Chiapas Support Committee

The popular movement resists the narco

A view of Acapatzingo Housing Community, also known as La Polvorilla. Photo: José Luis Santillán

By: Raúl Zibechi

In the Iztapalapa delegation (Mexico City) the Acapatzingo Housing Community, where 596 families live, are being harassed by armed people who define themselves as “Colombians,” We’re dealing with one of the popular movements that for decades has been struggling for housing, with eight nuclei in the city that belong to the Francisco Villa Popular Organization of the Independent Left (OPFVII, its initials in Spanish). [1]

The aggressions and intimidations began in mid-April brandishing firearms before the neighborhood guard that controls entrance to the community. “On Friday, May 22 –community leaders report– two subjects who got out of car tell the guard that in the next few days they will come to deliver envelopes, as a first and last notice, which will contain their demands and instructions and that the community would have to abide by them within a period de 72-hours.”

The envelopes arrived the next day; however, by agreement with the community, the guard proceeded to destroy them without knowing their content. “In the afternoon-evening of that same day, the assembly decided to face the threats by reinforcing the guards on all shifts and taking other actions in case the community was attacked,” continues the account of the members of the community’s General Council of Representatives.

Among the las decisions of the general assembly, with more than 500 participants, is to reinforce the guards, guard even the roofs, make permanent rounds through the streets and sidewalks, reinforce the main accesses to the community besides increasing the number of people who participate in the rotating guard and making bonfires at different points. “The organization’s other communities are on alert and ready to go there and act if necessary,” they assure.

Up to here, a brief summary of the facts. I believe that we need to debate, throughout Latin America, the modes of confronting drug trafficking, in addition to deepening its understanding.

For several years I have maintained that the drug business is yet one more form of accumulation by dispossession and that the world’s economic elites are increasingly behaving like drug traffickers ( Furthermore, drug trafficking is one of the modes used by the dominant class to control and discipline popular movements.

Organized peoples are the ones who can confront and set limits on drug trafficking, something that the states neither want nor can do, in this period of debacle and collapse of the system’s institutions.

In the first place, we have a history of how a solid popular organization has managed to stop the entry of predatory forces into the territories of the peoples. The Peruvian campesino rounds prevented cattle thieves from imposing their law on hundreds of communities to later set limits on multinational mining companies, stopping their activity.

Something similar can be said of the Nasa Indigenous Guard in the Colombian Cauca, capable of recuperating comuneros kidnapped by armed groups; of the organized people of Cherán who expelled the loggers and of the EZLN who have prevented drug traffickers and paramilitaries from imposing their law on the Zapatista territories.

The case of the las cities is, certainly, more complex. They are the strong link in the chain of capitalism’s domination, where the central powers of the State are located and are the easiest space the armed institutions, legal or not, to control. However, the experience of the Acapatzingo Community, known as La Polvorilla, can give us clues on how to face the challenge of the armed.

The decisive thing is a solid organization. In this self-constructed neighborhood of some 4 thousand people, each family belongs to a sector where a brigade operates. There are various commissions, the most important at this time being health and vigilance, with eight commissions in total, including education and communication.

The important decisions are made in the general assembly, but a General Council de Representatives functions with leaders of the 28 brigades into which the neighborhood is divided that meet every week. In order for the organization to be solid, a quarterly or monthly assembly, like the most active popular organizations usually do, isn’t enough. A network of spaces that manage daily life is necessary, from health and education to sports, culture and maintenance.

In Acapatzingo they have constructed two vegetable gardens, health and training spaces. Even the children are organized and have their own activities, including a newsletter. During the pandemic they installed eateries in the eight inhabited spaces and took extreme protection measures with wide community participation. Collective self-government is key to the formation of community ties, the only ones capable of defending the territorial autonomy of those below and thus confront drug trafficking.

[1] Several years ago, the Chiapas Support Committee hosted a talk by a representative of the Francisco Villa Popular Organization of the Independent Left, also known as Los Panchos.” This is an amazing project; it’s relevant to autonomous urban housing. NACLA published an excellent article on La Polvorilla earlier this year.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, June 5, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





Trump: fuel on the fire

[A Mexican perspective on what’s happening in the US]

A La Jornada Editorial

Justice For George Floyd

Nothing could be more provocative in the uncontrolled US social scene than President Donald Trump’s announcement of launching the armed forces against what he called “domestic terrorism” and that is, for the most part, a group of peaceful mobilizations repudiating the murder of the black citizen George Floyd, perpetrated last Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by local police, of whom only one has been formally charged for “involuntary homicide.”

While it’s true that in some of the neighbor country’s most important cities attacks on buildings have proliferated –the most significant, the Minneapolis police station and Saint John’s Episcopal Church, located in front of the White House–, businesses and police vehicles, a substantial part of the violence has been provoked by law enforcement agencies themselves, by repressing peaceful protestors and assaulting bystanders and reporters.

An illustrative example of the above is what occurred yesterday in Washington, where members of the National Guard attacked demonstrators with tear gas and cavalry charges to evict them from immediate vicinity of the presidential residence, moments before Trump would express his threat. Moreover, to formulate it the president appeared at the damaged temple and proclaimed himself, with Bible in hand, “the president of law and order.” Moments before, he addressed the country’s governors on a collective telephonic link, accused them of being weak and demanded that they mobilize the military in their respective states.

The Bishop of Washington, Mariann Budde, condemned the president’s address, she repudiated his “abuse of sacred symbols” and stuck her finger in the wound by pointing out that: “everything he has said and done has been to inflame violence.” What’s certain is that Trump faces what seems to be the biggest crisis experienced by the world’s most powerful country in many years, and the symbol of it is that he had to spend Sunday night in an underground bunker in the White House that had not been used since September 19, 2001.

To the health crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic –aggravated presidential nonsense– has been added the major social and economic collapse that has left tens of millions of Americans unemployed; and if that were not enough, the Floyd murder obliged large sectors of society to repair the hateful structural racism that pervades police forces and many other institutions.

The massive outrage at that crime was exacerbated by the incipient cove-up actions of those los responsible –who were initially suspended with pay– and the imitation of an autopsy that sought to hide the homicide.

In sum, the United States seems to be on the edge of an abyss of incalculable consequences for its own population, but also for the rest of the world, and it seems unlikely that the madness reigning in the White House contributes to avoiding a catastrophe.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee







Chiapas Indigenous prisoners infected with COVID-19 appeal to the IACHR

The 7 San Cristóbal prisoners. Photo: Chiapas Paralelo

By: Angeles Mariscal

With occasional medical attention and no medicine; that’s how the group of eight indigenous prisoners secluded in the San Cristóbal de las Casas prison and sick with the COVID-19 virus go through the worst ravages that COVID-19 leaves in their bodies.

To the pain is added the fear of dying practically abandoned. So, through humanitarian organizations, the indigenous prisoners requested the intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a body that asked the Mexican State for reports about the care that is being provided to the eight infected prisoners.

The letter from the IACHR – an arm of the Organization of American States (OAS)-, which was sent to the authorities on May 29 [requests] “information about the current health situation of the proposed beneficiaries, indicating whether they will be receiving the medical care that they require,” and the measures that would be implemented to protect their lives.

Since last April, the prisoners have denounced that prison personnel were not following the health protocols to avoid bringing the virus inside the prison.

A month later, two guards died from COVID-19, as the Chiapas Secretariat of Citizen Public Security and Protection and the State Secretary of Health recognized. In addition to recognizing the outbreak of the virus at the prison, they reported that at least 8 prisoners were infected.

Days after this announcement, the prisoners continued denouncing that, already sick, they took them to the infirmary area and practically abandoned them there. There were no doctors that attended to them, and at that time, they would not permit their family members to bring them medication to relieve the symptoms.

The Secretary of Health responded with another communication pointing out that: “four nurses and a doctor” were attending to both the sick and to the rest of the prisoners; in other words, those who they don’t know if they are infected. The official communication was accompanied with photographs where medical personnel are seen with the prisoners.

These photographs, the infected prisoners explained, had been taken a week ago, when they came to do the COVID-19 test. In other words, they did not receive medical attention after testing positive.

As of May 30, already at a critical point in the illness, while their health was deteriorating every day, the eight prisoners explained that they only have occasional medical attention, and no medicine.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





More than 3, 300 on the verge of famine in Chiapas, Frayba warns

Frayba press conference – From left to right: Pedro Faro, Marco Pérez and the actress Ofelia Medina of FISANIM.

 By: Isaín Mandujano


The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) warned that more than 3,000 indigenous Tzotzils in a situation of forced displacement and members of other communities in the Highlands (Los Altos) of Chiapas, are at risk of suffering one of the most serious famines that has been experienced in the area.

That’s why the Frayba called upon the federal government to implement an Emergency Food Plan for Original Peoples.

The Frayba said that there are 3, 304 people in a situation of forced displacement, who belong to the municipalities of Chenalhó, –members of Las Abejas of Acteal– [1] Chalchihuitán and Aldama.

These people, it indicated, are living in overcrowded conditions in borrowed, rented houses and in critical situations, and when armed violence is activated they take refuge in the mountains.

It added that several of the families had their houses burned, destroyed and/or shot up, without access to their work cultivating the land and without being able to sow and harvest their corn, beans, fruits and vegetables. As of today, they have no possibility of going anywhere to work; they have not been able to go harvest their coffee, one of the sources of economic income to provide for their sustenance during the year. In all three cases, the omission of the Mexican State prevails, as well as the lack of compliance with the United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacements.

On Tuesday, Pedro Faro, Director of the Frayba, made an urgent call to the International Red Cross to have a presence in Chiapas and give care to these more than 3 thousand people displaced from their communities of origin.

Likewise, he urged that the State Council for Comprehensive Attention to the Internal Displacement of People in Chiapas attend to the situation comprehensively and according to the UN’s guiding principles and guidelines related to Covid-19.

Given this grave situation, Pedro Faro demanded that the federal and state governments act with due diligence to urgently implement the following precautionary measures.

He said that food is a constitutional right, repeatedly violated in the indigenous population and seriously violated in the displaced. This non-compliance produces grave damage to the health of the entire population and especially in young children: “the implementation of an emergency food plan is urgent,” he emphasized.

Faro demanded that the Essential Guidelines be attended to in a timely and effective manner and that the Essential Guidelines For Incorporating the Human Rights Perspective into the attention to the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes what the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, special procedures, treaty bodies and other UN mechanisms and networks with respect to human rights elements in the matter, take into account in attention to the Covid-19 crisis and its consequences.

He asked that the violence in these territories caused by armed civilian groups with a paramilitary cut that come from decades of impunity be deactivated.

Faro asked national and international civil society to show solidarity with actions to combat the food emergency and malnutrition in this specific territory that suffers systematic violence within the context of forced displacement by contributing your donation to the Trust for the Health of the Indigenous children of Mexico (Fideicomiso para la Salud de los Niños Indígenas de México, FISANIM). Donations can be made in Scotiabank. Account Number: 00107853564 Clave interbancaria: 044180001078535644.

[1] Las Abejas is a member of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI) and an adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. They live in resistance to the government.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


What’s the Military For?

By Raúl Romero*

On Monday the 11th of May, a contract was published in the Official Journal of the Federation that makes the permanent Armed Forces available to carry out tasks of public security. The agreement, dated last May 8, is accompanied by the signatures of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the secretaries of National Defense, the Navy and of Citizen Security and Protection.

This follows the route already marked out in March and May of 2019, when with the approval of all the political parties, the constitution was modified and the law of the National Guard was expedited. Accordingly, the agreement just published is in line with the militaristic logic of the past and current administrations, and gives continuity to both direct and indirect militarization of the country’s public security until 2024, which is to say, during AMLO’s entire six-year term.

It should be remembered that, according to Wikileaks cable 06MEXICO505 on January 31, 2006, López Obrador, let the United States ambassador, Tony Garza, know that he wanted to give more power and authority to the military in the war on drugs, and for this purpose, he was seeking a constitutional amendment that he didn’t hesitate to obtain.

The moment in which this contract was published is particularly striking: in the midst of the height of Covid-19 contagion, marked by a strong dispute with part of the business sector and with the national and foreign media, but also at a time when the two emblematic megaprojects of his administration, the misnamed “Maya” Train and the Inter-Oceanic Corridor have met the most opposition from the communities and their organizations.

By the same token, between the possible new scenarios for Mexico, as a consequence of the global economic crisis that was already underway and will be exacerbated with the pandemic, one has to consider the discontent of huge social sectors that will be affected, as well as the rise in migration, and also the growth and expansion of enterprises of organized crime, which will be able to feed off of the great numbers of people who remain unemployed.

The great political, economic and social power that the current administration has handed over to the armed forces is undeniable. Even if, with Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto Sedena (the Secretariat of National Defense) was converted into a great construction industry, this hasn’t ceased under Lopez Obrador, because the same [entities] will build and maintain highways, ports, airports, railways, banks, hospitals, telecommunications infrastructure and other works.

According to AMLO’s own words, the military is already building, with a budget of 10 billion pesos, the first 1300 branches of the Bank of Well-being of the 2700 planned. Sedena is also building the Felipe Ángeles International Airport in Santa Lucía and it has been announced that they will be granted the construction of two sections of the Maya Train. With regard to the Sembrando Vida program, 12 Military Forest Nurseries in seven states of the country are being used, from which the distribution of and delivery of the plants is handled.

The control and security of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) pipelines, the distribution of medicines, and in recent days, the control of some hospitals has been handed over to Sedena, the Navy, and the National Guard.

As for the National Guard, AMLO reported last February that 70, 000 troops had been deployed, but that the plan implied having 140, 000 throughout national territory by the end of 2020.

The path of militarization was not, before the pandemic, and is not now an option, above all in our country where the military forces have been systematically used to repress and silence discontent, to persecute and disappear resistances, and also to protect and strengthen the businesses of criminal groups. The names of Ernestina Ascencio and Ayotzinapa, to mention a few, should resonate strongly in the collective memory in these moments.

As long as the armed forces are not brought to justice for past and present crimes, or for their participation in the acts of corruption, the pact of impunity will continue to mark their actions. As long as the armed forces are not fundamentally transformed to obey the people, the subjects from whom public power emanates, they are in fact a threat.

Militarism is one field of capital accumulation, Rosa Luxemburg warned us, and its function of violent proletarianization of the indigenous peoples and the imposition of wage labor in the colonies, in the formation and extension of European spheres of influence on non-European territories, in the forced installation of railroads in the backward countries. Here is one possible answer as to why the current government has so much invested in the military: it is needed to ensure order and social rest, in order to guarantee its development projects.


This article was first published in Spanish in La Jornada on the 16th of May 2020. This English interpretation has been published by Schools for Chiapas

Re-Published with permission by the Chiapas Support Committee





Prison and the pandemic: freedom, according to Chiapas indigenous prisoners

▲ Exterior of Chiapas State Prison Number 5 in the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Photo: Elio Henríquez.

By: Al-Dabi Olvera *

The Covid-19 infection of eight indigenous activists in a small San Cristóbal de las Casas prison and the subsequent outbreak of hunger strikes in prisons de throughout Chiapas, once again lift the veil from the structure of the prison system: a racist and classist institution of capture and extermination. At the same time, they amplify the scolding voice of those who have spent decades fighting for their freedom.

Since the explosion of the 1994 Zapatista insurrection, hundreds of indigenous peoples have been imprisoned as part of a counter-insurgency operation. Collectives like The Voice of Cerro Hueco [1] and The Voice of El Amate proliferated in the prisons and became spaces of denunciation through which all the captured Zapatistas were released. Then, in 2013, the struggle for the freedom of the Tzotzil professor Alberto Patishtán resonated internationally. That tradition of resistance continues in 2020 with organizations like Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate, Voice of Indigenous in Resistance, True Voice of El Amate and Viniketik (indigenous men) in Resistance.

On May 15 and 16, all the members of Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate, prisoners at the Center for Social Reinsertion of those Sentenced (Cerss, its initials in Spanish) Number 5 in San Cristóbal, presented Covid-19 symptoms: fever, headache, chills and runny nose. The Tzotzil activists were isolated in the infirmary under lock and key. The authorities tested them for Covid-19: all tested positive. Professor Alberto Patishtán warned that in the Cerss 5, where he himself was a prisoner, there are no sanitary or medical conditions to care for the sick.

“What it shows us is contempt for those who speak Tzotzil, who are prisoners for not knowing how to speak Spanish, and for being indigenous. That is happening to the compañeros, their rights are totally violated,” Patishtán points out.

Thus today, prison would seem more than ever, a place for those who are left to die. Some 90 percent of the Cerss 5 population is indigenous: 298 men and 24 women. The organizations estimate that there are more than 100 infections in the prison. In this context, Patishtán demands that the governor of Chiapas, Rutilio Escandón, attend to those in Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate in a hospital outside the prison and that later they be given amnesty.

For his part, Adrián Gómez Jiménez, a Tzotzil prisoner of The Voice of Indigenous in Resistance, [2] will stay on a hunger strike from May 21 to June 5 inside of Cerss 5: “The workers were entering daily. They brought the virus. Our demand is freedom. It endangers our lives: they give it to us and we die.”

This case is symptomatic of what happens throughout the world. The first riots given the imminent arrival of the coronavirus in prisons occurred in the city of Modena, Italy, where six prisoners died. Then, in the La Modelo prison, in Colombia, 23 prisoners were murdered. Faced with prison rebellions, several countries started to release prisoners, albeit selectively: in Iran and Turkey activists, journalists and Kurds were kept in prison. In Mexico, a law for amnesty on minor crimes advanced in April. However, for indigenous prisoners, whose serious crimes are fabricated with racial and class inequities, this law does not apply.

If the philosopher and Afro-American activist Angela Davis shreds in her book “Are prisons obsolete?” the inheritance that the prison industrial complex has from slavery –both in the methods of torture as in the exploitation of labor–, the historian Ilán Semo outlines in La Jornada (November 2019) that the Mexican prison system has the double function of collecting wealth, mainly for organized crime, and inhibiting protest from Mexico below so that it accepts its social place “as immovable.” Thus, we could think of prisons, especially those of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas, as guarantors of a class system inherited from the Porfirian finca (estate).

Davis, herself a prisoner in 1972 for the Jackson brothers case, emphasizes the normalization of the prison system “as if it were something inevitable in life.” Today it seems that this system is expanding to “all the people” (pandemos). You leave prison through sickness, as in the novel “Los días de la peste,” by the Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldán, and the world is under a kind of prison by scales. Thus, it would seem that the images of prisoners kneeling that the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, released are a warning to the population outside. We are facing a global system in which surveillance and punishment are applied to those who commit the crime of being infected.

However, home confinement in the United States is not the same as that of indigenous prisoners in Chiapas. With everything, from their sit-ins and encampments, the organized prisoners give a lesson on the exercise of freedom.

To resist, Patishtán taught the prisoners Spanish, told them how to read a document or write a statement. Also, collectively, prisoners became doctors and even psychologists: still today they are organized with autonomy and this is demonstrated by their ability to raise their voices and go on a hunger strike. Patishtán said when he came out of his captivity: “I always felt free.” In times of coronavirus, we could keep this phrase as a horizon, and help spread the voice of the Tzotzils who resist the coronavirus in prison.

*Feature writer

[1] Cerro Hueco is the name of the old prison in the Chiapas capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. It is no longer in operation. The new prison in that area is El Amate.

[2] Membership in the organizations Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate and the Voice of Indigenous in Resistance indicate a solidarity with or sympathy for the Zapatista movement.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Statement of Maya Organizations on the Yucatan Peninsula

The head of the snake is capitalism. No to the Maya Train!

To the Maya and campesino communities of the Yucatan Peninsula:

To the peoples of Mexico and the world

“(…) They enjoy, however, everything that the land, sea and wind produce in these places. Now we must understand, how and at what time we must free ourselves of this evil”                 


Waves of promises of change flow in the paths of our towns, in our assemblies and our families; stories that talk about a bright future, of the arrival of development and the benefits for our communities with the “Maya” Train.  The land of the Maya peoples on the Yucatan Peninsula is being, more than ever, offered and auctioned to the highest bidder, the one who cheats our people, and violates and dismembers our territories with the zeal to grow their capital. Agroindustry, mass tourism, wind and solar megaprojects, and real estate developments grow enormously, causing dispossession and insatiably devouring life, our life. In this way, the project of “integral reordering” of our Mother Earth is conducted through the hands of others, who seek to change the face of the Yucatan Peninsula and its Maya inhabitants, still the legitimate and legal owners of the land that was recognized as ours thanks to the struggle of our ancestors.

Given these events that cross before our eyes, it is essential that we value what we have, what we are, what we have constructed and cared for. That we value and rescue that which continues identifying us as Maya people and that allows the flowering of our culture; that which exists thanks to the knowledge of our grandmothers and grandfathers, to a kind and challenging language, and to the tenacity and rebellion of men and women who have allowed the maintenance of a culture around the Maya milpa, a generating and unifying space for our thinking and wisdom, food and reproduction of life; universal referent of coexistence with the land and the source of family nutrition.

We still have vast extensions of jungle, cradle and nest of the water where the animals drink and the seeds germinate, a tribute to the great aquifer and its waterholes and cenotes. We still have our bees and our honey, sacred nectar offered to mortals around the world. We have our ancient knowledge about the plants that heal and the wood for making our houses. We have our culinary dishes for sharing food, words and work. We have our rituals and ceremonies that each day pact our life with Mother Earth and our coexistence with the jungle animals. We have our own ways or organizing, of communicating with each other, of taking care of ourselves and of thinking collectively. We have a social fabric that continues resisting dispossession and mistreatment. We have sacred sites that are the indelible mark of our origin. We have our music and our dances, our ancient weavings and dignified dress.

We still have ways of seeing life that connect us with the dream of an autonomous flowering, exercising our right of self-determination. We have hundreds of thousands of Maya boys and girls wanting to grow up in freedom and with justice.

And we will continue having all that. If we achieve drinking from that fountain called memory, from these ties called identity, we will recognize ourselves as part of that ancestral force.  It will be more necessary than ever to strengthen and maintain the struggle for the defense of what is ours: our territory and our culture. Let’s remember it because we are not willing to lose them, they are not exchange currencies.

We want to construct from inside to delineate forms that will invite life, we want to live with our eyes and our voice raised high, erecting and constructing egalitarian relationships between men and women, where health, food and la education are intimately linked to the land and the milpa. We want to improve our ways of life and coexistence as a people, strengthening values that highlight and enlarge our knowledge and wisdom, and trusting in our own capacity for dialogue and consensus, we want to define the direction of our life and the sense of where to walk.

We want to continue producing the Maya milpa and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the mono-crops that poison our land.

We want to generate and distribute our own electric energy and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the private energy megaprojects that dispossess us of our territory.

We want to breed our own animals and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the mega-pig farms that pollute our water.

We want to maintain and enrich our culture and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the colonizing project of a train that displaces us and crushes us. 

We want to strengthen coexistence and friendship with all the peoples of the world, and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the predatory tourism model that trivializes and commodifies our indigenous dignity.

We want security for our peoples and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the official forces of the State and other criminal forces in our territories.

We want to preserve unity inside the communities, fully exercising our autonomy and self-determination, and WE DEMAND THE SUSPENSION of the external intervention that divides and hurts the community fabric.

The land belongs to the community; we don’t sell it or rent it

No to the division that the political parties and religions generate in our peoples

Yes to the Mayan language and culture

Yes to the defense of our right to self-determination

Signed by:

Asamblea de Defensores del Territorio Maya Múuch’ Xíinbal

Apicultores mayas de Dzonot Carretero afectados por las fumigaciones, Tizimin, Yucatán

Centro Comunitario U kúuchil k ch’i’ibalo’on, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Q. Roo

Colectiva Ajal Yaakun, José María Morelos, Q. Roo

Colectivo de Atención Comunitaria “U yutzil Kaj”

Colectivo de Comunidades Mayas de los Chenes, Hopelchén, Campeche

Colectivo de Semillas Much’ Kanan I’inaj,  Bacalar, Q. Roo

Colectivo K-luumil x’ko’olelo’ob, Bacalar, Q. Roo

Colectivo Xok K’iin, Yucatán

Concejo Indigena U yóol lu’um, José Ma. Morelos, Q. Roo

Consejo Maya del Poniente de Yucatán Chikín-há

Ejido Dziuche, José Ma. Morelos, Q. Roo

Guardianes de las Semillas Kanan Inajoob, Sur de Yucatán

Ka Kuxtal Much Meyaj, Hopelchén, Campeche

Red Mayense de Guardianes de Semillas

U Lool Che Sociedad Cooperativa, José Ma. Morelos, Q. Roo

USAEC Apicultores Sociedad Cooperativa, Calakmul, Campeche

U Yich Lu’um, Sanahcat, Yucatán

Source: Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible


Published in Spanish by Biodiversidadla

June 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



The Maya Train and the rights to health and life

By: Giovanna Gasparello * and Jaime Quintana Guerrero **

Last May 8, the response to the demand for an amparo [a protective order, in this case a suspension] filed by members of the Ch’ol Maya indigenous people of the municipalities of Palenque, Salto de Agua and Ocosingo was announced, in which was pointed out the violation of the rights to health and life that the initiation of construction work on the Maya Train megaproject implies in the context of the health contingency due to Covid-19. The lawsuit is in opposition to the April 23 presidential decree that declared the Maya Train, the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, the Felipe Ángeles Airport and the Dos Bocas Refinery megaprojects, among others, as “priority programs” and, therefore, exempt from the suspension of activities. The same indication is found in the April 6 agreement of the Ministry of Health, which considers the production of supplies for construction of said works indispensable. Given this, the judgment issued by the judge of the second district court for amparo and federal criminal trials in the state of Chiapas determined the provisional suspension of the railway megaproject, since the right to health has “preponderant value.” At the same time, the judge affirms that: “if this work continues, numerous people will be exposed to activities in public areas in full confinement, placing their right to life at risk.”

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur, its Spanish acronym) announced that the start of construction on the train’s first stretch, which goes from Palenque to Escárcega, would be in early May. It said that 850 people would be employed in this first stage. Along with the expected number of indirect employees, it anticipated 2, 975 people mobilizing in the middle of phase 3 of the pandemic. “That increases the risk of accelerated contagion and the probabilities of death in our municipality,” the text of the amparo reads.

Stopping the advance of the work and adopting precautionary measures is the pressing need of the complaint filed with the National Human Rights Commission by Maya organizations on the Yucatan Peninsula last May 6.

Respect for the right to health is not a conjunctural demand, since the lack of access to basic services is structural in indigenous and rural regions in Chiapas. Palenque, with 120,000 inhabitants, has one hospital with 30 beds; that is, one for every 4,000 inhabitants. In Ocosingo there are two hospitals and 65 beds for 219,000 people, a similar situation. There are no intensive care units, although in Palenque, because of the emergency, a center with 12 beds and two respirators was installed.

Added to this are the general lack of piped water and the contamination of the surface and underground waters, as well as of the habitat in the areas interested in the cultivation and processing of African Palm and other agro-industrial products. The group of conditions in the region represents a resounding violation of the “adequate standard of living” that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands in Article 25.

The institutions in charge affirm that the Maya Train megaproject had general approval in the questioned “consultation” held in December 2019. Comments from the agrarian representatives of the communities that participated in the Regional Consultative Assemblies express “support” for the work together with the request for basic services, among which stand out the repeated demand for clinics, offices, hospitals, medical personnel and medications. As in the case of the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, the Welfare Secretariat offered a resolution of such demands conditioning it, indirectly, on consent to the project.

The health emergency highlights the need to ensure respect for basic health guarantees, in the context of extreme vulnerability of the indigenous and rural population to the pandemic. The promotion of works aimed at the tourist industry, like the Maya Train, has no relation to the right to health and life.

Indigenous peoples know that mutual care is at the heart of health. Zapatista autonomy and its health system, which includes promoters, bonesetters, herbalists and its own infrastructure, has allowed a great advance in the quality of life, says Saul Hernández, coordinator of Health and Community Development AC. The Zapatistas anticipated the “healthy distance” measures and, since March, closed access to their territory. In the Jungle and Northern Zones, they have produced guides and orientation manuals for preventing contagion.

Stopping the megaprojects that bring violence, marginalization and death: the demand, breaking the barriers of sanitary isolation, gradually transforms into actions. The legal instrument of the amparo “against death” requires the government to respect nature, Mother Earth and native cultures: in substance, respect for life.

* Professor-Researcher, direction of Ethnology and Social Anthropology, INAH

** Journalist


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



CNDH asks to suspend non-essential work on the Maya Train project

This graphic shows the new route of the Maya Train, revised to have a station in Coba, an archaeological site.

In danger, the health of the region’s inhabitants

From the Editors

Due to the health emergency declared because of Covid-19, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, its initials in Spanish) issued precautionary measures in favor of the original peoples of the Yucatan Peninsula, directed at the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, to urgently suspend non-essential activities relative to the Maya Train project.

This work, considered a priority for the federal government, will have a length of more than 1,460 kilometers and will cross through the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. A few weeks ago it was included among the essential projects to continue during the contingency. The CNDH argued that it requested the suspension of activities “to update the gravity, urgency and possible damage to the health, personal integrity and life of the region’s inhabitants.”

This recommendation arose as a result of a complaint presented by Native peoples and civil organizations in defense of human rights in Yucatan, in which they showed an imminent risk of infection from the novel coronavirus because of the jobs relative to the project.

In a communiqué, the CNDH points out that the complainants adduce “the alleged violation of the human right to health, personal integrity and life, enshrined in Articles 4 and 29 of the Constitution,” Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and Articles 4 and 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights (the Pact of San José, Costa Rica).

The Commission indicated that given the complex adversity that affects the health of Mexicans during phase 3 of the Covid-19 pandemic, it reaffirms “its unwavering commitment to respect, protect and guaranty the human rights of the inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula in the face of non-essential activities of the project called Maya Train.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, May 15, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Displaced indigenous people, between aggressions from paramilitary groups and Covid-19

Chalchihuitán displaced.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than a thousand people displaced because of continuous violence in the Tzotzil municipality of Chalchihuitán [1], in the Highlands (Los Altos) of Chiapas, denounced another armed attack last May 1 against one of their refugee camps. According to testimonies that the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) collected, individuals from a paramilitary group dressed in black shot from the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó.

“It happened on the Chacojtón stretch in Pom community. This has provoked a lot of fear, we can’t go to our milpa to bring our vegetables back to eat, the women and children suffer a lot, they can’t go for firewood and the men can’t go out to work,” the indigenous people stated.

“It’s hard to find a way to feed ourselves in this situation. The authorities tell us not to leave the house due to the Covid-19 disease, but there is no corn, no beans, we have to go and look for our vegetables at the plot. Nor can we buy in the community, because the men cannot go out to work the milpa or to sell the coffee crop, there is fear because of the disease and because we will be injured by a bullet from the paramilitary groups.”

According to the Frayba, the Chalchihuitán communities confront an increased risk of a humanitarian crisis. Acts of armed violence increased the fear and the humanitarian crisis in the communities that have been attacked for a long time. This situation of vulnerability places 273 families at high risk of contracting Covid-19, a total of 1,236 people forcibly displaced. “They are in extreme poverty, without adequate food or safe drinking water, and lacking health services,” the Frayba points out.

Children and adolescents are of special concern, as well as older adults and women in the communities displaced from K’analumtik, Pom, Ch’enmut, Bololch’ojon, Bejelton, Tulantik, Cruzton, Ts’omolton and Cruz Kakanab in Chalchihuitán municipality, and Majompepentik in Chenalhó municipality.

The Frayba, with offices in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, points out that despite the fact that the displaced communities count on precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the fact that the National Human Rights Commission issued a recommendation, “the Mexican State has not complied with implementing the necessary actions.”

According to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval, its Spanish acronym) Chalchihuitán municipality occupies one of the first places of extreme poverty (79.8%), “which has worsened since the acts of violence perpetrated by a group of armed civilians coming from Chenalhó provoked the forced displacement of 5, 023 people in October 2017.”

The United Nations has postulated: “Indigenous peoples, particularly the women and little girls, are often disproportionately affected by epidemics and other crises. Indigenous peoples have almost three times more probability of living in la extreme poverty that non-indigenous peoples.” Moreover, they are “custodians of a great wealth of traditional knowledge and practices, languages and cultures, which include responses to time-tested crises.” Consequently, they must be included in a participatory, culturally appropriate manner and one respectful of their rights, in the responses to the pandemic and its impacts.

[1] Distinguishing the different groups of displaced people in Chiapas is a bit of a challenge. One group of displaced people consists of those displaced from Aldama, a municipality on one side of of Chenalhó. The parallel Zapatista municipality is Magdalena de la Paz. There is some indication that this conflict affects both Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas in Aldama. A second group of displaced people is the one discussed in this article, people from Chalchihuitán, a municipality on the other side of Chenalhó. (See map.) They are non-Zapatistas. In both cases, the armed aggressors are from the municipality of Chenalhó. Chenalhó is where the armed groups that perpetrated the Acteal Massacre originated. It is believed that the current civilian armed groups; i.e. paramilitaries, are made up of some of the same paramilitaries who participated in the Acteal Massacre and the sons of some of those who participated. The community of Acteal is in Chenalhó and the parallel Zapatista autonomous municipio is San Pedro Polhó.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee