Chiapas Support Committee

Malverde in Chamula

The shrine of Jesús Malverde in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Jesús Malverde is a historical folk hero in Sinaloa, a sort of Robin Hood or angel of the poor. He is worshipped as a saint and believed to perform miracles, much to the dismay of the Catholic Church. Although often referred to as the “Narco-Saint,” his shrine in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state, is visited by a steady stream of common people, including some who work in the drug business, who pray to him for healing or protection, a good harvest or a successful journey. [1]

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

In the back seat of a luxury van, an African lion looks out the right window at the streets of San Juan Chamula. The driver of the vehicle listens to El Comando Suicida del Mayo, (The Suicide Command of El Mayo) [2] by Los Buchones de Culiacán, and shows the list of narcocorridos waiting to be played (https://bit.ly/3tL3YAN).

The scene, which seems to be taken from a TV drama, is real. It circulated on social networks at the beginning of last September. It is part of the emerging culture in this Tsotsil municipality, along with homemade indigenous pornography and the songs of Los Cárteles de San Juan: “Not only in Durango are there successful men, / in the state of Chiapas there are also badass dudes) / who wear boots and hats and have good guns.

Screen shot of the African lion in the back seat of a luxury van.

It’s a cultural production that is manufactured and consumed by the first indigenous cartel in the country: the San Juan Chamula Cartel (CSJC), a criminal group that, instead of subcontracting its services to other gangs, decided to control the trafficking of drugs, prostitution networks, migrant trafficking, extortion, arms sales, piracy and trade in stolen cars, without intermediaries in its territories.

Although they are not the only smugglers linked to organized crime, as part of the CSJC’s activities, the martomas (a shortened form of mayordomos, a word for manservants), who used to take charge of part of the patron saint’s feast, now continue to do so, in tasks such as “good migrating.” To move day laborers from the other side of the border, they charge between 200 and 270 thousand pesos, 50-thousand for religious expenses. They get temporary visas to work in agricultural labor in Virginia, Florida and the Carolinas. At the end of their contract, the migrants remain there with the support of family networks.

The traces of the economic boom triggered by the criminal industry in Tsotsil towns and developments can be seen not only in the proliferation of ostentatious 4×4 vehicles, and in the increased consumption of the most elegant brands of whiskey, but also in luxurious residences built in a peculiar architectural style reminiscent of California, in places like Milpoleta, Moxviquil, adjacent to La Hormiga, communities near Jovel, such as El Arcotete, or in the center of Chamula itself.

The depth of drama has also been portrayed in novels. “There are forms of human suffering,” affirmed philosopher Richard Rorty, “that literature can make vivid in a way that philosophy cannot.” This is the case of  La ira de los murciélagos (The Wrath of the Bats) [3], by Mikel Ruiz, a Tsotsil from Chicumtantic, San Juan Chamula, which describes the suffering experienced in the region, as well as the weave that linked power to the criminal industry before the reign of the CSJC, in a way that the social sciences are unable to elucidate.

Ruiz’s book narrates how Ponciano Pukuj, a former evangelical victim of the Chamula chiefdom protected by traditionalist Catholicism, becomes, after migrating to the United States, a very rich drug trafficker associated with El Chapo, who entrusts himself to Valverde and disputes, in a bloody and unscrupulous fight, the municipal presidency of Chamula.

Cherishing the possibility of victory, Ponciano imagines his future: “How much pleasure,” he says to himself, “it would give my friend El Chapo if he knew that I have eliminated one more stone in my path; when I am president, everything will be easier. We can even expand the business with new routes.

Pukuj faces the traditionalist Pedro Boch, who has the support of the outgoing mayor, Rigoberto de Jesús, the man of Los Zetas, who turned the municipal presidency into a center of drug dealing operations, uses official vehicles to transport Chapines (Guatemalans) with drugs and sells them birth certificates. They accuse Ponciano of being a traitor to his people and traditions, as well as appearing in the Christian film Chamula, Tierra de Sangre (https://bit.ly/3EHr0hl).

In the electoral dispute for the control of a municipality that left behind machetes only to be filled with “goat horns” (slang for AK-47’s), the candidates buy votes, give away cokes, kidnap and murder opponents, and win favors from the electoral and governmental authorities.

As a scriptwriter for a documentary for his campaign, Ponciano hires writer Ignacio Ts’unum, who wondered as a child if the Chamulas could also fly, because he had the impression that only gringos deserved to have superpowers. A literary man who in his early years did not know how to speak or read Spanish, nor did he know how to write in his own language. And in elementary school he was made to learn in Spanish.

Torn by the tragedy of his people, Ts’unum recounts that, among the young people of his generation, no one saw a future on the land or in living from the milpa. They only wanted to go to the United States. He states: “Now it is not only the whites who fuck us, today our brother bat is also our master. How many Tsotsiles have their feet on the neck of another Tsotsil? In the villages the young people dream of being mules, hit men, dealers. Their heads are full of narcocorridos, their noses irritated from snorting cocaine instead of chewing pilico (tobacco).”

Mikel Ruiz tells, through Angel, an evangelical hero, how, in order to protect their brothers of faith before drug trafficking changed everything, the religious dissidents of San Juan had to confront the traditionalist caciques who murdered and expelled them to dispossess them of their lands -under the pretext that they did not comply with ritual charges- by arming themselves and organizing the Guardián de los Murciélagos (Guardian of the Bats).

In an episode that synthesizes the political plot, Pukuj says to his rival: Nobody is legal in the fight, one moment you are rough, the next you’re the expert. Nothing is legal in these territories. A work of fiction, La Ira de los Murciélagos, The Wrath of the Bats, masterfully illuminates a part of Mexico that actually exists, in which African lions are driven around in luxury vans.

Notes:

[1] With references to Jesús Malverde, El Mayo Zambada, Los Buchones, the African lion (some drug traffickers in the Sinaloa Cartel have acquired large wild animals as pets”) and the book’s reference to El Chapo, Hernández Navarro seems to be saying that the Chamula Cartel is adopting the style of the Sinaloa Cartel.

[2] El Mayo refers to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, alleged leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

[3] The Tsotsil peoples are known as Bat people because their name translates into “bat.”

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, November 22, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/22/opinion/017a1pol
and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee, Schools for Chiapas and compañeros in Sinaloa.      

The Article 27 Reform Fiasco: Advancement of Intensive Agriculture

In the 3 decades since the “reform,” more than 740 acres have been appropriated in the state of Campeche. Photo Archive: La Jornada/Elsa Medina.

By: Ana de Ita*

Thanks to the series of excellent reports, “Echos of the Agrarian Counter-reform” that La Jornada offered us last week, it is possible to take a closer look at what has happened with the agrarian question after 30 years of counter-reform.

Data from the National Agrarian Registry confirm that very little of the area of social property has been sold, about 5.3 million hectares, of the 105 million that existed in 1992, while the number of ejidos and communities has increased by more than a thousand, as well as the number of agrarian subjects with land rights, which increased by more than 2 million. Thus, the core of Salinas’ counter-reform to divest land ownership and allow it to enter the market has failed. Mexico continues to be the country with more than half of its territory as social (communal) property.

In the states analyzed by La Jornada, which are characterized by important agricultural regions, there are different mechanisms for the control of ejido plots.

In Sinaloa, only 5 percent of the parceled land has become private property, but simulated settlement, as Valenzuela explains, has been the mechanism for buying land rights from the original ejido owners. This transfer of rights affects 11 percent of the parceled land. Land renting is the widespread mechanism in the state to control large expanses of irrigated agricultural land, and through economies of scale achieve crop profitability, mainly of grains and oilseeds, which is impossible for small Sinaloa farmers who have about 10 hectares of irrigated land. Rent affects 70 percent of the ejido-owned land. Reports from Sinaloa express the difficulties of small commercial farmers in obtaining financing and marketing mechanisms that allow them to make their operations profitable, so they opt to rent their land to large agricultural entrepreneurs.

In Chihuahua, the full domain that turns ejido plots into private property affected almost a quarter of the surface area (23 percent), while the transfer of rights is not so important, less than 2 percent. Researcher Quintana illustrates how Mennonite farmers drilled deep wells in desert lands dedicated to cattle ranching to transform them into intensive agricultural land — for walnut production, for example – even without a land use change permit. The over-exploitation of the aquifers causes the reduction of water for the ejido owners who do not have the resources for this type of drilling. For the past decade, ejido owners surrounded by Mennonite colonies have been denouncing water hoarding, which has even cost several lives.

The Mennonites are also at the center of what is happening in Campeche, where 8 percent of the ejido land has become private property, and where the transfer of land rights affects 5 percent of the area. The Mennonites have managed to acquire large tracts of land through the purchase of land rights to become ejido owners. They establish chummy relationships with the Maya campesinos and extend control of their territory for intensive commercial agriculture of soybeans, in some cases transgenic, rice, corn or sorghum. They cut down the jungle and use toxic agro-chemicals that threaten Maya beekeeping and affect the health of the population, but very few dare to denounce them.

In Jalisco and Michoacán, export agribusinesses have acquired land through long-term (20 or 30 year) rental contracts with ejido owners, often on an individual basis and sometimes with ejido assemblies. In Jalisco, only 7 percent of the ejido land has been transferred to full ownership, and the transfer of rights is not significant, but the change in the crop pattern towards agave, berries and avocado for export has been drastic and competes with food production. In Michoacán only 2 percent of the land area has been privatized, but export crops such as avocado plantations predate those of Jalisco, causing forest clearing, water hoarding and contamination to the detriment of rainfed agriculture. Ejido owners and communal farmers are increasingly marginalized.

These echoes of the agrarian counter-reform show how, although the essential purpose of land privatization failed, the long-term project of substituting peasant agriculture for corporate and transnational agriculture has continued, and the ejido owners and communal farmers, with very little support and with their own efforts confront the struggle for territory and natural resources against corporate agriculture, which has the support of very powerful political forces.

*Director of the Center of Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside. (Ceccam)

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, November 7, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/07/opinion/022a2pol Translated by Schools for Chiapas and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

The Incessant Militarization of Indigenous Communities

Daliri Oropeza brings us an account of the ongoing process of militarization of indigenous communities, the effects it has on peoples and organized resistance to stop it.

By: Daliri Oropeza

October 12 CNI March Against Militarization.

There is a history of militarization of indigenous peoples in resistance to national megaprojects that is assuming certain peculiarities in this presidency.

The look of those who carry the banner is profound. They advance in full march. The message is clear: “Against the Militarization of the Country.” “Another World is Possible.” “Stop the Capitalist and Patriarchal War against the People of Mexico, Indigenous Peoples and the Zapatistas.”

It is October 12th. The mobilization for Indigenous Resistance Day is against militarization. There is an ebb at ground level faced with the legalization of placing command of the National Guard, which is in charge of public security, under the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA), hence the demand of the indigenous peoples, who also have memory and take advantage of the march to denounce what happens with militarization and what they have experienced in their communities with the army.

Marichuy, a CNI spokesperson.

Marichuy (María de Jesús Patricio Martínez) stands out with the banner in her hand, she is a Nahua spokesperson and member of the National Indigenous Congress. Delegates from the southeast also march, one of the regions where the CNI has diagnosed a growing problem with the increase in members of the Army that carry out joint megaprojects such as the Maya Train, the Interoceanic Corridor and the Morelos Integral Project.

The presence of the army and the militarization of indigenous peoples are nothing new in the history of the Mexican State. There are regions where their presence is normalized, both as security, as well as in the daily life of the people.

So, we see the army building airports or railroads, while they train some others to be members of the National Guard (GN) and for that they build barracks everywhere, without consulting the inhabitants.

Militarization in Mexico, according to the UNHCHR, is understood as “the deployment of the Armed Forces in cities and rural areas to exercise public security functions and “combat” organized crime, as well as other situations that they consider a threat.”

“The validity of a military paradigm in public security, which may include, in addition to the use of military forces in civic security tasks: the designation of active, licensed or retired military in public positions related to security, migration, prisons, law enforcement and other civil activities; the emulation of practices of a military nature within bodies classified as civilian, the weakening of the participation of civil authorities and citizens in security issues; the priority of the use of force in security situations over longer-term alternatives”, said Guillermo Fernandez-Maldonado, UNHCHR representative in Mexico.

What we see in Mexico now is another expression of the growing militarization that had already occupied public security tasks, now takes on construction and protection tasks for the main six-year term of office, trans-presidential and, geopolitically speaking, projects anchored to international commercial interests and based on the logic of the petrol. Without forgetting that the GN is also dedicated to work to contain migration.

The expansion of the Army’s work in sectors of the economy and supposed development make me think that there are countries where they are even owners of companies. Very powerful.

Disappearances and Organized Crime in Maya territory

Ángel Sulub Santos works with the U kuuchil k Ch’i’ ibalo’on Community Center.

Ángel Sulub is participating in the march against militarization. In an interview, he tells how, despite the fact that in 1901 the end of the Caste War of the Yucatán, in which his great-grandfather participated, against the rebel Mayas of Chan Santa Cruz (Noj Kaj Santa Cruz Xbaalam Naj) was decreed. The oral history of the ancestors tells that they never saw the end of that war. A battalion remained to see that they did not rise up again for their autonomous government.

“You have to remember that the grandfathers and grandmothers did not consider themselves Mexican, but they considered Mexico as an invader that was coming to dispossess them of their territory. The grandfathers and grandmothers lived in freedom”, affirms Angel.

In the talk he recalls that it was the Mayas who lived in freedom, and not slavery as in the henequen haciendas, who stood up for their autonomy. The route of the Maya Train project passes through those lands that their ancestors cared for, now named Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Quintana Roo.

“The defense of freedom is symbolically against those of the armies. These invading armies, those armies that came to plunder. When the Mexican Army enters this community. Take this town, which was a sacred town, which preserved all the essence of the Maya peoples, their spirituality, all their practices, well, ancestral, eh? It enters and takes this community under the command of General Ignacio A. Bravo, under the command of Porfirio Diaz. Then a very serious situation begins to be experienced with the presence and military control and a very cruel phase is experienced, a very serious phase of genocide of our people. The hunt of the Maya peoples begins.”

He assures that this genocide was not for racial reasons but for political ideals, which makes it unique, and with it came a stage of forgetting and erasing the abuses of the army from memory. For this reason, he is preparing a document with the U kuuchil k Ch’i’ibalo’on Center, since the most recent thing they have experienced is the increase in militarization to build the train and the accompanying industrial, tourist, and urbanization projects.

Mexico’s National Guard.

Now they see vehicles of both the Army and the National Guard patrolling every so often, a matter of a year since they are seen daily. “It’s part of the landscape.” With the presence of members of the military, disappearances, dismemberments, murders, executions, and the increase and visibility of criminal activities also arrived. All this is new for the Maya inhabitants of Carrillo Puerto.

“We see that this dispossession of memory has worked a lot, because when we look at how the military presence has increased at this time on the beaches, in public spaces in the communities, how the military are present even in activities where there are children, participating armed in school support brigades to paint or cut hair. In different ways, it is becoming very present, we know that it is a strategy to bring the army into the communities.”

And Angel knows that it will get worse, as they saw with his ancestors. He gives an account of the community diagnosis of it:

“Very heavy, that with the increase of the National Guard army, of the military in the territory, because what we are also seeing is an increase in crime, insecurity and fear”, he says with a sort of uncertainty and sadness for what they are experiencing.

Carlos Gonzalez, agrarian lawyer and member of the CNI, warns that “Militarization in the towns is growing, at least since the government of Felipe Calderon; however, the particular situation that we see today, which is the extent to which it is worsening in the processes of dispossession and destruction of the territories of indigenous peoples, along with the territorial expansion and economic and political influence of criminal cartels, it goes hand in hand with militarization. We see this increase in the processes of dispossession from very specific infrastructure megaprojects such as the Maya Train, the Interoceanic Corridor and the Morelos Integral Project. And they intend to reorder territories, borders and populations in the geopolitical logic of the United States government. More impetus has been given to mining together with an aggressive hydrocarbons policy.”

U kúuchil k ch’i’ibalo’on Community Center.

With living hope and memory, Angel participates in the U kuuchil k Ch’i’ibalo’on Center, along with its members, carrying out activities to strengthen the Maya roots that link them to the territory, thus the love for the territory, to safeguard the wisdom of the grandmothers, of the grandfathers, the value of being Mayan and for the care of the land, so that “the defense of the territory, the protection of the land, then comes by itself.”

“There will always be hope. It is true that the panorama before us is very tough and that as we know what is to come, it is going to be worse and worse for the territories. But there is the hope that in the struggles, the resistance, the solidarity efforts, the community efforts, they will also grow. In our body, in our memory, from our families in such a way that, eh, the defense of the territory, the protection of the territory, well, it comes by itself”, says Angel.

For Carlos Gonzalez there is a continuity of neoliberal macroeconomic policies, such as free trade that intensified with the USMCA or the policy of raising financial interest rates for speculation.

The diagnosis made by the CNI in September, with towns from more than 20 states, in the framework of its most recent extended meeting of the Monitoring Commission, gives an account of this:

“The National Guard is a guard which is not civilian. From the beginning it was fundamentally made up of soldiers and directed at all times by soldiers. Already with the reforms that were approved, we are talking about militarization or the growth of militarization. The National Guard goes to practically all the municipalities of the country, intending to establish a barracks, an operations base, and that is having an impact, above all, on indigenous communities.”

This happens in indigenous peoples of the CNI but also in many that are not organized in this network but have a history of resistance and struggle for land, such as the Yaqui Tribe. Just the three municipalities where they live are classified as the most violent in Mexico: Guaymas, Empalme and Obregon, according to information from the Ministry of Public Security. Only Vicam Estacion and Loma de Bacum, two Yaqui towns, participate in the organization. But those who denounce this time are from Huirivis, one of the furthest communities.

Carlos Gonzalez with subcomandante Galeano. Photo: Pie de Página

Flavio Buitimea is the name he chooses for security reasons. Flavio recalls that before either the police or the military entered his territory, but since the Justice Plan entered, he has seen how the National Guard enters and patrols the main streets and, in his town, they have even entered private homes on supposed operations that scared the population. He hasn’t forgotten that it was the Army that enslaved them and took them to the henequen haciendas of the southeast to work. They do not forget that the Army bombed their territory, also ordered by Porfirio Diaz. They called them “The Bald Ones.”

“The growth of violence produced by the cartels works as a pretext to militarize, but militarization is not serving to stop this violence. Where there is a military presence, there is violence, there are murders, there are disappearances, there are all kinds of crimes. It’s not working”, assures Carlos.

“Analyzing this process with the CNI, of militarization and para-militarization, of war against the communities, of growth in the processes of dispossession, of exponential growth of drug addiction and alcoholism in indigenous communities and peoples, we are worried about the whole country.”

Carlos sees that there is a clear intention to mobilize the National Guard and the military to stop migration and to protect these megaprojects, and on the other hand, to surround organized towns and communities such as the Zapatistas.

There are towns like Milpa Alta, San Nicolas Totolapan, Ostula, which by decision of the assembly, carrying out their right to self-determination, denied entry to GN barracks or bases. They stopped them.

Carlos Gonzalez recalls that the constitutional and conventional framework indicates limitations to the presence of the military in indigenous territories:

“Article 30 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that the presence of the military in indigenous territory can only be agreed upon through consultation with the affected communities and they are not doing so. They are ignoring the decision of the communities and if they are not established it is because there is opposition and a decisive rejection of the communities.”

With this example, there is still hope for the attention of the peoples facing militarization.

Originally Published in Spanish by Pie de Página, October 26, 2022, https://piedepagina.mx/la-incesante-militarizacion-en-pueblos-indigenas Translation by Schools for Chiapas and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

Zapatistas do cleaning and maintenance on Huitepec Reserve

“Huitepec Zapatista Ecology Reserve,” says a sign placed in the reserve.

The sign also reads: “We struggle to defend Mother Earth. We are born in her, we grow up and we die in her. Natural protected area. EZLN, Zona Altos de Chiapas (Chiapas Highlands Zone).

By: Chiapas Paralelo

Support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) carried out community work in the Huitepec ecological reserve, located in the municipality of San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

An attempt was made to delimit the land by installing cairns (boundary stones), place signs and carry out cleaning actions in this zone that was recuperated by the Zapatistas for its conservation.

Another Zapatista sign in Huitepec.

Zapatistas who belong to Caracol VII Jacinto Canek gave notice of the performance of these activities to constitutional government authorities, because they moved about in 10 cars through the routes connecting to San Cristóbal, and thus avoid confusion due to the fact that there are military patrols, as a result of the actions of organized crime groups in that municipality.

It should be remembered that the Huitepec Reserve has been an area of dispute that a group called “Guardians of the Huitepec Reserve Alcanfores”, who who are promoted by Mayor Mariano Díaz Ochoa, an open promotor of movements against the EZLN, demand for themselves.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, November 18, 2022, https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2022/11/zapatistas-realizan-limpieza-y-mantenimiento-en-reserva-huitepec/ and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Being different, to save the world

Zapatista Women at the 1st International Gathering of Women Who Struggle, Caracol IV – Morelia.

By: Raúl Zibechi

All the efforts of the ruling class are focused on eliminating or flattening differences in the ways of life, in the daily practices of peoples, classes and individuals, with respect to the dominant culture. For this purpose, entire regions are militarized, genocides and exterminations of populations have been taking place for five centuries.

The forced evangelization promoted by the conquerors aimed to destroy the political and cultural autonomy of the native peoples, which was rooted in communal ways of life and diverse spiritualities but unyielding to the dispossession of nascent capitalism. It was not a question of religions, or of true or false gods, but that peoples should not continue to live in their own way, according to their customs.

The destruction of the English peasants’ way of life was key to the implementation and expansion of capitalism, as Karl Polanyi analyzes in The Great Transformation. For this, violence from above was employed, stripping the peasants of their communal lands to turn them into vagabonds who would end up as workers imprisoned in the satanic mills, key pieces of the industrial revolution.

The offensive against taverns and other workers’ spaces at the beginning of the 20th century sought to destroy the spaces where workers spent their free time to relate to each other in ways different from those imposed by capitalist logic, turning them also into territories of cultural autonomy and organization of their resistance, as James Scott explains in Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

We can go back to the days of slavery (when quilombos and palenques were spaces of freedom and revolt), or land in our days (when soccer stadiums, which were spaces differentiated from the working class, become mechanisms of accumulation by dispossession and financial speculation), to verify that the history of struggles is also that of the destruction and reproduction of differences of class, skin color, gender and sexual diversity.

The war suffered today by the native and black peoples of the entire continent, the peasants, women and youth who resist, is aimed at stripping them of their way of life and making them dependent on capital. To force us into service. To turn us into wage slaves, who for less than a minimum wage, dedicate our lives to lubricate capitalist accumulation.

A general view of Praia Grande, a quilombo in Brazil.

The brutal offensive against the native peoples, from Chiapas and the Tarahumara mountains to the south of Chile, aims to expel them from their lands to turn them into commodities, certainly; but also, because in their territories the peoples live in a heterogeneous way with respect to capitalism. In this case, territory and difference are intertwined, and are what allow the continuity of resistance.

In her latest work, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin, feminist Silvia Federici points out that during the Great Depression white working-class women were sterilized when they were considered mentally weak, a category used by social workers and doctors to label women considered promiscuous and prone to having children out of wedlock. That is, for being different from the capitalist model of womanhood.

Difference, differences, are potentially anti-capitalist, but not in a mechanical way. In the same sense, we can assure that if there are no ways of life, no cultures and cosmovisions (worldviews) different from the hegemonic ones, any lasting resistance is impossible, any aspiration to change the world and overcome capitalism by constructing other worlds that are new and, above all, that are different. This point has been sufficiently emphasized by the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

A mural in Nuevo San Gregorio depicts the EZLN journey to Europe.

The second point is that difference does not fall from the sky, it is not a fact of reality, inherited or fixed. It must be cultivated, defended, and deepened, every day, every hour, in resistance against those who want to eliminate it. The system does this in various ways. One of them is violence and siege, like the one suffered by so many communities and support bases, as we were able to verify in Nuevo San Gregorio, in the territory of Caracol 10.

More subtly, capitalism tends to neutralize us with the temptation of consumption, which is a powerful force of attraction for young people. The impulse to migrate, to stop being who we are, is a way of suppressing the differences from below, as a complement to outright violence.

Because of this, the struggle takes place on multiple fronts: in the defense of the territory, in the affirmation of our own culture, in the effort to not allow ourselves to be dragged into ways of life that they want to impose on us in order to disfigure us as peoples and as persons.

The way I see it, difference is the sacred fire that we must protect, care for, deepen and multiply every day of our lives.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, November 18, 2022,  https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/18/opinion/020a1pol Translated by Schools for Chiapas and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

Rock against fascism

Banda Bassotti, one of the combos most committed to anti-fascism. Photo provided by the band.

A few months ago, more than a thousand artists from Spain and Latin America signed a document called Rock contra el fascismo (Rock against fascism). Years ago, we saw artists join forces in the United States in campaigns against the then President George Bush, and give birth to some compilations called “Rock Against Bush,” and thus criticize his violent warmongering and obscurant policies.

In Italy, the musical tradition against fascism is wide and it moves, maintains, and changes from the ‘70s until today. Certainly, the new generations, almost globally, are more interested in other sounds, fewer distorted guitars and more bases on which to sing in rhyme are the main element of the songs that throb the era of feminism, indigenismo and the Black Lives Matter struggle.

Precisely, from these considerations, perhaps we should ask ourselves a question: what is fascism today, and therefore, how rock can cope with this phenomenon, which sadly grows in a world increasingly polarized between very few rich and many poor.

A question for which the answer cannot be unique: fascisms are many, as well as their expression in different countries. Certainly, in Europe, to link fascism only to the historical period in which it was a protagonist between the Italian or Nazi regimes, in Germany; Francoism, in Spain, or the military regime in Greece, etc. and, therefore, turning it into universal “value” no longer works.

I think the same thing can happen in Latin America with the dictatorships of the 90s. The times of history, the death of the protagonists of the time and the speed of today’s society, with profound operations of historical revisionism, have changed the perception of the term “fascism” that is now considered a political option, like any other.

So today a band that sings against authoritarianism, racism and sexism or against de facto violence, is placed in the realm of anti-fascism, because it opposes it in content. Whoever today, even in the field of aesthetics, rejects the gender binary helps to break the neo-fascist narrative about the singularity of being male or female.

Even without a generation of bands like Pink Floyd, Rage Against The Machine or Punkreas, Ska-P or Panteón Rococó, openly anti-fascist, there are many groups and artists who, in terms of aesthetics and content, oppose what fascism proclaims in half the world: Green Day, Radiohead, Against Me!, Ministri and Laura Jane Grace, for example. But then there are the anomalies like the international network of anti-fascist death metal bands or the interesting experience of the Moscow Death Brigade in Russia.

Moscow Death Brigade. Photo from band’s website.

In short, anti-fascist rock changes its face, but it’s still alive; However, it’s often found in the contents, not only in the vindication of the artists.

* Andrea Cegna is an Italian journalist who specializes in music and counterculture.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, November 18, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/18/opinion/a07a1esp and Republished with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

The November Marches

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Nov. 13 March. Photo: La Jornada

The anti-Obrador day of November 13 was the largest mass mobilization convened by an opposition front of the current six-year term. Under the pretext of defending the National Electoral Institute (INE) and democracy, a motley coalition of anti-AMLO center-right forces managed to bring out to the streets several tens of thousands of citizens, many dressed in white and pink, almost all over the country.

Its magnitude was far from reaching the size of the popular rallies called by the President. Undoubtedly, it will also be smaller than the one that the President’s supporters will hold this December 1st. But, even so, it would be very delicate to disregard the meaning and scope of last Sunday’s protest.

The streets are not the primary terrain of struggle of the center-right. They have other means of pressure. John Lennon, composer of Working Class Hero, knew this well when, in 1963, at The Beatles’ show before Queen Elizabeth II, he quipped: “For our last number, I’d like to ask for your help. Could the people in the cheapest seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.”

A protest against López Obrador the size of this Sunday’s gathering is something that hasn’t happened since June 27, 2004. On that date, the business and media right wing, under the façade of the fight against public insecurity, orchestrated a great mass onslaught against the then head of the Mexico City Government, which served as a rehearsal to prepare his impeachment. The offensive was orchestrated through the electronic media, repeatedly broadcasting images of violence, which generated a feeling of uncertainty and fear in the public opinion of the country’s capital. Hundreds of thousands of people, many dressed in white, marched to rescue Mexico.

Among other differences present in both mobilizations is that, unlike the one in 2004, the one on Sunday was not promoted by the electronic media, but by a very important part of the written press and the social networks associated with right-wing public intellectuals. Probably, the way in which the President recriminated the call to defend the INE and referred to some of its promoters was what catalyzed the protest.

In analyzing the day of November 13, it is important to distinguish between the organizers and those who attended the mass marches. They are not the same. The organizing core is formed by the alliance of openly backward businessmen, opposition parties, religious hierarchs and an archipelago of intellectuals (the transitologists) with enormous weight in the INE and the organization of electoral processes. The demonstrators were a diverse conglomerate of affluent sectors, rabidly anti-communist groups, middle classes and popular clienteles of the Mexico City municipalities in the hands of the opposition, dissatisfied with the federal government for different reasons.

Sunday, November 13, 2022 INE protest.

Entire families participated enthusiastically in the pink tide, many for the first time in their lives. In the human river that walked unorganized in contingents along Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, there were people of all ages unaccustomed to chanting slogans.

Like a fraudster version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the march was attended by a collection of embarrassing partisan egos, who paraded energetically, and who in other circumstances would hardly have coexisted under the umbrella of the same event. In the streets, their presence faded before a crowd that ignored and overflowed them, but they were rescued from anonymity by the press. As if his biography embodied the history of INE, the figure of the morning was José Woldenberg. A unique speaker, he served as the rising star of a right-wing opposition without strong political figures, and with washed-up intellectuals. It remains to be seen if the anti-Obrador coalition will continue to placate him.

Beyond the presence of consummate electoral fraudsters disguised as ordinary citizens, such as Ulises Ruiz, Elba Esther Gordillo or Roberto Madrazo, the protests confirmed the increasingly waning support for the 4T among middle sectors, anticipated in the mid-term elections of 2021. In those elections, the opposition won half of the mayors’ offices in Mexico City (the jewel in the Obrador crown) and many of the state capitals in dispute. Despite winning the elections, the ruling coalition lost the qualified majority in the Chamber of Deputies and had 9 million fewer votes than in 2018.

The mobilizations were a receptacle for part of the uneasiness towards the 4T among university students, liberal professionals, doctors, housewives, artists, human rights defenders, feminists, relatives of victims of violence, scientists, environmentalists and small businessmen. Many are not conservatives. Quite a few supported the President in the past. But they no longer do so. They are disenchanted and even angry. The extent of their dissatisfaction led them to join the call of figures such as the disgraceful Claudio X. Gonzalez, the most rancid of the parties, ultra-right-wingers who came out of the closet, and prominent electoral tricksters, hidden under the mask of INE’s defense.

Beyond the outcome of the electoral reform promoted by the President, Sunday’s pink tide was, for the right-wing opposition, not a citizens’ day, but the starting gun for their electoral campaign for 2024. It remains to be seen if they can keep the momentum and mass support they had.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Sunday, November 13, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/15/opinion/018a2pol Translated by Schools for Chiapas and Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

The EZLN announces mobilizations for its 39th anniversary

The EZLN was founded on November 17, 1983 in the Lacandón Jungle, in the municipality of Ocosingo.

A mural in the Zapatistas Caracol of Morelia. Photo: Katie Yamasaki

By: Gilberto Morales | El Heraldo de Chiapas

Altamirano

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, EjércitoZapatista de Liberación Nacional), announces a mobilization to celebrate its 39th anniversary in the caracoles, autonomous municipalities and Good Government Juntas that exist in the state of Chiapas.

The EZLN was created on November 17, 1983 in the Lacandón Jungle, municipality of Ocosingo. According to them it was for the purpose of doing away with  the bad governments and announcing to the entire world  that millions of indigenous peoplein Mexico are being stepped on, mistreated, ignored, incarcerated by the government for many years.

A little more than ten years after its creation, they officially announced the armed uprising on January 1, 1994 in the municipal seats of de: Altamirano, Ocosingo, Palenque, Las Margaritas, Comitán, Rancho Nuevo, San Cristóbal de Las Casas and Oxchuc, among others and that for 3 consecutive days they confronted the Mexican Army in Rancho Nuevo, where various deaths are spoken of in both the rebel group and the Army, which never officially announced the number of dead.

Entrance to the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia. Photo: Gilberto Morales | El Heraldo de Chiapas

For many years, the Zapatistas were recognized throughout the world for their struggle and until now the armed civilian group has lost strength militarily and Subcomandante Marcos now Galeano himself, for many years pointed out that they will no longer take up arms but  will continue to fight for the benefit of the indigenous population. In addition, in the past elections  María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known as Marichuy was appointed by the National Indigenous Congress, to which the Zapatistas belong, to participate in the presidential elections as an independent candidate. But, because of the difficult requirements for an independent candidate to get on the ballot, she was left out of the presidential elections.

This November 17th, 39 years after its foundation, the EZLN will once again come out of their trenches [1] and gather in the different caracoles, good government juntas and autonomous municipalities to celebrate what was created on Novembern17, 1983 in the heart of the Lacandón Jungle of Chiapas.

Starting November 16th, Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas, as well as organizations, will gather in November 17th autonomous municipality, located within the official municipality of Altamirano and also in San Cristóbal, in order to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

[1] The Zapatistas did not reopen their Caracoles to the public after closing them due to the pandemic. The reason for the continued closure is the violence in Chiapas, the presence of organized crime and, thus, the need for tight security.

Originally Published in Spanish by El Heraldo de Chiapas, November 13, 2022, https://www.elheraldodechiapas.com.mx/local/municipios/ezln-anuncia-movilizaciones-en-festejo-al-39-aniversario-9184918.html and Re-Published with English interpretation and editing by the Chiapas Support Committee.

Unpunished, the 2006 massacre committed by paramilitaries in Viejo Velasco

The 2006 Viejo Velasco Massacre. Photo: Frayba.

By: Elio Henríquez

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

The massacre committed 16 years ago in the Viejo Velasco community of Ocosingo municipality, where six people were executed, including a pregnant woman, “remains unpunished,” nine civilian organizations assured, among them the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).

In a joint pronouncement, they remembered that on November 13, 2006, it also caused the forced displacement of 36 people, the disappearance of four individuals, as well as the illegal deprivation of freedom and torture of the disabled youth Petrona Núñez, who died in 2010 because of the physical and emotional suffering to which she was submitted.

The massacre occurred in the small Tseltal and Ch’ol indigenous community of Viejo Velasco, Ocosingo (in the Lacandón Jungle), when in a paramilitary operation, around 40 people coming from the towns of Nueva Palestina, Frontera Corozal and Lacanjá Chansayab armed with machetes, sticks, escopetas and rifles, some with military and police uniforms, entered violently,” they added.

Viejo Velasco survivors in Frayba. Photo: Frayba.

They said that, according to the Xi’nich group, “the aggressors were accompanied and protected by 300 members of the then Chiapas Sectorial Police, carrying high-powered weapons.” They added that “the presence of five Public Ministry prosecutors, two experts, the Jungle Zone Regional commander of the then State Agency of Investigation with seven members under his command, and a representative of the then Ministry of Social Development were also documented.”

The groups assured that “16 years after this massacre of our indigenous Tseltal and Ch’ol brothers, justice has not been found. [1] The survivors and relatives of the victims continue without guarantees for their return and without reparation of the damage.”

[1] Two years ago, Frayba reported that the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights (IACHR) admitted the case for investigation in September 2020.

Related: The Viejo Velasco massacre took place in the heat of paramilitary conflict against both the Zapatista communities and communities and organizations sympathetic to the Zapatistas. An article that describes the politics around the massacre is available here

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, November 14, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/14/estados/033n3est and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

And yet it moves

By: Raúl Romero*

The study of social movements is important in that it indicates, among other things, some of the “great national problems” that concern and mobilize different social sectors. There are mobilizations and movements of the left and right; Identifying the differences between them does not imply greater complication than reviewing their background, the type of demands, the actors that compose them, the structure, the financing, the repertoire of protest and other elements that, put together, help to understand them. There are mobilizations that do not manage to become movements, that is, they fail to give themselves structure, objectives or strategic route. There are also movements that are the articulation of various movements, the movements of movements. And there is also what are called parties-movements, which, among other things, aspire to put the party structure at the service of social movements.

In the Mexico of today, there are different social movements that make us look at old problems that have become more acute and others that have been emerging. They are movements that honestly defend values and ideas identified as leftist, and that raise different causes. At another point it’s worth reviewing initiatives of openly right-wing groups, such as the National Front for the Family, or other initiatives that take up social flags, but that in reality seek to preserve and restore privileges of displaced elites.

In the analysis of these movements, we must set two moments that are important to understand their context. The first is on July 1, 2018, with the triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president. The second is the social and health emergency due to the pandemic and the effects it unleashed.

The triumph and arrival of AMLO to the Presidency of Mexico is a key moment, because it was the massive expression of rejection of previous governments taken to the polls. It was also a kind of synthesis of many demands from different sectors. In fact, social leaders joined that government and its party and distanced themselves from the social struggle. In a certain way, the discomfort and constant and rising social mobilization were channeled by the Obradorismo, a political expression that placed its agenda and objectives in other movements. But this did not mean the incorporation of all the movements into the ruling bloc, nor that those who joined that strategic moment of 2018 bet entirely on the promised project.

2018 is also key because it led different organizations and collectives to pause in their mobilization process, to distance themselves or confront actors of the movement or within other movements, mainly by putting party and state interests before the causes and dynamics of popular organizations. There were even those who reoriented their goals: in the dispute over budgets, resources, positions in the party or in government structures, there are those who began to support policies and projects that they previously opposed. With the early federal and state elections, these dynamics deepen under the argument of the continuity of the project. A detailed analysis of the above, as well as the variations that may occur, are important to know what led us to the current moment. In any case, what needs to be highlighted is the demobilization process that came with the arrival of the new government in 2018.

The social and health emergency due to the covid-19 pandemic, as well as the policies of confinement and distancing, are another moment in which social dynamics were broken and modified that had an impact on organizational processes. In Mexico, the process of independent political rearticulation from below was truncated. For example, many villages and communities had few possibilities to respond articulately to the construction of the megaprojects that continued during this stage. New forms of solidarity and actors emerged in the most difficult days of confinement, collectives that organized to distribute food and pantries among the most impoverished sectors, boost local and family economies, and even solidarity networks to locate hospitals and oxygen distribution centers.

Surviving the pandemic, surviving as independent organizations and also surviving the criminal violence that we experience in the country have been some of the challenges that independent social organizations have endured in the last four years. But it seems that this is about to reach its end. While different collectivities have not stopped organizing and struggling, they have begun to reunite, to re-articulate. They are movements of disappeared, of Native peoples, of young people and students, of professors, of women, union organizations and of a very wide reach. They are movements that respond to problems of their own sector, but that have had a meeting point in recent days: the struggle against militarization and for justice.

* Sociologist (@RaulRomero_mx)

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, October 17, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/10/17/opinion/016a2pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee