dorset chiapas solidarity

February 20, 2017

The announcement of the creation of an Indigenous Council of Government (CIG)

Filed under: CNI, Displacement, Ethics, Human rights, Indigenous, Uncategorized, Zapatista — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:16 pm



.The announcement of the creation of an Indigenous Council of Government (CIG)


Ruby Zajac

UK Zapatista Translation Service


The announcement of the creation of an Indigenous Council of Government (CIG), on the 1st of January this year, has generated a great deal of debate in the Mexican Left and excitement in the international ranks of the Sexta. Indeed, the debate has been underway, in parallel to the consultations in 523 indigenous communities, since the proposal was first made by EZLN and the CNI (National  Indigenous Congress) during the first half of the 5th CNI, in October last year. Here, we consider some of the reactions to the proposal and its implications in the wider context of the Mexican left. In order to locate the proposal in the broader landscape of political struggle in Mexico, we must first establish the historic relationship between the CNI and EZLN.

The CNI is a transitory body; it has never existed permanently, but rather in the moments its delegates have come together. The first National Indigenous Congress took place in 1996, when, in the midst of debating the San Andrés Accords, with Zedillo’s government, the Zapatistas called the different indigenous peoples of the country together to share the progress of this crucial dialogue with the State about indigenous rights. It enabled the revolutionary group to adopt a more representative posture, in so far as they were arguing for indigenous rights, not Zapatista rights. Ten years later, in 2006, the CNI met for the 4th time, in San Pedro Atlapulco, State of Mexico, where it announced its affiliation to the Sexta. The Sextathe colloquial name for the extended community of Zapatista supporters and associates in Mexico and the across the world, which originated in 2005 with the release of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. The San Andrés Accords remained, and remain, unfulfilled.


In October 2016, ten years after they joined the Sexta, the CNI met once more. Again, the Zapatistas would play an important role. On the 13th of October, the congress decided to adopt the Zapatistas’ proposal to form an Indigenous Council of Government, led by an indigenous woman, who would run as an independent candidate in the 2018 presidential elections. Between October and December last year, the proposal was up for debate in indigenous communities across Mexico, before delegates met again to report back. The significance of EZLN for the CNI and the over 60 indigenous peoples in Mexico can be summed up in the words of Álvaro Sebastián Ramírez, a political prisoner who wrote in an open letter to the CNI and EZLN, that the colonisers “may have chopped down the trunk of our tree, but they couldn’t pull out its roots, and it began to sprout again with the Indigenous Uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation”.


So, it’s the eve of 2017, Trump is soon to be inaugurated and Brexit is on its way; from where we’re sitting in the UK it seems this year is already destined to turn politics as we know it on its head. With that in mind, this unprecedented event in Mexican politics doesn’t seem quite so incredible. The so-called ‘post-truth’ age might actually just be the revealing in the West of “Democracy’s” longstanding shortcomings, which in Mexico they know only too well. Indeed, that is part of the drive for this new strategy of those from below; Trump was hardly mentioned while I was at the Zapatista science conference ‘ConCiencias’ and surrounded by supporters of the Zapatistas and the CNI over Christmas, which I think says something about the distance of the alternative left from mainstream Mexican politics and the absence of the state. The moment was marked by the oppression of indigenous environmental defenders, the eviction of autonomous cultural centre Chanti Ollin in Mexico City and the challenging, inspiring dialogue between the Zapatistas and academics like Kirsten Vogeler and Pablo González Casanova, and community science projects like Colectivo Alterius, in ConCiencias. On the 1st of January 2017, with all of this and more in the background, the CNI took centre stage and voted in the proposal.


For those who followed the Otra Campaña (Other Campaign) in 2005/6 (the first call for Mexicans to think outside the political box, embodied in a nationwide consultation by the Zapatistas that ran parallel to the 2006 general elections), this new proposal will set some bells ringing. It will also flag up some pretty fundamental differences. Didn’t EZLN always claim to be against participating in the electoral process? Didn’t they adopt the poignant slogan of a collective of the Sexta, ‘Our dreams don’t fit in your urns’? Haven’t they always insisted that they will not become a political party?

Yes, all of this is still true (although John Gibler writes that the Zapatista position on abstention has been treated with carefully chosen words). That’s why it is so important to recognise the germination of this proposal as a collaborative effort “EZLN–CNI”, which is ultimately to be spearheaded by the CNI not EZLN. Members of the collective Indigenous Council of Government will be elected through a consultation in all of the communities who send delegates to the CNI, including the female spokesperson. She will run as candidate in the elections because the system demands individual candidacy, but ultimately, and crucially, she will be representing the collective body; and if elected, Gustavo Esteva writes, the council as a whole must undertake the mammoth task of dismantling the state apparatus.


But the proposal is about more than the 2018 presidential elections. It is challenging Mexicans to come together and struggle for freedom side by side with the 16 million indigenous people of their society, giving them a bastion around which to organise, a common purpose that will unite them, a purpose that neither beings nor ends in those urns, but which, as Josefa Contreras so astutely points out, is a “direct confrontation with an asymmetric political logic” (Ojarasca, La Jornada).


Or as Subcomandante Galeano, the Zapatista spokesperson-come-double translator, put it in a November communiqué: “We told them that it didn’t matter if they won the presidency of the Republic or not, that what mattered was the challenge, the irreverence, the revolt, the total rupture with the image of the indigenous as object of pity and charity […] What mattered was that their audacity would shake the entire political system and that they would hear echoes of hope not from one but from many of the Mexicos below… and the belows of the world.”


Of course, the leader of recently-formed leftist party MORENA, the Movement for National Renewal, the self-professed ‘hope of Mexico’, born out of the 2006 left-wing coalition for the presidency, isn’t a fan. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, quickly denounced the proposal, accusing EZLN and the CNI of playing the government’s game, and highlighting their inconsistency, since they detracted from his campaigns in 2006 and 2012, encouraging abstention from what, despite the end of single-party rule in 2000, is still widely considered to be the electoral farce.

But since the last general elections, Ayotzinapa has shaken civil society to its core and put a spotlight on the chronic, systematic human rights abuses of the Mexican state. Political observers said it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing the Mexican public to explode out onto the streets in protests that reached the 10,000s in November 2014.

But it didn’t, and the impunity has continued.


The teachers’ strikes against the supposed ‘educational reform’, which many maintain is really a neoliberal and neocolonial labour reform led, in June 2016, to the death of at least ten people (although some sources say eleven) in a confrontation between police and protesters in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, reminiscent of the oppression of mass protests in the same state in 2006. Three months before Ayotzinapa, 22 civilians were victims of extrajudicial execution by members of the army in Tlatlaya. The community of Atenco, where 2 young men were killed, 27 women raped and over 200 locals injured and arrested in 2006 continues to resist the building of a new airport on their land and state actors continue to commit acts of sexual violence. This incident was what put the breaks on the Other Campaign, as adherents rushed to protect the community in resistance.


Political commentators reason that the new proposal will undermine Obrador and MORENA. The counterargument, of course, is that any change brought about through MORENA would be superficial. For various historical reasons including the collaboration of the institutional leftist party the PRD with the PRI and PAN in governorship coalitions and corruption scandals, most activists I’ve come across from within the alternative left consider all professional politicians to be as bad as each other. An esteemed Mexican intellectual from the Sexta told me the same, that to save the future of the country the people must look towards a completely new avenue of change, one that comes from their millenary cultural heritage.


Seemingly embodying a middle ground, the poet and activist Javier Sicilia recently called for a Popular Front for 2018; the coming together of various leftist elements in Mexico ranging from the solidly institutional (Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas – first leader of the ‘leftist’ institutional party, the PRD, in 1989) to the openly anti-systemic (EZLN) and including potential brokers between these two poles such as migrant advocate Father Alejandro Solalinde. Obrador would neither lead nor not be excluded from this front, Sicilia insisted, tapping into concerns about Obrador’s charismatic leadership. The charismatic leader model of populist leftism has come under significant critique recently, in cases like Venezuela and Bolivia, and it is important to recognise just how much the EZLN-CNI collective governance proposal veers away from this path, proposing a much more fundamental change to the system than MORENA does. But although Sicilia evoked similar collective ideals, he made no explicit mention of the EZLN-CNI proposal.

It may be early days to be analysing the response to the EZLN-CNI proposal; the candidate to lead the CIG is to be chosen and announced in May, which I imagine will provoke further comment and debate. One thing that did jump out at me while researching this article was the lack of coverage of this historic event in the English speaking international press (the Guardian, BBC, NY Times and Washington Post haven’t run articles on it for a start) – everyone’s news on Mexico has been Trump-related. The EZLN-CNI proposal is a world away from mainstream politics; will it galvanize interest and support from across the political spectrum or remain in the network of resistance from below? We will have to wait and see.




February 7, 2017

CNI/EZLN in Solidarity with Rarámuri People

Filed under: CNI, Corporations, Dams, Displacement, Ethics, Frayba, Indigenous, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:05 am



CNI/EZLN in Solidarity with Rarámuri People


Joint Communique from the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in Solidarity with the Rarámuri People

Stop the assassinations of Rarámuri Indigenous Compañeros Defending Their Territory!raramuri

Indigenous Territories of Mexico

February 4, 2017

To the people of Choreachi,

To all of the Rarámuri People,

To the Indigenous Peoples,

To the people of Mexico,

To the peoples of the world,

We learned today of the murders of Indigenous Rarámuri compañeros Juan Ontiveros Ramos and Isidro Baldenegro, both of the community of Choreachi in the municipality of Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua, yesterday February 2, and 15 days ago, respectively.

We urgently denounce these new acts of barbarity against compañeros known for their commitment to the struggle of their people for the recuperation of their territory, which was taken over 40 years ago by large landowners/ranchers and organized crime.

As the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, we are in solidarity with the Rarámuri People who have been so hurt by these murders, now totaling 18 homicides committed against their communities since 1973, four of them in the last year.

Compañeros and compañeras, you are not alone! We accompany you in your pain, we open our hearts to the tireless struggle you are waging against organized crime and the landowners backed by the bad governments, and we offer you our support as indigenous peoples of this country who are organizing ourselves to defend our lives and our territories.










October 29, 2016

La Sexta Bachajón: Press conference October 27, 2016 in El Paliacate Cultural Centre

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Ethics, Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous, La Sexta — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:32 am



La Sexta Bachajón: Press conference October 27, 2016 in El Paliacate Cultural Centre





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

To the Councils of Good Government

To the National Indigenous Congress

To all compañer@s in Mexico and the World, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle

To the mass and alternative media

To the Network against Repression and for Solidarity

To Movement for Justice in el Barrio, New York

To national and international human rights defenders

To the people of Mexico and the world.

Compañeros and compañeras, members of the communications media present at this press conference, receive militant greetings from the adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the ejido San Sebastian Bachajón, and our thanks for accepting our invitation to this press conference in which we want to let you know the word of our organization about the latest developments of dispossession and violence in our territory, occasioned by the bad government and the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro.

We share our outrage at the recent acts of the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro, elected at the General Assembly of ejidatarios on 18th April this year. Before the election he presented himself to our organization and we listened to him because we are pueblo and brothers and sisters and this is our custom and the way of working of our organization which is struggling and seeking for the unity of our people. This was how we heard the word of the then candidate for Commissioner, who at that time was speaking of wanting to struggle and to defend the land of the ejido; he said he was aware of how previous Comissioners had not respected the autonomy and rights of the people of San Sebastian Bachajón and said that he would defend the land and respect the organization of la Sexta. But so far he has not fulfilled and respected his word, because his actions are completely contrary to what he said.

On 23rd September 2016 the officialist ejidal Commissioner C. Manuel Guzmán Álvaro entered the area of ejidal endowment where the access to the waterfalls of Agua Azul is located with a group of landowners, to evict the group of ejidatarios who were in a confrontation with them, concerning questions about the election of the Commissioner, led by CC. Manuel Jiménez Moreno, Juan Álvaro Moreno, Daniel Moreno Gómez, Carmen Aguilar and others who were claiming the access to the Agua Azul Waterfalls, located at the site of the headquarters of our organization, which was burned down on 21st March 2015. Immediately after the arrival of the Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro, the State Preventive Police took over our headquarters.

On 30th September, 2016, the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro and his supervisory board issued a communiqué through the website “Chiapas
denuncia pública” ( ) trying to pretend that their struggle is for the defence of the land and demanding that the government recognise them as an authority, but not explaining the background of their true intentions to hand over the land to the bad government.

On 18th October, 2016, the officialist commissioner organised roadblocks in different parts of the ejido to request the intervention of the bad government to supposedly resolve internal problems in the ejido, but actually designed to hand over our natural resources, to ratify the agreement made in 2011 and signed by Francisco Guzmán Jiménez alias Goyito with Juan Sabines Guerrero, all this for the future benefit of transnational corporations. On that day, people who are supporters of the Commissioner detained, beat and stole belongings from the compañero Domingo Pérez Álvaro.

On 20th October, 2016, the authorities of the ejido la sexta Bachajón again received threats, these were threats of arrest or kidnapping by the people who are supporters of the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro. Members of the group of the ejidal commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro said they have a list of those threatened from la Sexta Bachajón. They verbally warned our compañero Domingo Pérez Álvaro that they would finish him off, as they did to the compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán, executed at his home on the night of 24th April, 2013.

At the request and insistence of the ejidal Commissioner, the bad government gladly took the opportunity to send police troops to protect the area of Agua Azul, the police requested by the Commissioner changed places, 50% of them went to Xanil village, to the home of C. Carlos Jiménez Gómez, father of the two members of the state police: Carlos Jiménez Hernández y Rafael Jiménez Hernández, belonging to the state police, who are also involved in this harassment.

The bad government celebrates again the police presence in the area of Agua Azul, all with the continual manipulation and co-optation of the ejidal authorities who have been bought. Here is the word of the bad government that you can consult directly on their website:

This permanent presence of the bad government in our territory completely violates the rights of our people to autonomy and self-determination, which is why we repudiate the subservience of the Ejidal Commissioner and his Supervisory Board who continue to allow this policy of dispossession, obtaining the backing of civil human rights bodies and pretending that their movement is a struggle for the defence of territory when it is the opposite and also intends to hand over the land to the government, and commit violent acts against social activists.

We clarify as members of la Sexta Ejido Bachajón, that we deny all connection with all acts committed and organized by the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro towards civil society, because they have put trees onto the roads and have burned a patrol of the municipal police at the height of jolamaltzak, on the section of the road Ocosingo-Palenque, these acts were committed by the officialist ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro and his group, this was the manner in which they requested intervention from the state authorities; and we are making you aware that the sole responsibility for any detention and deprivation of liberty of the authorities and members of the sixth Declaration of the ejido Bachajón lies with the ejidal Commissioner Manuel Guzmán Álvaro.

We thank for their national and international solidarity all the compañeros and compañeras who remain alert as to what happens in San Sebastián Bachajón. We salute and express our solidarity to the Yaqui Tribe who are going through difficult times in their struggle and resistance, which is also ours.

From the northern state of Chiapas we send combative greetings from the women and men of San Sebastián Bachajón.


Never again a Mexico without us

Land and Freedom

Zapata Lives!

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Freedom for Political Prisoners!

Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives, the Struggle for Bachajón continues!

Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano Lives, the Struggle for Bachajón continues!

No to the Dispossession of Indigenous Lands!

State Police Out of Our Indigenous Territory!

Immediate return of our disappeared and murdered compañeros from the Teachers School – Normal Raúl Isidro Burgos de Ayotzinapa!

Long live the Chol compañeros and compañeras from the Ejido Tila’s dignified struggle!

Long live the compañeros and compañeras from San Francisco Xochicuautla’s dignified struggle!

Long live the communities that fight for autonomy and freedom!





June 11, 2016

If the Repression Continues, “All the People of God Will Rise Up,” warns the Pueblo Creyente

Filed under: Ethics, Human rights, Indigenous, Repression — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:11 am



If the Repression Continues, “All the People of God Will Rise Up,” warns the Pueblo Creyente

The Pueblo Creyente in Chiapas march in support of the teachers


13423745_1198543093498528_8668701279695012466_n-600x450Religious leaders from the region of Los Bosques, at the front of the Pueblo Creyente (Believing People)

By Isaín Mandujano

Chiapas Parallelo, 9th June 2016

Thousands of indigenous Tsotsiles from the different communities in the municipalities of Simojovel, El Bosque, Huitiupán, Amatán and Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán took part in a procession on Wednesday (8th June) in the state capital of Chiapas to demonstrate their support for the teachers’ movement in against the education reform.

Led by the parish priest of the Church of Simojovel, Marcelo Pérez Pérez, the men, women and children left their communities, came down from the Highlands of Chiapas and started a pilgrimage from the east side of Tuxtla; they walked for several kilometres to the central plaza where the teachers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have their encampments.

With the music of drums and whistles, with the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the hands of Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez and with the Mexican flag carried by an indigenous woman at his side, the indigenous left their communities to come to this city and take part in the procession in the midst of a human wall of teachers who welcomed them with applause and placards on which they gave thanks for their support.

13335844_1198544346831736_5863102005207382834_n-300x225All along the route, the teachers, like the neighbours from houses in the city centre, were giving fresh water and sandwiches to the indigenous. Some teachers wept with emotion as the march passed by.

When they reached the central square, the Pueblo Creyente (Believing People) were received by the CNTE leaders Alberto Mirón and Pedro Gómez Bámaca who thanked the over 4,000 indigenous, who come from the region also called Los Bosques, for this gesture of support.

Father Blas Alvarado from the parish of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán and Father Gustavo Andrade from the Venustiano Carranza parish were beside Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez.

In the message read to the teachers, Father Marcelo Pérez Pérez asked the federal government, President Enrique Peña Nieto and Aurelio Nuño for: “no more repression, because that generates revolution.”

“If you continue to send the police to repress the people, not only will the representatives of the church communities come on pilgrimage again, but we will inspire all the people of God to rise up,” he said in the letter which was read out.

He demanded that a proper, dignified dialogue be set up between the teachers and the federal government, with the mediation of some of the groups in society who have moral authority.

As a church they came here not to generate violence, but they rather came peacefully to demand peace, but a peace founded on truth, justice, freedom and love as Pope John XXIII described it.

“We say “No” to the mass dismissal of the teachers, because this is would violate the labour rights they have spent so many years fighting for. We demand that the deputies do not pass laws which create institutionalized violence. Today, the deputies have a crisis of credibility and of being representatives of the people, because they are not passing laws in response to the true principles and needs of the people, but rather in response to the stimulus of the money which the President of the Republic gives them to approve what he wants, and the legal initiatives that he sends to the Congress which are in the interests of foreign investors, making them treason to the Homeland,” he said.

The priest sent a message to the police forces: “You come from simple families, you are also poor, you are human, every teacher who you hit with your clubs, with your rubber bullets, who you hurt with your tear gas, you are injuring your brothers and sisters, because we are all children of God; if you receive an order to repress your brothers from your bosses, you are not obliged to obey that order.”

“The teachers are not criminals, they are not kidnappers, they are not drug traffickers, or murderers or traitors to their country; we see that the government sends police to repress the innocents, but the real criminals are those who traffic arms and drugs, and they don’t say anything to them, even though they find them with drugs and arms; the government responds to them with stopping any criminal action, as with the Gómez Family of Simojovel, who have stolen so much from the people,” he added.

“Brother police officers, you have relatives in the teaching profession, you have been to classes thanks to the teachers, you got your job because of the studies that you received from the teachers. Brothers, you are protectors not repressors” he emphasized.

“And if the repression doesn’t stop, Pope Francisco tells us: “A Christian, if he or she is not a revolutionary at this time, is not a Christian! We must be revolutionary for grace!” he concluded.


Based on an English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



November 22, 2015

Escuelitas Zapatistas, an invitation for us to organize

Filed under: Autonomy, Ethics, Indigenous, Zapatista, Zapatistas — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:08 pm



Escuelitas Zapatistas, an invitation for us to organize



Sub Galeano (aka Marcos) at the Seminar on Critical Thought versus the Capitalist Hydra

By Carolina Dutton

The EZLN, through its Sixth and International Commissions, will announce a series of initiatives, of a civilian and peaceful character, to continue walking together with the other Native Peoples of Mexico and the whole continent, and together with those who, in Mexico and in the entire world, resist and struggle below and to the left.” (The EZLN announces its next steps) Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, December 30, 2012.

From the beginning the vision of the Zapatistas has been to construct their autonomy together with the people of Mexico and the world. Massive support from the Mexican public and world opinion saved them from being wiped out by further massacres in 1994. Later that year they organized a national democratic convention in Chiapas. In 1995 they held a consultation with the people of Mexico to ask the people in all parts of the country about indigenous culture and the steps Mexico needed to take towards dialogue and democracy from below. They also presented their 13 demands for land, housing, work, food, health, education, culture, information, independence, democracy, liberty, justice and peace, which are not just for them, but rather for all people from below. More consultations were done throughout Mexico in 1999 and the March of the Colour of the Earth visited 13 states of Mexico in 2001. Then came the 6th Declaration and the Other Campaign in 2005-6. The Escuelitas (Little Schools), which began in 2013, are their most recent way of reaching out to others struggling against capitalism and working to create another world. In Level 1 of the Escuelitas, the Zapatistas permitted us to participate in their resistance and thus be directly connected to them. In Level 2, they connect with us by sharing online, so that the many who can’t go to Chiapas can learn from the Zapatistas’ experience organizing and building their organization in clandestinity.

In the first level of the Escuelita, we lived in Zapatista villages and the compas shared with us their everyday resistance and their construction and practice of autonomy, mostly from 1994 to the present. We worked with our host families on their everyday economic activities, everything from carrying water and collecting firewood to tending the cattle, cultivating the milpa [1], coffee and sugar cane. We visited their autonomous schools and health centres and learned about autonomous government. Our host families sometimes shared their history with us around the dinner table, how things have changed for them now that they live autonomously, and their participation in the uprising. We were given readings, which were testimonies of many Zapatista women and men who had served in various levels of civilian autonomous government.

The second level of the Escuelita has been conducted entirely online. The readings emphasize the need to organize our communities to resist the capitalist hydra economically and politically. We were given the link to a video where the Zapatistas shared how they formed their organization and how they organized and recruited new members, educated, encouraged, and protected each other as a clandestine organization beginning as early as 1983 up until the 1994 uprising, when they became public. The video consisted of testimonies from those who had been and some who still are both local and regional responsables [2] during clandestinity. Responsables spoke from each of the five Caracoles, or centres of Zapatista regional government: Caracol 1 La Realidad, Caracol 2 Oventic, Caracol 3 La Garrucha, Caracol 4 Morelia, and Caracol 5 Roberto Barrios.

The Zapatistas made it very clear their reasons for sharing this precious information. They hope that learning how they went about organizing will give us ideas and help us organize in other parts of Mexico or in our own communities in many parts of the world.   They are very aware that they cannot do it alone, that they need us to organize too, but that we may need to do it in our own way depending on our unique situations. We are all in this together and we need not only each other’s support but also each other’s vision.

In the Escuelita 2 video the local and regional responsables during the EZLN’s 10 years of clandestine formation shared with us their tasks and sacrifices. The local responsables coordinated the organization’s work in the communities. They observed how people participated in the community and recruited new members who exhibited responsibility and understanding. They were in charge of orienting new members and raising their consciousness to understand why their lives were so hard and the necessity to struggle and to study in order to prepare the struggle.

The responsables also coordinated local security. Women were especially important for security since they usually stayed in the community and were aware when people who didn’t belong there were present. The responsables, both men and women, also convened meetings and assemblies. Sometimes meetings took place in the middle of the night on stormy nights when people would not be seen or heard as they left home and travelled to a safe meeting place.

Local responsables also organized the training and equipping of the milicianos. [3] They also organized collective work, which was necessary to free up time for those with other responsibilities in the organization as well as to earn money to buy necessities for the struggle including boots and weapons. The sewing collectives sewed uniforms. The women collectively made tostadas and women and men collectively grew the food for the milicianos and insurgents. Many women and men had responsibly for this collective work and for security but the responsables oversaw the collectives in their area and communicated information about any problems and needs to the regional responsables.

The regional responsables oversaw the work of the organization in wider regions. They oriented the local responsables, prepared and encouraged the milicianos and raised the consciousness and understanding of members of the organization. In isolated areas compas often became discouraged so the responsables organized fiestas so that the members in a region could meet each other and see how many hundreds and thousands of compas were committed to the struggle. The Zapatistas love parties, all without drinking alcohol, which was against the EZLN’s rules.

So why have the Zapatistas decided to share this information with us now? They want us to organize too in our own way. They need people all over Mexico and the world to organize and to be in touch with them. It is the only way our movements can resist the capitalist hydra whose tentacles reach all corners of the earth and all aspects of life. I think they also want to share this history with their youth. An entire generation has grown up since the uprising that did not participate in building the organization and preparing for war. Zapatista resistance now requires creativity and sacrifice but it is very different. It is important that the youth know what came before, what has changed, and the ingenuity, discipline and sacrifice that went into building the organization they have always known.

Our exam to pass Escuelita 2 consisted of 6 questions, questions which each of us had to write and ask the Zapatistas. As Subcomandantes Moisés and Galeano explain: “The questions are important, as is our Zapatista way, they are more important than the answers… What interests the Zapatistas are not certainties but the doubts because we think that certainty immobilizes, that one is still, content, sitting still and not moving, as if we had arrived or we already knew. On the other hand, doubts, questions, make one move, search, not be still, not be in conformity, like day and night don’t pass, and the struggles from below and to the left are born of inconformity, of doubts and restlessness. If one conforms it’s that one is waiting to be told what to do or has already been told. If one is not in conformity, one searches for what to do.” (Second Level of the Little School, July 27, 2015).


[1] A milpa is much more than a field of corn. It is a diverse area of cultivation. The dominant plant is the basic grain of the people, corn. Beans grow up the corn stalk, different forms of squash creep along the ground and many medicinal and culinary herbs grow in and around the milpa.

[2] A responsable is the person responsible for a certain task or group of tasks. In the context of early EZLN organizing the responsable seems like more of a political operative or organizer.

[3] The milicianos were and still are somewhat like the National Guard in the US. They have military training, but are not insurgents, and can be called to active duty in an emergency.



March 8, 2015


Filed under: Ethics, Indigenous, Movement for Justice in el Barrio, Women — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 1:28 pm



“¡La Mujer Luchando, Al Mundo Transformando!”:
featuring women’s struggles from around the world.
Sunday, March 8th


mujer-rebelde-22 (1)



Women around the world are rising up and saying, “Enough!”
From Chinatown to Chiapas, from South Africa to Morocco to Spain, from Harlem to Greece to Ayotzinapa and in all of the places in between, we know that there are women like ourselves rising up with dignity and fighting back against injustice and inequality in defense of our communities.


As we struggle here we do not forget our sisters resisting in the far corners of the world. Nor do we forget where we come from and that many of us have already experienced displacement from our homelands.


Women around the world are outraged by the staggering inequalities, the violence and deceit, the hatred of democracy, the flagrant corruption and utter disregard for life on this planet that characterize our society, our economy, our governments. We are all struggling against this nightmarish status quo, and laying seeds for a new world in the process.

At the forefront of these global movements are countless dignified women whose cry of “Enough!” resounds in different colors, in different languages, across the lands. They are spearheading these movements, and battling injustice head-on and without compromise, often at enormous risk.
Those from above attempt to repress them; those from “within” attempt to disregard and silence them. But they are insurmountable, and with their dignified struggles, transform our world each day.


In keeping with our annual tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day, Movement for Justice in El Barrio invites you to join us, as we honor the tremendous leadership and indispensable contributions of women who fight for dignity and justice everywhere. At this very special event, we also invite you to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our women-led struggle for dignity and against displacement. In these ten years we have won victories against brutal landlords and multinational corporations who have tried to displace us and destroy our community and we have challenged city institutions; we continue to build a culture of resistance and a community of solidarity and form strong bonds with our sisters in struggle in many corners of the world; and the struggle continues.





March 7, 2015

Frayba denounces that families displaced from the community Primero de Agosto are now living in precarious conditions

Filed under: Displacement, Ethics, Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:30 pm


Frayba denounces that families displaced from the community Primero de Agosto are now living in precarious conditions


  • The State Government ignores its commitments.

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) has documented the forced displacement of 57 indigenous Tojolabales, from the community Primero de Agosto, municipality of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, who remain at risk to their life, integrity and personal security, in inhumane conditions. The situation arises from the events of February 23, 2015, when they were displaced by members of the Independent Central of Agricultural and Campesino Workers – Historical (CIOAC-H), who are protected in the region by the municipal government of Las Margaritas and Chiapas government officials.

According to documented information, the indigenous Tojolabales are in precarious conditions with regard to food, water and health, and are protecting themselves from the weather with sheets of plastic; whole families are livivg together in the same small space, their camp is located on the stretch of road stretch Las Margaritas and Nuevo Momón, at the turning to Monte Cristo Viejo, municipality of Las Margaritas, by the side of the road.

An independent medical assessment diagnosed amoebiasis, conjunctivitis, intestinal parasitic infections, colds, menstrual irregularities and other effects symptomatic of displacement including aches in the stomach aches, the head and body and lack of sleep, all of which in these circumstances increase the risks to the life and health of the displaced families.

Since 2nd March 2, denunciations have been made before the public prosecutor in Las Margaritas. However, despite these complaints, to date the authorities have not carried out judicial inspections of the place and no have they verified the conditions of forced displacement.

Moreover the government of Manuel Velasco Coello, has not responded, although there is a formal commitment, to address the fundamental issue related to the ownership of the lands which were displaced from the indigenous Tojolabal peoples by the CIOAC- H.









February 11, 2015

German activists reject security agreement with Mexico

Filed under: Ethics — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:36 pm


German activists reject security agreement with Mexico



German activists in front of the Ministry of the Interior. Photo@México Vía Berlín

On 3 February, dozens of persons protested in front of the German Ministry of the Interior against a security agreement that is planned with Mexico.  The activists submitted a list of 7,830 persons who reject the support Berlin provides for police and juridical authorities in Mexico.  These signatures are the results of a campaign promoted by the German Coordination for Human Rights in Mexico which has repeatedly pronounced itself against this type of agreement given that, as it argues, conditions do not exist in Mexico for a collaboration of this type.  The petition’s website explains that “this agreement would not serve to regulate the police who are systematically torturing their people, killing innocents, and raping women, besides being involved in the forcible disappearances of tens of thousands of people for decades.”  In response to the German government’s argument that corruption is limited to the local and municipal levels, the activists note that “this is a disingenuous argument, to claim that the problems have to do with the local police […].  The impunity of the security forces is the functional reality of all levels of the Mexican government, and only in a very limited set of situations can it be broken using particular tactics.  For the German police to collaborate with these structures would be to legitimate the principle of impunity.”

Present at the protest was a Mexican delegation, which included the bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and members of the Network in Solidarity Decade against Impunity.  After the protest, close to 40 activists met with officials from the Ministry, including Peter Steck and Siegfried Helmut Mueller. Bishop Vera handed over the list of signatures against the controversial security proposal and expressed the same sort of worry evinced by the other activists: “At this time, as Ayotzinapa has shown, the police, the Army, and organized crime act jointly together against the people of the country.  And the federal government knows that part of civil society disagrees with this, such that they feel insecure.  And this force that you are giving to the police will not be used to fight organized crime but instead people like us.”  For his part, Peter Steck promised the activists that he would transmit the information to be considered in the negotiations regarding the security accord.




December 24, 2014

The make-up of dispossession in San Sebastián Bachajón

Filed under: Bachajon, Displacement, Ethics, Human rights, Indigenous, Tourism — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:08 pm



The make-up of dispossession in San Sebastián Bachajón


On December 21, 2014, dawn came to San Sebastián Bachajón with the news of their having reclaimed their territory located on the boundaries between the areas of Agua Azul and Tumbalá. These lands had been taken from them by the bad government of Juan Sabines Guerrero and Noe Castañón León, in collusion with the then ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón, Francisco Jiménez Guzmán.


Why dispossession? The track giving access to the “Agua Azul Waterfalls” ecotourism centre crosses the lands of San Sebastián Bachajón. Since September 2009, the ejidatarios had administered the access continuously. Until February 2, 2011 when military and police forces came to violently evict them from their land, leaving a total of 117 detainees. The eviction order came through the then governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero (now a fugitive for stealing money and increasing the state’s debt to nearly 40 billion pesos, he fled to Punta Diamante, Acapulco, Guerrero,) and the then Secretary General of Government Noé Castañón León.


After the eviction, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) installed a tollbooth on the boundary line between Bachajón and Tumbalá, leaving the entire construction in Bachajón, 10 centimetres from Tumbalá. Meanwhile, the Institute of Civil Protection (INP) and the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (SSyPC) installed a permanent [troop] detachment. A Civil Protection building was built using construction materials the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón kept there.  Where the House of Multiple Uses of the ejidatarios used to be is now the parking area for this building.

DSC7282-500x213 (1)

There was also built, or rather converted, a “Medical Consulting Room,” from a construction that had been begun by the ejidatarios, next to a house with meeting rooms and bathrooms. The meeting house was destroyed; the bathrooms remain, while the supposed medical consulting rooms are not in use, as they have no staff or medical equipment. There is only the facade.


It was not only displacement and dispossession. They also stole their construction materials and destroyed their property.

Plunder masked with legality is what is found on the way to the Agua Azul waterfalls.

The true face appeared again in the early hours of December 21, covered with bandanas and balaclavas, with painted blankets which make clear who they are. This true face speaks in Tseltal and greets the people passing on this road to get to the waterfalls of Agua Azul. They charge 29 pesos less than the CONANP tollbooth for the use of this route, that is to say 10 pesos. Children do not pay.


How much do they earn, the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and the vigilance councillor Samuel Díaz Guzmán, who have asked the governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello, to intervene through the public forces to evict those who have regained their territory?

But the ejidatarios are clear. The dialogue has to happen, and it will only be between the true and rightful owners of the land. Not for negotiation, the land is not negotiable. But so that everyone can live in equality. So there will not be some who are above and some who are below, like there is now.

That’s why they are there, defending what is theirs, the girls, boys, women, men, grandfathers and grandmothers, the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). But there are also ejidatarios who are non-adherents but feel strengthened by their compañeros ejidatarios to be able to raise their voices and say “ENOUGH, we never agreed with Pancho (former ejidal commissioner), nor now with Alejandro. This is our land and we will defend it.”


However the bad people always are always on the lookout in the face of those who want to build. A day after they recovered their land, there is information that the ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón, Alejandro Moreno Gómez, and the vigilance councillor, Samuel Díaz Guzmán, have been requesting the entry of police forces, and at this moment armed groups are being organized headed by Juan Alvaro Moreno from the village of Xanil, Manuel Jiménez Moreno from the village of Pamalá and Carmen Aguilar Gómez from the village of Chewal Nazaret; to come in a violent way to displace and evict the families who are caring for the land they have regained peacefully, without harming anyone or anything. There is a serious risk that children, the elderly and young people who are on the reclaimed land will suffer attacks on their lives and personal integrity.

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) have already been informed of this risk, they already know the case for dispossession made against the ejido. Maximum dissemination of information is requested to avoid unfortunate events occurring against the people who are there. It also needs to be clarified that there has been no intention of confrontation or provocation at any time by the ejidatarios who have reclaimed their territory.

They just ask for dialogue. If there has to be violence in the displacement, it will be aggression and attacks from those who do the dispossessing.


Dorset Chiapas Solidarity


December 21, 2014



On 21st December, 2014, at about 7 am, 300 ejidatarios from San Sebastián Bachajón recovered the lands that were dispossessed from them in 2011, and the toll booth on the way to the waterfalls of Agua Azul.





To the Good Government Juntas

To the Zapatista National Liberation Army

To the Indigenous National Congress

To the World Festival of Resistance

To the compañer@s adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle

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, our people continue to struggle against the dispossession and repression of the bad government which wants by every means to take our land, our natural  resources and our dignity as a people; but as in all this time our people have organized to defend and make our struggle grow, the bad government cannot stop this struggle; that is why they attacked us a lot and killed Juan Vázquez Guzmán on 24th April, 2013 and the compa Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano on 21st March, 2014; this is also why we have three compañeros imprisoned in Yajalón, Chiapas, Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández, who were tortured by the Municipal Police from Chilón and the Indigenous Public Ministry of Ocosingo, the lawyer Rodolfo Gómez Gutiérrez who put a gun to the head of our compañero Mario Aguilar Silvano and also put a bag over his head.

For all these injustices of the bad government that prefers to see us dead or in prison, living in poverty and marginalization because it takes away our land to give to big corporations and corrupt politicians so they can become richer while our communities are dying of hunger, without hospitals or schools, they only come here during electoral campaigns and leave their crumbs to entertain people and take advantage of their need, we completely reject this bad policy that only uses and exploits the people; for this reason as an organisation our communities in assembly decided to recover today the lands from which the bad government dispossessed us on 2nd February, 2011, with the complicity of the ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón at that time, Francisco Guzmán Jiménez, aka goyito, and now by his faithful disciple Alejandro Moreno Gomez and his vigilance councillor Samuel Diaz who serve the interests of the bad government, not of their people.

We hold the three levels of bad government, represented by the paramilitary leaders Enrique Peña Nieto, Manuel Velasco Coello and Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, responsible for any aggression against our compañeros and compañeras who will be safeguarding the recuperated lands which legally and legitimately belong to the Tzeltal people of San Sebastián Bachajón and not to the bad government, for this reason we demand that they refrain from approaching with their police or paramilitary forces.

We demand the release of our prisoners in Yajalón JUAN ANTONIO GOMEZ SILVANO,  MARIO AGUILAR SILVANO and  ROBERTO GOMEZ HERNANDEZ; our prisoners in Playas de Catazajá SANTIAGO MORENO PEREZ and EMILIO JIMENEZ GOMEZ; and our prisoner in El Amate ESTEBAN GOMEZ JIMENEZ.

We ask all the compañeros and compañeras, organizations, peoples and communities of Mexico and the world to remain alert and in solidarity with our struggle because together we can overcome the dispossession and repression of the bad government.

We express our total rejection of mega projects dispossessing the peoples of Chiapas and the whole country, and so we express our total solidarity with our compañeros and compañeras of the ejido Tila, Los Llanos, Candelaria, San Francisco Xochicuautla, the Yaqui Tribe, compañeros and compañeras from Puebla, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Oaxaca and all the peoples who are resisting the prison, death and repression of the bad government we tell them to keep on fighting because they are not alone.

From the northern zone of the state of Chiapas the women and men of San Sebastián Bachajón send our combative greetings.

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 to the dispossession of indigenous territories!

Immediate presentation of the 43 missing of Ayotzinapa!



Dorset Chiapas Solidarity



November 22, 2014

Faces of Dispossession Campaign Launches in Chiapas

Filed under: Displacement, Ethics, Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous, San Marcos Aviles — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:51 pm



Faces of Dispossession Campaign Launches in Chiapas

By Elio Henriquez correspondent

La Jornada, 13 November 2014


In the picture, Alma Padilla from the Centre for Women's Rights in Chiapas; Azalia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Frayba and Victor Hugo Lopez, director of Frayba. Photo Elio Henriquez

In the picture, Alma Padilla from the Centre for Women’s Rights in Chiapas; Azalia Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Frayba and Victor Hugo Lopez, director of Frayba. Photo Elio Henriquez


San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Seven organizations which defend human rights in Chiapas and different indigenous communities, today launched the Faces of Dispossession campaign, which seeks to “make visible the ways in which native peoples are violently evicted from their territories.”

Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, director of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), one of the groups involved in the campaign, said it also aims to “reflect the serious human rights violations which cause the forced displacement, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and lack of access to justice” which “constitutes a pattern of impunity resulting from the implementation of the Plan Chiapas 94 as a strategy of war against the people who build alternatives to the neoliberal system of death.”

At the press conference, he said that among the actions to be performed are sending letters and documents to the federal and state governments to “remind them that many cases of forced displacement have gone unpunished.”

He added that there is planned for 10th December  a “simultaneous worldwide international action include letter writing, demonstrations in Mexican embassies abroad, marches and pilgrimages.”

He said that actions are planned through social networks with the dissemination of information, communication of the families with individuals and groups from other parts of the world, a graphic campaign with posters; visits to embassies and offices of the federal government together with the forcibly displaced.

He said that the campaign will last for about six months, during which time there will also be pilgrimages, marches, days of prayer and fasting performed, organized by communities affected by forced displacement, which “try to visualize their case and make a bridge with what is currently happening in the country, like the chaos in Ayotizanapa, Guerrero.”

He said that in March or April the second phase of the campaign will begin with the theme of projects and infrastructure, those who “seek to dispossess the territory of indigenous communities.”

López Rodríguez said that the campaign started today because it coincides with the eighth anniversary of the “massacre” which occurred on November 13, 2006 in the community of Viejo Velasco, Ocosingo, where six people were murdered, 36 remain displaced and two more are reported as missing.

He noted that in addition to this case, the campaign will include that of Banavil, municipality of Tenejapa, where four years ago 7 people were displaced, who to date have been unable to return, and that of San Marcos Avilés, Chilón, where over a hundred people who returned four years ago, continue to receive threats of expulsion.

The organizations leading the campaign are: la Casa de la Mujer Ixim Antsetic, A.C; el Centro de Derechos Indígenas A.C; el Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas, A.C; el Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada, A.C;  Frayba; el Comité de Defensa de las Libertades Indígenas (CDLI–Xi´nich) and Salud y Desarrollo Comunitario A.C.


Dorset Chiapas Solidarity






September 15, 2014

Call for Solidarity with the people of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico

Filed under: Corporations, Displacement, Ethics — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:36 pm


Call for Solidarity with the people of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico

Defending their lands and opposing the new airport in Mexico City!

British companies are involved!

Take action!


lands not airplanes



In 2001, the indigenous common landholders of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico were successful in their fight against the building of a new airport in Mexico City on their ancestral farm lands. The Peoples Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) became emblematic for their highly symbolic machetes, and their determined resistance.

In May 2006, the government seized its chance to punish the community for defeating this megaproject. Following an attack characterised by extreme police brutality and violent repression, 2 young people were dead, 26 women raped by the military police, many injured, and 217 people arrested. 9 leaders of the Atenco farmers were illegally sentenced to 31 years, 2 for 67 years, and one for 112 years. The people organised, and a national and international campaign for the liberation of the prisoners was launched with the support of the Zapatista-inspired Other Campaign; the prisoners were finally absolved and freed in 2010.

The man responsible for ordering this repression and the rape of the women was the former governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. He is now the President of Mexico, and the Atenco issue was the shame of his presidential campaign. Two years later, on 3 September 2014, he announced the plans for a new, much larger, international airport in the same area to the east of Mexico City. The new airport will have six runways and be able to handle 120 million passengers a year, four times the capacity of the existing airport; it will cost an estimated £5.5 billion, and have an associated large scale urbanisation project, known as Future City.

The people of Atenco have known this was coming for a long time, and were ready to renew the fight in defence of their lands. For years the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) has been using pressure tactics to convince people to sell their lands. The FPDT and their lawyer are currently denouncing the illegal changing of the titles to the lands from social (communal) to private as a means to evict the original inhabitants. The FPDT are currently involved in a legal struggle to reverse this procedure. Members of the group were physically attacked by hired thugs, resulting in fifteen people being wounded.

The violence and the threat to their lands has never gone away. Now they are asking for our help again.

The struggle and resistance of the people of San Salvador Atenco is symbolic of struggles going on throughout Mexico and Latin America, where the indigenous peoples are defending their lands, their mother earth, against megaprojects being set up by their governments for the benefit of transnational corporations. They are struggling for land, life, freedom, for communal and collective values.

“The land is not for sale. She is to be loved and defended.”

They know they succeeded before because they had worldwide support. Again, they say:

“We need the hands of everyone”

The UK Connection:

The architect: The design for the airport has 2 chief architects; one of these is Norman Foster, also known as Lord/Baron Foster of Thamesbank. Norman Foster, as well as being a very famous architect, is British, with his company’s headquarters conveniently situated close to the Thames in Central London:

Foster + Partners, Riverside, 22 Hester Road, London SW11 4AN
T:  +44 (0)20 7738 0455
F:  +44 (0)20 7738 1107

Perhaps he doesn’t know the history of blood, rape, years of illegal imprisonment and misery; perhaps he doesn’t know how many people the airport will displace. Perhaps we should tell him.




The engineering consultants, supervising the master plan for the airport:

Much of the project is hidden behind government secrecy, but according to El Financiero, the consultants and technical specialists for the new airport are the ARUP Group, whose British CEO is Sir Gregory Hodkinson, and whose headquarters is also conveniently situated in Central London:

13 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 4BQ,
T+44 (0) 20 7636 1531

They also have offices in many UK cities, including:

225 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4GZ

T+44 (0) 141 332 8534

63 St Thomas Street, Bristol, BS1 6JZ

T+44 (0) 117 976 5432

6th Floor, Three Piccadilly Place, Manchester, M1 3BN

T+44 (0) 161 228 2331


Atenco land grabbing


What to do:

*Inform yourselves – see the links below

*Share the news – the situation is urgent – through all your networks

*Contact other groups

*Write to Norman Foster and Gregory Hodkinson

*Organise a protest or an action at one of the offices above. Link up with others!

*Organise a video screening



Current situation:!en/video/interviews-from-mexico-282557


Further information

FPDT blog (in Spanish):

Latest information in English:




Here is a sample letter that you can use, modify, and send to Norman Foster or Gregory Hodkinson:

Sample letter to send to Norman Foster and/or Gregory Hodkinson:

Dear Sir Norman Foster,

We are writing to you with regard to the proposed new airport for Mexico City, for which you and Fernando Romero, son-in-law of Carlos Slim, are famously the chief architects.

Perhaps you don’t know how many people the airport will displace and how much and for how long the people of Atenco have been opposing the construction of the airport you want to build there. Perhaps you don’t know about the history of blood, rape, years of illegal imprisonment and misery. We think you ought to know the implications of what you are doing.

In 2001, the indigenous communal landholders of the municipality of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico were issued with an expropriation order to dispossess them from more than 80% of their ancestral lands, in order to build a new airport for Mexico City.  The government offered the farmers very little money in return for their displacement; not a lifetime pension, just something to make ends meet until they found work. There was no way they could move to other lands and become farmers again. They said NO to the displacement and they are still saying no. For the people of Atenco their whole identity, customs, traditions, history and existence are bound up with their land. The project to them means the destruction of their entire social fabric, their cultural history, collective identity and community life as indigenous people. Literally, they say, “the project to us is death.”

The Peoples Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) was set up in 2001, and quickly attracted national and international support. After 9 months they were successful, and the expropriation order was withdrawn. In May 2006, the Mexican government seized its chance to punish the community for defeating the megaproject. A government dispute with flower vendors in the nearby town of Texcoco progressed into an attack infamous for the extreme police brutality, as 3500 officers from the local, state and federal police and the army surrounded the town of Atenco. The violent repression resulted in 2 young people dead, 26 women raped by the military police (authorized to do so by President Enrique Peña Nieto, something he accepts in this video that surely Carlos Slim’s son-in-law did not show you:, many injured, and 217 people arrested. 9 leaders of the Atenco farmers were illegally sentenced to 31 years, 2 for 67 years, and one for 112 years in prison. The people mobilized, and a national and international campaign for the liberation of the prisoners was launched; they were finally absolved and freed after 4 years and 59 days.

We want to let you know that we don’t want any more suffering for the people of Atenco. They did not vote to be displaced so that you could build an airport there. The elections were rigged. Once again, people were brutally beaten. Do you really think that “the future” in the airport industry is to have poor people displaced, beaten and incarcerated so that you can build your “dream”?

The history of how the Atenco people have been beaten will haunt your “dream” airport forever. Do you really want to have that horrible reputation in your career?

You can still do the right thing and stop this travesty. We, friends of the Mexican people, urge you to do so.



With thanks to OWS Zapatista




September 13, 2014

25th Anniversary of Frayba: Walking with the Peoples

Filed under: Ethics, Frayba, Human rights, Indigenous — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:24 pm


25th Anniversary of Frayba: Walking with the Peoples

Dearest compañer@s of Frayba:

25 anniv fraybaWe thank and congratulate you and celebrate your 25 years of dedication and commitment to walking with the poor and oppressed peoples of Chiapas, with the most marginalised, discriminated, excluded and forgotten, the most screwed, following the path of the beloved jTatic Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia and of the jTatic Bishop Raul Vera, and in giving a voice to the voiceless, the dispossessed, the displaced, the victims, the migrants and the refugees, who now know they are not alone.

Your work is difficult and puts you at constant risk. We strongly denounce the recent acts of surveillance and harassment and the threats made against your director, Víctor Hugo López, and other members of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre. In spite of all this you continue to fearlessly denounce injustice, impunity, and the human rights violations and repressive and brutal acts of the governments and the powerful.

Your efforts in the defence of hope have been fundamental to the inspiration of the indigenous communities of Chiapas to organise in resistance and to walk towards a better life. We send you our small and humble words of admiration, gratitude and respect in honour of your ethical stance, your work of service and your tireless commitment to all of those from below and to the other world which people like yourselves continue to make possible.

We send you our most affectionate solidarity and our warmest good wishes

Adhesiva, Espai de Trobada i Acció, Barcelona

Agencia Prensa India API, México

Asociación Connexió de Recursos per a l’Acció Comunitària, Barcelona

Asociacion Q’anil, Guatemala

Associació Solidaria cafè Rebeldía-Infoespai, Barcelona

Caracol Zaragoza, Estado Español

Casa Nicaragua de Liège, Bélgica

Ce-Acatl, A.C., México

Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas, A.C., México

Centro de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos del Sur de Veracruz Bety Cariño A.C., México

Centro de Documentación sobre Zapatismo -CEDOZ-, Estado Español

Centro de Investigación y Acción de la Mujer Latinoamericana, CIAM, A.C., México

Cercle des Premières Nations de l’UQAM, Canada

Colectivo Azcapotzalco, adherente a la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, México

Colectivo de Aprendizaje y Enseñanza Zapatista del Reino Unido

Colectivo “Pensar en voz alta”, México

Colectivo La Flor de la Palabra, México

Colectivo “Pirtas X Tierra Mojada” de Córdoba Argentina

Colectivo Tierra y Libertad de Cuautla, Morelos México

Colectivo Zapatista, Manchester, Inglaterra

Collectif Chiapas, Bélgica

Comitato Chiapas “Maribel” – Bergamo, Italia

Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Calcuta, India

Comité de la Palabra Verdadera de Suroeste Inglaterra

Comité por los Derechos Humanos en América Latina-CDHAL, Canada

Coordinadora Valle de Chalko, México

CGT – Estado Español

Espoir Chiapas / Esperanza Chiapas, Francia

Fundacion Akina Zajji Sauda (Conexion de Mujeres Negras), Colombia

Grupo Solidaridad con Chiapas, Dorset, Inglaterra

Grupo Solidaridad con Chiapas, Edimburgo, Escocia

Grupo Solidaridad con México, Londres, Inglaterra

Grupo Solidaridad con los Zapatistas – Essex, Inglaterra

Gruppe B.A.S.T.A., Münster, Alemania

KIPTIK, Bristol, Inglaterra

Latin America Solidarity Committee Aotearoa, Nueva Zelanda

Melel Xojobal A.C., México

Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, Estados Unidos

MUT VITZ 13, Francia

Organización Zapatista “Educación para la liberación de nuestros pueblos”, México

Períódico “Lucha Indígena”, Perú
Proceso de Articulación de la Sierra de Santa Marta, México

Red Contra las Violencias Hacia las Mujeres “Mariposas de Alas Nuevas construyendo futuro”, Colombia

Red de Mujeres Chiapanecas en contra de la Violencia y por el Derecho de Vivir en Paz, México

Red de Solidaridad con los Zapatistas del Reino Unido

Red YA-BASTA-NETZ, Alemania

SERPAJ, México

Servicio de Traducción Zapatista del Reino Unido

Sexta para NIñoas-DF, México

Universidad de la Tierra en Oaxaca, México

Wellington Zapatista Support Group, Nueva Zelanda

Zap Sol UK, Reino Unido

Raúl Zibechi, Uruguay

Gustavo Esteva, México

Dra. Sylvia Marcos

Hermann Bellinghausen, director de Ojarasca, México

Mercedes Olivera Bustamante. Investigadora del CESMECA-UNICACH, México
Guillermo Villaseñor, México

Hugo Blanco, Perú

Leonor Hurtado, Guatemala.

Danilo Quijano, Perú

Bruno Baronnet, Veracruz

Chantal Ferreux, Francia

Magdalena Ixquiactap Tuc, Guatemala

La Elvia del Estado de México, México

Nicte Ha Dzib, México

Jose Luis Estevez “Gato” – Obrero, Pais Vasco
Gaia Capogna, Italia

Pietro Ameglio, México

Jorge Torres V., México

Julie Webb-Pullman – Periodista/Activista, Observadora de los Derechos Humanos, Nueva Zelanda
Myriam Michel, Francia

Patricia Vega, México

Lucina Jurado, México

Gina, Philadelphia, Estados Unidos



August 17, 2014

Midwives mix tradition, science to curb maternal deaths in Chiapas

Filed under: Ethics, Indigenous — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:07 am


Midwives mix tradition, science to curb maternal deaths in Chiapas


Dona Mercedes, a traditional midwife, checks on Maria Lopez Mendoza, then six months pregnant, shortly before she declared Lopez's baby "una nina" - a girl.

Dona Mercedes, a traditional midwife, checks on Maria Lopez Mendoza, then six months pregnant, shortly before she declared Lopez’s baby “una nina” – a girl.

BOCHIL, Chiapas, Mexico – “Una nina,” the old woman said with a smile. A girl.

Known simply as Dona Mercedes, the midwife had made this diagnosis after pressing wrinkled hands down hard on the swollen brown belly of the woman sprawled beneath her. The examination table was a deflated mattress topped with rumpled blankets and mismatched sheets; the examination room was strewn with clothes, toiletries, dirt and an odd string of Christmas lights.

Maria Lopez Mendoza, the pregnant woman on the bed, nodded in agreement. A health worker in San Cristobal de las Casas, Lopez had been checked by ultrasound just a few weeks earlier. She already planned to name her baby Marisol.

While Lopez has access to both modern and alternative prenatal care and reproductive services, many women in this state – where 70 percent of residents live in poverty – have little to none.

That has contributed to an alarmingly high maternal mortality rate. In Chiapas, 61 women die per 100,000 live births, according to the United Nations Millennium Summit Goals, 11 more deaths than the Mexican national average and three times the maternal mortality rate in the U.S.

Among Mexico’s 31 states, Chiapas’ maternal mortality rate in 2012 trailed only Guerrero, another state in the impoverished south.

The numbers have drawn the attention of Mexico’s government and a host of international non-governmental organizations like Marie Stopes International, which Lopez is a “promotora de salud” – a health promoter – and advocates for sexual health and reproductive rights.

All the organizations are committed to making childbirth safer, but they disagree over how best to do it. The government wants all births to be medically supervised, but NGOs say the problem needs both modern and traditional methods, including midwifery, since many villages are difficult to reach and few have medically trained clinicians.

A long road to care

Geicel Yamileth Benitez Fuentes, projects coordinator for Marie Stopes International in Chiapas, wiht some of the contraceptives that are distributed at the clinic in the poverty-stricken state of Chiapas.

Geicel Yamileth Benitez Fuentes, projects coordinator for Marie Stopes International in Chiapas, wiht some of the contraceptives that are distributed at the clinic in the poverty-stricken state of Chiapas.

Lopez’s trip to see Dona Mercedes, for example, required a two-hour taxi ride through the jungle on a precariously curved road, often cloaked in fog, to reach Bochil – a city of fewer than 25,000 in the highlands northeast of San Cristobal.

The taxi was 60 pesos – just under $5 – each way. Most villagers are farmers making a subsistence living, meaning taxis are a luxury not often utilized, even for a woman in labor.

Even if they could get there, many indigenous people are wary of outside influences, let alone government-run hospitals and clinics staffed by doctors who often don’t speak their languages or understand their culture and rituals.

Dr. Marcos Arana of CCESC-DDS, a health advocacy group in Chiapas, said the government policy may be well-intentioned but is woefully uninformed, particularly in regard to the poor and indigenous communities in largely rural Chiapas. Arana said that has led to overcrowded hospitals, low-quality care and a huge spike in cesarean sections.

Arana said the government has taken aim at traditional midwives, claiming they are not qualified to take care of pregnant women. “This has dismantled the liberty of health services in small communities,” Arana said.

He called that policy wrong for Chiapas, where indigenous traditions can conflict with the 21st-century ideals of the government and mestizo upper classes. Arana says a more multicultural approach would “build links of trust” between doctors and traditional healers like midwives.

The government has voiced support in recent years for more professional midwife training to complement hospital births under a doctor’s care. And Mexican officials signed on to Salud Mesoamerica 2015 (SM 2015), a multicountry, public-private partnership partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In Chiapas, it aims to reduce infant and mortality rates by improving access to quality health care by 2015 and promoting “midwife incentives.”

Neither Lopez, her coworkers at Marie Stopes nor other NGOs that support midwives had heard of SM 2015. But some pointed to the work being done at CASA, Mexico’s only government-accredited midwifery school, more than 1,000 kilometers north of Chiapas.

Nina Weber, a development coordinator with CASA, said it has graduated 79 professional midwives since opening in 1996, six of whom were from Chiapas. Even with training, however, Arana said professional midwives still face obstacles when seeking work in the health system back in Chiapas.

“You would need an army of professional midwives to change the situation,” he said.

The old and the new

Mexican MidwivesProfessional midwives get formal medical training and are licensed to practice in clinics and hospitals while a traditional midwife – a “partera” – has long been regarded as a respected, sometimes divinely chosen, member of Mayan society, including among the Tzotzil and Tzeltal peoples of Chiapas.

OMIECH, an NGO that runs the Maya Medicine Museum in San Cristobal, said midwives are traditional healers who pass down wisdom of herbal remedies and safe childbirth over generations. Indeed, Dona Mercedes’ mother was a midwife, although none of her 10 children plan to follow in her footsteps.

“They don’t want to be, they’re scared,” Dona Mercedes said.

Traditional midwifery and health care is prioritized at K’inal Antzetik (“Land of Women” in Tzeltal), an NGO and women’s cooperative on the outskirts of San Cristobal.

Claudia Vasquez Perez, a traditionally trained midwife who works at K’inal as a volunteer coordinator, said they grow medicinal plants on site and turn them into teas and tinctures in their “lab” – a collection of plastic beach pails and old pots on a shelf in K’inal’s examination room.

Holding up a large plastic bag labeled “la cola de caballo,” (horse’s tail), Vasquez explained that the yellowed, brittle herbs inside cure urinary tract infections. Hands caked in dirt from a morning spent tilling the K’inal garden soil, she argued that such traditional remedies have worked for centuries, relying on the faith of the caregiver and the recipient.

“The plants listen to you,” she said.

Though K’inal promotes traditional medicines, volunteers do learn a handful of modern procedures such as taking temperatures and giving injections. They host multiday sessions in indigenous communities for midwives and local women to learn this kind of hybrid health care.

Participants are also taught to spot warning signs that a pregnant woman’s life or the life of her baby is in danger. At those times, K’inal uses proceeds from medicinal herb sales to help pay for transportation to a hospital. Vasquez sees that as indicative of K’inal’s realistic approach to women’s health.

“Cancer will not be cured by herbs,” she said.

Changing minds

Susana Patricia Lopez, left, says her Tzotzil her family generally supports her goal of becoming a nurse while fellow student Maria Luna says her Tzeltal farmer parents would rather she become a wife and mother.

Susana Patricia Lopez, left, says her Tzotzil her family generally supports her goal of becoming a nurse while fellow student Maria Luna says her Tzeltal farmer parents would rather she become a wife and mother.

But some see more scientific intervention as necessary to reducing maternal deaths and improving sexual health and awareness in Chiapas. Increasingly, young indigenous women are advocating for sex education, using birth control and even receiving medical training to integrate modern health care into their communities.

Maria Luna and Susana Patricia Lopez, both 21, are nursing students in San Cristobal on scholarships from La FOMMA, a nonprofit that helps support indigenous people in professional pursuits.

Luna, a soft-spoken Tzeltal woman of tiny stature with striking features, said she enjoys learning the technical aspects of obstetrics, noting that traditional medicine and herbal remedies are not always enough.

Luna left her small community after primary school to go to high school in San Cristobal and then applied to nursing school. Her independence was not viewed favorably by her parents, farmers who would have preferred her to stick around, get married and have babies.

“I don’t have communication with my father,” she said, forlorn but resolute.

But Luna – who works nights at a local hotel to help pay for her tuition – hopes to one day return to her village, find a nursing job and focus on educating women about their rights to medical care and sexual health.

“Education in birth control and general health is the most important thing” in improving maternal health, Luna said.

Susana Lopez, the more demonstrative of the pair, said her studies span the scope of primary care, though she is specifically interested in prenatal care and assisting during labor and delivery. Like Luna, she would rather work in her Tzotzil community in the highlands outside San Cristobal than a hospital, which is “less personal.”

When asked why she chose to become a nurse rather than a professionally trained midwife, Lopez said that, despite the license, “midwives are not valued as much.” Plus, they earn far less money.

As a nurse, Lopez said she would have access to better equipment and resources than a traditional midwife, but could still have a personal relationship with patients.

Unlike Luna, Lopez said her parents are supportive and she goes home most weekends. Still, she said they were originally skeptical of her decision to pursue an education, which she said is typical of most people in her community. Acculturation, she said, is “a big process.”

Despite a younger generation that’s making gains in scientific training and awareness, there are still cultural barriers to sexual health in Chiapas. Mistrust of government-run hospitals and clinics lingers in indigenous communities.

Vasquez, the K’inal volunteer coordinator, said husbands may even forbid hospital visits because they are worried about how their wives will be treated or where they’ll be touched. This machismo, she said, contributes to the high maternal death rate, because pregnant women are not getting needed medical intervention.

Vasquez and the nursing students also pointed to ingrained societal taboos about sex. Parents and teachers do not talk to children about sexual health and reproduction, leaving generations of women who do not know their options when it comes to pregnancy and, on a larger scale, their well-being.

So it has been left to NGOs to educate women about sexual health in a country that has long preferred to sweep such matters under the rug, they said.

NGOs like K’inal Antzetik and Marie Stopes say training and small-scale, volunteer sexual education networks are all they can do with the government that will not give such education in schools or provide enough contraceptives in clinics and hospitals, yet expects all births to take place under medical supervision.

Another path

Mexican Midwives

Bundles of herbs waiting to be processed in to traditional medicines at the “lab,” some shelves in the sole examining room at K’inal Antzetik clinic in Chiapas.

In lieu of going to government-run hospitals, uninsured or otherwise distrustful women in Chiapas can receive birth control and gynecological exams at low costs at the impeccably clean and modern Marie Stopes clinic in San Cristobal.

Hovering over a table filled with an impressive mound of individual birth-control boxes, projects coordinator Geicel Yamileth Benitez Fuentes said they carry everything from daily contraceptive pills to intrauterine devices (IUDs) that can last five years. She said women often seek out private clinics like theirs over the government ones because of the more-personal care.

“Government clinics don’t treat people with respect,” she said.

Benitez said Marie Stopes also does a lot of work outside the well-manicured cobblestone streets of San Cristobal. In indigenous towns, what Benitez called “the communities,” Marie Stopes health promoters explain how contraceptives work, demonstrate condom use and review the risks of sexually transmitted infections.

“There is a lot of unprotected sex because kids don’t receive sex education,” Benitez said. “There is not much awareness in the communities.”

Marie Stopes has used its international funding and the community connections of midwives to build a network aimed at reducing unwanted pregnancies and maternal mortality.

Health promoters like Maria Lopez Mendoza sell contraceptives in communities around Chiapas to traditional midwives like Dona Mercedes, who then sell them to their own patients for a small profit.

Marie Stopes’ goal, as stated in the stacks of brochures and framed pictures throughout the clinic, is “hijos para eleccion” – children by choice – something pregnant health promoter Maria Lopez Mendoza has fully embodied.

‘They do it to serve the people’

Geicel Yamileth Benitez Fuentes at the Marie Stopes Clinic, one of several non-governmental organizations working to improve a maternal rate of deaths during childbirth in the Chiapas state that is among the highest in Mexico.

Geicel Yamileth Benitez Fuentes at the Marie Stopes Clinic, one of several non-governmental organizations working to improve a maternal rate of deaths during childbirth in the Chiapas state that is among the highest in Mexico.

At 43, Lopez said this is her last chance to have a baby. With the father out of the picture, Lopez is prepared to raise the child on her own – single motherhood by choice.

Six months along, Lopez seemed as comfortable on the disheveled bed in Dona Mercedes’ dilapidated house as she was in the Marie Stopes Clinic in San Cristobal. Despite the ease with which she straddled both worlds, she said she planned to deliver her baby girl in a hospital, where doctors can intervene quickly in case anything goes wrong.

She laughs and quickly dismisses praise that she is brave for going it alone, noting that many mothers in similar situations don’t have the luxuries of a paying job or cash for a taxi ride to faraway clinics. In these instances, they have no choice but to rely on a local partera like Dona Mercedes.

Prior to her check-up, Lopez and Dona Mercedes had some business to transact: Lopez made the two-hour trip from San Cristobal to Bochil to deliver just three contraceptive kits the midwife had ordered for her patients.

Each kit cost 280 pesos, or about $20. Lopez explained that the midwife would mark up the kits by as little as 50 pesos so that her poorest patients could afford them, as opposed to similar kits sold at hospitals for as much as 2,000 pesos.

“That is the work of the partera. They earn almost nothing,” Lopez said. “They do it to support the people. That is the way it is.”



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