dorset chiapas solidarity

February 26, 2016

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

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



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

Sandra Cuffe


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Article published by Ruxandra Guidi on February 17, 2016.



February 13, 2016

Las Abejas of Acteal issue a statement

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:24 pm



Las Abejas of Acteal issue a statement

Las Abejas: the principal objective of Francisco here is “to defend the people of Mexico”



Photo: Desinformemonos


By: Hermann Bellinghausen

Acteal, Chiapas

  • The Tsotsil group insists on its demand for justice for the massacre in Acteal 18 years ago
  • The collective sit-in the atrium of the Cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas is lifted

The indigenous of Las Abejas of Acteal are convinced that Pope Francisco, on his visit to Chiapan lands, “brings a most key message: his principal objective is to defend the people of Mexico,” says Sebastián Pérez Vázquez, president of the board of directors of the Tzotzil organization. He comes “to give his word of peace in order that peace will be established here in Chiapas and in Mexico.” But not just that, also “about how we can take care of our Mother Earth.”

Without giving up their demand for justice for the massacre that occurred here 18 years ago, the civil society organization Las Abejas de Acteal does not hesitate in greeting Pope Francisco, who their organization will receive in San Cristóbal de Las Casas next Monday. He made it clear that: “as an organization we are always demanding justice, because if there is no justice, peace cannot be established. The Church talks about forgiveness. There are ways where yes one can forgive. Not all things can be forgiven. But as a crime was committed, one must apply justice.”

This is the scene of the largest and most paradigmatic collective wound in the process of liberation and resistance of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas: the senseless massacre of more than 45 peaceful people (Pérez Vázquez insists on this) perpetrated on December 22, 1997 by a group of paramilitaries encouraged by the federal government. This was also an attack on believing Catholics and, at that time, on the Church that Bishop Samuel Ruiz García represented. It was also about the irregular war the State unleashed against the Zapatista movement, which was crude and brutal in Chenalhó during all of 1997. The unarmed allies of Zapatismo were also targets of this war, which was the case with Las Abejas.

Although there were investigations and eventually more than 70 paramilitaries were condemned to prison for the acts, “the government never disarmed them, they were their dealers,” the president of the organization says. Now most of the killers are free, and walk around here.

In statements issued at the Las Abejas headquarters in the camp of Acteal, which its residents call “sacred land,” in the municipio of Chenalhó, in Los Altos of Chiapas, Pérez Vázquez emphasizes: “They only punished the material authors a little bit, but not the intellectual authors, the then president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, and the three levels of government.”

Always in crisis. Always in a loud voice. Always in resistance, the Las Abejas organization has resisted for almost two decades the pressures, promises and betrayals of the state and federal governments, as well as those of the courts of justice. It is an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle and it belongs, since its founding in 1992, to Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), the most numerous and representative popular Catholic congregation of Chiapas, with a presence in all the indigenous regions of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas Diocese.

Rumours dissipate

Throughout the night and this morning, the organizations and communities that maintained a collective occupation in the atrium of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas Cathedral withdrew, including the conglomerate of dissident groups united in the Popular Assembly of Los Altos of Chiapas.

Thus, the OCEZ of Venustiano Carranza, the residents of Chanal, the Proletarian and Popular Communist Coordinator, and the families displaced from Shulvó (aka Xul Vó), Zinacantán, [1] set free the space also called the Peace Plaza. With that the rumours dissipate, widely spread in San Cristóbal yesterday, that the Pope “would suspend” his visit to the country’s most important indigenous cathedral.

Translator’s Note:

[1] Shulvó or Xul Vó is a community in the official municipio (county) of Zinacantán or, alternatively, the autonomous Zapatista municipio of Vicente Guerrero, in the Highlands of Chiapas. Last December 9, paramilitaries violently expelled 47 people from that community. Those expelled are adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee






February 5, 2016

Indigenous struggle in Chiapas will come ‘out in the open’ for Pope Francis’s visit

Filed under: Acteal, Human rights, Indigenous, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:59 pm



Indigenous struggle in Chiapas will come ‘out in the open’ for Pope Francis’s visit

The pope’s plans to address legacy of violence, discrimination and poverty in southern Mexican state is bound to rouse Mayan people – and the Zapatistas



A woman and child walk past a billboard welcoming Pope Francis in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico. He will visit Mexico between 12 and 17 February. Photograph: Moysés Zuñiga/AFP/Getty Images


David Agren in Acteal, Mexico

The killing began when masked paramilitaries burst into a Catholic prayer meeting and opened fire. Those who escaped the initial attack were chased for hours through the canyons and cloud forests which surround this Tzotzil Indian community of corn and coffee farmers in southern Mexico.

Forty-five people died in the assault on a Catholic activist group known as Las Abejas, or the Bees; 21 were women, 15 were children. The perpetrators were linked to the then (and now) governing Institutional Revolutionary party.

The 1997 Acteal massacre was one of the worst mass killings of Mexico’s recent history, and it remains a potent reminder of indigenous struggle in Chiapas, a state still suffering from widespread poverty, discrimination and political corruption.

“Eighteen years have passed … and we continue denouncing grievances committed against us by party officials, who are manipulated by a government that keeps causing us pain and suffering,” said Las Abejas leader Sebastián Pérez Vázquez.

Indigenous Mexico’s fight for recognition and respect was symbolised by the Zapatista uprising which burst into the open on 1 January 1994, the day the country entered the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – an arrangement the government insisted would vault Mexico into the first world.


3000 (1)

Indigenous women of the Las Abejas civil society commemorate the 17th anniversary in 2014 of the massacre of 45 Tzotzil people in the Acteal community. Photograph: Alamy


Later this month, Pope Francis – who has put the poor and excluded at the centre of his papacy – will come to Chiapas as part of his six-day visit to Mexico. He will celebrate mass in several Mayan languages and address the injustices facing indigenous people, who in recent years have departed the Catholic church in droves for evangelical congregations and even mosques started by Muslim missionaries.

Two decades after the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), he will find that the state and its indigenous population remain firmly on the periphery of Mexican society.

Federal government figures show poverty, inequality and hunger rates have remained stubbornly high – despite billions of pesos spent on roads, schools, clinics and a spate of social programmes.

Critics in Chiapas contend that the wave of spending has been as much about controlling rebellious communities as raising the population from poverty.

“The situation here in Chiapas has not changed over the last 20 years,” said Pérez. “Even though the people are wiser to the situation, things have stayed the same.”

Pope Francis will arrive in southern Mexico as a somewhat unwelcome guest. Priests in the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas say the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto wanted the pope go elsewhere, proposing the placid state of Campeche on the Yucatán peninsula as an alternative. The government feared that the papal visit could stir up latent indigenous discontent, the priests said.

“The visit is going to give an opportunity for everything in Chiapas that’s simmering under the surface to boil over,” said diocesan spokesman Jesuit Father Pedro Arriaga. “It’s going to again show that the Zapatista movement is still here, that indigenous marginalisation continues, that poverty persists, that [government] health clinics are very deficient. All of this will come out into the open.”

Sources in the federal government say its concerns over the papal visit to Chiapas were logistical, not political.

Churchmen in Chiapas also see the visit as a vindication of the work of the state’s former bishop Samuel Ruiz, who led the diocese for 40 years until his retirement in 2000, but ran afoul of land-owning elites, politicians and the Vatican.

Pope Francis plans to pray at the tomb of Ruiz, who shared a similar pastoral approach. He rode to remote Indian pueblos on mules, preaching in their local languages and organising them into Catholic communities – behaviour seen as a challenge to the rule of local landowners. He trained hundreds of catechist instructors and ordained married, indigenous deacons – a solution to perpetual shortages of priests – as he built a church which incorporated and appreciated indigenous cultures. The Vatican banned such ordinations in 2001, but Pope Francis has permitted the practice to resume.

Some of Ruiz’s catechist instructors and deacons subsequently joined the Zapatistas, though the bishop opposed violence. He was appointed a mediator in the conflict and helped broker the San Andrés peace accords between the EZLN and Mexican government – an agreement the Zapatistas allege was never fully respected.

“The government never understood that the Zapatistas preferred to live with dignity than live with refrigerators,” says Dominican Father Gonzalo Ituarte, a former diocesan vicar. “The problem that we had with the Zapatistas [is that] what they proposed is the same thing we had proposed for many years.”

The Zapatista struggle won worldwide attention, while its pipe-smoking spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, became an icon of the anti-globalisation movement. Thousands of foreign “Zapaturistas” poured into the state, providing a presence some analysts suspect kept any army excesses in check.



Zapatista rebels stand in line during a rally in the early 1990s in the main square of San Cristóbal Las Casas’ cathedral. The Zapatista National Liberation Army launched its uprising on 1 January 1994. Photograph: Reuters


Today the Zapatistas have largely withdrawn to their autonomous communities though they can still mobilise their masses. An estimated 40,000 Zapatistas emerged unexpectedly for a march in five municipalities coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a month later, Peña Nieto went to the Zapatista stronghold of Las Margaritas to launch his landmark social program, The Crusade Against Hunger. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was brought in to lend legitimacy to the launch.

In a New Year’s 2016 message, EZLN spokesman Subcomandante Moisés said Zapatistas settlements were “better than 22 years ago”, but also better than those in non-autonomous communities, which have been supported by government programmes. But some observers say government money has already caused the movement to splinter.

The offers can be enticing for the inhabitants of impoverished communities as government officials and political parties hand out everything from sheep to bicycles to bags of fertiliser – especially at election time. (Mexico’s social development secretariat did not respond to interview requests, though it says in adverts that programmes are non-partisan.)

The social investments have produced some successes. “Thanks to this programme, we were able to study,” said Margarita Martínez, a Tzotzil linguistics professor.

“[But] it’s also a form of control on the part of the government,” she added. “In the campaigns, there are times in which they tell people, ‘If you don’t vote for this party, they’re going to take away your benefits.’ It’s not true, but people believe it.”

And while grinding poverty persists, change of a different kind is slowly happening in Chiapas.

Martínez, 35, recalls coming to San Cristóbal de las Casas as a girl and not being allowed to walk on the sidewalk. Those prejudices persist – when she arrived at her university wearing traditional costume of a woollen skirt and colourfully embroidered shirt, security guards presumed she was a cleaner – but nowadays, more indigenous people have trained as professionals or occupy prominent places in commerce.

Parents are still teaching native Mayan languages such as Tzotzil and Tzeltal to their children, but young people are also using it to produce poetry, rock music and even hip-hop. Parents dress their children traditionally for Catholic events such as baptisms and first communions, too.

Indigenous art is also flourishing. Painter Saúl Kak opened an exhibit in the Casa de la Cultura in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, showing the struggles of the displaced Zoque people. His paintings touch on political topics and including a piece with the familiar Coca-Cola font spelling the words, “toma con conciencia”, (a word play on the familiar slogan, reading, “consume with consciousness”,) to protest mindless consumerism.

“This would have never happened 25 years ago,” says John Burstein, director at Galería MUY, which represents Kak. “There’s no way the Casa de Cultura would have brought in an indigenous artist.”

Back in Acteal, members of Las Abejas say they see some small signs of hope in their struggle, too.

“Many people,” Pérez says, “have stopped selling their consciences for a little bit of money or a sack of corn flour.”




January 9, 2016

Paramilitaries in Mexico Silencing Indigenous Community

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Paramilitary — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:16 pm



Paramilitaries in Mexico Silencing Indigenous Community



Hundreds of Indigenous people demonstrate to mark the anniversary of the 1997 massacre. Experts say the same climate of fear exists in Tila today. | Photo: Reuters


Paramilitary groups have long been used by the state in Chiapas to deal with social conflicts in the region, specialists say.

The Indigenous population near the town of Tila in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas say they will not stop fighting for their land to be returned to them, even when faced with violence and intimidation from paramilitary groups.

teleSUR correspondent Fernando Camacho reported Thursday that tension was mounting in the town of Tila as the Chol Indigenous community continue to fight for their land in the face of the growing presence of paramilitary groups.

“We live in fear because many masked paramilitaries entered here and the population could not go out into the streets because we had to be careful,” one Chol community member told teleSUR.

According to the Chol community, some 130 hectares of land was illegally taken from them three decades ago in order to create the municipality of Tila. They argue this is a violation of their rights.

When the community “started to raise their voices for the return of their land, irregular armed groups began to appear,” reported Camacho, adding that paramilitaries have acted in violent ways to fix problems in the community that local authorities failed to resolve.

“Historically in Chiapas, paramilitary groups have been the means of counterinsurgency used by the state government, with the endorsement of the federal government obviously, to deal with conflicts in the region and to support the argument that they are conflicts between communities,” Magdalena Gomez, a specialist on indigenous issues in the region, told teleSUR.

The latter, added Gomez, was one tactic used by the government to explain the massacre in 1997 in the nearby town of Acteal. Paramilitaries entered the town and killed 45 men, women and children, in what authorities said was a conflict between communities.

The same climate of confrontation and threats exists in Tila today, said the academic.

Mexican authorities have denied the existence of paramilitaries in the region.–20160108-0021.html



January 3, 2016

Communiqué from the Ejidatari@s of San Sebastián Bachajón in solidarity with Las Abejas of Acteal

Filed under: Acteal, Bachajon, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:19 pm



Communiqué from the Ejidatari@s of San Sebastián Bachajón in solidarity with Las Abejas of Acteal






To the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

To the Good Government Juntas

To the Indigenous National Congress

To the compañer@s adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in Mexico and the world

To the mass and alternative media

To the Network for Solidarity and against Repression

To Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York

To national and international human rights defenders

To the people of Mexico and the world

Compañeros and compañeras, receive a combative greeting from all the humble children, women and men of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón; we hereby express our full support in solidarity with the compañeros members of Las Abejas of Acteal so as to support and raise our voice, we say to them that we will not take even one step back, our organization will continue in front struggling and supporting the compañeros in the situation of risk they are going through due to actions of the bad government; our word is stronger than a wall and we will join forces in order to defend life, the people and Mother Earth, we know that we are not alone in this struggle, because there are other people who are embracing and struggling to transform this world into something better and together united we will build a path of peace, freedom and justice.

Have faith, compañeros and compañeras.

We want you to listen to our words that your struggle is our struggle, that our organization is to support one another, this is why we express our contempt and anger at the narco government for contracting paramilitaries to assassinate and disappear people; we hold the government responsible for the threats and attacks against our compañeros members of the organization Las Abejas of Acteal, made in the ambush, armed aggression and physical injuries against three members, when on December 29, 2015 at approximately 7pm a group of three hooded individuals two of them dressed in black and one in a military-style shirt, shot at our compañeros with firearms in a vehicle near the Tsibal’um bridge about a kilometre and a half from the municipal headquarters of Pantelhó; this happened when they were returning from collecting sacks of coffee in the San Joaquin community in the same municipality; this ambush took place in the same region where six months ago Manuel López Pérez, a member of Las Abejas of Acteal, was ambushed and killed by three shots from a firearm.

We also demand the immediate release of our imprisoned compañeros Esteban Gómez Jiménez, prisoner in Cintalapa de Figueroa, Chiapas (amate #14), Santiago Moreno Pérez and Emilio Jiménez Gómez, prisoners in Playas de Catazajá, Chiapas (cereso #17) who were imprisoned for having the commitment to fight and defend the mother earth, just as we also demand the freedom of other political prisoners of Mexico and the world.

From the northern zone of the state of Chiapas the women and men of San Sebastián send militant greetings to all the compañeros and compañeras, communities and peoples of Mexico and the world who are in resistance.

Never again a Mexico without us

Land and Freedom


Zapata Vive!

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Freedom for political prisoners!

Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives, the Bachajón struggle continues!

Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano Lives, the Bachajón struggle continues!

No dispossession of indigenous territories!

The state police out of our indigenous territory!

Immediate presentation of the disappeared and assassinated compañeros from the Normal School Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa!

Long live the dignified struggle of our Chol compañeros y compañeras from the ejido Tila!

Long live the dignified struggle of our compañeros and compañeras from San Francisco Xochicuautla!

Long live the peoples who struggle for their autonomy and freedom!






December 28, 2015

18 years since the Acteal massacre

Filed under: Acteal, Frayba, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:49 am



18 years since the Acteal massacre



Acteal, 22 December 2015 (@SIPAZ)


On 22 December 2015, 18 years since the massacre of 45 indigenous persons in Acteal, Chenalhó municipality, the Las Abejas Civil Society (organization to which the victims had pertained) carried out a pilgrimage and a commemoration of the events to denounce the impunity that continues to prevail in the case.

In a communique, Las Abejas stressed that, “the bad government investigating the intellectual authors of this crime through the badly named ‘Supreme Court for Justice in the Nation,’ that is to say, the ‘Supreme Court for the Rich and Criminals,’ has ordered the massive release of the paramilitaries who performed the massacre. As far as we can tell, only 2 are left incarcerated, and at any moment will they also be released. Thus it remains clear to us that justice will not be granted by the government, because the Mexican State is the one that gave the order for the massacre, such that it is a criminal party and cannot rightfully be judge in the case. The Mexican justice system is expired and rotten. It is very clear that, if we wish to have true justice, we organized peoples of Mexico must construct a true, dignified, thorough, and humane justice.” Las Abejas ended the communique stressing that “Memory is an act of Justice!”

For his part, the director of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Centre for Human Rights (CDHFBC), Pedro Faro Navarro, denounced that in the Acteal case, “there has been no justice, and the wall of impunity persists.” He added that “state officials, including Ernesto Zedillo, clearly knew what was happening in Chenalhó, in terms of the precedents and the moment at which the massacre was happening, due to reports from the Mexican Army which had been deployed in the Highlands region, thus confirming the direct participation of the Mexican State in the Acteal massacre. The national context shows us that justice will not come from above, nor from those in power or those who administer the State, let alone the existing power-groups or anyone who manipulates and corrupts [the people], who are the owners of the justice system in Mexico.” He noted that for this reason, the Las Abejas Civil Society “is building for another justice,” such that “one possible conclusion is that the future of the people who have been degraded and discriminated against will need no justice from the State.”



December 27, 2015

Las Abejas of Acteal denounce harassment of members of their organization

Filed under: Acteal, Autonomy, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:58 pm



Las Abejas of Acteal denounce harassment of members of their organization




On 2 December, the Las Abejas Civil Society of Acteal denounced that three families from its organization had been harassed in the Chenalhó municipality by the agent Antonio Vázquez Gutiérrez and the popular assembly of Los Chorros. As residents of the Jordan River neighborhood of the Miguel Utrilla district of Los Chorros, the families were obliged to accept a governmental project “service” involving sanitation drainage. Furthermore, two men of these families were punished with a fine of 5,000 pesos for having refused communal responsibilities. As members of the Las Abejas Civil Society, an autonomous organization, they do not receive any support from the government and do not pay taxes. In place of this, they demanded that their posture be respected, but the threats on the part of leaders of the assembly and the municipal agent have continued.

In this sense, on 24 November Las Abejas submitted a letter to the mayor of Chenalhó, Rosa Peréz Pérez, requesting her urgent intervention to avoid greater threats and violence. Pérez Pérez “has not observed her obligation of protecting the human rights of those under her jurisdiction, even when she had the information at hand to resolve the problem. For this reason the intervention never took place.” This made it possible that on 30 November, residents of the Jordan River presented themselves at the homes of three families to cut their water and electricity services. Las Abejas indicated in its communique that the action was led by the municipal agent, and that ex-members of the organization and paramilitaries who participated in the Acteal massacre in 1997 also took part. “The action provoked great fear among the children and the women due to the precedent that exists in the community […]. We find ourselves confronting a human-rights violation.”

The case of Los Chorros is not an aberration: in the Puebla neighbourhood a member of Las Abejas has been imprisoned for having refused charges. Other members of Las Abejas from the Kexaluk’um neighborhood who belong to the Xunuch community “are threatened with this month having their electricity cut, if the Directive Table does not ‘convince’ the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) […].” The demands of Las Abejas are unequivocal:

1.) Urgent reconnection to electricity and water services for the affected families, and that the free self-determination of persons and organizations be respected.

2.) Respect for the resistance and autonomy of the comrades.

3.) Determination of the non-approach of those involved in the Acteal massacre to the communities, families, and individuals associated with our organization.”




December 24, 2015

Indigenous Massacre Remains Unpunished in Mexico

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Paramilitary, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:31 pm



Indigenous Massacre Remains Unpunished in Mexico



Hundreds of indigenous people held a demonstration on Wednesday in Acteal to mark the 18th anniversary of the slaughter of 45 people. | Photo: Reuters


Telesur, 23rd December, 2015

Eighteen years ago, gunmen crept down into the centre of the impoverished village of Acteal and killed 45 innocent people including 21 women and 15 children.

Hundreds of indigenous people held a demonstration Wednesday in the small village of Acteal in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, to mark the 18th anniversary of the slaughter of 45 people including pregnant women and children.

Demonstrators belonging to the peaceful group of “Las Abejas” (The Bees) decried the killing, labelling it a “state-sanctioned crime” and calling out authorities for the impunity marking the case.

“This state-sanctioned crime remains unpunished and the government does not investigate the intellectual authors … the Supreme Court ordered the mass release of the paramilitaries who killed our people, only two remain jailed,” the group said in a statement released to La Jornada.

On Dec. 22, 1997 gunmen crept down into the centre of the impoverished village of Acteal and killed 45 innocent people, including 21 women and 15 children who were attending a mass service.

The case generated international outrage after prosecutors found that local authorities allowed the slaughter to occur and tampered with the crime scene afterward.

Former President Ernesto Zedillo claimed the massacre was triggered over a land dispute between residents of two separate ethnic communities. However, the survivors and relatives of those killed claim that the attack was politically motivated and an act of state-sponsored terror.

According to activists and survivors of the attack, government officials provided both weapons and training to a paramilitary group known as the “Red Mask” in an effort to wipe out the leftist Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which played a major role during the 1990’s in the indigenous communities of Chiapas.

According to independent investigations conducted by humanitarian organizations, the Acteal massacre was part of a counterinsurgency plan implemented during the government of Zedillo, who was sued in 2009 by the victims’ relatives in a U.S. court. However, Zedillo has not faced any charges due to the immunity provided to him by the Mexican government.

Hundreds of people have been arrested since 1997 but only a few have been sentenced.





December 23, 2015

Acteal: 18 years of impunity

Filed under: Acteal, Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous, Paramilitary, Uncategorized — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:58 am



Acteal: 18 years of impunity




In the chapel of Acteal, in the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, there were at least 16 children, 20 women, 7 of whom were pregnant, and 9 men praying, when a group of paramilitaries entered, shooting, and killed 45 of those people. It was December 22, 1997 and the massacre lasted about seven hours.

“For 18 years no justice has been done and the wall of impunity persists, but the Civil Society Las Abejas is building, through its forums, the other justice,” Pedro Faro Navarro, director of the Centre for Rights Human Fray Bartolome de las Casas (FrayBa) told La Jornada.

At one time, about 100 people, all of them indigenous, were detained in prison in Tuxtla Gutierrez accused of the massacre. Among them were eight former public safety officers sentenced to three years and then released. In 2007, ten years after the events, 18 people were convicted for possession of firearms.

Between 2009 and 2012 all the detainees were released. Mostly because the Supreme Court invalidated the evidence with which the PGR put together the case.

In 2005, FrayBa and the civil organization Las Abejas, to which the murdered Tzotzil indigenous belonged, filed the case with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights attributing responsibility for the massacre to the Mexican State.

“The massacre of Acteal is in the memory of the Mexican people, it is an act which has remained in the epidermis of the people. When we speak of Acteal, it always hurts.”




Communiqué from the CCRI-CG of the EZLN following the Acteal Massacre, released 23rd December 1997.

Filed under: Acteal, Indigenous, Marcos, Uncategorized, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:49 am



Communiqué from the CCRI-CG of the EZLN following the Acteal Massacre, released 23rd December 1997.




 December 23, 1997

To the people of Mexico
To the peoples and governments of the world
To the national and international press

In relation to the massacre of indigenous people in the community of Acteal, municipality of San Pedro of Chenalho, Chiapas realized yesterday, December 22 of 1997 the EZLN points out:

FIRST.- According to information compiled until today, about 60 paramilitaries of the institutional revolutionary party (sponsored by the federal and state governments) were the ones who attacked the indigenous with high caliber weapons. Among them were refugees of Acteal.

SECOND.- As a result of this attack which lasted up to four hours, at least 45 indigenous people were assassinated, among them 9 men, 21 women and 15 children (one of them an infant less than a year old). In addition to the dead the wounded counted among them 7 men (4 children) and 10 women (4 of them are little girls). Acteal.

THIRD.- According to radio transmissions of the government of Chiapas (intercepted by the EZLN) in the immediate surrounding of Acteal at the time at which the massacre was being carried out, public security police of the state of Chiapas backed up the attack and during the afternoon and evening dedicated themselves to picking up cadavers in order to hide the magnitude of the massacre. Misters Homero Tovilla Cristinani and Uriel Jarquin (Secretary and Subsecretary of the government of Chiapas respectively) commissioned the police to back up this crime. Mister Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro was constantly informed of the development of the “operation” (at least since noon of the 22nd day of December, when the massacre was an hour old). Approved by the federal and state government, the attack was fine-tuned on the 21st of December in a meeting of paramilitaries (led by Mister Jacinto Arias, PRI municipal president) of the communities of Los Chorros, Puebla, Esperanza and Quextic, all of them municipalities of Chenalho.

FOURTH.- The direct responsibility for these bloody events fall upon Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon and the Justice Ministry, who, two days ago, gave a green light to the counterinsurgency project presented by the Federal Army.

The aim of this project is to displace the Zapatista war and make it appear to be a war among the indigenous, motivated by religious, political and ethnic differences.

In order to carry this out, they have dedicated themselves to financing equipment and weaponry (through funds of the Social Development Ministry) and giving military training (led by officials of the federal army) to the indigenous recruited by the Revolutionary Institutional Party [PRI].

In order to allow time for these death squads to get ready, the Mexican Federal Government designed a parallel strategy of simulated dialogue, which consists of carrying out negotiations without any intention of carrying out what had already been agreed to, and by increasing military presence in Zapatista zones.

The government of the state of Chiapas was put in charge of guaranteeing the impunity of paramilitary groups and facilitating their operation in the principal rebel zones of the North, the jungle and the highlands of Chiapas.



FIFTH.- In this way the federal and state governments, the institutional revolutionary party and the Federal Army joined forces. Their objective is synthesized by the “war cry” of the paramilitaries called the “Red Mask”. “We are going to put an end to the Zapatista seed”, in other words “We are going to wipe out the indigenous communities.”

SIXTH.- As part of the style of government and demonstration of his “will for peace” through diverse channels, Mister Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon has sent threats to the general command of the EZLN with the following message “I prefer to go into history as a repressor before implementing the agreements with the EZLN”. He has carried out his word. Zedillo has gone into history as an assassin of the indigenous and has the blood of Acteal on his hands.

SEVENTH.- The prompt attention of the media in Chiapas and the just indignation of national and international public opinion in response to these events, has made the mastermind of the crime scramble to the forefront in order to wash their hands of it and promise “in-depth” investigations. They will not punish those who are responsible, impunity is guaranteed because those who investigate the crime are the same ones who planned it. For these reasons, the declarations of Mister Zedillo and his subordinates are nothing more than demagogy.

EIGHTH.- Using the motive of the massacre of Acteal, the government and its spokespeople call once again to dialogue without mentioning the fact they have no intention of fulfilling any agreements but rather advancing their counterinsurgency strategy. In this sense, the recent and ridiculous declaration of the COCOPA (which decided to go on vacation instead of working for peace) in regards to Acteal. The legislators forget that it is the government which is assassinating children, women and men, that it is the government which is using weapons, that it is the government which refuses a serious dialogue. It is to the government that they should direct themselves when they talk about not resorting to violence, and about the necessity of dialogue.

NINTH.- Once again the EZLN calls upon national and international civil society and upon independent organizations to not be deceived, to demand true justice and not pretensions.

TENTH.- The Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, General Command of the EZLN is at these moments completing its investigation and analyzing what has occurred in order to make the pertinent necessary decisions.

Democracy !

Liberty !

Justice !

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee
– General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
Mexico, December of 1997




November 22, 2015

Las Abejas de Acteal remember Manuelito

Filed under: Acteal, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:59 am



Las Abejas de Acteal remember Manuelito


Acteal_Manuelito_Portrait_©Kristina_Steiner 2

Manuelito by Kristina Steiner


Three years after his death, the Las Abejas Civil Society of Acteal commemorated Manuel Vázquez Luna (Manuelito), who died on 10 November 2012 in the “badly named ‘Hospital of the Cultures’ in San Cristóbal de Las Casas Chiapas, after having suffered 18 days of discrimination and victimization by medical negligence.” The commemoration took place in Acteal, “House of Memory and Hope.”

“Manuelito left us to reunite with his parents, sisters, grandmother, and uncle,” who were killed on 22 December 1997 “by PRI and Cardenist paramilitaries from the official municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas.” Las Abejas of Acteal recalled that “that day of the Acteal massacre, Manuelito remained below the bodies of those killed and was bathed in blood. He saw how the paramilitaries opened fire against women and children.” Despite having experienced the pain of the near-total loss of his family, he decided “not to life in pain, but rather to convert pain and cries into hope and joy […] by means of stories, jokes, songs, and riddles.”

Las Abejas assured that Manuelito “is now in all parts of Acteal. He is in the clouds that rest on the mountains of Acteal, in the air that embraces us upon arriving here to Acteal, in the wind that blows and refreshes our memory and hope. He is in each raindrop that falls on the sacred lands of Acteal, and in each tree-leaf and in the foliage that grows around Acteal, House of Memory and Hope. He is in all parts of the cosmos. He is in our heart.”




October 26, 2015

Las Abejas of Acteal reject “friendly solution” with Mexican State

Filed under: Acteal — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:50 am


Las Abejas of Acteal reject “friendly solution” with Mexican State


Juan Vázquez Luna, Secretary of the Directive Table of Las Abejas of Acteal, before the IACHR to discuss the case of the Acteal massacre @DanielCima paraCIDH

Juan Vázquez Luna, Secretary of the Directive Table of Las Abejas of Acteal, before the IACHR to discuss the case of the Acteal massacre @DanielCima paraCIDH


On 20th October, two days before their monthly commemoration of the Acteal massacre, the Las Abejas Civil Society, together with the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights (CDHFBC), participated in a public audience before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC, regarding impunity in the case of the Acteal massacre. In this audience, allegations were presented regarding the basis of the case that evidences “the responsibility of the Mexican State in the Acteal massacre and the lack of investigation, sanction, and compensation for the victims.” Las Abejas assured in the voice of Juan Vásquez Luna, Secretary of the Directive Table, that for the Tsotsiles of the Chiapas Highlands, “this massacre was planned by the Mexican State.” Before the IACHR, Las Abejas requested “that a profound report be prepared to investigate the Acteal massacre, declaring the Mexican State responsible for this crime.” For his part, the official representative of the Mexican government rejected all responsibility for the atrocity, using the argument that there is no report or recommendation that claims the State to have been responsible.

Subsequent to the audience before the IACHR, in the offices of the CDHFBC in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, a press conference was held denouncing the “cynicism of the Mexican State in denying its responsibility for the Acteal massacre. We say as our comrade Juan Vázquez manifested before the IACHR today in Washington, that we will NOT accept coming to any friendly resolution with the Mexican State.”

On 22 October, during their monthly commemoration, Las Abejas recognized that they are not surprised “by the response of the Mexican State during the public audience […] not accepting its responsibility for this massacre […] because for nearly 18 years, it has denied its participation and planning of this massacre. On the contrary, with its policy of attrition toward the survivors and victims of Acteal and toward our organization of Las Abejas, it has attempted to use several means and faces to divide us and silence us.” They assured that, despite the “attempt by the Mexican State to exterminate our children on 22 December 1997, the children of today are now seeds and immortal hopes for the just and humane world that we Tsotsiles and Tseltales are building, being men and women of different colours, thought, and struggle.”



Indigenous people of Chiapas organize in Acteal to “continue the path of The Other Justice”

Filed under: Acteal — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:26 am


Indigenous people of Chiapas organize in Acteal to “continue the path of The Other Justice”


Forum “The Other Justice” in Acteal, Chenalhó, Chiapas @LasAbejasdeActeal

Forum “The Other Justice” in Acteal, Chenalhó, Chiapas @LasAbejasdeActeal


On 10 and 11 October, more than 200 indigenous persons from Chiapas met in Acteal, Chenalhó, Mexico, for the Forum on “The Other Justice” organized by the Las Abejas Civil Society, the X’INICH Committee for the Defense of Freedom, and Peoples United in Defense of Electrical Energy (PUDEE). The meeting served to “continue on the path of The Other Justice and to reconstruct our memory due to the pain we have confronted as victims of the counterinsurgent war. We will share our experiences from our cultures within a context of impunity.” The forum, which was organized with three meetings, ended in Acteal with the participation of members of national and international social organizations and “survivors and relatives [of survivors] of the war in the Northern Zone, Viejo Velasco, Banavil, the Primero de Agosto community, as well as other peoples who lived impunity in their own bodies, to speak and reaffirm our words and construct Lekil Chapanel and Bats’il meltsanel, that is to say, Dignified Justice, True Justice, which is righteous and humane.”

In their pronunciation participants declared that “due to such impunity, lies, cynicism, and hypocrisy on the part of the government, our eyes were opened and our ears began to hear the cries due to injustice, such that our heart and thought tell us that True Justice, dignified, long-lasting, humane, and righteous will not be given by the bad government.” Beyond this, they recognized that they must “struggle together without concern for cultural differences, or those related to age, profession, work, or religion. Only by walking together will we reach The Other Justice that is for women, men, children, students, workers of the city and countryside, migrants, lesbians, gays, and trans* individuals […] for all those who are humiliated, discriminated against, and oppressed and repressed by the neoliberal capitalist system.”



October 25, 2015

“Throughout these 6.512 days we have been worn down with exhaustion,” say the victims of the Acteal Massacre to the IACHR.

Filed under: Acteal, Autonomy, Paramilitary — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:04 pm


“Throughout these 6.512 days we have been worn down with exhaustion,” say the victims of the Acteal Massacre to the IACHR.




“This massacre was planned by the Mexican State itself. We will not accept an amicable solution; we ask for the case to continue in process until the truth is found.” Acteal.

“We recognize that the state was unable to prevent these events or to respond appropriately after them.” Campa Cifrián.




Chiapas, Mexico. October 20th. “We were given a blow, but today we are here to seek justice,” explained Juan Vásquez Luna, a member of the Civil Society Las Abejas of Acteal, at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington DC, to demand justice for the massacre perpetrated against 18 adult women, 4 of them pregnant; 16 adolescents; 4 children and 7 men, on December 22, 1997, 6,512 days ago, in the community of Acteal, municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas.

Vásquez Luna, a member of the board of Las Abejas, who lost nine of his relatives in the massacre, submitted to the Commission a study on the Massacre of Acteal, entitled: Psychosocial Study of the background, factors associated with the act and management of the emergency, psychosocial consequences and collective impact on the community of Acteal. “This psychosocial study will include a Forensic Expert Report,” he added.

“This massacre was planned by the Mexican State itself”, assured the indigenous of the Chiapas highlands through the voice of Vásquez Luna, for which reason they called on the Commission “to issue an in-depth report on the case of the Acteal Massacre, declaring the State responsible for the violations.” Las Abejas of Acteal were accompanied by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), as they have been since December 1997.

“The Mexican government continues to promote impunity through their corrupt system” stated the Las Abejas Civil Society, noting that “Far from punishing those responsible for the massacre, they have rewarded them with lands, houses and even monthly pensions”. “Those directly responsible for the Acteal Massacre have been released,” they said.




The representative of the indigenous Tzotziles and of Frayba, warned that “there is no will for guarantees of non-repetition” and that “the return of soldiers to Acteal is a time bomb.” “There are military incursions into territories in resistance where people are building processes of autonomy,” added the Abejas of Acteal, and stated that “in the territory there are 72 military camps who are in a state of war.”

Meanwhile, Commissioner Ortiz questioned the representatives of the Mexican government “on what the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) based the conclusion that the Acteal Massacre was not perpetrated by paramilitaries?” “If the state said that they did not preserve the scene of the Acteal Massacre, then what reliable conclusions could be drawn?” asked the human rights defender.

In his address to the hearing at the Commission, the envoy of the government of Mexico, Roberto Campa Cifrián, acknowledged that before the massacre in the community of Acteal, the State “was unable to prevent these events and respond appropriately after them.” And yet in spite of all this, “the Mexican State denies the internal armed conflict and low-intensity war that prevails in Chiapas,” said Frayba.

“Impunity is part of the counterinsurgency strategy, because it exhausts and divides the survivors, which has brought us great pain. The integral policy of attrition from the Mexican State is their weapon to kill our memory, thus leaving the crime unpunished,” the indigenous in resistance also expressed in a communiqué on October 2nd.




Following the hearing at the IACHR in Washington, the civil organization Las Abejas of Acteal held a press conference in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. “The Impact of the Acteal Massacre is manifested in chronic stress, lack of justice and community exhaustion,” shared the Indians in Frayba’s facilities.

“It was mostly women who died at Acteal,” stressed Maria Vasquez, a survivor of the massacre. “The Mexican government wanted to exterminate us, but here we continue to denounce this state crime”, emphasized the Tzotzil indigenous woman.

“Two years and nine months after the submission of comments on the case of the Acteal Massacre (30th January 2013), the petitioners have not received the alleged remarks of the Mexican state,” explained Frayba. “As discussed earlier in this audience we have asked the Commissioners of the IACHR to urge the Mexican state to submit its observations and for the Commission to issue the in-depth report in to this case,” said the human rights body.

“The counterinsurgency stage, during the government of Ernesto Zedillo, was to undermine support from the civilian population for the guerrilla, in the highlands and northern areas, by means of police and paramilitary actions, under the command of the Mexican army and its Rainbow Task Force commanded by General Mario Renán Castillo,” recalled Frayba. “This strategy was unveiled by the document ‘Chiapas 94 Campaign Plan’,” they explained.

Frayba bulletin:

Hearing before the Commission on the Acteal Massacre:

We do not accept a friendly settlement with the Mexican state: Abejas of Acteal:

Photo: Susana Montes



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