dorset chiapas solidarity

February 29, 2016

San Andres Accords unfulfilled 20 years later

Filed under: Frayba, Indigenous, Zapatistas — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:52 pm



 San Andres Accords unfulfilled 20 years later



Dialogue at San Andres. Photo @ Radio Zapatista

February 16 marked 20 years since the signing of the San Andres Accords between the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the federal government. The accords were the result of five months of negotiations and dialogue about indigenous rights and culture in the Tsotsil municipality of San Andres Larrainzar, renamed San Andres Sakam’chen of the Poor by the Zapatistas.

On signing the accords, the government promised the creation of a judicial framework which would recognize the rights of indigenous communities and peoples, not only in Chiapas but throughout Mexico, among them the right of self-determination of the original peoples, recognizing their autonomy according to the cultural, social, political and economic characteristics of each group and place. The agreement on right of access to natural resources in the territory of indigenous peoples and communities was also relevant. The government promised to take these accords to Congress to convert them into reforms and additions to the constitution to guarantee their application, although the resulting proposal omitted a number of the signed accords. This was interpreted by the EZLN as a betrayal, a fact which led to the interruption of dialogue of the Zapatista commission with the federal government, ending the negotiations in the second round of six planned encounters.

“Already 20 years, in which the Government of Mexico has refused to fulfil [the San Andres Accords]; and at the same time they have been put into practice for 20 years in Zapatista territories, with their own forms of self-governance”, according to the declarations of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights (CDHFBC) in Proceso. In spite of this, “it is important to note that the counterinsurgency policy of the Mexican State continues against the EZLN and the peoples of Chiapas who build different paths to neoliberal capitalism. It is evident the militarization in indigenous zones, the drive to conflicts in communities with Zapatista presence, the use of campesino organizations to confront the Support Bases of the EZLN, and the use of government aid programs to control and co-opt the population that resists. Moreover, forced displacement and impunity for crimes against humanity committed by the Mexican Army and paramilitary groups persist”, CDHFBC noted.




February 27, 2016

Roberto Paciencia reports neglect of visual health

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:25 pm



Roberto Paciencia reports neglect of visual health



cerss-no-5CERSS NO.5, San Cristobal de Las Casas. Photo @ CGT Chiapas


On February 15, the unjustly imprisoned Roberto Paciencia Cruz publicly denounced loss of vision he is experiencing “due to blows of the torture I suffered in the installations of FECDO” during his detention. According to Paciencia, who has now been a prisoner for two years awaiting sentencing, “On September 24 last of the year 2015, they took me to hospital to an ophthalmologist, who prescribed spectacles.” He added that, “The director of the prison and the accountant told me that I would have to buy them, but unfortunately I am a poor prisoner and I don’t have the resources to buy them. For this reason I make this public denouncement. I blame the state for any complication that occurs.”

It is worth remembering that this prisoner, unjustly denied his freedom, has been denouncing the irregularities, such as lack of food, denial of visits, as well as his unjust detention and imprisonment, at the State Centre for Social Reintegration of Prisoners No. 5 (Centro Estatal de Reinserción Social de Sentenciados – CERSS- n°5) of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. Furthermore, referring to the case, the state government promised to “release [Paciencia] as soon as possible in a period of less than a month after February 5 of this year” at the negotiating table with ex-prisoners, members of the organization Supporters of the Voice of Amate (Solidarios de La Voz de Amate), who are claiming for damages for their years of unjust imprisonment, along with the release of prisoners of conscience such as Roberto Paciencia Cruz and Alejandro Diaz Santis.




EZLN to Mexican Judiciary Council: Why don’t you self-prescribe this

Filed under: Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:32 am



EZLN to Mexican Judiciary Council: Why don’t you self-prescribe this


Why don’t you self-prescribe this[i]

Zapatista Army for National Liberation


To the Federal Judiciary Council of Mexico:

The whole time the only terrorists have been those who for more than 80 years have so badly governed this country. You are simply the sink where the genocides go to wash their hands, and together you have converted the judicial system into a poorly built and clogged latrine, the national flag into a reusable roll of toilet paper, and the national shield into a logo made of undigested fast food. Everything else is pure theatre in order to simulate justice where there is only impunity and shamelessness, feigning “institutional government” where there is nothing more than dispossession and repression.

So, prescribe yourselves this: [IMAGE]


From 6 feet under.
The deceased and sorely missed (ha!) SupMarcos

Why so serious?
I adhere and subscribe (not prescribe/expire):

Authorized by the General Command of the EZLN
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

February 2016
P.S. So, does this mean the Tampiqueño[ii] is now free to leave community and go for some stuffed crabs? He’ll have to pick up the tab, of course, otherwise forget it. So he is free now to do what any other Mexican can do? That is, now he’s free to be exploited, mocked, defrauded, humiliated, disrespected, spied on, extorted, kidnapped, murdered, disappeared, and to suffer all those insults to his intelligence from those who say they govern this country? I mean, I’m asking because this is the only thing the “institutions” guarantee any citizen in this country who isn’t above.

[i] This communiqué is a response by the EZLN to the recent pronouncement by the Federal Judiciary Council of Mexico that concluded that the warrant out for the arrest of (then) Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos for actions stemming from the uprising of January 1, 1994, had expired (“se prescribe” in Spanish), due to the fact that 20 years exceeds the statute of limitations on the crimes for which he was accused. (The charges were terrorism, sedition, mutiny, rebellion, and conspiracy). The EZLN here plays with the double meaning of “prescribirse” (expire and prescribe). The Mexican judiciary says his arrest warrant “se prescribe” (has expired) and the EZLN answers, “why don’t you “autoprescribirse” (self-prescribe) …. this.”

[ii] “El Tampiqueño” is the name given by the EZLN to the person who the Mexican government claimed in 1995 was the man behind Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.




February 26, 2016

EZLN: And in the Zapatista communities?

Filed under: Autonomy, Women, Zapatista, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:40 pm



EZLN: And in the Zapatista communities?




Zapatista Army for National Liberation


February 2016

To the compañer@s of the Sixth:

To whom it may concern:

Compañeroascompañeros and compañeras:

Now we are going to tell you a little bit about the Zapatista communities, where the bases of support resist and struggle.

What we are going to share with you now comes from reports by the Zapatista compañeras and compañeros in the communities who are coordinators for their commissions (for example, health, education, young people, etc), autonomous authorities, or other organizational coordinators. But along with the compas of the Comité [CCRI] we checked to make sure this information wasn’t a lie, that things hadn’t been altered so that the good things would appear and bad things would remain hidden. The work of these writings is not to lie to our compas of the Sixth nor to those who support us and are in their solidarity. We won’t lie to you, to them, nor to anyone else.

If things are going badly we will tell you so clearly, but not so that you feel even more sad on top of everything that is happening in your own geographies and calendars. We tell you because it is our way of being accountable, of letting you know what’s happening and so that you know if we are on the path we said we were on or if we have wandered off that path, perhaps repeating the same vices we criticize.

But if we are on the right track, well we want you to know that too in order to bring joy to the collective heart that we are.

How do we know if we are on a good or bad path? Well, for us as Zapatistas it’s very simple: the communities speak, the communities rule, the communities do, the communities undo. The very moment someone heads down a bad path, the collective quickly gives them what is more or less a knock on the head, and they correct themselves or they’re out.

This is our autonomy: it is our path, we walk it, we get things right, we make mistakes, we correct ourselves.

In sum, we tell you the truth because we imagine you are sick and tired of lies. And truth, while sometimes painful, is always a relief.

So we don’t want to be like the bad governments who over the past days have made themselves up quite extensively, apparently to please the visitor and so he wouldn’t see what was happening below. But all that makeup only served to show how false the government is. That is, what reasonably intelligent person wouldn’t see the truth? Now whether that person admits or denies what they see, that is something else and that’s on them.

Okay then, without more fanfare. What we share with you here is happening in addition to what was already explained in the Zapatista Little School textbooks. If you didn’t attend the Zapatista Little School in community or from elsewhere or you don’t know what the textbooks say, we recommend you read them. There you will learn all about the process of the construction of autonomy.

What we are going tell you about now is new, new things that have since appeared, things that weren’t there a year or two ago.


Zapatista growth continues, and more and more young people [jovenes and jovenas] are joining.

In the area of health, the compañeras and compañeros are doing well. We see that there are fewer patients at the autonomous clinics because the work of prevention has grown substantially and the autonomous health promotores [promoters or teachers] attend to the people. Meaning, the people get sick less. Those who are in fact arriving more and more at the Zapatista autonomous clinics are the partidistas [people affiliated with state political parties].

In the area of education, primary school education is equally available everywhere. But there is a new demand from the communities: middle school and high school education. In some zones there is already a middle school, but not everywhere. There are now young people who are demanding higher education. They don’t want workshops, but higher education in the arts and sciences. But they don’t want a capitalist education in the institutional universities, but rather an education that respects our ways. In this sense we still have a lot to do.

In the area of economy, and not counting what already existed and is maintained through collective and individual work (cultivation of corn, beans, coffee, chickens, bananas, sheep, cattle, vegetable gardens, honey, as well as the supply stores, livestock sales, and other products), what we have seen is that overall production has grown, which has improved our nutrition and health, above all for the young people and children.

In some zones the autonomous health promoters are already training in performing ultrasounds, working in the laboratory, holding general medical consultations, and practicing dentistry and gynaecology. In addition they carry out preventive health campaigns in their regions. In one zone, the profits from a collective livestock project were used to buy laboratory equipment and an ultrasound machine. They already have compañeras and compañeros trained to operate these devices, which is an outcome of the health promotores of one caracol teaching those of another caracol. That is, they are teaching each other. Another hospital clinic is already under construction where minor surgeries can be carried out, similar to what already exists in La Realidad and Oventik.

Regarding work on the land, the corn cultivation and cattle-raising collectives have grown substantially. With the profits from that work, in addition to buying medicines and equipment for the clinics, the bases of support have bought a tractor.

In the autonomous stores there are no fancy name brand clothes nor the latest fashions, but there is no lack of slips, dresses, blouses, pants, shirts, shoes (the majority of which are made in autonomous shoemaking shops) and everything anyone might want to cover their private parts.

Those who have advanced the most in production and commercialization are the compañeras. A few years ago, with the fruit of the collective work of the comandancia, the comités and the insurgents (yes, we also work in production in order to generate income), a portion of our earnings were sent to each autonomous municipality so that the compañeras bases of support could start a collective of whatever kind they desired.

And they turned out to be much better administrators than the men; in one municipality the compañeras not only put together a successful cattle collective, now they are advanced to a point where they are giving their cattle “al partir” to other communities that have women’s collectives (We Zapatistas say “al partir” to mean that what is earned is divided in half, and one half is given to another party).

The same thing has happened with the cooperative stores: now they are making loans to other collectives or communities in the region, and sometimes even to individual compañeras.

All of the autonomous municipalities have collective projects for cultivating corn and some have livestock. All of the regions have collective work that produces profit. For example, in a recent celebration, the regions all contributed to funds for the cow that they ate at the festival and to pay the musicians.

The great majority of the communities have collective projects; in a few the compañeros don’t have collectives but the compañeras do, and in some communities there are two collectives, one of compañeros and one of compañeras. Individually they all struggle to make a living and they have been able to advance. Milician@s as well as insurgent@s work in production collectives in order to support themselves and to help support the communities.

In the Oventik caracol they now have an autonomous tortillería. We don’t know how much a kilo of tortilla costs in your geographies, but in Oventik it’s at 10 pesos a kilo. And these tortillas are made out of corn, not Maseca [processed cornmeal]. Even the public transportation vehicles make special trips to buy their tortillas there. Corn is not produced in the Highlands Zone of Chiapas where the caracol of Oventik is located. The corn is produced in the Jungle regions and then bought and sold between collectives in the zone so that Zapatista families can get corn at a good price and without middlemen. For this commerce they use trucks that were donated to the Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils] by good people who we won’t name here, but they and we know who they are.

In many Zapatista communities around 50% of people work in collectives and the rest work individually. In some, the majority work individually. Although collective work is promoted, individual work that doesn’t exploit other individuals is respected. The collective work as well as the individual work is not only sustaining itself but is growing.

The collectives are organized according to local decisions. There are collectives at the community level as well as men’s, women’s, and young people’s collectives. There are regional and municipal collectives. There are zone level collectives and Junta de Buen Gobierno collectives. When one collective does well, it supports the other collectives that are behind or slower. Or, in some regions, the collective production of food goes to the warehouses that supply the autonomous middle schools.




The news of all these advances made doesn’t come from the Zapatista comandancia; that is, it doesn’t come out of the heads of a few people, but rather from the sharing exchanges between the communities themselves. In these exchanges they talk about their work, their improvements, their problems and their errors. In that process new ideas are generated and shared among them. That is, the compañeros and compañeras are learning from each other.

Of course we as authorities also learn, a lot, from our Zapatista compañeras and compañeros.

The things we see and hear are terrible and marvellous, so much that we don’t know what will come of all these advances.

Right now we won’t tell you about the rearming of the paramilitaries, the increase in military, air, and land patrols, and everything the bad governments do to try to destroy us. We won’t enter into details because we know well that you all don’t have things easy either, that your resistances and rebellions suffer aggressions every day, every hour, and everywhere. And we know that nevertheless, you continue rebelling and resisting.

But we also know that you know that everything that we are telling you about here takes place in the midst of aggressions, attacks, harassment, slander, and complicit silence. In the midst of a war, that is.

And although in dark periods, like that of the present, there emerge all types of “marketers of hope,” the Zapatistas don’t let ourselves be taken in by ecclesiastic, secular, or lay stupidities of those now calling for a “new constituent”[i] that will “save us” and that rely on the same old methods of coercion that say they are critical but lie about the supposed support of the EZLN while trying to revise history under the guise of obsolete “vanguards” that, as of quite a while ago, ceded their legacy.

The EZLN does not support selling people little mirrors. We are in 2016, not 1521, wake up already.[ii]


Compas of the Sixth, Sisters and Brothers of the National Indigenous Congress:

With everything that is happening and the threats that pursue us, the Zapatistas are preparing ourselves for the worst, for what is coming.

We are not scared. Not because we are foolhardy, but because we trust our compas.

Indeed, it looks like in the face of the storm that is shaking heaven and earth all over the world, the Zapatista bases of support have grown. It is as if now is when their ability, wisdom, imagination, and creativity shine brightest.

In reality what these words are meant to do, more than inform or provide an accounting, is to embrace you[iii]and remind you that here, in this corner of the world, you have compas that, despite the distance of calendar and geography, have not forgotten you.

But not everything is going well. We will tell you clearly that we have identified a failure: the Zapatista women are advancing more than the men. That is, there is not equal development.

Everyday less and less remains of that time when the man was the only one who brought money into the home. Now in some zones it is the women’s collectives that are employing the men. And there are more than a few Zapatista homes where the woman is the one who gives money to the man so that he can buy his shirt, his pants, his bandana, and his comb in order to look handsome for the upcoming activities that we will soon announce.

Because maybe we are dirty, ugly, and bad, but this is for sure: we are well groomed.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.

Mexico, February 2016

From the Notebook of the Cat-Dog:

Fragment of a conversation between some partidistas and some Zapatistas:

Partidistas: The EZLN doesn’t receive government programmes like Procampo, Propspera, or Nuevo Amanecer de los Ancianos?

Zapatistas: No.

Partidistas: Who subsidizes you as an organization?

Zapatistas: We are organized and as bases of support we work together, we govern, and we have collective work projects. That is how we generate economic resources to sustain our resistance.

Partidistas: How can we as civil society organize ourselves and how can you advise, guide, and teach us?

Zapatistas: Look at the situation of the free media or the National Indigenous Congress. We are not here to say or decide how you should organize yourselves or to give your organization a name. The people must think and decide what to do and how they will organize.
Partidistas: What should we do?

Zapatistas: Our idea is to take down the capitalist system.


12745548_1973753089515572_7696231923710205408_nReport on the conversation that took place in the wee hours of the night in the month of February, between those two they call Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés and SupGaleano:

SupMoy: A recent report said that there are death threats and that the government wants to attack the caracoles in order to crush Zapatismo, because we make the government look bad.


SupMoy: It says they are looking for me and for you, in order to kill us.

SupGal: To kill us? It isn’t to arrest us? Take us into custody?

SupMoy: No, the report says “to kill them.”

SupGal: Son of a…. and why me? This is racist-colonialist-hetero-patriarchal-Eurocentrism. You’re the spokesperson, you’re the one they should be after. I’m just the last bastion of Zapatista machismo, which is obviously in clear retreat. And anyway, why such violence? Before they would just say “detain,” “take into custody,” “arrest warrant,” but now, “kill”? Plus, I’ve died several times already, don’t they take that into account? Why don’t they just accept it and write down “mission accomplished.” But don’t change the subject on me, I was telling you not to put that part about the women’s collectives in the communiqué.

SupMoy: And why not?

SupGal: Because if we include that we’re going to look bad to members of the masculine gender. A whole tradition of film by Pedro Infante and songs by José Alfredo Jiménez is at risk of disappearing. Are you in agreement with the erasure of ancestral cultures? No right?

SupMoy: Well as the ‘deceased’ used to say, Rome is fucked, because I already put that part in the communiqué.

SupGal: What!! And what about gender solidarity?

SupMoy: It would be better to think about how to get the men to try harder so that their collectives advance.

SupGal: Okay, okay, okay. We have to go back to our roots, as they say. I’m going to do a special program for Radio Insurgente. Game of Thrones has nothing on us; this is going to be all songs by that great comrade and leader, the first of his name, king of Garibaldi, father of dragons, and gentleman of “siete leguas”:[iv] Pedro Infante.

SupMoy: Hahahahaha. They’re not going to air it. The programming is run by a compañera.

SupGal: Son of a…. Damn the women’s revolutionary law! And what about José Alfredo Jiménez?

SupMoy: Oooh even less likely.

SupGal: Hmm… how about the Bukis then? The Temerarios? Brindis? Los Tigres del Norte? Piporro?

The discussion went on like that until the cat-dog, grooming its toenails, determined: woof-meow.

It was the wee hours of the night, and it was very cold, but despite a shadow looming over the surface of the earth, a tiny light illuminated the word “resistance.”

I testify, under oath of gender.

Note: This text was written on a word processor with open source free software, with operating system GNU/Linus, distro UBUNTO 14.04 LTS, on a very exclusive and well-known name brand computer “Free handout Z.A of V.C. of L.R” (i.e. “Z.A is “Zapatista Autonomous”; “V.C. is “Virtual Cooperation”; “L.R” is “Ludic Rebellion”), model “Deus Ex Machina 6.9,” “restored (it broke, but we put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle) in the Zapatista Alternative High Technology Department (DATAZ, by its Spanish acronym). Okay, okay, okay, the apparatus ended up as a three-dimensional figure that we call “KEKOSAEDRO”—because nobody knows exactly what it is now—and there were a few cables and screws leftover when we finished but it works well…. until it doesn’t work anymore. “UBUNTU” in the Zulú language also means “I am because we are.” Say ‘yes’ to free software. Fuck Microsoft, Apple, and so forth (if you know what I mean)! Linux rules! [English in the original]


[i] This reference is to a recent call from some in Mexico for the establishment of a new constitutional assembly.

[ii] The authors refer here to the historical legacy of European would-be conquerors trading beads and mirrors in exchange for enormous tracts of land and vast riches.

[iii] Abrazarlos, abrazarlas, abrazarloas is used for “embrace you” in order to give a range of possible gendered pronouns including male, female, transgender and others.”

[iv] “Siete Leguas” was the name of Pancho Villa’s horse and a “corrido” often sung by Pedro Infante.



Chiapas: Organizations warn of possible repression in Tila ejido

Filed under: Indigenous, sipaz, Uncategorized — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:12 pm



Chiapas: Organizations warn of possible repression in Tila ejido


tila (1)

Photo @ SIPAZ

On February 22, dozens of human rights and peace organizations, among them International Service for Peace, SIPAZ, sent a letter to the Chiapas and federal authorities in which they warned of possible repression of the Chol ejidatarios of Tila, who declared their autonomy last year in defence of their territory. Seven years ago, the ejidatarios won a protection order for the restitution of 130 hectares of their territory that were illegally taken by the municipal authorities for the establishment of an urban zone. With the refusal of those responsible to return the land, the ejido lodged a Non-compliance of Sentence case 1302/2010 with the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, which has been unresolved for five years.


“We know that in the commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the concession of protection, inhabitants of the ejido held a demonstration on December 16, 2015, which ended in front of the Town Hall, turning into a confrontation between the authorities and the demonstrators. This act culminated in a Declaration of Autonomy and Self-determination”, the organizations stated. The signatory organizations recognized the “legitimate” process of defence of territory that the ejido of Tila has exercised for more than 50 years. The Home for Migrants in Saltillo, the United Nations Professor of Human Rights of UNAM, The Montaña Tlachinollan Centre for Human Rights and the Friar Francis of Vitoria Centre for Human Rights, among other signatories, expressed their concern over the possibility that there may be a repressive reaction against the Choles by the federal, state and local authorities.



EZLN denounces conditions in communities affiliated to political parties and announces upcoming activities

Filed under: Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:02 pm



EZLN denounces conditions in communities affiliated to political parties and announces upcoming activities



EZLN march, December 21, 2012, San Cristobal de Las Casas. Photo@SIPAZ


The Zapatista Army of National Liberation published a communiqué on February 21, “Meanwhile…in the communities affiliated to political parties.” Signed by sub-commanders Moises and Galeano, it describes various situations of pillage and exploitation that communities are living through in communities that follow the party political system in the south-eastern zone of Chiapas.

Although they omitted the names of the communities and of the informers “who in some cases fear reprisals,” they denounced the privatization of communally held lands or ejidos through government projects in a number of communities, where sale of lands had been signed unknowingly in the belief that government support was being signed for. Likewise, they witnessed the pillage of indigenous peoples’ lands, which contain materials such as uranium, amber, sulphur, or potential tourist attractions, through the same methods of deceit or coercion. They also denounced that in some communities in the Ocosingo area they had been forbidden to cut trees for their necessities, such as cooking or building materials for homes, while lumber companies are permitted to cut.

As regards projects directed at women and as has been reported by other organizations, the recipients of the Prospera program have to meet certain preconditions to receive support. Some of these include compulsory Pap testing, and giving birth in hospitals instead of with the aid their traditional midwives. If the preconditions are not met, financial support is withdrawn. Moreover, they revealed that women who went to Tuxtla to receive their financial support were requested to come accompanied by the young women of the community, who “in exchange for receiving the project are obliged to have sexual relationships.” Added to this, the communiqué dealt with the recent distribution of digital televisions in lieu of the analogic switch-off. According to the text, at the distribution event in Comitan, “two people died, a child and a woman: the child died because it was crushed from the people pushing and the mother was unable to protect it; the woman was murdered when, on arrival home, the husband took out his pistol and shot her for not looking after his son.” As if this weren’t enough, not all of the televisions worked, and they also require the purchase of a scrambling device, which was interpreted as a form of government business with a company that sells the units.

Another feature reported was two cases of the presence of organized crime in communities. First, they made known the recruitment of men in the communities “to go and work in the north.” Gangers promised that they would be taken directly to their workplaces, guaranteeing transport and therefore avoiding possible security problems on the way. According to the EZLN, “the work is sowing marijuana and poppies” somewhere “they are not allowed to leave.” In another town, a family made an agreement with a drug dealer and one of the daughters was murdered for non-payment, which was videoed and sent to her father.

At the end of the communiqué, upcoming activities were announced for which “they [we] should be alert.”




Chiapas communities organize to protect sacred lagoon from tourist highway

Filed under: Frayba, Indigenous, water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:50 am



Chiapas communities organize to protect sacred lagoon from tourist highway



Candelaria residents erect a fence around the Suyul Lagoon to help protect it from intruders. (WNV/Sandra Cuffe)


Sandra Cuffe

The reeds and grasses are as tall as Sebastián Pérez Méndez, if not taller. The vegetation is so thick it’s hard to see the water in the Suyul Lagoon that he and other local Maya Tzotzil residents are working hard to protect. Pérez Méndez crosses the road to point out where aquatic plants serve as a natural filter for the water as it flows out the lagoon, located in the highlands of Chiapas, in southern Mexico.

“The water is under threat,” he said. Pérez Méndez is the top authority of the Candelaria ejido, a tract of communally-held land in the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas. “We’re not going to allow it.”

Communities in Chiapas are organizing to protect the Suyul Lagoon and communal lands from a planned multi-lane highway between the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and Palenque, where Mayan ruins are a popular tourist destination. Candelaria residents continue to take action locally to protect the lagoon. They also travelled from community to community along the proposed highway route, forming a united movement opposing the project.

It all started back in 2014 when government officials showed up in Candelaria looking for ejido authorities, including Pérez Méndez’ predecessor. It was the first residents had heard about plans for the highway. The indigenous inhabitants had not been consulted and were not shown detailed plans.

“They realized that [the government officials] were only seeking signatures,” Pérez Méndez said.

No one person or group is authorized to make a decision that would affect ejido lands, however, and there are strict conditions in place to ensure elected ejido leaders are accountable to members, he explained. An extraordinary assembly was held to discuss the highway project.

The Candelaria ejido was established in 1935, a year after a new agrarian law enacted during the Lázaro Cárdenas administration led to widespread land reform throughout Mexico. More than 2,000 people live in the 1,600-hectare ejido, and more than 800 of them WNV.Cuffe_.Photo-2-615x461

Candelaria residents paint over graffiti to fix up a roadside sign proclaiming their opposition to the highway project. (WNV/Sandra Cuffe)


“The ejido said no,” said Guadalupe Moshan, who works for the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre, or FrayBa, supporting Candelaria and other communities in Chiapas. “They didn’t sign.”

Candelaria leaders sought assistance from FrayBa in 2014, after they were approached by government officials and pressured to sign a document indicating their consent to the highway project that would involve a 60-metre-wide easement through communally-held lands. Officials told community members that the highway was already approved and that they would be well compensated, but that there would be consequences if they refused to sign, Moshan said.

“They told them they would suspend government programmes and services,” she explained. In the days following the extraordinary ejido assembly rejecting the project, there was unusual activity in the area, according to Moshan. Helicopters flew over the ejido, unknown individuals entered at night, and trees were marked, she said.

Protecting the Suyul Lagoon remains at the heart of Candelaria’s opposition to the planned highway. The lagoon provides potable water not only for Candelaria, but also for several nearby communities, said ejido council secretary Juan Octavio Gómez. Aside from the highway itself, project plans eventually shown to the community leaders include a proposed eco-tourism complex right next to the lagoon. That isn’t in the communities’ interest, Gómez explained.

“Water is life. We can’t live without it,” he said. “Without this lagoon, we don’t have another option for water.”

Fed by a natural spring, the Suyul Lagoon never runs dry. Local residents are careful to protect the water and lands in the ejido, where the majority of residents live from subsistence agriculture, sheep rearing and carpentry. They engage in community reforestation, but have plans to plant more trees, Gómez said.

The Suyul Lagoon is also sacred to local Maya Tzotzil. Ceremonies held every three years in its honour involve rituals, offerings, music and dance.

“It is said that it’s the navel of Mother Earth,” Pérez Méndez said.

Candelaria residents didn’t sit back and relax after rejecting the highway project in their extraordinary assembly. They have been organizing ever since. The Suyul Lagoon lies just outside the Candelaria ejido, but it belongs to ejidatarios by way of an agreement with the supportive land owner. Aside from the highway project and potential eco-tourism complex, the lagoon has caught the attention of companies, whose representatives have turned up in the area expressing interest in establishing a bottling plant.

It’s cold in February up in the highlands, but community members have been out all day, erecting a fence around the Suyul Lagoon to protect it from intruders. White fence posts are visible under the treeline across the sea of reeds. Like so many other local initiatives, fence materials are collectively financed by the ejido and the labour is all voluntary, communal work.

While residents continue stringing barbed wire from post to post, others take paintbrushes to one of their roadside signs. Locals have erected large signs next to roads in and around their ejido, announcing their opposition to the tourist highway.



A sign along the road leading to Candelaria informs passers-by of opposition to the planned super-highway. (WNV/Sandra Cuffe)


“We’re also already organized with the other communities,” Pérez Méndez said. “All the communities reject the super-highway.”

After they were approached by government officials, Candelaria ejido residents travelled from community to community along the entire planned highway route. Some communities hadn’t heard of the project at all, while others said they were pressured into signing documents indicating their consent, Pérez Méndez said. As a result of Candelaria’s visits, community organizing along the highway route led to the formation of a united front of opposition, the Movement in Defence of Life and Territory.

Candelaria also recently got together with other indigenous communities in the highlands to issue a joint statement rejecting the tourist super-highway and a host of other government and corporate projects and policies.

“Our ancestors, our grandfathers and our grandmothers have always taken care of these blessed lands, and now it’s our turn to [not only take] care of the lands, but also to defend them,” reads the February 10 communiqué.

“The neoliberal capitalist system, in its ambition to exploit natural assets, invades our lands,” the statement continues. “The government and transnational companies are violently imposing their mega-projects.”

Back along the edge of the Suyul Lagoon, Candelaria residents continue to string barbed wire from post to post. They’ve been at it for a while now, according to Pérez Méndez, but they’ve now stepped up their efforts and hope to finish the fence by the end of the month.

Pérez Méndez surveys the progress, protected from the unrelenting sun and icy wind by his hat and white sheep’s wool tunic. He becomes pensive when asked if he thinks communities will be able to defeat the highway project.

“Yes,” the ejido leader said, after giving it some thought. “We can stop it.”




Indigenous land and forest rights in the spotlight during pope’s visit to Mexico

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:24 am



Indigenous land and forest rights in the spotlight during pope’s visit to Mexico

Sandra Cuffe


Photo-1.Mongabay.Cuffe_.Pope_-800x600Las Abejas Civil Society association president Sebastián Pérez Vásquez welcomes the pope’s message speaking up for people and the planet. Photo by Sandra Cuffe.

During the pope’s recent five-day visit to Mexico, indigenous and community groups from throughout Latin America gathered to discuss land rights issues.

  • As an organization rooted in religion and faith, Pope Francis’ support for peace, marginalized people, and the environment strongly resonates with Las Abejas members, most of whom are Catholic.
  • Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, continues to resonate with many people and organizations in Latin America.
  • More than 100 people from 15 Latin American countries attended the event, held the weekend immediately preceding the Pope’s visit to the southern Mexican state.


Green wooden crosses line the edges of the open air auditorium overlooking the highlands of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. Below the cement floor lies the tomb where 45 Maya Tzotzil children, women and men are buried after having been massacred in Acteal by a paramilitary group in 1997. Killed while they were praying in the local chapel, the Acteal massacre victims belonged to Las Abejas Civil Society, a grassroots faith-based pacifist organization formed five years earlier.

“We’re still here, taking care of the survivors and of the blood of the martyrs,” Las Abejas president Sebastián Pérez Vásquez told Mongabay and a handful of other publications during a visit to Acteal last week, a few days before Pope Francis’ February 15 visit to Chiapas.


The December 22, 1997 massacre took place in the context of the Mexican government’s counterinsurgency campaign in Chiapas following the Zapatista uprising of 1994, when a guerrilla army of thousands of Mayans descended on cities and towns in the state, demanding land, autonomy, and democracy. Las Abejas supports the Zapatistas’ vision and demands, but does not support armed struggle. However, that did not stop the pacifist group from becoming a target in the ongoing low-intensity conflict.

Justice for the massacre of unarmed villagers continues to be a central focus for Las Abejas, but the group also defends land rights and speaks out against government reforms, natural resource exploitation, and other threats to indigenous territories, forests, and organizations. Indigenous communities in Chiapas face the imposition of hydro-electric dams, mining, infrastructure, and other projects in their lands, and community leaders organizing against such projects in the state have been threatened, jailed, and killed.

As an organization rooted in religion and faith, Pope Francis’ support for peace, marginalized people, and the environment strongly resonates with Las Abejas members, most of whom are Catholic.

“The pope brings an important message,” said Pérez Vásquez, adding that the pontiff defends Mother Earth. During the pope’s recent five-day visit to Mexico, Las Abejas participated in a gathering with indigenous and community groups from throughout Latin America to discuss that message. “It’s not just here that we’re struggling to defend territory, but in other countries too,” said Pérez Vásquez.


Photo-2.Mongabay.Cuffe_.Pope_-800x600Indigenous people and organizations discussed Pope Francis’ second encyclical during the pontiff’s February 2016 visit to Mexico. Photo by Sandra Cuffe.


Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, continues to resonate with many people and organizations in Latin America, where the majority of the population is Catholic. The 184-page document published by the Vatican in June 2015 deals with climate change, environmental destruction for economic gain, development, inequality, and the gospel of creation, among other themes. Addressed not to bishops but to all people, the crux of Pope Francis’ message is reflected in the encyclical’s subtitle, On Care For Our Common Home.

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concerns and affects us all,” states the Laudato Si document.

The encyclical also directly addresses indigenous people and the large-scale extraction and infrastructure projects affecting their lands. For indigenous people, land is not a commodity, paragraph 143 explains, but a sacred space that is key to identity.

“When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture,” the encyclical states.

Indigenous nations and organizations gathered on February 13 and 14 in Chiapas to discuss the encyclical together with theologians and with campesino, human rights, and environmental groups. Along with the encyclical, participants presented and discussed struggles in and threats to their own lands, forests, water, and territories.

“We see how Laudato Si describes the planet-wide ecological devastation caused by capitalism,” participants in the Latin American event in Chiapas wrote in a declaration addressed to Pope Francis and to the people of the world. “We see how government and companies insist on despoiling and destroying our Mother Earth, exploiting and commercializing her, without considering that she is the sum of our ancestral territories.”

Cándido Mezúa traveled to the gathering from Panama, where he is an elected leader in indigenous Emberá territories located near the border with Colombia. He also has a leadership role in the Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB), which coordinated the event together with the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (FRAYBA), the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA), and the Mexican Network of Peasant Forestry Organizations (MOCAF).

“There’s a significant change in the church regarding the situation of the planet,” Mezúa told Mongabay. “We saw that it was a good moment to engage in deeper reflection,” he said, referring to the pope’s visit to Mexico.


Photo-3.Mongabay.Cuffe_.Pope_-797x600Indigenous Emberá leader Cándido Mezúa traveled from Panama to attend a Latin American gathering during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico. Photo by Sandra Cuffe.


The Emberá continue their decades-long struggle for the legal recognition of collective land rights. At the same time, they are dealing with encroachment into their lands, the long-term impacts of dam construction, and the threat posed to their forests from oil companies and other interests. The issues the Emberá face are the same as those in many communities and indigenous territories up and down Latin America, said Mezúa.

“All of this is connected. Countries in the region are managed by macro-regional policies,” he said.

Mezúa sees the Laudato Si document as an important tool. Whether or not people are Catholic, the message contained in the encyclical coincides with the world view of many indigenous peoples and their defence of territorial rights, he said.

“For us, the sustainability of Mother Earth is a spiritual issue,” said Mezúa.

The Emberá leader and other participants in the Chiapas event hope the pope’s encyclical can help influence policy in the region. Words are not enough, they concluded, calling on governments and church authorities to follow the pope’s lead and take action for the future of the planet.

Article published by Ruxandra Guidi on February 17, 2016.



February 24, 2016

EZLN: Meanwhile…

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:19 pm



EZLN: Meanwhile…




MEANWHILE… in the partidista [political party affiliated] communities



February 2016.

To the compañer@s of the Sixth:

To whom it may concern:

To our compas and those who aren’t compas:

What we are going to relate to you here comes from the indigenous partidistas that live in various zones of the south-eastern Mexican state of Chiapas. Although they are active in, supportive of, or work directly for different institutional political parties (PRI, PAN, PRD, PVEN, PMRN, PANAL, PT, PES, PFH… in addition to any others that join the crowd between now and 2018), what they share is having received aid programs from the bad government, as well as serving as the human component for votes and for earthly and heavenly herding. This in addition, of course, to being indigenous and Mexican.

What you are about to read has not appeared, does not appear, nor will it appear in the local, national, or international paid media. It also directly contradicts the government’s propaganda and the praises sung by its media (badly, of course).

In sum, it is evidence of a crime: the “legal” dispossession of lands, history, and the culture of indigenous communities who believed that the bad governments and partidista organizations were there to help them. We have omitted the real names of these communities and persons at their explicit request, as in some cases they fear retaliation and in others they feel shame and expect mockery for the affront they have suffered.

The protagonists here are only a small portion of the victims of a war, the most brutal, terrible, bloody, and destructive war in the history of the world: a war against Humanity.

We are including here just a few examples, though there are many and the lies and suffering are equally prevalent in all of them. Here goes:

What we write here is what is happening in the partidista communities.

It may be hard to believe but what we tell you here is fact, exactly as the compañer@s bases of support have recounted to us, and exactly what those in the communities who are not Zapatistas say about what is happening in their villages. This is in addition to what the compañeros and compañeras of the National Indigenous Congress are suffering in their communities across the country, something that is little known because there is no press that reports on it, as the majority of the existing press is paid press.

This, what we write here, is what has happened just in the last year.

We will look in as if we were in a subterranean Drone to see how the partidistas from below are doing, far from the governmental statistics and paid ‘news’ inserts in the media.

Near La Realidad, there is a community—well, they will remain a community if they defend themselves, you’ll see what happened there—where the people are not Zapatistas, but rather partidistas.

The bad government offered its livestock project there. They gave cattle to all the ejidatarios, not to hold in common but to hold individually. Each one got their cow, their own horse, saddle, corral, wire fence, and salt, and they got a veterinary medicine kit to share.

People were very pleased. They even had posters and t-shirts praising the government for fulfilling its promises. The governing officials got their photos taken and paid the paid media to publish the big news: “the partidistacommunities are improving; the Zapatistas are the same or worse off than in 1994.” The officials wrote in their accounting ledgers that they had spent a lot in order to hide what they stole: a portion for themselves, another portion for the government, another bit for the paid media.

But it turns out that the news media run around like chickens with their heads cut off, not knowing where to go: to the story of El Chapo who escaped for the second time and who was captured for the third, to the story of the pope who has just arrived, or of the pope who has just left, and meanwhile in whatever corner of Mexico or the world you peer into, they have beat-raped-jailed-murdered-or-disappeared-who-knows-who. And the news is just part of the system, just one more commodity. In this case it sells if it is reported and it sells if it is silenced. So the media get paid to report it… and paid even more to keep it quiet.

But only a short time had passed when the ejidatarios [collective land holders] of the community receiving governmental support had to cover “a need” and sold a cow. When we say “a need” it means they had an urgent problem, like a serious illness. When the project inspector came and began to count the cows, one by one, that had been given to the community, one was missing. The inspector asked the ejidatario whose cow was missing and what happened and the man answered: “I sold it because I had a need.” The inspector said, “you can’t sell it, why didn’t you ask permission first? You will have to buy a replacement, of the same size and breed.” And the ejidatorio said to the inspector: “but how, sir, if I already spent the money on the urgent need I had, where am I going to get the money for the replacement?” And the inspector replied, “That’s not my problem, that’s your problem. Buy the replacement, that’s all there is to it, and if you don’t, we’re going to take everything else away.”

Not even a month had passed and the damned inspector came back. He got all the ejidatarios together and got out a bunch of papers and showed them to the people saying, “all these papers are the lists, receipts, and invoices for everything you have received from the government. That is why this land is no longer yours, you will have to leave, and it’s better for you to go voluntarily, because if not you will go by force. If you go willingly, the place where you will go to live is ready for you: it will be in Escárcega, state of Campeche, or else you will go to Los Chimalapas.

So what had been happening all this time was that while the people were feeling happy with the support of the bad government, what they were actually doing was taking care of cattle that wasn’t even theirs, like peons. And what they were really signing for, with their ejidal accords and voter credentials, was the selling off their lands, cheap, without realizing it.

Right there the smiles stopped and the shame, sadness, pain, and rage started.

Because that area is a tourist zone.

That is where the Jataté river has left a few islands that are very beautiful. And that is what these men who live for money want. This is happening in community X, official municipality of Maravilla Tenejapa, along the border with Guatemala.

Do you know where Los Chimalapas is? Yes, bordering the state of Oaxaca. Do you know that there are frequently conflicts there, land problems, between Oaxacan and Chiapan campesinos? Well, those are going to increase. The federal and state governments are using that place as a relocation site for those who are kicked off their lands. This is what governmental populism does: it doesn’t resolve problems, what it does is make them bigger and then transfer them to other geographies so that they explode on other calendars.

The needs of the people do not matter to the bad governments and the partidistas above. All of their campaigns and social programs are not only an enormous lie and a source of self-enrichment, but also a means of dispossession.

But let’s keep listening to and seeing the partidistas:

In the zone of the caracol of Garrucha (but also in other zones), this is what happened: the communities W, X, and Y, have received the “Pro Arbol” project. There are other communities who also have received it, but we didn’t hear about them. But these three communities did give this account from the partidistas in the official municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas.

The government prohibited all of these communities from cutting down trees to meet their needs, like firewood to cook, or wood for the construction of their houses. The people are saying that they are afraid of what will happen to them, that they were only given a small slice of grassland to plant their cornfields, and if they cut down the medium-height brush around there they are fined. So if they have to repair a piece of wood from their small shacks, they have to buy a wood plank from the sawmills. The sawmills belong to large companies and these companies can cut down trees, all the trees they want, there exactly where the campesinos can’t cut anything. If the campesinos need firewood to cook, then they have to buy it somewhere and carry loads of wood to their houses. There they go with their firewood on their backs, walking the same highway as the big trucks that are transporting gigantic tree trunks cut from the same community land whose inhabitants are prohibited from cutting firewood in order “to protect the ecology.”

Where do the campesinos get the money to buy the wood plank they need for their house or firewood for cooking? From governmental programs. What do they have to do in order to receive government handouts? Present the assembly agreement, identity card, the CURP, and all of those papers that tag people just like they tag cattle and trees. These tags are supposed to give people identity but what they actually do is take it away; now they are not so-and-so person, they are such-and-such number.

And why do the bad governments want these papers? To demonstrate that the campesinos sold their land legally, so that they can evict them legally, and legally displace them to other lands, which are illegally settled. And so on.

But, what is the situation of the women in the partidista families? Well, we’ll tell you what the partidistas themselves say. In 2 communities, X and Y, the women went to collect the [government] project handouts, but the government told them that the girls of the community should accompany them as well and that they had to go to Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of the Mexican state of Chiapas, where the governor and his officials live. It turns out that, upon arriving in Tuxtla, they took the girls in one direction and the grown women in another. But among the girls, by mistake, was one grown woman. And it was this woman who communicated with her husband and said that they had been locked up in a house for 3 hours, and the girls said they had been forced to have sexual intercourse. And now the community is saying that what the officials are actually doing is requiring sexual relations in exchange for project handouts. For example, one girl was having problems because she had been forced to have sexual intercourse, and she asked her mother if that’s what happens the first time, if sexual intercourse is in fact painful. And her mother asked her, “why daughter, what’s wrong? Why do you ask this?” And the girl had to explain what happened in Tuxtla.

So the bad government is re-imposing the “right of the first night” (where when a girl was going to get married, the ranch or hacienda owner had the right to rape her first) in the partidista communities. That is how they govern, acting just like the ranch and hacienda owners from before. And also like before, they have the blessing of the High Clergy who opens the doors of the cathedrals for them so that (for a payout) they receive the sacraments, are absolved of their crimes and rapes, and once again pose, pure and smiling, in photos for the paid press and on television. This is who those governors and officials who pray with devotion and are first in line for ecclesiastic blessings really are.

That is how hell is brought forth with a blessing on earth.


And the partidista young people?

We can’t say in which community or communities what we are going to tell you about now happened. But two mestizo men showed up there saying that they worked with some major businessmen and that they were looking for workers. They said that they knew there were people who wanted to go work in the north but that it’s difficult to get there, and that they were willing to take them directly to the work sites. These 2 guys ended up recruiting 9 young people. A few months later, one of those young people managed to communicate with his family and that’s how they found out that he had been shot because he had fled the place where they were locked up. It turns out that the work was planting marijuana and poppy, that they weren’t allowed to leave, that they had been told clearly, “you will never leave here,” and he didn’t know if the others would be able to get away but their families should know how things were where they were taken.

And in another partidista village: a family made deals with narco-traffickers. Something went wrong because the father got a message, “if you don’t pay, your family will pay.” And that’s what happened, he received a cell phone image of his daughter’s head cut off, saying that if he wanted to bury her he would find her at such-and-such place. Other relatives went to pick up the body of the girl. But before that tragedy the family had been very pleased that they had good pay without having to work much.

In another village, in the northern zone of Chiapas, some people from the government came to offer “projects” for coffee, corn, school, medical clinics, churches, and highways, and the people accepted. They were happy because they could live well. Later the government officials came back to tell them that they would have to leave that place because there was uranium there, which was very toxic, and they’d have to leave their homes and lands willingly or by force. And if they left willingly they could go to Escárcega or Chimalapas.

They showed them the invoices and receipts from all of the expenses of the projects. And there were their names, their pictures, their ejidal assembly accords, everything that legally demonstrated that they were not in fact receiving aid but rather selling their lands.

In another zone, in a village in the municipality of Simojovel, there is amber and the people work in amber extraction in order to survive. Well, when there was that campaign to privatize the ejidos, some communities fell into the trap [of privatization]. So the owners of the [ejido] land then started selling it off piece by piece, meter by meter, and people from around there bought it up to see if there was amber there they could sell. But one day they were all run off because a Chinese businessman arrived to extract the amber. The foreign capitalist had all of the legal papers in order, thanks to the signatures of the people who thought they were signing to receive government aid and projects.

In other partidista villages strange people have shown up and the community has caught and fined them for entering their lands without permission. One community charged 300,000 pesos and the strangers paid it, even offering a little more, saying “we have come for what is now the first phase; there will be a second and third phase, and you all are going to have a lot of work, that is, good jobs with the new landowner.” Another community also caught some strangers who arrived by boat and charged them 100,000 pesos. The strangers paid the fine and said they had come to research the place because there were sulfur and other mines there, and that this was also just a first phase and there would be second and third phases. In another community, close to the Miramar lagoon, a partidista commented that what they had received from governmental programs at the beginning of December (2015) was the last they would receive because it completed payment for the land and that the owner was going to come live on his land, that is, the new Japanese owner of that land. The thing is that these communities had everything they needed, they were well attended to, they even had an incubator for raising chickens. They received all the governmental aid programs and it turns out that what they had done, unknowingly, was sell their lands to a foreigner.

Another governmental program is PROSPERA, which used to be called Oportunidades. Women who sign up for this program receive aid for each child that they have in school. But this program has conditions, and what we know about these conditions is the following: the women are obligated to see a doctor frequently and forced to have pap smears. If they refuse the exams, they lose their aid. This program also prohibits the community from using some traditional communal health services, such as midwives. Now the women have to go to the city to give birth in the hospitals. If they are allowed in, that is.

Another issue is the question of the digital televisions. The government is handing out televisions to all of the partidistas. On December 22 and 23 of 2015, people from all of the communities in the municipality of Las Margaritas gathered at the sports centre of Comitán. People began lining up to receive their television at 12 midnight, and really a lot of people came. What happened there was that 2 people died, a child and a woman: the child died because people were pushing in the crowd and the child was crushed as the mother couldn’t defend him; the woman was murdered when, upon arriving home, her husband took out a pistol and shot her for not having protected their child. A partidista gave us this account.

A few days after the people got their televisions, the partidista women said that many of the TVs were broken, many of them short-circuited when they were connected and burned out. Others turned on but didn’t show anything; apparently now they have to buy some additional device in order to see anything. The partidistas say that it is a business that Peña Nieto made with a Japanese company.


Well, those were just a few examples. There are many more, and they are equally or more chilling and infuriating as the ones we recounted here.

We are not lying or inventing things.

These are the words of the partidistas who, in their shame and rage, have come to us, as Zapatistas, to ask for advice and support.

We Zapatistas listen respectfully.

We don’t scold them for their betrayals, attacks, and slander.

We don’t throw in their faces the fact that they have aided our persecutors in the past and many times helped those above attack us.

We don’t mock their tragedies and shame.

We do not take joy from their pain.

Nor do we tell them that they should become Zapatistas, because we know well that it is difficult to be a Zapatista.

This has been, is, and will be our life and death: as Zapatistas.

This is what we told them:

“We Zapatistas have nothing to offer, not paid projects, not money, not earthly or heavenly promises. We only have our example. Organize yourselves, don’t let anyone tell you what to do or how or when to do it, defend what is yours. Resist, struggle, live.”

Now perhaps you are asking yourselves what the partidistas do in the face of these aggressions, evictions, and impositions. And the answer is very simple: they pass themselves off as Zapatistas.


One partidista said: “That’s the only way we are respected. So we hide our papers and we change our names. Because of the ignorance imposed upon us by the government, we thought that the Zapatistas were bad people. We see now that’s not the case.

We hope that the same thing does not happen again, that we will no longer be spies and traitors. We see now that one who betrays will be betrayed. And the truth is that we are very ashamed and enraged that we have been mocked once again, as always.

We thought that we were doing well, and we were only awaiting the worst.

We thought that we had so much, and now we have nothing.

We were blind and now we are naked.

We made fun of you, calling you “fucking Indians,” and it turns out that you are much better off than we are because you have your organization that does not abandon you, that does not detour from its path, that does not sell out, does not give up.

That’s what they told us.

The Zapatista that was listening to the partidista responded:

“Change our path, sell out, give up? Never.”

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.

Mexico, February 2016

NOTICE FOR THE SIXTH AND THE NATIONAL INDIGENOUS CONGRESS: In the next few days we will convoke a series of activities. Be alert.

Note: this text was produced in its entirely with a word processor using free and open code software, with a GNU/Linux operating system, distro UBUNTO 14.04 LTS. “UBUNTU” in the Zulú language means “A person is a person through other people.”

Say “yes” to free software.


Y MIENTRAS TANTO EN… las comunidades partidistas




Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos Free of Charges After 20 Years

Filed under: Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:06 pm



Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos Free of Charges After 20 Years



Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN in Chiapas in 1996. | Photo: Creative Commons


Subcomandante Marcos has faced charges for terrorism and illegal firearms possession since 1995, one year after the Zapatistas declared war on Mexico.

The iconic leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, subcomandante Marcos, is no longer wanted for any crimes after a Mexican federal judge announced Tuesday that the 1995 order for his arrest had expired.

Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Subcomandante Galeano, has faced charges for terrorism, sedition, and possession of firearms used by the Mexican military, among other crimes, but prosecution period for those charges have expired.

Arrest warrants for 10 other EZLN members have also expired, authorities announced Tuesday.

The EZLN declared war against the Mexican state on January 1, 1994, launching the Indigenous movement in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas into the international spotlight as an example for autonomous social movements around the globe.

Over two decades after the masked Indigenous army emerged from the Lacandon jungle and announced its resistance to Mexico and to the world, the Zapatista struggle continues on the path of self-determination and new alternatives to global capitalism.

On May 24, 2014, in a statement on the EZLN website, the rebel leader announced, “Marcos, the character is no longer necessary … His character was created and now his creators, the Zapatistas, are destroying him.”

Galeano went on to say that Marcos, the character, had appropriated the attention of the movement, and that the move to “kill” him was not due to illness, death or internal purge of the group.

“I declare that the one known as Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos no longer exists,” he said. “The voice of the Zapatista National Liberation Army will no longer come from my voice.”


Contrary to what many analysts previously believed, Marcos did not announce he would step down as EZLN’s leader.

“In the end, those who understand will know that there is no departure of what was never here, nor death for someone who never lived,” he said, signing off as “Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.”

The name Galeano is a reference to Jose Luis Solís López “Galeano,” a teacher and EZLN leader killed in May 2, 2014 by a paramilitary group.



February 22, 2016

The Indigenous Struggle for Land and Autonomy in Chiapas

Filed under: Uncategorized — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:14 pm




Originally posted to It’s Going Down




In January 2016 It’s Going Down held an interview with Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group which is part of the broader UK Zapatista Network. The group is particularly involved in the translation and dissemination of news from social movements and struggles in the region of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. We wanted to know about a wave of land reclamations that have been carried out by the indigenous peoples of the region as well as growing resistance to extractive megaprojects. We also wanted to know what the role of the Zapatista Movement and the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) as well as the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) was in these expanding struggles for land and autonomy.

IGD: Can you tell us a little bit about Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group? How did it form and what kind of work do you do?

There are many individuals and collectives throughout the world who are adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandόn Jungle, or La Sexta, or the equivalent, and who in their various ways, according to their own calendars and geographies as the Zapatistas say, offer solidarity to the compas in Chiapas and at the same time develop their own struggles and resistances.

The people who on this occasion have made humble suggestions of possible answers to your questions all operate in their various ways within the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network, and some are members of different groups within their various localities. However, the questions have NOT been discussed among the network as a whole, and so anything written here does not represent the views of the network, or indeed of any of the groups within it. We do however all share the view that we would need to write a book in answer to each of these question in order to do them justice!

Some of us have been engaged in Zapatista solidarity since January 1994, while others came along later. Some are engaged in practical solidarity through appropriate technology such as water projects and some who have the necessary skills have been part of healthcare projects; others have focused on fundraising, and have contributed funding to the construction of small health clinics and schools or whatever was most important according to decisions made by the various JBGs; some have been out to Chiapas as human rights observers, or participated in caravans; others have promoted education projects and workshops, while others have been involved in research and reporting. Many have participated in actions, whether protests outside the Mexican Embassy, street stalls in different towns and cities, disruption of events through theatre and information-sharing. We have written letters, pronouncements and statements of solidarity, organised petitions and coordinated actions. One important part of our activities has been the distribution and sharing of information in English. As part of this we have endeavoured to produce newsletters, write articles, and translate important documents, sometimes as part of the International Zapatista Translation Service.

But as such, anything we have written here should not be seen as the words of any particular group. Our knowledge is small, and we have shared with you some impressions in solidarity with the excellent work being done by It’s Going Down. 

We have quoted extensively from “Words of The EZLN on the 22nd Anniversary of the Beginning of the War Against Oblivion,” which is the organisation’s most recent communiqué.

IGD: You focus on Chiapas. What has been happening there in recent years and months?

Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and the poverty is highest among the indigenous peoples, who also in many areas lack schools or teachers, healthcare, water, sewerage, electricity, floors or roofs to their houses and paved roads. The original demands of the Zapatistas were:  land, work, food, health, education, dignified housing, independence, democracy, freedom, justice, and peace, and, while the situation is now very different among the Zapatista autonomous communities, for many of the indigenous, especially in the poorest areas of Chiapas, not much has changed and deep poverty remains.

However, the EZLN tell us that hunger has been eradicated in Zapatista communities, and that what is now present is dignity, represented by the fact that:

The food on their tables, the clothes they wear, the medicine they take, the knowledge they learn, the life they live is THEIRS, the product of their work and their knowledge. It isn’t a handout from anyone. We can say this without shame: the Zapatista communities are not only better off than they were 22 years ago; their quality of life is better than that of those who sold out to political parties of all colours and stripes …..They have built another form of life, governing ourselves as the collective peoples that we are, according to the seven principles of lead by obeying, building a new system and another form of life as original peoples.

EZLN December 2015

Following the uprising of January 1st, 1994, President Salinas de Gortari and his PRI successors in government avoided serious negotiation with the EZLN and sought instead to isolate them through a counterinsurgency plan, developed according to US manuals. The Campaign Plan, known as Chiapas 94, included two counterinsurgency strategies which are still very much in operation today: the formation of paramilitary organizations in Zapatista-influenced regions, and the targeted use of government subsidies to divide Zapatista communities.

As part of this counterinsurgency war, paramilitary groups, encouraged, trained, financed and armed by the three levels of government, still operate with impunity, driven by the desire for land, and over recent years and months there has been an upsurge in this activity and former groups have been reactivated. This activity has resulted in large numbers of people being dispossessed from their land, territory, history, identity and roots. A May 2014 report said there were 25,000 persons in Chiapas living in “protracted displacement,” and more than 2,000 children in the northern and highlands of Chiapas have been displaced from their communities since 2011 as a result of violence.

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) is currently running a campaign, “Faces of Dispossession,” which seeks to “make visible the ways in which native peoples are violently evicted from their territories,” and to “reflect the serious human rights violations which cause the forced displacement, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and lack of access to justice” which “constitutes a pattern of impunity resulting from the implementation of the Plan Chiapas 94 as a strategy of war against the people who build alternatives to the neoliberal system of death.” The campaign focuses on families and communities suffering displacement and lack of resolution or justice over long periods, such as the four families (19 people) from Banavil, Tenejapa, who have been displaced from their homes and lands now for four years, after an attack in which their father was disappeared and for which the attackers remain unpunished.


Chiapas remains the state with the largest number of military encampments. Along with an increase in acts of harassment by the Mexican army, at the same time paramilitary or “shock” groups such as CIOAC-H operate with impunity in the caracoles of La Garrucha and La Realidad. Their origin is in campesino mutual support groups, which have been bought by local political parties. The appalling attack on La Realidad in May 2014, which resulted in the murder of the teacher Galeano and the destruction of the school and clinic, is well-known. The clinic and school have been rebuilt through international solidarity, and Galeano has been re-born as Subcomandante Galeano, but the paramilitaries continue their threats, intimidation and violence. The EZLN denounced that the temporarily imprisoned “intellectual authors of the murder of the compañero and teacher Galeano” have now “returned, fat and happy, to their homes in the village of La Realidad.”

The Christian pacifist civil society group Las Abejas of Acteal, 45 of whose members (plus 4 unborn) were murdered in the Acteal Massacre of 1997, have been denouncing and warning for several years that, as the unjustly released culprits return to their communities and acts of violence proliferate, the situation is now similar to the way it was prior to the massacre. Attacks on individual members of Las Abejas are increasing. There is great concern as to what might unfold, as the local government continues to ignore the situation.


There has also been a recent resurgence of paramilitary activity in the Highland zone of Chiapas, marked by the reactivation of the group ‘Paz y Justicia,’ partly in response to recent collective land reclamations, especially recent events in the Ejido Tila. Not all of these attacks are made by groups described as ‘paramilitaries’ or ‘of a paramilitary appearance.’ Other groups of attackers are described as ‘political party supporters’ or ‘members of the PRI,’ although all the actions are along the same lines.

Another tactic of counter-insurgency is government welfare assistance programs, most recently one known as PROSPERA, which replaced PROCEDE. These “provide and distribute crumbs, taking advantage of some people’s ignorance and poverty.” What happens is that people give up their lands and autonomy and become dependent on government handouts.

An example of what this can lead to is what happened in the community of La Pimienta in the municipality of Simojovel, an area of extreme poverty, in May 2015. As part of one of these programmes, members of the community were told it was compulsory for all children up to the age of 5 to be vaccinated. Babies as young as 28 days of age, many of whose births had never been registered, were among the 52 who received the vaccinations. It seems the medication was contaminated or out of date, and soon afterwards the babies became seriously ill. It took the anxious parents 24 hours to reach a doctor, for the only clinic in the whole area had no staff and no medicine, and there was no ambulance; by this time 2 of the babies had died, and 29 were seriously ill. The federal and state governments promised to take measures to make sure this would never happen again; however, there is still no clinic, no doctor, no medication, the road remains unpaved and two bridges still cannot be crossed in wet weather.

Nevertheless, as well as the recent intensification in these particular forms of low intensity, civilian-targeted warfare, there has also been a notable increase in organisation and activity among some of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, and in attempts to use the legal system to defend their rights, through the institution of amparo, a form of legal protection or injunction. There has been a marked growth in activity and confidence among the organised communities in resistance. They are working together more, and supporting each other, forming networks of, for example, adherents to the Sexta. Different communities are coming together and building alliances against megaprojects, such as the new highway from San Cristobal to Palenque, and whole areas are declaring themselves free of mines and dams.

There has also been increasing activity among grassroots Catholic community groups, such as the Pueblo Creyente (the Believing People), which arose from the Theology of Liberation (Vatican II, 1962) practiced by the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz, and currently by Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo. Especially in parishes in the municipalities of San Cristobal and Simojovel, huge pilgrimages have been launched against government corruption and links with organised crime, manifested in drug trafficking, prostitution, and a proliferation of cheap bars selling alcohol, which lead to violence and the breakdown of family life. The priests and members of the parish council have been threatened with death by political party supporters.

These movements are showing a growing tendency to also speak out in defence of the rights of women. For example, on November 25th, 2005, the Movement in Defence of Life and Territory held a pilgrimage in 11 municipalities in Chiapas to make visible the situation of dispossession and plunder they are experiencing as indigenous peoples; and especially to denounce the violence experienced by women. Following the pilgrimage, a declaration warning of the grave risk to communities in Chiapas from megaprojects was issued.

Since 2013 the Zapatista communities and the EZLN have organized a number of events that sought to strengthen their national and global connections, and they have also strengthened the autonomous communities. In August 2013 and December to January 2014, they organized the first ‘little school.’ They invited individuals and collectives who had been in solidarity with them into their communities. Those invited were first introduced to the topics studied in the ‘little school’ in the relevant caracol (regional governance centre, seats of the regional Good Government Councils) and were then sent to communities, where they stayed with families and were always accompanied by a guardian who also served as a translator. The students were also given study books. In this way they were introduced to life in the communities, ie. the Zapatista schools, healthcare, governance, assemblies, collective work projects, etc.

In May 2014 one of the guardians of the little school, known as ‘Galeano,’ was murdered by paramilitary groups in the community of La Realidad. In response to this event, the EZLN and the Zapatista communities cancelled a seminar they had planned to honour the recently deceased philosopher Luis Villoro. They also took the decision that the figure of the Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, who had been the spokesperson of the EZLN as well as one of their commanders, was going to no longer exist. The person who embodied ‘Marcos’ took on the name ‘Galeano’. Also, the Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés has since taken a more active role in speaking in public.

The planned seminar was then held in May 2015 under the title ‘Critical Thinking in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra.’ The contributions are available in their entirety on and on

Over New Year’s 2014/2015 the festival of Resistances and Rebellions was organized, which emphasized the cultural and musical element of contemporary global resistance struggles in the Zapatista spirit. In the summer of 2015, the EZLN and the communities ran the second grade of the ‘little school,’ which was taught online by video and reading. Those who were admitted to that grade had to submit a set number of questions on the material they studied.

The EZLN seminar held in May 2015, and the second phase of the Escuelita, in July and August 2015, demonstrate that the Zapatista project continues to inspire and inform. People from all over the world continue to be drawn to Chiapas, where another world is being created, bit by bit. “During these 22 years of struggle of Resistance and Rebellion, we have continued to build another form of life, governing ourselves as the collective peoples that we are, according to the seven principles of lead by obeying, building a new system and another form of life as original peoples.”

In summary then, we have a situation of what are in origin land-based conflicts, fomented by the authorities in the hope of breaking the resistance. They hope to represent any confrontations as quarrels between indigenous peoples rather than government-backed conflicts. Pressure on land increases as climate change affects crop production – for example there has been a plague of coffee rust this year which has destroyed much of the crop – and as more people have been tempted by the new regulations to sell off their share of the communal lands, and who then soon find themselves with nothing. The three levels of government repress with violence any form of dissent or resistance, and the perpetrators of the attacks are rewarded with land and impunity. However, despite all this the indigenous people continue to assert their collective rights and those of mother earth. La lucha sigue, the struggle continues.

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IGD: Can you talk about the land reclamations?

Everything comes down to the land, and more recently to the resources under it. The land has been stolen from the original peoples for more than 520 years. The Zapatistas say that “capitalism was born of the blood of our indigenous peoples and the millions of our brothers and sisters who died during the European invasion.” From its beginning, capitalism was made possible by that ‘dispossession’, ‘plunder’, and ‘invasion’ called ‘the conquest of the Americas’. This attempted conquest initiated a ‘war of extermination’ against indigenous peoples which still continues, and has been characterized by “massacres, jail, death and more death” (National Indigenous Congress, or CNI and EZLN, 2014). Since this theft and plunder took place, the indigenous in many places became peons or serfs working the lands of their grandparents as the indentured servants of great landowners who have treated them with contempt, as possessions. The indigenous have patiently waited their time to reclaim the land which is their heritage. As the Zapatistas always say “we proceed very slowly.”

land-chiapas-300x225For indigenous peoples, along with others whose survival and sustenance also comes from the lands they work, the land is the basis of everything; the land is part of them, and they are part of the land. The land is the mother earth, part of the original web of life. Without their lands, they are nothing, which is why there is such profound despair amongst groups of displaced people who lack the language to express the concept of their separation from their lands and territory which represent their very existence. Their lands were passed down to them from their ancestors, and are where their gods or spirits or saints live, where their dead are buried, where the sacred maize is grown. The Maya are the people of the corn. Their land is their culture, their history, their identity. It is essential to understand this before talking of land reclamations. Land is essential to providing for their family, their children, on all levels; land is the only means of survival.

One of the main factors behind the uprising at the dawn of 1994 was that it marked the day when Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) The Zapatistas saw this as “a death sentence for the indigenous.” One of the conditions for Mexico joining NAFTA was the alteration of Article 27 of the Mexican constitution. This provision had been fundamental to indigenous and campesino (smallholders, people making a living from the land, a word often translated as peasant, but this word can be seen as demeaning) communities because it established and protected the system of collective landholding – ejidos and bienes comunales – established in 1917 by the Mexican Revolution. Article 27 also granted agrarian communities rights over common-use lands and their resources, making all natural resources found in the subsoil the property of the nation.


The neoliberal establishment in Mexico viewed these collective forms of land tenure as the key impediment to foreign direct investment and economic growth. Through changes to Article 27, which opened communal land to rent, sale, and use as collateral to obtain commercial credit, and through state programmes providing economic subsidies in exchange for the individual ‘certification’ of collective lands (the first step in a process that it was hoped would end in private titles), as we have explained above, the PRI attacked what they viewed as the least income-yielding sector of the Mexican economy, and at the same time opened the door to rebellion.

In January 1994, in many parts of Chiapas, thousands of acres of land were “recuperated” or reclaimed from large haciendas and ranches, by the ancestral owners of that land who had been working there as serfs. This was one of the miracles of the uprising – hundreds of people now made their living from what had been vast estates inhabited by only one family, in the spirit of General Emiliano Zapata’s call for Land and Freedom: “the land belongs to those who work it.” Although most of these land reclamations were made by Zapatista support bases, other campesino groups also joined in and took land to work to grow corn and beans to feed their families. And the recuperation of land has continued sporadically ever since.

Not all the reclaimed land is still in the hands of the campesinos. In various cases it has been taken from them by violence, there have been long-term displacements, in many cases land ownership is disputed and there are ongoing conflicts. Populations change allegiances, or are tempted to sell out. The struggle for the land continues.

Land reclamations often take place in December, to mark the anniversary. In December 2015 the ejidatarios (communal landholders) of the ejido Tila reclaimed 130 hectares including the city hall, and in the same month the Tzotzil community of San Isidro de Los Laureles, part of the Semilla Digna (Dignified Seed) collective, recuperated between 165 and 200 hectares of their land and territory from large cattle and sugar cane ranches, where their parents and grandparents had worked as indentured servants since 1940. They previously reclaimed the lands in 1994, but were violently dispossessed. Both communities are adherents to the Sexta, and they have both called for support in the face of possible violent eviction. In the same month, the community of San Francisco Teopisca, also part of Semilla Digna, celebrated ten years since they recovered their lands, but they are also in fear of dispossession. It should be noted that these are not Zapatista support base communities, but communities sympathetic to the Zapatistas.

IGD: What is the role of the National Indigenous Congress and EZLN in all of this?

IMG_0241-350x263One of the many consequences of the Zapatista uprising in 1994 is that a feeling of identity, dignity and self-belief gradually developed amongst indigenous peoples and a confidence that they too can stand up to and resist dispossession. In Mexico the Zapatistas first encouraged the re-birth (it first met briefly in 1972) of the Indigenous National Congress (CNI), representing 56 of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, following the failure of the federal government to adopt the San Andres Accords. The EZLN then enabled the renewal of the CNI in August 2013, at the convocation for Tata Juan Chávez Alonso. The CNI declared itself “For the comprehensive reconstitution of our peoples – Never Again a Mexico Without Us.” In August 2014, at the First Exchange, or Sharing, of the Zapatista Peoples and the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico “Compañero David Ruiz García,” the momentum of this badly-needed renewal, which had been delayed by the attack on La Realidad and the murder of Galeano, was increased.

The CNI is the largest and most representative organization of the different peoples and tribes in Mexico, and this reorganization sealed the alliance established more than 20 years earlier between the Zapatistas and the national indigenous movement, and outlined one of the most relevant and consistent networks of resistance against plunder on a national scale.

Since then the two organisations have worked together closely in solidarity with indigenous peoples confronting dispossession. They have met together for “sharing” and have issued joint and individual communiqués in support of the original peoples of Mexico who are facing the dispossession of their land, territories and natural resources, which are being handed over to national and transnational corporations. The community leaders are being killed and imprisoned, again and again.


In April 2015 the CNI stated its position on the wave of repression being waged against the people by “the narco-capitalist governors who seek to take control of our homelands.” In response the CNI says they will not give up the struggle, they will fight for the freedom of prisoners, the presentation of the disappeared, and justice for the assassinated. Their resistance against dispossession will be as relentless as it is ancient and unnegotiable, and they will continue to weave a new world from below and to the left.

The role of the EZLN and CNI thus may not be to organise individual land reclamations, or individual actions against roads or pipelines, which communities do in their own time and at their own pace. In their joint statements the two organisations list all the different struggles, the mirrors of resistance. They spread the word, they give their word, their solidarity. The criminalisation of struggle, along with repression, violence, disappearance, assassination, displacement and imprisonment will continue. But now the communities and nations no longer struggle alone, they do so along with others, they have a collective voice, knowing the strength of solidarity, the power of denouncement, and that their struggles, along with those of others, will be known.

It should be emphasised that this question cannot be fully answered, as the actual role of the EZLN and CNI is not made clear, nor, perhaps, should it be. Hence we only give a brief overview of the situation. See also Question 8 which is closely linked to this.

IGD: Is there crossover between indigenous communities fighting for land and the Normalista movement?

The Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa is a school that was created after the Mexican revolution to bring education to the sons of the peasants of the state of Guerrero and its surroundings. Besides studying to become teachers, the young men who decide to study at that school learn about political science, history, and many other subjects. But one other thing is important, the normal rural highlights the importance of cultivating the land, of being a campesino (peasant) and of working the land. The students there continue to work the land as many of them already did at home. In many cases, the communities where the students come from are indigenous communities. Actually, one of the careers they can study for at the rural teaching college is that of bilingual teacher, which means bilingual in Spanish and one indigenous language.

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Having said this, the relationship between the normalista movement and indigenous communities fighting for the land should be obvious. The normalistas are, in many cases, indigenous themselves and have suffered the consequences of the neoliberal economic policies in the country. They come from poor backgrounds and from communities that have suffered exploitation in many ways.

Besides fighting for better conditions for their school, the students from the Normal Rural of Ayotzinapa have had an important role in supporting and accompanying different struggles throughout the years. With the disappearance of the 43 students in September 2014, Ayotzinapa became a symbol of struggle, but it only became so due to the previous history of struggle of the students at that school. Since the disappearance of their schoolmates, other students from Ayotzinapa have showed their support for different struggles, including the ones of the indigenous communities fighting for their lands.

Well-known in this context is the relationship that the mothers and fathers of the disappeared students and the killed students, as well the current students from Ayotzinapa, have had with the Zapatistas in Chiapas. The Zapatistas have shown their solidarity with the movement in search of the 43, and also with the fact that the fathers and mothers of the disappeared students have become an icon of struggle in Mexico. The Zapatistas, with their experience in the public sphere in Mexico, warned the mothers and fathers that they should build deep relationships, as it was probable that the mass movement that was then walking with them would not do so for long. The mothers and fathers of Ayotzinapa, as well as the students, have consequently strengthened the link they have with certain movements across the country, notably the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra from Atenco, the Zapatistas, and the Policía Comunitaria (Community Police).


On Oct 22nd, 2014, a Joint Declaration was issued from the CNI and the EZLN “on the crime in Ayotzinapa and for the liberation of the Yaqui leaders,” which marked their first statement on what had happened: “We demand the return of the 43 disappeared students and the dismantling of the entire State structure that sustains organized crime!”

For 26th September 2015, the first anniversary of the disappearances and deaths of the students, the EZLN released a Communique “From Pain, From Rage, For Truth, For Justice,” which was “for Ayotzinapa and for all of the Ayotzinapas that wound the calendars and geographies from below.” In it, they stated that “This September 26, thousands of Zapatista children, young people, women, men, otroas, elders, alive and dead, will mobilize in our territories in order to embrace those people who feel pain and rage because of imprisonment, disappearance, and death imposed from above.” Ayotzinapa has become a symbol of all the unjustly imprisoned, disappeared, assassinated and violated peoples from below.

IGD: Last year, we saw militant boycotts of the national election. What has led so many people in Mexico to reject the established political structure?

The national elections have been the focus of much criticism since 1988, and then again increasingly since 2006. You would have to ask the individuals what has led them to reject the established political structure. Probably people would speak about abuse of power, corruption, impunity, imbrication of the political structure by organized crime. The Zapatistas and the EZLN reject any collaboration with the Mexican government, the electoral process, and the political system more widely. Their approach goes through grassroots/radical/participatory democracy.

In 2006, the Zapatistas launched “La Otra Campaña” (the Other Campaign) to go against the discourse of the official presidential campaigns. Back then, the Zapatistas argued that all the political parties were the same and that there was no difference in how they would govern if they were to win the elections. What they did then was to travel all over the country to get to know the different social movements and to try and connect all those movements. If a change was to be made, it was not going to come from the established system, but from the hundreds of independent struggles in the country. It was not until many years after this that what the Zapatistas had already experienced and explained in terms of the similarity between the different political parties and the hypocrisy of their differences became apparent to many.

It is possible that the Ayotzinapa case, as it has been called, played a role in so many people deciding to boycott the elections, but the disillusionment of many people and communities came from long before that. We say that probably it played a role because it became apparent for many people that even the parties that were supposed to be from the left were clearly related to organised crime, and ready to repress any social movements and to play by the rules of capital. Endemic chaos and corruption exists at all levels. Guerrero, the state where the 43 students were disappeared and another 6 persons, including 3 students, were killed, was governed by the PRD, a supposedly leftist party. There already were many indications of the Governor’s collusion with organised crime, but with this case, the impunity and the links between the organised crime and the government in all its different levels became impossible to hide.

Mexico Elections

The places in which the protests and the boycott (and then the repression) were the largest are places such as Guerrero and Oaxaca in which social movements have pointed out for years the simulation of the authorities and their servitude to capital and to money and not to the people.

More people’s eyes had become open to the reality that the state, the three levels of government, the security forces – army and police – and organised crime were all one and the same thing. Furthermore, as there was seen to be no significant difference between the different political parties, there was nothing left to believe in. The parents of the 43 also called for a boycott of the elections.

The 43 are merely a drop in the ocean. Amnesty International states that since 2007 over 27,600 people have disappeared in Mexico, and almost half the disappearances have occurred during the current administration. How can this happen?

The current administration of Peña Nieto has spent more on the military budget in 2014 than any other previous Mexican government in any year, a total of $8.66 billion in US dollars. The purchase of military equipment from the United States has reached an unprecedented level. Meanwhile, human rights groups say that over 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared since Mexico began using the military in the war on drugs in 2006, while human rights abuses have spiked, with no oversight or accountability for the security forces. Accusations of torture and kidnappings committed by the police and the military have also risen 600 percent from 2003 to 2015. 1,219 torture investigations were launched by the Attorney General’s Office from 2006 to 2013, but charges were only filed in 12 cases. The realisation of all this has finally spread much more widely through the population, resulting in complete disillusionment with the current political system and political class.

IGD: Many people speak of the Mexican government as the ‘Narco-State,’ or the coming together of government and drug trafficking forces. Can you explain more?

As in Guerrero, the repression against the people, the extraction of natural resources, and the destruction of the territories in the entire country are operated by the Narco-State, without scruples. It uses terror in order to manufacture pain and fear; this is how it governs.

EZLN and CNI 22nd October, 2014

In the era of speculation, transnational capitalism has transformed itself into a mafia, effectively creating a world in which political economy and criminal economy are one and the same. According to the Zapatistas, the problem is not that states have disappeared but rather that they have been entirely remade as nodes of a single global network of contemporary ‘mafia capitalism’ which the EZLN calls ‘the empire of money’.

When people say that Mexico is a Narco-State they do so in reference to a historical truth, rather than to the simple fact that the state has been corrupted by organized crime. This latter is the opinion usually given by the media.  As in the case of other places in Latin America and in the Middle East, the United States and local forces of the state are responsible for creating the economic and social conditions for the emergence of so-called ‘criminal organizations.’

In the case of Mexico, the ‘Narco’ finds its origins in the creation of the modern state, and they cannot be disentangled. The first one is the prohibition of drugs, which began in the USA during the economic crisis of the 1930s. In both countries the prohibition of drugs was used as scapegoat. In the USA, prohibition was used to distract attention from the real causes of the economic crisis by blaming Mexicans who were still escaping from the situation of the unfinished Mexican Revolution. In Mexico, prohibition was used for the same reasons, and to secure the monopoly of drug production in the hands of the state.

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In Mexico, the Spanish colonialists had prohibited the consumption of traditional drugs such as peyote, but Alvaro Obregón, and then Plutarco Elias Calles were the pioneers -even before the USA- of the prohibition of marijuana, and other drugs previously introduced by Europeans or Americans, such as opium, morphine, and cocaine. In Mexico, as in the USA, drugs were associated with poor and marginalized communities, and with migrants. From this period on, the USA, Mexico and other countries created institutions to chase mostly drug consumers, and only sometimes drug producers.

Chasing drug dealers was indeed a good business, for which reason in 1925 Calles passed a law that allowed for the confiscation of the property of drug-producers.  But the problem with this origin of the ‘war against drugs’ is that in both cases, the attempt was often to regulate the market of drugs and not to purge all drug consumption from societies. Thus, since then the Mexican government would need money to create institutions to treat drug consumers, and to chase drug producers, but the latter always seemed better for moral reasons and for the economy. On the other hand, since this period the state, and in particular the police and armed forces, were part of the drug-trade that they were supposed to fight against. For example, in the mid-1930s, Raúl Camargo, who had been the head of the anti-drug police since 1927, was fired for the possession of huge amounts of opium and heroin, and was portrayed in the media as the ‘largest promoter of vice’ in Mexico.

The more recent ‘war on drugs’ coincides with the transition from state capitalism to transnational capital in Mexico. Until the 1970s, Mexican oligarchs had accumulated wealth by using the state as the monopolizing force of the means of production, which lay in three main sectors: oil, an emerging and feeble industry, and the extraction of primary products. Thanks to the Mexican revolution, and later to some of the policies of Cardenismo, the vast majority of the land in Mexico is owned by small land-owners. This meant that, whether the rulers of the Mexican state liked it or not, they had to deal and negotiate with the lower and middle classes.

But since 1964 those in power tried to move the economy, previously based on agriculture, to low-paid industries or maquiladoras. This economy forced millions first to migrate to the cities to work in industries, and then to migrate to the US, hence abandoning vast regions of land. Some of those who stayed in rural areas, historically marginalized, found economic escapes in the production and selling of illegal drugs.

While Nixon in the US funded the war on drugs worldwide, in Mexico, under the governments of Díaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverría Álvarez and José López Portillo and Miguel de la Madrid, state terrorism was taking place, at the same time that rival gangs were fighting to control the Mexican drug trade. This fighting cannot be explained without the intervention of the USA selling weaponry to drug cartels and to the Mexican State. The state’s response to drug cartels was to get rid of some drug leaders and, through the Department of Federal Security and the military, to control the trade by making coalitions with rival gangs.

Thus, the territory of drug trade was divided by the state into different ‘plazas’, given to different ‘families’ and organizations that had to pay ‘illegal taxes’ to the government for the trade and production of drugs. As in the case of Mario Arturo Acosta, ‘El Negro’ Durazo, and many others, those who trafficked drugs were also responsible for the assassination of political dissidents and human rights defenders who were trying to fight against an ever increasingly unjust economic and political system.

This system, which is part of the modern Mexican State, is the system we have today. Drug cartels are nothing but the uglier face of the capitalist system of production, which seeks to profit those from above by exploiting the workers, and grabbing their lands. They help to shut down dissent and the media, they charge illegal taxes on top of the government taxes, they serve exploitation not only by enslaving and exploiting, but also because in industrialized violent cities people can only go from home to work and vice versa due to violence. Due to their territorial control, drug cartels, in coalition with the government, spread violence in areas where citizens are opposed to mines, fracking, or other forms of extractivism. Once the resource of drug cartel violence is no longer sufficient to suppress dissent, then the state dares to show up using the usual strategies of state terrorism, such as torture, imprisonment, disappearance or murder.

Today the Narco-Mexican state is funded more than before by transnational capital. A clear example is that of Los Zetas, whose origins go back to an elite troop who deserted from the Mexican Army. But on the other hand, the aim of these criminal organizations is to profit from violence, or by other means. Therefore, corruption is a secondary tool through which both criminal organizations and the state manage to profit from violence. Corruption starts to unveil the falsehood of the war against drugs, because the line dividing the state from criminal organizations is either non-existent or blurred as we mentioned before.

It is estimated that 70% of municipalities are permeated by organized crime. For example, in the last elections in Sonora, the two main candidates accused each other, on very good grounds, of being members of drug cartels. But criminal organizations not only pay for campaigns and have preferred political candidates, they also they work closely with international governments and companies; a good example of this is the ´Fast and Furious´ ‘scandal’. The US keeps feeding Mexico legally and illegally with weapons. HSBC is responsible for failing to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in purchases of U.S. currency from HSBC Mexico, which facilitated money laundering for Mexican drug cartels. Nobody has been so far imprisoned for these crimes. The reason transnational capital funds the war against drugs, understood as the state and drug cartels, is precisely because they profit from it.

However, it is the Mexican state which is punished –although most commonly it is not- for committing crimes according to its own rules. The state uses violence against criminal organizations, and very often ends up committing the same crimes against which it is fighting. The most common of these is torture, which is a widespread problem in the country, but there are also extrajudicial killings, such as the ones that happened in Tanahuato, Tlatlaya and Apatzingan. It must be mentioned that historically speaking it was the state which controlled, for instance, the production of weed.  But in spite of it being obvious to everyone that the Mexican government has committed these crimes, this war is very profitable for the Mexican state, which in as much as it spends money in militarizing itself, also receives money and support from the United States and the European Union, who back up the war of the Mexican government against drugs, regardless of its humanitarian cost.

It’s a very complex topic for which you would have to look at a wide array of factors. We recommend the work of John Gibler, especially the first chapter of To Die in Mexico, and if you can get any more material on his recent speaker tour with Diego Osorno then this would also help. Also see the work of Anabel Hernández and Diego Osorno, among others.

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IGD: We’re seeing more and more communities in Mexico standing up to mining, fracking, and development. Can you talk more about this?

The rich multimillionaires of a few countries continue with their objective to loot the natural riches of the entire world, everything that gives us life, like water, land, forests, mountains, rivers, air; and everything that is below the ground: gold, oil, uranium, amber, sulfur, carbon, and other minerals. They don’t consider the land as a source of life, but as a business where they can turn everything into a commodity, and commodities they turn into money, and in doing this they will destroy us completely.

EZLN, December 2015

Part of the neoliberal government policy in Mexico is to implement a series of structural reforms to privatize electricity, education, collectively held lands, and the national oil industry and thus erode the mechanisms of redistribution that were established in the post-revolutionary constitution of 1917. More and more these structural reforms are now being seen as part of the war against the original peoples, to strip them of their territory.

Not just in Latin America, but throughout the world indigenous movements are standing against these destructive developments, described by David Harvey as “accumulation by dispossession” and by Raul Zibechi as “extractivism.” The indigenous peoples tend to be the ones who live on the land most targeted by multinational corporations for the development of megaprojects they describe as “projects of death,” such as mines, dams, tourist developments, highways, monocultures, aqueducts, gas and water pipelines, hydroelectric or windpower projects, airports, and the destruction of forests. Their rights as indigenous peoples to their land and territory are ignored and violent attempts to dispossess them are the result.

It is clearly laid down in national and international treaties, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States of Mexico, and the San Andrés Accords, that indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior and informed consent and consultation in relation to their lands and natural resources, and the right to free determination of their affairs. This absolute right to consultation and consent is violated and ignored time and again, with complete impunity, and more indigenous communities are mounting legal challenges to this violation.

Indigenous peoples see themselves as the guardians of the mother earth and her natural resources as they try to resist the plunder and devastation being waged on her. The CNI enables indigenous groups to come together in solidarity in their resistance against these megaprojects, in the spirit of the Sexta, “an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us.” As the EZLN and CNI said in their joint statement in October 2014: “Our roots are in the land and the heart of our mother earth lives in the spirit of our peoples.”

An emblematic example of a heroic struggle against dispossession is the case of the ejido San Sebastian Bachajon, situated in the north of Chiapas, in a very beautiful jungle area, where the Mexican government, and the transnational corporations it serves, plan to build a luxury ecotourism complex beside the beautiful waterfalls of Agua Azul. The indigenous Tseltal ejidatarios (common landholders), adherents to the Sexta since 2007, have since 2006 been defending their common lands against expropriation by the Mexican government. This is in open violation of the rights of the ejido to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent. During this period two of their community leaders have on different occasions been assassinated by multiple shots from high calibre firearms, the ejidatarios have been frequently attacked by local government-supporters and public security forcesand large numbers of people have been imprisoned. On March 21st 2015, more than six hundred members of government security forces burned down the regional headquarters there.

“We want to tell the bad government that we are not afraid of their repression, imprisonment and death” said the ejidtarios in a communiqué on 1st January, 2016, “we know that we are not alone in this struggle, because there are other people who are embracing and struggling to transform this world into something better, and together, united, we will build a path of peace, freedom and justice.”

There is also a link with climate change, as many of the measures are adopted by governments ostensibly as a result of climate change, such as the large-scale growing of monoculture crops for fuel, the development of hydroelectric power and large-scale wind-power developments, also result in the dispossession of indigenous peoples, the destruction of forests and end up being just as harmful as what they intend to replace. They are nothing to do with saving the planet, and all to do with the concentration of vast wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

One astonishing new development is the new airport for Mexico City, which involves the dispossession, flooding and deprivation of water supplies from numbers of indigenous communities. To build an airport on the site of a lake, which is not only the site of the water supply for large numbers of people, but also the home for quantities of endangered species and irreplaceable archaeological sites, as well as being unstable, subject to inundation and a totally unsuitable site for an international airport, would seem to be the height of irresponsibility.

We hear about more preposterous new schemes on a daily basis: the theft of peoples’ sacred sites and the pollution of their land and water in order to develop huge mines, the theft of entire rivers to provide water supplies for industrial developments, the destruction of mangrove swamps…..the list is endless.

See also the answers to Question 4

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IGD: How is the state responding to autonomous movements?

Autonomy is life, submission is death.

We understood that it was necessary to build our life ourselves, with autonomy. In the midst of the major threats, military and paramilitary harassment, and the bad government’s constant provocations, we began to form our own system of governing—our autonomy—with our own education system, our own health care, our own communication, our own way of caring for and working on mother earth; our own politics as a people and our own ideology about how we want to live as communities, with an other culture, governing ourselves as the collective peoples that we are.

EZLN, December, 2015

The short answer to this question is that the state is responding to autonomous movements with repression, because autonomy is what they most fear, what they most want to crush. The national, federal and local governments respond with different forms of repression. By denigrating them, by supporting or not hindering corporations to mess with the territorial claims of autonomous movements, there are allegations of funding and training local groups hostile to autonomous movements, and the governments generally try to buy people out of or away from the autonomous movements. Impunity is about 98-99% in Mexico, so those involved in autonomous movements take significant personal risks.

As mentioned before, the state responds to all forms of dissent with a mixture of co-optation (which might be considered violence) and proper violence, and has the particular project of dismantling all forms of alternatives to the system it imposes, such as the obvious example of Zapatista autonomy or other forms of autonomy that are appearing across the country as a result of narco-state violence. Clear examples are not only the Zapatistas, but also Ostula, Bachajón, Xochicuautla, Tila, Atenco, the Yaqui tribe of Sonora, the Magonista movements in Oaxaca, the campaign against the introduction of GMOs, Cherán, independent journalists, women fighting for bodily sovereignty, migrants asking for the right to move, all of these and many more have been brutalized by the state. As an answer many of these movements end up becoming centres with the potential of being autonomous, as in the case of Ayotzinapa.

The truth is that the normal rural teaching schools are a problem for the economic plans of the Mexican governments. The Normal Rural Schools were founded in 1922 in post-revolutionary Mexico as part of the government project to bring education to farmers, and with the idea of giving some autonomy to each region to decide on what kind of education they need and want. In fact, after many decades of Callismo, when Lazaro Cárdenas, a president recognized for his democratic policies, came into power in 1934, he encouraged the schools and in particular their revolutionary, autonomous character. He did this by emphasizing article 3 of the constitution that states that every Mexican has the right to education at a federal, state and municipal level. But once the Mexican government found these relatively more progressive ideas uncomfortable, and once it started profiting more from other sources such as foreign capital, it started to abandon agriculture and education.

Since the neoliberal project took off, pushed by a new economic drive, Mexican politicians, and the Mexican elite have been trying to change article 3, which is the result of class struggle and of the Revolution. But civilians, who have been massively impoverished by this new economic plan, demand their constitutional right. The government is then forced to pass reforms under undemocratic circumstances, facing mass opposition, and ultimately using violence to repress dissent.

To exert this power the government needs violence and corruption, and a justification. So what they do is criminalize dissent.  Therefore, we see large sections of the teachers’ union supporting the movement of Ayotzinapa, and we see that the struggle against the reforms of article 3 is not isolated. The clearest example being the mini-revolution that began in Oaxaca in 2006. It must be said that the teachers’ union movement has been brutally oppressed and that many killed and disappeared can be counted among them. The neoliberal project has treated all the poor like criminals, and also all the institutions that have emerged as a way to bring social equality, not only unions and state companies, but also other social agents like student and indigenous movements, like the Zapatistas.

Another good example is that of Atenco. The British architect Norman Foster and the British-based company ARUP agreed to collaborate with Peña Nieto to build the world’s most expensive airport. During his period as the Governor of the State of Mexico -a State that stands out for its levels of violence and femicide- Peña Nieto used the police forces to repress the communal landholders of Atenco, who were being dispossessed of their land.

During the events, the military police killed 2 youths, sexually tortured 26 women and injured many more. 9 Atenco farmers were illegally sentenced to 31 years in prison, 2 for 67 years, and one for 112 years. It was only through a lengthy national and international campaign that called for the liberation of the prisoners that they were finally absolved and freed after 4 years and 59 days. After more than 9 years, the 26 women have taken their complaints of sexual torture to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and are currently awaiting an in-depth enquiry. The government announces every day that they are about to start building the airport, and yet the Atenco resistance is still there.

IGD: The Zapatistas just celebrated their 22nd anniversary. What does the terrain and situation look like for struggles in Chiapas in the coming year?

The Zapatistas, along with the CNI, see a storm coming, when everything is going to get much worse. “We, the Zapatistas, see and hear a catastrophe coming, and we mean that in every sense of the term, a perfect storm.” (The Storm, the Sentinel and the Lookout Syndrome, Subcomandante Galeano, April 1, 2015). Against this storm, they call on everyone, all of us, to organise. “Because if we don’t organize, we will be enslaved.”   They also call for critical thinking, the expansion of critical thought against the capitalist hydra, based on the ideas proposed at the seminar, which is perhaps better described as a seedbed.

There is nothing to trust in capitalism. Absolutely nothing. We have lived with this system for hundreds of years, and we have suffered under its 4 wheels: exploitation, repression, dispossession, and disdain. Now all we have is our trust in each other, in ourselves. And we know how to create a new society, a new system of government, the just and dignified life that we want.

Now no one is safe from the storm of the capitalist hydra that will destroy our lives, not indigenous people, peasant farmers, workers, teachers, housewives, intellectuals, or workers in general, because there are many workers who struggle to survive daily life, some with a boss and others without, but all caught in the clutches of capitalism. In other words, there is no salvation within capitalism. A bloody night, worse than before if that is possible, extends over the world. The Ruler is not only set on continuing to exploit, repress, disrespect, and dispossess, but is determined to destroy the entire world if in doing so it can create profits, money, pay.

That is why we must better unite ourselves, better organize ourselves in order to construct our boat, our house—that is, our autonomy. That is what is going to save us from the great storm that looms. We must strengthen our different areas of work and our collective tasks. We have no other possible path but to unite ourselves and organize ourselves to struggle and defend ourselves from the great threat that is the capitalist system. Because the criminal capitalism that threatens all of humanity does not respect anyone; it will sweep aside all of us regardless of race, party, or religion. This has been demonstrated to us over many years of bad government, threats, persecution, incarceration, torture, disappearances, and murder of our peoples of the countryside and the city all over the world.

EZLN, December 2015

For Chiapas, the current situation suggests that there will be an increase in the criminalisation and repression of any form of dissent or the development of any social movements, following established patterns and no doubt developing new ones. The “leaders” will be targeted, and imprisoned or killed. There will be a continuing attempt to destroy any resistance through the creation of an atmosphere of fear – “bullets of lead,” and through bribing with social welfare programmes – “bullets of silver.” It is likely that there will be more attacks on groups who do not conform, such Las Abejas, and on those who exercise their right as indigenous peoples, such as the Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón and the Ejido Tila, and the movements among communities to support each other will continue.

It is also clear that the structural reforms, and the push for destructive megaprojects resulting in dispossession will continue. There have already been warnings of a renewal of mining activities in several areas, and highway, dam and tourism projects are being developed. No doubt networks and strategies of resistance are being developed also, but there will inevitably be a huge price to pay.

It is likely that the Zapatistas’ strategy of building ‘other geographies’ will continue to grow in influence—from the construction of the autonomous municipalities of Cherán and Santa María de Ostula in Michoacan, to the reconsolidation of the CNI; from the declaration of twenty-two autonomous municipalities in the state of Guerrero to the explicitly Zapatista-inspired Kurdish movement.

“Our struggle is not local, regional, or even national. It is universal. Because injustice, crime, dispossession, disrespect, and exploitation are universal. But so are rebellion, rage, dignity, and the desire to be better.”

We need to be attentive to attempts at dispossession and to all aspects of counterinsurgency which are being played out there, and which are linked to the mega-projects and the counterinsurgency-based forms of governance which are also becoming more and more dominant in all other parts of the world. Our struggles are different, but they are linked into each other.

The word of the original peoples echoes down the centuries: “We must not forget that we are the heirs of more than 500 years of struggle and resistance. The blood of our ancestors runs through our veins, it is they who have passed down to us the example of struggle and rebellion, the role of guardian of our mother earth, from whom we were born, from whom we live, and to whom we will return.”

IGD: The Zapatista movement continues to inspire us, as does the heroic social struggles and movements in Chiapas. Lastly we wanted to ask, that personally we feel that the use of the language of “rights” to be one of power and is debilitating, although many of the movements that you have talked about use rights as a reference point. Can you speak to this, how would you disagree or agree?

We think this is probably two questions really. The use of the language of rights, and the use of rights as a reference point in Chiapas. Rights are a western and not an indigenous concept, though they have become one that can be used as a means of struggle in desperate times, but which will finally become irrelevant.

Firstly, yes absolutely the language of rights is one of power and is debilitating. It can also be demeaning, and is very much imposed by a hierarchy, allowing those in positions of power to turn away from careful consideration and reflection of what should be the best behaviour in any situation, because they can pretend that the problem is solved. The concept of human rights is a Western neo-liberal concept which perpetrates divisions, injustices and inequalities, and can also, conversely, be used to justify oppression and repression, as it has been by different authorities in Chiapas. The language of rights can permit the perpetuation of stigma and discrimination, them and us, and is contrary to the principles of solidarity, all of us together, no one over anyone else.

Eduardo Galeano famously said: “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person.” The word ‘charity’ here could be replaced by ‘rights’. The discourse of human rights should be replaced by one of liberties and commons, but also, we would argue, by one of mutual respect and collective responsibility, of moral imperatives, because, as the indigenous peoples have shown us so clearly, we are all part of each other, and cannot separate the individual from the collective.

The second part of this question is the use of rights as a reference point in Chiapas. It is important to recognise that different groups, peoples, movements evolve their own particular language according to their needs. The language of rights does not exist within the indigenous languages, which are based on the second person plural, the “we”, nor is it part of their cosmovision. This means that when they are first displaced, indigenous peoples lack the tools to make sense of it, their identity has been taken away. Capitalism is inconceivable within a culture and tradition of communality.

“It is in Chiapas, with its indigenous roots, its cosmology and ways of thinking about the world, that you have demonstrated the possibility of values that are almost the opposite of what is going on. While in capitalism individualism reigns, here communitarian values respect the person but are developed and flourish in a community.” – Luis Villoro.

“They weren’t going to give us our basic rights. We had to take them.”- Pedregales de Coyoacan, Feb 2016

Faced with elimination, with a power to whom they are inconvenient, irrelevant and infinitely disposable, the indigenous have had to learn a whole new language of struggle, and unfortunately also of self-defence, in order to survive at all. As the Zapatistas say, they are not part of the market, they do not buy or sell, so for Power they do not exist.

Therefore, tactics and strategies have been developed, especially for those adopting the legal route as one method of struggle, which employ the language of the violation of rights, and international treaties and conventions have been established which enable them to do so more effectively, such as the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. Rights therefore become a means to explain what has happened. The language of these legal “rights” shows the degree to which the communities’ lives and cultures have been devastated. These “rights” should not need to exist, but for the voiceless, faceless and forgotten, those who have nothing, they offer a possible path back to dignity.

However, at the same time, the indigenous peoples are developing their own alternatives, the most important of which is the building of their own autonomy, but to do this they need to know they can remain on their land. In Chiapas, among the indigenous groups who are trying to assert their own political autonomy, the state government appears to be using human rights as “another form of colonialism,” and it may be that the indigenous peoples can develop their own understanding and their own language to enable them better to deal with this form of marginalisation and exclusion.

“Given the devastation and the refusal of the Mexican State to respect the collective rights of indigenous peoples, men and women walk the defence of the ancestral territories from autonomy” – Frayba.

“The path is made in community, if there is no justice we must walk making it,” the parish priest of las Margaritas said recently. “What is necessary is a proposal for a new life, with respect, organization, discipline, dialogue and agreements, not the vices of the system.”

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The Zapatistas have found it necessary to employ the language of rights, particularly in relation to women’s rights. The first articulation of a rights claim made by Zapatista indigenous women was the Women’s Revolutionary Law, which was formulated and presented to the EZLN in March 1993. The Law states that women have the right to participate in the army as combatants and to assume leadership in the army; to decide how many children they want to have and when they will have them; to have primary consideration in access to health services; to an education; to choose a marriage partner of their own free will, or to choose not to marry; to hold office if democratically elected in their communities; to work and receive a fair wage; and to be free from physical mistreatment from family members or strangers. This shows that they were using this language of rights even before the uprising.

Again, the betrayed San Andres Accords were “for Indigenous Rights and Culture.” But perhaps it is the failure of all these claims for basic rights that leads to peoples following the alternative path to autonomy. In this case, the State’s lack of real political will to participate in a dialogue, and its decision to initiate a war of low intensity instead, obliged the EZLN to change things for itself. It forced the Zapatistas to demand the construction of alternative perspectives as the only real way to transform relations. It led them to build up, gradually, a social force capable of converting their basic demands into autonomous, popular achievements.

Zapatista discourse talks a lot about responsibility, duty, and a moral and ethical basis to action, all of which are essential to their organisation, where everyone has a duty to each other. Certain people have the position of responsables, those who are responsible for something, and this position is taken extremely seriously. “We the Zapatistas will not run from our responsibility, lessen our efforts, or give in to the temptation of giving up.” – Marcos, Dec 3rd 1994. To be a member of a Good Government Council is “a responsibility, not a privilege.”

This language of duties and responsibilities, of moral obligations is common to indigenous peoples. An example from the Yaqui, which could equally have come from other peoples: “It is our duty to fight for those who fought, who even gave their lives so that we could be here, and it is our duty to leave the conditions so that we will still be here in 200 years. We should be afraid, not for ourselves, but for what we cannot do for the future.”

In the Sixth Declaration, the Zapatistas define capitalism as the problem, and explain that, with the other “humble and simple people” of the world they are looking and struggling against and beyond neoliberalism, seeking dignity. The Tsotsil indigenous word ‘chulel’ captures the living quality of life, all the life force or energy involved in the earth, in our own life, even the potentialities latent in objects and things. Capitalism destroys ‘chulel’, nature and community. It promotes an extreme individualisation and dehumanisation. The Zapatistas are on a path or a way of true living, emerging out of and realising ‘chulel.’ This is far beyond the artificial language of rights, it speaks to another world, different and better.


Reclamation: The Indigenous Struggle for Land and Autonomy in Chiapas




February 21, 2016

On the Occasion of the Pope’s Visit, Remembering Don Samuel Ruiz

Filed under: Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:24 pm



On the Occasion of the Pope’s Visit, Remembering Don Samuel Ruiz

By Laura Carlsen


Pope Francis, with Bishop Raul Vera, visits the tomb of Bishop Samuel Ruiz


A Man of Peace: Don Samuel Ruiz 1924-2011

Note: On February 15, Pope Francis visited the southern state of Chiapas. It was here that indigenous peoples rose up against the neoliberal system and centuries of injustice on Jan. 1, 1994.  In another gesture that showed that this Pope is not the traditional Vatican company man, the Argentine pope visited the grave of Don Samuel Ruiz, the Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, who took up the indigenous cause for justice as his own and as an obligation of the church. Who was Samuel Ruiz? And why did the Catholic Church’s highest authority pay reverence to a man who in many ways defied the church hierarchy? I attended the mass on the death of Don Sam in 2011. Here is the account:

It was a remarkable mass for a remarkable man.

The news spread rapidly yesterday morning of the death of Bishop Samuel Ruiz. He died at the age of 86, the day that marked 51 years since his ordination as Bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal. By 2:30 the Mexico City church had filled with an unusual group of religious leaders, peace activists and figures who have marked Mexican politics over the years. All recalled their work alongside Tatik (“father” in Tzeltal) with a bittersweet blend of loss and gratitude.

I sat in the pews, listening to the first strains of “métale a la marcha, métale al tambor, métale que traigo un pueblo en mi voz…” (Join the march, join the drum, join in, I carry the people in my voice…) watching the faces of hundreds of committed people who in various moments of a long and full life walked alongside Don Sam, El caminante. A history that changed Mexico forever flooded into the room.

Bishop Raúl Vera recalled that Samuel Ruiz arrived in the state of Chiapas to face a reality he had not imagined, a reality that many in Mexico didn’t know existed. He set out to travel to the far corners of the region– not an easy task–and saw with his own eyes the scars of the plantation-owners’ whips on the backs of indigenous men and heard the accounts of how young girls were routinely forced to have their virginity “tested” (lost) by the owners when they decided to marry, among other terrible examples of the feudal conditions his new parishioners suffered. He encountered a system of oppression and brutality that changed his life and he decided the system had to change, through the word of God and an intense social commitment.

It’s worth mentioning that Bishop Raúl Vera came to know his counterpart when the Church sent him as a “coadjutor” to Ruiz in 1995, presumably to temper his radical influence. The opposite happened. In what Vera describes as a conversion experience, he encountered the conditions that led Don Samuel to embrace a church of and for the poor. He soon became a partner in bringing the church down to the people and building a movement for its indigenous members to gain their rightful place in the church, and in society. To this day, Don Raúl remains a successor to the work of Don Samuel. Now based in Coahuila, his is a strong voice in defence of human rights as Mexico suffers a new phase of violence and repression.

Father Heriberto Cruz recounted that the discussion among some members of the church, initiated in large part by Don Samuel based on his experience in Chiapas in those early days, did not just centre on the ecclesiastical concern of how the church could alleviate the burdens of its members. Ruiz and others began to ask themselves what role the church itself played in their oppression, and how to break that oppression. A deep critique of the role of traditional methods of evangelization in suppressing indigenous culture followed. Ruiz learned to speak Tzotzil and Tzeltal and became conversant with other indigenous languages of the region. He insisted on respect for indigenous cultures–another factor that would bring him into conflict with some elements of the Church that criticized what they viewed as the excessive syncretism of his theology and practices.

Don Samuel Ruiz formed part of and led a movement within the Roman Catholic Church that based its theology on the Vatican II commitment to greater lay participation and the “option for the poor” that shifted attention to the need to serve the historically downtrodden. It also put forth the idea that the church cannot ignore injustice without being complicit.

These would become the principles Don Sam acted on.  As mediator in the Zapatista indigenous uprising of 1994, Ruiz helped create the conditions for the new indigenous movement that marked not only Mexico but the world. His work as leader of the National Mediation Commission (CONAI) led to an unprecedented dialogue that resulted in the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, signed and later violated by the federal government.

Today, the Accords stand as a tribute to his work and the work of scores of indigenous leaders. They also stand as a tragic reminder that the word of the powerful cannot be trusted. But the spirit of emancipation and peaceful dialogue codified in the Accords survives in the individuals who gathered at the mass for Don Samuel Ruiz, one of the principal architects of the peace process. It also lives among the thousands of indigenous people who awaited to receive his remains in his beloved state of Chiapas.

Don Samuel insisted that the church of the poor needed a human rights organization in Chiapas, faced with the extreme human rights violations taking place. In 1989, he founded the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Centre for Human Rights. The Centre’s mission is to “walk alongside and at the service of the poor, excluded and organized people who seek to overcome their socioeconomic and political situation, by taking direction and strength from them to contribute to their project of building a new society where people and communities fully exercise and enjoy their rights.” The mission embodies the strong belief that the church cannot be separated from the struggle for social justice and that it should play a supporting role rather than pronouncing from on high.

These beliefs often put Bishop Ruiz at odds with the powers-that-be in government and the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. They also made him a target of the local caciques, or rural bosses, who ran Chiapas with an iron hand and lorded over the lives of indigenous peoples. He faced aggressive attacks on his character with magnanimity, and patiently continued to build from below. The Diocese became an example of the leadership role of indigenous peoples in defining a new church and empowering communities. The 1994 Zapatista uprising catapulted his patient labour onto a world stage, as the long-ignored demands of indigenous peoples became the lens through which to conceive of a new society.

There were, of course, efforts to dismantle the deep processes of empowering indigenous people within the church and within society. The Mexican government sent in troops and launched military offenses against the communities well after the so-called truce with the EZLN. Meanwhile, the Vatican began to attack the practice of making indigenous men deacons within the church–a centrepiece of efforts to break down the distance between indigenous communities and a distant and privileged hierarchy, to literally change the face of the church.

When the Roman Catholic hierarchy decided not to name Bishop Vera to the San Cristobal diocese following the retirement of Don Samuel, which would have been a natural choice but for the politics involved, it was seen as an indication of the desire to suppress the progressive religious movement in Chiapas. More recently a plan to divide the San Cristobal diocese has led to suspicions that the hierarchy seeks to weaken Mexico’s only diocese guided by the Second Vatican Council’s decision to promote a closer relationship to the social and political context of parish members.

There was a deep sense of loss among the those attending the mass, but few tears. Over the years, many people feared that Don Samuel would become a martyr rather than die a natural death. He received death threats and created enemies among those who abhorred the idea of a church that championed the rights of the poor and indigenous peoples, since their own power and wealth rested on preserving near-slavery conditions.

Bishop Ruiz accepted the risk to his own life. His death at 86 ended a journey on earth that was consistent and effective in following his convictions, and that touched and inspired thousands of people who will carry on. The liturgy on Monday did not dwell on the loss, but rather emphasized the meaning of his life and the Catholic belief that he passed into a higher realm.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s remains have been sent to San Cristobal, Chiapas to be buried in the Cathedral. He will be welcomed there by the indigenous people he walked alongside over the years. Some fifteen thousand indigenous people came down from the mountains to bid him farewell in 2000 when Ruiz left Chiapas, in a testament to the relationships he forged and his role in their lives and their movement for liberation.

This final farewell reminds us that Don Samuel’s deep commitment to indigenous rights and social justice is not some folkloric moment in Mexico’s colourful past, nor is his life merely a chapter neatly written into our religious and social history. His is not a legacy. Something that hasn’t died leaves no legacy.

Although many of the people present at his mass have gone on to other battles and fronts, Don Sam’s death is a reminder of the enormous tasks still pending. Bishop Vera began the mass by stating “in these dark times, a star has been lifted.” Sombre nods from the congregation–mostly human rights defenders and Catholics who work with the poor–reflected agreement that Mexico faces one of the worst moments in recent history for the poor, indigenous and vulnerable, and that Don Sam’s example gives hope and strength.

This reminder brings a renewed sense of responsibility to act. It encourages us to see through the darkness of the times and seek each other out, just as he helped bring together the many diverse individuals that went out to honour him yesterday. The passing of the “Bishop of the Poor” urges us to keep walking the path he cleared and to forge new paths of peace and justice.



The Pope’s Encounter with Indigenous Mexico

Filed under: Frayba, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:12 pm



The Pope’s Encounter with Indigenous Mexico

By Orsetta Bellani

PAPA150216OB19-300x169Pope Francisco’s visit to San Cristobal de Las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas was perhaps his most symbolic visit on his six-day tour of Mexico last week. Here the Bishop of Rome held mass with indigenous peoples, in a city internationally known for the uprising of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in 1994, which inaugurated an era of indigenous self-government in parts of the state.

When he found out the pope was meeting with indigenous peoples, Julian Lopez Canare was surprised. “It’s the first time that a pope turns his attention to native peoples, or toward the poorest of the poor”, Lopez Canare, a member of the Nayeri people, observed.

PAPA150216OB17-300x169Thousands of people, mostly indigenous, flocked to San Cristobal’s sports arena on Feb. 15 to listen to the pope’s mass, spoken partly in Mayan languages. Pope Francisco delivered the mass from an altar decorated with Mayan Tzotzil craftwork, in front of a large backdrop depicting the city’s central cathedral.

They came from remote corners of México and Central America. Many arrived before dawn and formed long lines in the intense cold of the Chiapas highlands. As they waited for the pope, from the stage speeches reminded the crowd of the pastoral work of the former bishop, Samuel Ruiz, and the San Andres Accords–an agreement negotiated in 1996 that set the framework for indigenous rights and autonomy. The federal government signed the document, but never made it law.

PAPA150216OB11-300x169“Your peoples have been misunderstood and excluded from society. Some have considered your values, your cultures, your traditions, inferior. Others, deluded by power, money and the laws of the market, have robbed you of your lands or have carried out actions that pollute it,” the pope affirmed in his mass. He asked for forgiveness of the original peoples. At the conclusion, he delivered a decree that formally authorizes the celebration of liturgical ceremonies in indigenous languages.

Pope Francisco’s visit to Mexico, and especially to Chiapas, is strategic for the Catholic Church. Mexico is the ninth nation in terms of contributions to the Vatican, according to Forbes magazine, and the second in the number of Catholic Church members, with 96 million. However, many people are leaving the Roman church. In Chiapas, only 58% of the population declares itself Catholic.

PAPA150216OB18-300x169Mexican Catholicism varies from practices in other countries. Yaredh Marín Vazquez, anthropologist at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), explains, “The religion has a strong cultural connotation here. The practice of Catholicism in Mexico is called “Popular Catholicism”—it’s a mixture that includes local practices of the peoples who existed before the conquest. Catholic saints mingled with the pre-Hispanic gods and gave rise to new figures,” she says.

“For example the Virgin of Guadalupe (that the Pope prayed to in Mexico City) is a merger between the Catholic Virgin and the goddess of the earth. It is a useful fusion, because when they pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe, indigenous people also worship their goddess. The Catholic Church has no choice but to recognize these saints, because when they impose their doctrine they confront not only spiritual implications, but also economic.”

el-papa-francisco-en-mexico-2160036w620-300x198The papal visit aroused enthusiasm and reproaches in Chiapas. The Popular Assembly of the Chiapas Highlands (APACH) criticized the expenses incurred to meet the Pope in the poorest state in the country. In the highland region of Los Altos, where the city of San Cristobal lies nestled in the mountains, 88% of the population is indigent.

A much different group who call themselves “the real coletos” (“coletos” is the term for residents of San Cristobal) also criticized the pope’s visit. Conservative mestizos, they criticized the pope’s visit because “it does not benefit the city”, since he only came “to hang around with the Indians,” according to a report in the newspaper La Jornada.

PAPA150216OB6-300x169These townspeople virulently opposed the presence of indigenous people in the city centre during the Zapatista uprising. In 1995, the “real coletos” came out to stone and throw eggs at the Cathedral of San Cristobal, to protest against then-Bishop Samuel Ruiz, whom they considered a “subversive.”

The Catholic Church hierarchy frowned on Ruiz’s pastoral work alongside indigenous peoples, for his adherence to the theology of liberation, his preaching in Mayan communities, and his participation in negotiations between the Zapatistas and the federal government.

PAPA150216OB15-300x169For this reason, Pope Francisco’s decision to pray at the tomb of the former bishop raised controversy. “The Pope’s visit to Don Samuel Ruiz gives a boost to the work of Liberation Theology, the preferential option for the poor,” said Jorge Hernandez of the Human Rights Centre Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, founded by Ruiz. “It’s the recognition that his work was valid and still is. It’s the recognition that the bishops are not princes, but have to get their hands dirty, walk with the people.”

PAPA150216OB5-300x169For groups and individuals who have reproached Pope Francisco for not meeting with the parents of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students or other victims’ organizations, the visit to the tomb of Samuel Ruiz was the most appreciated gesture of the papal visit. According to some analysts, the Pope’s messages were lukewarm and too general, and avoided touching on the specific problems of the country or naming names.

“You know, if you’re in hell, you can’t not mention the heat. But you also have to refer to the devils,” wrote journalist Alvaro Delgado in Proceso magazine.




February 18, 2016

BoCa En BoCa #40 * February 2016 *

Filed under: Boca en Boca, news, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:26 pm



BoCa En BoCa #40 * February 2016 *



BoCa En BoCa is an independent news sheet which aims to disseminate what happens in the organized communities in Chiapas. The aim is to generate solidarity among communities, through summaries or extracts from their publications transmitting their words.

Download It! (pdf)



Download It! (pdf)



San Isidro los Laureles maintains its position

16/01, The community of San Isidro los Laureles, Venustiano Carranza, reported, 26 days after they decided to recover the land (3 plots of about 200 hectares), “those who call themselves owners are asking for a possible eviction against us, we know if the government does not act [at 3 levels] they are intimidating us, telling us that they will act on their own with white guards.” They added, “We fear that there could be the same displacement and violence that occurred in 1994, when we decided to recover those lands and the state itself intervened unleashing repression and violent eviction.” They said, “the land is ours by law.” They explained that they authorized the supposed owners to take their cane harvest, “we agree that it is not ours.”

They added a complaint on 21/01 in which they describe acts of intimidation and the presence of a truck carrying people “wearing bulletproof jackets and high-powered fire arms.” They asked those concerned to be aware of what might happen and will continue to provide information about their situation.
First of August facing threats

More than 10 months after their forced displacement, on 06/01 the 59 residents of First of August made known “new threats of death and kidnapping and harassment against us have been committed and fostered by the Mexican state and in particular the CIOAC-HISTÓRICA organisation directed by Luis Hernandez Cruz and Jose Antonio Vasquez Hernandez aka the Shrimp”. In their communique about recent harassment they denounced several acts of intimidation including shots being fired towards the camp where the displaced families are, as on 28/12 and 03/01, together with threats from the harassers.

They added that on 05/01 “Carmelino Pérez López shoved, tried to physically injure and threatened to kill and kidnap one of our representatives” and they quoted his ‘grandiloquent’ words: “if you do not accept what we want and what the government says, we will kill you, your father, your colleagues and representatives of your fucking town and the ejidatarios who are with you … be very clear that any day now we are coming to evict you, and will rape your wives and all the women and rob your houses as we did last time […] our organization (CIOAC-HISTÖRICA) are bastards and have an armed group, a self-defence group and we kill any arse-holes we don’t like […] I’m not afraid to say it because we have an order and because we have given money [to the government] so that they will not say anything to us.”


The war against Acteal continues

On 12/23/15, the Civil Society Organisation Las Abejas reported a power cut to its members in the community of Kexaluk’um, as well as a climate of tension on the part of opponents of the organisation.

On 31/12/15 they reported another ambush against 3 members of their organisation (Juan Carlos Alonso and Marcos all surnamed Lopez Guzman) at the exit of the municipality of Pantelhó. Giving details of the facts they reported that “while firing shots at our comrades they boasted and laughed, but nobody was hurt by the deadly bullets except for the injury suffered by Alonso and the people who were hit when the vehicle turned over.”

In addition to sharing the context of this aggression, they reported previous incidents ending with: “From 2012 to 2015, Antonio and his family have received several death threats.”

Finally, they explained: “The ambush of the day before yesterday and the murder of our comrade Manuel is a clear message from the Mexican state against us the people in struggle.” They concluded that paramilitarism is being reactivated in Chiapas as well as institutionalized violence in the country.

In their communique of 22/01 they concluded “We are aware that less than a couple of weeks ago thousands of televisions were distributed in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, in order that ignorant people should not realise that the government continues selling the country and has left the highest debt in the history of our country. Therefore, we say that lying governments continue to kill conscience.”


Green party imposed in municipalities

After violent incidents in the town of Oxchuc due to the imposition of the party in the town hall, on 11/01 the movement Peace and Justice for Oxchuc reported that they had learned with ‘great frustration’ about the “foolish decisions made by the Governor to protect his temporary party colleague Maria Gloria Sanchez.” They confirmed the freeing of all the people who “were inappropriately deprived illegally of their liberty, when they had come to the negotiating table in SEDESPI”. “This message that will reach the immature Governor Manuel Velasco, is that he must seek advice from people looking to make his mandate go well, and not cause even more confusion than his term in office has been, only good for smoking areas and shelters, when Chiapas is crying out for justice, education and freedom. Yet he is complicit by his action and omissions,” they emphasised. They regretted the decisions of repression against them and the rejection of dialogue in order to continue imposing Maria Gloria Sanchez, and they wished for the formation of a municipal council, “because we do not know what particular interest of the Executive might be higher than the dignity and peace of Oxchuc.”


The same day the MOCRI CNPA MN spoke in solidarity with the municipality in question: “since the elections in the Chiapas municipalities, there have been a number of outbreaks of justified resistance on the part of various sectors because the imposition of candidates sympathetic to the government of the day took place, most of whom have been characterised as being members or part of political sects.”


Arbitrary deprivation of liberty of EZLN support base

According to information from CDH Frayba on 18/12/15, José Alfonso Cruz Espinoza, EZLN support base, was arrested on 10/11/15 in Ocosingo. “People in civilian clothes, who did not identify themselves, and who presented no warrant and gave no reason for the detention, put him into a van and took him to the headquarters of the Special Police.” “The crimes alleged against him are ecocide and plunder, because of events occurring on 16/11/12 […] under the Chiapas penal code none of the alleged crimes is serious. On 18 November he was sentenced to prison; he was there for over 144 hours without his legal status being determined.” “24 hours after his detention, only after an injunction against being held incomunicado was he allowed to make a call to say where he was […] At all times they refused to give us access to him or to accredit us as his lawyers, arguing that he had already been transferred, which was false.” “These actions in violation of human rights were intended to hinder a proper defence; at all times José Alonso insisted on his innocence, he asked to speak with his lawyers and family, and was denied this, saying he is a BAEZLN”. To prevent bail being paid, it was set at $136,122.96 for both offences, according to the CDH this amount is excessive.



05/01- Roberto Paciencia Cruz, unjustly imprisoned, celebrates the 11th anniversary of the founding of La Voz del Amate.

13/01- As well as reclaiming his rightful freedom, Roberto Paciencia Cruz denounces the lack of food in the Cereso # 5.

13/01- OCEZ-FNLS denounces an assassination attempt by “The Petules” in Rio Florido  community, Ocosingo.

17/01- In a pastoral meeting in the community of Nuevo Mariscal, Ocosingo, they celebrate the International Day of Migrants, denouncing the abuses against people who pass through its ravines and trails.

17/01- The Front of Ejidos in Resistance Genaro Vazquez Rojas, Ocosingo, denounces land business in the San Pedro colony contradicting the agreements.

22/01- The FNLS denounces paramilitary activism in Chiapas, particularly in the region of Ocosingo, emphasizing explanations with the group “Los Petules”.

28/01 After 15 years of impunity for the death of a child and serious injuries to his brothers in El Aguaje, San Cristobal LC, due to the explosion of an anti-personnel grenade belonging to the Mexican Army, in the context of the counter-insurgency operations in Chiapas, Father Jose Lopez Cruz longs for fulfilment of the agreements reached with the state.



02/01- Tila ejidatarios denounce the repression in San Isidro los Laureles, reject the constant aggressions against Las Abejas of Acteal and thank San Sebastian Bachajon for their solidarity.

10/01- Campesinos from the community of San Francisco, Teopisca, assert their right to the land of “El desengaño” by formally working it.

12/01- The displaced families from Banavil, Tenejapa, invite people to disseminate photographs of their forced displacement.

18/01- The community of La Pimienta, Simojovel, denounces the lies and deceit by the government since the death of 2 children, and 29 infants having continuing symptoms due to the vaccines given by the IMSS on 05/08/15.


Tila defends its Ejido

05/01 ejidatarios of Tila noted that the current mayor directly accused the ejido commissariat of being “responsible for the events of 16/12/15”. “On several occasions withdrawal from the town hall was requested and that request was never heard […] the general assembly of ejidatarios which makes agreements is tired of so many problems that have brought us to the town hall, and decision-making is done by the assembly and was going on peacefully composed of thousands of ejidatarios “. Ejido members say that the mayor, “says there are no paramilitaries, but we know that both the mayor of Tila and Attorney C. Raciel Lopez Salazar are washing their hands, they well know that there are many complaints against the organisers fully identified and protected by themselves and the people who blocked roads during the political campaigns for local elections on 19/7/15 at the entrances to the ejido, people with guns who created a climate of fear by entering the village in vans of the same town hall and municipal police who protected them, firing shots and using violence and disturbing social peace within the Ejido of Tila”. They denounced the “Undersecretary of government based in Yajalón for being one of those responsible for reorganizing and regrouping the paramilitary groups to attack social organisations struggling to defend the land and territory.” “As the general assembly of ejidatarios we maintain that to find a just solution to this conflict needs respect for our territory and removal of the offices of Tila town hall for good.”



Remembering Jtatik Samuel and preparing for the Pope’s visit

Thousands of people from different parishes, members of the Believing People, and organised people held a march on 25/01 in the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the death of jTatic Samuel Ruiz Garcia. This event concluded with a “Message from the Original Peoples to Pope Francis” because of his forthcoming visit to this city on 15/02. “We want make a few requests: Let the holy Church respect us […] may our coadjutor bishop give us strength in the process and progress of Indian theology.” Signed by the indigenous people of Chiapas represented by the Mayan Ecumenical Indian Theology group



Words of the EZLN on the 22nd Anniversary of the Beginning of the War against Oblivion

“On January 1, 1994, 22 years ago, we declared our ‘ENOUGH!’ that we prepared for a decade in dignified silence […] we understood then that we were not alone. From that moment on our form of struggle changed. We became ears and voice, because we believe that a just fight of the people is for life and not just to be dead […] We are people with dignity, with decision and Conscience to fight for true freedom and justice for all. Regardless of their colour, race, gender, belief, calendar, and geography. That is why our fight is not local, or regional, or even national in scope. It is universal. Because injustices, crimes, dispossessions, disregard and exploitations are universal.

“In the middle of this war we have had to walk towards building what we want. We could not just sit down and wait for people who do not understand us to approve us, they haven’t even approved us yet […] Then we searched in our ancestral history, our collective heart, and with a lot of stumbles and mistakes, we have started building that which we are and which not only keeps us alive and in constant resistance but also raises us up dignifies and rebellious […] it is the people themselves who believe, discuss, think, analyse, propose and decide what is best for them, following the example of our ancestors.”

“Those who sold out to the bad government not only did not resolve their basic problems, but it gave them more horrors to deal with. Where before there was hunger and poverty, now there is hunger, poverty, and desperation.

“We learned that it is good if one person gets angry […] But we also learned that if these angers organize themselves… Ah! Then we have not just a momentary flash that illuminates the earth’s surface […] It is as if this world was about to birth another, a better one, more just, more democratic, more free, more human.

“That is why we tell all the compañeros, compañeras, boys and girls and young people, that you as our new generations represent the future of our people, of our struggle and of our history, but you must understand that you have one main task and obligation: follow the example of the first compañeros, of […] all the people that started this struggle […] Because you as Young people are an important part of our communities, that is why you must participate in the work that our organization has in all the levels and  in all areas of our autonomy. Let each generation continue to lead us toward our destiny of democracy, freedom, and justice.”

They finish with these words about this celebration: “in order to honour and respect the blood the blood of our fallen compañeros, it is not enough to remember, miss, cry, or pray, rather we must continue the work that they left us, to create in practice the change that we want […] without letting the capitalist system destroy what we have won and the little that we have been able to build with our work and our efforts over more than 22 years: our freedom! […] We must be even firmer in our struggle, to maintain the word and example that our first compañeros left us: to not give in, not sell out, and not give up.






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