[Wow! Lots of important news this Month.]
AUGUST 2009 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Mexico's Supreme Court Frees 20 Convicted in the Acteal Massacre - On Wednesday, August 12, 2009, Mexico's Supreme Court overturned the convictions of 26 Tsotsil men serving prison sentences for participating in the massacre of 45 women, men and children while they were praying for peace in Acteal, Chiapas, on December 22, 19997. Acteal is in Chenalhó (official) Municipality. The equivalent autonomous Zapatista municipality is San Pedro Polhó. In the case of 20 of the appellants, the Court found that evidence used against them was falsified or otherwise tainted and threw out the convictions. Those twenty were granted immediate release from prison. Among them is one of the paramilitaries who confessed to participating in the massacre. The other 6 must have another sentence pronounced by a circuit court based on other remaining evidence, not that which the Court found to have been falsified or tainted. 30 additional appeals by imprisoned paramilitaries are pending and a similar decision with respect to those 30 was expected the following week. So far, nothing more. We don't know what the delay might mean, but the Court took a lot of flack for its dangerous decision.
2. Tension is Extremely High in the Chiapas Highlands (Los Altos) - A report in Spanish by a reporter for Noroeste (Northwest) newspaper in Mexico describes the tension following the release of 20 alleged paramilitaries who had been serving prison sentences for their participation in the Acteal Massacre. The 20 are out of prison in a Chiapas town near the state capital. The state government is trying to entice them into not returning to their communities in Chenalhó, as the government fears their return might generate violence. Army and police patrols have increased. The report quotes the president of Las Abejas saying that the paramilitary groups are reorganizing and EZLN insurgents are deploying throughout the mountains.
3. U.S. Releases Documents About Chiapas Paramilitaries - The United States' Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released documents confirming that past PRI presidents of Mexico (Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo) approved a counterinsurgency plan in Chiapas which included support for the creation and training of paramilitary groups in Chiapas and had intelligence agents spying on indigenous communities in the Highlands. The report was released by the National Security Archive and can be read online at:
(It is in both Spanish and English / en ambos Inglés y español).
This report totally contradicts the Mexican government's position regarding the Acteal Massacre: that the cause of the massacre was an inter-community fight over a gravel pit (the government's position) or an inter-religious conflict (evangelical theory). Prior to the release of the report, the Mexican government and the legal defense denied that there were paramilitaries. Unfortunately, the National Security Archive did not publish this information until the week after the paramilitaries were released.
4. Update on Mitziton Situation - The Army of God - According to articles in both La Jornada and Proceso, both based on information from the Mitziton ejido assembly, the men who led the attack that killed Aurelio Díaz on July 31 are members of the Army of God, a political-military branch of the Alas de Aguila evangelical church. The Other Campaign members of Mitziton say that these men are heavily armed. The leader of the church has filed a criminal complaint against the director of the Frayba Human Rights Center, La Jornada's envoy in Chiapas and three members of Mitziton's ejido assembly for defamation and "blocking the highway." We assume that the latter allegation refers to a protest march on the Panamerican Highway by Mitziton residents on July 31. People came from all over the region to join the mock funeral procession. The tension over this escalating situation is on-going and worrisome.
5. Senator Leahy Blocks Some Plan Mexico Funds and then Releases them - On August 4, Senator Patrick Leahy's office blocked the release of 15% of the funds for the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico). Fifteen percent is the amount the law states can be withheld due to non-compliance with human rights provisions of the legislation. Senator Leahy is Chair of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee. The State Department issued a positive report on Mexico's compliance with human rights provisions, but Leahy's staff rejected the report. This occurred not long before President Obama visited Mexico for 2 days of meetings with the Canadian Prime Minister and Mexico's President Felipe Calderón. It is estimated that between 60-100 million dollars was withheld. Although Congress is "recessed" until September 7, the State Department submitted a new report and La Jornada reported that the funds were released.
6. Obama Visits Mexico for North American Summit - On August 9 and 10, President Barack Obama participated in a meeting of the North American heads of State with Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón in Guadalajara, Mexico. Canada recently passed legislation requiring all Mexicans entering Canada to have visas. This cuts off the legal resource of asylum for those escaping the "drug war." Harper refused to reconsider this decision. Obama pledged support for the drug war, intelligence cooperation and funds for the border war, but said a comprehensive immigration bill would not be introduced until 2010. Many commentators were disappointed by the Summit. There was no additional support announced for restoring Manuel Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras and no commitment to reopen NAFTA negotiations.
7. Amnesty International Protests in Guerrero with PBI - On August 2, a delega-tion composed of 50 Amnesty International (AI) members and Peace Brigades International (PBI) members visited Raul Hernandez Abundio, a prisoner of conscience in Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero, Mexico. Hernandez Abundio is the only one of the OPIM activists remaining in prison, accused of participating in the murder of an army informant. AI said they were there as an act of solidarity and accompaniment with the OPIM and the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center because it had great concern for the violation of human rights in the region. The following day, they held a protest rally outside the government palace, together with folks from the OPIM, demanding the release of Hernandez Abundio. 2 soldiers cut the cables on the sound equipment in an effort to stop the rally, but the soldiers were detained by local police and released. AI is also demanding the withholding of the Merida Initiative funds because of human rights abuse. The OPIM (Organization of the Me'phaa Indigenous Peoples) is an adherent to the Zapatista Other Campaign.
Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.
The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).
We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.
News Summaries from previous months are now posted on our web page. Yes. It's back up.
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587