[Many thanks to All who attended our event with Victor Hugo Flores from the Frayba Center in Chiapas. And please help to circulate the news from Chiapas. Thanks.]
FEBRUARY 2010 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Paramilitaries Ambush Bolom Ajaw Zapatistas - On February 6, PRI members from Bolom Ajaw ambushed Zapatistas from Bolom Ajaw. The Chiapas Attorney General reported 1 PRI member dead from a bullet wound and 11 injured by bullets. The Zapatista Junta in Morelia reported 1 Zapatista shot and gravely injured, while the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center reported 3 Zapatistas injured by bullets. The PRI members are suspected of still belonging to the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic), a paramilitary gang, although they claimed leaving that paramilitary grouping in a much-publicized media show more than a year ago. It is clear that the Attorney General believes the Zapatistas fired weapons, thus violating the 15-year truce. The Zapatistas are claiming that they were not armed and claiming that the PRI death and injuries were caused by friendly fire. According to a detailed report now available from Frayba, PRI members were on several sides of Bolom Ajaw and were shooting at the same time. It states that some PRI members were caught in the crossfire and injured by the flying bullets, as were 2 Zapatistas. Bolom Ajaw has a spectacular virgin waterfall and is adjacent to the Agua Azul Cascades tourist area. The government has responded by heavily militarizing the area around Bolom Ajaw. There are more federal troops in Chiapas than in any other state in Mexico, once again demonstrating that the government is more afraid of Zapatista thought and practice spreading than it is of drug trafficking and organized crime spreading.
Correction: Last month we reported that Bolom Ajaw had been legalized as an ejido. We now believe our source for that information was incorrect and that it remains recuperated land.
2. Provocations in Mitzitón by Army of God - The Mitzitón Ejido issued two denunciations this month. The first reported the theft of the ejido's official seal. The man who stole it turned it over to a paramilitary Army of God faction in the ejido. He was placed in the village jail. After his detention, shots were heard coming from the location where the Army of God meets and San Cristobal's municipal president threatened to use the full weight of the law against ejido authorities if they didn't release the man who stole the seal. The second denunciation states that: 1) the man responsible for the death of Aurelio Diaz Hernandez was released from prison after only four months because the judge found the killing unintentional, and now that man is organizing paramilitary activity, saying that the government supports them (the paramilitaries); 2) the municipal president of San Cristobal named a second rural agent from among the group of paramilitaries, raising concerns about economic support coming to the paramilitary faction; 3) members of the Army of God held a meeting on February 7 in which they agreed to purchase weapons to "finish off" the organization in the community (referring to the Other Campaign). Allegedly, they also agreed to detain and disappear an ejido authority belonging to the Other Campaign and a representative of the Frayba Human Rights Center. (See, Items #3 and #4 below). Moreover, they denounced the fact that the San Cristobal municipal government appointed an Army of God member as a rural agent and that because the paramilitaries stole the ejido's seal, they are now able to issue false documents from the ejido signed by the paramilitary rural agent.
3. Mitziton Denounces Attempted Kidnapping - Mitziton authorities denounced that on February 20 four masked men tried to kidnap one of their leaders, Manuel Díaz Heredia, as he was walking along the road. The fact that many villagers were nearby saved him. The denunciation alleged that the masked men were federal agents from the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI in Spanish), a Mexican agency similar to the FBI .
4. Mitziton Confrontation Leaves 7 Injured - The evangelical faction in Mitziton cut down 8 trees without permission, so ejido authorities, adherents to the Zapatista Other Campaign, took the trees to a municipal agency. In reprisal, on Sunday, February 28, the evangelicals detained and beat up 3 Other Campaign members, tying them to posts. When some of their companeros went to rescue them, the evangelicals shot at them and three received bullet wounds. During the fight, one evangelical was gravely injured by 2 bullets and 3 others were beaten up. The Other Campaign members were taken to a hospital, as was the evangelical with bullet wounds. The other 3 evangelicals who were beaten up in the fight were taken hostage and remained overnight in the back of a pick-up truck because the Other Campaign members would not allow the truck to leave the community until their companeros were released. Other Campaign members blocked the highway with trucks and huge fires. On Monday, more than 200 police arrived in Mitziton, defused the situation and oversaw the exchange of all those detained.
5. Supreme Court Overturns Chiapas Election Reform - On February 15, Mexico's Supreme Court overturned the election "reform" passed by the Chiapas state Congress several months ago and ordered it to carry out direct and popular elections in such a manner that the elected municipal council members could take office on January 1, 2011. The Congress had passed legislation giving its members the power to appoint the 118 municipal councils. The purpose of the "reform" legislation was to change the timing of local elections to the same time as federal ones in order to save money. That legislation has been the subject of great criticism and controversy in the state.
6. Human Rights Defender Kidnapped and Threatened with Death - Margarita Martinez was kidnapped in San Cristobal by unidentified men while she was on her way to pick her son up from school. They put a plastic bag over her face so she could not see them, put her in a vehicle, hit her in the face, punched her in the ribs, threatened her with death and told her to stop pursuing the criminal complaint she filed in Comitan against authorities for an illegal November break-in of her residence. Margarita and her husband, Adolfo Guzman Ortiz, work for the human rights NGO "Enlace, Comunicación and Capacitación," with offices in the city of Comitan, Chiapas. Guzman Ortiz has also received death threats, which were reported in our January News Summary. The criminal complaint alleges police agents committed the break-in. Frayba is expressing great concern for the safety of this couple.
In Other Parts of Mexico...
1. Carlos Montemayor Dies - Award-winning author and translator, Carlos Montemayor, lost his battle with cancer and died on February 28. He was an advocate for indigenous peoples throughout Mexico and translated many indigenous languages into Spanish. He was a good friend to the Zapatistas and a voice of logic and reason in Mexico's political struggles. His death is a big loss to those from below in Mexico.
2. 16 Youths Assassinated in Ciudad Juarez - The month of February began in Ciudad Juarez with the murder of 16 young men at a party. Gunmen entered the party, separated the males from the females and then opened fire on the young men. Ciudad Juarez has suffered some of the worst violence in Mexico's war against drugs. In 2007, the city recorded 190 executions associated with narco-violence. The number jumped to 2,290 after federal troops began to arrive in 2008, and last year more than 3,400 executions were recorded. According to some NGOs, Juarez has suffered 35% of all the deaths from the drug war, seen 10,000 children orphaned and caused 60,000 families to flee to El Paso. Juarez is across the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo from El Paso, Texas, connected by an international bridge. Juarez citizens and business leaders are so fed up with the government's inability to protect them that they have once again threatened to request the presence of United Nations troops to bring about peace. Juarez residents also held protests calling for the ouster of Mexican president Felipe Calderon, the governor of Chihuahua (state) and the mayor of Juarez, as well as a referendum on the removal of the federal Army from Juarez.
3. Soldiers Beat 2 Youths in Guerrero, One Dies - In the mountains of Guerrero, a young man died after being severely beaten by soldiers who demanded money from him and his friend so that the soldiers could continue drinking. The friend lived to tell the story to local authorities. Local NGOs in Guerrero report that most of the state is completely militarized, that social protest has been criminalized and social leaders persecuted.
4. Obama Requests More Money for Merida Initiative - President Obama's budget request for Fiscal Year 2011, submitted to Congress on February 1, included an additional 310 million dollars for the Merida Initiative; that is, for Mexico's war against drug trafficking. The new funds would be used to strengthen institutions and security forces and less for sending equipment.
5. In Oaxaca, Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno Is Free! - An appeals court upheld the decision of a district court judge in Oaxaca granting a protective order to Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, an APPO member wrongly accused of the murder of Indymedia journalist Brad Will. The Attorney General of the Republic appealed that decision, but lost the appeal, so Martinez Moreno is now free.
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.
Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587