MARCH 2009 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Obama, Holder and Napolitano Visit Mexico - President Barack Obama, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder each visited Mexico during April. Newspaper reports indicate that Obama agreed to release the military helicopters to Mexico that were promised by the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico). All three U.S. officials discussed drug trafficking and immigration issues. As a result of the March visit by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, joint Navy exercises were approved with both the U.S. and Mexican Navy participating. La Jornada also reported on a Hermosillo meeting between U.S. and Mexican border region commanders in which four agreements were reached regarding exchanging information and training on counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency operations.
2. National and International Campaign for Liberty and Justice for Atenco -
Mexico's Supreme Court found “grave human rights violations” during a May 3 and 4, 2006 police assault on the town of San Salvador Atenco, but refused to attribute responsibility for them. During those two days of terror, police arrested more than 200 people, sexually assaulted at least 30 women, killed two people, invaded dozens of homes without warrants, and brutally beat hundreds of people in actions that were broadcast nationally on TV. Among the 12 who remain in prison are 3 of the leaders of the Peoples Front in Defense of Land (FPDT), the militant Atenco organization that prevented the construction of an international airport on their farmland. They are sentenced to more than 67 years in prison and are held in a maximum-security prison. The Liberty and Justice for Atenco Campaign is headed by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Bishop Raul Vera, brother Miguel Concha and supported by Manu Chao, among many others. Some goals of the campaign are to have the 3 prisoners in maximum security transferred to a state prison, to get the government to admit its responsibility, have all sentences reduced, punish the perpetrators and, eventually win the freedom of the 12 prisoners. The web page for this important campaign can be found (in Spanish) at: <www.atencolibertadyjusticia.com
> The campaign includes a large commemoration event in Atenco on the anniversary of the May 3 & 4 police rampage. The Chiapas Support Committee will present videos about Atenco on Sunday May 3 in Oakland in support of the political prisoners. The FPDT is an important part of the Zapatistas' Other Campaign! Join us and find out how you can help.
3. Repression at Famous Chiapas Tourist Attraction, 8 Detained - On April 13, Chiapas state police arbitrarily detained a man from the San Sebastian Bachajon Ejido while he was shopping in the city of Ocosingo. San Sebastian Bachajon is located next to the Agua Azul Cascades and its residents are members of the Zapatista Other Campaign. When a commission from the ejido went out to look for him, police detained all 5 of them. All 6 are being held without charges at a detention center not far from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) reports that they were tortured until they signed statements admitting to the commission of assaults (robberies) on tourists. Members of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic), allegedly a paramilitary group, pointed these 6 men out to police as the highway robbers that assault tourists traveling to the Cascades. Opddic informants also accompanied the police. San Sebastian residents put up a roadblock to protest the detentions and were confronted by state police and Mexican Army soldiers who fired shots into the air. They took down the roadblock. Several days later, Miguel Vazquez Moreno, an EZLN support base from San Jose en Rebeldia, an autonomous Zapatista community, was detained while driving his vehicle. San Jose is next door to San Sebastian. It appears that these latter two are also being held without charges at the preventive detention center near Tuxtla. According to a Frayba Bulletin released on April 24, the Agua Azul region is now under the control of government security forces and the Opddic. Additionally, strong pressure is being exerted against the Zapatistas who administer the nearby Agua Clara tourist spa. The latest report in La Jornada indicates that both police and paramilitaries are firing shots at a Zapatista house and a helicopter is flying low over the house. A May 2 report in La Jornada states that all 8 detainees were charged and put in the El Amate state prison.
4. Resistance to Toll Road Begins - In February, the Chiapas state government announced that it would begin acquiring the right of way to an 8-mile stretch of road between San Cristobal and the Rancho Nuevo military base for the purpose of constructing the San Cristobal-Palenque toll road. That highway is a key piece in the overall plan to convert the region between Agua Azul and Palenque into a mecca for national and international mega-tourism. Engineers went to Mitziton without at the end of February and began measuring without asking permission. They told villagers that they were measuring for the highway. The ejido owners met together during March and decided to reject the highway because the government violated their rights by not consulting them and also because they believe the highway will cause destruction of their homes, fields and natural resources. While visiting Chiapas in March, the Chiapas Support Committee learned that resistance to the toll road was ready to begin. We were told that communities are already preparing the letreros (hand-made signs). Several weeks later a friend sent us photos of the signs in Mitzitón and on April 21, La Jornada published an article based on Mitzitón's formal statement of resistance.
5. Chiapas Police Break-Up Hunger Strike and Sit-In - On April 7, prison guards broke up the encampment of 13 hunger strikers inside the El Amate prison by destroying their tents and belongings. A simultaneous eviction of their friends and families from a sit-in and encampment at the state's government palace resulted in the detention of at least 5. All are members of a Chiapas independent campesino organization known as MOCRI-CNPA-MN. The police also went to the MOCRI offices in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital, and took computers, hard drives and other organizational documents. They are held without charges in the same detention center as those from San Sebastian Bachajon and San Jose en Rebeldia. To the best of our knowledge, MOCRI has no political connection with the Zapatistas or the 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 posted on our web page:
The Chiapas Support Committee is a grass roots all-volunteer human rights organization in Oakland, California. We work with indigenous and campesino organizations in Mexico. We have an hermanamiento (partnership) with San Manuel autonomous Zapatista municipality. In the Bay Area we provide public information about Chiapas through community events, our newsletter (Chiapas Update), our listserv and website. We organize delegations to Chiapas and also recruit and certify human rights observers and volunteers. We participate in the Other Campaign and the International Campaign. Our contact information is below!
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587