MAY 2009 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Miguel Vazquez Moreno Released from Prison - Miguel Vazquez Moreno, the Zapatista detained by police on April 18, was released from prison on May 15, shortly after the Zapatista Good Government Junta of Morelia completed an investigation into the false allegations against him and took two of the real robbers into custody. The Junta first issued a press release strongly supporting Vazquez Moreno as innocent of the charges of robbing travelers on the Ocosingo-Palenque highway. In another press release it not only repeated its support for Vazquez Moreno and its "arrest" of the two guilty parties, but it also named each member of the gang of thieves responsible for robbing tourists. The Junta went on to name those creating violence throughout its region. Prior to his release, Vazquez Moreno and the other seven detained in last month's police operation were all formally charged and confined in the El Amate prison. At his preliminary hearing Vazquez Moreno stated the following: “I am a native of the San Sebastian Bachajon ejido and I form part of the EZLN's support base, an organization that defends its right to exercise autonomy and self determination as indigenous peoples, its right to territory and to natural resources.” "They [the federal and state governments] want to impose neoliberal economic projects on our autonomous territory. As indigenous people, the land is our life, from there we eat, we work, our children grow and it is something sacred, therefore we consider that the land is not for sale but to work and take care of. Our territory is rich in water, animals and natural resources. They want to make it into a 'Chiapas Cancun,' by plundering the indigenous of our life; that is, the land, just so that foreign and national companies can become richer, as well as the government officials that benefit from these projects.”
2. Seven Other Campaign Members Are Still Political Prisoners in Chiapas - 7 of the 8 indigenous men detained in last month's police operation near the Agua Azul Cascades remain in the El Amate prison, now formally (and falsely) charged with assaulting and robbing travelers. They are being submitted to extremely harsh treatment while confined. Meanwhile, more facts are known about the state police operation. The police actually stole money and merchandise from the stores they entered, stole money and belongings from the men they detained, destroyed the ticket booth operated by the Other Campaign members of San Sebastian Bachajon and turned over the collection of entry fees at that site to the paramilitary members of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic). Police also took over a gravel pit operated by the San Sebastian ejido (collective farm) and turned its operation over to the Opddic members. The state government set up a police encampment on the road inside of San Sebastian and that camp is still there. Both the ticket booth and the gravel pit are important sources of income and their economic importance will increase dramatically if construction begins on a new San Cristobal-Palenque Highway and increased tourism becomes a reality. The Other Campaign is asking for international support for the seven prisoners in whatever form we are most comfortable; for example, getting the word out, letter writing, visiting embassies and consulates, petitions, demonstrations or other imaginative forms of social protest. The Chiapas Support Committee is working on a petition to the president of Mexico and the Governor of Chiapas. We will send it out shortly to this list and ask you all to please sign on.
3. Chiapas Communities Vow to Fight Mining Companies - A group of indigenous communities near Chicomuselo, Chiapas, has resolved to struggle against the mining companies whose practices contaminate the air and water and destroy the mountains. They are not the first to protest the open-pit mining practices of Linear Gold and Blackfire, two Canadian mining companies doing business in Mexico. In April 2008 we reported on the police detention of 6 men in the community of Cruzton, at first described as a land dispute. It later turned out that the dispute involved concessions for gold mining on Cruzton's land. Moreover, we learned in a series of La Jornada articles about Cruzton that the Chiapas state government had given mining concessions to the subsidiaries of large Canadian mining companies in a large part of the state. On March 8, 2009 a group of women demonstrated in the state capital against Linear Gold and Blackfire. Last month (April 2009) a group of Catholics in the Sierra demonstrated their opposition to the mining companies in Motozintla, Chiapas, with the support of a local priest. The same issue plagues communities in Guatemala, just across the border from Chiapas, as well as other Mexican states, like Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi and Guerrero. A violent confrontation took place in San Jose del Progreso, Oaxaca, this month between local protesters who had been blocking the entrance to a mine and police who were sent in to remove them by force.
4. ARIC UU-ID Communities Refuse to Leave Montes Azules - On April 26, the federal government's Agrarian "Reform" Agency (SRA, in Spanish) reported that 3 villages of indigenous people belonging to the ARIC UU-ID (Rural Association of Collective Interest, Union of Unions, Independent and Democratic), an independent campesino organization in the Lacandon Jungle, had voluntarily agreed to leave 3 villages in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in exchange for 17.5 million pesos. This month, ARIC UU-ID issued a statement contradicting the government's report and saying the communities will not relocate voluntarily. The communities involved are: Nuevo San Gregorio, Salvador Allende and Ranchería Corozal, all in the Candelaria region. This is important because both ARIC UU-ID and the EZLN have communities in the Montes Azules and have collaborated to resist forced eviction by the government.
5. Update on Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico)
- A House/Senate conference committee is considering another $400 million in funding to Mexico's security forces as part of a $96.7 billion supplemental war-funding bill. More than 70 Mexican civil organizations signed and sent a letter to president Obama opposing such funding, but the House of Representatives approved it anyway. You can sign a petition opposing this funding on the Witness for Peace web site. We urge everyone to sign on to that excellent letter. Just go to: http://www.witnessforpeace.org
On the right side of the page, click on "Halt More Drug War Aid to Mexico." That will bring up the letter and petition.
6. US "Drug Czar" Announces Change in Policy - La Jornada and the Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama's new "drug czar," Gil Kerlikowske, announced that the "war on drugs" was over in the United States and that drugs would no longer be regarded as a public safety issue. The criminalization of drugs has overwhelmed the U.S. criminal justice system (police, courts and prisons), costing the government big bucks and creating the perception among many that it is a "war against people." It is not viewed as having succeeded. The new drug czar reportedly said that the emphasis would shift to offering treatment to addicts and debating the legalization of marijuana. The new "drug czar" also said that the federal government would not pursue those selling or using medical marijuana in states, like California, where it is legal for medicinal purposes. Marijuana constitutes an important percentage of the drugs that are smuggled across the US/Mexico border by Mexican drug cartels.
7. Remember Atenco's 12 Political Prisoners!
- The Liberty and Justice for Atenco Campaign is asking international civil society (that's us) to sign on to the campaign. The Chiapas Support Committee has signed on and you can too. The web page for the campaign to free Atenco's 12 remaining political prisoners can be found (in Spanish) at: <www.atencolibertadyjusticia.com
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.
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 654-9587