A Serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Chiapas and Mexico
Photo: Roadblock to demand the cancellation of the highway
from San Cristóbal to Palenque (© SIPAZ)
In July, the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District (CDHDF) questioned the fact that Mexico, which is number 13 on the global economic scale, occupies number 108 on the Global Peace Index, ranking below even African nations like Rwanda and the Congo. This index measures perceptions of violence in 144 nations. Taking into account the fact that peace is not only the absence of direct violence (war) but also the lack of cultural and structural violence, the index also includes factors like education, material well being, and the defense and promotion of human rights.
As part of the Second National Meeting of Human Rights Defenders, which took place in Mexico City (August 2009), various traits relating to the situation of human rights were noted. Among them:
- “There is a double discourse by the State. On the international level there is a façade indicating a concern with human rights, while on the internal level not only is there a lack of commitment to defend and support human rights, but there exists a barrier to these rights, and a lack of implementation of international human rights standards.”
- “The militarization in our country, with the pretext of the fight against organized crime, has been aggravated by the trials held in military tribunals of members of the military who are presumed to be human rights violators. This has generated a situation of defenselessness for the victims.”
- “Deficiencies in the implementation and administration of justice, which have led to impunity.”
- “The criminalization of human rights defenders, through the use of penal codes to impose sanctions on defenders, systematic aggression by the police against protesters, harassment, and hostility.”
- “Direct aggressions against the lives and safety of family members of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and human rights defenders, as well as arbitrary detention, illegal detention, torture, forced disappearance, and killing. The aggressions are especially grave in indigenous communities.”
- “Campaigns aiming to discredit human rights defenders, social activists, and their work.”
In the case of Chiapas, in addition to seeing these same tendencies, in the last few months there has been a serious deterioration in the situation of human rights in the State.
In October, the Observatory of Social Conflict of Serapaz (Services and Consulting for Peace) revealed that between January and August of this year, 24% of the social mobilizations in the nation gathered with the objective of ending impunity.
In Chiapas, the most widely know case –as well as the most paradigmatic- dealt with the fact that between August and November, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) freed 35 indigenous men who had been sentenced for the killing of 45 indigenous people in the community of Acteal, municipality of Chenalhó (Highlands) in 1997. Twenty-two prisoners in the same case will undergo a re-trial for these crimes.
The SCJN came to this conclusion by arguing that the sentences were based on proof obtained in an illegal manner and in false testimonies by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR). They emphasized that the rights of these prisoners to due process and an adequate defense had not been respected and because of this their decision represented a major blow to impunity and strengthened the rule of law.
Photo: March of Las Abejas in San Cristóbal against the
release of prisonners in the Acteal case (© SIPAZ)
On the other hand, the Civil Organization Las Abejas (of which the victims of Acteal were a part) denounced this decision: “The little justice that had been achieved in the case of Acteal, the SCJN has converted to impunity in just a few days.” The Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (CDHFBC), responsible for the defense of Las Abejas, stated: “Instead of working towards true justice and strengthening the ‘rule of law’, they opted to free paramilitaries, who were clearly identified as the material authors by survivors and direct witnesses to this crime against humanity.”
It is important to remember that the SCJN did not determine that those freed were innocent. Because of this, many have denounced the gap between a sound judicial response and the demand for justice in the case. They have also questioned the resolution for not taking into account the context in which the massacre of Acteal occurred and the war which continues in Chiapas.
Foto: Protest flag against the SCJN decision in the Acteal case (© SIPAZ)
Backing up what human rights organizations have been denouncing for more than a decade, official United States documents, recently un-classified, were released in August by the National Security Archive, indicating the direct support that paramilitaries received from the Mexican Army as part of a counterinsurgency war carried out against Zapatista support bases during the 1990s. In addition, at the end of October, the State Attorney General’s Office stated that it had sources, which implicated various high level federal and state authorities for omission and negligence in the case of Acteal.
Another concerning effect of the SCJN decision is the impact that it has had in Channahon and other regions of Chiapas where it was seen as supporting impunity, opening up the possibility of the revival of paramilitary actions. Demonstrating some political realism, the Chiapas government has sought to prevent the return of those freed to Channahon in order to avoid confrontation. It has offered them land, housing, and work. Las Abejas denounced the limited nature of these measures of contention. Since August, they have also denounced that the state government has sought to divide them, as well as link them to armed groups.
Human Rights Defenders and Criminalization of Protest
Sit in strike of the OCEZ-RC in the center of San Cristóbal (© SIPAZ)
In presenting its Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Mexico in the middle of October, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Mexico questioned the Mexican authorities for lacking a political structure, which reduces and eliminates risks for human rights activists. It stated that of the 128 accusations of aggression against human rights defenders in the last three years, 98.5% remain un-resolved. The UNHCHR noted an increasing ‘stigmatization’ of defenders, especially by authorities, as they are being identified as “defenders of criminals, or they say that they are trying to de-stabilize the country; they make money off the cases and they exaggerate the problems.”
In the case of Chiapas, a growing criminalization of social protest has been observed, in many cases carried out by the state government. This criminalization has affected independent organizations, human rights defenders, and the local Catholic Church, and it is very similar to the repression, which occurred in the state in the ‘90s.
On September 18, the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (CDHFBC) denounced an armed attack by the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC) against one of its members, in the Ejido Jotolá, in the municipality of Chilón. This latest aggression, putting one of its member’s personal security in direct danger, has occurred in a context of vigilance, aggression, and discrediting by diverse actors and the media. Two months after the events, the accused attackers were detained and then released, according to the population of Jotolá, threatening revenge.
On November 19, the National Front in the Struggle for Socialism (FNLS), another particularly targeted group, published a press release titled “Criminalization and persecution by the state government of Chiapas against a social movement” in which it describes numerous hostilities, which have been carried out against them.
Foto: OCEZ-RC graffiti in San Cristóbal de Las Casas walls (© SIPAZ)
Just days before, the newspaper La Jornada published parts of a report titled, “The current situation in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza” written by the State Attorney General’s Office (PGJE). It attempts to document the existence of a “subversive network,” which would be planning destabilizing actions for 2010, and whose leader would be the Catholic parish priest of Venustiano Carranza, Jesús Landín. This report appears to “justify” the hostilities denounced by the CDHFBC, the diocese, and other social actors, as well as the police and military operations in and around Venustiano Carranza.
The FNLS rejected outright the accusations in the report and denounced the “strategy of counterinsurgency” directed “fundamentally at organized spaces and actors which have stayed independent of the government and of political parties and which above all have denounced the injustice and systematic violations of human rights which have been committed in Chiapas under the government of Juan Sabines Guerrero.”
Another organization mentioned in the document and subject to repression in the past months is the OCEZ-RC (Campesino Organization of Emiliano Zapata – Carranza Region). Interestingly the recent repression occurred even though this organization, whose demands are agrarian in nature, had signed a “pact of governability” with the State government, a pact that included the economic resources and a compromise to not protest or take up agrarian issues.
Demostration of the OCEZ-RC in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, october 2009 (© SIPAZ)
Beginning on October 26, around 150 members of the OCEZ began a sit-in strike in the center of San Cristóbal de las Casas in order to denounce the police/military intimidation in their region and to demand the freedom of members detained during September and October. Amnesty International asked the Mexican government to investigate the accusations against police officers of Chiapas for the torture of leaders of the OCEZ and to guarantee a fair trial for José Manuel Hernández Martínez, who was being held in solitary confinement in a high security prison far away from Chiapas. On October 30, members of the sit-in occupied the offices of the Organization of the United Nations (ONU) in San Cristóbal.
On November 23 the three members of the OCEZ were freed on bail paid for by the State government, which sought to re-open negotiations by suspending the remaining arrest warrants. The OCEZ condemned the repression, maintained its demand for land and indemnifications for the family members of two people killed during the apprehension, but it accepted nonetheless.
As for the diocese, at the end of November, in a public declaration from the priests and nuns of the Southern zone declared: “Instead of slander, hostility, and persecution we hope that the Governor will join together with the people in order to defend the sacred Chiapas land, lungs of the nation, and give an example of respect for rights which follow the Constitution and which defend the international commitments made by Mexico.”
In the same place, posters from government and EZLN (© SIPAZ)
The 2009 Report of Amnesty International mentions the case of Mexico: “Various projects of inversion and economic development provoked protests in some local communities because of the lack of adequate consultation and for the possible negative effects of these projects on the social and environmental rights of the communities. The indigenous communities were the victims of an especially high number of reprisals.”
In the case of Chiapas, the majority of recent social conflicts –although they might appear isolated- are the result of territorial issues: the resistance to mining exploitation in eight counties or the construction of the highway between San Cristóbal and Palenque (Mitzitón for example), the fight for local control over the waterfalls of Agua Azul (the case of Bachajón), against the high electricity prices (see the focus article), among others.
Photo: Mural illustrating zapatista opposition to “development” projects in Agua Clara (© SIPAZ)
The case of Marinao Abarca exemplifies the use of criminalization of social protest. In August, Abarca, an opponent to the mining exploitation in Chicomuselo (mountains of Chiapas) was arrested at the roadblock, which he had maintained since June in order to halt the activities of Blackfire (a transnational Canadian corporation). He was freed a week later, although the harassment against the anti-mining movement was maintained, as was seen at the Meeting of the Mexican Network of those Affected by Mining (REMA) at the end of August in Chicomuselo where police infiltrated disguised as journalists.
At the end of July, members of the Other Campaign in the ejido of Mitzitón established a roadblock of the highway in order to make various demands: the cancellation of the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque (which supposedly will cross through the ejido of Mitzitón), the self determination of communities, and justice for Aurelio Díaz Hernández who was ran over on July 21.
In the case of Bachajón, eight members of the ejido have been held in jail since April. The population of Bachajón continues seeking their liberation and has denounced that “state and federal police continue illegally occupying” their territory.
Photo: Roadblock to demand the cancellation of the
highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque (© SIPAZ)
Conflicts regarding recuperated land continue to exist. In August, more than 15 people were wounded during a confrontation between Zapatista support bases and militants of the Organization of Regional Coffee-growers of Ocosingo (Orcao) over the land of Bosque Bonito and part of El Prado, in the zone of Cuxuljá, municipality of Ocosingo. In September, indigenous persons of the Rural Association of Collective Interests-Union of Unions (ARIC-UU) and support bases were involved in a confrontation over 200 hectares of disputed land in Santo Tomas, in the municipality of Ocosingo. It resulted in one death, and at least 15 injured and 4 detained.
The State Government: Contradictory Responses
The State Government has come together with and signed various agreements with international organizations. At the end of July, Chiapas became the first state in the world to include in its Constitution the obligation to comply with the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (UN). In September, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and governor Juan Sabines expressed the possibility of beginning a work agenda to strengthen and refocus attention on indigenous communities in the state.
Foto: Roadblock to demand the cancellation of
the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque (© SIPAZ)
At the internal level, on the other hand, the government of Chiapas seems to “deny or minimize existing conflicts” (Hermann Bellinghausen, La Jornada). In the face of denunciation of mining projects, it stated that there are no such projects, and in any case such projects would actually benefit the people. It has denied that the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque would pass through locations that are opposed to it. In the case of the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, it condemned the aggressions against it. According to a report issued by the state government after a meeting with Bishop Felipe Arzimendi, “we discussed, among other things, the issue of mining in Chiapas and the need for an in-depth analysis which benefits people in the locations where the mining takes place. (…) Juan Sabines offered to Bishop Arizmendi his willingness to meet the parish priest of Carranza and to clear up any misunderstanding that might exist.”
The state government seems to have a solution to all the conflicts although it refuses to recognize the role it has had in generating them, and it has not dealt with the root causes of the conflict. On the other hand, some ambiguous statements have not helped to build space for the defense and promotion of human rights when in November, for example, the Government Secretary Noé Castañon asked the population to “not be deceived by those snakes with lambskin who on one hand ask for peace but secretly promote violence. (…) No one should fall for those who wish to use the people as cannon fodder in order to begin bloodshed in 2010, or before, because of personal interests.”
Militarization and Human Rights
In the case of Chiapas, we must discuss re-militarization more than militarization. Since the armed uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), Chiapas has been the most militarized state (in terms of number of bases) in the nation. Certainly, in the last few weeks, there have been many denunciations of searches and military incursions in the Central zone (around Venustiano Carranza), in the Jungle Border region, as well as in the Highland zone on the anniversary of the founding of the EZLN.
Search warrants implementation in 28 de Junio, municipality of Venustiano Carranza – © CDHFBC
Returning to the national context, the complaints of violations of human rights have multiplied due to the participation of the Army in the fight against drug traffickers, which has deployed 45 thousand members without managing to reduce the level of violence attributed to these illegal networks.
Nevertheless, the director of human rights of the Sedena, General López Portillo as well as Felipe Calderón have a tendency to minimize and discredit these criticisms. In July, López Portillo stated that “the majority of crimes which are committed are the result of negligence, collateral to their operations, and because of a lack of knowledge of the consequences of a human rights violation.” In August, during the Closing Summit Mexico-USA-Canada, Felipe Calderón stated that his government has complied “scrupulously” with its commitments to human rights and that “those who say otherwise, should prove one case, just one case.” In response, 5 civil human rights organizations sent a letter in which they described 7 cases of violations of human rights by members of the military against civilians, all of which occurred during this term.
In August, the Secretary of National Defense announced that the United Nations (UN) would measure their success in terms of human rights. The national ombudsman José Luis Soberanes, stated that this announcement was really only a “a nice show.” The federal government’s intentions seem to have been more important than the results, because in August the United States decided to give 214 million dollars to Mexico as part of the Merida Initiative which seeks to help Mexico in its fight against organized crime.
 The Merida Initiative plans to give 1.4 billion dollars to Mexico over a three-year period for anti-drug cooperation. 15% of the funds are conditioned on a US State Department report on the human rights conditions. Returrn…
“Electricity is the people’s”
On Saturday, October 10, 2009, just before midnight, police agents began protection of the offices of Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC). The Government of Felipe Calderón had ordered the liquidation of this semi-official company due to inefficiency and prolonged fiscal deficit, according to the president. What appears to be an economic decision sparked protest among not only the approximate 44 thousand workers opposed to the loss of their jobs, but with many other Mexicans in the following weeks and to the present. It is feared that this liquidation will be the first step toward privatization of electric power generation and supply services in Mexico.
Photo: ESolidarity towards SME during a women’s
demonstration in San Cristóbal
(November 25th, 2009) – © SIPAZ
Certainly, it must be recognized that the infrastructure for provision of electric energy has not been established in many remote communities in several states of the Republic of Mexico, in particular in rural zones. In addition, residents in communities that only recently have electric lights and perhaps refrigerators or televisions began to denounce the clearly excessive charges. They also denounced the poor quality of maintenance services. In other cases, as in Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, the high rates have been questioned given that these are states that produce large quantities of electricity for the country. For one reason or another, many people began to organize in Chiapas as well as in other states, principally in rural areas. Most recently, these points of resistance joined to have a national dimension.
Namely, the struggle against the liquidation of Luz y Fuerza del Centro as well as the resistance to high energy rates have joined under the slogan: “Electricity is the people’s!”
Liquidation of Luz y Fuerza del Centro: causes and possible consequences
Calderón and large media sources have attempted to justify the LyFC decree asserting that its “economic inefficiency” stems from the high salaries and benefits of the workers. However, several analysts have indicated that the lack of profitability is a result of the State’s provision of free electricity to major industries along with LyFC’s purchase of energy at exorbitant prices from CFE. At least two other possible “explanations” have been offered for the federal government’s decision.
The semi-official companies, which in Mexico offer electricity for domestic and commercial use, are the “Federal Electricity Commission” (CFE) and “Luz y Fuerza del Centro” (LyFC). While LyFC is responsible for the demand for service in Mexico City, Puebla, Hidalgo, the State of Mexico and Morelos, CFE operates in the rest of the country.
Photo: Demonstration in Mexico City – © Noé Pineda Arredondo
Since the early 20th century, power distribution had been in the hands of private companies (Mexican, Canadian, and US) that principally supplied urban areas. Due to low profitability, these companies did not work to create an infrastructure that would carry this service to rural zones, which is why the Mexican State decided to create the semi-official company, CFE, making it responsible for provision of electric energy in the countryside. The process of nationalization of the electric energy industry began in the late 30s and ended in 1960. Electricity was considered property of the Mexican people for social wellbeing.
However, generation of electric energy ceased to be a monopoly of the Mexican semi-official companies when in 2002 the then President Vicente Fox decreed that it would allow private companies to generate electricity for their own supply. According to the CFE itself, of “the existing effective generation capacity, 22.81% represents External Energy Producers (FEE), which include 21 centers in commercial operation.” That is nearly a quarter of the energy generation capacity is managed by private companies. Among these which most stand out for production output are the Spanish company, Iberdrola, the Japonese Mitsubishi, and the French EDF Internationall[a] .
The recent liquidation of LyFC could represent a step toward privatization of the Mexican energy sector, as well as of its fiber optics network (for simultaneous transmission of voice, documents, and images – the so-called “triple play” in telecommunications). Some date this attempt to privatize energy infrastructure, production, distribution and commercialization by Felipe Calderón back to when he was Secretary of Energy. Other voices go further and assert that no attempt had been made to improve the efficiency of LyFC precisely in order to favor private participation (presenting it as the only option) in the electric and telecommunications markets.
Demonstration in Mexico City – © Noé Pineda Arredondo
Attack on the Electrical Workers Union
Another of the lessons from the liquidation of LyFC, and for others a key aspect if the attempt is essentially privatization, has to do with an intent to strike and neutralize the Electrical Workers Union (SME, a union with a 95 year history and considered most active and combative).
Prior to this and following internal SME elections last August, Secretary of Labor and of Social Prevention, Javier Lozano, refused to recognize Martín Esparza as leader of the SME, arguing that there were irregularities in the internal union elections. From August to September, union members demanded recognition of its leader, holding public demonstrations. Since that time, they have claimed that the Government’s intention was to debilitate the SME in order to privatize LyFC.
Demonstration in Mexico City – © Noé Pineda Arredondo
Responses from the SME and Social Movement
The definitive closure of the semi-official company would leave some 44 thousand workers unemployed. While the Federal government offered compensation to the workers, the union rejected the decision as unconstitutional. Many have refused to collect their compensation and continue to gamble on recovering of their employment. At the time of this report, there was no legal certainty about an end to LyFC since the legal process challenging the presidential decree is not yet complete.
The principal demands of the SME include: the repeal of the presidential decree and reopening of the LyFC; the immediate withdrawal of armed troops and federal police from the electric installations; creation of a social dialogue committee to consider alternatives in accord with the Constitution and international norms.
Photo: Demonstration in Mexico City – © Noé Pineda Arredondo
Numerous demonstrations through marches and assemblies to support these demands have taken place and continue. On October 15, more than 300 thousand people marched in Mexico City, including union, student, social and political groups. At the same time, thousands marched in 30 cities in 16 states of the country.
Appealing for a national work stoppage, Martin Esparza, leader of the SME asserted: “Power comes from the people and if this power is affected, it’s time to raise a peaceful social movement… We are at the bicentenary of our Independence and at the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, and we will have to defeat, as before, the trans-nationals, the dictator, the tyranny, and violations of the Constitution. It is time for the people to organize.”
Growing process of Civil Resistance against high electric rates in Chiapas
From another front in the struggle, according to a June article in La Jornada, social movements resisting payment of charges applied by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) have grown to include some 40% of all users in Chiapas. The total of payments due at the end of last May exceeded 780 million pesos.
Protest of the State Network for the Civil Resistance (© SIPAZ)
Motives for non-payment
Those resisting payment are individuals as well as organizations of all types (some opposing one another). The Zapatista bases of support have not paid electric fee since 1994 as part of their resistance against the Government. They reclaim electricity as collective property of the nation and so demand public redistribution of it.
In other cases, the principal reasons given for non-payment are the following:
Repression and Government Programs
Protest of the State Network for the Civil Resistance (© SIPAZ)
For non-payment of electric energy service, the communities frequently face harassment by the CFE or the police. Recently, “in the municipalities of Venustiano Carrranza, Villa las Rosas, Amatenango del Valle, Comitán, Chanal, Tzimol, Socoltenango, and Teopisca in the last few months a repressive escalation and significant harassment has been reported, manifested through massive outages and dismantling of electric energy, as well as with threats by the police and municipal authorities[b].” Not only are communities joined in the resistance to high electricity rates but also in the defense of their lands and territory, the rejection of the political parties, and the “no” to megaprojects that affect the communities.
In addition, if the state and federal governments indeed sought to respond to the social discontent over the electric rates with programs that grant moratoriums on payments and that provide subsidies, they have not achieved a solution to the problem.
In the case of Chiapas, the state government launched the A Friendly Light program in 1995. In 2003 and until September 2008, the government carried out the Better Life program. At the end of the period, the current government announced an extension of the subsidy through the Solidarity Light program for which it reported an investment of 280 million pesos.
Another of the recurring denunciations that has been heard is the suspension or threat of suspension of government social assistance programs, such as Opportunities, if they don’t pay the electric bills.
Organizing Process in Chiapas
Currently, there are at least two civil resistance movements against the high electric rates: Peoples United in Defense of Electric Energy (PUDEE), principally in Northern Chiapas; and the State Civil Resistance Network “The Voice of our Heart”, with a significant presence in the Central and Highland municipalities and in parts of the Northern zone of the State.
LThe State Civil Resistance Network “The Voice of our Heart” formed in 2006[c] though several of the communities involved had been resisting payment of electric bills previously. Among its principles are the struggle for the right to electric energy; defense of the people’s land and territory; unity and solidarity; and non-payment of electric bills pending compliance with the San Andres Accords. As the State Network, it also forms part of The Other Campaign, a peaceful initiative for a new constitution started by the EZLN in 2005.
Photo: of Pueblos Unidos en Defensa de la Energía Eléctrica – PUDEE (© SIPAZ)
The communities that make up the network hold assemblies every two or three months in which representatives of the communities report on the situation in their areas, release declarations, and identify joint actions (marches, participation in national days of protest and solidarity, or workshops).
The workshops consist of training “electricity promoters” who, with the support and solidarity of workers from the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), learn about “management of the electric energy distribution system”.[d] The training allows them to carry out “community maintenance work, reconnections of electric energy, and expansions to the network with economic resources and the work of the communities. This situation… begins to solve the concrete and acutely felt problem in the communities, that is, the lack of electric energy due to power cuts and the bad service provided by the Federal Electricity Commission or the poor installations that are common in the indigenous and peasant communities”.
In Other States
The Chiapas State Network also forms part of the National Network for Civil Resistance to High Electric Energy Tariffs, a movement that started to bring together organizations and communities in Oaxaca, Vera Cruz, Capuche, Guerrero, Chihuahua and the Federal District in May 2009 in San Cristóbol de las Cases, Chiapas.
Like the communities in Chiapas, those that make up the National Network for Civil Resistance to High Electric Tariffs had to face increases in its electric energy rate to organize. It also has faced an attitude of intimidation on the part of the CFE employees and the authorities. But the harassment does not end there, its struggle for a just tariff has been legally criminalized.
Photo: of Pueblos Unidos en Defensa de
la Energía Eléctrica – PUDEE (© SIPAZ)
For example, currently some members of the Union of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Isthmus (UCIZONI) of Oaxaca are under arrest warrants. From the civil resistance movement in Candelabra, Capuche one woman and two men are imprisoned. The criminal charges against them are linked to an act of peaceful civil resistance in September 2008 when the CFE attempted to cut power to them, which they were able to avoid through negotiation with the CFE official from the region. “However, that same day the legal representative of the semi-official company… presented before a delegation of the General Ombudsman of the Republic (PGR) criminal charges against 33 movement members… for the crime of ‘obstruction of public works or service and other acts against federal officials’.”
Amnesty International denounced the charges as false and demanded in an Urgent Action sent in mid-July of this year “an end to the illegal use of the justice system to present unfounded and disproportionate criminal charges against social activists or human rights defenders who carry out legitimate and peaceful protests”. Several Mexican human rights organizations agree that civil resistance to high electric energy tariffs is defense of a basic right, and so they joined the demand for their liberation.
Protest of the State Network for the Civil Resistance (© SIPAZ)
[a] http://www.cfe.gob.mx/es/LaEmpresa/queescfe/Estadísticas/ Volver …
[b] Red Estatal “La Voz de Nuestro Corazón”: Pronunciamiento público – 13 de noviembre de 2009. Volver …
[c] Documental “La luz es del pueblo”, del Centro de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria A.C. (CIEPAC), 2009 Volver …
[d] CIEPAC: Las experiencias de Resistencia Civil al No Pago de la Energía Eléctrica: cuestionamiento estructural e insubordinación. Segunda Parte. Volver …
“Total demilitarization of our communities, ways of live, and hearts.”
“The system has not only imprisoned the headquarters that have been built in our territories, but also the hearts of our women and mothers, yet we will set them free.”
–testimony of a Tzotzil woman, shared by Mercedes Olivera B .
Forum: “Women’s Perspectives on Militarization”
Facing the increasing militarization of the country, officially justified by the war that Felipe Calderón declared on drug trafficking, women want to cease being paralyzed by fear. On October 2nd and 3rd, 2009, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, 160 women gathered in the forum “Women’s Perspectives on Militarization.” They came from Honduras, Guatemala, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Guerrero, and various other communities in Chiapas “to share the ideas and experiences of women and their communities about militarization, Para militarization, and drug trafficking, to analyze and take a close look at the consequences of militarization, and to plan alternatives.”
On the first day, the women exchanged ideas about the well-known and miserable consequences of militarization: sexual abuse as a form of torture—with moving testimony from Valentina Rosendo Cantú, of Guerrero, prostitution in the surroundings of military camps, the exacerbated interfamilial violence in military families, the rise in migration, the criminalization of social struggles, diseases such as AIDS as well as stress, impunity… etc.
Photo: Drawing made by the participants during the Forum
“Womens Perspective on Militarization” (© SIPAZ)
On the same day, a reflection on the causes of these consequences led to an extensive and systematic lecture on militarization. The forum analyzed what is meant by: “a business in”; “a means of securing and reproducing the de facto domination by the government, and the rich”; “a means of strategic control for strengthening the capitalist system” (control of natural resources, labor, territorial control of the production and trafficking of drugs, social control of social movements); and also analyzed why normalization of a military presence generates a certain acceptance from civil society.
Besides the deployment of troops in the territory and the direct harmful consequences it causes, the women denounced a society based on relationships of violence and domination: “Today, we live in a militarized society which reproduces power, force, and violence as a way of life.” Framed by this lecture, the second day’s proposals for action invites everyone to a profound transformation of reality.
Proposals towards a Transformation of Reality
“We must be the change we want to see in the world.” At the beginning of the twentieth century, in India, those were the words of Gandhi, one of the principle figures of non-violent struggle and ideas. In 2009, in Chiapas, Mexico, a gathering of women committed to work together towards the “total demilitarization of our communities, ways of life, and hearts.” Although nonviolence was not the explicit framing for the forum, the theme continued echoing throughout the meeting, as it is the way for building lasting peace.
From the conclusions of the round tables on possible judicial, political, and community actions, a general attitude and two main strategic ideas were underscored. As to the general attitude, the following was proposed:
The first strategic idea was the reaction to the very same militarization. It involves acts of information sharing and consciousness raising (meetings of women in the community to speak about the forum, understanding what the law permits and does not permit of soldiers, sharing useful telephone numbers etc.), acts of resistance (such as refusing to sell products to soldiers if they establish themselves in the community or participate in security cordons), and acts of denouncement (make the sexual violations by soldiers public, peaceful marches, etc.).
The second strategic idea posed a long-term transformation of reality. It covered acts of education (not allowing children to play with toy weapons, teaching them how to listen to each other and to think before obeying) and training (for example, about human rights or conflict resolution), as well as political proposals (eliminating military service and the army, creating social equality). In addition, certain manners of consumption were proposed (building alternatives for economic solidarity) since, in the words of Mercedes Olivera B, “the military globalization dominates, not only in the public sphere, but has penetrated the private and intimate spheres… All are buyers, consumers, voluntary or involuntary reproducers of the system, although we are in resistance. Mothers not only are reproducers of slaves to capitalism, but also are forced to raise them with the ‘skills’ that the system needs.” So, it is a matter of paying attention to the identified causes of militarization that form a part of the structural violence and that in the cultural violence.
Drawing made by the participants during the Forum
“Womens Perspective on Militarization” (© SIPAZ)
This willingness to come together to face and reveal the militarization from its causes to its manifestations corresponds to a wager: to believe in power in numbers and in the truth verses the power of weapons and force. The ability of women to analyze the militarization and formulate non-violent and constructive proposals results in a strategic response in the context of such great tension.
:: SIPAZ ACTIVITIES
Mid-July to end of October 2009
INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE AND SUPPORT
– On August 29 and 30, SIPAZ was present for the commemoration of the victims of Peace and Justice in Masoja Xucja community. This was an event that honored more than a hundred victims who were killed or abducted in the Northern Region between 1995 and 2000.
– On July 30, SIPAZ was present at a blockade of the highway as observers. It was organized by the members of the Other Campaign of the ejido (communal lands) of Mitzitón in order to raise various demands such as the refusal of the highway from San Cristóbal de Las Casas to Palenque. SIPAZ returned to visit Mizitón in August and October where a climate of high tension prevailed.
– On August 10, SIPAZ was present for the press conference, which marked the initiation of the “Day of Action for Justice and Truth,” as well as the march of Las Abejas which took place in San Cristóbal de Las Casas on August 11. SIPAZ visited the communities of Actual and Nuevo Paraíso in the municipality of Chenalhó in August and October.
– Towards the end of October, SIPAZ was present for the “March for Peace and Justice with Truth” in solidarity with Las Abejas of Acteal and the mass convoked by the Community of Faith (Pueblo Creyente) of the Tzotzil region.
– In Bachajón, SIPAZ attended a gathering of indigenous and social organizations from the Lacandona Jungle and the Bachajón region on July 30 and 31. It looked at the communal problems in those regions in respect to the defense of the land and territory.
– In August, SIPAZ visited Agua Clara, a community in which two groups are in conflict over the control of the hot springs.
– In August, we attended the press conference in which adherents of the Other Campaign from three communities (Mitzitón, Jotolá and the ejido San Sebastián) affected by the construction of the highway between San Cristóbal de Las Casas – Palenque and the Centro Integral Proyecto Palenque (CIPP) denounced the harassment and aggressions.
– As observers, SIPAZ was present at the march of the OCEZ-RC (Emiliano Zapata Campesina Organization, Carranza Region) which marked the beginning of a sit-in in San Cristóbal de Las Casas to denounce the intimidation of the military police in the region and to demand liberation of their leaders.
From August until the end of October, SIPAZ visited all the Caracoles Zapatistas at least once.
In August, September and October, SIPAZ visited Alberto Patishtán, a prisoner in the San Cristóbal jail.
At the end of August and September, SIPAZ visited the city of Oaxaca where we interviewed counterparts and relatives of those who were assassinated during the social political conflict of 2006-2007. SIPAZ also went to communities of Paso de la Reina, region Istmo, where a hydroelectric dam project exists in a cooperative area of land. Those who are affected are opposed to the project. Lastly, SIPAZ visited various prisoners in the Tehuantepec penitentiary.
– In September, SIPAZ met with the United States, Germany and Sweden embassies to express its concerns in relation to the aggravation of the social-political situation and human rights in Chiapas.
– In August and October, SIPAZ interviewed Pedro Raúl López Hernández, the public prosecutor specialized in the Protection of Non-Governmental Organisms for the Defense of Human Rights in Chiapas. We met with him to present our concerns in respect to the aggravation of the social-political situation and towards human rights defenders.
– On August 29 and 30, a collaborator of SIPAZ was present for the second encounter of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA), which was held in Chicomuselo, Chiapas. and discussed topics such as legal means of resistance as well as the impacts of mining on people’s health and the environment.
– SIPAZ was present for the press conference which was held by the State Network for the Civil Resistance “The Voice of Our Heart” (Red Estatal de la Resistencia Civil “La Voz de Nuestro Corazón“) in mid-July as well as for their assembly held on October 23 and 24.
– SIPAZ attended two activities organized by the commission of the People for the Defense of the Land (FPDT) of Atenco, during their visit in Chiapas. They also launched the second phase of the “Freedom and Justice for Atenco” campaign.
PROMOTION OF PEACE
EDUCATION FOR PEACE
– In July and September, a member of SIPAZ attended two modules of the School of Peace, which was convoked by Service and Consultants for Peace (Serapaz) in Mexico DF.
– In October, two members of the team participated in a workshop Against Active Violence, convened by the Support of Community Unity and Reconciliation (CORECO).
WORK WITH RELIGIOUS FIGURES
– In September, SIPAZ participated in an ecumenical gathering of prayer and reflection convened by the Ecumenical Group of Analysis of Conjunction and Reality (GEACR) of which we are a part.
– In August, SIPAZ had a meeting with members of the parochial team of Chenalhó as well as with Bishop Enrique Díaz, to discuss the prevalent issue in the municipality which is based on the release of 20 prisoners accused of having participated in the Acteal massacre in December 1997.
-SIPAZ participated in the monthly meetings of the Network for Peace, a place for action and reflection integrated by 16 organizations which are seeking support for peace processes and reconciliation in Chiapas.
– On October 2 and 3, various organizations, including SIPAZ, convened a forum on Women’s Perspectives on Militarization which was held in San Cristóbal de las Casas with the participation of approximately 160 women.
– SIPAZ assisted the Assembly of the Peublo Creyente on Spetember 11 and 12.
– SIPAZ received a visit from the delegates, students and journalists who were interested in learning about SIPAZ’s work in conjunction with Chiapas.
– SIPAZ published a special informational bulletin on the circumstances of Acteal in August and an Urgent Action in the case of the armed attack on Defenders of Human Rights in Jotolá in September.
– A member of the SIPAZ team organized activities in Sweden and Finland including appointments with the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Sweden and Finland as well as with nearby groups such as SweFOR and Amnesty International.