dorset chiapas solidarity

April 3, 2016

Zapatista News Summary for March 2016

Filed under: news, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:54 pm



Zapatista News Summary for March 2016



In Chiapas

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.





Filed under: Corporations, Displacement, Mining, water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:46 pm




The murder and criminalization of those who defend the rivers

Justice for the victims, for COPINH and for the family of Berta Cáceres



by Jerónimo Díaz

Since 2005, at least 40 defenders of rivers against dam projects have been killed in Mexico, Central America and Colombia.

The launch in 2008 of the Mesoamerica Project between these countries has led to a rapid rise in the imposition of dams as a way to privatize water and energy. In response to this, the peoples have seen the need to defend their lands, rivers and territories. However, governments and private companies involved in such projects have criminalized them [the defenders] continuously.

Dams are presented as solutions towards combatting climate change, and they receive important economic and financial support. However, dams are not sustainable projects of clean energy. On the contrary, they are projects of death stained with blood, they destroy nature, they displace people, and they come from and benefit private interests.

The dam projects in Latin America represent a juicy business in both the construction and production stages as well as the privatization of energy (they are linked with mining activities). Several businesses invest in the energy sector in different countries of the continent, for example: the Brazilian Odebrecht or the Spanish Abnegoa, Hidralia Ecoener, and Iberdrola Gas Natural Fenosa, among others.

These projects benefit from the financial support of several European banks (DEG from Germany, FMO of Holland, Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation of Finland, SIFEM from Sweden…) as well as international banks for “development” (World Bank, International Development Bank, Central American Bank for Economic Integration…)

The dam projects represent important economic interests from both the public and private sector. These interests, along with the authoritarianism of governments, have resulted in murders, threats, and the detention of hundreds of campesinos and indigenous peoples in different countries.


Minutes after this article was published, we received notification of the murder of Nelson Garcia, a member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). The messengers of death left 5 children without a father, and mark one more dot on a map that was out of date as soon as it was published.

On 3rd March 2016, the social fighter from Honduras, Berta Cáceres, was brutally murdered because she was opposing the hydroelectric megaproject ‘Agua Zarca’, which the Chinese-financed company Sinohydro Corporation wants to impose on the waters of the Gualcarque River. The waters of this river have been guarded for centuries by the indigenous Lenca people. The Mexican Gustavo Castro was also injured in this attack, and was detained in Honduras as a protected witness, a decision which caused indignation and fear among the social movements and media in which Gustavo, coordinator of ‘Otros Mundos Chiapas’ (Other Worlds Chiapas) participated.

This threats against the defenders of water and life in Central America are serious.

The map published to mark the Global Day of Action in Defence of Rivers on 14th March by the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defence of Rivers (MAPDER), an organisation which Gustavo belongs to, shows the systemic activity of the messengers of death – hitmen, police and military – when they try to impose hydroelectric projects on a country like Honduras.

With the murder of Santos Alberto Dominguez Benites, in May 2012, a wave of violence was unleashed against members and supporters of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), in which Berta Caceres was active. According to the statement from the organization, 24 year-old Santos Alberto, had participated “with energy and courage” in multiple COPINH struggles. He was killed by members of the National Police assigned to San Isidro municipality in the Itibuca department. A year later, in the same region, Tomas Garcia was killed by the army when he was on his way to a roadblock against the Agua Zarca dam. On top of the acts of harassment and intimidation that people in the group received, came the murders of Irene Meza and Moises Duron Sanchez, William Jacobo Rodriguez and Maycol Ariel Rodriguez Garcia, aged 15.  All of them were killed for defending the sacred river. In 2015 Juan Francisco Martinez was murdered, he opposed the hydroelectric project ‘Los Encinos’ on the Chinacla River. His community remains the object of attacks and threats.

The name of Justo Soto appears on the map. He was murdered by hitmen on 21st January, 2014. He was part of the Indigenous Coordinator of Popular Power of Honduras (CINPH). He spent years fighting against the binational dam ‘El Tigre’, on the Goascoran River, on the border with El Salvador. Soto had also participated in the defence of the community ‘Las Minitas’, threatened by the hydroelectric industry. Three weeks after his murder, on 16th February, the coordinator of the Las Minitas Indigenous Council, Pedro Perez, was assassinated.

It is striking that the violence against opponents of the hydroelectric projects, mostly indigenous Lenca, has worsened since 2009, the year in which the government gave de facto approval to the General Water Law, which grants concessions on water resources. The government installed after the coup d’état also issued Decree 233 which repeals the previous decrees which prohibited hydroelectric projects in protected natural areas. So, can the Honduran State guarantee the security of environmental activists, or is it rather complicit in the assaults?


The Mesoamerica Project

The Scale chosen by Geocomunes, the collective that made the map, leaves nothing to chance. When including Mexico, Central America and Colombia, the cartographers covered the area corresponding to the Mesoamerica Project which, according to the box on the map, was launched in 2008 with the objective of increasing the productive capacity of the region.

According to the information gathered by Bruno Acevedo, part of the geography master program at UNAM, in Central America hydroelectric plants generated 12,877 megawatts in 2013, equivalent to 47.3% of all the electric energy produced that year. In Mexico more than 70% of energy comes from fossil fuels, nonetheless, what is generated from the force of rivers is close to 12 thousand megawatts annually. The central issue here is that, according to Acevedo, the hydroelectric potential in the region far exceeds the productive capacity installed. In an interview with SubVersiones, he stated that “in the Central American countries and the Mexican Southeast, 100 thousand megawatts can be produced annually, which explains the planning and implementation of numerous hydroelectric projects and their articulation through the System of Electrical Integration of the countries of Central America (SIEPAC)”

For Acevedo there is no doubt: the SIEPAC is inserting itself in to what used to be called Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and today is known as the Mesoamerica Project. The aim of the intergovernmental initiative is to integrate the electric network from south-east Mexico all the way to Panama to boost agricultural and industrial production as well as tourism and urbanisation. The author of the thesis entitled ‘The economic and political bases of the new imperialism in Central America’ asserts that:

“The installation of numerous hydroelectric power stations and the articulation of the electrical system are causing changes in territorial dynamics which strengthen the productive activities characterized by the internationalization of profits and the nationalization of conflicts.”

It is precisely the “nationalization of conflicts” that we see in the map, in which Guatemala appears to be the most dangerous country for the defenders of water, life and territory, with a total of 13 assassinations of people opposed to hydroelectric projects. In second place, Honduras, and in third place, Mexico, with the 8 murders that have afflicted the meetings of MAPDER. Followed by Colombia with 7 cases identified and Panama with 4. Although the list is not exhaustive – Geocomunes writes in their Facebook account that “this material is still under construction” and asks to make “an apology for the possible mistakes and oversights”-, the mapping exercise helps us to visualize the violence that results from the imposition of megaprojects in the region, specifically the large hydroelectric dams, almost always at the expense of the indigenous peoples and territories of Mesoamerica.


Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service





Criminalising protest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:15 pm



 Criminalising protest



Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

Los de abajo, Saturday 26 March 2016

Passing a law which criminalises protest and institutionalises repression isn’t anything new. But doing it during a time when popular resistance is breaking out in Mexico state and the wounds from the May 2006 crackdown in San Salvador Atenco are still raw, is like a criminal penalty against protest itself. In 2006, the supposed official authorities tortured activists, raped women, and today the PRI governor Eruviel Ávila announced a new initiative and escalation of repression.

The new Mexican state law, known as the Atenco Law, authorises the state and/or municipal police to intervene when they think a demonstration or protest is illegal. The movement that arose to defend the land against the construction of an airport, the Community Front in Defence of the Land (or as it is known in Spanish – Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra de Atenco, FPDT) warns that this law prepares the way to repress those who the government views as being “opposed to development”.

Besides permitting the police to use firearms against unarmed people, the new legislative initiative makes way for the use of devices that give electrical shocks, tasers, or handcuffs, as well as aerosol irritants. This leaves the security forces to decide when to apply these “exceptional measures”, with military commanders ultimately responsible for the violence unleashed, leaving political representatives in the comfort of the shadows.

Trinidad Ramírez, pillar of a whole family that has been victims of this repression, is clear when she warns that Atenco does not oppose progress, but opposes land grabbing based on trickery and pay-offs.

“In Atenco”, Trini says, “we have a historic struggle that is almost 15 years old”. Ever since they defeated the decree expropriating their lands, the movement has been on the defensive as repression in various forms has continued. “The Government does not know how to squash this so-called minimal resistance, and can’t find a way to dilute its force, so they are making a new law. But this isn’t only about Atenco, it’s also about other projects related to the new airport in Mexico state.”

To reject this law, approved during the Easter week holiday period, various human rights organisations like Article 19, Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre, Centro Prodh and Fundar amongst others have formed a front and warn that the initiative “could perversely encourage violent incidents during demonstrations in order to legitimise the political repression.”


Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service



Gustavo Castro is free!

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:02 pm



Gustavo Castro is free!


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Today, April 1 – April Fool’s Day – the power of collective action has trumped the fools, killers, and thieves in the Honduran government. Gustavo Castro Soto is back in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, with his family. His return marks the end of 24 days of captivity in Honduras – first in the custody of the government, which subjected him to psychological and physical torture, and then in the haven of the Mexican Embassy, because the Hondurans prohibited his departure. Gustavo was both witness to, and twice-shot victim of, the assault that killed global social movement leader Berta Cáceres in La Esperanza, Honduras, on March 3.

The Honduran government could not stand up to the international pressure from the US Congress, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Vatican, and many other sources of pressure and denunciation. More than anything, the power of the fraudulently elected regime could not trump that of citizens around the world, who held rallies, sent well over a hundred thousand letters, and committed themselves to continue organizing until Gustavo was freed. The government capitulated yesterday and gave Mexican activist and writer permission to return home. However, it mentioned that it may demand his subsequent return to help with the investigation.

This morning, Otros Mundos in Chiapas wrote to us, “What still remains is guaranteeing security for his family and the team.”  We hope you will remain with us, mobilizing the power of people united, until Gustavo; members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) – the organization that Berta founded 23 years ago this week; and all Hondurans have security and democracy.

To use a favourite term of Gustavo’s: ¡Animo! Let’s do it!


Who is Gustavo Castro?

Gustavo Castro Soto is beloved by movements throughout Latin America, and not just for his political organizing prowess and strategic brilliance. His together-we-can-do-this attitude, easy gap-toothed grin, and quick humour draw people into what otherwise could be overwhelming leadership.

Gustavo – like his dear friend Berta Cáceres– is a fomenter of the collective imagination that says that we can re-envision and build just and humane political, economic, and social systems, that we are not condemned to live in the worlds we currently have.

The name Gustavo chose for his current organization – Otros Mundos (Other Worlds) – combines the World Social Forum slogan that “Another world is possible” with the Zapatista slogan that “In this world fit many worlds.”

Under Gustavo’s guidance, Otros Mundos – which is also Friends of the Earth Mexico – has become a focal point for environmental defence throughout Mexico and Mesoamerica. The group organizes impacted peoples and their allies for campaigns around water, energy, foreign debt, and climate crisis, amongst other issues. It also connects and mobilizes activists for effective action toward economic and environmental alternatives.

Gustavo is an electric light switch – solar electric – sparking and connecting currents across the region. He has founded and coordinated many Mexican and transnational social movements to build the power of united people. In addition to Otros Mundos, Gustavo co-founded Other Worlds; the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4); the Latin American Network against Dams and in Defence of Rivers, Waters, and Communities (REDLAR); the Mexico-based Movement of Those Impacted by Dams and Defending the Rivers (MAPDER); the Mexican Network of Those Impacted by Dams (REMA); the Convergence of Movements of Peoples of the Americas (COMPA); the Network of Alternative Sustainable Family Networks (RESISTE); and the Popular School for Energy and Water, where communities throughout Southern Mexico learn about environmental alternatives; among others.

In times past, he founded and coordinated the Institute for Economic and Political Research for Community Action (CIEPAC) and, together with Berta, the Yes to Life, No to IFIs [international financial institutions] campaign. He served on the coordinating committee of the World Bank Boycott and the board of the Centre for Economic Justice, amongst many other affiliations.

On the refrigerator in Gustavo’s home hangs a drawing of him with a computer substituting for his head. A sociologist, he pounds out analyses of neoliberalism, of the devastating impacts of dams and mining on the earth and people, and of the need for a profound transformation.

With his high-speed brain, uncontrollable grey curls, frumpy clothing, coffee, and cigarettes, Gustavo is the archetypal Latin American Bohemian intellectual. Yet he doesn’t spend his days in discussion with a left academic elite, but rather with campesinos/as and indigenous peoples in mountains and villages. Gustavo’s focus has been on popular education, ensuring that those directly impacted by the problems have the information and understanding they need to be effective change agents. He has strongly encouraged the academy to become more socially engaged and useful.

Another drawing of him could just as accurately show a heart on top of his neck. He constantly welcomes friends to share a meal or stay for a week in his home, where he is tightly surrounded by the partner and four children he adores. He has friends and fans throughout the world, of whom an especially close one was Berta.

Motivated by compassion, Gustavo worked for years with the most resource-poor and exploited indigenous and campesino people of southern Mexico and Guatemala, seeking both economic and social justice and an end to state-sponsored violence against them. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Gustavo worked for years in refugee camps with Guatemalans who had crossed into Mexico seeking refuge from the war. Throughout the mid- and late-1990s, Gustavo accompanied Mexican indigenous communities who were harmed by the state violence that surged in response to the Zapatista uprising. He was a key part of the peace negotiations between the Zapatistas and the government, through Bishop Samuel Ruiz’s National Commission for Mediation (CONAIE), which launched in 1994.

From his imprisonment in Honduras, Gustavo published on March 15 “Words to the Honduran people.” In it, he said:

My wounds hurt me terribly, although they are healing. But my greater pain is for my dear Honduran people, who don’t deserve this; none of us do. We’ve always admired this noble, brave people who are fighting for a dignified life for all, without distinction and with justice. That was Berta´s struggle.

I feel love for this beautiful country, its landscapes, its nature, and especially its people. We should not let murders cloud our hope or landscapes.

Berta meant a lot to me, as much as she meant to you. Berta was an exceptional woman who fought for a better Honduras – more dignified, more just. Her spirit grows in the heart of the Honduran people, because we didn’t bury her, but sowed her so that she can grow hope for us.

Soon there will be justice.



Travel ban for Gustavo Castro Soto lifted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:40 am



Travel ban for Gustavo Castro Soto lifted



from Friends of the Earth International, 01 April, 2016

March 31, 2016 – After being prevented from leaving Honduras for 24 days, the director of Friends of the Earth Mexico (Otros Mundos A.C.) was notified that the ‘migratory alert’ impeding his travel has been lifted.

Today, the First Courthouse of Letters of Intibucá, Honduras, acting on instructions from the judge Victorina Flores Orellana, decided to lift the measure prohibiting Gustavo Castro Soto from leaving the country, which has been in place since March 7.

This decision was made after the Honduran General Attorney’s office requested that the restriction be lifted because “all of the [necessary] investigations and scientific tests have been exhausted” in the case of the assassination of Berta Cáceres on March 3rd.

Gustavo Castro, witnessed the murder of Berta Cáceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), and was wounded during the attack. As a Mexican citizen, and as a witness and victim of attempted murder in Honduras, he has had the right all along to collaborate with the Honduran authorities from his own country, in accord with the Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in effect between Honduras and Mexico.

However, this right was violated by the Judge Victorina Flores Orellana who on March 7 issued a migratory alert for thirty days against Gustavo Castro, and by the Honduran General Attorney’s Office, which took 24 days to revoke this measure. During this period, Gustavo Castro has only been required to undertake two more procedures in the context of the investigation – an obligation he could have fulfilled from Mexico.

We are pleased with this decision, which should finally allow our colleague Gustavo Castro to return to Mexico.

However, we condemn the lack of reaction on the part of the Mexican government, in particular by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who, despite its communiqué today, did not take the necessary steps to urge the Honduran government to let a Mexican citizen return home. Meanwhile, the team of Otros Mundos A.C./Friends of the Earth Mexico, the family and legal counsel of Gustavo Castro, organizations acting in solidartiy and international bodies have continue to condemn the violation of human rights that this migratory alert represented.

We demand that the right of Gustavo Castro to continue collaborating in the investigation from Mexico according to the treaty between both countries be respected. Gustavo Castro should immediately be permitted to safely return to his home country.

Our position remains the same:  We demand an impartial investigation of the facts until the murder of Berta Cáceres, and the assassination attempt against Gustavo Castro, are fully clarified and those truly responsible are held to account.

Our thanks to the many thousands world-wide who have spoken out against this injustice, and in defense of Gustavo Castro and others at risk in Honduras. Together, we will continue the struggle.

US $60 billion later, Chiapas no better off

Filed under: Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:12 am



US $60 billion later, Chiapas no better off



Poverty has worsened over 24 years in Mexico’s poorest state

Mexico News Daily | Friday, April 1, 2016

The state of Chiapas has received nearly US $60 billion through poverty alleviation programs during the last 24 years, yet poverty is worse today in Mexico’s poorest state.

Several national and international organizations this week presented a report entitled “Inequality and Social Exclusion in Chiapas, a Long Term View,” in which specialists reached the conclusion that the contrasts between investment and poverty clearly show a great failure, leaving the state with the highest levels of inequality and poverty in the country.

Despite all the money invested in the state, 86% of its population is considered to be below the food poverty line, according to data collected by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval).

“When the investment in social development programs and the evolution of poverty in the state are considered alongside, the results suggest that [the programs] have been ineffective, both in relative and absolute terms,” said the report.

Between the years 1990 and 2010, food poverty increased by 46.2%, capability poverty (a measurement of human capabilities) grew from 55.1 to 58%, and material poverty from 75.1 to 78%.

Illiteracy is another of the state’s great woes: 21% of women and 13.5% of men can’t read or write, and the state’s average for the number of years spent in school is 7.2, well below the national figure of 9.1. In the case of indigenous communities, that average drops to 3.8 years.

The document proposes rejigging social expenditures, leaving  the welfare state behind while moving forward with job creation, among other proposals.

The report is the product of a coordinated effort by several institutions, including the Autonomous University of Chiapas, Oxfam Mexico and Chiapas’ ISITAME Collective.

Source: Reforma (sp)



Insumisión: Winning Freedom, Building Autonomy

Filed under: Uncategorized — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:48 am




Insumisión: Winning Freedom, Building Autonomy



Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

We’ll start this look at the past two weeks in Mexico with some good news: people getting free. After seventeen months in prison and following a national and international campaign for her release, political prisoner Nestora Salgado was released from Tepepan prison in Mexico City on March 18. The commander of the Community Police in Olinalá, Guerrero, Salgado was charged with three counts of kidnapping. When those charges were dismissed, the state filed three more charges for kidnapping, theft and murder. Again, those charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Upon exiting the prison, she was received by dozens of community police officers from Olinalá and other towns in Guerrero. Handed a rifle, she said, “We are going to keep struggling so they don’t keep repressing us. If this is needed [raising the rifle], then this is where we will go, but we won’t allow them to keep trampling on us.”

At a press conference later in the day, she committed herself to fighting for the freedom of Mexico’s 500 political prisoners, in particular those jailed for carrying out their duties as community police. Joined by members from the People’s Front in Defence of the Land from Atenco, those resisting the construction of La Parota dam in Guerrero, and family members of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa, she led the count from 1 to 43. “I don’t represent any political party,” she said. “I only fight for my people. Sometimes they ask me if I’m afraid. And yes, I’m afraid, but I’ll die fighting for our people’s dignity. It doesn’t matter what I have to do, I am going to win freedom for our prisoners. I will be present in all of the struggles, as long as they need me.” She is calling for international mobilizations and actions on April 10, the anniversary of the assassination of Emiliano Zapata, to demand freedom for Mexico’s political prisoners.

The autonomous Chol, Tzotzil and Tzeltal community of Cinco de Mayo in Chiapas marked 22 years since the reclamation of their lands following the Zapatista uprising in 1994. They write, “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.” The bad government is now attacking them by cutting off their access to electricity and water, which they installed themselves.

Another reclaimed community in Chiapas, Altamira La Providencia, most of whose members are Mam, is facing eviction after a judge signed an order allowing federal and state police to remove the 309 residents, including 129 children. Meanwhile, the Chol community of Ejido Tila is in the process of consolidating their autonomous project since kicking out the local government on December 16, in particular using their community assembly to organize their own security and those of the thousands of visitors who will be attending their annual festivities. On March 24, Juan Carlos Jiménez Velasco, leader of the Independent Confederation of Organizations (CIO-AC) was murdered in his vehicle by masked men in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Jiménez was involved in defending 50 families from being evicted by landowners in a San Cristóbal neighborhood. In the last bit of Chiapas-related news, the Zapatistas issued a short statementon their upcoming “Zapatistas and the ConSciences for Humanity” encounter, followed by a long postscript about football and patriarchy.

In Michoacán, communities are also organizing to defend their autonomy. The Nahuatl community of Amilcingo decided in an assembly to reject the imposition of elections in their town. On March 18, election day, they organized patrols to block any attempt to bring in voting booths or ballots. The militantly autonomous Pur’épecha community of Cherán denounced rumors that they were cooperating with police. They clarified that, “here the entire community, including the four barrios, watches out for ourselves, as we said at the beginning, ‘block by block, campfire by campfire.’ We 20,000 community members are looking after ourselves…Cherán is not going to give up the fight. We won’t hand over our form of government or our self-determination.”

Last edition mentioned teachers in Durango surrounding and occupying the state’s Department of Education building in opposition to mass firings. In response, the state issued 20 arrest warrants, sending many teachers into hiding. They managed to capture two, who are now facing charges of rioting and unlawful imprisonment. Teachers took to the streets again, blockading roads and demanding the release of the prisoners and an end to the mandatory standardized evaluations. Parents have also come out in protest in support of the teachers and against the evaluations and privatization of education. Meanwhile, teachers in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guadalajara, Sinaloa, and Guerrero are organizing in solidarity with the Duranguense teachers, with talks of a national strike in the works.

In Oaxaca, the Zapotec city of Ixtepec is organizing to resist the imposition of a gold and silver mine on 30 percent of their territory. Already rejected by their community and agrarian assemblies, they are holding a regional forum called “One Lives Without Gold and Silver, Without Water One Doesn’t” to organize further resistance. Also in Oaxaca, at the urging of the National TV and Radio Industry Chamber, federal agents raided and shut down four community radio stations last week, arresting two people. Another community radio station in Juchitán is seeking support after its antenna exploded. Details on how to help are here.

Finally, SubVersiones published a series of in-depth reports on community radio stations in Oaxaca this past month. These stations are an important component of social, political and cultural self-determination that are organized by the communities. They provide a vital service and base for organizing by broadcasting information in indigenous languages and in formats determined by and that resonate with the communities in which they are based.

Not content with the laws already at their disposal, the state continues to legislate repression. Back in 2014, Puebla approved what became known as the “Bullet Law,” allowing police to use live ammunition against demonstrators. It caused such an outcry that the part permitting live fire was removed just three days after being passed.

On March 17 of this year, in the neighboring State of Mexico, the congress passed what has been dubbed the “Atenco Law,” named after the town that faced brutal repression in May 2006, ordered by then-governor, now-president Enrique Peña Nieto. Two people were killed, 26 women were raped, and 207 people were arrested by police. The Atenco 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.” Of course the People’s Front in Defence of the Land in Atenco, which has won several victories against the state, didn’t wait long to respond. Together with unions, indigenous groups, neighbourhood groups and human rights organizations, they have formed the “Fire of the Dignified Resistance” coordinating committee and announced political, legal and social actions beginning in April against the law that they prefer be called the “Eruviel Law” after the current governor of the State of Mexico.

On the national level, the congress is trying to pass a law allowing for the suspension of all individual rights and protections in “cases of invasion” or “disturbances of the public peace.” What qualifies as a disturbance of the peace is conveniently left up to the sound, impartial judgement of the president, whose nickname just so happens to be the “Butcher of Atenco.”

Regeneración Radio launched a microsite on the farmworkers struggle in San Quintín, Baja California, where thousands of internal migrants work more than twelve hours a day for a daily wage between $3.50 and $7, picking fruit to be shipped to the U.S. Following months of organizing, what started as a conversation between three workers emerged as a 35,000-strong general strike on March 17, 2015, at the peak of the strawberry harvest. Along with refusing to work, workers blockaded highways and defended themselves against brutal police attacks for more than two months. Hundreds were arrested and dozens wounded by the police. In the end, the businesses and government signed an agreement meeting 12 of the workers’ 14 demands. A year later, little has changed. To commemorate the uprising and demand the implementation of last year’s agreement, workers began a 180-mile march from San Quintín to Tijuana on March 17. In solidarity, Familias Unidas por la Justicia carried out a 28-day West Coast tour promoting the boycott of Driscoll’s, a major profiteer of the exploitation in San Quintín. The tour culminated in a direct action at Driscoll’s headquarters in Watsonville, CA on March 31.

Another new site, Mujeres Jóvenes Desordenando (Young Women Disorganizing), looks to connect and give voice and space to young women involved in social movements in Mexico, noting, “As young women we participate in a significant way in many spaces, such as social movements, social organizations and collectives, in the academy and in public institutions. Although our participation is generally made invisible and unrecognized, it is certain that we sustain and are constantly renewing and strengthening each of those spaces.” Punto Género is a second new site focused on women organizing around feminism and human rights. It “seeks to create a space for discussion, recreation, reflection and information about the human rights of women from a critical position of young women feminists.”

Some final notes to round out this edition. In Veracruz, three young people were detained by state police on March 19 and haven’t been heard from since. Eight police officers have since been arrested. It is eerily reminiscent of the disappearing of five young people by Veracruz police in January. Contralínea reports that CISEN – Mexico’s domestic spy agency – has been putting technology acquired from HackingTeam to good use, with surveillance requests in the past three years being seven times higher than the three years prior. The Morelos Independent Human Rights Commission released a report that found 49 percent of human rights defenders in Mexico have suffered from psychological violence, with women human rights defenders being the primary recipients of such violence. The press freedom group Article 19 issued their annual review of attacks on the press, citing 397 incidents in 2015, up more than 21 percent since 2014. Most of the violence was at the hands of government officials (165 cases), far more than the cartels (35 cases). Research by FIAN International calculated that Mexico’s 4,462 dams have displaced around 200,000 people, most of whom are indigenous. Finally, Gustavo Castro, the Chiapan environmentalist who witnessed the murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras, was wounded himself, and subsequently prohibited from leaving the country by officials, has at last been given permission to return to Mexico.



The Dammed of the Earth: The Deadly Impact of Mega Hydroelectric Projects in Latin America

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:26 am



The Dammed of the Earth: The Deadly Impact of Mega Hydroelectric Projects in Latin America

Written by Sian Cowman and Philippa de Boissière




Early in the morning of March 3, Berta Cáceres was assassinated as she slept.

A world-renowned environmental activist, Berta had been a driving force in protecting the lands and waters of rural communities in Honduras. Among the many victories of the organization she founded was the delay of a megadam project on the Gualcarque River that could be disastrous for the indigenous Lenca people living there.

Berta is not alone, nor is her story unique to Honduras. Across the Global South, mega hydroelectric projects are expanding — driven by governments and multinationals as a source of cheap energy, and branded by international institutions as a solution to poverty and the climate crisis.

But despite claims that they create clean energy, dams often have devastating impacts. They can displace communities, destroy the local social fabric and spiritual ties to land, lead to privatization of land and water, and generate food insecurity. Often used to power mining and fossil fuel extraction, they’re part of a system that damages the ecosystem and advances climate change.

Increasingly, communities throughout Latin America have been resisting these projects. Some have succeeded in protecting their territories in the face of violent repression. Yet when these groups go so far as to speak out about the root causes of the projects — corporate greed, unfettered capitalism, political impunity — they, like Berta, may be targeted and killed.


Megadams and Neoliberalism

International development banks and transnational corporations are pushing an expansion of mega hydroelectric dams at a rate never seen before. In Honduras, the Agua Zarca dam that Berta fought against is far from the only project: The Lenca people alone are facing the prospect of 17 dams being imposed within their territories.



Photo: COPINH participating in a march agains a US military base in Palmerola, Honduras, 2011. Source: Felipe Canova on Flickr.


This picture is being replicated across the region. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos’ master plan for the strategic use of the Magdalena River calls for adding 11 to 15 megadams to those already in operation. In Peru, former President Alan Garcia made the construction of 20 megadams along the Marañon River into a national priority with the signing of a single decree in 2011.

Overall, 829 hydroelectric projects were approved in South America during 2014, with a total investment of $22 billion.

The power and resource grab going on throughout Latin America has roots stretching back to Spanish colonization. The river Gualcarque — with its deep spiritual significance for the Lenca people — was famously defended against Spanish invaders by indigenous resistance leader and hero, El Lempira. Although the form has evolved, the struggle against powerful foreign forces in the region has continued to this day.

Conquering not with swords and horses but with a ruse of “corporate social responsibility” and market-based mechanisms, the plunderers of the 21st century are bolstered by a deepening and globalized neoliberal agenda. The package of privatizations, deregulations, and loosening of restrictions on trade and finance prescribed under the “Washington Consensus” for global trade — widely implemented by institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the 1990s — tipped the balance of power towards the interests of corporate global elites.

In Honduras, market-oriented principles reached a new extreme following the U.S.-backed military coup in 2009. The new de facto government immediately overhauled Honduras’ legal frameworks in a bid to create favorable conditions for foreign investment. In practice, the sweeping changes — ranging from enforcing eminent domain to repealing laws preventing the construction of dams in protected areas — were intended to facilitate the rapid and cheap transfer of the country’s natural wealth into global markets.

Berta was highly critical of the coup and of the subsequent handover of the country’s wealth. “There are a projected 300 hydroelectric projects planned,” she said in a 2015 interview with El Tecolote. “We are a small country with many riches. To give 30 percent of the territory to the transnational mining companies is worse than the colonization of 500 years ago. And, they do it with impunity.”

The explosion in the number of megadams under construction in Latin America follows a decade-long hiatus in the World Bank’s hydroelectric strategy — a pause that was prompted by social protests.

After being rebranded as a “clean energy” solution to the climate crisis, however — a position amplified by industry representatives at the Paris climate talks last December — the megadam staged its comeback. Taking advantage of the new business opportunities created to respond to the climate crisis, corporations are now being effectively bankrolled by UN-sponsored market solutions such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

But mega hydroelectric projects are anything but clean. In tropical regions like Honduras, they are a major source of the potent greenhouse gas methane. Moreover, mega hydroelectric facilitates the extraction of fossil fuels, such as coal and fracked gas, as well as other minerals. In Peru, as in Colombia and Brazil, mega hydroelectric dams are being brought online with the express intention of generating cheap energy for extractive industries.

This unprecedented expansion of mega hydroelectric power is increasingly generating resistance. Berta’s fight against dams is being repeated in community after community in Latin America.


Resistance in Rio Blanco


To defend the territorial rights of indigenous and campesino people against logging and other extractive projects, Berta cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH. For over 20 years, COPINH has been a major player in resisting Agua Zarca, and in 2015 Berta was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her role in that effort.

COPINH and local communities have pursued formal routes of resistance against the dam. Yet their calls for prior, free, and informed consent as required by international law have not been heard. Cases brought to the Honduran courts denouncing the illegality of the dam were also not pursued. The imbalance of power between the industry and local communities is evident: While Agua Zarca’s backers benefit from police protection, the communities’ legal cases against the dam lapse. In these situations — a story repeated throughout Latin America — affected communities are left with little choice but to take direct action.

In 2013, defying a military lockdown of the area, the Rio Blanco community took a stand. They maintained a road blockade that prevented machinery from reaching the dam site for over a year.

In clashes with police and paramilitary guards hired by the corporation, Tómas Garcia was shot several times at close range by a soldier. Garcia died instantly, and his son was left injured. At that time, the activist’s assassination brought the number of deaths suffered by defenders against the Agua Zarca project to three.

In a video made for the Goldman Prize ceremony, Berta explained how Garcia’s death prompted increased local resistance during that conflict. The resistance prompted Chinese Sinohydro, the largest dam builder in the world, to pull out of the project. That accomplishment “cost us in blood,” Berta said. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation also pulled its investment from Agua Zarca.

This was a temporary victory, however, because threats against the defenders failed to abate. In an interview with El Universo newspaper in 2015, Berta said: “I never doubted I would continue the struggle despite the threats; they even gave me more resolve. Today we are receiving death threats not only against me, but against other compañeros.”

With Latin America being the most dangerous region in the world for environmental defenders, Honduras tops the list.


Challenging the Powerful

Berta’s resolve to continue resisting led to her voice being prominent on the international stage. In conversation with the Guardian in 2015, Berta asserted:

“The political, economic, and social situation in Honduras is getting worse, and there is an imposition of a project of domination, of violent oppression, of militarization, of violation of human rights, of transnationalization, of the turning over of the riches and sovereignty of the land to corporate capital, for it to privatize energy, the rivers, the land; for mining exploitation; for the creation of development zones.”

Publicly calling out the dirty politics, human rights abuses, impunity, and systemic drivers behind the dam made her even more of a threat to the powerful actors involved. Her supporters have no doubt that’s what led to her death.

“We know very well who murdered her,” COPINH said in a statement on March 3. Speaking of the Honduran government, corporations, and financial institutions backing the Agua Zarca dam, COPINH wrote, “their hands are stained with indigenous blood and with the blood of the Lenca people.” In a statement, her family concurred: “Her assassination is an attempt to end the struggle of the Lenca people against exploitation and dispossession of their territories.”

The repression in Honduras is the kind of backlash to resistance all local communities face as extractivism and mega hydro expands across Latin America.

Some examples will show the scope of these killings.

Before the 2014 climate talks in Lima, Peru, four indigenous environmental defenders in the Amazon were murdered for protecting their territory from illegal logging. “Edwin Chota had received numerous death threats for his resistance to the criminal gangs who were gutting his community’s forests,” reports Global Witness, “but his appeals to the authorities were ignored.” The loggers are reputed to have connections to the government.

Similarly, indigenous tribes living in the area of the Belo Monte megadam in Brazil have been resisting the dam for decades. They’ve suffered threats of imprisonment, police violence and militarization of the area, killings of defenders, and sexual abuse. There have been a number of legal cases made against the dam that have gone nowhere.

And the megadam El Quimbo in Colombia has provoked strong resistance from local communities — who in response have faced assaults and arrests at protests, and violent evictions from their homes.

Accompanied by militarization, privatization of land and water, violence, and power imbalances in the judicial system, megadams are a symptom of a new form of colonization. The resistors who have died throughout Latin America have been doing the same thing Berta did: challenging the powerful.


The Fight Continues

Opposition to dams isn’t only taking place in dispersed communities. It’s also spurred a global movement.

The effort officially began 19 years ago. On March 14, 1997, representatives of affected peoples from 20 countries assembled in Curitiba, Brazil to take part in the first International Meeting of People Affected by Dams. Recognizing a common struggle — one that transcended different economic and political contexts — activists decided that the Brazilian Day of Struggles Against Dams would be globalized. And so was born the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams, held annually on March 14.

This new international platform aimed to make visible and to connect the diverse struggles taking place across the globe to protect rivers and the communities that depend upon them. But for those losing their homes and sovereignty to megadam expansion, these battles are fought not once a year, but on a daily basis.

The need for international action against megadams has been underscored by Berta Cáceres’ murder, and the subsequent murder of another member of COPINH, Nelson García, on March 16. Following their example, there’s an urgent need for global activists to continuously and vociferously denounce the mega hydroelectric dam complex — calling it out as a false solution to the climate crisis that it’s helping to drive. Berta not only put her body on the line to protect the rivers, lands, and communities she felt a part of. She also went beyond her own community struggle, relentlessly shining a light on the global dynamics of power that lay behind local injustices.

Like transnational corporations, resistance movements are strongest when they connect beyond fenceline struggles. Berta’s strength of resistance and international perspective posed a threat to a development paradigm based on the enrichment of global elites — so much so that the forces pushing that agenda felt it necessary to take her life.

But there can be no silencing of a movement. As those celebrating Berta’s life cried just days after her murder, “Berta lives, and the fight continues!”

Organizations and activists across the world are calling for an independent investigation into Berta’s murder and an end to the ongoing criminalization of members of the COPINH. Please add your voice here.



April 1, 2016

Gustavo Castro, Berta Caceres Murder Witness, Leaves Honduras

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:09 pm



Gustavo Castro, Berta Caceres Murder Witness, Leaves Honduras


gustavo_castro_mexico_honduras.png_1718483346Gustavo Castro, the only witness to Berta Caceres’ murder and survivor of an assassination attempt, has returned to Mexico. | Photo: Facebook / Otros Mundos Chiapas


Honduran officials were preventing Gustavo Castro from leaving the country despite fears over his safety.

Mexican environmental activist Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to the murder of Indigenous leader Berta Caceres and a victim in the attack, was finally allowed to leave Honduras in the early hours of Friday morning after a judge repealed the order that had kept him trapped in the country despite warnings that his life was in danger.

Castro’s lawyer, Ivania Galeano, told teleSUR that his legal team made the request for him to be able to leave two weeks ago, in the aftermath of Caceres’ murder on March 3. The Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office had banned Castro from leaving the country for 30 days, an order that was set to expire on Monday.

“Of course we receive this new resolution with great satisfaction because it confirms what we have been saying all this time that there is no legal justification to continue restraining Gustavo Castro in Honduras,” Galeano added.

Authorities lifted restrictions on Castro’s travel on Thursday, but added that they reserved the right to call Castro back to the country should the need arise.

Castro’s brother, Oscar Castro, who went to Honduras days after Caceres’ murder to accompany Gustavo and who has accused authorities of arbitrarily detaining the witness, also welcomed his brother’s release.

“We hugged because this whole month we have been under a lot of stress, him more than me,” Oscar Castro told teleSUR, adding that compliance with legal processes is crucial to protecting human rights.

Oscar and members of the Mexican Embassy, where the witness was forced to stay for nearly one month, accompanied Castro on his trip back to Mexico.

Castro is a sociologist and environmental activist with Otros Mundos Chiapas and Friends of the Earth Mexico. The organizations released a joint statement Thursday after news of Castro’s release expressing relief over his ability to return safely to his home country and reiterated demands for an impartial investigation into Caceres’ murder.

But the organizations also criticized Mexico for not doing enough to pressure Honduran authorities to ensure Castro’s safety, echoing similar criticism from other human rights defenders. The groups also called for Castro’s right to continue collaborating in the investigation from Mexico to be respected.

The statement from the Public Prosecutor also said that the offices of DESA, the company behind the dam project opposed by Caceres, was raided by officials on March 13. Authorities found weapons and seized a number of documents, according to the statement.

Caceres’ supporters have maintained that the environmental activist was killed over her opposition to the building of the controversial dam and have slammed the investigation for criminalizing Castro and members of Caceres’ organization, COPINH.

Beverly Bell, a colleague of Castro and friend of Caceres, wrote for Other Worlds on Thursday that Castro’s unjust treatment has been the result of the fact that he is “a roadblock to the regime’s plan to pin the murder on COPINH.”

Castro and his lawyers were concerned that prosecutors would try to frame him for the murder of Caceres. The Public Prosecutor has not put forward any conclusions drawn from the investigation or thesis as to the motives behind Caceres’ murder.



Zapatistas: The prohibition of alcohol and other drugs in indigenous territory.

Filed under: Women, Zapatistas — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:11 pm



Zapatistas: The prohibition of alcohol and other drugs in indigenous territory.

6th April by sxemad

In effect, if the will of Providence is to clear out these savages to make space for those who cultivate the earth, it seems probable that rum would be an appropriate method. It has already annihilated all the tribes that used to inhabit the maritime coast.

Benjamin Franklin




If alcohol consumption and alcoholism pose serious problems to public health in urban centres, they pose even greater problems in rural and indigenous regions, which do not have direct access to health services and other support systems. This was the reality for many communities in Chiapas, and indigenous families suffered the consequences.

This is still a reality for the indigenous communities dependent upon the Mexican state, but for the Zapatista communities, it’s a different story.

Throughout the Zapatista uprising, women played a significant part in the process of change and resistance to the heavy-handed military repression of the Mexican state. Even so, violence and inequality within indigenous communities in Chiapas was palpable. In this context and with their participation in the developing autonomy of the indigenous communities steadily growing, the Zapatista women decided to formulate a series of propositions which in their eyes would improve the lives of women in the communities. One of these laws addressed the prohibition of the consumption, production and distribution of drugs, and in particular, alcohol. Zapatista women recognized alcohol as one of the causes of domestic violence and the impoverishment of indigenous families.

From the ‘Proposal for the extension of the Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary law’, agreed somewhere in the jungle, 4th March 1996, during an assembly to organise activities for International Women’s’ Day.  

  1. The Womens’ Revolutionary law strictly prohibits the planting, cultivation and bodily consumption of drugs (marihuana, heroine, cocaine, etc.), because we the women are the ones who suffer most harshly the consequences of this vice.
  2. The sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited in our towns and communities because we the women are the ones who suffer blows, poverty and deprivation as a consequence of this vice. *

* Published in the Doble Jornada supplement of the newspaper La Jornada, 6th May 1996.



‘Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol is damaging to our health and only wastes money’, Nayely, Secretary of health, community “LA REALIDAD”.


The prohibition of the consumption of alcoholic beverages and illegal substances was not imposed in the Zapatista territories, rather it was a collective decision. The assemblies of men and women, young people and elders define the Zapatista Revolutionary Laws and the legislation of the Federal Government is neither imposed nor obeyed.

It’s been 20 years since alcohol was banned in Zapatista territory. Time flies. The difference felt in the daily life of the family and community is profound, and has resulted in a reduction in violence, which is nothing but positive. Especially considering the poor quality of the alcohol available in indigenous communities and the health problems linked to it.

By not drinking, the campesinos, in particular the men, eliminate the risk of illnesses common in the communities: ulcers, cirrhosis, malnutrition and machete wounds obtained under the influence. It may not be reflected in government records of public health, but on close examination, the effect on the populace is spectacular.


Translated by Ruby Zajac for the UK Zapatista Translation Service





Honduras Relents, Allows Witness of Caceres Murder to Leave

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:24 pm



Honduras Relents, Allows Witness of Caceres Murder to Leave



An indigenous man holds a Honduran national flag during a protest to demand justice for slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters


Honduran officials were preventing Gustavo Castro from leaving the country despite fears over his safety.

Gustavo Castro, the Mexican national who witnessed the murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres, will finally be able to leave Honduras after a judge on Thursday repealed the order that had kept him trapped in Honduras.

The Honduran Office of the Public Prosecutor had banned Castro from leaving the country for 30 days, an order that was set to expire on Monday.

The Public Prosecutor issued a statement stating that they had requested Wednesday that the order keeping Castro in Honduras be lifted. The statement added that they reserved the right to call Castro back to the country should the need arise.

Castro is expected to fly back to Mexico on Friday.

The statement from the Public Prosecutor also said that the offices of DESA, the company behind the dam project opposed by Caceres, was raided by officials on March 13.

The statement indicated that weapons were found and a number of documents were seized.

Caceres’ supporters have maintained that the environmental activist was killed over her opposition to the building of the controversial dam.

Castro and his lawyers were concerned that prosecutors would try to frame him for the murder of Caceres. The Public Prosecutor has not put forward its thesis as to the motives behind Caceres’ murder.



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