Zapatista News Summary for March 2016
1. Alejandro Díaz Santiz, imprisoned for being indigenous: In a letter, more than 70 organisations from more than 10 countries demand the freedom of Alejandro Díaz Santiz, a Tsotsil indigenous man aged 35, who has been imprisoned since 1999 for a murder he did not commit. He was tortured and had no access to a translator or a legal defence. He is now in a maximum security prison in Tapachula, which is designed for federal prisoners (he is not a federal prisoner,) at a great distance from his family and friends, despite promises of his release.
2. Father Marcelo Pérez receives more death threats: Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, bishop of the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, confirms that he has asked for urgent precautionary measures to be taken to protect the life of Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez, parish priest from Simojovel, who has received numerous death threats and attacks.
3. Cinco de Marzo: The autonomous Chol, Tzotzil and Tzeltal community of Cinco de Marzo in San Cristóbal de las Casas makes a pronouncement marking the celebration of 22 years in resistance since they recuperated their lands following the Zapatista uprising. They are now struggling against high electricity tariffs – they currently have no electricity – against having their water cut off, and against government “assistance” programmes. “The bad government has tried to disrupt and divide us through their programs of ‘support’ and projects that supposedly ‘benefit the community.’ The only thing that has occurred is the intent to divide us from our other compañerxs.In spite of this, the bad government has failed to defeat us. On the contrary, all of this has strengthened us be more united and organized in our resistance and struggle for autonomy.”
4. Disappearance of human rights defender: Front Line Defenders, an organisation which works to protect human rights defenders, denounces the disappearance of human rights defender Fidencio Gómez Sántiz from Altamirano, last seen on 5th March, 2016. He is a member of Frente Nacional de Lucha por el Socialismo – FNLS (National Front for the Fight for Socialism), a grassroots movement established in 2006, which is not an adherent to the Sexta. The case is believed to be one of enforced disappearance, and Front Line Defenders believes that his disappearance is directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
5. Movement holds second assembly: ‘The Movement in Defence of Land and Territory and for the participation and recognition of women in decision-making’ holds its second assembly on 6th and 7th March in Cideci, and shares its proposals for struggle and its pronouncement against extractivism.
6. International Women’s Day, 8th March: Many events take place in Chiapas. Frayba publishes a statement against systematic violence against women and femicide, and emphasises the right of women to life, personal integrity and security, access to justice, and to have a life free from violence. Many groups of organised women issue statements, or hold marches and meetings, including Las Abejas de Acteal, Women for the Defence of Land and Territory, and the women of Simojovel via the Pueblo Creyente.
7. Gustavo Castro Soto held in Honduras, concerns for his life: Indigenous peoples and communities and groups and organisations throughout Chiapas make statements condemning the brutal murder on 3rd March of the indigenous Lenca environmental defender Berta Cáceres, founder and leader of the organisation Copinh in Honduras, and in support of the Mexican and long-term Chiapas resident Gustavo Castro Soto. The director of Otros Mundos A.C./Friends of the Earth Mexico is a sociologist, a writer and an organizer for environmental and economic justice, and was the sole witness to Berta’s murder, when he was also wounded. Castro is subsequently detained in Honduras by local authorities, and treated like a criminal, leading to serious concerns for his wellbeing. Guarantees are demanded for Castro’s safety and his immediate return home. On 31st March the prohibition on his leaving the country is lifted, and on 1st April Gustavo Castro returns to Mexico.
8. 15th anniversary of the March of the Colour of the Earth: 11th March 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the March of the Colour of the Earth reaching Mexico City, when hundreds of thousands of people came out on to the streets to welcome the arrival of representatives of the EZLN and of most of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, who had come to demand the implementation of the San Andres Accords. The subsequent betrayal marks the beginning of the construction of autonomy among many indigenous peoples.
9. Dams and Rivers: The International Day against Dams and for the Defence of Rivers is marked in Chiapas on 14th March. A conference of “dissemination and protest” is held and a declaration is released saying that “Dams are megaprojects that destroy life, through the dispossession of territories. Dams are imposed, as in the case of Chicoasén II, and communities are not consulted before they carry out these projects of death”. Sin Embargo estimates that 200,000 people in Mexico have been displaced by dams, and over 300 hydroelectric schemes are planned for Honduras alone. Las Abejas undertake an action to mark this day.
10. More communiqués from the EZLN. Two more communiqués are released, from Subcomandantes Moisés and Galeano, updating information on the forthcoming festivals of arts and sciences, and including excerpts from the diary of the cat-dog.
On 14th March, in about “CompArte for Humanity,” we are told that so far 99 participants from Mexico, and 30 from many other countries have registered to participate, from a wide range of artistic activities, along with 26 attendees. It is hoped that festivals and gatherings will be organised in many other parts of the world. Questions are answered.
On 16th March, there follows news on how plans are going for the Encounter “The Zapatistas and the ConSciences for Humanity” – 50 applications have been received from ten different scientific disciplines. The Cat-Dog tells a story about a football match and International Women’s Day.
11. Other Zapatista news: The first reprint of the Zapatista book “Critical thought against the Capitalist Hydra” is released in Mexico. Journalists warn of further offensives against the Zapatistas.
12. Ejido Tila strengthens its autonomy: Members of the Ch’ol community of Ejido Tila are consolidating their autonomy since they expelled the local government on 16th December, in particular using their community assembly to organize their own security and that of the thousands of families of visitors, many of them pilgrims, who attend the annual festivities of el Señor de Tila.
13. Simojovel pilgrimage: 21st March is the first anniversary of the Great Pilgrimage from Simojovel to Tuxtla. The Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel hold a march to mark this date, defining their objective as to be able to live in peace. The Tzotzil indigenous reject a proposal for dialogue made by the brothers and political caciques (chieftains) Juan and Ramiro Gomez Dominguez, and say they do not intend to have any rapprochement with those who have organized to kill Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez and to harass and threaten members of their religious organization. They denounce the existence of an armed group known as Los Diablos (The Devils) in Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, who have killed three members of the same family and caused the displacement of a further 14 people. They also denounce kidnapping, the firing of shots, threats and intimidation.
14. Las Abejas de Acteal: In their monthly communiqué, on 22nd March, Las Abejas de Acteal denounce impunity and the criminalisation of those in struggle, and that the Mexican president makes reforms which do not benefit the Mexican people. According to their statement, the defence of the life of the people and of nature now seems to be a crime. “All those who rise to defend and protest their rights find just one response from the government: repression, murder and imprisonment.”
15. Indigenous leader murdered: On 24th March, Juan Carlos Jimenez Velasco, leader of the Independent Confederation of Organizations of Civil Association (CIO-AC) and member of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), is found dead in San Cristobal de Las Casas. According to a CNTE report, the 35-year-old teacher was murdered by a group of hooded persons while in his vehicle. Jiménez was involved in defending 50 families who had been evicted by landowners in a San Cristóbal neighbourhood.
16. Pilgrimage in Northern Chiapas: It is announced that a pilgrimage will take place in the northern zone of Chiapas from 3rd to 10th April, in defence of Mother Earth and to mark the tenth anniversary of the Viejo Velasco massacre. It will start at the community of Arroyo Granizo and finish in Oxchuc. Pilgrims will honour the memory of the dead, and march for peace with justice and dignity.
17. Fear of eviction attempt in Altamira La Providencia: Frayba issues an Urgent Action about the imminent risk that on 28th March there will be an operation involving at least 500 members of the federal and state police to evict and displace 306 people including 109 children and 5 disabled persons, from Altamira La Providencia, in the municipality of Huixtla. The threatened families are Mam indigenous campesinos who have been living there, on land they have reclaimed, for 23 years. Frayba warn of the risk of the use of excessive and disproportionate force and the violation of rights during the eviction, which is on the order of the Agrarian Court.
1. Communiqué from the CNI: On 24th February, the Indigenous National Congress issues a declaration on dispossession, repression, disdain and exploitation in each of the corners of the indigenous geography, pronouncing against territorial dispossession and the projects of death, repudiating the re-articulation of paramilitary groups, in support of political prisoners and against impunity.
2. There are 9,000 indigenous prisoners: At least 9,000 Indigenous people are imprisoned in Mexico, and most of them are innocent, according to the head of the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples. That is 1,000 more than last year. 96 percent of them are men imprisoned for minor offences. Most of them did not have a “proper legal process,” including a bilingual defence to understand what their charges were. Human rights agencies have denounced the arbitrary detention and conviction of innocent Indigenous people in Mexico on absurd charges.
3. Murder in Honduras: On 3rd March, 2016, Berta Cáceres, an indigenous Lenca woman from Honduras, organiser, defender of rivers, opponent of hydroelectric dams such as Agua Zarca and recipient of the Goldman Prize, who founded and ran the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), is assassinated in her home in La Esperanza. Before her assassination, Caceres had received repeated death threats and had been issued precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which mandated Honduran authorities to protect her.
On 15th March Nelson García, another activist in COPINH, is shot dead in his home. On the same day Mauricio Alegría, from the peasant organisation Via Campesina, is shot near his office, but survives. This means that in the space of 2 weeks, 4 activists have been shot, 2 of whom are dead. Sign the Friends of the Earth petition here.
4. Femicides: Figures released for International Women’s Day show that since Enrique Peña Nieto became President, 6,488 women have been murdered in Mexico, an average of 6 women every day. 1,117 of these are under 19 years old.
5. Xochicuautla achieves suspension of highway: After a decade of struggle for the conservation of the natural wealth of their territory, the community of San Francisco Xochicuautla, Mexico State, obtains the definitive suspension of the construction of the Toluca-Naucalpan highway that threatens their forest. Following ten years of various strategies, political and legal, the suspension opposes the presidential decree of 2015 for the expropriation of 37 hectares of the ejido for the construction of the highway. This does not, however, mean that the work on the highway has stopped.
6. Nestora is free! Nestora Salgado is released from prison on 18th March 2016, after charges against her are dismissed. A Mexican-born U.S. citizen, she was arrested in August 2013 on charges of kidnapping and engaging in organized crime, after returning to her hometown of Olinala in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero to organize a community police force, and to take a stand against drug cartels and state complicity in violence. Nestora vows to fight for the release of other political prisoners and launches the Campaign for the Freedom of the Political Prisoners of the Community Police of Guerrero, in which nine prisoners are named. She calls for international mobilizations and actions on April 10, the anniversary of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata, to demand freedom for Mexico’s political prisoners.
7. Ley Atenco: The Peoples’ Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) from San Salvador Atenco, along with other groups making up the group ‘Fire of Dignified Resistance’, release a communique condemning the so-called “Atenco Law” – also known as the “Eruviel Law” – which approves the police use of firearms during gatherings and demonstrations which turn violent. The new law allows the use of live ammunition against assemblies, meetings or protests, punishes police who don’t fire when ordered, and absolves the police of any criminal or civil punishments for excessive use of force, limiting their culpability to “administrative sanction.” It therefore “violates the right to freedom of expression and to free social protest.”
8. No drinking water: On World Water Day, 22nd March, it is revealed that in Mexico only 14 percent of the population has quality potable water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Forty-eight percent of the population do not receive water even once a day. This data was obtained through a study conducted for the National Water Commission (CONAGUA). According to the UN, at least one thousand eight hundred million people drink contaminated water every day.
9. Impunity for Tlatlaya case: A Mexican military court acquits six of the seven soldiers charged over the 2014 killing of 22 suspects in a grain warehouse in Tlatlaya; up to 15 of these were executed after they surrendered. The ruling by a closed military court “consolidates impunity in one of the most serious violations of the right to life in recent history”, human rights groups said in a statement.
10. Poverty has worsened in Chiapas. A report entitled “Inequality and Social Exclusion in Chiapas, a Long Term View,” by institutions including the Autonomous University of Chiapas and Oxfam Mexico is presented. It shows that state of Chiapas has received nearly US $60 billion through poverty alleviation programs during the last 24 years, yet poverty is worse, and the state has the highest levels of inequality and poverty in the country. 86% of its population is considered to be below the food poverty line, according to Coneval, while 21% of women and 13.5% of men cannot read or write.