dorset chiapas solidarity

June 20, 2016

Ocosingo Ejidos Reject the Delimitation of the Lacandon Gap.

Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:35 pm



Ocosingo Ejidos Reject the Delimitation of the Lacandon Gap.




Ejido Candelaria, Municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico.

We are gathered here today, Tuesday 17th of May 2016 (Two Thousand and Sixteen), at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, around the Ejidal House of the ejido Candelaria. Among our number the CC ejidal and auxiliary authorities and wider public of the ejido Candelaria and the CC ejidal and auxiliary authorities of the ejido Pichucalco, including representatives from different organizations, meet to discuss agrarian matters (the delimitation of the gap).

We, the ejido Candelaria, member of the organization ARIC, Independent and Democratic A.C., the ejidal and auxiliary authorities of the ejido Pichucalco, make up four organisations, who work together to draw up plans and agreements for the defence of Mother Earth and our territory and the complete rejection of the proposal to delimit the Lacandon Gap, a fight that has gone on for 40 years, through generations,

  • We, as campesinos, are fully aware and prepared to defend Mother Earth and our territory. For this reason, we have reached an agreement to reject in its entirety the delimitation of the Lacandon Gap of the 16th vertex, as well as any developments between point 7.28 and the mirador boundary marker in the ejido Calvario. This is because we know from past experiences that the Lacandon communities and common lands are being used by the government, who tell them the hectares of land they occupy belong to them as a pretext; in fact, the delimitation of the Lacandon Gap is about transnational companies that want to take possession of the land to exploit its valuable natural resources, found in the depths of the Lacandon zone and the Montes Azules biosphere. Furthermore, we consider the delimitation of the Lacandon Gap a derogatory act.
  • The Federal Government intends not to legalise three villages, Nuevo Sangregorio, Ranchería Corozal and Salvador Allende. Although the Lacandon community has had months of dialogue with the three villages, signing agreements, minutes of proceedings and pacts, the government will never respect said agreements. The ejido San Caralampio and the ejido Calvario are evidence of this; they signed an agreement mediated by the ARIC Independent and Democratic A.C. (directive authorities). These two ejidos had common lands assessed by the teacher Gabriel Montoya, who had engineers measure out ten hectares of land to each beneficiary. But the government is cunning; it found new strategies to tear up these agreements, impeding the people from working on these demarcated plots of land. Now, the campesinos complain because they have ended up without land. For this reason we do not wish to end up suffering the same fate.
  • It is worth mentioning that the three villages and the directive authorities of the ARIC Independent and Democratic A.C. are self-governed for personal gain, and as such do not take into account the decision of the ejido Candelaria and the neighbouring communities to carry out an in-depth analysis of the difficult situation. On the contrary, they are quite convinced that the Lacandon Gap will legitimize the lands of the three villages. But they are being deceived. Although the Lacandon community shows an eagerness to support and engage in dialogue with the indigenous communities, this is nothing more than a political strategy on the part of the self-same government. We know because from the 16th of May this year helicopters began to fly over vertex 16 and the villages of Ranchería Corozal and Nuevo Sangregorio. This signals a threat to the campesinos who belong to different organisations, since those of the common lands in the Lacandon zone and the three villages are pooling funds to pay a private topographical engineer to measure out their lands, on the condition that he mark out the delimitation of the Lacandon Gap, which measures approximately 20km.
  • The Government does not intend to regularise this land; rather its main objective is to delimit the gap, in order to expropriate the Lacandon zone.
  • It is worth mentioning that all the indigenous communities within the Montes Azules biosphere and the Lacandon zone have ancestry in these lands. For this reason we do not accept other proposals or the government’s political strategies to separate us, weaken us and cause infighting between campesinos.
  • The government and the Lacandon community are not strong enough to work against us, and we know our universal rights as individuals.
  • We invite all independent social organizations, NGOs, defenders of human rights, the media, and the general public, to join us in solidarity in the defence of Mother Earth; to stay vigilant as the problematic situation we face in the Lacandon zone and the Montes Azules biosphere develop. In the municipality of Ocosingo, in the state of Chiapas, Enrique Peña Nieto’s government has created numerous programs and transnational projects for the extraction of the natural riches of our land. All three levels of government are being pressured and manipulated into accepting economic resources from transnational businesses, leaving all Mexicans in debt. Wiping out the indigenous class appears to be their main aim. Now, the government’s plans for the land are written by big business.






The ejidal and auxiliary authorities of the Ejido Pichucalco and the Ejido Candelaria, municipality of Ocosingo.


Translated by Ruby Zajac, for the UK Zapatista Translation Service.





January 31, 2014

Promotion of Federal Programmes in Chiapas Causes Division among peoples

Filed under: Displacement, Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:08 pm

Promotion of Federal Programmes in Chiapas Causes Division among peoples

 ** Representatives even sent to negotiate with alcoholic drinks, they denounce

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

Nuevo Jerusalén, Chiapas, January 29, 2014

Division of the peoples, even among families; offensive and consumerist  promises; distribution of checks; conditionality of programmes; veiled threats and that’s not all. The federal envoys who promote the Fund for Support to Agrarian Nuclei without Registration (FANAR, a successor of Procede) even arrived to negotiate bearing alcoholic beverages, as happened at the end of 2013 in Joltulijá, a beautiful community with two lagoons, endangered by potential tourism.

“They came to offer a bottle of alcoholic drink to the commissioners, which they rejected saying: ‘what you don’t see is that we are trying to stop the people from drinking and you come to offer us alcohol,’” relates an older man from this community. “The majority of us are in resistance, but behind our backs a few solicited land titles from the government, when what they are seeking is to dispossess us. The pressure is great, because of the interest in tourism. They arrive with public ministers and to frighten us they tell us that they are going to ask for the Army to make us accept.” In fact, a detachment from the Navy arrived, but withdrew faced with the rejection of the indigenous.

The indigenous indicate as directly responsible for this escalation: the agrarian visitor Rita Guadalupe Medina Septién and the lawyer Juan René Rodríguez, both from the Agrarian Prosecutor’s office in Ocosingo, accompanied by officials of the National Agrarian Registry (RAN). They have not been received in Arroyo Granizo, La Arena, San José Guadalupe and Limonar, but they have been received in Nuevo Francisco León and Lacanjá Tzeltal, where they went in October. As a mark of their passage, the officials leave division like a trail, sometimes with false religious tinges because people of Evangelical faith usually accept programmes. If those who are opposed turn out to be Catholics (and not a few Presbyterians), the differences are guaranteed: “There were already quarrels, even among brothers. They divide the ejido authorities. They threaten each other.”

They have been present in Nuevo Francisco León since September, “to talk about the FANAR, promising supports, credits, that although we already may owe money, we can go to Elek­tra to buy a refrigerator. ‘There are no disadvantages, one can receive lots of government projects,’ they told us.”

The succession of testimonies have the force of repetition, confirmation of why the communities in the northern Lacandón Jungle reject the land titling and regularisation procedures promoted by the government. Many of them are situated, at least partly, inside the so-called buffer zone of the Montes Azules Reserve. For many years, the governments have tried to limit their territorial rights, or take them away. It is appropriate to mention that there are also numerous Zapatista support bases within this zone, and that they per se reject any government interference, do not receive programmes and defend their territory.

But as a woman from Lacanjá Tzeltal says, the government pressure “has served to unite Catholics and Presbyterians, and many PRI members have left their party because of FANAR. There is no agreement, but they already measured the land, which has not been handed over. We can still stop it. Many are already regretting it.”

The government envoys warn that: “the old writings are no longer useful.” Moreover, they condition the written instrument and the programmes like Procampo on the acceptance of FANAR. “They are already violating the Agrarian Law since, without sending out a call for approval of the programme, they are implementing FANAR’s rules. Their actions outside the law have caused division.”

The dissidents of Nuevo Francisco León and Lacanjá Tzeltal demanded that the Agrarian Prosecutor “respect our agrarian rights” and that they do not condition receipt of the programmes on “changing our ejidal regime.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, January 30, 2014

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the International Zapatista Translation Service


January 29, 2014

Warning about privatization of land in the Northern Lacandón Jungle

Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Paramilitary — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:17 pm


Warning about privatization of land in the Northern Lacandón Jungle 

 ** Dissatisfaction with programmes promoted by the Sedatu and the Agrarian Prosecutor 

 ** Even the “pro-government” clusters of Nueva Palestina and Frontera Corozal are unhappy 

FotoDaily life in Chiapas, Photo Yazmín Ortega Cortés 

By: Hermann Bellinghausen 

Palenque, Chiapas, January 27, 2014 

Discontent runs through the communities of the northern Lacandón Jungle, because of the application of government programmes which limit their use of the land, in particular the Support Fund for Agrarian Nuclei without Registration (Fanar), which would allow the privatization of individual plots, and is promoted by the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (Sedatu) and the Agrarian Prosecutor. 

Even the large pro-government conglomerates of the so-called “Lacandón Community” (Nueva Palestina, Tzeltal, and Frontera Corozal, Chol) have shown their disagreement. They were particularly affected by the Redd Plus programme. It is no longer functioning, but it was found useful during the last government for making them sign a series of promises which in fact impeded them from making use of their lands, a first step towards dispossession. 

These communities, in particular Nueva Palestina, have a long history of violence and abuse against dozens of villages of different organizations, both inside the Montes Azules Reserve and in the “buffer zone;” the most serious, but not the only one, being the Viejo Velasco Suárez Massacre in 2006, which is still unpunished although two residents of the Nuevo Tila ejido are accused of the actions, and there are arrest warrants against them, despite the fact that they were compañeros of the victims. According to the zone’s independent organizations, those really responsible are residents of Nueva Palestina and members of the Lacandón town of Lacanjá Chansayab. 

Paramilitaries blackmail the State 

An indigenous man, a witness to the massacre who for security reasons does not give his name, describes the situation like this: “Who are the ones that are now asking for justice and respect for their territory? They are the indigenous who are privileged by the corrupt system of the PRI and the PRD, and are simply called paramilitaries by the communities. The state has used them to repress, kill, kidnap, disappear and burn alive those who have different political positions, but ultimately they are all indigenous.” 

And he continues: “Each time they want more power and resources they blackmail the state. They did it with Juan Sabines Guerrero, and he gave them handfuls of money supposedly to take care of the Lacandón Jungle. The Lacandóns handed over their lands through the Redd Plus programme for ‘environmental services,’ in exchange for 2 thousand pesos per month. The old community members signed the agreement without the consent of their children, and these now demand that they are also given money. 

“We don’t know what they want, supposedly justice, we doubt that it’s really that, rather it’s a strategy to get more money. How many millions did Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía not waste to buy the lands of the Lacandónes? How many millions did Sabines not take from the state to be given to the Lacandónes for ‘environmental services’? The Lacandónes are useful to the government; it uses them to justify mega-projects in the zone,” he maintains. 

On a La Jornada tour through the northern Jungle we found that this situation affects almost all the communities. What is new is that the unconditional (supporters) of the government have also discovered they are ensnared. “The (residents) of Nueva Palestina and the Lacandónes have been identified by the Chol, Tzeltal and Zoque communities as paramilitaries for the governments, since the times of President Luis Echeverría and Governor Manuel Velasco Suárez,” states the indigenous man, a member of the Union of Communities of the Jungle of Chiapas (Ucisech, its Spanish acronym). 

The Lacandones and their allies “have always obtained benefits and immunity,” and are accustomed to being presented as “peaceful conservationists, hospitable with tourists, who are not rebellious, and are different from the peoples who inhabit the buffer zone and are considered by the government as invaders and rebels for defending their territory.”

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

En español: 

Based on an English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the International Zapatista Translation Service






September 27, 2012

Vía Campesina declares its opposition to REDD in the Lacandón jungle

Filed under: Lacandon/ montes azules — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 10:25 am

Vía Campesina declares its opposition to REDD in the Lacandón jungle

By Chris Lang, 21st September 2012

Next week, the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force will meet in Chiapas, Mexico. Ahead of the meeting, Vía Campesina has written a piece declaring its opposition to REDD in the Lacandón jungle in Chiapas.

According to the GCF, the meeting will be, “a unique opportunity for information exchange and progress on the GCF’s low emission rural development and REDD-related objectives”. But there is a vast gulf between the dry technical topics on the GCF meeting agenda (such as Advancing MRV, Nesting and State-National Alignment, Stakeholder processes and Benefit-sharing, Re-framing REDD+) and the concerns and opposition to REDD raised by indigenous peoples and local communities in Chiapas.

In April 2011, after visiting Chiapas, Jeff Conant of Global Ecology Justice Project wrote that,

signs of conflict and concern were everywhere, amidst a complex web of economic development projects being imposed on campesino and indigenous communities without any semblance of free, prior, and informed consent. Among these projects is a renewed government effort to delimit Natural Protected Areas within the Lacandon Jungle, in order to generate carbon credits to be sold to California companies.

The film, “Greed for Trees in the Lacandón Jungle”, which is mentioned in Vía Campesina’s statement is available here (in Spanish).

Vía Campesina declares its opposition to REDD in the Lacandón jungle

17 September 2012. Translated by Christy Rodgers

San Cristobal de Las Casas will be the site of the upcoming Latin American governors’ meeting, where they will exchange information and progress reports concerning the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests Program (REDD), according to international movement Vía Campesina’s Chiapas office.

The Chiapas provincial government initiated the program last year in the Lacandón jungle, in order to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change by stopping logging and paying inhabitants about two thousand pesos [each].

During the same dates as the planned meeting, members of the Vía Campesina movement, including farmers and specialists, will gather in San Cristobal’s Museum of Amber to share the results of the analysis they have made of the program, which they maintain is in the process of selling off the Lacandón’s forests.

What is REDD in Chiapas?

In November 2010, before the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change, the governors of California and Chiapas signed an agreement for the sale and purchase of carbon credits in the province’s forests, which would compensate California in its battle against climate change.

The Chiapas administration chose the Lacandón forests, which are part of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. They began carbon retention there by offering monetary compensation to protect trees and avoid felling them.

Initially, the California state government, led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, made one payment, but following the economic crisis there, further payments were suspended. The Chiapas government then used its own funds instead.

“REDD’s purpose is to create a process of appropriation, commodification, and control of the natural resources on indigenous and peasant lands,” says Vía Campesina’s Ana Valadez, a legal specialist on environmental issues.

She maintains that the Chiapas government violated inhabitants’ rights by signing an agreement with California without providing prior information to the populace.

Similarly, she explained that Lacandón inhabitants have been given weapons and training to guard the forest, and this has divided the communities and generated conflicts among them.

The documentary film “Greed for Trees in the Lacandón Jungle,” made by the San Cristobal environmental organization Other Worlds Are Possible, indicates that the Chiapas administration has launched a PR campaign to justify and build public support for the program.

It argued that the program would reduce the climate crisis, but “this is untrue, because forests absorb carbon naturally, not greenhouse gases. The program will only provide compensation using dubious verification methods that portend the privatization of forests.”



June 10, 2012


Filed under: Corporations, Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:40 pm

Report says ‘so-called’ NGOs are driving the “Commodification of Nature” in Chiapas

** Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste points out attempts to appropriate the Lacandón Jungle

** Indigenous communities of Montes Azules are at risk of eviction by federal authorities

[A member of the musical group Los Ángeles Azules (The Blue Angels) during the fiestas of the community of San Isidro, in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, Chiapas] Photo: Víctor Camacho

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

The environmental organization Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste (hereafter Maderas del Pueblo), after taking a tour with other civil organisations through three indigenous communities established in the Montes Azules and threatened with eviction by the federal authorities, came to the following conclusions:

“The global strategy of ‘territorial clearing and control’, disguised as a philanthropic ‘conservationist spirit’, but answering to the multinational corporate interests of so-called green capitalism, is  now interested in ecological conservation, in the form of natural protected areas of a federal character, for the purposes of  commodification, appropriation and acquisition of multi-millions of dollars in private profit”.

For Maderas del Pueblo (Woods of the People), the “common natural wealth” in this and other indigenous regions (biodiversity, forest cover that captures carbon, uncontaminated water, minerals, scenic beauty), is “the invaluable patrimony of the Mexican people”; some of the world’s most powerful corporations covet this, and several of them already have a presence in the Lacandón Jungle and its surroundings.

And it enumerates the sectors: biotechnology and agro-food (Monsanto, Pioneer, Novartis, Bimbo); pharmaceutical (Pharmacia, Bayer, Pfizer, Aventis); automotive and oil (Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Shell, International Automobile Federation); bottling (Coca Cola, Nestlé, Pepsi Cola) and mining (Cemex).

The “conservationist privatization”, and the commodification of nature, “is driven by multilateral organisations for finance and for international cooperation,” like the World Bank (promoter of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor), European Union (Prodesis), the United States Agency for International Development (with the Lacandón Jungle Century XXI Project: Joint Strategy for the Conservation of Biodiversity) and, recently, by agreement of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), for the “disastrous” programme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Environmental Degradation (REDD Plus).

These strategies are operated by allegedly “non-governmental” organizations [NGOs], of a transnational character like Conservation International, Nature Conservancy, and the  World Wildlife Fund, or national like the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza), Pronatura and “very specially” Natural Spaces and Sustainable Development (Espacios Naturales y Desarrollo Sustentable), Mexican Nature and Ecosystems (Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos) and the Interdisciplinary Center of Biodiversity and the Environment (Centro Interdisciplinario de Biodiversidad y Ambiente, CEIBA).

The last three, the study emphasizes, are linked to the former Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Julia Carabias, “who has implemented ‘green’ businesses in the southern part of the Lacandón Jungle, which range from the commercialisation of butterflies and projects for ‘marketing environmental services’ with funds from the National Forest Commission and Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), to hotels for ‘ecotourism’ and scientific tourism in what once was UNAM’s Biological Station at Chajul and [another] at the mouth of the Tzendales River.”

Maderas del Pueblo is clear that the current Chiapas government “has demagogically taken on the discourse of ‘ecology’ and the ‘struggle against climate change’, using the Lacandón Jungle as a spearhead”; they are also using the so-called Lacandón Community, composed of Lacandóns (the document calls them “Maya Caribes”) and Tzeltal “sub-comuneros” of Nuevo Palestina and Chols of Frontera Corozal, as minority “associates”, to implement ecotourism projects (“in reality, conventional scenic tourism and an elitist adventure tourism”), as well as programmes of paying for environmental services and REDD. To all this is added the expansion of African Palm plantations for agro-fuels in the strip that goes from Palenque to Marqués de Comillas.

After verifying the situation in the Montes Azules and in the communities threatened with eviction, Maderas del Pueblo calls on social and political organizations with a presence in the region to “build a united front in defence of land and territory”. The natural riches in the Lacandón region which “are strategic to national sovereignty” are faced with an “aggressive” territorial alienation which is underway solely for the purposes of the market.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, June 9, 2012

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

June 5, 2012


Filed under: Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 11:55 am

From Two Visions: the Growing Dispute for the Lacandón Jungle and its Resources

** The Zapatista resistance is greater than the attacks, says a study from UAM Xochimilco

Photo: José Carlo González

Misol-ha Waterfall, located just 20 kilometres from the Palenque archaeological zone, in the state of Chiapas

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, June 2, 2012

There are two fundamental positions concerning the Lacandón Jungle’s resources and their management, according to an investigation by the Autonomous Metropolitan University [i](UAM) Xochimilco: “Those who believe that nature must be conserved and that there is no space for human groups, and that sites like the Lacandón have a market value beginning with their commodification, where local communities have little participation in the making of decisions about the resources within their territories. This conservationist vision only tends to recuperate the local, because they have discovered that [the natural resources] can be commercialized into a globalized scheme: ecotourism, bio-prospecting, monoculture. Projects of this type are presented as productive options that guarantee protection of the environment, but in reality what they seek are the looting and exploitation of the local communities.”

The second position “would be the opposite,” the investigator Adriana Gómez Bonilla points out: “It is the vision of autonomy, which criticizes neoliberalism and believes that the local actors have to be the ones who decide how to use the resources, and above all what the strategies would be for conserving them, at the same time that the way in which they interact with the ecosystem is respected.”

The dispute between the two positions “is increasing more all the time, since the conservationists are in a hurry,” Gómez Bonilla adds. “Nevertheless, the resistance of the Zapatista communities is greater. Given the failure to evict communities and so be able to take possession of their natural resources and their knowledge, the conservationist interests, in complicity with the Mexican government, have opted for violence in the form of militarization, arguing a dramatic increase in criminal activities, especially drug trafficking.”

A good example of the conservationist position is given in the monograph Usumacinta, Basis for an environmental sustainability policy, edited by Julia Carabias and Javier de la Maza (Mexican Nature and Ecosystems[ii] and the Mexican Institute of Water Technology, 2011). Part of its premise, predictable and well-established, is the “very alarming trends towards environmental deterioration, which must be urgently addressed”. As its authors are former environmental officials, now active in the management of the Lacandón Jungle and the Montes Azules, the publication, striking for its visual content, can also be interpreted as a political project, a proposal for the next government.

Recording the width of the basin of the great Mesoamerican river, the volume proposes “immediate lines of strategic action for the social and environmental units” of the Mexican jungle region, after analyzing the causes of environmental degradation. Although it mentions the inhabitants of the region, it’s dealing with an institutional argument, which turns out to be a continuation of the conservation policies that have [already] been attempted in the area.

Although the concepts of ecotourism are absent in Usumacinta, it’s worth pointing out that the private organisation Natura, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, is actually the promoter of the tourist centre at Lake Miramar, documented in these pages.

The “second position” regarding the care of the jungle to which Gómez Bonilla alludes, coming from below, confronts enormous challenges and not a few contradictions. Her study (in the collective volume “Very different” struggles[iii] Zapatismo and autonomy in the indigenous communities of Chiapas, UAM, Ciesas and Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, 2011) postulates that, in retaking the land between 1994 and 1998, the Zapatistas began a process of the restoration of ecosystems, principally tall evergreen tropical forest[iv]. But it had been damaged, “it’s going to take a long while to become a ‘mountain’ again, because the cows were here for a long time”, says a resident of Ricardo Flores Magón autonomous municipality.

Among the causes of deterioration perceived by the indigenous are the governmental programmes, like the Procede[v], Opportunities and Procampo. “First people from the bad government come to the communities and they say that we must accept Procede, that it is going to benefit us and that the indigenous will have their lands secured. But it isn’t true, because when it is certified, people come from outside and buy the lands, and the communities have to leave, and yes, those who bought the land use it for ecotourism, bio-coyotes, African Palm, and as the land is already sold the peoples cannot do anything”. Finally, with Procede the authorities “want the communities to fight among themselves and destroy the organization.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, June 3, 2012 

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

[i]  Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana

[ii] Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos

[iii] Luchas “muy otras”

[iv] selva alta perennifolia

[v] Certification of Ejidal Rights and Titling of Urban Plots (Certificación de Derechos Ejidales y Titulación de Solares Urbanos, or Procede)

June 4, 2012


Filed under: Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:36 am

Communities Reject Ecotourism Plans in the Lacandón

 ** For the Zapatistas, the aim is to rob them of their lands

** Analysis by the investigator Alicia Gómez of UAM-Xochimilco

Sent by: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, June 1, 2012

A recent study documents how the Zapatista communities in the northern part of the Lacandón Jungle are, from their resistance, opposed to the ecotourism projects in the region, as well as to monoculture and agribusiness, agrochemicals, bioprospecting (by the bio-coyotes), and how they see the government’s social programmes as strategies to divide the communities and alienate their lands and means of subsistence. The study concludes that the autonomous campesinos have a clear conscience about the deterioration of the jungle, and that there is a commitment from the communities to the care and restoration of the environment.

“No, ecotourism is not useful. It is a total lie that it helps indigenous peoples. I went to Chajul, over by Benemérito de las Américas, and one of those projects is there. But the people are very screwed, because they no longer have any lands. They say that they haven’t destroyed the jungle, but it’s a lie; I saw that they took out many trees and that when they cross the lake it is in a boat that leaves the water very dirty, also later those who come to that hotel take away animals and plants. Ecotourism is only to benefit the gringos who are with the bad government, who want to carry off the wealth and want to privatize it so that it is no longer for the Communities”.

Based on testimonies like these, the investigator Alicia Gómez Bonilla, from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM)-Xochimilco, has produced an analysis of the visions and feelings about environmental deterioration (Visiones y sentires sobre el deterioro ambiental) (2011) of the Zapatista support bases in Ricardo Flores Magón autonomous municipality. After several years of direct observation, Gómez Bonilla found that “for the Zapatistas, environmental problems are caused directly or indirectly by governmental policies”, and their consequence is “a diminution in the quality of life”. Also, sustainable management “is an important issue for guaranteeing the autonomy of the Zapatista municipality”.

The study, which is based on the “environmental perceptions” of Zapatista society, and on the observation of its agricultural practices and its relationship with the natural environment, found that the bio-prospecting promoted by the jungle’s professional conservators, according to the peoples “does not contribute anything”, and “it is a lack of respect and a theft of knowledge from the communities”, which “only benefits the pharmaceutical companies”.

The monocultures promoted by the government, as well as the [aerial] spraying by the Moscamed Programme, harm nature; the latter has been used as part of the counterinsurgency. The Zapatistas also consider that the fires, which in past years have affected the jungle, were caused by paramilitaries (“the government paid them” to do it). “The idea of destroying the mountain was to leave the Zapatista support bases without those resources, and thus weaken the resistance. Others responsible for the fires were the soldiers, who intentionally burned the mountain using the pretext of looking for Zapatistas”, Gómez Bonilla writes.

A common sentiment of those interviewed is that it is unjust to blame the peoples for the environmental deterioration. “They say a lot that the peoples destroy the jungle, that they cut down trees, that they hunt, and on that pretext they want to take away our lands and send us somewhere else, but they don’t say anything to the finqueros, even though they are the ones who cut down the jungle”, says another witness. To the older campesinos, “the government’s (conservation) projects are a contradiction, since they promoted clearing the land for many years.”

Another problem documented by the study is the deterioration of the soil due to agricultural use, and most importantly through the use of agro-chemicals, which are virtually non-existent in Flores Magón. The indigenous first rejected them because they came from the government, but with time they discovered that it was better not to use them, because they damage the land “and they make us dependent; it’s like a drug”. In what turns out to be more than just a metaphor for government policy, a Zapatista comments: “The PRIístas, each time they plant they need more and more”. The opposite of autonomy and sustainability.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, June 2, 2012

En español:

Based on an English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

June 3, 2012


Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:17 pm

Chiapas Tourist Plan Discriminates against the Region’s Indigenous Communities

 ** The “advantages” for investors are contrary to the needs of the zone’s residents

** Natura Miramar would only “benefit” ejido owners of Emiliano Zapata, but not its neighbours

Photo of Lake Miramar: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago:  Emiliano Zapata ejido controls tourist exploitation of Lake Miramar, which may endanger biodiversity.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

Ejido Emiliano Zapata, Chiapas, May 28, 2012

The increasingly more insistent policies of the government and of private investors (always at hand) in favour of ecotourism, do not respond to the demands and needs of the residents of areas privileged with potential attractions for the green and adventure market, but rather (favour) the economic prospects of corporations who have decided to intervene in the region on the pretext of the landscape. The Lacandón Jungle has a high potential in that respect, as can be seen from the diverse projects that surround, literally, the Montes Azules and the jungles ranging from Palenque to Marqués de Comillas, Ocosingo and Chilón.

In order to install their projects, the authorities and investors need to “convince” restricted groups of indigenous campesino “beneficiaries” of the advantages of tourism. This is the case with Lake Miramar. Only the ejidatarios of Emiliano Zapata will benefit from the project, not the rest of the community’s residents, much less the other communities around the lake. Far from being consulted about the project, it may provide a pretext for evicting them.

The experience of the Lacandónes at the other end of the Montes Azules eloquently illustrates the modus operandi of the authorities. Here, the ambitious Natura Miramar project, promoted by the corporation Mexican Nature and Ecosystems (Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos), through the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), discriminates sharply what the indigenous are going to be negotiating with. It is easy to identify the counterinsurgency nature of its method and intention.

Nevertheless, the arguments published in favour of “alternative” tourism, as the Tourism Secretary calls it, are different: “a tool for the conservation of ecosystems”, it would meet “sustainability criteria that address the nature market” through “tourist infrastructure with a low environmental impact”. Since Miramar “has natural scenery with a high tourist value” it would bring earnings to the residents.

All this is in the comprehensive environmental impact study promoted by the person in charge of Semarnat’s federal delegation, Luis Fernando Torres García, in favor of Natura, a corporation headed by Julia Carabias, former Secretary of the Environment, and the (also) former environmental official Javier de la Maza, now dedicated to promoting profitable and supposedly conservationist tourism, like that already practiced in what was UNAM’s station at Chajul.

Another argument, which never fails, is the “poverty” of the population involved, and hence the irresistible “positive social impact”.  Emiliano Zapata “has conditions of high deprivation”, moreover “a timely economic outlay” is foreseen, which the document considers a “positive scenario for society.” The US governmental agency USAID has granted financing to three private organisations present in the Lacandón: Nature and Ecosystems, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Biodiversity and Environment (Ceiba, its initials in Spanish) and Ambio. There is [much] interest in this Jungle.

Semarnat’s document, of which La Jornada possesses a copy, defines that the polygon of the hotel project “is located in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve” and would occupy four hectares. The installations would have a “useful life expectancy” of 40 years. As a reference, it mentions that the station at Chajul, in charge of ENDESU, is now oriented to ecotourism. Its trails, “initially for research into wild flora and fauna,” are now “also” used for visitors. A new station, Tzendales, with capacity for 20 tourists, is also being built inside the Montes Azules.

An investment In Natura Miramar of 15 million pesos is foreseen. It assures us that it will have no environmental impact and that everyone is going to be very happy: “it is fully accepted by the beneficiary population of Emiliano Zapata, the tourists, the municipal government of Ocosingo, and also the population of the surrounding communities,” according to Semarnat.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

June 2, 2012


Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 3:00 pm

The Tourism Model Imposed in the Montes Azules Restricts Indigenous Peoples Rights

  ** The advance of tourism means more difficulties for all campesinos, an investigator says 

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, May 29, 2012

Tourism is one of the activities which has been “permitted” in the Montes Azules (inside the Lacandón Jungle) ever since it [first] became a reserve and indigenous peoples’ rights were restricted. Putting this into practice is controversial, but nothing seems to stop it in Chiapas. The new projects for Lake Miramar illustrate this. There are a handful of previous experiences, a few more or less successful as businesses, others a total failure, but in any case there are now important state subsidies to keep them afloat and win the unconditional [loyalty] of the indigenous “beneficiaries” through successive programmes, campaigns and actions, no longer only operated by the government but now, increasingly, by investors.

Privatization is bringing a discriminatory dynamic on the grounds of conservation and population control. The Lacandóns of Lacanjá, Nahá and Metzabok are the paradigmatic example. In addition to being the legal owners of hundreds of thousands of hectares in the Montes Azules (and getting paid for being so), they also administer “ecotourism” installations financed from outside the communities, while their Tzeltal, Chol and Tzotzil neighbours are left without financial “benefits” and are considered an obstacle. They are seen, as farmers, above all the “illegal settlements”, as “enemies of the conserved jungle”. And although the plans are never explained, many of them are also seen as “enemies” for being in rebellion and for having been constructing autonomy for more than fifteen years now, determined to be campesinos.

The relationship between tourism and rural development 

According to Ernest Cañada, from Alba Sud (a Catalan organisation for the investigation of development), “the expansion of tourist activities in different places, especially within the new ‘pleasure peripheries’ in the Global South, and in zones traditionally oriented to agriculture, cattle ranching or fishing, in the hands of campesino and fishing families, has intensified the debate about the relationship between tourism and rural development” (El turismo en la soberanía alimentaria, May 2012).

Although there are different classes of tourism, even “ecological” [tourism] is designed to add to the flooding of the main travel routes. Investing in the jungle now is to get ready for the announced transnational take off of Palenque as another gateway to the “Mundo Maya” (Maya World). The Mexican government, above all during the dozen PAN years, has promoted adventure trips into virgin areas where even throwing Coca-Cola bottles onto the wild landscape is prohibited.

The promoters of jungle tourism present elaborate arguments. In some cases (like Mexican Nature and Ecosystems) we’re dealing with people who know the jungle and have moved on to the stage of appropriation. But even Jan de Vos, the historian of the Lacandón Jungle, who was  worried about the process of destruction –to whose reporting he dedicated his life–, thought in his last writings that tourism, impelled by the government, might help to save this Jungle (see Caminos del Mayab; cinco incursiones en el pasado de Chiapas, 2010).

That the farmer may abandon the fields

This process cannot be separated from the neoliberal predominance in agriculture (agrochemicals, GMOs, industrial mega-crops) and in the ever present resource extraction (in Chiapas the “gold” is water). Feeding the campesinos locally is not considered; on the contrary, it is intended that they stop being farmers.

In his analysis, Cañada points out: “These dynamics affect generational change and favour the abandonment of campesino holdings”. The advance of neoliberal tourism activities within rural areas brings a new source of difficulties for campesino economies, “it reinforces the agro-industrial model with specialized territories and displaceable rural populations according to global economic dynamics”. Territorial specialization in tourism, “whether for the strategic location or scenic value, may conflict with the interests of the population of the area”.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

En español:

Based on an English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

May 28, 2012


Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Tourism — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:45 pm

Communities Reject Adventure Tourism Project in Chiapas

 ** Plans for construction of lodgings on the lakeshore

** For the indigenous, the current management of visitors is self-sufficient, they say

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

Laguna Miramar, Chiapas, May 26, 2012

The large and beautiful lake that marks the boundary of the Montes Azules [biosphere reserve]is the new goal for tourism investors. Approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources and by the Environment, Natural Resources and Fishing Commission of the Senate, the Miramar Live Nature Stays (Estancias Vivas Natura Miramar) project contemplates the construction of “dwellings” for lodging tourists on the banks of the body of water, a hotel that the authorities call “alternative tourism.”

Only the Emiliano Zapata ejido has been considered in the official plan; 11 double rooms and four suites, a restaurant, bar, offices, laundry and an “employees’ zone” would be built on its lands. Not all are in agreement; many have not been consulted. For years, a regular tourist flow has existed here, never abundant, but which does not seem to alter the life of the village. It (the project) has a major impact here, worse on the neighboring San Quintín ejido, the large military base, just a few kilometres from the lake.

Emiliano Zapata, Benito Juárez, Nueva Galilea and Tierra y Libertad are the towns around Miramar, although only the first one is “legal”;  its residents consider themselves guardians of the lake, although others may also be so, as in their way are the Zapatistas of Nueva Galilea who defend it without government “supports” or tourist investments, more and more private every day.

At a spot in the lake with little islets, a hand-painted sign on wooden boards expresses their rejection: “We don’t want adventure tourism, because the government is creating the tourism of adventures from hell. This plan is full of rats and traps. It is a counterinsurgency campaign and low-intensity war. Here we want justice, liberty and democracy. Here the people govern and the government obeys. EZLN”.

Zapatista bases of support live at a corner of the lake and say they care for the last boundary, the current border between the jungle of man and the one which has done without humanity through centuries of change. Seen from here, it represents the last refuge of the Desert of Solitude (Desierto de la Soledad), as the first conquistadors called it; today the Integral Reserve of the Biosphere or, colloquially, the Montes Azules “Biosphere,” which is not saying whether they are mountains, and whether they are blue. In the classic Maya period there were cities and communities of farmers in the heart of this jungle, now “reserved,” like Tzendales (a notable unexplored archaeological vestige, near the Río Negro), Miramar and, of course, Bonampak in the extreme north.

Investors’ promises offer the sun, the moon and the stars to the indigenous in the form of infrastructure for “nature tourism.” Here where they already have the sun, moon and stars, the best water and the biggest sky in the Lacandón Jungle, what more can hotel owners, restaurant owners, construction companies, contractors, environmental and agrarian officials meddling in tourism, senators, governors, candidates, television networks, soft drink companies and banks offer? What could be better than this?

Some communities are –and all of them should be– guardians of the jungle, the water, the territory and all it contains and nourishes, all they receive each morning from the land, which is called Mother in the four Mayan languages that are spoken in this summit of the canyons, also a convergence of the roads to Las Margaritas and Ocosingo, they even manage to look like highways. It is the summit where the boisterous Río Perla is suddenly added to the calm and stately, finally navigable Jataté, a large robust basin en route to becoming the Lacantún and finally the Usumacinta, far away from that little overrun waterfall, in Corralito, in los Altos, between Oxchuc and Ocosingo.

Emiliano Zapata, although in the majority Chol, is one of the few jungle communities where Tzeltals, Tojolabals and Tzotzils also live. One of the most “cosmopolitan.” The ejido members (not all are in Zapata) tend to disqualify the neighboring villages, who lack land titles, and particularly accuse those from Benito Juárez of destroying forests and contaminating the lake. Benito Juárez’ boat, a huge launch, is accustomed to using a motor, but now this is no longer permitted. Now they have to row from there to cross to Zapata, which is the exit for residents of the lakeshore. Or it was, because the road that comes from Amatitlán, lower Lacantún, already reached Chuncerro, inside the Montes Azules.

According to César, a young Chol who guides the envoys from La Jornada around the lake, the current management of visitors is rational, sufficient and self-sufficient to a certain point, no need for a private hotel. “He who wants to come to Miramar, from anywhere, comes. Just a few days ago 20 visitors came from Comitán and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, families. They came in trucks and camped for three days, so peaceful. The Gringos and French arrive in waves. In vacation time up to 50 people camp or hang hammocks at the beach”, a modest tourism, presumably ecological (more so than a hotel), sufficient for a community that eats from the land and lives surrounded by water, between two large rivers and a portentous lake.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, May 27, 2012

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

May 23, 2012


Filed under: Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:31 pm

Investigation Questions the REDD Programme because it has Destroyed Indigenous Identity

 ** In Chiapas they are attempting to open a gap (brecha) in the Lacandón Jungle, renewing the dispossession: Fadnes

** In September a world conference of the governors of the 42 member states will be held

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chis., 22 May.

The programme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests (REDD Plus), impelled by the United Nations, was embraced by the Mexican government in 2010, and its flagship is Chiapas, where, as in others countries, it turns out to be controversial. To start with, “the government itself has divided the peoples into ‘legal’ and ‘illegal,’ ‘respecting’ Convention 169 of the ILO when it is dealing with people that collaborate with the government, while this is not valid when it is dealing with other indigenous peoples: ‘the invaders,’” maintains the work El Proyecto REDD Plus en Chiapas (The REDD Plus Project in Chiapas) by the Norwegian investigator Ingrid Fadnes.

“And the rights of the indigenous peoples? A vision shared among the majority of them, on a continental scale, is that those who destroy their land and their resources are causing their own destruction and their identity as a people.”

In Chiapas not only does a large biological diversity exist, but “also an impressive cultural diversity, with 12 different indigenous peoples.” The Lacandons, the people smallest in number and always controversial because of their permanent “collaborationism”, are once again at the centre of criticism from other indigenous peoples and from social and environmental organizations.

The government has been paying a monthly amount to members of the Lacandón Community who already collaborate in the project: “We support the owners of the land, we are not contracting forest guards or jungle guards; we are gambling that the landowners are going to protect it,” argued Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero. Residents of Lacanjá Chansayab, Nahá, Metzabok, Frontera Corozal and Nueva Palestina (Ocosingo) receive this “pay for environmental services.”

The investigation points out: “The REDD projects in Mexico are not formally defined as such, but the government of Chiapas started to pay select Lacandón comuneros, to demonstrate their will to create a good basis for the trasnational California businesses, with public resources.”

From September 25 to 27, presided over by the Chiapas governor, the world conference will be held here of the Work Group of governors of the 45 states that are members of the REDD Plus programme (a singular sub-national collaboration between various states and provinces that establishes the basis for a market for buying and selling carbon credits).

Diverse actors participate. The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Forest Commission impel a pilot project for “training” communities in monitoring, carbon measuring and calculation on the amount of carbon that exists in the present and future, and counting the reduction of emissions. The state Action Programme for Climate Change was established for that, where Conservation International participates “facilitating the development of the scientific, technical and structural bases” through alliances with the universities of Arts & Sciences of Chiapas, Technology Institute of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, College of the Southern Border, UNAM and Postgraduate College, with collaboration from the National Ecology Institute. Besides, civil agencies like Pronatura and the Ambio Cooperative, the National Commission for the Conservation of Biodiversity and its Mesoamerican Biological Corridor programme; the US Agency for International Development [US-AID], the British Embassy, the Norwegian government and the World Fund for the Environment, administered and controlled by the World Bank.

“To define what one can sell in carbon indulgences (credits) to the government of California and to contaminating corporations that sustain it, the Chiapas administration intends, like others for decades, to open a gap in the Lacandón Jungle that limits the zone to commercializing, renewing aggressions and land grabs against the indigenous communities,” the investigator concludes.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network

May 22, 2012


Filed under: Corporations, Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules, Sustainable rural cities — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:10 pm

Turning Chiapas Forests into Merchandise 

The Commodification of Forests is the Motive for Removing Communities in Chiapas

 ** El Triunfo, the reserve with which the state government entered the carbon credit market

** Accusation that the conservation arguments consist of stopping planting corn in the area

By: Hermann Bellinghausen,

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, May 20, 2012

Among the main economic motives for removing communities from the forests they inhabit is the sale of carbon credits, maintain civil organisations belonging to the Network for Peace in Chiapas (Sipaz, Desmi, Frayba and others). At COP 16 (Conference of the Parties) in Cancún, in December 2010, Mexico joined the programme Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Environmental Degradation (REDD Plus), whose basic idea is that countries which are willing and able to reduce the carbon emissions coming from deforestation should be financially compensated.

In a 122-page report, critical of the rural cities project and the environmental policy in Chiapas, released this week, the civil agencies point out that, simultaneously, the governor signed an agreement with his then counterparts from California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Acre, Brazil, Arnobio Márques de Almeida, which started “a market for buying and selling carbon credits that is part of the project known as REDD Plus.”

In 2009, the Action Programme on Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH, its initials in Spanish) had been established with support from the British Embassy, Conservation International, a conservationist NGO (“that they use as an intermediary with the communities”) and academic institutions like the Southern Border College (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), which has collaborated to implement the REDD Plus Project with the National Forestry Commission; although recently it has attempted to distance itself publicly, it has not done so with sufficient clarity.

The governor of Chiapas, the report emphasizes, “is convinced that adding on to the ‘payment for environmental services’ is a project for life,” and it quotes the governor: “Your children and grandchildren are going to thank him because they are going to live, they are going to receive money for taking care of it, let’s gamble for them, those who are little, so that you have the certainty that your children are going to live in the future, are going to live from conservation of the reserves, from tourism and the production of rubber or oil palm.”

The “ecological” interests of the development plans imply the commodification of the forests, for which the authorities consider it necessary “that the communities inside the reserves be relocated or not use the lands for small farming activities, like occurs in the El Triunfo Reserve with which the Chiapas government entered the carbon market.” But the crown jewel in this market, as will be seen in the following reports, would be the Montes Azules Reserve, in the Lacandón Jungle.

The report of the mission of the Network for Peace points out: “As is well known, for the indigenous peoples corn, which has been cultivated in Chiapan lands for thousands of years, has a great nutritional and cultural importance.” Nevertheless, one of the government’s arguments for “conserving biodiversity” consists of stopping the planting of corn. The governor has said that: “it does a lot of damage to the planet, while the reserve, the great wealth that its residents have, would be finished.”

REDD Plus promotes a “productive reconversion” so that the campesinos stop producing their own foods, like corn, and cultivate products for fuels or construction materials (rubber, African Palm). The sale of carbon to transnationals which they seek to establish in the forests of Chiapas also “implies the displacement of the communities for carrying out another government project: sustainable rural cities.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, May 21, 2012

En español:

English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee for the:

International Zapatista Translation Service, a collaboration of the:

Chiapas Support Committee, California

Wellington Zapatista Support Group

UK Zapatista Solidarity Network



April 29, 2012


Filed under: Displacement, Indigenous, Lacandon/ montes azules — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:39 am



REDD in the Lacandon Jungle: The Political Use of a Programme Against Climate Change


Written by O.B., Translation by Alex Cachinero-Gorman
Photo by Orin Langelle/GJEP-GFCREDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a United Nations program meant to fight climate change. It will be put into effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and it includes forests on the Carbon Credit market.With REDD, the companies that contaminate the planet the most will be able to continue their activity if, in return, they financially support communities in the South to conserve the forests they live in.


According to the program’s promoters, it will absorb these companies’ Co2 emissions, thereby saving our planet, while at the same time these communities grow economically. “These mechanisms fulfill the objectives of sustainable development: they fight poverty and climate change at the same time”, Mexican president Felipe Calderón declared at the COP16 in Cancún.As such, it purports to combat global warming without reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and without putting the capitalist system and its excesses—the real causes of environmental disaster—on the table.


Analyzing the application of REDD to the Lacandon Jungle in the Mexican state of Chiapas, all of the problems that the programme brings with it begin to stick out. California and the state of Acre (Brazil) have for some time now had their eyes on the Chiapan jungle, Latin America’s second lung. In November 2010, the two governments signed an agreement with governor Juan Sabines Guerrero laying the foundations for REDD’s introduction in Chiapas.Already in 2009 the state government initiated its Program for Action Against Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH), thanks to the support of the British Embassy, Conservation International, NGO conservationists (that have the important role of being intermediaries to communities) and academics. Out of all of these, it is the researchers from ECOSUR (El Colegio de la Fontera Sur) who are working on a document to implement REDD+ in Mexico. ECOSUR is also creating a Forest and Soil Inventory to identify which areas take priority in terms of greenhouse gases and carbon sinks, in order to facilitate investment in REDD+.


In addition, ECOSUR collaborates in the implementation of projects to open the path for REDD in the Lacandon Jungle called—not accidentally—“Early Actions.” In particular, ECOSUR promotes productive reconversion projects under the framework of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor Initiative. The objective of the Corridor, according to its supporters, is to connect protected nature areas in the Mesoamerican region, conserving biodiversity and promoting eco-tourist projects or the cultivation of monocrops like fruits or palm oil. According to others, the true objective of productive reconversion is to prepare communities for the introduction of REDD.


In the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, which is part of the Lacandon Jungle, institutions like CONAFOR [Comisión Nacional Forestal, or National Forestry Commission] and  Proárbol are working on the introduction of REDD through Payments for Environmental Services (PSA), whose stated goal is the same as REDD: reducing deforestation and poverty.


What’s more, governor Juan Sabines Guerrero is already paying 2,000 pesos monthly to certain indigenous Lacandon families to preserve the area. “We can’t allow human settlements within the Reserve’s interior”, Sabines declared. It is true that the colonization of the Lacandon Jungle has precipitated an environmental disaster: to make room for houses, crops, and husbandry, settlers have cut down a large number of trees. But isn’t it the logging firms that are primarily responsible for deforestation in the jungle?


To understand what is happening in the Lacandon and the political use to which REDD is being put by the governor of Chiapas, it is necessary first to open up a small historical parenthesis. In 1972, the federal government handed 614,321 hectares of jungle over to 66 indigenous Lacandonans (though this is not their true name, and they are not original settlers of this region), threatening thirty-seven communities from other indigenous nations with eviction—even though they had settled, sometimes legally, on this land. The Lacandonans, in turn, signed an agreement in which they promised the company Cofolasa 35,000 cubic meters of wood a year for 10 years.


The titling law, known as the Decree of the Lacandon Community, was the first step (and REDD is the last) in the opening of the “Lacandon gap”—that is to say, the bid to physically delimit the territory belonging to the Lacandonans, who continue cooperating with the government’s policies (thereby leaving those who do choose not to do so by the wayside). One of the next steps in the opening up of the gap was the creation, in 1978, of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve: these ‘protected natural areas’ are policies meant to strip indigenous communities of their rights to their land. Inside the Reserve there is a “restricted-use zone”, where human settlement has been banned and the families that lived in the area have been evicted and forcefully relocated. At times this was carried out with the cooperation of paramilitary operatives, as occurred in 2006 in the Viejo Velasco community. The next year, the communities of El Buen Samaritano and San Samuel were occupied by the army and disbanded.


In the documentary “REDD: Lust for Trees”, Francisco Alfonso de Amador Hernández claims that, out of fear, many communities have begun to negotiate transfers with the government to a Sustainable Rural City. The Sustainable Rural Cities are impersonal and miserable housing areas where people relocated from different communities—belonging to different indigenous nations, not speaking the same language—live together. In this way, the government can exercise greater control over them and employ them as cheap manual labor in the cultivation of agrocombustibles.


In the pamphlet “Mexico’s Vision of REDD+”, the federal government stresses the importance of “respecting the rights to social property and promoting communal management of forests, both in regard to ownership and possession of a community’s lands and in the benefits derived from said management. We recognise the importance of community participation in the design and implementation of the project”. In reality, indigenous people have not participated in the design of REDD, and its supposed benefits are not distributed equally among communities. Often, they are not distributed equally even within the same community: for example, in Frontera Corozal, which has 1,100 residents, the agreement was signed with the consent of only 60 community members. Thus, REDD, and the projects that are setting the ground for its introduction, do nothing more than sharpen the tensions already present in the Lacandon.



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