JULY 2008 CHIAPAS / ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY

[Dear Friends,  As this News Summary goes out, we are very concerned about the constant efforts to take land away from subsistence farmers, both Zapatista support bases and Other Campaign adherents. Also of concern is the amount of money buying campesino loyalty to the government as opposed to the Other Campaign or the Zapatistas. Combined with the military and police incursions, this counterinsurgency strategy creates an explosive atmosphere of constant threats and confrontations in the communities.]

1. Is There Gold in the Chiapas Hills? - The community of Cruzton, in Venustiano Carranza Municipality (County), has experienced harassment by state police ever since last April 27, when approximately 500 Chiapas police kicked in doors and broke into houses in Cruzton, a pro-Zapatista community. They detained 6 men, took them away to an undisclosed location and released them without charges later in the day.  In early July it was learned that the state police had set up an improvised camp on lands farmed by Cruzton residents for their survival, including the spring from which the community draws its water. Twenty (20) alleged “owners” of a nonexistent ejido are also in the camp carrying high-powered automatic weapons. There are 8 arrest warrants against Cruzton residents and they are not permitted to farm their cornfields. The occupation of these cornfields has uncovered the motive for the occupation: Gold exploration!  On July 22, the Cruzton families decided to enter the cornfields to clean them and to clean the natural spring. Members of the Other Campaign in the Jovel Valley were there as observers. Police attacked the families. There were several injuries and a member of the Other Jovel, Victor Manuel Escobar Pineda, was arrested and jailed. On July 23, the police returned, took down the camp and left the site. One week later, on July 30, Cruzton campesinos were able to once again work their corn and bean fields.

There are 44 families in Cruzton: 2 families are EZLN support bases; 28 families are Other Campaign members and 14 families belong to the PAN political party. The mining companies involved are Canadian: Fronteer Development Group and Radius Gold, through their Mexican subsidiaries. The amount of land involved is much larger than that of Cruzton. While as of right now Cruzton is the only community to suffer an attempt to take away its farmlands, mining concessions affect much of the central portion of the state of Chiapas.

2.  7 Chiapas Political Prisoners Released - On July 24, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) reported that 3 political prisoners belonging to The Voice of Los Llanos (the name of the prison in San Cristobal Municipality) were released from prison. Frayba also reported that 3 political prisoners belonging to The Voice of El Amate (the prison in Cintalapa Municipality) were released on that same date. The six had participated in the hunger strike of February/March of this year and were retaliated against for their participation. 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.  Of that original group, 8 remain incarcerated.  The lawyers from Frayba worked tirelessly to free these 5 men and 1 woman. They continue working to free those 8 who remain in prison. The seventh person released on July 24 was Victor Manuel Escobar Pineda, the school teacher arrested and jailed in Cruzton on July 22.  

3. Huitepec Hill Zapatista Ecological Reserve - Atop the beautiful forested Huitepec Hill, near the tourist town of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, the Zapatistas established an ecological reserve in March 2007. The municipal government of San Cristobal, controlled by the San Cristobal coletos (elites), belonging to the PRI political party, have been plotting to take it away from the Zapatistas ever since they established the reserve.  That threat seemed imminent during July, when it became known that the San Cristobal mayor was offering public works (roads) to indigenous communities living on the hill in exchange for their support in evicting the Zapatistas. So far, most communities have not supported him.  San Cristobal’s housing boom is believed to be the mayor’s motive for the eviction. Real estate developers are anxious to build expensive homes on the site. The Good Government Junta in Oventik has jurisdiction over the Huitepec Hill nature reserve.

4.  Caravan of Human Rights Promoters in Chiapas -  Over 300 national and international human rights promoters arrived in Chiapas on July 29 to spend 2 weeks there visiting the Caracoles of La Garrucha, Oventik, Morelia and the Huitepec Ecological Reserve, as well as other Zapatista sites recently threatened by provocations from the Army and police. Arriving in a caravan of buses from Mexico City, the human rights promoters are dividing into brigades that visit different locations. One brigade visited Cruzton on July 31. Other brigades report harassment along their route. It appears that the solidarity caravan will be in Chiapas to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Caracoles and the Good Government Juntas on August 8 and 9. 
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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: