[A huge thank you to everyone who attended our 10th Anniversary Celebration, all who helped us out with the work and all who sent in donations. A big thanks to Fuga for the excellent music, to Juan’s Place, a great Mexican Restaurant in Berkeley, for donating rice and beans, and to keynote speaker, Enrique Davalos, for his keen analysis and wonderful presentation. You all collectively made this a great success. Muchísimas gracias!]

 

NOVEMBER 2008 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

1.  Mexico’s Interior Minister Killed in Plane Crash - On November 4, as voters in the United States were electing Barack Obama president, Mexico’s Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mourino, and other government officials were killed  in a plane crash as the crew was preparing to land in Mexico City. All 8 passengers and crew died in the fiery crash, as the plane took a nose dive into rush hour traffic also killing at least 5 people on the ground and injuring many others. Officially, the government seems to view the crash as a tragic accident, possibly caused by pilot error. The Interior Minister is the second most powerful office in Mexico’s government, second only to the president. The Mourino family has business interests apparently linked to Spanish investors. One of the Mourino family businesses operates the toll road (“la cuota”) between Tuxtla Gutierrez and San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Mourino was also a huge supporter of tourist development in Chiapas. It is important to watch whether his death will have any effect on the elaborate tourist development plans for Chiapas.

2.  EZLN Celebrated Its 25th Birthday on November 17 - Zapatista history according to Subcomandante Marcos tells us that 6 revolutionaries entered deep into the Lacandon Jungle on November 17, 1983 to found the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army or EZLN). They worked, learned and organized together for 10 years before rising up in arms on January 1, 1994. La Jornada carried a report on the anniversary celebration this year in Oventik and another report on celebrations in Europe. The Chiapas Support Committee observed the EZLN’s 25th Birthday right here in Oakland with a community celebration featuring banners and posters from different Zapatista-inspired groups and many EZLN-related events. We also celebrated with food, music and political analysis.

3.  The “World Festival of Dignified Rage” -  From December 26 to January 6, 2009, the Zapatistas will be celebrating their 25/15 Anniversary (25 years since the EZLN’s founding and 15 years since the Jan. 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising). The celebration will take place in three locations: Mexico City (December 26-29 ); Oventik (December 31, 2008 and January 1, 2009); and San Cristóbal de las Casas (January 2,3,4,5). We wrote to the Festival’s support team and asked for a clarification of the “invitation only” aspect and learned that all of us who are internationals are welcome to attend. This was confirmed in a communique just released on November 29.  Several members of the Chiapas Support Committee plan to attend. The communiques can be found on the Enlace Zapatista blog in English, Spanish, French, etc. http://www.ezln.org.mx (click on Enlace Zapatista).

4.  Pemex Will Drill for Oil in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas - Mexico’s Energy Secretary, Georgina Kessel Martinez, announced this month that in 2009 Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will solicit bids for oil drilling contracts in southeastern Mexico, including Chiapas. What was a bit surprising about her announcement was that she mentioned the Lacandon Jungle as one of the areas. After ecologists became alarmed, Kessel Martinez clarified that drilling would not take place in natural protected areas. As early as July/August 1996, Subcomandante Marcos asserted that a primary motive for the government’s counterinsurgency zeal had to do with oil and the fact that some of that oil was located right next door to the then Zapatista Aguascalientes (now a Zapatista Caracol) of La Garrucha, located in the canyons east of the city of Ocosingo, not a natural protected area. Another Zapatista area thought to contain oil is Amador Hernandez, deeper in the jungle and right on the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Sometime toward the end of 2009 the bidding process will begin for oil exploration contracts. It will be interesting to see if Halliburton will try to expand its operations in Chiapas. 

5.  Biodiesel Plant for Chiapas - At the same time that she announced that Pemex will renew oil drilling in the Lacandon Jungle, Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel Martinez also announced a biodiesel plant for Chiapas, the exact location not as yet determined. The plant was agreed to as part of the Mesoamerica Project (formerly the Plan Puebla-Panama), which includes Colombia. Not surprisingly, the biofuel plant will be constructed with Colombian technology. This poses a threat to indigenous and campesino lands, as well as the region’s ecology and food security because of the large tracts of land needed to grow monocrops for conversion into bio-fuels. The cultivation of monocrops ruins the soil on which it is grown, so that food cannot be grown on the land after it is exhausted by monocrop cultivation.

6. Study Finds Poverty in Mexico at 74.3% - On October 30, La Jornada published the results of a study by a researcher with the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN, its initials in Spanish). It found that poverty increased dramatically, in spite of the expenditure of billions of dollars. This means that there are some 78.1 million Mexicans living in poverty, of which 8 million live in extreme poverty. 

7.  Mexico in 2nd Place in Latin America in Receipt of Military Aid from the U.S. - According to an article published in La Jornada, Mexico receives the 2nd highest amount of U.S. military aid in Latin America, second only to Colombia. The large increase in military aid from the United States government can be attributed to the Merida Initiative. With 74.3% of the population living in poverty, one cannot help but wonder if that military aid is going to repress popular resistance. Although the Merida Initiative has been dubbed “Plan Mexico,” it also includes some military aid to Guatemala and El Salvador. 

8. The Good News from Guerrero Did Not Last Long - On October 20, a district judge in Guerrero granted a protective order to 4 of the 5 members of the Me´phaa Indigenous Peoples Organization (OPIM) who were jailed 6 months ago. The protective order meant that they were to be set free the following day. However, the state of Guerrero appealed the judge’s ruling and the men are still in jail. The 5th man must remain in jail pending a trial. All 5 are from the indigenous community of El Camalote and were jailed for alleged involvement in the death of a paramilitary. OPIM is adhered to the Other Campaign and Amnesty International has expressed concern for their safety.

9.  Political Prisoner Begins Hunger Strike in Oaxaca - On November 27, Pedro Castillo Aragon and Victor Hugo Martinez were removed from the Santa Maria Ixcotel prison in Oaxaca, separated, beaten, and returned to the prison at different times.  Both are members of the APPO in Oaxaca and also adherents to the Other Campaign. Pedro Castillo has now begun a hunger strike, demanding his freedom and that of other political prisoners in Oaxaca. He was imprisoned in 2002 in retaliation for his work with the Citizens Defense Committee (Codeci) in support of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples.  
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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 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!
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