JULY 2009 CHIAPAS/ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. 5 Chiapas Political Prisoners are Free! - Five of the seven political prisoners from San Sebastian Bachajon were released from prison on July 6. Judicial authorities terminated all criminal charges against them after hearing their appeal. Two Other Campaign members from San Sebastian still remain in prison. The five who were released thanked national and international civil society for all our support. The Chiapas Support Committee sends out muchos thank yous to all of you who signed the petition to free the 7 political prisoners from Bachajón. We sent it to Calderón and Sabines while the prisoners' appeals were pending and we also gave Frayba a hard copy when we were in Chiapas during July.
2. Washington Post Says that the Mexican Army Uses Torture! - The Washington Post published an article on July 10 detailling allegations of torture against the Mexican Army in its war against drugs. It linked this to the $1.4 billion approved by the U.S. Congress to assist the Mexican Army and other Mexican security forces. Mexican human rights groups have reported this for years. In fact, 70 civil organizations signed a letter asking Congress not to approve additional funding for the Merida Initiative because of human rights abuses by the soldiers and repression against the civilian population. Now that the Post has published the ugly truth, the State Department is required to look into the matter and give a report to Congress in order to release the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico) funding. The State Department has requested a report from Mexico.
3. Other Campaign Member Killed in Mitzitón - On July 21, Aurelio Díaz Hernández was run over by a truck and killed in the community of Mitziton, in the rural part of San Cristóbal de las Casas municipality, Chiapas, Mexico. Eye witnesses say it was intentional. The truck driver's gang says it was an accident. The government says it is investigating. However, local newspapers quote government officials as saying that the problem in Mitziton is because of religious differences. While there are religious differences, the essence of the dispute in Mitziton is the new super-highway (toll road) to Palenque, a political dispute. A group of evangelicals belonging to the Alas de Aguila (Wings of the Eagle) Church is in favor of the toll road and supports the PRD state government. The majority of ejido members (500) belong to the Other Campaign and are in resistance to the toll road. The toll road is slated to start its trajectory towards Palenque on Mitzitón's land, dividing the ejido in half. Several days after the killing the ejidal assembly withdrew recognition of the agrarian rights of the 98 evangelicals for refusing to cooperate in community work and for provoking discord.
4. Five Other Campaign Members Jailed in Campeche - On July 10, 5 activists from Candelaria, Campeche were detained and imprisoned. They are members of the Other Campaign and part of the Candelaria civil movement in resistance to paying high electric rates. They are accused of kidnapping an official of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). They initiated a hunger strike the day after they arrived at the prison. The movement against paying high electricity rates has spread to many Mexican states and has active members in Chiapas, especially on the Pacific Coast and in the Northern Zone.
5. Santa María Ostula "Recuperates" Communal Land Amid Bullets - On June 29, mercenaries (hired guns) fired on indigenous Nahua men and women who were recuperating communal land on the Pacific Coast of Michoacán from small property owners who had appropriated it over a 40-year period. The piece of land is named La Canahuancera and is part of Santa María Ostula's communal lands. Santa María Ostula is part of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, its initials in Spanish) and the Other Campaign. Solidarity caravans are setting up "observation camps" and the Ostula community police have the situation under control now. Both the Mexican Army and Navy have stationed troops there and Ostula's representatives are talking to state authorities. The Nahuas are building a new community on the site and have renamed it Xayakalan. Santa María Ostula was the site of a recent assembly of the CNI's Pacific Region out of which came a declaration proclaiming the right to indigenous self defense in accordance with traditional indigenous justice; for example, the community police.
6. Mexican Economy Suffers from World Recession - In our recent visit to Chiapas, we talked to taxi drivers and farmers about the economy. They told us it was very difficult because people couldn't sell their products. An economist interviewed by La Jornada said that 75% of the Mexican population now lives in poverty. That's 80 million people! This is caused, in part, by loss of remittances from those Mexicans working outside the country. Also, Mexico has lost 735,000 formal jobs. Meanwhile, food prices have risen sharply. Those factors have driven many people into poverty.
7. PRI Makes Big Gains in Mid-term elections for Congressional Delegates - Mexico held mid-term elections for Congressional delegates and several governorships on July 5. Final results show that the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) gained an important percentage of seats and almost a majority of congressional seats. Apparently, 44.6% of eligible voters participated. Both the PAN and the PRD lost badly. The PRI also won several governorships.
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.
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 participate in an hermanamiento (partnership) with San Manuel autonomous Zapatista municipality in order to support San Manuel's construction of autonomy. 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