Frayba: Recent Elections Fragmented Chiapas Communities

[Below is an article about a report from the Frayba Human Rights Center. It confirms and elaborates what our delegation learned in March 2011 about the massive infusion of money to divide Zapatista and Other Campaign communities. An excerpt from our report on the 2011 delegation follows the article.]

The Recent Elections Fragmented Chiapas Communities: Frayba Center

  ** It documents in a broad report political pressures, vote buying and acts of corruption

** It emphasizes the persistent practice “of counterinsurgency directed at the EZLN and its support bases”

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

In recent months the state and federal electoral campaigns converged in the state of Chiapas, with troubling social effects. The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) documents in a broad report “the political pressure that was exercised in the towns and communities, to the end that through the purchase of votes and other classic means of electoral corruption electoral they would vote for the alliance of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the New Alliance Party (Panal), converting the Green Party into the first political force and leaving a deep fragmentation in the communities.”

The Frayba has monitored the armed conflict in Chiapas from its beginning, giving an account of the diverse junctures, always characterized by a counterinsurgency policy directed at the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) and its support bases. This is sharpened “when it is dealing with a change of diplomatic couriers and the distribution of political control.”

The lawyer Pedro Faro, a member of the Fray Bartolomé Center, says: “We have located a pattern of recurring violence during the electoral changes, which unleashes rancor and conflicts between the power groups for government posts, and once the essential scenario is established, actions are let loose for beating up the enemy. In these circumstances the dispute for the EZLN’s recuperated territories is specific.”

Between May and September 2012, Faro points out, “we have documented the continuous strategy of community confrontation that the government, at all three levels (municipal, state and federal), carries out in the autonomous Zapatista communities by means of local power groups, which benefit from the protection” that it offers them. Since 2000 “an integral war of wear and tear has been constructed,” and the government jointly “distorts” in the communications media the forced displacements, the armed attacks and the harassment that the EZLN’s support bases now receive. This scenario is corroborated with the hostilities underway against the Zapatista rebel autonomous municipalities and the communities of San Marcos Avilés, Comandante Abel, Jechvó and Banavil.

The “double discourse”

On the one hand, the federal government makes the EZLN invisible, and on the other, the state (government) expresses attending to their demands, removing itself as a contender and presenting itself as the administrator of the scenarios and the mediator of the conflicts, classified as “intercommunity.” Nevertheless, “the state government plays a fundamental role in the war of wear and tear, especially with the use of economic resources for confronting and coopting organizations or communities that resist the system.”

In the communications media we’re “dealing with blocking the EZLN’s posture and that of the organizations that differ with governmental policies.” The government “imposes its opinion or diverts attention with tourist publicity or the diffusion of ‘vanguard’ achievements, being that it gives continuity to the policy of displacing the autonomic process and the civil and peaceful resistance constructed starting at the beginning of the ceasefire, on the gamble of unilaterally fulfilling the San Andrés Accords, disavowed by the Mexican government.”

The Frayba registers that the counterinsurgency strategy has operated very patently in the armed incursions of groups of a paramilitary cut of Sabanilla, in Comandante Abel community, which already provoked the forced displacement of 87 people.

These are the facts, despite the fact that the local government “tries to hide the consequences of its policy of violence using a discourse of ‘human rights’ through reforms that are dead laws, and through the State Human Rights Council, which serves as a political operator for endorsing and maintaining impunity.”


En español:


Report on the 2011 CSC Delegation to Chiapas

By: Mary Ann Tenuto

Shiny new cars slithered over the dirt road like snakes. “Lots of traffic,” a delegate commented in Spanish to a small group chatting nearby. Sitting in front of his home by the side of the unusually busy road, a Zapatista elder responded to that observation about the parade of vehicles: “The government is sending money and projects to all the non-Zapatistas and even trying to buy off individual Zapatistas and Other Campaign adherents. The three political parties are doing the same thing because next year is an election year for all three levels of government. They’re looking for votes and trying to divide people.” He frowned as he finished talking, obviously upset by the government’s economic counterinsurgency tactic.

The topic of the government trying to divide the Zapatista and Other Campaign communities with tons of money received equal attention with that of the war and violence throughout Mexico during the two and a half weeks spent in Chiapas at the end of March 2011 preparing for and participating in the Chiapas Support Committee’s 10th delegation to Chiapas.

As a matter of principle the Zapatistas do not accept money from government aid programs. That applies to all three levels of government: federal, state and municipal (county). Consequently, these different levels of government have always used the aid programs to divide people from the Zapatistas. Now, it seems that both the amount of money and the amount of effort have increased/intensified. One wonders where the money comes from in a state where many have no money to buy medicine or school supplies. Are the corporations that want indigenous lands giving money to the state government?

One of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) visited summed it up this way for the delegates: “Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero is known as the man with the checkbook.” Another NGO said: “The government has an economic strategy: give lots of money to the campesino communities they know can be divided.” Those include some campesino communities belonging to the Other Campaign.

Regardless of where the delegation went or with whom delegates spoke, the vast quantity of pesos being spent to divide pro-Zapatista communities and the political conflict it was causing dominated the conversation and is a cause for genuine concern.

During a long interview with the Good Government Junta in La Garrucha, Caracol 3, Tzeltal Jungle Zone, we asked about the government’s strategy to divide people. Different members of the Junta responded to the various strategies being used. “The government is taking communal land and privatizing it. Government agents tell the people that the land will be theirs, but the people end up without any land and poorer than they were before,” one Junta member told delegates. Another man on the Junta said: “The Government offers housing with strings attached and people in the community are refusing it because most people don’t have confidence in the government and don’t believe it will keep its promises.”

Asked about money the government is offering to people in the region, the Junta responded: “The government’s plan is pretty powerful because they are using a lot of money to entice people away and divide the communities. But, the Junta is trying to keep everyone united and keep everyone participating together.” This Junta is in the last month of its three-year term of office and has learned a lot during those three years of experience governing the large region.




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