To the United Nations Office in Chiapas
Oficina Sede ONU en Chiapas
Flavio A. Paniagua No. 10
San Cristóbal de las Casas Centro
To the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Economical and Social Issues Department
Social Policy and Development
Division for Social Policy and Development
DESA Room DC2-1772
United Nations, New York, NY 10017
I am writing to denounce the general climate of impunity, violation of human rights and injustice that has been affecting indigenous people in Chiapas, and more generally in Mexico, over the last few years.
I am writing to express my concerns about the recent escalation of violence and repression taking place in the country and about the line adopted by the Mexican government in relation to indigenous people. This is highlighted, among other things, by the following events:
- The continuous impunity in which paramilitary groups operate, fully supported and protected by the state government, such as in Mitziton community where a paramilitary group known as the “Army of God” has killed (21st July 2009, Aurelio Diaz Hernandez), injured and continuously threatens and harasses Mitziton residents who oppose the construction of the San Cristobal to Palenque toll road which would bring destruction to their community.
Recent violent acts were carried out on 28th February 2010, by the same paramilitary group that were covered at all time by ten police lorries, that did not react during the aggression and only approached the place once it was over.
- 32 Zapatista families of the Bolon Ajaw community live not only suffering of real poverty, but also under continuous threat and harassment by another paramilitary group. This community is situated close to the Azul Waterfalls which are coveted for tourist developments by government and business interests. Thus, a paramilitary group known as OPDDIC, supported by the state government, operates in complete impunity to try and rob the Bolon Ajaw residents of their land.
Violent acts have occurred continuously, being the most recent in 6th February 2010, where OPDDIC members opened fire on Zapatistas, wounding at least three, including one sixteen years old.
- The eviction and destruction of the indigenous communities of Laguna San Pedro and Laguna El Suspiro in the Montes Azules area in Sunday January 31th, 2010; where the government’s explicit intention is to “reforest” the area and establish private ecotourism centres.
The federal and local government conducted an operation using federal police, accompanied by officials of the Federal Procurator of the Environment (Profepa), who with four helicopters flew over the village of Laguna San Pedro terrifying the population.
- The granting of appeal to 26 of the persons sentenced as perpetrators of the massacre of 45 members of the unarmed and pacifist Las Abejas Community in Acteal, Chiapas, on 22 December 1997, 20 of which were released last August the 12th under protection of this appeal, and with the likely liberation of 31 more.
- The mistreatment of Atenco prisoners following the conflict originated when the government (during President Vicente Fox’s administration), in May 2006, tried to build an airport on their lands without consulting local people. The conflict ended in acts of repression, in the death of a 21 year old student, of a 14 year old boy, in the imprisonment of hundreds of farmers and activists, in the rape or sexual abuse of dozens of women. The violations of individual rights at the maximum security federal prison El Altiplano (in the town of Almoloya de Juarez) where 12 Atenco prisoners, including Ignacio del Valle, leader of the People’s Front in Defence of the Land (FPDT) from San Salvador Atenco, remain in prison on false charges.
- The detention in April 2009 of 8 members of the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón, who are adherents to the Other Campaign and part of an indigenous movement which has been opposing neoliberal plans involving the use of their land and exploitation of natural resources. The actions of members of the Organization for the Defence of the Rights of Indigenous and Campesinos (OPDDIC) who collaborated with the Federal and State police during the repression of a roadblock in protest. The destruction of the tollbooth at the entrance to Agua Azul on April 17 2009, a tourist zone whose many attractions have been administered and used by the tzeltal peoples of Bachajón. The policy of persecution and criminalization of movements and organizations of social dissidents on Federal, State, and municipal levels adopted by the Mexican Government.
- The constant threats and assault Zapatista civilian authorities as well as students from the autonomous school have been suffering in the caracol of Roberto Barrios during the last months of 2009. The intensification of acts of intimidation and provocation by armed paramilitary groups in the area; the intention of evacuating the school to allow ecotourism projects and promote business in the area where the autonomous school is located, just at the entrance to the falls of the river Basco where the government is planning the creation of a SPA in the resort.
- The accusation of José Manuel Chema Hernández Martínez, José Manuel de la Torre and Roselio de la Cruz González, leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization-Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC) on November 2009.
- The surveillance of members of staff of Frayba Centre for Human Rights in San Cristobal de las Casas, filmed in the streets and followed by cars. The physical abuse of Ricardo Lagunas in September 2009 when he was meeting with Zapatista sympathizers near Agua Azul (suspects were detained but then released without charges).
The way the Mexican Government is addressing the situation of indigenous people in Chiapas and, more generally, in Mexico breaches most articles of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous rights adopted by the General Assembly in 2007:
Article 2 regarding indigenous peoples’ right “to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights”.
Articles 7 regarding indigenous peoples’ right “to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples”.
Article 10 regarding indigenous people’s right not to be “forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation should take place without free, prior and informed consent”.
Article 14 regarding indigenous peoples’ right “to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own language”.
Article 18 regarding indigenous peoples’ right “to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights”.
Article 20 regarding indigenous people’s right “to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions”.
Article 23 regarding indigenous people’s right “to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development” as to health, housing and other economic and social programmes.
Article 27 regarding States having to establish and implement “fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous laws, traditions, customs and land tenure system”.
Article 32 regarding indigenous right “to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their land and territories and other resources” and States seeking indigenous people “free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilisation or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”
I highlight the role played by the UN in Chiapas following the detention of the leaders of the OCEZ-RC, the sit in held by 17 members of the OCEZ-RC at San Cristóbal cathedral and the occupation of the UN offices located in the same city on the 30th October 2009 to demand the release of their leaders. After their release, OCEZ-RC has accepted the proposal presented by Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero through Diego Cadenas, director of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre, to open mediation. On the 27th of November, the State Government and the OCEZ-RC signed an agreement and asked that the government cancel the 11 arrest warrants out against the organization’s leaders and members in addition to the militarization of Venustiano Carranza.
I demand that the UN take an active role in:
- Looking into events affecting indigenous people in Chiapas and, more generally, in Mexico;
- Negotiating and mediating with the relevant Mexican authorities to ensure to voice indigenous people rights;
- Ensuring that human rights of indigenous people are respected in Chiapas and, more generally, in Mexico in agreement with the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous rights.