ARIC-ID and the Lacandóns paralyze Ocosingo

ARIC-ID AND THE LACANDÓNS “PARALYZE” OCOSINGO

Mobilization in Ocosin go

Mobilization in Ocosingo

During the month of May, much attention was focused on Chiapas because of the La Realidad paramilitary attack in which Compañero Galeano was brutally murdered, as well as the subsequent homage to Galeano, the disappearance of Marcos as the EZLN’s spokesperson and his reappearance as Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. There was, however, another big story in Chiapas that took place in May. Thousands of indigenous and campesinos blocked key highways, usually filled with double decker tourist buses and giant Coca Cola trucks, shut down all government offices and hung “CLOSED” signs on the doors of big national chain stores… and, no, they weren’t Zapatistas. They were members of ARIC-ID [1] and the Lacandón Community Zone (LCZ).

In April, a report appeared about an agreement between the Lacandón Community and the ARIC-ID to legalize 3 of ARIC-ID’s communities situated inside the Montes Azules: San Gregorio, Ranchería Corozal and San Salvador Allende. Two other related events took place at the end of April: a Tzeltal was elected president of the Communal Wealth of the LCZ; and, a biologist, Julia Carabias, working in the Lacandón Jungle and inside the Montes Azules reported her own 2-day kidnapping by masked men she could not identify.

Apparently, all of this transpired in late April and early May. On May 15, state government authorities detained and arrested Gabriel Montoya Oseguera, an advisor to the Lacandón Community Zone. Just a couple of days before, the state government had announced that it intended to evict and “relocate” the 3 ARIC-ID communities, despite the historic agreement between ARIC-ID and the Lacandóns. Four days after Montoya Oseguera’s arrest, on May 19, roadblocks appeared on all the major highways leading to and from the municipal capital (county seat) of Ocosingo; only intermittent passage was permitted. ARIC-ID members and Lacandón Community members also shut down all municipal, state and federal government offices, as well as large national chain stores and the Telcel office in the city of Ocosingo, leading the city’s mayor to declare that Ocosingo was “paralyzed.”

In a statement issued following a May 19 meeting in Ocosingo, the majority opinion of the Lacandón Community Zone made the following demands (among several others):

1. Regularization (legalization or titling) of San Salvador Allende, Ranchería Corozal and San Gregorio;

2. Vacating the Tzendales and Chajul Biological Stations, currently occupied by Julia Carabias Lillo and “environmentalist” NGOs; and,

3. The release of Gabriel Montoya Oseguera.

The roadblocks and closures lasted about a week before state officials invited the 2 organizations to appear in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, for dialogue. When representatives of ARIC-ID and the LCZ arrived at the Government Palace for “dialogue,” 22 were arrested and placed in the El Amate State Prison. To no one’s surprise, they were released the next evening after the organizations agreed to “suspend” the roadblocks and mobilizations that were paralyzing Ocosingo. A table for dialogue will also take place in Mexico City with Montoya Oseguera’s defense team, as well as a discussion table where organizations from the LCZ will have the opportunity to fully express their frustrations with what’s taking place inside the zone.

That should be an interesting discussion. According to statements issued to local Chiapas media from both ARIC-ID and the LCZ, they believe that the alleged kidnapping of Julia Carabias is a simulation; in other words, they don’t think it actually happened. They believe that it is connected to the opposition of the group of “environmentalists” around Carabias to the election of a Tzeltal president, rather than a more docile Lacandón, to the LCZ’s governing body, which is called the Communal Wealth (Bienes Comunales). They assert that there was a disturbance during the election, when an outside group erupted into their assembly, and they blame the environmental interests.

[Click here to read the history of the Lacandón Community Zone]

When it created the Lacandón Community Zone, the government offered the Chols and Tzeltals settled within the Zone a choice of relocating to certain towns within what it called the “Lacandón Community.” The Tzeltals were offered land in Nueva Palestina and the Choles in Frontera Corozal. Some accepted and some didn’t. However, the Chols and Tzeltals that relocated to those two communities did not have the same rights as the Lacandóns. The government granted them the right to the land as members of the Communal Wealth of the Lacandón Community (the legal governing body), but in order to maintain control in only one group -the most docile, the Lacandóns- it was established in the communal statutes that the president of Communal Wealth would ALWAYS be a representative of the 66 Lacandón families.

As time passed, population growth resulted in the following imbalance: a 2010 census indicates that 40% of the comuneros are Chols, another 40% are Tzeltals, and only 20% belong to the 66 Lacandón families and their descendants. [2] Consequently, for approximately the last 10 years, in the assemblies of the Lacandón Community Zone, these two groups have been demanding more land and want to make decisions inside the assembly.

The Lacandón Community apparently changed its statutes regarding leadership of the Communal Wealth (Bienes Comunales) and, in May, elected a Tzeltal man. They also reached agreement on accepting the legalization of the three ARIC-ID communities within the Montes Azules. And, according to reports from Chiapas, the majority view of the Lacandón Community assembly is that they want Julia Carabias and the environmentalists working with her to leave the Tzendales and Chajul biological stations inside the LCZ. [3]

The “environmentalists”

The Chiapas government has not accepted the result of the recent election of a Tzeltal president to guide the LCZ, its interests apparently linked to various groupings and interests lumped into the term “environmentalists.” According to documents published in the Chiapas press, the environmentalists include: the Natura Mexicana, the NGO founded by Julia Carabias, the Ford Foundation, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and the state and federal governments, which, as ARIC-ID points out, receive some of their funding from US-AID. [4] The majority report from the LCZ is in agreement. There is dissent from some members of the traditional Lacandón families that live in Nahá, Metzabok and Lacanjá Chansayab.    According to the report from Angeles Mariscal in Chiapas Paralelo, it is only members of those 66 Lacandón families that have benefitted from the money paid to them from funds controlled by the environmentalists.

The blockage of Ocosingo highways and shut down of government offices for days became a huge story in Chiapas. The highways that were intermittently blocked brought all travel in eastern Chiapas to a frustrating crawl. Some of the actors in this drama (both the Lacandóns and the residents of Nueva Palestina) have played the role of villains vis a vis the Zapatista and other indigenous communities in the Jungle. Nonetheless, it would appear that they are entering a new stage, and assuming it is sincere, the position of wanting the “environmentalist” NGOs to vacate the bioprospecting stations would probably be welcomed by the Zapatista communities. And, finally, among the roads blocked were those giving access to La Garrucha and San Manuel. Therefore, we’ll follow the story and see how it unfolds.

———————————————————————–

By: Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez. Chiapas Support Committee

[1] Rural Association of Collective Interest-Independent and Democratic (Asociación Rural de Interés Colectivo Independiente y Democrático), a campesino (peasant) organization in the Lacandón Jungle of Chiapas

[2] http://www.chiapasparalelo.com/opinion/2014/05/el-fin-de-la-hegemonia-lacandona-en-la-selva-de-chiapas/

[3] Attachment in Voces Mesoamericanos:

http://vocesmesoamericanas.org/2014/05/23/zona-lacandona-la-movilisazion-sigue/

[4] Attachment in Voces Mesoamericanos: http://vocesmesoamericanas.org/2014/05/23/zona-lacandona-la-movilisazion-sigue/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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