Statement by the Peace Network and its sister organizations concerning the climate of violence, tension and conflict suffered in the Lacandon Jungle and the Montes Azules Ecological Reserve
To free, alternative, independent, autonomous media
To Civil Society
To the national and international press
The Peace Network and its sister organizations have made a statement concerning the situation in the Lacandon Jungle and the Montes Azules Ecological Reserve; they stand in solidarity with the Zapatista communities
We share their word, and thank you for disseminating it.
San Cristóbal de las Casas, 27th May, 2014.
Statement by the Peace Network and its sister organizations concerning the climate of violence, tension and conflict suffered in the Lacandon Jungle and the Montes Azules Ecological Reserve:
In 1972 a decision by the presidency, in a legally-questionable manner, handed 614,000 hectares of Chiapanecan jungle to 66 Lacandon families, without taking into account hundreds of families from other indigenous communities and groups that also inhabited this territory and whom, from that point on, were in constant risk of being displaced from their land. Six years later, when this territory became part of the Montes Azules Ecological Reserve, the pressure against the registration of these excluded peoples’ land titles increased, and their relocation or forced displacement has been the government’s response to the problem.
In April 2014, an agreement between the Lacandon Zone Community and the ARIC Independent and Democratic Union of Unions was ratified, in which the land rights of three established populations in the region was recognised. This agreement was the fruit of a process of dialogue between the parties directly involved, and was made without the participation of the government (due to a “lack of will” on its part to resolve the conflict, representatives of ARIC affirmed in a press conference on the 1st of May).
Since the 28th of April of this year, various events have escalated the climate of violence, tension and conflict concerning the delimitation of the so-called “Lacandon Divide” and the Montes Azules Reserve. It is important to recognise that the indigenous communities and peoples that inhabit this region have been constructing a variety of projects and initiatives, some for over 30 years, with the aim of achieving legitimate recognition of their struggle, land rights, and rights to autonomy.
Nonetheless, these projects appear to be affected and threatened by the presence of private financial interests, by environmentalists whose presence is alien to the communities involved, and by a climate of confusion, impunity and violence suffered in the original and principal base of the still-unresolved armed conflict. The murder of José Luis Solis López, a Zapatista support base, on the 2nd of May of this year, in the Good Government Council of La Realidad, has especially concerned us. Running in parallel with this act, we recognise other occurrences which, collectively, amount to a climate of tension and complex conflict in this setting.
On the 29th of April, 2014, in the community of San Javier, in the Municipality of Ocosingo, the Assembly of Communal Goods of the Lacandon Zone was suspended when a group of people violently interrupted the meeting. During the last days of the same month, news of the kidnapping of Julia Carabias, ex-environment secretary, academic and founding member of the NGO Nature and Mexican Ecosystems AC dedicated to the conservation of natural resources, reached the press; she was accused by members of the Lacandon community and by other sectors of civil society of being responsible for fomenting division between their members and of introducing projects oriented towards the privatization of the Zone.
In this strained environment, the detention was ordered of Fernando Gabriel Montoya Oseguera, the adviser of the Lacandon Zone Community, whom the state attorney indicated to be the intellectual author of the kidnapping of Julia Carabias and later remanded as “probably guilty of the crime of attacks against the peace and against the corporal and asset integrity of the public and the State”, a trap into which he had fallen on assuming the mayorship of Altamirano in January 2001. This is considered by many to be a means of contention and criminalization of the process by which the Lacandon community seeks to make decisions concerning the territory which was given to them decades prior.
It would be worthwhile to mention at this point that organizations of the Network for Peace participated in the Civil Observation and Solidarity Mission that was carried out from the 29th of April to the 4th of May 2012, which aimed to build knowledge of the situation of the inhabitants of San Gregorio, Salvador Allende, and Ranchería Corozal, communities that form part of the Independent and Democratic ARIC A.C., with whom the Lacandon Community sustained and strengthened the agreement to which we refer above, in which these three communities, and the legitimacy of their claims to ownership of the land they have inhabited for more than 30 years, are recognised. This agreement was made known in a press conference on the 1st of May, 2014, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, as well as years prior, in the facilities of the Miguel Agustín ProDH Human Rights Centre, in Mexico City, on the 3rd of August 2011.
For our organizations, it is important to recognise that these three communities reached this agreement with the Lacandon Zone Community (CZL) through dialogue, the same route by which they have peacefully requested since 2010, faced with various petitions and inter-institutional discussions with federal and state governments, as well as with government environmental institutions, that the necessary proceedings for the legal recognition of their claims to land be initiated.
Nonetheless, we confirm that various interests have impeded, going back many years, this process, generating a climate of insecurity and escalation of conflict.
It worries us that, in response to the public dissatisfaction displayed at this time by the CZL and the Independent Democratic ARIC, the governmental response should use strategies that violate the rights of these peoples, such as the forced displacement of families and communities carried out between 2003 and 2012, and the detention of local authorities and leaders of this movement.
Finally, with great concern, we want to note that at this juncture, on the 14th of May, the Second Phase of the Southern Frontier Operation began in five municipalities of the state of Chiapas that are located in the conflict zone, in which elements of the National Defence Secretary, the Mexican Navy, PGR, PF, INM and the state and municipal police.
In light of this situation, we declare:
1. We support processes and mechanisms that respect the human rights of the actors involved in these conflicts – in particular, the collective rights of the indigenous peoples – as well as using all of those peaceful initiatives that promote the dignity of the territories, peoples, and individuals. We reject the privatization of indigenous territories, of their natural resources, and the intervention of external actors (state or non-state) that interrupt and break the processes of dialogue and construction of agreements amongst peoples, communities and organizations.
2. We reject the policies and strategies of militarization and of criminalization of social protest in the states of the southern border of Mexico, and in particular in zones of conflict, which harm indigenous communities, particularly women and children.
3. We declare ourselves in favour of inclusive processes in the management, conservation and administration of the Montes Azules Ecological Reserve, and of the other six federal Protected Natural Areas in the Lacandon region, whose preservation is fundamental for the wellbeing, the present and future life of humanity, of our country and of the indigenous communities that inhabit them. For this reason, these communities must be thoroughly involved in the diagnosis, territorial distribution, management strategies, and the design and implementation of holistic strategies for the sustainability of the living community.
4. Finally, we want to express our solidarity with the Zapatista peoples and, in particular, send an embrace to the Good Government Council located in La Realidad; and we join in the tribute to the Maestro Galeano. In this way, we salute the arrival of a new era.
The Members of the Network for Peace:
Comité de Derechos Humanos Fray Pedro Lorenzo de La Nada (CDHFP)
Centro de Derechos Indígenas A.C. (CEDIAC)
Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz A.C. (SERAPAZ)
Comisión de Apoyo a la Unidad y Reconciliación Comunitaria, A.C. (CORECO)
Desarrollo Económico y Social de los Mexicanos Indígenas, A.C. (DESMI)
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (Frayba)
Educación para la Paz, A.C. (EDUPAZ)
ENLACE, Comunicación y Capacitación, A.C. (ENLACE CC)
Servicio Internacional para la Paz (Sipaz)
Centro de Derechos de la Mujer Chiapas, A.C. (CDMCH)
and other organizations:
Voces Mesoamericanas, AC.,
Casa de Apoyo a la Mujer Ixin Antsetik AC.
Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste AC.
Translated by Andrew Green
Dorset Chiapas Solidarity