FEBRUARY 2014 ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Catholic Nuns Assaulted in Attack on Zapatista Community – During the first two days of February, reports started to come out about a January 30 attack on the Zapatista community of 10 de Abril (April 10th) in which there were serious injuries to several Zapatistas. The aggressors/attackers were from the November 20 ejido in another municipality and called their grouping the CIOAC-Democratic. When 10 de Abril called for medical personnel from the San Carlos Hospital in Altamirano to bring help, the attackers detained the medical personnel and their vehicles, including an ambulance. The aggressors also put their hands all over several nuns in a search for whatever was in their pockets, and ultimately took money and papers out of their pockets. Apparently, the Frayba Human Rights Center notified the Chiapas government of the “urgent” situation and it did nothing. This incident is one of many geared towards dispossessing the Zapatistas of their recuperated land and is part of the “low-intensity” counterinsurgency war. You can read a report here. The national CIOAC organization stated that the aggressors from November 20th are not members of, nor are they affiliated with the national organization.
2. Government Pressure to Privatize Communities in Resistance – Early in February La Jornada issued a series of reports on the northern jungle zone of Chiapas that uncovered government maneuvers used to pressure landholders into privatizing their land. One measure used is to condition Procampo funds on privatization. Procampo is a program that gives cash benefits to peasant farmers. It is funded through the Inter-American Development Bank and designed to offset the negative effects of NAFTA. While many of these communities are in resistance, meaning they do not accept money or programs from the government, there may be a minority living within these same communities that is not in resistance. They DO accept Procampo. Thus, the conditioning of Procampo money on the community agreeing to privatize causes further division within a community. The communities in resistance are supportive of the EZLN in various degrees. Privatizing land is another way to dispossess indigenous communities supportive of the Zapatistas of their land and to foster further political divisions. One report also included an update on the Viejo Velasco Massacre fallout.
3. San José El Porvenir Also Opposes San Cristóbal-Palenque Toll Road – Last month, Los Llanos, a Tzotzil community in the rural part of San Cristóbal de las Casas Municipality, obtained a temporary injunction against construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque Toll Road until there is a decision on the case. We posted a translation of the news article on our blog. The toll road is one of the infrastructure projects envisioned within the Plan Puebla Panamá (now renamed the Mesoamerica Project). Its purpose is to facilitate tourism. Now, another Tzotzil community affected by the toll road, San José El Porvenir, has announced its opposition to the superhighway and its agreement with Los Llanos. San José El Porvenir is located in the municipality of Huixtán.
4. They Inaugurate Palenque International Airport – On February 12, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco Coello attended the inauguration of the Palenque International Airport in Chiapas. The opening of this airport represents the completion of another key infrastructure project of the Mesoamerica Project for facilitating tourism and commerce in the Northern Zone of Chiapas. It is anticipated that the airport will receive the first Interjet flight on March 13. Of interest was a statement from the (federal) assistant secretary of Transportation and Communications, Carlos Almada López, about the Palenque-San Cristóbal Toll Road. Almada said that the preliminary design for the superhighway would be finished in May and that will determine the project’s specific trajectory and timetable. After this inauguration it was revealed that the federal government will provide $18 billion pesos for highway construction in Chiapas in order to further facilitate tourism and commerce.
5. Displaced from the Puebla Ejido Return to Acteal and Land Returned to Church – The people displaced from the Puebla ejido extended their stay in Puebla to harvest their coffee fields until February 6. Members of social organizations continued to accompany them. Although they received insults and threats, the harvest was successful. Many of the 98 displaced individuals are members of Las Abejas of Acteal, an adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration. The displaced have set the following conditions for a permanent return to the Puebla ejido: 1) recognition of the Catholic Church’s ownership of the plot of land in question; 2) recognition and reparations for the damages, to the community for the destruction of work on the church and for the destruction of homes;” and 3) reparations for “personal damages for the robberies and destruction” of personal belongings inside their homes.The land on which the church was being re-built was returned to the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas on February 26.
In other parts of Mexico
1. Amnesty International Human Rights Abuse in Mexico – The Secretary General of Amnesty International (AI), Salil Shetty, visited Mexico from February 15-18. He said that Mexico projected a false image of respect for human rights. While it passes many important laws in that regard, grave human rights violations continue to occur and some of the data even indicate a crisis. Among the grave concerns are the forced disappearances, attacks on journalists and human rights defenders and the abuse of undocumented migrants. What all these violations have in common is the impunity of the perpetrators. He also expressed concern about the self-defense groups (autodefensas). You can read AI’s report “Human Rights Challenges Facing Mexico” here.
2. Santa María Ostula Issues Denunciation And Gets Help From Autodefensas – On February 24, Santa María Ostula posted a comunicado/denunciation on the Enlace Zapatista website. Ostula declared its autonomy in 2009 and is part of the National Indigenous Congress and an adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. One of the communities the autodefensas visited this month is Santa María Ostula and its village of Xayakalan. According to the denunciation from Santa María Ostula, its residents, together with the autodefensas, took control of Santa María Ostula. Then, on February 10, a Mexican Army platoon entered Ostula and disarmed both the local community police and the autodefensas. The weapons were returned after they convinced the Army that they would be murdered if they were without weapons. 31 members of the autonomous region have been murdered since 2009. On February 13, Santa María Ostula reorganized its community police and, in coordination with the autodefensas, took over the nearby town of La Placita. That is where the people live that murdered the 31 comuneros. The comunicado and several news reports state that some of those living in La Placita are heads of the local drug cartel. The alleged cartel members fled before the community police entered the town. The denunciation states that ever since February 8, federal ministerial police have come to Ostula threatening eviction and it asks national and international civil society to be alert to these threats.
3. Joint DEA and Mexican Navy Operation Nabs El Chapo Guzmán – On February 22, Mexican marines and DEA agents raided an apartment in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico and took alleged drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera into custody. He has been placed in a maximum security prison. The United States wants him extradited. While much will be made of his capture and imprisonment as a major victory in the Drug War, the reality is that someone will replace him and the drugs will continue to flow. You can read the story of his capture in the Los Angeles Times.
4. Obama Attends North American Summit in Toluca – On February 19, US President Barack Obama attended the North American Summit of NAFTA leaders in Toluca, Mexico. He spent a total of 8 hours in Mexico with the Canadian Prime Minister and the President of Mexico. The visit was expected to be mostly about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); in other words, about trade. While some agreements that facilitate trade were reached, the general impression was that Obama was preoccupied with events in the Ukraine and Venezuela.