tortured after being detained.

Two members of the movement for autonomy have been killed, without charges being brought against the perpetrators. Juan Vázquez Guzmán was murdered at the door of his home on Abril 24, 2013 and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano was killed on March 21, 2014. Community members say paramilitaries in the area murdered the campesinos and although a national and international solidarity campaign has called for justice, the cases have not been resolved.

This repression is not a coincidence or collateral damage–it is an integral part of the tourism developers’ strategy. The Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de las Casas (FrayBa) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, leaked documents from the U.S.-based tourism consulting company Norton Consulting and EDSA that recommend that, “The state and local government need to assure that the tourists who visit Chiapas and Palenque feel safe and protected” and that “the state needs to protect the developers and hotel operators from the perception of political instability”.

These documents are reminiscent of the famous memo from Chase Bank in Manhattan, which stated that the Mexican government had to, “Eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory.” The repression of social movements in Chiapas goes part and parcel with the efforts to development mega-tourism in the state.

Fighting for their land and territory

On Jan. 1, the representative of the movement giving the interview keeps his face covered with a ski-mask for fear of violent retaliation for speaking up. The dense rainforest surrounding Bachajon lies in the heart of territory that the Zapatista movement reclaimed in 1994 from large-scale landholders. Their territory is close to the magnificent Mayan archeological site of Palenque and the waves of national and foreign tourism that descend on the region. Mayan culture, memorialized at Palenque, is alive and well in Bachajón. The residents of Bachajón, who speak the Mayan language of Tzeltal, defend their territorial rights so they will be able to maintain their livelihoods practicing subsistence agriculture.


The representative explains that the people fighting to remain autonomous know as campesinos, or peasants, plans for a luxury hotel in their territory will not benefit them. The tourists who drive by the encampment do not look worried or scared as they pass local residents lining the highway with ski-masks covering their faces. Perhaps in the era of the state disappearance of 43 students fromAyotzinapa, Guerrero and the military execution of 22 in the town of Tlatlaya in June, the camouflaged trucks of the Mexican Army–a common site in Chiapas–provoke more fear than campesinos fighting for their livelihoods.

Mainstream media typically describes the conflict as centering on the tollbooth, but the land recuperation that took place on Dec. 21 and the ongoing resistance reveals a much broader territorial vision.

As one representative says, “We aren’t just concerned with the tollbooth. What we want is the land, because the land provides our food and is where we work to earn a living.” While the government once again controls the Aguas Azules tollbooth, the resolve of the movement for local autonomy has not flagged after more than seven years of struggle.

Martha Pskowski is a researcher and freelance journalist in Mexico and a member of the Americas Program team. This article was originally published in Spanish with the Mexican news collective SubVersiones

Photos: Heriberto Paredes, Yollatl Alvarado




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