Zapatista News Summary June 2016
A. EZLN and CNI
1.CompARTE for Humanity: Adherents to the Sexta continue to organise events in advance of the festival, which is to be held from 17th to 30th July, first in Oventic and then in Cideci. It is noticeable that there is a general increase in the number of activities and statements promoting different art forms as a means of resistance and struggle.
2. Notes on the War: On 17th June, the EZLN release Notes on the War against the Teachers in Resistance (The Hour of the Police 3) taken from the notebook of the cat-dog. The government is losing the media war about the education reform in Chiapas, the communiqué says, and goes on to discuss how the resistance movement is growing. Foreseeing what is to come next for the teachers, it continues: “They have beaten them, gassed them, imprisoned them, threatened them, fired them unjustly, slandered them, and declared a de facto state-of-siege in Mexico City. What’s next? Will they disappear them? Will they murder them? Seriously? The ‘education’ reform will be born upon the blood and bodies of the teachers?”
3. From Within the Storm: On 20th June, a joint communiqué, “From Within the Storm,” is released from the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN on “the cowardly police attack against the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers and the indigenous community of Nochixtlán, Oaxaca.” In this, the peoples, nations and tribes of the CNI and the EZLN “say to the dignified teachers that they are not alone, that we know that reason and truth are on their side, that the collective dignity from which they speak their resistance is unbreakable, and that this the principal weapon of those of us below.” They demand an end to the repression and call for solidarity in the face of the storm that is upon all of us.
4. More from the cat-dog: On 23rd June, the EZLN release The Hour of the Police 4, from the Cat-Dog’s spoiler notebook. This short excerpt is about Aurelio Nuño, Minister of Public Education, who has refused to negotiate. “All memory of you will disappear.”
1. Bersaín Hernández Zavala: The sad death in a car accident is announced of the teacher, social activist and adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, Bersaín Hernández Zavala, who founded the Autonomous Regional Council of the Coastal Zone of Chiapas in September 2006. This Council covered the municipalities of Tonalá, Pijijiapan and Mapastepec. A moving farewell and memorial is held on 3rd June, at the secondary school, where he taught in Tonalá, in honour of his important work. He is remembered for his contribution to the construction of a culture of peace.
2. The Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel: declare their full and active support for the teachers in resistance, and call for a pilgrimage on 8th June in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, against the repression and the so-called reforms, calling on the government to stop the violence, on the police to protect and not to repress, and on the teachers to continue to struggle peacefully. Thousands of indigenous peoples from the municipalities of Simojovel, El Bosque, Huitiupán, Amatán and Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán came down from the highlands for this pilgrimage, led by Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez. Further pilgrimages follow.
3. Las Abejas of Acteal open a collection for the 81 people, from 14 families, members of their organisation, who were displaced from their homes by the shooting and violence in Colonia Puebla, Chenalho, on 26th May. The displaced people are currently living in the headquarters of Las Abejas, and were previously displaced in August 2013. During their monthly commemoration of the fallen, the group denounce the repression and the context of violence towards the indigenous peoples, seen for example in the increase in mineral exploitation (mining.) On 22nd June they say “”The governments of Chiapas and Mexico have never had the mentality to establish peace. They only encourage violence and defend their own interests and those of their bosses who want to impose structural reforms.” These reforms, they add, are only to privatise education, and all the national resources.
4. Ejido Tila: Ejidatarios from the newly autonomous community of Tila denounce how “the expelled town council is still looking to finish us off and return to bad government.” For example, “a member of the municipal police cut an ejidatario with a razor,” and supplies of fuel for the ambulance at Tila have been cut. “Also the threats continue and the town council gave money to the caciques to pay thugs to kill our authorities and destroy our self-government. But here we continue resisting and slowly building our autonomy and the self-government of the ejido.” On 12th June they further announce that they have completed 70 metres of drainage by hand.
5. Prisoners: Ejidatarios from San Sebastián Bachajon demand the release of the Tseltal Santiago Moreno Pérez from the prison at Playas de Catazaja. They say he is not receiving medical attention for various diseases resulting from the conditions of his detention over the last seven years. The Tsotsil prisoner Alejandro Díaz Santiz denounces the mistreatment of prisoners through threats and abuse of power by the prison guards, as well as verbal and physical humiliation at the federal prison No. 15, Villa Comaltitlán, Tapachula. In Cereso No 5, the Tsotsil prisoner Roberto Paciencia Cruz begins a short hunger strike in solidarity with the teachers. Roberto also writes a letter of solidarity to Alejandro, to break his isolation.
6. The Lacandon Gap: Ejidatarios from the Ocosingo area, members of ARIC (not adherents to the Sexta), gathered at Ejido Candelaria, announce their complete rejection of the proposal to delimit the Lacandon Gap, a fight that has gone on for 40 years, because “the delimitation of the Lacandon Gap is about transnational companies that want to take possession of the land to exploit its valuable natural resources, found in the depths of the Lacandon zone and the Montes Azules biosphere.” “The Government does not intend to regularise this land; rather its main objective is to delimit the gap, in order to expropriate the Lacandon zone.”
7. San Isidro Los Laureles: The organised group of San Isidro los Laureles and communities in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, adherents to the Sixth Declaration, known as Semilla Digna, release a communiqué informing that, during their eviction from their recuperated land, their houses and cornfields were destroyed. The 50 to 60 hectares of maize they had planted, which was almost ready to harvest, has been cut by the attackers and fed to their cattle, leaving 60 families without food. They announce their intention to return and recover their lands and territory.
8. San Francisco Teopisca: The organised group of adherents to the Sexta from the ranchería San Francisco, in the municipality of Teopisca, denounce, on 13th June, that the police are searching for seven of their members as a result of arrest warrants which were issued against them last August. This is part of an attempt to seize and sell their recuperated land, “El Desengaño,” by a shock group led by two local caciques.
9. Forced disappearance of Maximiliano Gordillo Martinez: On 13th June, one month and six days since the forced disappearance of Maximiliano Gordillo Martinez, aged 18, his relatives, representatives of his community parish of Socoltenango, along with members of “La 72” Refuge Home for Migrants, Mesoamerican Voices, Action with Migrant Peoples and the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights, call a press conference to denounce the negligence of the authorities in this case. Maximiliano was travelling in search of work because of the poverty of his family, when he was wrongfully detained as a migrant at a checkpoint in the state of Tabasco; since then he has disappeared.
10. Banavil: The families forcibly displaced from Banavil report that Alonso Lopez Ramirez was arrested on 9th June, on the charges of homicide and wounding. He is one of those responsible for the aggression of December 4, 2011, that caused the forced displacement of 13 people and the disappearance of Alonso López Luna. The displaced families demand that Alonso Lopez Ramirez is not allowed to go free, that the seven other outstanding arrest warrants in this case are implemented and that a search is conducted to find the disappeared Alonso López Luna, because Lopez Ramirez knows what happened to him.
11. An example of autonomous justice: In a communiqué dated 14th June, ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajon report that after a group of around 10 people assaulted and killed a young campesino on the road on the night of 12th June, the Ch’ol and Tseltal communities of the region, “decided to organize ourselves autonomously and mobilised around 800 men to track and capture the criminal gang.” The operation was carried out by fifteen communities from different municipalities, among them the municipality of Bachajón, “knowing that there will be no justice from the state due to the complicity of the police forces with the bad government and organised crime.” The aim was “to prevent the bad government from utilizing these types of situations, with the help of the mass media, and presenting them to civil society as the result of a prevailing insecurity and division among indigenous peoples, advocating police and military intervention in territories that are the focus of government interests.” The “organized intervention of the Ch’ol and Tseltal communities to detain the criminals,” was conducted “using our customs and traditional practices and the ways and modes of community policing.”
12. Minerva Guadalupe Pérez Torres: 20th June 2016 marks the twentieth anniversary of the forced disappearance of the indigenous Ch’ol Minerva Guadalupe, who was arrested at a checkpoint of the paramilitary group Desarrollo Paz y Justicia (Development Peace and Justice) in the municipality of Tila. This case, says Frayba, “falls within the systematic pattern of forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and forced displacement in the Northern region of Chiapas, which was part of the counterinsurgency strategy operated by the Mexican State.” The call for justice continues.
13. Second and third pilgrimages called: Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez from Simojovel announces that the base ecclesiastical communities from the parishes of San Fernando de Guadalupe, Salto de Agua, San Mateo, Tila, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Palenque and the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, along with the Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel, will hold a pilgrimage on 20th June in support of the teachers of Chiapas in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. They have to do this because their march of 8th June fell on deaf ears, he says, and to show their support for the teachers and to repudiate the violent acts that occurred in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca. “With such events we cannot remain on the sidelines, as a church we will always be on the side of the oppressed and we will raise our prophetic voice.” Father Marcelo also extends an invitation to a mega-pilgrimage in support of the teachers on 1st July with around thirteen parishes from the diocese of San Cristobal participating.
14. Healthworkers strike in Chiapas: In Chiapas, more than 2,000 workers of Health Jurisdiction Number II, which covers 18 municipalities in the Highlands of Chiapas, declare a strike on 7th June to demand equipment and medicine for patients as well as social benefits: they have neither medicines nor equipment to tend to the patients. Thousands of health workers march in San Cristobal de Las Casas on June 14th, requesting that their demands be addressed and siding against the Health Reform Bill and in support of the teachers. They began a sit-in in the city on that date. On June 22nd, the health sector called for a national strike against the new Universal Health System, a proposal of President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose first phase came into effect the previous week.
1. Campaign in Defence of Mother Earth: The first national video message from the National Campaign in Defence of Mother Earth and Territory is released online as part of the campaign’s overall goal to connect different urban and rural grassroots struggles in Mexico who make their priority the defence of territory, natural resources and the rights of indigenous peoples. In this message artists, poets and intellectuals amplify the voice of the more than 97 peoples who are resisting the imposition of megaprojects in their territories. “Without land and territory, life is not possible.”
2. Tata Juan Chávez Alonso: is remembered on the fourth anniversary of his death. “Corn is our blood, corn is our life, corn is our child, the corn boy and girl. It is the young person, the young corn, it is the sister and the brother corn, it is the father and the mother corn, it is the grandmother and grandfather corn. We are the people of corn who like all humanity are all the colours of the earth, because we were born in the land of all the colours that we are. Corn is represented in each of the colours of the world.”
3. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) explains that it is facing a serious funding crisis which could result in the loss of 40% of its personnel by the end of July, and would have a devastating impact on its work. The IAHCR is the main recourse for indigenous groups facing violations of their rights and the impacts of its loss would be very severe. The organisation is essential for the scrutiny of press freedom, political violence and indigenous rights.
4. World Poetry Gathering of Indigenous Peoples: It is announced that nearly a hundred poets from different native peoples of the five continents will meet in Mexico in October 2016 as part of the first World Poetry Gathering of Indigenous Peoples: Voices of Colours for the Mother Earth, an event that aims to be a cry of warning about the environmental crisis on the planet. The festival, which will be presented in different pre-Hispanic archaeological sites in Mexico, will be adapted to the nature of ancestral cultures, where poetry plays a key role in oral culture which is used to transmit knowledge and traditions.
5. GM soya in Campeche: Beekeepers, Mayan communities and environmentalists warn of the possible planting of transgenic soybeans in Campeche despite the suspension of this activity decreed by the Supreme Court of Justice. They demand that the law enforcement authorities ensure that businesses and private producers comply with the ruling, and warn that they will initiate citizen monitoring in high-risk areas in Campeche and denounce any cases found.
6. Shocking new report from Amnesty International: Torture is widespread in Mexico’s “war on drugs”, but the impact on women has been largely ignored or downplayed. This report analyses the stories of 100 women who have reported torture and other forms of violence during arrest and interrogation by police and armed forces.
D. The Teachers’ Strike
The Mexican government’s neoliberal education “reform” represents the privatisation of education, the removal of workers’ rights, the weakening and even criminalisation of trade unions and the virtual exclusion of poor and indigenous regions from the educational system. The teachers have been on strike since 15th May. Huge protests continue despite violent clashes, police brutality and arrests. The arrests of the CNTE leaders along with a dozen other teachers led to mass demonstrations across Mexico, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacan – the poorest states with the largest indigenous population.
On 19th June violent repression by the Peña Nieto government and a brutal attack lasting over four hours on demonstrators at a roadblock in the southern state of Oaxaca resulted in the killing of at least 12 people, including nine people in the town (population 15,000) of Nochixtlan. See the report by John Ackerman here and an article about the teachers movement in Oaxaca here. Following this attack, residents of Nochixtlán are living in a virtual state of terror. The massacre has sparked a local and global condemnation against state repression in Mexico.
There are also great fears of further acts of repression and indiscriminate violence by the state, in an atmosphere of impunity, and there are many calls for dialogue.
Massive support for the teachers
Thousands of local and international social organizations and grassroots movements have endorsed the teachers’ cause.
More than 200,000 doctors and nurses joined the teachers in a 24-hour strike against Peña Nieto’s administration attempts to privatize the federal social security and health systems, and students at major Mexican universities boycotted classes to mark the massacre and to oppose the ongoing efforts by the government to increase costs of higher education.
Generalized roadblocks against the education reform are set up throughout Chiapas, in Tuxtla, San Cristobal, Comitan, Ocosingo, Oxchuc, Ixtapa, and Suchiapa, and a succession of indigenous and cultural groups are joining the marches. On 29th June, more than eighteen roads in Chiapas were reported as having been blocked for three days, and by 30th June, twenty in the state of Oaxaca. The mobilisations continue, because no agreements have been reached through negotiation. Osorio Chong is talking about removing the roadblocks by force. However, on 30th July, Mexican authorities agreed to pay reparations for the dead in Nochixtlan.
Indigenous groups have come out very strongly in support of the teachers, notably the Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel, Las Abejas from Acteal, the Mixe from highland Oaxaca, who are carrying out massive mobilisations, and, of course, the Zapatistas, along with the Indigenous National Congress.
Finally, a summary of the situation from the Manchester Zapatista Collective:
Teachers in different parts of the world are fighting against what neoliberal governments are doing to education: governments abandon education for the most marginalized sectors of societies, they privatize education for everyone else, they remove critical thinking from
curricula and turn education into their own tool for forming compliant and obedient servants of the existing system. We’re seeing it in Britain, in the U.S., and in Mexico. Dispossession is not only about land; it is also about knowledge which should be there for everyone. As
Gustavo Esteva puts it, ‘the teachers’ territory is the classroom.’
In Mexico teachers have been striking in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. This last weekend (18/19 June) the police cracked down on them; as far as we know nine people have been killed and over 100 injured. This is an extension of the crack-down on teachers and teacher training students in Guerrero, another part of Mexico, which led to the enforced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa two years ago.
Here is an interview with Gustavo Esteva, who has been with the Sixth, on the reasons for the actions of the teachers in Oaxaca, on the abandoning of education by the government, and on the links between education and the struggle for land and territory: