Compiled by the Chiapas Support Committee
1. GREAT NEWS! The Bachajon 5 ARE FREE! – On July 7, the first of the Bachajon 5, Mariano Demeza Silvano, was released from a juvenile detention facility “on conditions.” The 17-year-old youth was originally charged with “murder, damages, and attacks against the public peace.” A judge dropped the murder charge and then released him. Next, on Saturday, July 23, the other four political prisoners were released from Playas de Catazaja Prison. At a press conference they thanked both national and international solidarity for the solidarity: petitions, demonstrations and occupations.
2. New Archaeological Find At Tonina Site – Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH, its initials in Spanish) found two pre-Hispanic limestone sculptures that represent prisoners of war and a pair of writing tablets for keeping score of the ball game at Tonina. They are estimated to be 1300 years old. Archaeologists at the site believe that the figures corroborate an alliance between Copan (Honduras) and Palenque (Chiapas) in a war against Tonina for control of the Usumacinta River. Tonina is located just outside the city of Ocosingo, Chiapas, an entryway to the Canyons Region of the Lacandón Jungle.
3. Felipe Calderon Cancels Visit to Tonina Due To Zapatista Banners – On June 21, Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, launched the federal government’s new tourist plan: Maya World (Mundo Maya) 2012, whereby the Mexican government hopes to earn some foreign currency by catering to the “end-of-the-worlders.” His plan was to make the announcement on the day of the summer solstice, but after discovering that Zapatista signs and a big banner had been put up adjacent to the sight announcing that it is Zapatista territory, Calderon had to change his plans for fear of landing in Zapatista Territory. So, he changed the location of the announcement to the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Despite the signs and banners, Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines participated in the Solstice ceremony at Tonina. His government go-fers just took the signs down and put a sheet over the banner that featured Che, Zapata and Marcos. “End-of-the-worlders” are those who think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012 when the current Maya Calendar ends. They are allegedly already preparing to converge on a Maya site in the Yucatán. Meanwhile, the Junta in La Garrucha states that it will defend the land adjacent to what is now the Tonina site. That land is privately owned by a Zapatista and the government is maneuvering to take some of it if possible.
4. ORCAO “Takes Over” Zapatista Land Near Tonina – The Zapatista Good Government Junta of La Garrucha denounced land grabbing and aggressions by members of the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO, its initials in Spanish). The Junta states that they “took over” some land in March belonging to Nuevo Paraiso and are making a cornfield on it. Some of them are always armed. They have also engaged in stealing from coffee, corn and sugarcane fields. They have also stolen cattle, wire and trees. Nuevo Paraiso is in the autonomous Zapatista municipality of Pancho Villa. The Junta asked to meet with Orcao’s leaders, but they refused. The Junta also denounced a second problem with Orcao in the Chiapas Support Committee’s partner municipality of San Manuel: Orcao members are entering Zapatista land in the community of Nuevo Rosario to cut down trees to sell for firewood in Ocosingo. They have cut wire fences, allowing cattle to penetrate cornfields, and thus causing damage. The Junta demands that these Orcao members stay out of Zapatista land. Both communities are within the region surrounding Tonina.
5. Famous Chiapas Historian Jan de Vos Dies – Sadly, on July 24 Chiapas lost one of its best known historians when Jan de Vos died. He wrote many books on the history of Chiapas, but became most known for his trilogy on the Lacandon Jungle:
- La Paz del Dios y del Rey: la Conquista de la Selva Lacandona, 1525-1821 (The Peace of God and the King: the Conquest of the Lacandon Jungle)
- Oro verde: la Conquista de la Selva Lacandona por los Madereros Tabasqueños, 1822-1949 (Green Gold: the Conquest of the Lacandon Jungle by the Tabasco’s Timber Dealers)
- Una Tierra Para Sembrar Sueños: Historia Reciente de la Selva Lacandona, 1950-2000 (A Land for Sowing Dreams: Recent History of the Lacandon Jungle)
1. Mexican Navy Increases Border Security in Chiapas – On July 5, Mexico’s Department of the Navy (Semar, its acronym in Spanish) announced that it was reinforcing vigilance on the Suchiate River, which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala in the western part of Chiapas state. There are several formal border crossings there, near the city of Tapachula and the Pacific Ocean. The increased vigilance is to deter the trafficking of migrants and synthetic drugs by criminal groups like Los Zetas. Admiral Sergio Lara listed the additional equipment that Mexico’s Eighth Naval Region has acquired in the last six months and one of the commanders said that there have been confrontations with gunmen for criminal groups “within the last month.”
2. Guatemala President Visits Mexico and Pacts Border Security Cooperation – On July 27, President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala met with Felipe Calderon in Mexico City and agreed to strengthen security along their border to jointly fight organized crime. Commerce between the two countries, as well as the rest of Central America, takes place across that border. Human and drug trafficking, as well as illegal immigration between the two countries, are rampant due to lax security and geographical conditions along the border. At the end of June, the Central American Integration System (SICA) sponsored a 2-day security conference in Guatemala City. Presidents of the Central American countries and the presidents of Colombia and Mexico attended, as did US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and invited individuals from around the world. The purpose of the conference was to develop a security plan and funding for the region, currently experiencing a rise in violent crime due to drug-trafficking gangs. The result was a pledge of $1 Billion dollars from the World Bank, $500 million from the Inter-American Development Bank, $200 million from the European Union and an additional $300 million from the United States. President Obama had already pledged $200 million to El Salvador.
In Other Parts of Mexico
1. The Movement For Peace Meets With Congress – On July 28, Javier Sicilia and members of the Movement for Peace met with 40 members of Congress. He lashed out at them for approving Calderón’s War Against Organized Crime that violated the Constitution. Surprisingly, he used the figure of 50,000 dead, the first time we have seen that figure. He also delivered an ultimatum: “You have to define yourselves in favor of peace or in favor of war.”
2. Poverty Data Released – The National Counsel for Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) reported that there are now officially 52 million Mexicans living in poverty; in other words, 46.2 percent of the population. Of the 52 million poor, 11.7 million live in extreme poverty. In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, states with the heaviest indigenous population, one of every three individuals lives in extreme poverty!
In the US
1. Texas Executes Mexican National – On July 7, the state of Texas executed Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr., a citizen of Mexico. Both the Mexican government and the Obama administration had asked Texas not to execute Leal Garcia because he had been denied his right to consult with Mexican consular authorities at the time of his arrest. Although the case drew international attention, the US Supreme Court refused to issue a stay of execution and Texas proceeded to execute Leal Garcia before the world. Very few countries around the world have the death penalty, and view its use in the United States as rather barbaric.
2. Obama Requires Gun Dealers in States Bordering Mexico to Report Multiple Sales – Early this month, the US Justice Department began requiring gun shops in 4 southwest border states to report multiple sales (frequent buyers) of assault rifles to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This regulation applies to gun shops in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The National Rifle Association is objecting to this regulation.
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).
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Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
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