FEBRUARY 2009 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

[Thanks so much to everyone who attended our February 22 Community Report on the World Festival of Dignified Rage. Your lively participation made it a great event!]

1.  Mexican Supreme Court Rules on Atenco Abuses, Upholds Impunity - Mexico's Supreme Court found “grave human rights violations” in Atenco, but refused to attribute responsibility for them. After a yearlong investigation and four days of hearings, the Justices exonerated high-ranking officials for serious human rights abuses during the May 2006 police terrorism in San Salvador Atenco.  During the May 3 and 4 rampage, police arrested more than 200 people, sexually assaulted at least 30 women, killed two young students, invaded dozens of homes without warrants, and beat hundreds of people in actions that were broadcast nationally on TV. The Court exonerated Mexico State Governor Enrique Pena Nieto, who was responsible for state police, and Federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, who was the Secretary of Public Security in 2006 and in charge of federal police units. Medina is considered close to President Felipe Calderon and Pena Nieto is considered a likely PRI presidential candidate in 2012 elections, perhaps accounting for their exoneration. The Justices called for prosecution of lower ranking police officials without mandating investigations, while granting no relief to those still imprisoned with longer-than-life sentences. 

2.  Forced Disappearance and Murder of 2 Guerrero Indigenous Leaders - On February 13, alleged ministerial police investigators (PIM, their initials in Spanish) detained, disappeared and murdered two indigenous activists in Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero. The dead bodies of Raul Lucas Lucia and Manuel Ponce were discovered on February 21 with signs of torture. Raul Lucas Lucia was the president of and Manuel Ponce Rosas an activist in the Organization for the Development of the Mixtec People (ODPM), which has denounced Army abuses and outrages in the Nu' savi region of Guerrero. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have all denounced these murders and warned of the dangers in that region. Amnesty International pointed out that “the pattern of murders, attacks, threats and detentions of human rights defenders in Ayutla has converted the region into a constant danger for the individuals that defend the rights of the most marginalized indigenous communities in Mexico.”

3. Construction of the San Cristobal-Palenque Toll Road to Start - The Chiapas state government announced this month that construction of the toll road between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque would begin soon on the 8-mile section from San Cristobal to the Rancho Nuevo military base. Although the funding was announced, the exact route was not. Governor Juan Sabines said that they would use “extreme care not to affect communal or collective lands, archaeological zones, ecological impacts and to avoid division of communities.” Notably absent from this statement are all the “recuperated” Zapatista lands. A state department infrastructure official said: “the current work consists of [determining] the exact path so that the right of way to 169 kilometers, with six branches, tourist stops, artesania stores, hotels and other services can be obtained.” In a manner still imprecise, he said that the road “will benefit” the municipalities of San Cristobal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Huixtan, Oxchuc, Palenque, Salto de Agua and Tumbala, “among others.” Sabines was quoted as saying: “Said project is not associated with any kind of investment boom, nor does it instrument any strategy for the plunder or acquisition of lands.” His credibility was called into question when a half-page ad appeared in the New York Times on February 16 entitled “In Mexico, Chiapas is ready for Foreign Investments." The paid advertisement mentions the toll road as a piece of the infrastructure making the state “ready for foreign investment.” The toll road is actually 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. 

4.  Construction of Palenque Airport to Begin - Construction to expand the current Palenque Airport into an international airport will begin “before the and of April,” according to an article in La Jornada. The new airport will initially cater to the demands of the European market by receiving international flights from Europe. The current airport only receives small charter planes. This is another key infrastructure piece in the planned expansion of the Agua Azul-Palenque tourist region.

5. Good News! 5 More Chiapas Political Prisoners Released - On February 17, Miguel Gomez Gomez, of the "Zapatista Group" left El Amate. On February 24, four more political prisoners were released: Jose Perez Perez, of the Voice of El Amate; Agustin Rodriguez Jimenez, Diego Rodriguez Hernandez and Tiburcio Gomez Perez, members of the Voice of los Llanos in the San Cristobal prison. All had participated in the hunger strike last year. Their organizations are adhered to the Zapatista Other Campaign. The only political prisoner (from the original group of hunger strikers) who remains in prison is Alberto Patishtan Gomez, who served as spokesperson for the Voice of El Amate. His case is legally more difficult because of the federal charges of which he was convicted. The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center represented all those released and continues to work on Patishtan Gomez' case.

6.  Military Harassment Puts Exclamation Point on the End of February! - On February 26, the Zapatista Good Government Junta in Oventik denounced military movements, including an incursion into the Zapatista community of Tivo, near the Caracol of Oventik. The alleged pretext for this action is to “look for drugs.” Other reported military movements are helicopter and airplane flyovers of San Andres Sakam Ch'en de los Pobres (San Andres Larrainzar), principally over the Caracol of Oventik. The Junta said that this has been going on since February 21 and termed it “a provocation and a pretext for putting soldiers into our communities.” According to La Jornada, since the end of December, military presence in Chiapas began to increase in the Jungle, along the border with Guatemala. The last week in February, Army presence was renewed at the Xhanil crossroads, Chilon municipality, a few kilometers from the Agua Azul Cascades. Indigenous people from that region, corresponding to the Caracol of Morelia, have heard rumors that a military camp was reinstalled there.  Also at the end of February, a rumor was started that Agua Clara would be evicted. Some of you may remember from last month that Agua Clara is a scenic tourist attraction and swimming spot where conflict erupted in January between Zapatistas and PRI members. The rumor about an imminent eviction was false and started just to create fear in local residents, part of the intensifying counterinsurgency in Chiapas. 

7. International Women's Day Festival in Oventik to Begin - In a communiqué dated January 28, 2009, the EZLN announced a Festival to celebrate International Women's Day, March 8, in honor of Mama Corral, a social activist from Chihuahua and an adherent to the Other Campaign. The Festival will be held in Oventik on March 7 and 8. It will feature sports (soccer, basketball and volleyball), cultural events, including music for dancing, and political events. The Festival is organized by the comandantas of Los Altos. As in the Comandanta Ramona Women’s Gathering in La Garrucha, men will only be able to participate in a supportive role.
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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.

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: 
http://www.chiapas-support.org
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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!
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Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box  3421
Oakland, CA  94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587
Email: cezmat@igc.org
http://www.chiapas-support.org