SPRING DELEGATION to CHIAPAS, March 25 – April 1, 2012
The Chiapas Support Committee of Oakland, California announces a Human Rights Fact-Finding Delegation to Chiapas Mexico. We hope you will join us for this in-depth exploration of how corporate globalization is affecting indigenous communities constructing autonomy (self-governance).
On January 1, 1994, eighteen years ago, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) rose up in arms against the government of Mexico and took control of large expanses of land owned by cattle ranchers. Thirteen days later, the Zapatistas declared a truce. The government also declared a truce, but prepared for war. In February 1995, the Mexican army entered “Zapatista Territory” and set up military bases and camps close to indigenous communities. The army has never left and an estimated 50,000 or more soldiers remain there to this day. The territory claimed by the Zapatistas and militarized by the army is known as a “conflict zone,” but in contrast to many places in Mexico plagued by drug-related violence, Zapatista Territory is surprisingly calm.
Since the Zapatistas put down their weapons in 1994, they began to construct another world, one characterized by regional self-government, collective economic projects, autonomous education and health care. This delegation takes place eight and a half years after the Zapatistas renamed their 5 government centers Caracoles (shells) and created 5 autonomous regional governing bodies, called Good Government Boards, or Juntas; and nearly seven years after launching the Other Campaign, an effort to unite anti-capitalist movements into a political movement within Mexico.
The indigenous peoples of Chiapas confront a design by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank to re-conquer indigenous territory for exploitation by transnational corporations. The Zapatistas live in resistance to the Mexican government and are committed to resist corporate acquisition of their lands and natural resources. They say they will not permit the Plan Puebla Panama (now renamed the Mesoamerica Project) within their territory. That project threatens the people of Chiapas with eviction from their lands so that transnational corporations can exploit the natural resources and construct hydroelectric dams, soft drink bottling plants and upscale tourist facilities; as well as for oil and mining exploration and mono-crop export agriculture, such as biofuels.
Delegates will receive briefings from Mexican non-profits and will visit Zapatista communities, including the Caracol of Oventik .
This delegation provides an opportunity to visit and interact with civilian Zapatista communities constructing autonomy and resisting corporate exploitation. (We’re hoping to include a non-Zapatista community too this year.) While in San Cristobal, there will be time for shopping and entertainment. So, we invite you to join us for an amazing learning experience.
Getting there, cost, etc.
Delegates will arrive in Tuxtla Gutiérrez by plane and then travel by bus or taxi to the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas. We will assemble at a hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas on Sunday, March 25. Several days later, when the delegation travels into the communities, conditions will be like rough camping and require both a sleeping bag and a hammock.
Cost of the delegation is US $500.00. This does NOT include airfare or bus transportation to and from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. It DOES include most food (2 meals per day), lodging (double room) and ground transportation to the communities. Private rooms with Wi-Fi are available for an additional $50.00. Your tuition ALSO includes a donation for each community we visit, an honorarium for each NGO briefing we receive, delegation expenses and educational materials. We provide each delegation with experienced group leaders and a translator. Delegation dates are March 25 to April 1, 2012. We are working on arranging visits now. When we have arrangements confirmed, we will prepare a day-to-day itinerary and will send it to those who express interest in the delegation.
Who is the Chiapas Support Committee?
The Chiapas Support Committee is a grassroots nonprofit organization founded in 1998. All of us are volunteers. We support indigenous and campesino (peasant) organizations, autonomous communities and non-governmental organizations in Chiapas. We certify human rights observers, organize delegations, fund autonomous projects and process applications for the Zapatista Language School. We have a partnership (hermanamiento, in Spanish) with the autonomous Zapatista municipality of San Manuel, Chiapas. We have been organizing delegations to Chiapas since 2000.
Conditions in Chiapas
As described above, the areas we visit in Chiapas are in a “conflict zone.” There are military bases and “paramilitary” groups within the zone. The EZLN maintains its own army, although it does not use its weapons offensively. The conflict is almost entirely between unarmed Zapatista communities and armed civilian groups referred to as “paramilitary,” sometimes accompanied by local police. Violence has not been directed at or against foreign visitors. Between 1998 and 2000, the Mexican government expelled some foreign visitors from Mexico for “interfering” in internal Mexican politics because they were working in Zapatista communities, but changed its policy at the beginning of 2001 and there have been no problems for foreign visitors since then. Nevertheless, it is a zone of conflict and, therefore, conditions are not entirely predictable. Delegates travel at their own risk.
How to apply
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting an application. Act now! There are only 10 spaces on the delegation, so the sooner you send in your application the better. We must receive all applications by February 18, 2012. A deposit of $100 is required with your application in order to reserve a space. Balance is due March 5, 2012. For those who want more information, just email your questions to: email@example.com or call (510) 654-9587.
Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 654-9587 firstname.lastname@example.org