|JUNE 2008 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY|
Dear Friends of Chiapas,
Thanks so much to all those who attended our Militarization of Mexico event last week. Two of our members are heading for Chiapas next week and will return in August with new information. Also during July, we will present a program with our compañer@s of the Other Campaign in Fresno. Like everyone else, we await a communique from the Zapatistas on the next step for the Other Campaign. CSC
1. TWO Zapatista Political Prisoners Released! - On June 2, Francisco Perez Vazquez and Angel Concepcion Perez Gutierrez, father and son, Zapatista political prisoners in Yajalon, Chiapas, were freed after nearly 12 years in prison. The 2 Zapatista support bases were incarcerated in Tacotalpa, Tabasco, in July 1996, accused and declared guilty of a murder which they did not commit. (Witnesses placed them in another village at the time of the murder.) As a move preliminary to their release, on April 24 of this year they were transferred to Yajalon after mobilizations in Chiapas, Tabasco, nationally and internationally to free them. Francisco is in his seventies and Angel has had an untreated infection for years. Both are in poor health. Francisco and Angel are the two prisoners Subcomandante Marcos was allowed to visit during his 2006 Other Campaign tour. They were included in the petition the Chiapas Support Committee circulated in March and April as part of the campaign to free political prisoners in Chiapas. On behalf of both men, don Angel thanked all those who took action to obtain their freedom.
2. Army and Police Incursions in La Garrucha Region - On June 4, a convoy of 200 Mexican Army troops in tanks and trucks, together with state and local police, attempted to enter the Zapatista Caracol of La Garrucha, autonomous municipality of Francisco Gomez in the canyons of the Lacandon Jungle. After La Garrucha’s residents turned them away, they painted their faces black and tried to enter the nearby Zapatista ejido of Hermenegildo Galeana, saying they were “looking for drugs.” Galeana’s residents came out to meet the troops and, armed with only their machetes, sticks, stones and slingshots, drove the convoy away. Another attempt to enter a Zapatista community took place at the village of San Alejandro on recuperated land just down the road from La Garrucha. Again, San Alejandro’s residents met the troops armed with only their machetes, sticks, stones and slingshots and turned the soldiers and police away. The commander in charge of the troops threatened that they would return in 15 days. That time has elapsed and no troops have returned yet. The EZLN considers this move against a Caracol to be a serious provocation.
3. Final Version of “Plan Mexico” Approved - On June 26, the authorization of funds for the Merida Initiative (H.R. 6028) passed the United States Senate. The Senate appropriated $465 million: $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America to combat drug trafficking in the first year of a 3-year plan. The Merida Initiative is dubbed “Plan Mexico” by critics because of its similarity to the failed Plan Colombia which only increased both drug production and violence. The plan authorizes $1.6 billion dollars for equipment to fight drug trafficking over the next 3 years, although each year of the plan requires a separate appropriation of funds. The original Senate version attached conditions that would require Mexico to correct some of its most egregious violations of human rights. The two differing versions were “reconciled” by removing the strict conditions and, instead, calling for “consultations” in the case of human rights violations committed by troops who receive the military aid. Much of the funding appropriated will go to U.S. defense contractors for helicopters and equipment. The rest is for Mexico’s security forces. On June 30, President Bush signed the Merida Initiative into law along with the Iraq War Funding Bill. “Plan Mexico” was attached to the war funding bill as an amendment. Some analysts believe that this legislation is a foot in the door for the secretive Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) which seeks to secure NAFTA’s economic space through militarization.
4. Plan Puebla-Panama is Renamed the Mesoamerica Project - At the end of June, the presidents of Mexico and the Central American countries, plus the Prime Minister of Belize, the presidents of Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as the governors of the Mexican states of Puebla, Veracruz, Tabasco, Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and Campeche and Yucatan met together in the Mexican city of Villahermosa, Tabasco, for the 10th Tuxtla Summit on the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP). They all agreed to rename it the Mesoamerica Project and to reduce the 100 points for development to 5 megaprojects: electricity, highways, telecommunications, cybernetic information and health. Launched in 2001 by former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, the PPP generated tremendous controversy and opposition in civil society throughout the region encompassed by the plan. Indeed, its critics organized national and international conferences to coordinate opposition to the PPP. The addition of a social aspect (health) to the project may be to soften the impact of its more controversial aspects, like electricity and highways, both of which imply the displacement of indigenous people.
Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.
The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and 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:
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 public events, our newsletter (Chiapas Update), our listserv and web site. 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