170 Zapatista supporters expelled from their lands and homes in retaliation for building an autonomous school

In the early hours of the morning on Thursday 9th September 2010, 170 Zapatista supporters were expelled from their homes in the Tzeltal community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón, Chiapas. They were attacked by members of the Mexican political parties PRI, PRD and PVEM (the green party), in retaliation for the construction of an autonomous school. The Zapatista Good Government Junta (JBG) based in Oventik denounced the attack, which was led by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, and said the attackers were armed with guns, machetes and sticks and broke into two houses where they tried to sexually assault two women. So as not to respond with violence to these acts of severe provocation, the Zapatista men, women, children and old people left their homes and belongings and fled to the mountain “where they suffer hunger, cold, sleeplessness and fear”.
Zapatistas from Pamalá, in the municipality of Sitalá, had informed the JBG that, at the end of August, Manuel Vázquez had been forcibly ordered by the authorities and leaders of the political parties in San Marcos and Pamalá to dismantle the autonomous school. The authorities told him that they were then going to attack other communities which had autonomous schools. The JBG stated that “the purpose of these attacks is to prevent the education of our children and to stop the progress of construction of our autonomy”. Manuel Vázquez was thrown into prison on the 21st August, where he was threatened, harrassed and intimidated in an attempt to force him to abandon autonomous education. When Pedro Cruz Gómez came to help Manuel Vázquez, he was also imprisoned. A knife was planted in his trousers in an attempt to accuse him of intention to murder. When the prisoners were freed, they were told to abandon the Zapatista organisation and to leave the lands they had bought ten years ago. Threats were made to cancel the land rights of fifteen families.
On the 24th and 25th August the aggressors seized 29 hectares of land with 5,850 coffee trees, 10 hectares of maize, beans, cattle, horses and three houses, and destroyed a banana plantation. On the 8th September, they took cattle, pulled down fences and fired shots into the air. They threatened to “take the land next, and to evict the men and kidnap the women and children and burn the houses”.

“The three levels of the bad government don’t know how to stop the Zapatista struggle for national liberation, so they are trying to stop our autonomous education”, said the JBG. “However, we are going to continue with autonomous education throughout Zapatista territory; our sons and daughters will no longer attend the official schools where they will never teach the truth about how we live as indigenous people and how all the poor of Mexico live. We demand that our evicted companer@s be allowed to return home and be treated with respect”.

The Network for Solidarity and Against Repression immediately issued a statement “This act of barbarity designed to destroy the autonomous school, has led to the displacement of 170 people from the lands they have worked for ten years….If it were not for our Zapatista compas, there would be no schools in these indigenous communities…..Lies, deceit and repression are the way the state government constantly behaves….Zapatista education in the autonomous communities is an example of how another Mexico is possible, where with honest hard work a level of community development can be achieved which those from above neither understand nor accept. To fight power and its money with learning and knowledge is the best way to build the foundations of a new Mexico”.

On Monday 13th September, Other Campaign adherents set up roadblocks in Chiapas as a protest against “the threats, robberies, evictions and attacks being made against Zapatista communities by the government, ….. paramilitaries, political parties, local leaders and businessmen”.

A march took place in Tonalá, in the coastal zone, to demand that the Zapatista supporters from San Marcos Avilés be allowed to return to their lands, and to insist that “their way of life and process of autonomy, with their schools and clinics, must be respected”. They also demanded “the expulsion of paramilitary groups from Chiapas and the punishment of the material and intellectual authors of the attacks on the communities”.

Another roadblock was set up near Mitziton, where, along with the departure of the paramilitaries, the participants also called for “the cancellation of all the projects, such as the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque, and the ecotourism park in Bachajón,  which cause conflict in the indigenous communities, and threaten the environment and the traditional ways of living of the communities “.

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