OCTOBER 2007 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

1.  Continental Indigenous Encuentro - The continental Indigenous Encuentro took place on Yaqui territory in Vícam, Sonora, Mexico, from October 11 to 14.  Despite government, police and military interference and harassment, the Encuentro was successful in bringing together over 500 delegates from the different tribes and nations of the continent to listen to each other’s experiences and learn what they all had in common: a history of conquest, exploitation and struggle. There were also more than 900 observers, and on the closing night, the crowd swelled to approximately 3,000. The Encuentro rejected all forms of neoliberal exploitation and also rejected the 2010 Winter Olympics "in Vancouver, Canada on sacred territory, stolen from the Turtle nation with the goal of installing ski runs."

2.  Comandantes Did Not Attend Indigenous Encuentro - According to several reports in La Jornada, the vehicle carrying the Zapatista commanders turned around and returned to Chiapas without attending the Indigenous Encuentro. The explanations given were that their vehicle had been stopped at a military checkpoint and that the comandantes had received word of a possible attack.  The vehicle in which Subcomandante Marcos was traveling was also stopped on the way to Vicam. Many of us who attended the Encuentro experienced police and military checkpoints. 

3. Zapatista Communities Remain Under Threat of Paramilitary Attack - The 13 communities we reported as being at “high risk” last month remain threatened by various “paramilitary” groups. The threatened communities are holding their ground with different peaceful tactics: round-the-clock guards, dialogue and negotiation, national and international civilian peace observers, backup from their companer@s in neighboring communities and political support from civil society. We learned, for example, when we visited San Manuel, our partner municipality where at least 5 communities are threatened, that they were dialoging with the aggressors, using respected negotiators and intermediaries. Although the immediate threats in San Manuel may have “calmed down,” they have not gone away and are certainly not over. The paramilitaries’ goal is to take away the land recuperated by the Zapatistas in 1994, thereby effectively crippling many autonomous municipalities. 

4. PLAN MEXICO (the Merida Initiative) - The governments of George Bush and Felipe Calderon have negotiated the “Merida Initiative,” a plan to help Mexico combat the drug trade. Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said the three-year program meant the United States would send its southern neighbor equipment such as surveillance aircraft, drug-detection gear and data-processing technology. Washington would not send Mexico 
cash, nor would it ask for guarantees in terms of arrests, get involved in strategy or send soldiers, she told a news conference. Bush's initial $500 million request for Mexico is part of a program that will total $1.4 billion. His administration has also requested $50 million for counter-narcotics efforts in Central American countries.  Mexican critics of the plan refer to it as Plan Mexico, likening it to Plan Colombia, which resulted in U.S. interference in Colombia. 

5. Controversy Over Acteal Massacre Revisited - A debate has raged in the Mexican press throughout the month over an article written by Hector Aguilar Camin and published in the magazine Nexos. The article concerns the Acteal Massacre and, according to those rebutting Aguilar Camin, he attempts to rewrite its history.  On December 22, 1997, 45 men, women and children belonging to the Tzotzil Catholic campesino organization called Las Abejas (the Bees) were murdered in the community of Acteal, Chenalhó Municipality, Chiapas, while they prayed in a tiny chapel. Members of an indigenous paramilitary organization known as Mascara Roja were convicted of the crime and remain in prison. Attempts to overturn the convictions have been underway for some time, promoted mostly by evangelical churches in order to clear the names of those imprisoned, most of whom are/ were members of evangelical churches and, one supposes, to also cleanse the churches’ reputations. Aguilar Camin’s article is only available in part in the online version (in Spanish) of Nexos, unless you pay a fee, but it appears from the responses that what has enraged people is what is perceived as an attempt to whitewash government officials (politicians) of responsibility and promote, or re-promote, the disproved government line about “intracommunity conflict.” 

6.  Marcos Attends Solidarity Forum -  Subcomandante Marcos spoke at the National Forum of Solidarity with the Zapatista communities, held in Jojutla, Morelos, over the weekend of October 27-28.  He touched on a number of subjects, including the Merida Initiative, dubbed “Plan Mexico” by some, as well as the current Acteal controversy. He also criticized the Bush Administration’s position on Cuba’s elections and paid tribute to Che Guevara. 
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Compiled monthly by  the Chiapas Support Committee
News Summaries from previous months are posted on our web page: