dorset chiapas solidarity

April 17, 2016

Participatory Democracy Drives Anti-Gentrification Movement in New York’s El Barrio

 

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Participatory Democracy Drives Anti-Gentrification Movement in New York’s El Barrio

By Jessica Davies, Truthout | Report

 

2016_0416rrelb_Members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio at a press conference denouncing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “luxury housing” rezoning plan. (Photo courtesy of Janice Aredondo)

 

Eleven years ago, in an area known as El Barrio in East Harlem, New York, community residents of 15 immigrant families, all of them women of color, came together to seek dignified housing in their community. They were struggling against gentrification and displacement, and the abuses of a private landlord who was trying to force them out of their homes in order to attract wealthier tenants and transform the neighborhood they lived in and loved. These women had no previous organizing experience, but they listened to and supported each other, and in December 2004, they formed Movement for Justice in El Barrio (Movement).

Astonishingly, Movement now has 954 members in 95 building committees. Eighty percent of the members are women, and it is the women who are the driving force behind the organization. The membership consists of low-income tenants who are immigrants and people of color; many are also Indigenous. Forced by poverty to leave their beloved native countries, they have built a strong community in El Barrio, and are determined not to allow themselves to be displaced again. They understand clearly that their fight is against the neoliberal system represented by the abusive landlords, property speculators, multinational corporations, politicians and government institutions that seek to displace them from their much-loved community.

“We all share a common enemy and it is called neoliberalism,” said Oscar Dominguez, a member of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, at the first Encuentro for Humanity and Against Displacement. “Neoliberalism wishes to divide us and keep us from combining our forces. We will defeat this by continuing to unite our entire community until we achieve true liberation for all.”

The organization is built around the principles of autonomy, self-determination and participatory democracy. This means that it is based on a horizontal form of organizing and has no leaders.

“We believe that those who suffer injustice first-hand must design and lead their own struggles for justice,” said Diana Vega, a Movement member.

The aim is to create spaces where people can come together as a community to share their problems. In this way, they can agree on the solutions, and it is the community itself that has the power. Not being dependent on anyone to tell them what to do, they believe, creates a strong base that can never be destroyed.

The basis of Movement’s organizing is consulting the community. Members go door-to-door, building-by-building, block-by-block, getting to know each other, and constructing relationships. Committees are formed in each building, and once the whole building is organized, they become members. Each building agrees on its own actions and means of struggle. Movement is also deeply committed to fighting all forms of oppression and to respecting each other’s differences. Above all, this means listening to one another.

The group operates on many levels. As well as door knocking, it has town hall meetings, community dialogues, street outreach, house meetings and community-wide votes. It organizes protests, marches and direct actions. It makes clever use of the media, gives interviews and charlas (talks) and organizes community-wide gatherings. It uses tactics such as court actions and public denunciations. Following the community consultations, it campaigns on specific issues.

These issues are spelled out in the invitation that Movement for Justice in El Barrio sent out for its fifth Encuentro for Humanity and Against Displacement:

“Together, we make our dignity resistance and we fight back against the actions of capitalist landlords and multinational corporations who seek to displace poor families from our neighborhood. We fight back locally and across borders. We fight back against local politicians who refuse to govern by obeying the will of the people. We fight back against the government institutions which enforce a global economic, social and political system that seeks to destroy humanity.”

The organization faces many challenges. Most of its members speak no English. They have little access to the internet. Very few of them have computers. They are forced to work 10- to 14-hour days, six to seven days a week, as well as having all the responsibilities of family life. This means that it is not easy for them to also attend four or five hour meetings to make decisions, and it is difficult for everyone to come together at the same time. Because everyone must be consulted, and all decisions made collectively, it can take a long time to come to an agreement. But in spite of all these difficulties, the commitment and achievements of the members have been remarkable.

In line with its principles, Movement accepts no government funding, and has no involvement with politicians or political parties. Members know it is essential to create bridges with other ignored, forgotten and marginalized communities, including women, migrants, lesbians, people of color and the transgender community, and to build relationships with members of organizations that also fight against multiple forms of oppression.

Building a Community of Solidarity and a Culture of Resistance

Eleven years ago, those who are now members of Movement did not even know each other. They had no fellowship with the other inhabitants of their building. Now, they resist, organize and celebrate victories together — they have built community, friendship, love, confidence and solidarity and have transformed their lives.

During the last 11 years, Movement has won victories against brutal landlords and multinational corporations that have tried to displace them and destroy their community. They have challenged city institutions. They have created and continue to build a culture of resistance and a community of solidarity. They have formed strong bonds with their sisters in struggle in many corners of the world, and their inspirational struggle continues.

Members of Movement celebrated the 11th anniversary of their women-led community struggle this year on March 8, International Women’s Day. During the event, they screened this short film to commemorate their struggle against displacement:

 

 

Many of the members of this remarkable organization believe that their greatest achievement has been to build a culture of resistance, which has led to a sense of identity and self-worth, being part of something that gives them purpose and meaning. A new generation of children is growing up in an amazing environment of organizing, marching and of collective decision-making, which makes a lasting impact on their lives, and shines through in their vibrant community spirit. The strength of the community that Movement has created is reflected in the astonishing fact that not on,e of its members has been displaced over the last 11 years. It is no wonder that the Village Voice chose Movement as the “Best Power to the People Movement in New York City.”

Learning from and Sharing Dignified Struggles

When Movement was founded in December 2004, its members began to look for other dignified struggles from which to learn. When they read the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, released in June 2005, Dominguez told Truthout, members found in it “a mirror of ourselves.” Since that time, they have developed their own form of urban Zapatismo, and continue to look to their Zapatista compañeras and compañeros as inspiration in their daily struggle for justice and collective liberation, while offering their solidarity in return. As always with the women at the forefront, Movement members have incorporated tools and ways of organizing learned from the Zapatistas into their own local struggle.

Current Struggles and Achievements

In September 2015, the women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio joined people who are fighting for justice all over the world, and gave testimony before the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement, which was held in New York City. The women spoke about the struggle of migrant women against the dispossession that leads to forced migration in the first place, and then about the vicious displacement from housing, which takes place in order to rezone cities between the rich and the poor.

This was followed in October by Movement being the only organization to be chosen to participate in the ground-breaking first worldwide online Women’s Freedom Conference, where women from five continents presented their struggles through the unique voices and experiences of women of color who have little or no representation, and who have been deprived of their rights not only by patriarchy, but also through racism and other forms of oppression. Movement’s presentation was the film El Barrio Women Fighting for Freedom and Against Displacement.

 

 

On January 31, 2016, the fifth New York City Encuentro for Humanity and Against Displacement took place, organized by Movement. It was “a gathering in which humble and simple people directly affected and fighting against gentrification were given the space to dialogue amongst each other without intermediaries and with respect for their common struggle.” A testament to the power of grassroots organizing, the Encuentro focused on struggles against displacement in New York and globally, and representatives of over 90 organizations shared their struggles and their dreams.

The official invitation to the event offered these words about its purpose:

“We are struggling for housing, for education, for health, for freedom, for justice, for love, for a voice, for a space to exist, for peace, for respect, for ourselves, for our community, for dignity … for humanity. Here we stand in resistance in our corner of the world. Together we will build a world where many worlds fit. Un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.”

The Encuentro highlighted one of the main struggles undertaken by the women of Movement over the last year and a half — the struggle against the destructive rezoning plan that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is attempting to impose from above. If enacted, this plan will cause widespread displacement of long-term, low-income community members from their beloved El Barrio. Premiered at the Encuentro was the new film The East Harlem Community Fight Against the Mayor’s Rezoning Plan.

 

 

The film documents the East Harlem residents’ opposition to a rezoning plan where a hundred percent of units will be inaccessible to the low-income residents of El Barrio. Seventy-five percent will be market-rate, luxury apartments, and the other twenty-five percent will still have rents that make them completely inaccessible to low-income residents of El Barrio, due to residents not meeting the minimum income threshold required to rent them. This opposition is the result of the East Harlem community’s extensive consulta del Barrio, a community-driven democratic consultation, organized by Movement, about the mayor’s rezoning plan, which took place for nearly a year. Through this consulta, community members analyzed the plan and developed both their position — unanimous opposition to the mayor’s entire upzoning plan by the thousands who participated — and a proposal of their own: A 10-point plan for the de Blasio administration to preserve rent-stabilized housing. The women leaders of Movement for Justice in El Barrio will keep on fighting until their plan is implemented for the benefit of all of the humble people of New York City.

They have expressed this commitment in their vision statement:

We fight so that:

The oceans and mountains will belong to those who live in and take care of them.

The rivers and deserts will belong to those who live in and take care of them.

The valleys and ravines will belong to those who live in and take care of them.

Homes and cities will belong to those who live in and take care of them.

No one will own more land than they can cultivate.

No one will own more homes than they can live in.

 

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/35625-participatory-democracy-drives-anti-gentrification-movement-in-new-york-s-el-barrio

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June 2, 2015

A Gathering in New York: Ayotzinapa, El Barrio and San Sebastián Bachajón

Filed under: Displacement, Movement for Justice in el Barrio, Women, Zapatistas — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:17 pm

 

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A Gathering in New York: Ayotzinapa, El Barrio and San Sebastián Bachajón

 

Written by Jessica Davies

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“We walk the same steps though our rhythms are different”

Toward the end of the visit of Caravan 43 to the United States, a remarkable gathering of dignified struggles took place in New York. Representatives of the relatives of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa met in an exchange with Mexican migrants from Movement for Justice in El Barrio, and, through video messages, also with the indigenous Tseltal ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón in Chiapas. All those present at the gathering are in struggle on a daily basis for dignity and truth against the lies, injustice, death, displacement and dispossession perpetrated by the capitalist system of those from above. As part of this gathering, all present joined together in commemoration of the assassinated leader from Bachajón, Juan Vazquez Guzman. Messages were received from as far away as Uruguay and the United Kingdom, and from the renowned thinkers Sylvia Marcos and Raul Zibechi. This gathering of communities is a wonderful example of the inspiration that can be obtained from solidarity and from sharing struggles, uniting pain and dignified rage into hope, action and resistance.

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“It is a great honor for us to walk the path of this dignified struggle with our dear compas from Ayotzinapa. It is wonderful to know that among our peoples, those from below, there are people like the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, the families of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. Dignified people who struggle with all their hearts to change the world.”  – Josefina Salazar, Movement for Justice in El Barrio.

Representatives of the families, friends and classmates of the 43 student teachers from the Rural Normal School in Ayotzinapa, who were forcibly disappeared last September, are currently traveling through different parts of the Americas and Europe in Caravan 43, to share their story and to raise awareness of their call for the return of the students alive. As part of this courageous undertaking, three groups toured the United States in April, their visit culminating in the last week of that month with a convergence in New York City to meet with human rights representatives at the United Nations.

 

It was at this time that the family members visited and spent an evening with the members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio (Movement), an organization of mainly Mexican migrants who struggle for dignified housing and against gentrification and displacement in East Harlem. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, Movement has 900 members, 80 percent of whom are women, spread out over 85 building committees.

The gathering, which was conceived and structured in the form of an exchange, coincided with the second anniversary of the assassination of “our beloved compa,” the spokesperson, community organiser and activist from the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, who was killed for his defense of the ancestral lands of his people against dispossession, a struggle which continues in his memory. “Two years since the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán,” in the words of Raúl Zibechi to the meeting, “they want to take away the land from the community of San Sebastián Bachajón to build tourist complexes, roads, airports … to continue accumulating riches and to continue plunging the peoples into more abject poverty.” The community of Bachajón took the opportunity to share in the gathering by means of video messages, one addressed to the families of Ayotzinapa, and one to the members of Movement, so the struggles of the three groups could come together.

We are the same because we are different”

This quotation is a Zapatista saying highlighted by Sylvia Marcos at the recent EZLN Seminar “Critical Thought versus the Capitalist Hydra,” which was held soon after the gathering featured in this article, and which echoed the same reflections.

The visitors were greeted on arrival at the church in El Barrio with hugs, and each one was presented as a gift with a beautiful image of the meeting of the struggles of the Ayotzinapa families and Movement. In this picture, a woman from one organization joins hands with one from the other, their hands entwined with a banner reading “solidarity and resistance across borders.” The two slogans at the bottom read: “They took them alive, we want them back alive,” and “We shall not be moved.” In the background is a dove, and the word “Justice.” These images symbolize the nature of the gathering. Journalist Katie Earle in her account of the event wrote, “While the struggles may seem unrelated to the uninitiated, the common ground was made clear throughout the evening.”

After all involved had told their stories and shared their pains, their struggles and their hopes, through the spoken word, through videos, and through the reading of letters and the sharing of words of homage, the names of the 44 people – 43 disappeared students and one murdered indigenous community leader – who were being especially remembered that evening were called out, each one being answered with the word “Present.” At this point, the families of Ayotzinapa and of Movement came together for dinner, where they were joined by other groups also suffering oppression, such as gay, lesbian and transgender organizations and other people of color such as the Philippine women’s group Gabriela NY, and the New Jersey youth group the Mexican American Progress Movement. This opportunity for all these groups to discuss what they have in common reflected one of the most important aims both of the gathering and of all the groups involved: to break down the barriers that those from above use to divide us through multiple forms of oppression and through the creation of borders.

“Whether or not you vote, ORGANIZE”

The Ayotzinapa families, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, and the adherents to the Sixth Declaration from San Sebastián Bachajón have all become widely respected for their ability to organize, and to inspire others to do so as well, for we are all constructing the same liberation and fighting the same system of power and money. Subcomandante Moisés in one of his contributions to the Seminar emphasised: “Whether or not you vote, ORGANIZE … Let’s organize ourselves, each person where they are, let’s struggle to organize ourselves, let’s work to organize ourselves, let’s begin by thinking about how to start to organize and let’s gather together in order to unite our organizations for a world where the people command and the government obeys.”

It is as a result of this ability to organize that the different struggles come together, as Sylvia Marcos wrote to the gathering in El Barrio about the families of Ayotzinapa: “In their stubborn pursuit of their beloved lost children in landfill sites in the Mexican State of Guerrero, they meet with other struggles and voices in solidarity which accompany them giving homage to the 43 disappeared. It is terrible and marvellous that poor people aspiring to be teachers have become the best professors through the power of pain turned into dignified rage. So that Mexico and the world can wake up and ask and question, and be accompanied.”

And collectives from England sent their words to the gathering: “Tonight we all share and unite in our pain and our rage and our struggles and our memory. To the compañeras and compañeros of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, we warmly congratulate you on the completion of 10 years of dignified struggle against neoliberal displacement in the heart of the neoliberal monster. We thank you also for the wonderful example of fellowship and companionship that has developed between yourselves and the indigenous Tseltal ejidatarios of Bachajon, nourished by the memory of our beloved brother Juan Vázquez Guzmán, whose memory and example remain with us, a light of hope and dignity accompanying our struggles. His words were true and honest, his passion and dedication in defence of human rights and our mother earth were tireless, and his love for his people, their lands and territory will have no end. He gave his life for this struggle and he will always continue to inspire his sisters and brothers as their dignified resistance continues.”

The urgent need for organization was subsequently summed up by Sup Galeano at the EZLN Seminar: “All that we have, that is to say, our survival in spite of everything and in spite of everyone above who has come and gone in the calendars and geographies, we do not owe to individuals. We owe it to our collective and organized struggle.”

“The Zapatista heart that is ours”

“In this ruthless war of capital against those from below, the following meet in resistance now, here, together making an echo amplifying their own history: the family and absent compañeros of Ayotzinapa, the migrants of Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York, and the common landholders and villagers of San Sebastián Bachajón who suffered the unpunished assassination of the distinguished defender from that territory, Juan Vasquez.

“The resistances and rebellions are joined together, they amplify one another, they intensify each other, they strengthen one another and we unite ourselves in them with the Zapatista heart that is ours,” writes the Mexican feminist writer Sylvia Marcos in her moving letter to the gathering.

Inspiration from the Zapatistas is something that all these struggles from below have in common. The families of Ayotzinapa have received solid and consistent support from the Zapatistas, Movement have woven their struggle throughout with Zapatismo, and the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón are strong adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Those who participated by letter from around the world shared this common link. A video of the silent march of the Zapatistas in support of Ayotzinapa was therefore shown near the beginning as a way to highlight Zapatismo throughout the evening.

Sup Galeano summed up another common thread at the recent Seminar: “The great majority of the world, not just in our country, is like you, brothers and sisters, family members of the Ayotzinapa missing. People who have to fight day and night for a little piece of life. People who have to struggle in order to wrench from reality something with which to sustain themselves. Anyone from below, man, woman, otroa, who lives this painful history, sympathizes with your struggle for truth and justice. They share your demand because in your words they see their own history, because they recognize themselves in your pain, because they identify with your rage.”

“The year of resistance with dignity, of dignified rebel rage.”

In his powerful words which were read as his contribution to the gathering, the Uruguayan writer and analyst Raúl Zibechi describes the last year: “It has been a year full of resistances, of struggles, of the dignity of those from below. It has been a year of repression and death, destruction and forced disappearances. Those from above, fearful of losing their power, want to destroy us. It has been one of the most difficult years in the recent history of Mexic … It has been the year in which they could no longer hide the war of extermination against the peoples …

“But it has also been the year of resistance with dignity, of dignified rebel rage. In this year the common landholders of San Sebastián Bachajón not only kept up their resistance but also recuperated their lands, the lands that had been stolen from them, they defended them against the bad government and will continue to do so. By acting in this way, determined and peaceful, they became an example of dignity to other community members who decided to join the struggle.

“The families and friends of the 43 of Ayotzinapa, in this very difficult year, gave demonstrations of dignity to Mexico, Latin America and the world. They turned their pain into political action by winning the streets to share their rage, which has become a collective rage, the rage of everyone. In doing so they showed us a path, the only path able to overcome fear: to move collectively, to turn ourselves into communities in movement.”

Today we walk, holding hands….

This momentous evening concluded with words and music from the different groups attending. A videomessage of solidarity from members of the anti-displacement group Springfield No One Leaves, from Springfield, Massachussets, was screened.  The families of the disappeared students then called for accompaniment on their march to the United Nations, which was to take place three days later to demand that Mexico and its international partners bring justice to the Ayotzinapa disappeared. This call was answered by many of the people present, who carried the image made for the meeting, along with Zapatista figures, on this march.

Let us finish with some words of hope from Raúl Zibechi’s message which perfectly encapsulate the significance of this New York gathering: “In streets and fields, in cities and ejidos, we are sisters and brothers struggling, resisting, making ourselves one with others who resist. First pain brought us together. Now rage continues to unite us in fellowship. Walking in dignity, we find each other.

“Today we walk, holding hands, the common landholders of San Sebastián Bachajón, the families and friends of the 43 of Ayotzinapa and Movement for Justice in El Barrio. We come from distant geographies, from different places, but we share the same pain and now also we walk the same steps though our rhythms are different. Walking together, we leave footprints that draw a new map, a new geography: one of the dignity that unites us, of the rage that drives us.”

 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Desinformemonos.

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/5344-a-gathering-in-new-york-ayotzinapa-el-barrio-and-san-sebastian-bachajon

 



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May 1, 2015

San Sebastián Bachajón: The Struggle against Dispossession in Mexico

Filed under: Bachajon — Tags: , , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:36 pm

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San Sebastián Bachajón: The Struggle against Dispossession in Mexico

Written by Ricardo Lagunes and Jessica Davies

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/5311-san-sebastian-bachajon-the-struggle-against-dispossession-in-mexico

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April 24th, 2015, marked the second anniversary of the vicious assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, community leader, spokesperson and social activist from the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, “in whose memory our struggle continues.” Despite the killing of two of their leaders and frequent attacks from local government-supporters and public security forces, the ejidatarios (common landholders), adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, remain firm in their resistance to dispossession, and in their struggle in defense of their ancestral land, territory and Mother Earth. The situation has now become critical. A local court has rejected the legal case of the ejidatarios against appropriation of their common lands by the Mexican government. This openly violates the rights of the ejido to consultation, to free, prior and informed consent and offers impunity to political elites and transnational corporations who dispossess indigenous people from their lands in favor of neoliberal megaprojects.

The CNI analyses repression against the original peoples

The peoples, nations and tribes making up the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), gathered together recently to analyze “the repressive wave against the peoples” conducted by “the capitalist narco-governors who seek to take over our homeland.” They released a statement of their position, in which they stated: “the repression which the bad government has carried out against our peoples is in response to our decision to continue with our resistance, so that we can continue to exist, in spite of the bloody war of extermination…..which they conduct in order to consolidate their economic interests, which are based on exploitation, dispossession, repression, and contempt.”

The CNI goes on to list some of the different faces and reflections of this dispossession and continued resistance. Their second example is: “The Tseltal community of San Sebastián Bachajón, in the municipality of Chilón, Chiapas, has faced the repressive forces of the bad government, who have tried to dispossess them of [their lands near] the Agua Azul waterfalls, which they intend to hand over to capitalist interests. In fact, on March 21st of this year, more than six hundred members of government security forces burned down the regional headquarters of San Sebastián; our brothers and sisters, and the free press, which has stood in solidarity with their struggle, have been assaulted…..while the state police and Mexican army have escalated their occupation of their territory in support of the paramilitary groups.”

In this wave of repression the indigenous peoples face dispossession from their lands, territory, culture, history, traditions and life itself to make way for megaprojects which offer them nothing but death; these include mining projects, roads, airports, aqueducts, hydroelectric or wind power schemes, industrial developments, gas or water pipelines, and, in the case of San Sebastián Bachajón, luxury hotel developments for tourist businesses.

Background

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In 2006, the then governor of Chiapas revealed a plan to “build a new Cancún in northern Chiapas,” and many of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón started organizing to defend their territory. In 2007, they became adherents to the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. Also in 2007, plans were announced for the long-discussed Palenque Integrally Planned Centre (CIPP) or “the Gateway to the Maya World,” a luxury tourist megaproject involving a new airport and superhighway, the jewel in the crown being international hotel developments at the stunning waterfalls of Agua Azul, access to which involves passing through the territory of the ejido Bachajón. Dispossessing the ejidatarios of these lands thus became crucial to the plan, which involved multinational corporations in    co-operation with the three levels of the Mexican government and the co-opted ejidal leaders.

It is clearly laid down in national and international treaties, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States of Mexico, and the San Andrés Accords, that as indigenous peoples, the Tseltales of San Sebastián Bachajón have the right to free, prior and informed consent in relation to their lands and natural resources, and the right to free determination of their affairs. This absolute right to consultation and consent has been violated and ignored time and again, and instead groups of government-supporting ejidatarios – known as officialists – from the PRI political party started organizing shock groups in the area, and an officialist ejidal commissioner was imposed illegally on the ejido. The scene was set.

Following repression, threats and harassment, the conflict culminated on the 2nd of February, 2011, when an armed eviction of the ejidatarios of the Sixth from the area around Agua Azul was carried out by officialists from San Sebastián and from neighboring communities, with the support of around 800 state and federal police. The following day, national and state public forces entered the territory and arrested 117 people, under the pretext that it was all an intra-community conflict.

Following this, in March 2011, Franciso Guzman Jiménez, former commissioner of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, one of the leaders of the attack, made an agreement which handed over an area of Bachajón’s land to the Chiapas state government and to the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP.) He did this without the prior consent of the assembly of the ejidatarios, therefore the ownership of these lands, and of the toll-booth, giving access to the waterfalls, has been in dispute. The legal case of the ejidatarios is clear, and their lawyer has conducted an action for amparo (order for legal protection) through the courts; a favorable result was anticipated, taking into account all the evidence and the sending of the case to the Supreme Court in the Federal District through the initiative of the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

The amparo against dispossession

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The ejido San Sebastián Bachajón has sustained a legal battle since 2011, because the Mexican government has, by means of acts of violence since February 2nd of 2011, claimed ownership of the ejidal land in common use where access is gained to the “Agua Azul Waterfalls” Ecological Centre. Following their violent entry, the officialist ejido leader signed an agreement with the government; through this they sought to give a cover of legality to the dispossession of the common use lands, which had not been authorized in the highest body representing the ejido, the ejidal assembly.

Faced with such arbitrary actions, the ejidatarios filed, in March 2011, for the amparo 274/2011 before the Seventh District Judge in the State of Chiapas. After three rulings for its dismissal by the Seventh District Judge, on September 29th of 2014, the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, in order to resolve the amparo in review 224/2014, overturned the dismissal and asked the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to consider the case due to its associated legal significance; since the case of Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is a reflection of the conflicts that led to the armed uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in 1994, for this reason the Court noted that it was appropriate for the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to decide the issue of the ejido, so that thereby the foundations could be laid for the resolution of dozens of cases of the same kind in the region on the matter of the rights of indigenous peoples.

On November 19th 2014 the rapporteur Minister Margarita Beatriz Luna Ramos (originally from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas) proposed to the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation not to exercise their right to decide Bachajón’s amparo and they returned it to the Third Collegiate Tribunal to be resolved.

On April 6th 2015 the Third Collegiate Tribunal contradicted its arguments and issued a judgement denying the amparo to the ejido, by giving value as evidence to the agreement made between the former Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero and the former officialist ejidal commissioner of San Sebastián Bachajón, Francisco Guzmán Jiménez; this decision openly violates the rights of the ejido to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent. All of this is in order to benefit the political elites and transnational tourism companies, which is the reason they have designed counterinsurgency strategies to give it the appearance of an inter- and intra-ejidal conflict.

Given these abuses a signature campaign and petition were launched to demand the enforcement of international treaties signed by the Mexican State; because up to now the Judicial Power of the Federation has favoured and privileged the impunity with which the dispossession of the indigenous peoples of Mexico has been operated. The call is made to join with the appeals of the compañeros and compañeras adherents to the Sixth and to expose the judges of the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas who obey, answer to and operate politically for the transnationals.

Recent events

The ejidatarios of Bachajón have never given up their rights to their lands, territory and natural resources, and have continued tirelessly to carry out a dignified struggle in defense of these rights. So, on December 21st of 2014, more than 400 ejidatarios peacefully recuperated the lands surrounding the toll-booth, which they were robbed of in 2011, and set up a day and night guard over the area. At this time they were joined by a growing number of non-adherent ejidatarios.

In a communiqué on January the 18th, the ejidatarios explain what happened next: “On the ninth of January the bad government sent more than 900 police to evict the women and men guarding the reclaimed lands… On the eleventh of January we began to block the road from Ocosingo to Palenque at the Agua Azul crossroad, where we blocked the road for several days to demand that the public forces leave our land, but the government ordered its police to fire at us with high calibre firearms… In spite of this attack the compañeros and compañeras responded with courage and dignity and we maintained a total blockage of the road until a few days ago, when it became an intermittent and informative road block accompanied by national and international solidarity of women and men of good heart. We inform you that our compañeros and compañeras are going to remain in the place where we have been since January 11th until the police leave our lands.”

On January 29th, faced with a constant police presence and a situation of high tension, with the ejidal commissioner, Alejandro Moreno Gómez organizing shock-groups which “fire into the night with high-calibre weapons to frighten the population,” the ejidatarios issued a communiqué: “We continue to do the work of resistance defending our people and territory from dispossession by the bad government; for this reason we are building a San Sebastián regional headquarters to be a place of work, workshops and exchanges. The work at this headquarters starts today; we have built it a kilometer from the Agua Azul crossroad and from the border with the official municipality of Tumbalá.”

The tension increased. There remained a heavy presence of public forces in the area and the government continued to give support to the officialists, led by the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and the security adviser Samuel Díaz Guzmán, who were threatening to evict the regional headquarters and attempting to criminalize the organized people of Bachajón through the fabrication of crimes, both by accusing them of being authors of assaults on the road between Ocosingo and Palenque, and also by organizing roadblocks at the Agua Azul turning and blaming the ejidatarios for these. At the same time, the commercial press was stoking the fire by reporting: “An armed confrontation is expected at any moment between opposing groups who are disputing the area, which is one of the attractions of our state to national and international tourism.”

The burning of the San Sebastian regional headquarters

“We denounce that today, March 21st of 2015, at around 8 o’clock in the morning, more than 600 members of the public forces burned down our San Sebastián regional headquarters with the participation of the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and the security adviser Samuel Díaz Guzmán,” the ejidatarios wrote in a communiqué. “Once again the politics of death and the corruption of the bad government are demonstrated, and its contempt for the people and human rights because it seeks to achieve its ambition to get hold of our territory through the dispossession of the land, the water and everything that exists in our country, as if it were merchandise, in order to gain money….. After the violent eviction of 9th of January, 2015, we in our organization established the San Sebastián regional headquarters to continue caring for the land and to demand the withdrawal of bad government, this is where we will continue because we are the original peoples of these lands.”

Two days later the people of Bachajón further denounced the “support of the bad government for the paramilitary leaders Alejandro Moreno Gómez and Samuel Díaz Guzmán” following an attack on two members of the free media who were monitoring the human rights situation. “The bad government uses its cunning and gives them weapons so that at any time they can come to kill us….and so the bad government washes its hands saying the problem is between indigenous and they are killing each other, and for this reason it then sends its public forces to take away our lands.”

The fallen leaders

11141264_10155537831945512_2628082814479590200_oIn their March 21st communiqué the indigenous organization stated; “We remember today with dignified rage that it is a year since the killing of our compañero Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, coordinator of the organization in the community of Virgen de Dolores.” It is surely not a coincidence that this day was selected. March 21st is also the sixteenth anniversary of the Zapatista “consulta”, when citizens of Mexico were invited to vote on questions about the San Andres Accords on indigenous rights and culture, in an example of true consultation, something the indigenous peoples of Bachajón have been consistently denied.

The communiqué continues: “and next month will mark two years since the killing of our compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán, secretary general of our organization, in whose memory the struggle in San Sebastián Bachajón continues.” There has been no justice, the authorities have yet to shed any light on his murder, or to arrest anyone in connection with it, but Juan still accompanies the struggle of his people, who remember his words and what he stood for. A recent short film, The Dignified Resistance of San Sebastián Bachajón continues, ends with a tribute: “In memory of our brother Juan Vázquez Guzmán. A light of dignity and struggle and the true word become man. Compa Juan Vázquez Guzmán we embrace your legacy. Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The struggle continues!”

As they prepare for Juan’s annual homage, his compañeros continue his struggle for the land and for the mother earth. “We demand the withdrawal of public forces and of the national commission for protected natural areas from our lands, dispossessed since February 2011. We demand freedom for our political prisoners Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández and of the unjustly imprisoned compañeros Santiago Moreno Perez, Emilio Jimenez Gómez and Esteban Gómez Jiménez.”

And the words of Juan find an echo: “We are original peoples of these lands and we have rights that they cannot just come and take away like this with their police and paramilitaries. Our word and struggle has more strength because it comes from dignity and the love of life, of the land; our struggle is not for ourselves, it is for our children, for our grandchildren to come, because we have the right to defend and care for the land, to be autonomous and to decide what is the best way to live as a people, we do not need political parties, neither do we need the bad government to come to tell us what to do.”

Article originally published in Spanish: http://desinformemonos.org/2015/04/san-sebastian-bachajon-la-lucha-contra-el-despojo/

For further information: https://vivabachajon.wordpress.com/en-ingles/

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March 3, 2015

Movement for Justice in El Barrio: Ten Years of Struggle for Another Possible World

Filed under: Displacement, Frayba, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:28 pm

 

Movement for Justice in El Barrio: Ten Years of Struggle for Another Possible World

Written by Jessica Davies

Article published in Upside Down World: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/5229-movement-for-justice-in-el-barrio-ten-years-of-struggle-for-another-possible-world

 Movement-for-Justice-in-El-Barrio

“Ten years of grassroots community resistance to gentrification and displacement in El Barrio, New York.

Ten years of building a social justice organization based on self-determination, participatory democracy and autonomy.

Ten years of majority-women organizing for dignity and justice.

Ten years of breaking down borders and supporting movements from New York City to South Africa and beyond.

Ten years of fighting sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression.

Ten years of struggle for an “other” possible world!”

With these words the members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio (Movement) told the story of their first decade, in the video made to show at their tenth anniversary celebrations in February 2015. For this important occasion, the members came together to have dinner, to watch videos made by, for, and about them, and to read the letters they have received from organisations and individuals in different countries who have been inspired by the different levels of their struggle. An overview of some of these contributions reveals the depth, the intense commitment and the unique nature of this remarkable organization.

A local struggle

Movement is mainly composed of Mexicans migrants, mostly women, many of them indigenous, who have been forced to leave their beloved native land and are now faced by ruthless transnational corporations trying to force them from their homes and community in El Barrio, East Harlem. Movement has grown, from fifteen families who came together and formed the organization ten years ago, to 900 members, 80% of them women, in 85 building committees, each committee organizing itself and making its own decisions. In resisting neoliberal displacement they have fought and won battles against a variety of landlords and not one member has lost their home. Meanwhile they have forged a strong supportive community, built a culture of resistance, given hope to many others and re-defined the meaning of worldwide solidarity, following the example of their sisters and brothers, the Zapatistas in Mexico.

The majority of the time and efforts of Movement are focused on their local resistance. Eddie Torres, Co-Founder of Casa del Pueblo Housing Cooperative in Los Angeles, shares his insights:

“To me Movement for Justice in El Barrio embodies an organization truly committed to the empowerment of the immigrant, poor and oppressed communities of East Harlem, NY, through the work of autonomous political organizing. They have rejected the old habit of charity service work that is commonly practiced by most other community organizations.  They very well know that to be fully liberated one must be emancipated from the very system that oppresses you.  Few grass root organizations, if any, dare to be led by the same community members they seek to revolutionize. Forward!”

From New York, RJ Maccani, a transformative justice organizer from the Challenging Male Supremacy Project, comments:

“That Movement has not only survived their first 10 years but substantially grown their base and won a series of notable victories, all while maintaining an autonomous and combative orientation towards local government and the landlords, is a powerful affirmation of that most basic tenet of Zapatismo: Don’t sell out, don’t give up, don’t give in.”

Wai Yee Poon, Chinatown Tenants Union Organizer for CAAAV – Organizing Asian Communities, adds:

“Movement for Justice in El Barrio is a great organization that is dedicated to its community. They work hard to fight back against racist gentrification in El Barrio. Simultaneously, they do this housing work with a focus on women’s empowerment and most of their leaders are women who are directly affected by the issues they are fighting. In other words, they are truly a grassroots organization. We’ve had an exchange last year and our members are very inspired by their leadership and community organizing. We hope to continue working together and fight against housing inequality in NYC.”

Groups from different parts of the world have visited El Barrio, and learned of Movement’s struggle. Rafael Litvin Villas Boas, a coordinator of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, or Movimiento Sem Terra (MST), one of the largest social movements in the world, who visited Movement in East Harlem, says:

“Compas of MJB, I am very impressed with the form of creative, horizontal, participatory democracy that you are developing here …Each area, each building, is a space of social and political organizing, from which we can learn by your example of popular education for all.”

And another visitor, Mazwi Nzimande, of the Shack Dwellers Movement, also known as Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM,) which is the largest organization of the poor to emerge in post-apartheid South Africa, and which struggles for land and housing, says:

“We are all in the struggle as poor people. If I was in the Americas, I would definitely be one of you, Movement for Justice in El Barrio. I would be part of your organization.”

From Greece, the researcher Christy Petropoulou writes: “Movement for Justice in El Barrio is a ray of sun in the darkness of unbridled capitalism. It gives hope to the people involved in urban social movements against the process of ‘gentrification’ and for the right to the city.”

Commenting from Britain, the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network writes:

“We send you our sincere congratulations on the completion of ten years of dignified struggle in favor of those from below, the marginalized, neglected and forgotten of the earth, those suffering multiple forms of discrimination and oppression. The heart of your struggle has been with the organised migrants, mainly women, tenants of El Barrio, struggling against gentrification and displacement to achieve dignified housing for themselves, their families and neighbours. In doing so, you have forged a strong and supportive community and built a culture of resistance, and not one tenant has been displaced.

“We have been profoundly inspired by your dedication and commitment, by your creativity and imagination, and by your love and solidarity….We have admired your dignity, your politics of listening and learning, your sense of service and obligation to others, and your persistence and dedication. Movement for Justice in El Barrio is a reference point throughout the world….”

From Mexico, the homeland of most of the organisation’s members, Coordinadora Valle de Chalko recognize the difficulties Movement has overcome:

“We greet the sisters and brothers of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, who with ingenuity, solidarity and a big heart have enabled rebellion and resistance to flower amid the destructive machinery of capitalism. The compas have proved that to be born and live in El Barrio does not have to be a curse, they have shown that with dignity, loyalty, courage and love it is possible to construct from below through community organization. From the Other Ghetto we send them all our good vibes and let them know that we will continue to learn from them from a distance.”

An urban struggle

Many of the letters refer to the possible difficulties of organizing and resisting in an urban environment. As Gustavo Esteva, activist and thinker from the University of the Earth, comments from rural Oaxaca:

“I am very aware that you are there, struggling daily to survive in the Big Apple, in a hostile society, radically different from ours. I am aware that you not only manage to stay there, despite the crisis and all the difficulties of the day, but you continue to care for your families and your communities, supporting them in every way you can. It is so wonderful that at the same time you have decided to struggle, also daily, not only to face the challenges there collectively and to try to regenerate and strengthen the social fabric and community spaces, but also to participate actively and jointly in the struggles we are waging here.”

Victor Hugo López Rodríguez, Director of the highly respected Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba,) writes:

“You, as men and women who have lived in community, in the neighborhoods, are an example of how urban space can be transformed into a space of resistance and dignity. Your history in New York reflects the possibility of organization against dispossession even in one of the nerve centers of capitalism.”

The great Uruguayan writer and analyst, Raul Zibechi, writes: “The experience of you all … who have created a movement in the area where you live in East Harlem, is a lesson in dignity and autonomy for all of those from below in the cities of the world. It is very difficult to organize in the big city, because it is one of the strongest links in the system. The cities are the center of fierce land speculation, which seeks to take over our homes, our small businesses, the music and art which our children and neighbors produce, the bodies and dreams of our young people, to convert all into merchandise. For all this, the fact that you have spent ten years organized and resisting in a big city…is an example that needs to be recognized.

“In these ten years you have shown that life can rise up in any place, in any corner, even in places and times where no one would expect it, in those gaps where no one ever imagined a green leaf could be born.”

A women’s struggle

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Frayba acknowledges:

“We confirm our recognition of you as a movement driven by dignified women, men and children, the essential mainstay of your protest actions. In particular we welcome the active participation of the women, and that your words have been linked to those of other struggles which are emphasizing the crucial participation of women in the processes of building alternative ways of life.”

The renowned Mexican feminist researcher and writer on gender and women’s issues, Sylvia Marcos writes:

“Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio is an organization led and based mainly on women’s participation. They are mostly immigrant women from the geopolitical South that work hard not only for social justice issues of the immigrant and poor but also for their rights as women. By this important women’s collaboration, the Movimiento makes a statement on women’s rights and through their participation women’s voices become audible.”

Reflecting on Movement and the Zapatistas together, Gustavo Zamora Jiménez, Coordonnateur of the Cercle des Premières Nations de l’UQAM, based in Montreal, Canada, who works with the Iriquois peoples who maintain a matriarchal society, comments:

“One of the most important things about these movements is the recognition of the importance of women to the community….. People have forgotten in recent times the importance and respect that all peoples offered to the woman, and Movement for Justice in El Barrio and the Zapatista Movement remind us… We are all children of a mother and Movement for Justice in El Barrio and the Zapatista Movement remind us of this too.”

María Aguirre, while giving the toast during the celebration, said:

“During these 10 years of struggle, we as women in Movement have been extremely important because we are women in struggle who remain united and continue to fight in the forefront of our struggle, constructing and defending our community as the neighbors who we are.

“During this year of celebration of our tenth anniversary it is important to emphasise and celebrate the 10 years of struggle that we have carried out as the women in struggle of Movement. We have always had and we continue to have the will and the energy to continue to follow this path that we have taken towards the other world that we all want.”

An International struggle

Movement are perhaps best-known for their role in international solidarity organizing, especially in Chiapas, Mexico. Victor Hugo Lopez of Frayba recognizes this:

“We would also like to thank you for the solidarity that you have woven with other people and organizations in different corners of the planet; we at Frayba can testify to the fellowship that you have forged accompanying the indigenous peoples of Chiapas…..We believe that your contribution has been crucial in encouraging other organizations, groups and individuals to join in these campaigns of global solidarity.”

From New York, Mexican author Malu Huacuja del Toro writes:

“For a decade a flame has continued to burn in East Harlem, New York, for the Zapatista dream of a world where many worlds fit. The poorest Mexicans in New York, the humblest and the most vulnerable are those who have most courageously preserved the history and dignity of our country. Also, in the heart of the economic empire, they have successfully confronted the voracity of the predatory urban construction industry. In this they are in fellowship with the people of Atenco and the Zapatista communities. Congratulations to the pro-Zapatista compas for these first ten years of collective struggle. I wish them many more years.”

Sylvia Marcos says in her letter: “We are celebrating that you have now completed 10 years of interrupted work. You have supported the struggles for a better world not only among yourselves in New York and elsewhere in the United States, but also joining the struggles of the Zapatistas and the indigenous in south-eastern Mexico and throughout the country. You have also been in solidarity with other struggles for justice as they are expressed and lived by communities from “below”. Your support has revitalized those who struggle, ordinary people, in these particularly painful environments with their great challenges to withstand the onslaught of the devastating greed of capitalism in its terminal phase.”

Message of hope

The message that comes from all these people, inspired by Movement, is one of the hope of solidarity, that together, if we have enough determination, we can win.

Gustavo Esteva:

“I am aware of the immense upheaval that shook the United States, from below, as you are aware of that which shakes us. That in itself is a source of hope. Let us know ourselves aware and united. Thus, we can move forward in the sequence that the Zapatistas teach us: from pain we pass to dignified rage and then to rebellion and freedom.”

Sylvia Marcos:

“The unity and support repeatedly expressed by yourselves, your participation in meetings with your compañeros in struggle, and your unconditional support have been essential to keeping the flame alight and to giving a real possibility and an affirmation that we are already building this other world, while we remain interlinked and intertwined to give us strength and to show that together those of us from below cannot be overcome, we cannot be bought, we cannot be seduced. We know how to find ways of rebellion and resistance to walk together towards making a world where many worlds fit.”

Raul Zibechi concludes:

“Compas from Movement for Justice in El Barrio: we admire your decision to go forward in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of harassment from the state and the market, in spite of the indifference of many who are also oppressed but have not yet seen the light of hope that comes from resistance, from collective dignity. We send a big affectionate hug from the south of the South. We from below only have each other.”

The Peruvian writer, political thinker and activist Hugo Blanco writes of the new world we need to build in order to save humanity:

“Another kind of society in which great capital does not rule, but society as a whole, horizontally, and where society as a whole is interested in the general wellbeing of all.” He says, “A magnificent example of this building a new world is given by Movement for Justice in El Barrio. It is probably not perfect and it may have many shortcomings, but it is an example that should be followed not only by the poor in the United States, but by the poor everywhere. A big embrace of admiration for Movement on its tenth anniversary.”

And Gustavo Esteva finishes his letter: “So, full of emotion, I think of you; over these ten very difficult years, you have not stopped struggling, that is to say, living, and you are for all of us an inspiration and hope. Many, many embraces to all the compañeras and compañeros.”

 

For more information about Movement: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/14495

Article published in Spanish in Desinformémonos: http://desinformemonos.org/2015/02/diez-anos-de-lucha-por-otro-mundo-posible-movimiento-por-justicia-del-barrio-y-sus-amigos-desde-todo-el-mundo-hacen-sus-reflexiones-sobre-una-decada-de-resistencia-digna/

 

Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmNnpDc_lo0&list=UUS_C6V0ZUlP-LVbbLOYmHYQ&channel=UCS_C6V0ZUlP-LVbbLOYmHYQ

 

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February 25, 2015

Celebrating a decade of Zapatismo in the City

Filed under: Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:17 pm

 

Celebrating a decade of Zapatismo in the City

By Jessica Davies On February 24, 2015

Post image for Celebrating a decade of Zapatismo in the CityFor ten years the local people of El Barrio have been organizing horizontally to create non-authoritarian spaces of urban resistance and solidarity.

 

We fight so that:
The oceans and mountains will belong to those who live in and take care of them;
The rivers and deserts will belong to those who live in and take care of them;
The valleys and ravines will belong to those who live in and take care of them;
Homes and cities will belong to those who live in and take care of them;
No one will own more land than they can cultivate;
No one will own more homes than they can live in.

Ten years ago, in an area of East Harlem known as El Barrio, women from fifteen Mexican immigrant families came together to see how they could achieve decent housing in their community. They were fighting against gentrification and displacement, as their landlord was trying to force them out of their homes to attract wealthier tenants and transform their neighborhood. Since they had no previous organising experience, they knew there was much to learn. They listened to and supported each other, and in December 2004 they founded Movement for Justice in El Barrio (Movement).

Movement is made up of low-income tenants, the majority of whom are immigrants. Many are also indigenous. Forced by poverty to leave their beloved Mexico, they built a strong community in El Barrio, and were determined not to allow themselves to be displaced yet again. They understood that their struggle was against a neoliberal system made up of abusive landlords, property speculators, multinational corporations, corrupt politicians and government institutions seeking to push them away from their much-loved community.

Autonomy and self-determination

We believe that those who suffer injustice first-hand must design and lead their own struggles for justice.

Movement is built around the principles of autonomy, self-determination, and participatory democracy, and it is based on horizontal, leaderless forms of organization. Their goal is to create spaces where people can come together as a community to share their problems. In this way they can collectively come up with solutions, and it is the community itself that has the power. Movement believes that not being dependent on anyone to tell them what to do creates a strong foundation that can never be destroyed.

Consulting the community is the basis of  Movement’s organizing activity. Its members go door to door, building by building and block by block, getting to know people and forging strong relationships. Committees are formed in each building, and once a whole building is organized, they become members. Each building agrees on its own actions and forms of struggle. Movement is also deeply committed to fighting all forms of discrimination and respecting differences. Above all, this means listening to one another.

The group operates on many levels. In addition to door-knocking, it holds town hall meetings, community dialogues, street outreach, house meetings, and community-wide votes. It organises protests, marches and direct action. It makes clever use of the media, gives interviews and talks, and organizes gatherings. It uses tactics such as court actions and public condemnation, and once community consultations have been carried out, it campaigns on specific issues.


Movement for Justice in El Barrio: A Decade of Dignified Struggle

We all share a common enemy and it is called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism wishes to divide us and keep us from joining forces. We will defeat this by continuing to unite our entire community, until we achieve true liberation for all.

The organization faces many challenges. Most of its members speak no English and have had few opportunities for education. They have little access to media and information; very few of them have computers. In addition to all of the responsibilities that come with family life, they are forced to work ten- to fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. This makes it difficult for them to also attend four- or five-hour meetings to make decisions, and it is difficult for everyone to come together at the same time. Because everyone must be consulted, and all decisions are made collectively, it can take a long time to reach an agreement. Yet in spite of all these difficulties, the commitment and achievements of its members have been remarkable.

In keeping with its principles, Movement accepts no government funding and has no involvement with politicians or political parties. Its members know that it is essential to build bridges with other ignored, forgotten and marginalized communities including women, migrants, people of colour, and the LGBT community, and to build relationships with members of these organizations, who are also fighting against multiple forms of oppression.

Building community

Together, we resist with dignity and fight back against the actions of capitalist landlords and multinational corporations who are displacing poor families from our neighborhood. We fight back locally and across borders. We fight back against local politicians who refuse to obey the will of the people. We fight back against the government institutions that enforce a global economic, social and political system that seeks to destroy humanity.

Human beings were born to live in community — we cannot survive without each other. A society and culture that promotes individualism, everyone for themselves, also promotes loneliness, isolation and despair. Ten years ago, Movement’s current members did not even know each other, and they had no fellowship with the other inhabitants of their building. Now they resist, organize and celebrate victories together. They have built a community of friendship, love, trust and solidarity, and transformed their lives.

Many of the members of this remarkable organization believe that their greatest achievement over the last ten years has been to build a culture of resistance. This has led to a sense of identity and self-worth, of being a part of something that gives purpose and meaning to their lives. A new generation of children are growing up in an amazing environment of organizing, marching and of collective decision-making, and it makes a lasting impact on their lives, shining through in their vibrant community spirit.

The strength of the community Movement has created is reflected in the astonishing fact that not one of its members has been displaced over the last ten years. In fact, so far, they have won every battle with which they have been confronted. It is no wonder that Village Voice chose Movement as the “Best Power to the People Movement in New York City.”

Learning from other struggles

We have found ways to make our voices heard and to let our voices echo with the voices of other marginalized people resisting across the world.

When Movement was founded in December 2004, its members had no previous organizing experience. They began to look for other dignified struggles to learn from. When they read the Zapatista’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, released in June 2005, members saw a mirror of themselves reflected in it. Since then, they have developed their own form of urban Zapatismo, and continue to look to their Zapatista compañeras and compañeros for inspiration in their daily struggle for justice and collective liberation.

With the women, as always, at the forefront, Movement has applied tools and ways of organizing they learned from the Zapatistas in their own local struggle. The Consultas de Barrio are fundamental to their work. These are neighborhood consultations that enable all local residents to identify the issues which most concern them. These consultations build and strengthen the community at the local level, helping them bring more people into the struggle, and ensure that all of their campaigns are driven by the entire El Barrio community.

Encuentros are a well-known Zapatista tradition that Movement has made its own in both New York and in Mexico. They serve as a way to link struggles and to build networks of solidarity. They say:

An Encuentro is a space for people to come together; it is a gathering. An Encuentro is not a meeting, a panel or a conference. It is a way of sharing developed by the Zapatistas as another form of doing politics: from below and to the left. It is a place where we can all speak, listen and learn. It is a place where we can share the many different struggles that make us one.

The next ten years

As they celebrate their tenth anniversary, Movement now has 900 members, 80% of whom are women, spread out over 85 building committees. Its dignified resistance continues to grow. Movement and its members have won numerous victories against the brutal landlords and multinational corporations who try to take away their homes and destroy their community. They have held politicians and city institutions to account and constructed a culture of resistance and a community of solidarity. They have formed strong bonds with groups in many countries, and their word has been heard around the world. As the Zapatistas say, the struggle continues.

We are struggling for housing, for education, for health, for freedom, for justice, for love, for a voice, for a space to exist, for peace, for respect, for ourselves, for our community, for dignity…for humanity. We stand in resistance, here, in our corner of the world. Together we will build a world where many worlds fit — un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.

Jessica Davies is an activist and member of the UK Zapatista Solidarity Network. This article was originally published on Dorset Chiapas Solidarity.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/02/horizontalism-zapatismo-el-barrio-nyc/

 

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February 7, 2015

Indigenous Resistance at Bachajón against a tourist megaproject

 

Indigenous Resistance against a tourist megaproject at Bachajón 

 

bachajon

Ricardo Lagunes and Jessica Davies

La Jornada, 7th February, 2015

The dignified struggle of the indigenous Tseltal peoples of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, in defence of their ancestral lands, culture, tradition and identity has become almost legendary. They have suffered the assassination of two of their community leaders –Juan Vázquez Guzmán, on 24th April, 2013, and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, 21st March, 2014–, along with violence, torture, unjust imprisonment, forced disappearance, attacks, threats, harassment, intimidation and a continual police presence, but their determined resistance against the dispossession of their territory for the construction of a tourist megaproject continues.

On 21st December, 2014, more than 400 ejidatarios peacefully recuperated their common lands which had been illegally stolen from them on 2nd February, 2011 by the three levels of government and their local supporters. The date of the recuperation was highly symbolic: the second anniversary of the Silent March of the Zapatistas, and the day of the inauguration of the World Festival of Resistances and Rebellions, convoked by the CNI and the EZLN.

The lands dispossessed by the government are crossed by the access road to the ecotourism centre at the spectacular Agua Azul waterfalls, located in the Tumbalá municipality, which are surrounded by beautiful jungle rich in wildlife and natural resources. For this reason, the governments and corporations are desperate to get their hands on these lands, so that they can create an elite tourist development with luxury hotels, golf courses, and a superhighway. But the lands legally and legitimately belong to the ejidatarios as indigenous peoples who work them communally.

The lands of Bachajón are legally protected by the suspension of the plan granted under amparo 274/2011. The legal resolution of this amparo is to be decreed in the coming weeks, and is very likely that a judgement will be issued which is favorable to the protection of the collective rights of the indigenous. It is important to emphasise that the ejidatarios have chosen to take the legal and peaceful route, and that they have always sought dialogue within the local communities.

For 18 days and nights, in rotation, 500 women, men, young and old people, formed cordons guarding their recuperated territory. They faced threats and intimidation, and a continual fear of attack and eviction by the security forces and paramilitary groups organised by the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and the vigilance councillor Samuel Díaz Guzmán.

In the early morning of 9th January, 2015, more than 900 members of the state and federal forces violently evicted the ejidatarios from their lands, forcing many to flee to the hills and forests. Denouncing the attack, the ejidatarios confirmed that it would only strengthen their resistance.

On 11th January, 2015, the indigenous from San Sebastián Bachajón, as a sign of protest and peaceful resistance, blocked the road from Ocosingo to Palenque  at the Agua Azul turning. The Chiapas state police fired shots at the ejidatarios for twenty minutes with rubber and heavy calibre bullets. Three people were wounded. In spite of this, after an hour of resistance, the ejidatarios succeeded in driving back the government forces, and have maintained their presence up to now.

The ejidatarios and their compañeros throughout the world have stated that they hold the three levels of government responsible for any aggression against their lives or personal integrity as a result of their actions in defence of the mother earth. They are currently standing firm in their dignified struggle, and are calling for national and international solidarity and actions of support. An example of these actions is the Worldwide Forum held on 18th January at Cideci Unitierra, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

In a communique of 10th January 2015, the ejidatarios explained clearly what drives their struggle: “We want to tell the bad government (…) that our lands are not for sale; they will not conduct their great ecotourism businesses and super highways on our territory, we will not allow them to displace communities and increase poverty just so they can become richer at the expense of our suffering.”

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/02/07/opinion/013a1pol

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January 23, 2015

Joining our struggles to build another world: 10 years of horizontal organising in El Barrio, New York

Filed under: Displacement, Human rights, Movement for Justice in el Barrio — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:52 am

 

Joining our struggles to build another world: 10 years of horizontal organising in El Barrio, New York

 

 

By Jessica Davies

 

“We fight so that:
The oceans and mountains will belong to those who live in and take care of them.
The rivers and deserts will belong to those who live in and take care of them.
The valleys and ravines will belong to those who live in and take care of them.
Homes and cities will belong to those who live in and take care of them.
No one will own more land than they can cultivate.
No one will own more homes than they can live in.”

Ten years ago, in East Harlem, New York, an area known as El Barrio, members of fifteen Mexican immigrant families, all of them women, came together to see how they could achieve dignified housing in their community. They were struggling against gentrification and displacement; their landlord was trying to force them out of their homes in order to attract wealthier tenants and transform the neighbourhood they lived in. These were people without previous experience of organising, and they knew that they had much to learn, but they listened to and supported each other and in December 2004 they formed Movement for Justice in El Barrio (Movement).

Movement is made up of low-income tenants, the great majority of them immigrants. Many are also indigenous. Forced by poverty to leave their beloved Mexico, they have built a strong community in El Barrio, and are determined not to allow themselves to be displaced again. They understand that their fight is against the neoliberal system represented by the abusive landlords, property speculators, multinational corporations, corrupt politicians and government institutions that seek to displace them from their much-loved community.

“We believe those who suffer injustice first-hand must design and lead their own struggles for justice.”

The organisation is built around the principles of autonomy, self-determination, and participatory democracy. This means that it is based on a horizontal form of organising and has no leaders. The aim is to create spaces where people can come together as a community to share their problems. In this way they can agree the solutions and it is the community itself that has the power. Not being dependent on anyone to tell them what to do, they believe, creates a strong base which can never be destroyed.

The basis of Movement’s organising is consulting the community. Members go door to door, building by building, block by block, getting to know each other, constructing relationships. Committees are formed in each building, and once the whole building is organised, they become members. Each building agrees its own actions and means of struggle. Movement is also deeply committed to fighting all forms of discrimination and to respecting each other’s differences. Above all, this means listening to one another.

The group operates on many levels. As well as door knocking, it has town hall meetings, community dialogues, street outreach, house meetings, and community-wide votes. It organises protests, marches and direct action. It makes clever use of the media, gives interviews, talks, organises gatherings. It uses tactics such as court actions and public denunciations. Following community consultations it campaigns on specific issues.

“We all share a common enemy and it is called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism wishes to divide us and keep us from combining our forces. We will defeat this by continuing to unite our entire community until we achieve true liberation for all.”

The organisation faces many challenges. Most of its members speak no English and have had few opportunities for education. They have little access to media and information; very few of them have computers. They are forced to work ten to fourteen hour days, six to seven days a week, as well as having all the responsibilities of family life. This means that it is not easy for them to also attend four or five hour meetings to make decisions, and it is difficult for everyone to come together at the same time. Because everyone must be consulted, and all decisions made collectively, it can take a long time to come to agreement. But in spite of all these difficulties, the commitment and achievements of the members have been remarkable.

In line with its principles, Movement accepts no government funding, and has no involvement with politicians or political parties. Members know it is essential to create bridges with other ignored, forgotten and marginalized communities including women, migrants, lesbians, people of color, gays and the transgender community, and to build relationships with members of these organizations, who also fight against multiple forms of oppression.

Building community

mjblogobig“Together, we make our dignity resistance and we fight back against the actions of capitalist landlords and multinational corporations who are displacing poor families from our neighborhood. We fight back locally and across borders. We fight back against local politicians who refuse to govern by obeying the will of the people. We fight back against the government institutions which enforce a global economic, social and political system that seeks to destroy humanity.”

Human beings were born to live in community; we cannot survive without each other. A society and culture that promotes individualism, everyone for themselves, also promotes loneliness, isolation and despair. Ten years ago those who are now members of Movement did not even know each other, had no fellowship with the other inhabitants of their building. Now they resist, organize and celebrate victories together – they have built community, friendship, love, confidence and solidarity and transformed their lives.

Many of the members of this remarkable organisation believe that their greatest achievement over the last ten years has been to build a culture of resistance. This has led to a sense of identity and self-worth, being part of something which gives purpose and meaning to their lives. A new generation of children are growing up in an amazing environment of organizing, marching and of collective decision making, which makes a lasting impact on their lives, and shines through in their vibrant community spirit. The strength of the community Movement has created is reflected in the astonishing fact that not one of its members has been displaced over the last ten years. In fact, so far, they have won every battle with which they have been confronted. It is no wonder that Village Voice chose Movement as the “Best Power to the People Movement in New York City.”

Learning from other struggles

“We have found ways to make our voices heard and to let our voices echo with the voices of other marginalized people resisting across the world”.

When Movement was founded in December 2004, its members had no previous experience of organising, and began to look for other dignified struggles to learn from. When they read the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, released in June 2005, members found in it “a mirror of ourselves.” Since that time they have developed their own form of urban Zapatismo, and continue to look to their Zapatista compañeras and compañeros as an inspiration in their daily struggle for justice and collective liberation.

As always with the women at the forefront, Movement has applied tools and ways of organising learned from the Zapatistas in their own local struggle. The “Consultas del Barrio” are fundamental to their work, neighborhood consultations which enable all the local residents to identify the issues which most concern them.  This builds and strengthens community at the local level, helps bring more people into the struggle, and ensures that all Movement’s campaigns are driven by the whole community in El Barrio.

Encuentros are a well-known Zapatista tradition which Movement has made their own, in New York and in Mexico, as a way to link our struggles and to build networks of solidarity. They say: “An Encuentro is a space for people to come together; it is a gathering. An Encuentro is not a meeting, a panel or a conference, it is a way of sharing developed by the Zapatistas as another form of doing politics: from below and to the left. It is a place where we can all speak, we will all listen, and we can all learn. It is a place where we can share the many different struggles that make us one.”

The next ten years

Movement-for-Justice-in-El-BarrioAs they celebrate their tenth anniversary, Movement now has 900 members, 80% of them women, in 85 building committees, and its dignified resistance continues to grow. The members have won numerous victories against brutal landlords and multinational corporations who try to take away their homes and destroy their community; they have held politicians and city institutions to account; they have constructed “a culture of resistance and a community of solidarity”; they have formed strong bonds with groups in many other countries; and their word has gone around the world. As the Zapatistas say, the struggle continues.

“We are struggling for housing, for education, for health, for freedom, for justice, for love, for a voice, for a space to exist, for peace, for respect, for ourselves, for our community, for dignity…for humanity. Here we stand in resistance in our corner of the world. Together we will build a world where many worlds fit. Un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.”

 

For more information on Movement for Justice in El Barrio: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/12475

 

Link to the video Movement for Justice in El Barrio: A Decade of Dignified Struggle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmNnpDc_lo0&list=UUS_C6V0ZUlP-LVbbLOYmHYQ&channel=UCS_C6V0ZUlP-LVbbLOYmHYQ

Article originally published in Spanish in Desinformémonos: http://desinformemonos.org/2014/12/luchando-para-construir-otro-mundo-10-anos-de-organizacion-horizontal-en-el-barrio-nueva-york/

In English: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/14495

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December 21, 2014

30 Mirrors towards the World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism Where those above destroy, those below reconstruct!

 

 

30 Mirrors towards the World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism

Where those above destroy, those below reconstruct!

24. Bachajón, Chiapas

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The Tzeltal people are being dispossessed of their land, water and culture through paramilitary repression, for the construction of tourist complexes, as well as roads and hotels, at the waterfalls of Agua Azul.

http://espejo30.org/portfolio/espejo-24/

 

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Dispossession, the other violence against the peoples

Here are 19 stories, 19 dispossessions, 19 resistances which cross Mexican territory against the megaprojects which are imposed on indigenous territories, invading not only their lands, but also their culture, their sacred centres and their survival as peoples.

Desinformémonos

PORTAD-DESPOJO

 

Bachajón, Chiapas, defending their lands and waters in the courts

Government and business interests have used all possible means to seize these lands, where the famous Agua Azul waterfalls are situated, including the imposition of ejidal authorities. The highest court of justice in Mexico must judge the case.

Ricardo Lagunes and Jessica Davies

Mexico. The ejidatarios from Bachajón who oppose giving up their lands for a tourism project are fighting in court for the right to the representation of their people against the communal authorities who, they accuse, do not defend the interests of the indigenous people. In the course of their resistance, launched in 2007, they have already had two leaders murdered and well over a hundred indigenous imprisoned. There are now three new prisoners in what they describe as an act of revenge by the governmental authorities.

 

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Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández are held in the prison at Yajalón, accused -with no more evidence than the word of the police- of the attempted murder of uniformed officers. They were arrested on 16th September, as they walked towards their community, by the municipal police of Chilón. According to the public denunciation by the ejidatarios of Bachajón, adherents to the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, the Tseltales were tortured by Rodolfo Gómez Gutiérrez, officer from the Public Ministry assigned to the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Justice based in Ocosingo, to make them sign an incriminating confession.

Inhabitants of Bachajón pointed out that the detention may be in revenge for the imprisonment of Sebastián Méndez Hernández, an officer of the aforementioned police, who is accused of killing Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano (a regional coordinator of the Sixth in Bachajón) on 21 March 2014. The murder suspect was handed over to the authorities by a group of ejidatarios from Bachajón, and a friend and neighbour of his was recognized by detainees as part of the group that attacked them.

The struggle for the land

Founded in 1980 by the original Tzeltal inhabitants, the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is situated in the municipality of Chilón, in Chiapas, south-east Mexico. It is, at 70,000 hectares, one of the largest ejidos in the country, in an area of great biodiversity and natural beauty. The land is rich in natural resources, verdant jungle, wildlife and water. The spectacular waterfalls of Agua Azul, renowned for the turquoise colour of their water at certain times of year, crash and thunder in the neighbouring municipality of Tumbalá, but to gain access to the “Ecotourism Centre” there it is necessary to cross through the ejido of Bachajón. This became the source of an intense conflict.

As part of the Plan Mesoamerica, the Mexican government, in consultation with transnational corporations and through the National Tourism Foundation (FONATUR), has drawn up plans for the Palenque Integrally Planned Centre (CIPP), a network of infrastructure and services through which the natural and archaeological attractions will be used to promote an elite tourism, resulting in the displacement of the indigenous population.

Agua Azul is the focus of this development, with very expensive luxury hotels accessed by helicopter, which the ejidatarios describe as: “neoliberal tourism projects which are only for the rich, and for which we will only carry the luggage and clean the toilets.” This plan also involves a highway from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque, and the new international airport at Palenque, which was opened on February 12, 2014 by Manuel Velasco Coello, governor of Chiapas, and Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico.

The ejidatarios described their situation in a communiqué on 17 August, 2013: “The struggle of our people from San Sebastian Bachajón is to keep our indigenous territory which we inherited from our ancestors, it is where we live, it gives us life and identity. We are defending our land with our lives if necessary, against the ambition of the government and of the lords of money who want to build luxury hotels, golf courses and runways for rich tourists, at the cost of the exploitation, marginalization and discrimination of our people; faced with the defence we have mounted against these projects the government has had only one answer: repression, imprisonment and death.”

History of Resistance

“The Tzeltales are a historically combative people”, says their lawyer Ricardo Lagunes Gasca in the film ‘Bachajón – Dispossession is death. Life is resistance,’ “they have always defended and sought to keep control of their territory.” On March 19, 2007, many of the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón declared themselves adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, an initiative promoted by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). They marked this action by appointing their own authorities, since the ejidal officials were very close to the government. As they put it in a communique: “Since 2007 the bad government has intervened in the internal life of our community to impose ejidal representatives as they please, who serve them as if they were their minions to defend the interests of the capitalists and not those of the indigenous people.”

Following this decision in 2007, the adherents decided to exert their right as original peoples to free determination over their land and its resources, and constructed a tollbooth in their territory where tourists would pay to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls. It was decided in their assembly what to do with the money taken. Mainly, they say, it was used for the sick, and to support families in need, but this money was not just used for the adherents to the Sixth Declaration, it was available to every member of the community who was experiencing hard times, including the government supporters.

The tollbooth became a focal point for the conflict. There was a violent eviction in 2009. The booth was reclaimed, but on February 2, 2011, in a huge operation, police and shock groups again evicted the ejidatarios and 117 people were arrested. At this time, the authorities not only took over control of the tollbooth, they also illegally seized 2,590 square metres of communally owned lands.

The adherents to the Sixth Declaration began the legal defence of their lands in March 2011, against the violent dispossession of their territory carried out by the then Government Secretary, Noé Castañón León, in coordination with Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar (president of the Green Chiapas Foundation and now the municipal president of Chilón), along with the former ejidal commissioner, Francisco Guzmán Jiménez, and government supporting groups from the communities of Xanil and Pamalha, both in the municipality of Chilón.

Since March 2011 the adherents have faced a series of arbitrary judicial decisions which have denied them justice and a prompt and effective means of protecting their lands; despite these serious violations of their rights, and in spite of the racist and discriminatory prejudice towards indigenous people that pervades the justice system, they have continued to resist and have chosen to challenge the illegal judgements made by the Seventh District Judge in Tuxtla Gutierrez. They have also appealed to public opinion over the lack of ethics of certain federal judges who kneel before economic and political interests.

On 5th February, 2014, the ejidatarios adherent to the Sixth Declaration sued before the Agrarian Tribunal in Comitan for the annulment of the election of the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and other officialist (government-supporting) ejidal authorities, for not acting in accordance with the Agrarian Law and the customs and traditions of the community. In January and March 2014, the ejidatarios denounced that the officialist authorities tried, through deception, to seek the annulment of their amparo (order for legal protection) 274/2011.

During the processing of the case for amparo, the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutierrez on two occasions warned of violations of due process of law committed by the Seventh District Judge, since he failed to make known to the general assembly of ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón the existence of the petition for amparo filed by Mariano Moreno Guzmán, as a substitute representative, in defence of the collective rights of the indigenous Tzeltal people of Bachajón. Now the general assembly has been notified of the case, and the Third Appellate Court, in their session on 29th September, 2014, ordered the case to be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to exercise its power of attraction in view of the relevance and significance of the subject in relation to the International Law of Indigenous Peoples.

It is in this context that the political murder of Juan Vázquez Guzmán must be set. Active in the defence of the land and territory of Bachajón since 2006, on April 18, 2010, he was appointed Secretary General of the three centres of the ejido. “People sought him out a lot for his skills and abilities to relate to the world of the Caxlanes (mestizos),” said Lagunes Gasca, “to defend and translate the problems of the indigenous communities and to put them on the table of the authorities”.

On March 21st, 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, a regional coordinator for the Sixth in Bachajón, was ambushed and killed with over twenty gunshots. At the time of his death he was travelling to his community of Virgen de Dolores, which, along with the community of Nah Choj, was founded by the adherents to the Sixth Declaration in 2010.

The ejidatarios accuse: “The bad government wants to finish us off completely by assassinating our compañeros, using their paramilitary gunmen, who with complete impunity, whether by night or in the full light of day, are able to vilely murder our compañeros who are working and struggling to construct a world in which other worlds fit.”

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Dorset Chiapas Solidarity

http://desinformemonos.org/2014/11/la-batalla-de-los-pueblos-contra-el-despojo/

http://www.desinformemonos.org/PDF/despojo2.pdf  pp 20-24

 

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September 23, 2014

San Salvador Atenco Fights for Land, Resists Proposed Airport

Filed under: Corporations, Displacement — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:37 pm

 

San Salvador Atenco Fights for Land, Resists Proposed Airport

 

Written by Jessica Davies

Monday, 22 September 2014

10622729_705446822837406_3281236860135135756_nPlans recently announced for the building of a new international airport in Mexico City, a “new national symbol,” will seriously affect the lives of more than 1 million people, according to local documentary-maker Salvador Díaz. The Peoples’ Front for the Defence of the Land from San Salvador Atenco have renewed the struggle that never went away, to defend the lands of their forefathers from dispossession and destruction. While Forbes Magazine speculates that it “will most likely be Peña Nieto’s crown jewel infrastructure project,” RT News asks “has the nightmare just taken off for Peña Nieto?”

Background

In 2001, the indigenous communal landholders of the municipality of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico, were issued with an expropriation order to dispossess them of 104 square kilometres of their ancestral territory, amounting to more than 80 percent of their lands, in order to build a new airport for Mexico City. This would have resulted in the displacement of 56,243 people. The government offered the farmers very little money in return for their displacement; just something to make ends meet until they found work, not nearly enough for them to move to other lands and become farmers again.

For the people of Atenco, their whole identity, customs, traditions, history and existence are bound up with their land. The airport project to them means the destruction of their entire social fabric, their cultural history, collective identity and community life as indigenous people. They say “the project to us is death,” and that “they didn’t even ask us, they just imposed a project for the benefit of huge national and international corporations.” The community rejected the offer and set up the Peoples Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT).  With national and international support, the Front succeeded, after a long 9-month struggle for justice, in having the expropriation order withdrawn. The iconic symbol of the machete, an essential tool of those who work the land, became symbolic of this struggle and of the FPDT itself.

The aftermath

Governments and corporations do not take defeats lightly. In May 2006, the government seized an opportunity to punish the community for defeating the megaproject when a government dispute with flower vendors in the nearby town of Texcoco arose. The FPDT responded to a request for support from the flower vendors and blocked the road. Events developed rapidly, culminating in an attack infamous for the extreme police brutality, as 3,500 officers from the local, state and federal police and the army surrounded the town of Atenco. The violent repression resulted in two young people dead, 26 women raped by the military police, 217 people arrested, and many injured. Nine leaders of the Atenco farmers were illegally sentenced to 31 years, two for 67 years, and one for 112 years. The people organized 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 after four years and 59 days.

The man responsible for ordering and overseeing this repression and the rape of women was the former governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, now president of Mexico. The Atenco issue was the shame of his presidential campaign, and haunts him still – as he was greeted at the September 2014 Mexican Independence Day celebrations with cries of “murderer.” It was no surprise to the people of Atenco when he announced in his State of the Union address on September 2, 2014, the plans for a new international airport in the lakebed of Lake Texcoco, to the east of Mexico City, in the municipalities of Atenco, Ecatapec and Texcoco. The architects will be the well-known British architect Sir Norman Foster and the Mexican Fernando Romero, a son-in-law of Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world. It is believed locally that one of Carlos Slim’s companies will also likely win the contract to build the airport, however the whole process has so far been shrouded in secrecy.

The new airport, which will be one of the biggest and most expensive in the world, will ultimately 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 $9.2 billion (£5.6 billion.) The airport will have an associated large scale urbanisation project of hotels, mall and services, known as Future City, which will include a metropolitan transport network, commercial centres, urban developments, an industrial corridor and “ecological reserve areas.”

Ecological implications

10658759_833409430024983_5211887751128187311_oAs well as being “futuristic” and “transformational,” the design of the building is being promoted in terms not normally associated with airports, such as “green” and “sustainable.” In fact, it will be “the world’s most sustainable airport,” according to the architect Norman Foster.

He added that it will be “outfitted with innovative systems to collect rainwater and sunlight to produce energy. The structure itself will function like a giant solar farm and rainwater collection system, with a natural ventilation pattern which will not need heating or air conditioning for most of the year.”

The terminal will host art exhibitions and performances and its entrance will feature a garden of cacti and symbols of the eagle and snake.

Given all this, it may seem somewhat incongruous to learn that the new airport will be sited on an ancient lakebed, in an area which is prone to frequent subsidence, flooding and earthquakes, and that the site will also encroach on the Lake Texcoco nature reserve.

“It is not ideal to build an airport in a flood zone,” pointed out Senator Alejandro Encinas. He explained that a 1995 study, by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, concluded that Lake Texcoco was an extremely bad site for an airport because it would have “significantly adverse” impacts on the Valley of Mexico’s environment.

“It is estimated that more than 120 native species would be in danger of extinction” due to the airport project, Encinas said, adding that the current airport’s Terminal 2, which was built seven years ago, is sinking “up to 30 centimetres each year.” The airport project, he said, would be “ecological suicide.”

The construction of the airport would involve the destruction of wildlife, ecology, biodiversity and archaeological and palaeontological remains. The flora and fauna of the Nabor Carrillo lake and the entire Alcohua region would be seriously affected, as would the last remaining natural area of the ancient Lake Texcoco, Xalapango lagoon, where spirulina occurs naturally, and which is a haven for migrating birds, including many species of duck from Canada.

There are already problems with the water supply in the area. The primary teacher in Atenco says, “We are already experiencing water shortages. Conagua is cancelling wells for irrigation which means we cannot sow our land and there is no provision in the communities, which pressures us to sell our land. If they build the airport the water will go to industry, and building projects.” Problems with the water supply already affect the whole of the Valley of Mexico, which is experiencing difficulties regarding the availability of groundwater. Already 50,000 litres of water are extracted per second from the existing aquifer. The increased demand for water is one of many issues which do not seem to have been adequately addressed.

Alternative sites have long been proposed for the airport. For example, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has proposed that the government build the new airport in Tizayuca, a town with less population and more space for urban development. Texcoco, he said, is “overcrowded, does not have enough water and utilities, and building it there would further promote the ecological imbalance and urban gigantism.” Another proposal, from the Chairman of the River Basins Commission, is for a network of smaller airports, linked by high speed trains. If, of course, a new airport is necessary at all.

San Salvador Atenco

10624562_755326964508998_3194890395199266670_nThe land is very fertile, “you can grow anything here,” locals say. Atenco means “water’s edge,” and some farmers have started cultivating spirulina, one of the new super foods, in the old lake. Now the authorities intend to privatize all this land in the interests of capital and business. In 2001, the government wanted to take 1,100 hectares, now the project envisages taking 1,500 hectares from San Salvador Atenco, which will affect 80,000 people in Atenco alone. The people there have known this was coming for a long time. For years the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) has quietly been using deception, “fooling people from door to door,” and pressure tactics, “purchase of people’s free will,” to convince people to sell their lands, “saying it was for an ecological project.” They have been “dividing communities and manipulating assemblies.” On their way to a hearing on 22 August, the FPDT were physically attacked by hired thugs, resulting in fifteen people being wounded. The violence has never gone away.

With the cries of “land yes, airplanes no!” and “Atenco is not for sale!”, the FPDT have polished their emblematic machetes and their resistance and taken to the streets again in “Defence of the Land, Water and Life.” They have symbolically reclaimed their lands, and have marched and demonstrated in Mexico City. They and their lawyer are denouncing the illegal changing of the titles to the lands from social (communal) to private, as a means to evict the original inhabitants, through doing away with the concept of the ejido or communally owned lands. This has partly been done through the manufacture of an illegal assembly, packed with people who did not belong to the ejido. The FPDT are currently involved in a legal struggle to reverse the decision, full of anomalies, taken by this illegal assembly on the titling and sale of 1,000 hectares of common land within the ejidal nucleus of Atenco. Their initial attempt to overthrow the decision was rejected, and the Front are now trying to remove the ejidal commissioner. “We continue in our struggle, we will exhaust all legal remedies,” they say.

Call for solidarity: “All of Mexico Should Feel That Atenco Is Ours”

lands not airplanes“The land is not for sale; she is to be loved and defended,” say the FPDT.

The FPDT know that they succeeded before because they had worldwide support. So, calling again for solidarity, they say, “We need the hands of everyone,” adding that,  “We know that we alone cannot free ourselves from the infamy perpetrated against us and refute the lies told by Enrique Peña Nieto … and that is why we ask for your solidarity with our peoples and communities.”

The indigenous peoples of Mexico, through the Indigenous National Congress, have recognized the need to work together and share their struggles against the destruction, not only of the communal system of landholding, but also of the lands themselves. The land is their history, and their whole identity is tied in with the soil, the seasons, the cycle of sowing and harvest. The land has no price, it is sacred.

The struggle and resistance of the people of San Salvador Atenco is symbolic of the struggles going on throughout Mexico and Latin America, with the indigenous peoples 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. They are defending their ancestors, their history, their rights and freedoms, and even more, as we are coming to realise, in doing this they are defending the planet and the future of humanity.

 

Further information:

Background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM3jDdGBc4g&channel=laheridasemantiene

Current situation: http://multimedia.telesurtv.net/web/telesur/#!en/video/interviews-from-mexico-282557

Universal Jurisdiction: Rape as Torture: https://vimeo.com/2647718

FPDT blog (in Spanish): http://atencofpdt.blogspot.mx/

Latest information in English: https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/tag/atenco/

Call for Solidarity with the People of Atenco: https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/call-for-solidarity-with-the-people-of-san-salvador-atenco-in-mexico/

 

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http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/5055-mexico-san-salvador-atenco-fights-for-land-resists-proposed-airport

July 4, 2014

From El Barrio to La Realidad, Women Lead Struggles to Transform the World

Filed under: Migrants, Movement for Justice in el Barrio, Women, Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:32 pm

 

From El Barrio to La Realidad, Women Lead Struggles to Transform the World

Movimujeres1On May 24, hundreds of members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York, mostly women of all ages, came together to honour the life and struggle of the murdered Zapatista from La Realidad, “Galeano”. For this event, the prominent Mexican feminist, activist and thinker Sylvia Marcos sent her reflections on Being “Jovena” (a young woman) and Zapatista in La Realidad.

The women of El Barrio and the Zapatista women of La Realidad are two examples of how women in struggle all over the world are coming together to inspire and learn from each other, and how, in the process, women are transforming the world.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio is a community-based organization, led by immigrant women, that works for dignity and social justice and against oppression, gentrification and displacement in El Barrio, New York.

The organization was founded nearly ten years ago by Mexican immigrant mothers, many of them indigenous. They had been displaced from their native land and forced to emigrate, and now found themselves faced with racism, brutal landlords, appalling living conditions, and a constant Movimujeres6threat of displacement. These women had never participated in social struggles in Mexico, and they did not speak English. But they started listening to their neighbours and realized that they all shared the same problems, and had the same needs: decent housing, a strong community, justice. The women started to go from door to door, building by building, listening to each other’s problems and thinking together about how they could be solved. They gradually established a base and Movement for Justice in El Barrio was born.

It is the women who have built the organization. Movement now has 850 members, in 80 building committees, of whom 80% are female. As immigrants, these women work very long shifts, 6 to 7 days a week, for very low pay, in addition to all the work they have to do at home. Many are mothers raising children.

Despite these heavy demands on their time, they continue to be deeply committed to the struggle against neoliberalism and gentrification, and against the capitalist property owners, multinational corporations and government institutions who seek to displace them from, and destroy their community. With great determination, they still manage to make the time to organize with their fellow neighbours and to work to build a strong community base for the organization.

Inspiration from the Zapatistas

The women of Movement for Justice El Barrio, the majority of whom are from the Mexican states of Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca, have been inspired by the remarkable struggles of women everywhere, but especially from their Zapatista compañeras in Chiapas. They share many experiences and basic principles, including the fundamental importance of “listening” (something women are very good at doing), the belief that the collective defence of the community is essential, the importance of making each other’s struggles their own, and how if one is affected, all are affected.

movimujeres5Like the women of El Barrio, the Zapatista women are also indigenous Mexican women in struggle, though in a rural rather than a city-based environment. The members of Movement, as adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, see their struggle as a form of urban Zapatismo, and have adopted various tools of struggle and methods of organizing used by the Zapatistas in Chiapas.

One of these is the “Consultas del Barrio”, neighborhood consultations in which all local residents are consulted, thus ensuring that members of the broader community of El Barrio are able to decide the direction of the organization. The Consulta is an excellent example of participatory democracy and horizontal decision-making used to build and strengthen community at a local level, and an ideal way of bringing more people into the struggle. One form of the Consultas del Barrio is the community-driven consultation, where members–mainly women–ask people from their community to identify the issues that most affect their lives, through town hall meetings, public forums, community dialogues, street outreach, door knocking, house meetings, and a community-wide vote. Movement then campaigns around the issues selected.

Another Zapatista tradition that Movement has used successfully in both New York and Mexico, again with women at the forefront, is the Encuentro (Meeting or Gathering). They define it: “An Encuentro is a space for people to come together, it is a gathering, a place where we can all speak, we all listen, and we can all learn. It is a place where we can share the many different struggles that make us one. An Encuentro seeks to be a bridge between dignified peoples from across the city and around the world.” The Encuentro helps to bring together and strengthen the many struggles of marginalized communities and their organizations, and to form networks of mutual support and solidarity between them.

Honouring women’s struggles

Members of Movement believe it is of great importance to recognize and celebrate the amazing contributions of women to the struggle against neoliberalism and discrimination in all their forms. In El Barrio and throughout the world women remain at the forefront of these struggles – developing strategies, imparting wisdom, building community, and fighting tirelessly for justice and dignity for all. These women show great courage in the face of violence and aggression, and great strength and dignity in standing up against oppression, while working together and supporting each other.

movimujeres3The Movement honors the women of El Barrio and the world through a series of events held throughout the year. On June 4, 2014, they held a “Public Forum on Gender, Dispossession and Gentrification,” including a forum on the struggle of the Zapatista women. This was followed, on July 2, by “a discussion inspired by the Zapatista women, about the roles and contributions of women to the struggles around the world and here in our community, entitled: The Struggles of Women Transform the World.”

March 8, International Women’s Day

El Barrio holds a special celebration every year for March 8, International Women’s Day. This year the women of the Movement for Justice in El Barrio gathered together and, following the annual tradition, all received a red rose on arrival, followed by a dinner prepared and served by the male members so the women could fully celebrate and enjoy the evening.

The programme began with a slideshow of photographs from the past year showing women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio leading and participating in actions and community assemblies, often with the children demonstrating beside their mothers.

The event also featured a documentary about the 2008 Gathering of the Zapatista Women with the Women of the World, in which Zapatista women, young and old, told of their lives and dignified struggles. Women from many other countries also spoke, while the men cooked, washed dishes and cleaned, just like the men during Movement for Justice in El Barrio’s celebrations.

Another video focussed on the role of women in movements all over the world, with the message “Women’s Struggles Transform the World.” Everyone was truly moved by the images and words of women in struggle in cities and countries around the world: Egypt, Greece, South Africa, Chiapas, the Philippines, Tokyo, Madrid and New York.

Movimujeres4Following the presentations, many women, visibly moved, shared their thoughts and feelings and paid homage to rebel women in every corner of the world. All the women came together with their fists in the air and a cry went up of “long live the women of the world in struggle!”

A vital part of the celebration of International Women’s Day in El Barrio is the recognition of the role and achievements of the women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, who have assumed much of the leadership and are seen as examples of “Indignadas” in this immigrant neighborhood. Women were celebrated and honoured this year for their tireless work in grassroots outreach, listening to their neighbours and creating a strong base in the community. The membership recognized several brave women of the organization who had stepped up into the media spotlight during the year to expose their landlord, who had been threatening and harassing them. All these women have showed outstanding courage and commitment to the growth of the organization and to getting their neighbours together to fight for justice and in defence of their community in El Barrio.

Celebration of struggle

The migrants from El Barrio had much to celebrate at this event, including their remarkable victories over the past year in a year-long battle led by the women against a new landlord who has some 1,800 apartments. This landlord has been targeting his tenants based on their perceived immigration status. A film showed women leaders of the building committees in public interviews denouncing injustices without fear of retaliation from their abusive and influential landlord. This is the most recent in a long series of battles by the remarkable women and men of Movement for Justice in El Barrio against property speculators, multinational corporations, corrupt politicians and government institutions that seek to displace them from their community. The daily struggle continues, and in turn, inspires others.

Movimujeres2On International Women’s Day, and every day, the women of Movement for Justice in El Barrio support each other and fight for rights, justice and dignity for their community in El Barrio, for the women of the world, and for all those who are excluded and marginalized by neoliberal globalization.

On March 8, 1996, the late Subcomandante Marcos spoke of the role of women: “Tomorrow, if there is to be one, will be made with the women, and, above all, by them.”

Jessica Davies is an activist and contributor to the Americas Program at http://www.cipamericas.org. 

For a Spanish version of this article see Desinformémonoshttp://desinformemonos.org/2014/06/en-nueva-york-e-inspiradas-por-las-zapatistas-las-mujeres-luchan-contra-el-despojo/

Written and posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity 04/07/2014

http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/12475

 

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July 3, 2014

Being Young and Zapatista in La Realidad

Filed under: Women, Zapatista — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:48 pm

 

Being Young and Zapatista in La Realidad

by Sylvia Marcos

ImageProxy (1)Selena is 16 years old. With the charm of a first-person narrative, she shares vital political information on recent aggression against the Caracol of la Realidad.

Selena is a young woman born into Zapatismo and brought up in and with a Zapatista autonomous education. She knows no gender or age restrictions. She was appointed to a post that is indispensable to the survival of the collective–to register facts and occurrences and then share with the community what she has heard, discovered and learned. Nobody doubts her truth or integrity, her strength or the fidelity of the information she communicates. She was trained for this. The Assembly chose her for this role because of these qualities.

And she is a girl of 16! In the outside world, those under 18 are considered girls. They cannot vote and when they commit crimes they are locked up in prisons for ‘minors’.

But Selena is not a product of that outside society, of those laws that the state is the first to violate. She was not born among the people who have to buy justice, like we do.

She does not have to sell herself, or be humiliated or be sad, like the young women I know outside. The women who often hold themselves back from taking prominent positions.

Moreover, ‘girls’ of 16 are now the preferred object of trafficking in women. They disappear in the streets of large Mexican cities and sometimes in the countryside. Parents send desperate messages to get them back. Sometimes girls this age migrate from Central America and as they pass through Mexico they are kidnapped, abused, raped and sold to pornography and prostitution networks. They are particularly vulnerable for being girls, women, and young. Criminals consider them ideal marks for extortion, rape, abuse and murder with impunity because of their social vulnerability.

But Selena is a Zapatista and was born and raised in Zapatista Chiapas. She lived her entire life in Zapatista territory that has been in transformation for 20 years. That’s where she became conscious of belonging to one of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, a Mayan Tojolabal probably because she is from La Realidad. She is not only proud of this identity, but also of being a woman, a woman who takes part in a struggle for justice for her people, a woman who is also young and yet does not have to make an effort to be respected as a youth and a woman.

The young women and young men are particularly valued for a task that is essential for the survival of the Zapatista Rebellion. They are trained for the duty of Listeners.

Surrounding communities rely on these young Listeners for information on what is happening in the area. Their timely defense depends on knowing what dangers exist through the information gathered and shared by the young Listeners.

It seems like nothing, and to many might appear to be a minor role. But for the Zapatistas, their support bases and the tight unity needed to resist, it is an extremely important task.

And for Selena and all who are Listeners it’s not so difficult. Not only do young people have a good memory, they are also heirs to the ancient traditions of oral transmission. The Mesoamerican peoples managed to keep alive today, although in a different way, beliefs, rituals, healing, symbols and ways of seeing the world by handing on orally, “from the lips” of their grandmothers and grandfathers, stories, myths and traditions that survive in their lives today.

It’s not hard for them to keep track of each detail of a conversation like the one Selena had with Galeano’s murderer, a guy who out of decency is only reported as R. The conversation was imposed on her by the murderer, who took her aside and said “You think a lot of yourself” as macho young men say to discreet young women on the streets today.

Selena’s first reaction was not to answer, but the murderer insisted and spat out these words: “Stop, listen to what I’m going to say.”

This murderer, also indigenous, surely known to her because she was able to recognize him, is one of the paramilitaries promoted and financed by the local authorities, (like years ago in the Acteal massacre) to destroy the Caracol of La Realidad.

She was not afraid of him. As a woman and a youth, she could have paused due to immaturity. But Selena is Zapatista and she is strong. She stopped, and faced him and recognized the importance of what might be found in the words of that traitor to his own people.

28.andres-43-300x198Selena reports sentence by sentence the conversation she heard. We can read it sentence by sentence, since Listeners faithfully reproduce absolutely everything word for word, with tones and gestures.

Given the explicit threat to take over the Caracol – Zapatista territory and the heart of the autonomous region – and to destroy and occupy it, she challenged him further.

She did not withdraw meekly with womanish shame, but confronted him with usually male profanities. She refused to be intimidated by his threat to rape her, and instead responded with increased force and threw the threat back in his face.

A new kind of young, indigenous woman

What has happened with these “jovenas” (young women)?

They do not submit, they are not intimidated or scared and they are not afraid to use all kinds of language even if they have to reproduce the aggressive language that men use against women.

Haven’t we feminists said many times that the best way to react to possible male aggression is to do exactly what Selena did and behave as she behaved? Why, I wonder, are Zapatista women not only aware of how to fight back but able to actually do it?

What has the social fabric of Zapatista struggle achieved that encourages these young women and allows them to survive and defend themselves with dignity against attacks on their integrity?

Selena repeats her unfortunate encounter with the murderer, giving all the details. She escaped unhurt from the meeting. She was not raped or abused and comes back to bring the urgent and critical information for the defence of her people, the Zapatistas.

The same defense is now happening here in the Movement for Justice in El Barrio in New York, and in many parts of the world to prevent another slaughter like Acteal.

Because peaceful defense is the proposal put forward, developed and lived by the Zapatistas. It is the political strategy of possible resistance, the product of conscious men and women around the world who say NO!, with echoes reverberating everywhere.
NO to the destruction of another world that already exists and that the Zapatistas live in.

YES to a world so new that girls of 16 like Selena inhabit it and defend themselves with their dignity as women untouched.

 

NOTE: On 24 May, hundreds of members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a community-based organization composed mostly of migrant women fighting for dignity and against neoliberal displacement in New York, honored the life and struggle of the fallen Zapatista teacher “Galeano”. For this tribute by the community of El Barrio the great Mexican feminist activist and thinker Dr. Sylvia Marcos sent reflections on “Being a young Zapatista woman in La Realidad.”, which was read during the tribute before hundreds of women, youth, girls and old women fighters.

Based on reflections on a Reading of the Communiqué Fragments from la Realidad I
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, May 2014

Sylvia Marcos is an academic committed to indigenous movements in the Americas, a university professor, and researcher. She is a promoter of the review in the field of feminist epistemology, Mesoamerican religionsand women in indigenous movements and an advocate of feminist theory and practice.

Originally published in Spanish at http://desinformemonos.org/2014/06/la-voz-del-futuro-jovenas-luchadoras-zapatistas/

 

http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/12455

 

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May 2, 2014

Impunity and Dispossession in Mexico: Life and death, land and resistance: San Sebastián Bachajón on the anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán

 

 

Impunity and Dispossession in Mexico: Life and death, land and resistance: San Sebastián Bachajón on the anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán 

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The following article has been published in Upside Down World:http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4822-impunity-and-dispossession-in-mexico-san-sebastian-bachajon-on-the-anniversary-of-the-assassination-of-juan-vazquez-guzman

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This article was first published in Spanish in Desinformémonos

Impunity and Dispossession in Mexico: Life and death, land and resistance: San Sebastián Bachajón on the anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán 

By Jessica Davies

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In San Sebastián Bachajón, the impunity given to their attackers has not stopped their resistance to the dispossession of their lands.

The bad government, say the ejidatarios: “uses public forces, such as the state preventive police, the army and the federal police to terrorize communities and so imposes terror to achieve its goals.”

bachajon circulo_Mesa de trabajo 26 copia 6 English round largeIn recognition of the first anniversary of the assassination of community leader and defender of the land, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues! have been called, from Thursday,  April 24 to Thursday, May 8, 2014. As part of this initiative, the screening of the video “Bachajón – Dispossession is death, Life is resistance” is being promoted internationally.

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“What the government does is to send people to jail or to order their killing like Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Our struggle is not for economic or political power. It is for the people, the mother earth and the territory.” – Marcelo Mariano López, Bachajón

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On April 24, 2013, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, much-loved spokesperson and activist in defence of the people, the land and the territory of the ejido (communal landholding) of San Sebastián Bachajón, was killed with six gunshots in the doorway of his home, in what was widely interpreted as a political assassination. His killers, and those who ordered his killing, remain unpunished, and the plans of the government and corporations to dispossess the ejidatarios (common landholders) of their territory, in order to construct a luxury tourist development, continue. But the indigenous Tzeltal community of San Sebastián Bachajón is staying organized, carrying on the struggle for their rights and keeping alive the memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and his work in the service of his people.

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The struggle for the land

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55ad9-img_3775Founded in 1980 by the original Tzeltal inhabitants, the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is situated in the municipality of Chilón, in Chiapas, south-east Mexico. It is, at 70,000 hectares, one of the largest ejidos in the country, in an area of great biodiversity and natural beauty. The land is rich in natural resources, verdant jungle, wildlife and water. The spectacular waterfalls of Agua Azul, renowned for the turquoise colour of their water at certain times of year, crash and thunder in the neighbouring municipality of Tumbalá, but to gain access to the “Ecotourism Centre” there it is necessary to cross through the ejido of Bachajón, which is why an intense conflict has arisen.

As part of the Plan Mesoamerica, the Mexican government, in consultation with transnational corporations, has drawn up plans, through the National Tourism Foundation (FONATUR), for the Palenque Integrally Planned Centre (CIPP), a network of infrastructure and services through which the natural and archaeological attractions will be used to promote an elite tourism, resulting in the displacement of the indigenous population. Agua Azul is to be the focus of this development, with very expensive luxury hotels accessed by helicopter, which the ejidatarios describe as: “neoliberal tourism projects which are only for the rich, and for which we will only carry the luggage and clean the toilets.” This plan also involves a highway from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque, and the new international airport at Palenque, which was inaugurated on February 12, 2014 by Manuel Velasco Coello, governor of Chiapas, and Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico.

Much of the land worked by the ejidatarios is reclaimed land, recuperated from large ranchers and landowners in 1994. To the indigenous peoples land is everything – it is the mother earth which gives them life and feeds them, it is their ancestors, their history, their culture, their honour, their identity. The attempts over the last eight years to strip them of their communally owned and worked territory have been relentless, marked by threats, violence, terror, imprisonment, torture, paramilitary activity, and a constant police and military presence.

The ejidatarios described their situation in a communiqué on 17 August, 2013: “The struggle of our people of San Sebastian Bachajón is to conserve our indigenous territory which we inherited from our ancestors, it is where we live, it gives us life and identity. We are defending our land with our lives if necessary, against the ambition of the government and of the lords of money who want to build luxury hotels, golf courses and runways for rich tourists, at the cost of the exploitation, marginalization and discrimination of our people; faced with the defence we have mounted against these projects the government has had only one answer: repression, imprisonment and death.”

History of resistance

10274140_637521462990538_5117039194093089329_n (1)“The Tzeltales are a combative people”, says their lawyer Ricardo Lagunes Gasca in the film ‘Bachajón – Dispossession is death. Life is resistance,’ “they have always defended and sought to keep control of their territory.” On March 19, 2007, many of the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón declared themselves adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, an initiative promoted by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). They marked this action by appointing their own authorities, as the ejidal officials were very close to the government. As they put it in a communique: “Since 2007 the bad government has intervened in the internal life of our community to impose ejidal representatives as they please, who serve them as if they were their minions to defend the interests of the capitalists and not those of the indigenous people.”

Following this decision in 2007, the adherents decided to exert their right as original peoples to free determination over their land and its resources, and erected a tollbooth in their territory where tourists would pay to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls. It was decided in their assembly what to do with the money taken. Mainly, they say, it was used for the sick, and to support families in need, but this money was not just used for the adherents to the Sixth Declaration, it was available to every member of the community who was experiencing hard times, including the government supporters.

The tollbooth became a focal point for the conflict. There was a violent eviction in 2009. The booth was reclaimed, but on February 2, 2011, in a huge operation, police and armed political party supporters again evicted the ejidatarios and 117 people were arrested. At this time, the authorities not only took over control of the tollbooth, they also illegally seized 2,590 square metres of communally owned lands.

As a result, in March 2011, the ejidatarios filed a petition for amparo (legal protection) in defence of their territory, a case that has still not been resolved. In January and March 2014, the ejidatarios denounced that the government-supporting authorities of ejido were attempting, through fraud and deception, to seek the annulment of the case for amparo 274/2011. On 5th February 2014 the ejidatarios adherents to the Sixth Declaration demanded, before the Unitary Agricultural Tribunal in Comitán, the annulment of the appointment of the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez, and the other officialist ejidal authorities, for their failure to act in accordance with the Agrarian Law and the traditional laws of the community. The case remains ongoing.

It is in this context that the political murder of Juan Vázquez Guzmán must be set. Active in the defence of the land and territory of Bachajón since 2006, on April 18, 2010, he was made Secretary General of the three centres of the ejido. “People sought him out a lot for his skills and abilities to relate to the world of the Caxlanes(white people, non-indigenous),” said Lagune Gasca, “to defend and translate the problems of the indigenous communities and to put them on the table of the authorities”.

A second assassination

Bachajón-Colectivo_Cero-LR-1On March 21st, 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, a regional coordinator for the Sixth in Bachajón, was ambushed and killed with over twenty gunshots. At the time of his death he was travelling to his community of Virgen de Dolores, which, along with the community of Nah Choj, was founded by the adherents to the Sixth Declaration in 2010.

In the film, ‘Land and Resistance in San Sebastián Bachajón’, the ejidatarios describe the recuperation of the lands of Virgen de Dolores. “On 31 December 2009 we ‘entered’ the lands which the Caxlanes had taken from us, but really these lands did not belong to them but to our ancestors, so we their children decided to recover them”….” the Caxlanes were not working the lands which they stole, just using them for livestock. Now, in contrast, we work with the machete, we grow corn, plant coffee, yams, squash, banana…and to poor people who suffer like us we give a bit of help sometimes to support them a little.” “Up to now, we have not bought anything, we harvest everything here in this land.” “The land is like our mother, we live here, we eat here, we die here and then we remain here.”

“Compañero Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano,” say the ejidatarios in a communiqué of 31 March, “is part of the foundation and construction of autonomy in the Virgen de Dolores community, his work for the organization and the community will never be forgotten because we carry it in our hearts…. Ever since we founded the communities of Nah Choj and Virgen de Dolores in 2010, our organization has been harassed at various times by the army and state preventive police, threatening us with eviction…..

“The bad government wants to finish us off completely by assassinating our compañeros, using their paramilitary gunmen, who with complete impunity, whether by night or in the full light of day, are able to vilely murder our compañeros who are working and struggling to construct a world in which other worlds fit.”

Dispossession and repression throughout Mexico

masde3Bachajón’s lawyer emphasises that the strategies of dispossession are the same throughout Mexico. “The government arrives, divides the communities, buys leaders or ejidatarios, undermines struggles, promotes one group and treats it as legitimate, represses, imprisons and kills those who do not agree with it.” He continues: “With repression and impunity, the State is seeking a way to establish dispossession and privatization of indigenous territories to ensure that land is handed over for the implementation of large-scale projects, designed by international private corporations or organizations. This is an integral part of the strategy of dispossession of indigenous peoples.” This strategy can be seen a continuation of the 522-year long racist attack against indigenous people, subjecting them to persecution, discrimination and marginalisation; it is also another instance of ‘accumulation by dispossession’.

A recently-released report by Global Witness reveals a surge in the killing of activists protecting land rights and the environment over the past decade, with nearly three times as many deaths in 2012 as there were10 years previously. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 activists were killed in 35 countries, with only 10 convictions. The death rate has risen in the past four years to an average of two activists a week.

This report highlights what has become a campaign of terror against defenders of territory, using incarceration and assassination as its weapons. The bad government, say the ejidatarios: “uses public forces, such as the state preventive police, the army and the federal police to terrorize communities and so imposes terror to achieve its goals.” It “wants to fill our lands with death and fear, so we get tired and no longer continue to defend our life, the people, our mother earth.”

Juan Vázquez Guzmán – where they sow fear, they also sow resistance

10271560_638427756233242_1218581413052209398_nIn the video promoted by the campaign, the ejidatario Domingo Pérez explains that for the people of San Sebastián Bachajón Juan is not dead, he still lives with them in the struggle for land, territory, freedom and justice. They can never forget him or give up the struggle because he is struggling beside them. “What will we teach our children? And to our children’s children?” “Juan lives, so the struggle of Bachajon lives!”

In their contribution to the Indigenous National Congress, Juan’s people said: “We know that the lords of money and power are planning everywhere, day and night, how to end our world, wanting us and all we represent to disappear. We who are indigenous struggle to continue to be what we are, to build our own way of life and to conserve our territory, defending it from the ambition of those above, because to them we are only an obstacle to their being increasingly rich and powerful; they order the killing of our brothers, dignified men and women who fight to defend the Mother Earth, they imprison us, torture us and make us disappear, but they forget that we are one, that we are not alone and that as children of the earth our roots are still alive in spite of all the death that they offer us.

Their homage finishes: “Juan Vázquez Guzmán, you are the heart of the people, you live in every child, woman and man who defends the people and struggles for justice. You told us that the land the mountains and the waterfalls belong to those who take care of them, that is why you defended and gave your life for the mother earth….Your word will be etched in our minds and we will carry your example throughout our lives. Compa Juan, you will live for always amongst your people, your heart was very great. Viva Juan Vázquez Guzmán!”

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The Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!from Thursday, April 24th to Thursday, May 8th, 2014, follows a very successful week of action held last year, and intends to draw attention to the struggle of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, and honour the living memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group, the Committee of the True Word from Kolkata, India and the Committee of the True Word from Alisal are calling for solidarity actions especially the organising of screenings of the video ‘Bachajón – Dispossession is death, Life is resistance.’

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This article was first published in Spanish in Desinformémonos:http://desinformemonos.org/2014/04/la-vida-y-la-muerte-la-tierra-y-la-resistencia-en-san-sebastian-bachajon/

Watch the videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJkVziBk214   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kfc4Z0YpvE

For further information in English: http://vivabachajon.wordpress.com/en-ingles/

 

 

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April 18, 2014

San Sebastián Bachajón invites you to join the worldwide days to demand for justice for our people

 

San Sebastián Bachajón invites you to join, according to your times and geographies, the worldwide days to demand for justice for our people

On April 24th, the worldwide days for justice will be launched for San Sebastian Bachajón and our fallen compañeros Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano

 FROM THE EJIDO SAN SEBASTIAN BACHAJON, ADHERENT TO THE SIXTH DECLARATION OF THE LACANDON JUNGLE, CHIAPAS, MEXICO, 17th APRIL 2014

mujeres-bachajon-2-600x450-600x330

 

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

To the mass and alternative media

To the Good Government Juntas

To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

To the Indigenous National Congress

To the Network for Solidarity and against Repression

To Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York

To national and international collectives and committees of solidarity

To national and international human rights defenders

To the people of Mexico and the world

 

Compañeros and compañeras in struggle, next Thursday April 24th marks a year since the cowardly political assassination of our compañero Juan Vázquez Guzmán; we will start this day praying with his family for the eternal rest of our compañero who is already in the arms of our mother earth, so that his memory may remain alive and continue to give us the strength to resist the repression and the policies of death of the bad government.

On this day, April 24th, the worldwide days for justice will be launched for San Sebastian Bachajón and our fallen compañeros Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, convoked by the Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York; we will join these days with a political act which we will make in honor of our compañeros Juan Vázquez and Juan Carlos Gómez on Saturday April 26th from 10am, hour of God, in the headquarters of the organization in Cumbre Nah Choj.

We invite you to join us in this political act on April 26th and to join, according to your times and geographies, the worldwide days to demand justice for our people.

From the north of Chiapas receive a combative embrace.

Never again a Mexico without us

Attentively

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!

 

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Life and death, land and resistance

by Jessica Davies | 17 April, 2014

San Sebastián Bachajón on the anniversary of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán

Bachajon y Juan Ingles ChicoLast year, Peace News featured the story of the assassination in Chiapas, Mexico, of the community leader and defender of the land, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. In recognition of the first anniversary of his killing, ‘Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!’, have been called, from Thursday 24 April to Thursday 8 May. As part of this initiative, the screening of the film Bachajón – Dispossession is death, Life is resistance is being promoted internationally.

‘What the government does is send people to jail or order their killing like Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Our struggle is not for economic or political power. It is for the people, the mother earth and the territory.’ – Marcelo Mariano López

On 24 April 2013, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, much-loved spokesperson and activist in defence of the people, the land and the territory of the ejido(communal landholding) of San Sebastián Bachajón, was killed with six gunshots in the doorway of his home, in what was widely interpreted as a political assassination. His killers, and those who ordered his killing, remain unpunished, and the plans of the government and corporations to dispossess the ejidatarios (common landholders) of their territory, in order to construct a luxury tourist development, continue. But the indigenous Tzeltal community of San Sebastián Bachajón is staying organized, carrying on the struggle for their rights and keeping alive the memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and his work in the service of his people.

The struggle for the land

IMG_3289Founded in 1980 by the original Tzeltal inhabitants, the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is situated in the municipality of Chilón, in Chiapas, south-east Mexico. It is, at 70,000 hectares, one of the largest ejidos in the country, in an area of great biodiversity and natural beauty. The land is rich in natural resources, verdant jungle, wildlife and water. The spectacular waterfalls of Agua Azul, renowned for the turquoise colour of their water at certain times of year, crash and thunder in the neighbouring municipality of Tumbalá, but to gain access to the ‘Ecotourism Centre’ which has been set up there it is necessary to cross through the ejido of Bachajón, which is why an intense conflict has arisen.

As part of the Plan Mesoamerica, the Mexican government, in consultation with transnational corporations has drawn up plans for a network of infrastructure and services to promote an elite tourism, which will require the displacement of the indigenous population. The focus of this development will be the waterfalls, with very expensive luxury hotels and golf courses accessed by helicopter.

Much of the land worked by the ejidatarios was recuperated from large ranchers and landowners in 1994. To the indigenous peoples land is everything – it is the mother earth which gives them life and feeds them, it is their ancestors, their history, their culture, their honour, their identity. The attempts over the last eight years to strip them of their communally owned and worked territory have been relentless, marked by threats, violence, terror, imprisonment, torture, paramilitary activity, and a constant police and military presence.

History of resistance

AGUAZUL190612MZS9-391x260‘The Tzeltales are a combative people’, says their lawyer, ‘they have always defended and sought to keep control of their territory.’ On 19 March 2007, many of the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón declared themselves adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, an initiative promoted by the Zapatistas. Following this decision, the adherents decided to exert their right as original peoples to free determination over their land and its resources, and erected a tollbooth in their territory where tourists would pay to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls. It was decided in their assembly what to do with the money raised. Mainly, they say, it was used for the sick, and to support families in need, but this money was not just used for the adherents to the Sixth Declaration, it was available to every member of the community who was experiencing hard times.

The tollbooth became a focal point for the conflict. There was a violent eviction in 2009. The booth was reclaimed, but on 2 February 2011, in a huge operation, police and armed political party supporters again evicted the ejidatarios and 117 people were arrested. At this time, the authorities and government supporters not only took over control of the tollbooth, they also illegally seized 2,590 square metres of the communally owned lands.

It is in this context that the political murder of Juan Vázquez Guzmán must be set. Active in the defence of the land and territory of Bachajón since 2006, on April 18, 2010, he was made Secretary General of the three centres of the ejido. ‘People sought him out a lot for his skills and abilities to relate to the world of the Caxlanes(white people, non-indigenous),’ according to their lawyer, ‘to defend and translate the problems of the indigenous communities and to put them on the table of the authorities’.

A second assassination

On 21 March 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, a regional coordinator for the Sixth in Bachajón, was ambushed and killed with over twenty gunshots. At the time of his death he was travelling to his community of Virgen de Dolores, which, along with the community of Nah Choj, was founded by the adherents to the Sixth Declaration in 2010. Juan Carlos had been one of the community’s founders, and had worked there since in the construction of autonomy.

The ejidatarios describe the recuperation of the lands of Virgen de Dolores. ‘On 31 December 2009 we “entered” the land. It was in the hands of the Caxlanes, but it really belonged to our ancestors, we as their children decided to recover these lands. The foreigners were not working the land – they were not growing crops, just using it for livestock. Now we grow all our food, we even have some to sell. We work with the machete, we grow corn, plant coffee, yams, squash, banana. We put together food parcels for those in need. The land is like our mother, we live from it, we eat from it, we die on it and then we remain in it.’

Context

Bachajón’s lawyer explains that the strategies are the same throughout Mexico. ‘With repression and impunity, the state is seeking a way to establish dispossession and privatization of indigenous territories to ensure that land is handed over for the implementation of megaprojects, designed by international private corporations or organizations.’

recently-released report by Global Witness reveals a surge in the killing of activists protecting land rights and the environment over the past decade, with nearly three times as many deaths in 2012 as there were ten years previously. The death rate has risen in the past four years to an average of two activists a week.

This report highlights what has become a campaign of terror against defenders of territory, using incarceration and assassination as its weapons. The government, say the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón: ‘uses public forces, such as the state preventive police, the army and the federal police to terrorize communities and so imposes terror to achieve its goals.’

Juan Vázquez Guzmán – where they sow fear, they also sow resistance

ManifiestandoseIn the film promoted by the campaign, the ejidatario Domingo Pérez explains that, for the people of San Sebastián Bachajón, Juan is not dead, he still lives with them in the struggle for land, territory, freedom and justice. They can never forget him or give up the struggle because he is struggling beside them. ‘What will we show to our children’s children?’

In the words of Juan’s community: ‘We are not alone and as children of the earth our roots are still alive in spite of all the death they offer us. Juan Vázquez Guzmán, you are the heart of the people, you live in every child, woman and man who defends the people and struggles for justice. You told us that the land the mountains and the waterfalls belong to those who take care of them, that is why you defended and gave your life for the mother earth. You will live for ever among your people.’

More info: The ‘Two Weeks of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!’ from Thursday 24 April to Thursday 8 May 2014, follows a very successful week of action held last year, and intends to draw attention to the struggle of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, and honour the living memory of Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group, the Committee of the True Word from Kolkata, India and the Committee of the True Word from Alisal are calling for solidarity actions, especially the organising of screenings of the short film Bachajón – Dispossession is death, Life is resistance (Spanish; English subtitles available by clicking on the Captions panel at the bottom of the video screen). Another (23-minute) film with English subtitles can be found here. For further information in English, please see Viva Bachajon and Dorset Chiapas

This article was published in Peace News, 17 April, 2014:http://peacenews.info/blog/7653/life-and-death-land-and-resistance

 

 

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February 14, 2014

Zapatista Support Bases Under Attack: Call for a Week of National and International Solidarity

Filed under: Displacement, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:02 pm

Zapatista Support Bases Under Attack: Call for a Week of National and International Solidarity

Written by Jessica Davies

Friday, 14 February 2014

morelia9Following recent events in Chiapas, the Network for Solidarity and against Repression has urged “adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, and every organization, collective, and honest person in Mexico and the world who, from your own places, extend your embrace to the dignified rage of the Zapatistas,”  to participate in the Week of National and International Solidarity, “If they touch the Zapatistas, they touch all of us”, to be held from February 16 to 23, to “denounce the counterinsurgency war” and express that “the Zapatista communities are not alone.”

This call results from great concerns about recent events, denounced by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre as: “the Chiapas government’s failure to prevent attacks on the support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) from the 10 de Abril community,” leading to “an imminent possibility of new attacks and an intensification of the violence, which would be a risk to life and personal integrity, in addition to the violations of the right to territory and autonomy of the Zapatista peoples.”

These events came to light on January 31, when the Zapatista Good Government Junta, Heart of the Rainbow of Hope, from Caracol IV,  Whirlwind of our Words (based in Morelia, Chiapas) denounced new aggressions suffered by Zapatista support bases (BAZ). The attacks were made on the iconic Zapatista community of 10 de Abril in the autonomous rebel municipality 17 de Noviembre, by groups of government supporters belonging to the group Independent Center of Agricultural and Campesino Workers (CIOAC) Democratic, from the nearby Tojolabal community of 20 de Noviembre. Six BAZ members were injured, three of them seriously, and one is in danger of losing his sight. Furthermore, a shocking attack also took place on staff from the San Carlos Hospital in Altimirano who came to give assistance, but were attacked and prevented from attending to the injured.

Background to Events in 10 de Abril

tierrarecuperadamoreliaOne of the most remarkable achievements of the Zapatistas following the historic uprising of January 1, 1994, one which transformed the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous people, was the reclamation, or recuperation, of huge areas of land and territory. As in many cases prior to 1994, the BAZ of what is now the ejido (communal landholding) of 10 de Abril worked their ancestral lands, taken from them after the Spanish conquest, as paeons or servants of the landowners who used the lands for cattle ranching, and treated their workers with abuse and contempt. Following the uprising, the serfs descended from the rocky hillsides to the fertile valley and reclaimed their heritage. In March 1995 they set up the community of 10 de Abril (named in honour of Emiliano Zapata, assassinated on April 10, 1919,) and worked their own land again in community as free men and women. They now use their land to grow crops including coffee, corn, beans, vegetables and bananas, and have declared the rest, which is forest and mountain and rich in unusual species, to be an ecological reserve.

The CIOAC Democratic was founded in 1975, and is known for its close links with the three levels of the Mexican government and for its support of political parties. It actively promotes government social welfare programmes and receives finances from the state for activities designed to deactivate resistance and dissent. According to the Morelia Junta, this organization has been threatening and provoking the Zapatistas in this area since 2007 with the aim of dispossessing the BAZ from the lands which they have recuperated since 1994 “because they wanted to become the owners.”

Last October and November 2013, according to an earlier denunciation by the Junta, members of a related organization, also from 20 de Noviembre, known as CIOAC historic, invaded the lands of the ejido 10 de Abril, committing aggressions and issuing death threats. The invaders “claimed as their own more than 20 hectares of coffee, corn, beans and bananas” planted by the BAZ. Groups from Europe denounced the attack: “Those who seek to take away their land now are campesinos (small farmers) who did not receive land when the ejido to which they belong, 20 de Noviembre, divided up their ejidal lands following the dictates of the bad government; and now, supported by the organization CIOAC historic, they are trying to take by force the land of the Zapatista compañeros.”

The Recent Attacks

The Junta tells how, on January 27, “250 people from the organization CIOAC democratic, from the ejido 20 de Noviembre, official municipality of Las Margaritas, came to provoke us.” The aggressors cut down and destroyed the signs at the entrance to the ejido, and then proceeded to the ecological reserve, where “they began to work with 5 chainsaws chopping down 9 pine trees, 40 oak trees, 35 coffee trees, and three banana trees.” Altogether they took away “a total of 41 pickup trucks” full of timber to sell, leaving with threats to return. “We assessed the cost of what they stole from us, it comes to 40,530 pesos.”

On January 30, 300 people arrived in 18 pickup trucks, “ready to do violence,” with machetes, rocks, sticks and clubs. The CIOAC Democratic leaders, Miguel Vázquez Hernández and Jaime Luna González, carried and used firearms, as did the leader of another group, ORCAO (Organisation of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo,) Francisco Hernández Aguilar from El Nanze village, who joined them, “carrying high-powered firearms.” Verbal aggressions were quickly followed by physical ones, as the group from 20 de Noviembre “where some people have for a long time tried to appropriate the lands of 10 de Abril, over which they have no rights,” began to beat the BAZ. Very significantly, the Junta says, as it also said in its denunciation last November, “the people were paid 100 pesos each as a wage for the violence with which they attacked us.”

“When we saw our compañeros fall we sought emergency help from the San Carlos hospital, in Altamirano…. but the CIOAC Democratic aggressors did not let them through because they were blocking the crossroads.” The ambulance, along with the driver, a doctor and a nun, “were taken hostage by them to their ejido.” Once at 20 de Noviembre, the three hospital personnel were beaten.

Two other nuns were following the ambulance in a pickup truck. Sister Patricia Moysén Márquez relates how they were stopped by a large number of people carrying sticks and machetes, who threatened to burn the vehicle, and pulled the nuns out. She refused to give them the keys. She describes how women from the same group “started to defile us, trying to take the keys away from me. As I resisted, they began to undress us. They put their hands wherever they wanted and held both of our arms. They hurt us, tore my jacket and took out the keys and my purse where I have all my documents. I asked them to return it to me but they flatly refused.” The aggressors took the vehicle, and the nuns managed to escape. The other staff were released later that night.

Sister Patricia states in her testimony: “We identified ourselves as being from San Carlos Hospital and said that we were going because of a call for help due to the fact that there were wounded. Their reaction was that they were going to burn the truck because we were from the government. We said that we were not from the government, but rather from the church. They said that we were Zapatistas who were going to help our group. We said that we were going to see the wounded from whichever religion or party. The problem that they had was not our affair, nor were we going to solve that, only to help the wounded.” As has been pointed out in a letter from the La Karakola Social and Cultural Space in Mexico City denouncing the attack, it was in clear violation of international law, as the Geneva Convention guarantees “the rights of people in times of war, specifically the right of medical personnel to be considered neutral, in order to treat the wounded.”

The Context: Low Intensity Warfare

It is now over 20 years since the Zapatista uprising, and since then, says the Network for Solidarity and against Repression in their call to solidarity, “the BAZ have built and nurtured another way of doing politics in key areas such as health, education, women’s participation, housing, communication, culture, trading, to name a few. Their…. significant progress in the process of autonomy has been the starting point for this new world which is emerging.”

However, “Today, as 20 years ago, the counterinsurgency strategy against the Zapatista indigenous peoples continues: military forces, paramilitaries, ‘democratic campesino organizations,’ commercial media, ‘social programmes,’ and the whole political class are part of this war of extermination, a war which is headed by the bad governments, both federal and state, who only serve the interests of a system which needs dispossession, exploitation, neglect and repression in order to survive.”

One of the main tactics of counterinsurgency is funding, training, arming and promoting the development of “shock” groups of local indigenous, lured by the promise of land, guns, money, status and material possessions, who are ordered to attack, threaten, harass, provoke, undermine and ultimately destroy the BAZ communities. Disguised as social and agricultural organizations (such as CIOAC and ORCAO,) or in some cases as evangelical churches (like the Army of God) some are fully paramilitary, while others are less well-armed. These groups are made up of supporters of the government and the political parties, and actively promote the government “social” and “welfare” programs, which are used as another means of undermining the resistance.

Faced with all this provocation over the last 20 years, the BAZ have, with great dignity, continually resisted the temptation to respond with violence. “They again tried to provoke us and to take from us our recovered land which was paid for by the blood of our fallen compañeros,” they say in the most recent denunciation, but yet again they resisted the provocation. As Hermann Bellinghausen wrote recently, “Without the peaceful but active and uncompromising attitude of the Zapatistas, the conflict would be very much more serious.”

In response to the attacks, pronouncements have been made from countries including Italy, Germany, Spain, the UK, France and the US as well as from groups in various parts of Mexico. One group from France relates in their pronouncement how some of their members were students of the Escuelita, the Little School of Freedom according to the Zapatistas, in the community of 10 de Abril, already emblematic following the long-term presence of an Irish group of human rights observers and accompaniers from 1997 to 2000. The French group describe how carefully the community cared for the trees in their now-ravaged ecological reserve.

The campaign emphasizes that, as the activists from La Karakola said in their letter, communities like 10 de Abril, and the staff from the San Carlos Hospital, “are an example and a hope for a different world, one in which what happens to others concerns and moves us. Community systems of healthcare, education and culture are the hope that a new world is being born, and are an example which needs to be cared for by every one of us.”

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/mexico-archives-79/4700-zapatista-support-bases-under-attack-call-for-a-week-of-national-and-international-solidarity-

Dorset Chiapas Solidarity

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