Seventeenth anniversary of the Zapatista Rebellion
January 1st was the seventeenth anniversary of the ‘uprising of hope’. This year the Caracoles were closed to visitors and there was no event at Cideci. Gloria Muñoz Ramirez wrote in La Jornada “The EZLN and its peoples live. They have not given up or surrendered and they continue to bring hope, for many people the only hope they have.” November marked the EZLN’s 27th anniversary.
On January 1st an unfortunate article by Chris Arsenault appeared on Aljazeera’s website, entitled ‘the war with no breath’, or ‘everything can change on a New Year´s Day’. The article gives a brief history, suggests the movement was ultimately a failure, and that among other things Marcos is now looking for a job at a US university. It can still be viewed at:
EZLN and Other Campaign organisations accused of kidnapping Diego Fernandez de Cevallos
This very powerful lawyer working especially for corporations and cartels, who is also a former, and perhaps future, PAN presidential candidate, was apparently kidnapped in mysterious circumstances in May 2010. It seemed that there was a ransom demand, as his family asked the police not to investigate his disappearance. The apparent kidnappers were known as ‘the mysterious disappearers’. Diego was released on 20th December, and the kidnappers, now calling themselves the ‘Network for Global Transformation’ (RTG in Spanish), released a long document entitled ‘epilogue of a disappearance’, saying a ransom of $30 million had been paid, and ‘chronicling the evils of neo-liberalism’. http://elenemigocomun.net/2010/12/epilogue-of-a-disappearance/
A press release from the Spanish newswire agency EFE began circulating on 1st January, in the form of a statement allegedly made by ‘a member of the insurgent forces’, known by the unlikely name of ‘guerrero Balam’ (warrior Balam, using an ancient Maya name), attributing the kidnapping to the EZLN and various organisations from the Other Campaign. A denial was quickly issued on the Enlace Zapatista website by Javier Elorriaga and Sergio Rodriguez Lascano, saying that ‘the EZLN do not resort to kidnapping which is against their principles’, and that they have maintained ‘a just and dignified peace’ since 1994. They also state that the Other Campaign is ‘a civil and peaceful organisation’, and stress their concerns that as a result of this accusation, they fear ‘a further escalation of aggression’. Demonstrations have taken place outside EFE offices in Spain.
Making the Zapatistas respectable??
The Commission of Concord and Pacification (Cocopa) issued a statement rejecting the allegation, and calling for an investigation, recalling that a year ago the EZ were accused of receiving funds from ETA. The Cocopa chairperson, Jose Narro, said he feared the message was the work of people seeking to prepare the ground for “a repressive escalation against the EZLN.” He noted that the Zapatistas now devote their energies to “organization and community work” in Chiapas, where the JBGs have become a standard “in the matter of collective work and communitarian social accomplishments”.
The Chiapas state government also dismissed the idea of Zapatista involvement in the abduction. Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines said “if the EZLN has sent a message to the country in these times of violence, it has been that of prudence, peace and political responsibility”. In an earlier statement he had suggested that the Zapatistas were not celebrating the anniversary of the rebellion “for fear of incursions from organised crime”. (Not of course from state-backed paramilitaries or other forces…)
The EZLN are maintaining what Hermann Bellinghausen describes as “an eloquent silence”. The anthropologist, Xochitl Leyva Solano, said recently “silence as a strategy for political struggle is very important to them, as there comes a time when you can no longer talk to the government because they want to use you, they want to convince people that there is a dialogue, that progress is being made, so they manipulate the relationship. That is why the Zapatistas take the political position of silence, to avoid any possibility of the government directing all that is happening to a particular side. So in this framework they will preserve – for insurance – total silence…. Silence is a strategy to fight politics, it is how to punish the government in a radical way… to avoid giving the game away at all…. We will not see a statement until the moment when they break the silence and put in a new strategy”.
Thirteen years since the Acteal Massacre: bullets of lead or bullets of sugar
Las Abejas commemorated this anniversary with a three-day gathering, “Weaving Resistance for Autonomy and against Counterinsurgency and Dependence”, where they were joined by representatives from autonomous communities in other parts of Chiapas, as well as from Oaxaca and San Salvador Atenco. Las Abejas completely rejected the ‘Rural Cities’ project, which they say is designed to ‘rob us of our culture and displace us from our lands’. In their final statement they stated “We understand autonomy to be the right to live as we wish, without asking permission and without others imposing on us to make us live as they want us to… Autonomy begins in the heart of every person, it is not a goal, but the path we are already walking”. They also asserted “We maintain our resistance, although the government has changed its bullets of lead for bullets of sugar”.
It seems likely that the rest of those imprisoned for taking part in the massacre will be released soon.
More threats to Human Rights Defenders On December 17, 2010, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (CDHFBC) published a report on new incidents endangering the lives of two human rights defenders. In early December, Julio César Pérez, a member of the Committee of ex-Political Prisoners Innocent Voices (Voces Inocentes), together with Jose Alejandro Meza, a member of the Network of Medical and Mental Health Care for Survivors of Torture and a CDHFBC external collaborator, were subjected to surveillance and harassment in different events that occurred in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Meza also suffered unlawful entries on his car and home. These new aggressions occurred just after the death threats against Margarita Martinez and members of the CDHFBC itself in late November. The CDHFBC asked the state judicial authorities to conduct a prompt, efficient and effective investigation and to punish those responsible. At the same time threats and police harassment were reported from Tumbalá against the activist Claudia Díaz Moreno.
Pilgrimage against the ‘death projects’ On November 19th, over a thousand Tzotziles, from the eleven highland municipalities, made a pilgrimage through the streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, chanting ‘we can live without gold, without water we die’; ‘we can live without dams, we cannot live without land, we cannot live without trees’ or ‘no prisoners, no mines’. The aim was to show their opposition to mining and to the construction of dams and ‘rural cities’ (ciudades rurales), all of which they consider to be ‘death projects’. Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Díaz Díaz expressed the support of the Diocese to the pilgrims, and asked the authorities to take into account the voice of indigenous peoples and communities before realizing construction works or before implementing projects that affect them. “From our indigenous peoples we are committed to caring for nature; we demand that you do not destroy it, and that companies do not come to destroy it.”
Vatican coup against the diocese of San Cristobal
Bishop Felipe Arizmendi is carrying out a project to divide the territory of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas almost in half, in order to create the new bishopric of Ocosingo. Analysts and priests agree that this represents another attack by the Vatican against the pastoral line, ‘the preferential option for the poor’, that was introduced by Samuel Ruiz, defender of the indigenous cause and a key player in the days after the 1994 Zapatista uprising. San Cristóbal is considered to be the only diocese in Mexico that still fully follows Liberation Theology, an option not popular with the current Pope.
News from the Other Campaign in Chiapas
The Tzotzil community of Elambó Bajo, Zinacantán, declares its autonomy
The community of Elambó Bajo, in the official municipality of Zinacantán, declared itself an ‘independent community to better organize ourselves’ on 16th December 2010. As adherents to the Other Campaign, they declared ‘in our collective way we will fight against the neoliberal system. We want the betterment of our peoples and our world’. The new community was named Colectivo Vicente Guerrero. They called for ‘peace between indigenous and non indigenous brothers and sisters, because we are the same flesh, the same bone’. They have named their authorities, and presented their first venture, the community shop. They plan in the future to develop their own health care.
Attack in Candelaria el Alto On 3rd January 2011 the group Dignified Seeds of the Highlands of Chiapas, adherents to the Other Campaign from Candelaria el Alto, Venestiano Carranza municipality, reported an armed attack on 18 members of their group who were attempting to reclaim land taken from them in 2005 by members of OCEZ-RC.
San Cristobal market An unsuccessful attempt was made at the end of 2010 to evict the 600 traders, some of whom are adherents to the Other Campaign, from the Jose Castillo Tielemanz market in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The traders say “A year ago, the mayor, Mariano Díaz Ochoa, began to build a new market… for the inhabitants of the 48 colonies to the north of the city. The plan has now changed and they want to move everyone to the new market in the north…. It is unclear what is planned to happen to the original market. Some say that the municipality has sold it to the (self-service food chain) company Soriana, while others say they are going to create a park. We do not want either the company or the park. Nor do we want the market to the north because it is another place and another job, and we’re accustomed to our position for many years”.
Mitziton denounces new attacks by the Army of God
The Other Campaign members in the Mitziton ejido denounced the fact that on December 23, as part of an ongoing campaign of aggression by the alleged paramilitary group, members of the Army of God attacked them, kidnapped, tortured and badly beat up one ejido member, dousing him with petrol, beat up several others and then began randomly shooting guns all night, a regular practice.. They also complained that state government officials signed an agreement on July 5, 2010 to relocate the Army of God members, but have so far failed to do so.
Ongoing difficulties at San Sebastian Bachajon
On 8th January the ejidal authorities, adherents to the Other Campaign, announced they had arrested a young man, one of a group of four assailants, all members of the PRI and the Green party, for attacks on cars on the public highway. In their statement they reassured tourists that they were endeavouring to make it safe to visit the waterfalls of Agua Azul. On the 12th January they issued another statement denying involvement in the violent occupation of Rancho El Vergel, saying that the guilty man had been expelled from the Other Campaign last April.
The Chiapas/Guatemala Border
Wikileaks reveals concerns
Spanish newspaper El País received a document from Wikileaks revealing great concern among US diplomats about drug trafficking across the “porous” Chiapas/Guatemala border, and the lack of security forces to deter drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms smuggling. http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Narcos/contrabandistas/toman/frontera/sur/Mexico/elpepuint/20101211elpepuint-23/Tes
Cartels expanding to Central America Not long after the diplomatic cables were leaked, the Guatemalan government declared a “state of siege” in Alta Verapaz province, which is situated on the border, following an invasion by Los Zetas, a Mexican based cartel led by former US army special forces, who have links with Guatemalan ex Kaibiles, special forces who often received training identical to that given to Los Zetas by the US Army. Los Zetas are involved in a wide-ranging criminal enterprise in Mexico, including drugs, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, CD piracy and stealing petrol from Pemex pipelines. Los Zetas are also expanding to El Salvador and Honduras.
Attacks on migrants Mexico and Honduras have announced an agreement to create a bi-national group to combat attacks on undocumented Hondurans passing through Mexico on their way to the US. About 10,000 Hondurans are kidnapped each year by Mexican gangs and held for ransom. Mexican law enforcement and immigration authorities have come under increasing international criticism for ignoring, or in some cases participating in, attacks on Central American immigrants. Mexico is also making agreements with other Central American governments.
Mexican Army attacks human rights defenders in Oaxaca
On January 11th, more than 20 soldiers of the Mexican Army violently broke into the offices of the Committee in Defence of the Rights of the People / Committee in Defence of Women’s Rights (CODEP-CODEM) in Oaxaca, without a search warrant. They held seven people at gunpoint and roughly interrogated them, demanding information about organized crime and drug trafficking, ‘in keeping with their rationale of criminalizing human rights organizations and social protest in general’.
San Juan Copala
On 28th December, the Procurator General of the Republic of Mexico (PGR) dismissed the charges against the alleged paramilitary group Ubisort for the murders of Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakola. Groups including MULT and CACTUS pronounced this a human rights violation and called for demonstrations.
Juarez Activist Murdered in Front of the State Government Palace – On December 16, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was shot dead by a gunman as she was protesting in front of the government palace in the state capital of Chihuahua about the failure of a judge to prosecute for the 2008 murder of her daughter, Rubi. Several days after Escobedo’s murder, her husband’s lumberyard was burned down and her brother-in-law was disappeared and then found dead.
Another Juarez activist murdered
On the 12th January, Susana Chavez, a Mexican activist who led protests against the unsolved killings of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez, was found strangled and with one hand cut off. Her body was found the previous week, but not identified straight away. Ms Chavez coined the phrase ‘Not One More Death’, which became popular at protests against the Ciudad Juarez killings and the failure of the police to solve them. Amnesty International said that although her murder did not seem to be related to her activism, Ms Chavez’s killing was another sign that violence against women was again on the rise. Ciudad Juarez is the most violent city in Mexico, with 3,100 people killed in 2010 out of a population of more than a million.
John Ross 1938-2011
Poet, writer, journalist and activist John Ross died on 17th January. Long-term supporters will remember John as one of the Zapatistas’ most fervent supporters for twelve years until he turned against the movement (and its leaders) during the Other Campaign in 2006. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/01/11/index.php?section=opinion&article=013a1pol
Drug war killings increase
According to an article in the Guardian on the 13th January, a total of 34,612 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico in the four years since President Felipe Calderón declared an offensive against cartels. Killings reached their highest level in 2010, when there were 15,273 deaths, up from 9,616 the previous year. The office of federal security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, said the four-year figure included 30,913 execution-style killings, 3,153 deaths in shootouts between gangs, and 546 deaths involving attacks on authorities. The United Nations 2010 World Drug Report estimates that the global cocaine and opiates markets generate $153 billion a year.
Germany bans new Heckler & Koch weapon exports to Mexico amid human rights concerns
Germany’s government has banned weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH from any new arms deliveries to Mexico, amid concerns that the arms are ending up in parts of the country where Berlin has forbidden weapons exports due to human rights issues, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press. Heckler & Koch is under investigation by prosecutors for allegedly providing its G36 assault rifle to Mexican police in the states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guerrero and Jalisco, where Germany prohibits such exports due to alleged human rights violations. Germany’s weapons export regulations allow arms deliveries to Mexico, apart from the four states where the human rights situation is in question.