Chiapas Support Committee



 In Chiapas

1. Campaign To Free Alberto Patishtan and Francisco Santiz Lopez – The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) in Chiapas called for an intense national and international campaign to win freedom for Alberto Patishtan and Francisco Santiz Lopez, both of whom are “political prisoners.” Patishtan is a member of the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign and Santiz is a Zapatista support base.  The international week of protest took place between May 15 to 22 and may be extended for another week. A very large protest took place in El Bosque Municipality, where Patishtan is from, and the Oventik Junta demanded the freedom of Santiz Lopez, who they referred to as a “political hostage.”

2. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Grants Protection to Patishtan – While solidarity organizations and collectives around the world took actions to demand Alberto Patishtan’s freedom, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced that it granted urgent precautionary measures in favor of prisoner of conscience Alberto Patishtán Gómez, faced with the grave danger to his life and health due to the worsening of untreated glaucoma. The IACHR asked the government of Mexico to instruct the competent authorities “to carry out the medical examinations that permit evaluating the beneficiary’s health and to offer him adequate treatment.” Patishtan has started to denounce de-humanizing conditions in the federal prison located in Sinaloa.

3. Morelia Junta Denounces Land Grabbing by ORCAO Members – The Good Government Junta in Morelia denounced a land grab by members of ORCAO in Patria Nueva community (Lucio Cabañas autonomous municipality) on the outskirts of Ocosingo. It also denounced attacks and harassment by ORCAO members on the El Nantze Ranchería, in the community of 21 de Abril (17 de Noviembre autonomous municipality), near Altamirano. The Junta alleges that the attacks are being orchestrated with support from all 3 levels of government. This is the same organization that the Zapatista Junta in La Garrucha denounced last month for attacking land in Pancho Villa autonomous municipality.

4. Campesinos Reject An Adventure Tourism Hotel on Lake Miramar – A series of articles in La Jornada this month reported that many of Emiliano Zapata’s ejido owners, whose lands are adjacent to Lake Miramar, reject a government plan for a hotel on the shores of the virgin lake. The plan includes 11 double rooms, 4 suites, a restaurant and bar, laundry and an “employee area.” Lake Miramar is located on the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon Jungle. More information and a beautiful photo of the lake can be found at:

5. Paramilitary Members of Opddic Threaten Cintalapa Women With Death – Paramilitary members of the Organization for Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic, its initials in Spanish) have threatened to kill the women who remain in their homes in the Cintalapa ejido, according to a denunciation by a representative of a group of families displaced from that ejido since 2007. The denunciation alleges that on May 16 two PRI members who are also members of Opddic threatened that if the women did not abandon their homes they would be killed. This is the same group of displaced people that reported the 2011 kidnapping of a little girl in Busiljá. The representative also demanded freedom for 2 prisoners from

their group and reported that paramilitaries intimidated those in Busiljá by throwing stones on the roofs and wearing uniforms and bullet-proof vests and being heavily armed.

6. San Sebastian Bachajon Denounces Armed Attack by UCIAF – On Sunday, May 6, members of the Indigenous and Forest Campesino Union (UCIAF, its initials in Spanish) attacked 2 residents of San Sebastian Bachajon (SSB) with guns. A 17-year old youth was severely injured and was taken to a hospital in San Cristobal. His brother was not injured. A week before, another attack by the same person from the same group attacked a man from SSB with a steel object, seriously injuring him. When they went to demand that the authorities execute an arrest warrant against the assailant, they were told that they would have to pay 6, 000 pesos for that and that “justice costs money.” The UCIAF used to be the paramilitary group known as Paz Y Justicia (Peace and Justice). Its members are also affiliated with the Green Ecologist and Institutional Revolutionary Parties. Moreover, SSB reports constant harassment and the detention of another ejido member.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Mexican Spring: #YoSoy132 Student Movement Forms Around Elections – Mexico will hold elections for national office on July 1st of this year, including the election of a new president. The electoral scene has become more interesting with the appearance of the student movement #YoSoy132, which is in touch with the #Occupy movement in the US. According to an account in La Jornada, the university students met several days ago at UNAM and demanded: political trial against President Felipe Calderón, for the more than 65, 000 deaths that his struggle against drug trafficking has left; against the PRI candidate, for the repression in San Salvador Atenco in May 2006, and against president-for-life of the National Education Workers Union, Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, for corruption and for harming education. They demanded her immediate exit from that union and the investigation of her relatives, name lenders and wealth. Moreover, the student movement opposes the return of the PRI to State power, “whose current face is Peña Nieto,” the PRI presidential candidate.

In the United States

1. State Department Report on Human Rights in Mexico – On May 24, the US State Department issued its 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The section on Mexico reports that members of security forces have been involved in killings, forced disappearances, torture and other abuses, while a high degree of impunity and official corruption persist. It emphasized that the transnational criminal organizations are the ones principally responsible for violent crimes in Mexico. The report has prompted some legislators to look at the Merida Initiative’s human rights provisions and consider whether a cut in funding is appropriate. The (weak) provisions allow for a very small reduction in security aid if human rights violations by security forces persist. The report on Mexico is found at:


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box  3421, Oakland, CA  94609


Chiapas Communities Reject Adventure Tourism Project

Photo by Moisés Zúñiga

Chiapas Communities Reject Adventure Tourist Project

 ** Foresee construction of lodging on the lakeshore

** For the indigenous, the current management of visitors is self-sufficient, they say

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

Laguna (Lake) Miramar, Chiapas, May 26, 2012

The large and beautiful lake (above) that marks a boundary of the Montes Azules is the new goal for tourism investors. Approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources and by the Environment, Natural Resources and Fishing Commission of the Senate, the Miramar Live Nature Stays (Estancias Vivas Natura Miramar) project contemplates the construction of “dwellings” for lodging tourists on the banks of a body of water, a hotel that the authorities call “alternative tourism.”

Only the Emiliano Zapata ejido has been considered in the official plan; 11 double rooms and four suites, a restaurant, bar, offices, laundry and an “employees’ zone” would be built on its lands. Not all are in agreement; many have not been consulted. For years, a regular tourist flow has existed here, never abundant, but which does not seem to alter the life of the village. It (the project) has a major impact here, and worse on the neighboring San Quintín ejido, the large military base, just a few kilometers from the lake.

Emiliano Zapata, Benito Juárez, Nueva Galilea and Tierra y Libertad are the towns around Lake Miramar, although only the first one is “legal;” its residents consider themselves guardians of the lake, although others may also be, as in their fashion are the Zapatistas of Nueva Galilea that defend it without government “supports” or tourist investments, more and more private every day.

At a spot inside the lake with little islets, a hand-painted sign on wooden boards expresses their rejection: “We don’t want adventure tourism, because the government is creating the tourism of adventures from hell. This plan is full of rats and traps. It is a counterinsurgency campaign and low-intensity war. Here we want justice, liberty and democracy. Here the people govern and the government obeys. EZLN.”

Zapatista bases of support live at a corner of the lake and say they care of the last boundary, the current border between the jungle of man and one which has done without humanity through centuries of change. Seen from here, it represents the last refuge of the Desert of Solitude (Desierto de la Soledad), as the first conquistadors called it; today the Integral Reserve of the Biosphere or, colloquially, the Montes Azules “Biosphere,” which is not saying if they are mountains, and if they are blue. In the classic Maya period there were cities and communities of farmers in the heart of this jungle, now “reserved,” like Tzendales (a notable unexplored archaeological vestige, near the Río Negro), Miramar and, for sure, Bonampak in the extreme north.

Investors’ promises put the sun, the moon and the stars to the indigenous in the form of infrastructure for “nature tourism.” Here where there already are the sun, moon and stars, the best water and the biggest sky in the Lacandón Jungle, what more can hotel owners, restaurant owners, construction companies, contractors, environmental and agrarian officials meddling in tourism, senators, governors, candidates, television networks, soft drink companies and banks offer? What could be better than this?

Some communities are –and all of them should be– guardians of the jungle, the water, the territory and what it contains and nourishes, what each morning they receive from the land, called Mother in the four Mayan languages that are spoken in this principal summit of the canyons, also a convergence of the roads to Las Margaritas and Ocosingo, they even achieve looking like highways. It is the summit where the boisterous Río Perla is suddenly added to the calm and mannerly, finally navigable Jataté, a large robust basin en route to becoming the Lacantún and finally the Usumacinta, far away from that little overrun waterfall in Corralito, in los Altos, between Oxchuc and Ocosingo.

Emiliano Zapata, although majority Chol, is one of the few jungle communities where Tzeltals, Tojolabals and Tzotzils also live, one of the most “cosmopolitan.” The ejido members (not all are in Zapata) tend to disqualify the neighboring villages, which lack property titles, and particularly accuse those from Benito Juárez of destroying forests and contaminating the lake. Benito Juárez’ boat, a huge launch, is accustomed to using a motor, but it is no longer permitted. Now they have to row from there to cross to Zapata, which is the exit for residents of the lakeshore. Or it was, because the road that comes from Amatitlán, Lacantún below, already reached Chuncerro, inside of the Montes Azules.

According to César, a young Chol that guides the envoys from La Jornada around the lake, the current management of visitors is rational, sufficient and self-sufficient to a certain point, no need for a private hotel. “He who wants to come to Miramar, from anywhere, comes. Just a few days ago 20 visitors came from Comitán and Tuxtla Gutiérrez, families. They came in trucks and camped for three days, so peaceful. The Gringos and French arrive in waves. In vacation time up to 50 people camp or hang hammocks at the beach,” a modest tourism, presumably ecological (more than a hotel), sufficient for a community that eats from the land and lives surrounded by water, between two large rivers and a portentous lake.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Sunday, May 27, 2012

En español:

Raúl Zibechi: New US Strategy Threatens Latin America

New US Strategy Threatens Latin America

By: Raúl Zibechi

In April, the United States government launched a potent counter-offensive to recuperate lost ground in a region that continues being vital for its global domination. No one in his right mind could imagine that the empire would let its influence in Latin America dissolve without playing all its cards. In the new world scenario, ruled by economic and financial crisis, and when the Pentagon needs to turn towards the Pacific, its presence on this continent cannot assume only a military profile.

On May 1, General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, debated the new Defense Strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointing out that it not only consists in “rebalancing” the armed forces towards the Asia-Pacific region, as Barack Obama pointed out in January. He defined the necessity of “constructing a network of alliances around the globe” for what will be necessary “to resolve the pending challenges, such as questions related with technology transfer, intelligence exchange and military sales to foreign countries.” (

In April the Secretary of Defense, León Panetta, made a South American tour that took him to Colombia, his principal military ally, later to Brazil and finally to Chile, where the Concón military base was just inaugurated. “The proposition for this trip is to participate in consultations with several of our associates in this part of the world and to attempt to foment innovative security alliances in the region” (

The Concón base, in Valparaíso province, forms part of that “innovation policy.” It was constructed within 60 days by the Southern Command and Chile’s Navy as an urban warfare training camp, called Military Operations in Urban Territories (MOUT) contemplated in “humanitarian” and preventive missions. In September 2011, the Chilean Minister of Defense, Andrés Allamand, had signed a cooperation agreement that permits “the deployment of US troops on Chilean soil, faced with the eventuality that the national army is surpassed by some emergency situation.” (El Ciudadano, 3/5/12.)

But the climax of Panetta’s mini tour happened in Brazil, the day following the interview with the Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, in which he offered ample technology transference if he opts for the purchase of F-18 Boeing Super Hornet pursuit planes, instead of the Rafale from the French Dassault (Aviation). On April 25, Panetta offered a conference at the War College, in Río de Janeiro, in which he detailed his proposal of broad strategic cooperation between the US and Brazil.

He talked to Brazil’s military elites, business owners and politicians, not to the public at large. He began saying that both countries “find themselves at a critical point of common history” (Defesanet, 25/4/12). “It is the moment for strengthening ourselves in the birth of a new agreement, simultaneously strong and innovative, based on the mutual interests of two countries, as Western powers.” He insinuated that Brazil could come to occupy its longed-for permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but it was not clear.

He called to establish a new dialogue for “transforming the Brazil-US relationship in the area of defense,” involving the emerging nation in inter-national military questions and he assured that bilateral relations are at their best moment since 1945.

In one crucial paragraph it brought up the most thorny aspect of the bilateral relationship: “Brazil is an economic power and cooperation in high technology, which needs to flow in both directions, seems limited by the controls to currently existing exports. Responding to that, we made the decision to free 4, 000 export licenses for Brazil, a level similar to what we have with our best global allies.”

Panetta added that the purchase of the 36 F-18 pursuit planes can “radically transform the relationship between both defense industries” and he concluded by assuring that: “Amorim is expected in Washington shortly to continue the dialogue.”

How should this speech be interpreted? Without a doubt, it is produced at a key and delicate moment. The victory of François Hollande is analyzed in Brazil as an opportunity for strengthening the alliance with France, while China’s presence in the region does not stop growing. Amorim assured months ago that the decision about the purchase of the pursuit planes would be made before the middle of the year, but logically after the French elections. This is the time. Nevertheless, the empire does not usually offer a broad technology transfer for the purchase of three-dozen airplanes. The objective appears more ambitious: the Pentagon makes its “generous” technological and diplomatic offer (the seat on the Security Council) in exchange for a military and strategic submission. In my way of seeing it, it’s blackmail.

The cables revealed by Wikileaks point out that in 2009 the US tried to sabotage the transfer of space and nuclear technology from the Ukraine to Brazil (Defesanet, 13/5/12), two decisive aspects for the emerging country’s strategic autonomy. But Brazil is already developing spatial technology with China and has its own advanced nuclear program. The message is clear: if Brasilia is not subordinate, the military circle will be tighter every day, as the new military base in Chile demonstrates.

It is not simple to anticipate the path that the Brazilian elites will take. For much less, Getulio Vargas was cornered until driving him to suicide. The coming weeks will reveal a good part of the enigma: the delayed decision on the purchase of the pursuit planes will show the reigning state of mind in the country that is proposing to unite the region to speak with the same voice in the world.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, May 18, 2012

En español:

Commodification of Chiapas Forests

The Commodifiation of Forests, Motive for Removing Communities in Chiapas

  ** El Triunfo, the reserve with which the state government entered the carbon credit market

** They accuse that conservation arguments consist of to stop planting corn in the zone

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, May 20, 2012

Among the principal economic motives for removing communities from the forests that they inhabit is the sale of carbon credits, maintain civilian organisms belonging to the Network for Peace Chiapas (Sipaz, Desmi, Frayba and others). At COP 16 (Conference of the Parties) in Cancún, in December 2010, Mexico entered the program Reduction of Emissions product of Deforestation and environmental Degradation (REDD Plus), whose basic idea is that countries that are willing and can reduce carbon emissions that come from deforestation ought to be financially compensated.

In a 122-page report, critical of the rural cities project and environmental policy in Chiapas, divulged this week, the civil organisms remind that, simultaneously, the governor signed an agreement with his then counterparts from California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Acre, Brazil, Arnobio Márques de Almeida, which started “a market for buying and selling carbon credits that is part of the project known as REDD Plus.”

In 2009, the Action Program before Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH, its initials in Spanish) had been established with support from the British Embassy, Conservation International, a conservationist NGO (“that they use as intermediary with the communities”) and academic institutions like the Southern Border College (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), which has collaborated to implement the REDD Plus Project with the National Forest Commission; though recently it has attempted to distance itself publicly, it has not done so with sufficient clarity.

The governor of Chiapas, the report emphasizes, “is convinced that adding on to the ‘payment for environmental services’ is a project for life,” and it quotes the governor: “Your children and grandchildren are going to thank him because they are going to live, they are going to receive money for taking care of it, let’s gamble for them, those who are little, so that you have the certainty that your children are going to live in the future, are going to live from conservation of the reserves, from tourism and the production of rubber or palm for oil.”

“Ecological” interests of the development plans imply the commercialization of the forests, for which the authorities consider it necessary “that the communities inside the reserves be relocated or not use the lands for small farming activities, like occurs in El Triunfo, Reserve with which the Chiapas government entered the carbon market.” But the crown jewel in this market, as will be seen in the next reports, would be the Montes Azules Reserve, in the Lacandón Jungle.

The report on the mission of the Network for Peace points out: “As is well known, to the indigenous peoples the corn, which has been cultivated on Chiapas lands since thousands of years ago, has a big nutritional and cultural importance.” Nevertheless, one of the government’s arguments for “conserving biodiversity” consists of stopping the planting of corn. The governor has said that: “it does a lot of damage to the planet, while the reserve, the great wealth that its residents have, would be finished.”

REDD Plus promotes a “productive reconversion” so that the campesinos stop producing their own foods, like corn, and cultivate products for fuels or construction materials (rubber, African Palm). The sale of carbon to transnationals that it seeks to establish in the forests of Chiapas also “implies the displacement of the communities for carrying out another government project: sustainable rural cities.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, May 21, 2012

En español:





Luchas “muy otras;” Book-signing & Discussion

Chiapas Support Committee presents

A bi-lingual discussion and book-signing at

Modern Times Books in San Francisco of

Luchas ‘muy otras’

Zapatismo y autonomía en las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas

Un libro coordinado por Bruno Baronnet, Mariana Mora Bayo y Richard Stahler-Sholk. México: UAM-Xochimilco, CIESAS, UNACH, 2011.

 * Evento en español e inglés

 Monday, May 21, 2012, 7:00 p.m. at Modern Times Bookstore, 2919 24th St, San FranciscoIn conversation with co-editor Mariana Mora Bayo

Ms. Mora will be discussing and reading from the Spanish version of Struggles “muy otras.” Zapatismo & Autonomy in the Indigenous Communities of Chiapas A book co-edited by Bruno Baronnet, Mariana Mora Bayo & Richard Stahler-Sholk. Published in Mexico by UAM-Xochimilco, CIESA, UNACH, 2011

 For more information, contact:

Chiapas Support Committee (510) 654-9587 Or

Zapatista News Summary April 2012


In Chiapas

1. Campaign To Free Alberto Patishtan and Francisco Santiz Lopez – The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) in Chiapas launched an intense national and international campaign to win freedom for Alberto Patishtan and Francisco Santiz Lopez, both of whom are “political prisoners.” Patishtan is a member of the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign and Santiz is a Zapatista support base. The campaign also demands the presentation of Alonso López Luna, disappeared and presumed dead in the Banavil conflict of December 4. The Movement for Justice in the Barrio is collaborating with Frayba to coordinate an International  week of action and protest May 15 to 22.

2. Two More Other Campaign Members Tortured and Imprisoned – During the last week in April, La Jornada reported on the torture and unjust imprisonment of 2 more men from San Sebatian Bachajon (SSB) Antonio Estrada Estrada and Miguel Vázquez Deara. Both men sent their accounts of detention, torture and incarceration to La Jornada via family members. Both men are accused of auto theft on the Ocosingo-Palenque Highway. Both were tortured in order to obtain confessions.Vazquez Deara has been in the Ocosingo Prison since Septemberb 2011. Antonio Estrada has been in the Playas de Catazaja Prison since August 2011. These are two more incidents that demonstrate the government’s efforts to “break” the resistance of SSB to tourism development.

3. La Garrucha Denounces Land Grabbing in Francisco Villa – On April 24, the Good Government Junta in La Garrucha denounced a wave of land invasions and attacks against the community of Nuevo Paraiso in Francisco “Pancho” Villa autonomous municipality, a little to the east of the city of Ocosingo. The lands in question are lands recuperated by the EZLN after its 1994 Uprising. The Junta states that the invaders are from the communities of Pojkol, Guadalupe Victoria and Las Conchitas. They are armed and have invaded corn and coffee fields to steal the crops and sell them. The Junta also says that the invaders cut the wire fencing that encloses pastureland for cattle and let out all the animals, then burned the fence posts. Another destructive tactic being used by the invaders is to pollute the water supply with dead animals and women’s underwear. According to the Junta, the invaders from Las Conchitas belong to ARIC Historic, a pro-government faction of the old ARIC, and the invaders from Guadalupe Victoria belong to the ORCAO. The purpose of these actions is to obtain legal title to the land from the government and drive away the Zapatistas. The government cooperates with the invaders as part of its “soft” counterinsurgency war against the Zapatistas and grants legal title to invaders.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Ambush in Cheran, 2 Dead and 2 Injured – On April 18, paramilitary groups associated with organized crime and the woodcutters that operate in the region ambushed Cheran residents while they were re-foresting land. Two Cheran residents were murdered and two others injured. According to the Michoacan state attorney general’s office, 6 of the attackers were also killed, but Cheran authorities say they did not kill them and know nothing about how the 6 died. The attorney general’s office is using the old “inter-community conflict” label, just like the government did in Acteal. In other words, they blame the victim for the crime. Cheran is an indigenous Purepecha community that declared itself autonomous in order to organize its own self defense against the paramilitaries and woodcutters by forming community police and electing its own authorities through traditional indigenous methods (known as uses and customs). Cheran is adhered to the EZLN’s Other Campaign.

2. General Law for Victims Approved by Deputies – On April 30, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved the General Law for Victims. The law establishes a system of attention to victims that includes the right to truth, justice and reparations for damages. It also institutes guarantees of no repetition. It also creates a National Registry for Victims. The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) and non-governmental organizations promoted the law.

3. Javier Sicilia Tours US – Javier Sicilia is making appearances in the United States to promote his caravan to Washington, DC in August. Sicilia and the MPJD plan to lead a caravan from San Diego to Washington, DC to demand alternatives to the drug war in Mexico from the US government. Such alternatives could be: decriminalization of drugs that are currently illegal; stricter gun control; immigrant rights and an end to funding the drug war in Mexico.

In the United States

1. Wal-Mart de Mexico, International Scandal – On April 21, the New York Times published the results of a long and extensive investigation into the business practices of Wal-Mart de Mexico, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart in the United States. The results of the investigation showed that Wal-Mart de Mexico executives bribed Mexican government officials in order to obtain building permits for their enormous expansion throughout Mexico. The investigation also showed that Wal-Mart executives in the US knew about the bribes and covered it up for approximately the past 5 years or more. Bribe money was used to unclog bureaucratic delay, environmental concerns and community objections. The startling numbers show that Wal-Mart de Mexico now has 2, 087 different kinds of stores with different names throughout the country and that it has driven a lot of smaller Mexican businesses into bankruptcy. Its practices appear to violate both US and Mexican laws. The US Justice Department is investigating potential violations of the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The entire shocking article can be read in English at:

2. Summit of the Americas – The Sixth Summit of the Americas was held in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14 and 15. While the US corporate media reports that a big sex scandal occurred among Secret Service agents and Colombian prostitutes, issues of substance also occurred. The US was taken to task for the embargo against Cuba and the attending countries vowed that there would not be another Summit without Cuba. The issue of legalizing/decriminalizing drugs was also discussed and, while no decisions were made, the fact that it is being discussed at all among the member countries as an alternative to the bloody drug wars favored by the United States is significant. The US lobbied hard to keep legalization as an alternative to a drug war from being considered. Another issue dividing the US and Canada from other countries is Argentina’s position on the Falkland Islands (las Malvinas). The countries were unable to agree on a consensus document summarizing the Summit.


Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.

The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).

We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.

Click on the Donate button of to support indigenous autonomy.


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box  3421, Oakland, CA  94609

Tel: (510) 654-9587


Chiapas Tourism Development Aimed At US Market


By: Mary Ann Tenuto

The above photograph suggests a story waiting to be told. It shows indigenous women next to their makeshift plastic tent on the plaza in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. The women are occupying a space on the plaza in front of the San Cristóbal de las Casas Cathedral to protest the unjust imprisonment of their family members, who are on a hunger strike inside three Chiapas prisons.

In the background, on a different part of the Plaza, the photograph shows a thatched-roof structure that is part of the exposition pavilion welcoming visitors to the World Summit of Adventure Tourism, taking place in San Cristóbal between October 17 and 20, 2011.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) coordinated the summit. Key sponsors were the state government of Chiapas, the government of Mexico and Eddie Bauer, a retailer of outdoor wear. To no one’s surprise, Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, was one of the keynote speakers. He touted adventure tourism as a source of employment for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and urged those present to create those jobs. [1] Mexico has adopted tourism development as a panacea for the country’s economic woes.

The Worldwide Tourism Industry

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world. It is such a large and profitable industry that the United Nations has an organization devoted exclusively to international tourism: The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The UNWTO reports that in 2010, international tourism generated US$ 919 billion in export earnings (foreign cash). [2] The tourism industry brings much-needed foreign cash to developing countries and a quick return on investment to developers. Not surprisingly, the UNWTO encourages developing nations to invest in tourism infrastructure in order to attract tourist development and earn foreign cash. Mexico has taken that encouragement to heart.

In order to promote Mexico tourism, President Calderón made a documentary film in English entitled “Mexico: The Royal Tour,” wherein Calderón and travel journalist Peter Greenberg personally take viewers to some of the country’s most amazing tourist attractions, from the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua to the archaeological wonders of the Yucatán Peninsula and Chiapas. [3} Public television stations in the United States began to show the travelogue in September 2011. The official trailer can be viewed at:

On February 28, 2011, Felipe Calderón and 29 state governors signed a National Tourism Agreement, converting tourism into a national priority. The goal of the tourism agreement is to generate 40 billion dollars annually by 2018. At the signing of this agreement, President Calderón announced that: “Mexico is destined to be a world tourism power.” To that end, Calderón said he would continue to invest five percent of the country’s gross domestic product in the construction of highway, seaport and airport infrastructure to facilitate travel for tourists. [4]

You can see that infrastructure in Chiapas when you land at the new airport in Chiapa de Corzo and take the new toll road to San Cristóbal. Both the new airport and the new toll road were built to facilitate tourism and commerce. Both were infrastructure projects encompassed within the old Plan Puebla-Panamá (PPP), now renamed the Mesoamerica Project.

Palenque Integral Center

The mega-tourism project underway in Chiapas and envisioned within the Mesoamerica Project is the Palenque Integral Center, or CIP, its initials in Spanish. The CIP includes the San Cristóbal-Palenque Toll Road, a key infrastructure piece to which there is considerable resistance.

The Chiapas state government has, at least in the recent past, tolerated violence, including murder, kidnapping and torture against members of the EZLN’s Other Campaign in the Mitzitón ejido because they are resisting the construction of the new toll road through their territory. Mitzitón is in the municipality of San Cristóbal, where the toll road is to begin. The purpose of the new toll road is to facilitate tourism development between San Cristóbal, Agua Azul and Palenque. In addition to murder, kidnapping and torture, the government also uses unjust incarceration as a tactic to break the resistance. Two of the prisoners participating in the hunger strike were from Mitzitón and had family members occupying Cathedral Plaza, as pictured above.

The San Sebastián Bachajón (SSB) ejido is another area along the projected route of the San Cristóbal-Palenque Toll Road. It is slated for mega-development. In February 2011, a mixture of federal, state and local security forces arbitrarily detained 117 people, all from the SSB ejido. Although the local media portray the dispute as a fight between indigenous peoples over who gets to collect the entrance fees to the Agua Azul Cascades from tourists, the more important and underlying conflict is who will control the extremely valuable land surrounding the spectacular series of turquoise blue waterfalls named Agua Azul (Blue Water). Hotels, restaurants, a conference center and golf course are envisioned for Agua Azul, not to mention a lodge with helipad, but no local family-owned businesses. The tourist development around Agua Azul envisions transnational hotel chains and golf course developers. It would also involve taking land away from some of the indigenous population and the forced displacement of that population. That is why they protest and resist. Their peaceful social protest has been repressed and criminalized.

The current epicenter of the CIP is the city of Palenque and its archaeological zone/national park of the same name, just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from the city. Palenque is expanding its once tiny airport for small planes to accommodate commercial airliners. While the world-famous Palenque archaeological ruins have long been a big tourist attraction, it is projected that within two years it will enter the global market as a prime destination for “light” adventure tourism; and, by the way, specifically directed at the US consumer. Preparations for this increased tourism are underway.

A report in La Jornada reveals that there is also resistance to the tourism expansion in Palenque. An experienced tourist agent told La Jornada that government officials from different departments, with financial support from US agencies like USAID, are collaborating to make way for privatizing the natural protected areas surrounding the archaeological site. Once privatized, transnational hotel chains would then be able to build hotels and commercial centers on the outskirts of the archaeological zone and to provide tourist services within the newly privatized area. This would bypass existing businesses in the city of Palenque. New guides and new modes of transportation would replace current service providers, such as taxi drivers and tour guides, putting many out of work. (This contradicts Calderón’s claim that tourism development would create jobs in Chiapas.) The new guides are being carefully selected from within pro-government populations. No criticism or dissent is tolerated. Their training omits historic knowledge in favor of “nature tourism” and is geared to the style of US tourists. At least one entire community would be displaced. Thus, the project threatens jobs, homes and a way of life; in other words, it threatens the culture. [5] Therefore, it’s not only Zapatista and Other Campaign communities that will be resisting the mass transformation of the city and its surrounding area. Those who provide tourist services and will be displaced by the development projects are expected to join in the resistance.

Mundo Maya (Maya World)

The CIP is just one of the tourist projects envisioned within a comprehensive Mundo Maya (Maya World) concept. Mundo Maya, or Ruta Maya as it is sometimes called, is a regional plan to develop and connect, for the purpose of tourism, Maya archaeological and ecological sites throughout four Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize) and five Mexican states (Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo). [6] Development plans in Chiapas are mirrored in other Mexican states and in Central American countries.

In Guatemala, for example, a project known as Cuatro Balam (Four Jaguar) has been in the works for several years. The project is developing a tourist corridor between El Mirador and Tikal, both well-known archaeological sites in the Guatemalan state of Petén. Forced displacement of a nearby Maya community accompanied this project. The Flores-Santa Elena Airport near Tikal has been greatly expanded and renamed Mundo Maya Airport. Highways are planned to connect with archaeological sites along the Usumacinta River, the boundary between Guatemala and Chiapas. Crossing that river into Chiapas is currently by boat, but there are future predictions of a bridge.

For anyone who follows the development of Mundo Maya projects closely, whether in Chiapas, Guatemala, the Yucatán or Honduras, there is one inescapable conclusion: governments and tourism developers are exploiting the archaeological wonders of the ancient Maya for personal or corporate profit, while evicting and repressing the modern-day Maya.










Raúl Zibechi: What Comes After the Back Yard

What Comes After the Back Yard

By: Raúl Zibechi

After the recent sixth Summit of the Americas there remains little doubt that the Latin American region has changed. It stopped being the back- yard of a decadent empire that has very little to offer save military bases and threatening fleets. The double failure of the United States, by Barack Obama in Cartagena and by Hillary Clinton the following week in Brasilia, shows the lack of constructive proposals for the region.

As Dilma Rousseff pointed out, countries of the region demand “ relations among equals,” which was interpreted by some analysts as “a rebellion against the United States.” The summit’s principal consequence is proof of US isolation and the non-existence of policies capable of attracting the region jointly as happened until the middle of the 1990s. I find five reasons for the deterioration of Washington’s relations with the entire continent, which anticipate the new scenario in formation.

The first is the double failure of the drug war and the embargo of Cuba. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington had to fabricate an enemy to continue forcing the militarization of international relations. Illegal drug trafficking fulfilled that function for a while, despite never being credible because it did not include a reduction of consumption in northern countries, the big consumers of illegal drugs.

Now the war against drugs lost the battle for legitimacy. The International Institute of Strategic Studies just launched a study in which it affirms that it not only failed in combating consumption and trafficking, but also the war against drugs “has created an important threat to international security” (La Jornada, April 17). Was that not perhaps the desired objective?

The second is the end of the OAS’ time and the consolidation of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), both of which exclude the United States and Canada and adjust to the new global reality. Following the already marked tendency by Unasur since 2009, Celac is rapidly becoming the organism capable of resolving the region’s problems and of tracing the direction of its sovereignty before the extra-continental powers. It can be discussed whether that is the type of integration that the Latin American peoples need, but there is no room for doubt that, whatever the path they elect, they are excluding the old property owners from the back yard.

In third place, the United States no longer is the principal trade associate of the region’s principal countries, particularly of South America, and its decreasing internal market no longer has the attraction of old nor is it in any condition to capture Latin American exports. The tendency is that China and the Asia group substitute for the role that the United States had from the beginning of the 20th Century until the 2008 crisis as the decisive trade and political ally.

Until 2005, the United States purchased 1.5 million barrels per day from Venezuela, a number that fell in 2011 to less than one million. To the contrary, Venezuelan exports to China, which were almost non-existent in 2005, climbed to almost a half million barrels per day n 2011 (Geab No. 60, December 2011). The tendency is that one market substitutes for the other.

The United States and the European Union, in fourth place, are on the way to being displaced as the principal investors in Latin America. China is the principal investor in Venezuela, the first world reserve for oil, third for bauxite, fourth reserve for gold, in sixth position in natural gas and tenth reserve of iron in the world. China also has strong investments in Argentina and Brazil, the two largest South American economies.

The second Chinese oil company, Sinopec, was interested in buying a part of Repsol in YPF for 15 billion dollars before the nationalization decided by the government of Cristina Fernández (Financial Times, April 18, 2012). Now it can expand its investments in Argentina, where it is responsible for 6 percent of the offer of crude and for 1.7 percent of gas.

The region also has endogenous capabilities for investment. The best example is the announcement of the investment of 16 billion dollars by three Brazilian companies (Petrobras, Odebrecht and Braskem) in Peru, to extract gas in Camisea, to construct a gas duct of more than a thousand kilometers toward the south and a petrochemical pole in the port city of Ilo, the first on the Pacific Coast.

In fifth place, the United States no longer is the region’s only military ally. Venezuela maintains a solid alliance with Russia, Brazil has co-operation agreements with India in aeronautics and with China in the space industry. But the most notable is the progressive integration of the region’s military industries, in other words the coupling of the South American countries with the growing Brazilian military industry.

The most notable case is the strategic alliance between Brazil and Argentina, which translates into joint development of protection, a military carrier that will substitute for the Hercules, the development of air-to-air missiles that Brazil worked on with South Africa, and unmanned planes for border vigilance. Both countries form a critical mass capable of trumping the rest to set up a regional military industry autonomous from the north.

The imminent victory of the socialist François Hollande in the French elections “will activate a series of strategic changes” that accelerate the geopolitical transitions underway, according to what the European Laboratory of Political Anticipation (Laboratorio Europeo de Anticipación Política) estimates. See: (Geab No. 54, April 17, 2012). One of the principal turns will be the formation of a Europe-BRICS strategic alliance. In some way, this alliance already started with the 2009 France-Brazil military agreement to construct submarines and attack planes. The region’s autonomization can have unexpected allies.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, April 20, 2012

Para leer en español:

Zapatista News Summary March 2012


In Chiapas

1. New Charge Against Zapatista Prisoner Halts Release – On March 28, the Good Government Junta in Oventik denounced the new federal charge against Francisco Santiz: “Carrying firearms for the exclusive use of the Army.” Francisco Santiz Lpez is a civilian Zapatista support base who was arrested and unjustly charged with killing a PRI member in Banavil community during a violent conflict there on December 4, 2011. Santiz Lopez received notice on March 22 that he had been cleared of the murder charges and would be released from prison. A “few meters” away from leaving prison, he was informed of the new charge and was not released. The non-Zapatista detained along with Santiz Lopez has been released with two bullets still in his body. His is one more example of the lack of necessary medical attention Other Campaign prisoners have been complaining about recently.

2. Three (3) Jungle Communities Threatened With Eviction – San Gregorio, Rancheria Corozal and Nuevo Salvador Allende communities received a threat  of eviction from the federal government, unless they agree to a “relocation.” The campesino organization to which the communities belong, ARIC-I, said they would not agree to leave. The 3 communities are within the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. To the best of our knowledge, these communities have no political relationship to the EZLN or the Other Campaign. What we think is of interest here is that the government allegedly told them is that:  “only tourism, research and the controlled use of natural resources is permitted in the Montes Azules.”

3. The Struggle Continues to Support Alberto Patishtán – On March 17, more than 1, 000 friends, relatives, and neighbors of Alberto Patishtán Gómez, a prisoner since June 19 2000, gathered together in the community of El Bosque to demand Patishtán’s return to Chiapas (from a federal prison in Sinaloa) and his unconditional release. All believe him to be innocent and a political prisoner. The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) had earlier reported that Patishtan’s lawyers won a protective order (like an injunction) from a judge to return him to Chiapas. The government was delaying any implementation of the order. It was discovered among the paperwork and evidence in Patishtan’s file that the government of Chiapas had requested his transfer to Sinaloa.

4. Campesinos Denounce Ultimatum to Accept Digital Meters or Cut Off Electricity – On March 8, Peoples United for the Defense of Electric Energy (PUDEE, its initials in Spanish) denounced that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE, its initials in Spanish) threatened to cut off their electricity supply if they do not accept the new digital meters. PUDEE organizes communities in resistance to paying high energy rates in the Northern Zone of Chiapas and is an adherent to the Other Campaign. PUDEE further denounces that the CFE is working hand-in-hand with the Green Party of Mexico (PVEM, its initials in Spanish) to intimidate people and, in several communities, even threatened to install the dreaded meters by force. PUDEE also alleges that government authorities are requiring proff of payment of electric bills in order to participate in a welfare program known as “Opportunities.” Finally, it reminds folks that the PVEM is linked to the Paz y Justicia paramilitary group in the Northern Zone of Chiapas.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. National Data Base for Missing or Disappeared Persons – On March 6, Mexico’s Senate approved a law creating a national registry of data on missing and disappeared persons. Its purpose is to create an information data base of individuals who are reported as missing or disappeared. Until now, there has been no coordination or information sharing among the various Mexican states. There are currently 8, 898 dead that have not been identified and estimates of missing and disappeared persons vary widely from government agencies, human rights organizations and social organizations.

2. US Vice President Joe Biden Visits Mexico and Honduras – On March 5, under extremely heavy security, US Vice President Joe Biden met with Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderón, for a meeting reported to last about an hour and a half. He next met with presidential pre-candidates from Mexico’s 3 largest political parties. While other issues were surely discussed between Biden and Calderón, it is widely believed that the main purpose of his visit was to insure continued cooperation in the drug war. That was likewise the purpose of his meetings with the 3 presidential pre-candidates. Following this 1-day visit to Mexico, Biden continued on to Honduras for a meeting with President Porfirio Lobo. (See item below.)

In the United States

1. US Vice President Joe Biden Visits Honduras – Vice President Biden left Mexico and continued on to Honduras, where he first met with President Porfirio Lobo and other Honduran officials. At Lobo’s invitation, Biden also met with members of the Central American Integration System (SICA, its initials in Spanish). SICA is Central America’s regional security organization to which the United States, the Inter-American Development Bank and some European countries are giving funding to fight a “war on drugs.” It was in Honduras that the Obama Administration’s concern became clear: it is worried about the proposal by Guatemalan President Otto Perez to decriminalize drugs as an alternative to the drug war. The Administration’s concern was that Perez would pick up support at a Summit of Central American presidents on March 24, which would then carry over to April’s Summit of the Americas in Colombia. As it turned out, the Central American Summit was poorly attended and Perez accused the United States of encouraging a boycott.


Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.

The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).


Please Join Us…


VIVIMOS ZAPATA / LIVING ZAPATA – Thursday, April 19, 2012 – 7:00 PM – San Francisco – A panel discussion on the current issues in Mexico, featuring guest speakers on the Drug Wars, Migrants and Social Movements. Delegates just back from the CSC’s Spring Delegation to Chiapas will report on the current situation. Eric Quezada Center, 518 Valencia Street, San Francisco. Suggested donation: $5-10. (Sliding Scale)