Chiapas Support Committee

The Maya Train is leveling in Palenque

The home of María Antonia and her husband is next to the Maya Train tracks. Photo: Angeles Mariscal

By: Ángeles Mariscal 

Palenque, Chiapas.

“Right of way” became the words most feared by the residents who are settled along the 232 kilometers of what is known as the First Section of the Maya Train (Tren Maya). Those words are leaving a trail in their wake.

For Maria Antonia Vázquez and her husband, two elderly people over 60, those words not only mean that the water pipes that supply their house collapsed when a bulldozer broke them, and that piles of earth now make it difficult to exit their home located in Ejido Guadalupe, located a few kilometers from the city of Palenque.

Those words also mean that the main wall of their house is going to be torn down, that they are going to lose a part of their kitchen and that the bathroom and septic tank will disappear. Because, technically, the house that they have inhabited for more than two decades, is within the train’s “right of way,” a right that passes over their own rights.

Now, Maria Antonia says, they don’t sleep thinking that “the money that the engineer told us they were going to pay to be able to build our house in another place, has not arrived. And at any moment the machines can pass by and throw all this at us.”

The elderly woman and her husband don’t have any document that allows them to be certain that they will be compensated, because in these places, the Barrientos and Associates Law Office, -the company hired by the National Fund for Tourism Promotion (Fonatur) to “free the right of way,” by acquiring or vacating the land required for work on the Maya Train- has only made oral agreements. And those who have signed an indemnification agreement were not given any proof.

Since the work started last June, María Antonia and her neighbors wake up with the same uncertainty, listening to how bulldozers are knocking down trees and any obstacle to what the government of Mexico presents as a project that: “is going to detonate economic growth and social development.”

For Gregori Mendoza Mendoza, an indigenous man of the Chol ethnicity, the “right of way” not only took a few meters away from the place where his home is located; now, he and his family could lose their entire house because a part of the ejido will be at an end where the Maya Train is expected to pass at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. This implies that in order for the residents to be able to cross from one side to the other, a uneven bridge would be built, which would pass right where their house is.

“The engineer showed us the plan, he said that the bridge will pass 18 meters inside the land where my house is. After that, they haven’t told us anything else, they haven’t explained anything to us, but my family and I are no longer at peace,” he explains while excavators and trucks are parked outside his house removing thousands of tons of earth.

What happens to Gregori Mendoza and his family is what the authorities call “collateral damage,” about which they do not speak clearly .

The same damages will be to thousands of campesinos and livestock owners, because upon erecting fences or walls along the train’s route, the transit paths of the animals that give them sustenance will be cut off.

Homero Cambrano, of Ranchería San Marcos, remembers that he was one of the people who took to the Maya Train project. “I told them that this was going to be for the good of the community, but now I no longer think the same way.”

“Right now they want us to seek alternative paths, because the Maya Train is going to pass, they already put in the work and cut off our passes. If we don’t have passage for moving cattle, we have to travel at least a kilometer and a half to cross from one corral to another.”

He also explains that these “cut offs of passes” affect “armadillos, monkeys, iguanas and even snakes” that have their established habitat. He asks: “Do these people think that the animals are also going to cross over the bridges?”

The price of land

José Luis León is the coordinator of Section 1 of the Maya Train project; he is in charge of the Barrientos and Associates Law Firm to “free the right of way” that goes from Palenque to Escárcega, Campeche. He is known as “the engineer” in the region.

For him, the work is advancing “in accordance with law (…) practically without any obstacle, without major setbacks.” He is the one in charge of negotiating with residents of the Guadalupe, Chakamax, Estrella de Belén and El Jibarito ejidos in Chiapas; and with around 200 property owners in this same state.

He is also responsible for negotiating with the Pénjamo, Reforma Independencia, Tenosique 3rd Section, El Águila, El Último Esfuerzo ejidos and Barí, in Tabasco; and El Naranjito, Candelaria, Pejelarto, among others in Campeche.

His perception about the process that he heads is different than the perception of the Guadalupe ejido owners. The ejido owners, for example, calculate that they will lose some 10 hectares of their land because of this work, and that a square meter of this land is worth about 200 pesos. Meanwhile, they also ask to repair the “collateral damage,” a just indemnification for the loss of those lands.

The tone of the negotiations that he heads was placed on the table at the ejido assembly last November 22. There, Doris Ethel de Atocha Cámara Sánchez, who introduces herself as “the one in charge of monitoring the social part” on behalf of FONATUR, told the campesinos that they have no right to this land, because the train tracks were built before the town will be registered with the Agrarian Registry, and that any payment given to them is an act of consideration. “Railroads were first (to arrive in the zone more than 40 years ago), while their town wasn’t registered legally until 1996. Thus, there would be no reason to indemnify the ejido; but, because the president made a promise to support the southeast in order to get them out of the backwardness, he’s going to give this support to the ejido,” she told them during the meeting.

The “support” for the ejido, she explained, is that the only impact that will be recognized due to work on the Maya Train, is a little more than 3 hectares, whose official assigned value is 12 pesos per square meter, “but, due to being in a special situation, they will be paid at 32 pesos per square meter,” explained the officials from FONATUR and the Barrientos and Associates Law Firm.

José Luis León, justifies the appraisal they make of this land located in one of the ecosystems with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, pointing out that the price given is “based on an appraisal provided by FONATUR, and carried out by the Institute of Administration and Appraisals of National Assets. We do not set the values, a specialist in the matter does it. We are not able to make payments that are not guaranteed by the institution in charge. They are commercial appraisals, because there are lands here that are worth 8 pesos per square meter.”

Ángel Palomeque de la Cruz, one of the ejido owners who also lost part of his home due to this project, explains why the appraisal they have on their land is unfair: “here, 500 meters from the ejido, the price at which we can acquire a new plot of 200 square meters is from 80 to 100 thousand pesos; iin other words, each square meter is worth 400 pesos. Why then do they only want to pay us 12 pesos, or 32 pesos? Are we worth less? What are we going to be able to buy with that amount of money?”

The uncertainty

Inhabitants of the Guadalupe ejido are not the only ones in these first kilometers who have questioned the impact that the Maya Train is leaving.  Right at the entry gate of the first section, between kilometer zero and six, is the Barrio Los Olvidados, which according to the diagnosis of the MarketDataMéxico Inteligencia Comercial “has an estimated economic output of 260 million annually.”

“Additionally, it is estimated that 800 people work in the district, bringing the total number of residents and workers to 3,000. There are some 150 commercial establishments in operation Barrio Los Olvidados district,” the website details.

The first Maya Train station will be located in one part of this neighborhood, and a significant number of families will have to leave. At the moment they are not sure about who has to leave; the information has not been clear ot transparent for them. José Luis León is aware of that.

“People have uncertainty about knowing what’s going to happen to them. The federal government is making the diagnosis to be able to give an alternative solution, call it relocation or call it something else. There are people there who have houses, others made of wood or sheet metal…”. He explains that, for now, the work has not started there.

However, residents of Barrio Los Olvidados who are in “the right of way” already envision themselves as a displaced population, and have insistently asked to be heard.

The Union of Those Displaced by the Maya Train protests in Palenque with a banner that asks to be relocated. Photo: Angeles Mariscal

“Mr. President AMLO, we are vulnerable families and we saw ourselves in need of living on the right of way. We ask you to listen to us, FONATUR is arrogance and intimidation to throw us out,” they explain on a canvas that they are unfolding at events where public officials congregate.

The transporters who own cargo trucks in Palenque are also asking to be heard. They assure that one of the federal government’s promises was to give them work from the start of the project, a promise that has not materialized.

Elin Ramírez Betancur, a representative for the truckers, details that the local workforce has been ignored, and the companies that won the bidding have hired people from other states.

In order to hire Palenque workers, he explains, they required them to join the CATEM labor union, and set the cost of their service at more than 70 percent less than the commercial price. Elin details that the payment for a load of cargo material is valued at 2, 700 pesos, “and they want to pay us at 800 pesos.”

“The government practically left us in the hands of the Mota-Engil company, which won the bid for construction of the first section, and the authorities have not wanted to listen to us,” it laments.

Work on the Maya Train in this region started last June, in the midst of the strongest stage of the pandemic; in just five months, the impacts and disagreement in the communities are adding up.

Although just last November 26, the general director of FONATUR, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, insisted during a conference with students, that “the Maya Train will generate new development scenarios (…) and will permit improving the quality of life of the inhabitants.”

That’s not a coincidence. What happens among those who inhabit the first kilometers of the project is proof of that.

Last November 20, a letter was made public from six United Nations human rights special relators, sent to the Mexican government. In it they point to a series of human rights violations committed against people who live in the region through which the Maya Train will pass.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Monday, November 30, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Indigenous collectives win definitive suspension of Maya Train work

The map shows all of Phase 1 of the Maya Train route with its 5 sections. “Tramo 2” on the map is the Section 2 protected by the court order.

By: Angélica Enciso L.

The first district court of Campeche granted a definitive suspension regarding the construction of new work on Section 2 of the Maya Train, from Escárcega to Calkini, [1] in Campeche, to the region’s indigenous communities and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Cemda). With this resolution, those who filed the request for protection (amparo) can celebrate a legal process that prohibits work being carried out that causes irreparable damage to the environment.

Collectives from Campeche and Quintana Roo explained in a videoconference that the human right of access to a healthy environment is violated with these projects, since there is information that not just the railroad, but also the big development poles will generate great social and environmental impacts.

They indicated that the effects of the environmental assessment have not been presented in their entirety, because they fragment them so that the consequences they will have cannot be visualized; it also promotes speculation about the value of land.

Xavier Martínez, operations director of the Cemda, stated that it was incorrect for the Maya Train project to be divided for evaluation, since the environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be comprehensive to foresee global impacts; “the Semarnat [2] did not evaluate the project as a whole,” he accused.

This definitive suspension is related to the request for protection (amparo) filed in July 2020 against the Maya Train project. In addition, it affects Phase 1 of the Maya Train, whose EIA was authorized last week; they won’t be able to carry out work on Phase 1 because it would be dealing with new work on Section 2 from Escárcega to Calkini.

[1] The distance from Escárcega to Calkini is a long stretch from southern Campeche state to its northern border with the state of Yucatán. Old tracks already exist along this stretch of the Maya Train. The court’s decision does not stop repair and maintenance work on the existing tracks; it stops new work, which is significant.

[2] Semarnat is Mexico’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




Critical thought and the pandemic

By: Raúl Zibechi

One of the main characteristics of critical thought has been its uneasiness, its capacity to disturb the common places, to question established knowledge and shake off the drowsiness of inertia. It was always thinking that went against the tide, rebellious and insubordinate.

Marx dedicated himself to turning Hegel’s theoretical legacy upside down. Lenin was determined to disobey Marx, who assured that the revolution would win in the most industrially advanced countries. Mao and the Vietnamese rejected the urban insurrections for the prolonged peasant war. Fidel and Che were heretics with respect to the communist parties that dominated the stage of the left.

The much-praised Walter Benjamin was relentless with the idea of progress and, more recently, environmentalists question development, while feminists reject vertical organizations and patriarchal warlords.

The EZLN, for its part, reaps the successes and avoids the errors of previous revolutions, consequently setting aside war in order to continue transforming the world and defending (by all means) the territories where the people rule by exercising their autonomy.

In what situation is critical thought in the midst of a pandemic? What should be the central points of its analysis? Who is formulating it in this period?

I will try to answer in a few lines.

The first is that established thought, articulated by academia, parties and intellectual authorities, is in the midst of decline, a process entangled with the ongoing civilizational and systemic crisis. Perhaps for being part of a modern, urban, western colonial and patriarchal civilization. That is, for having surrendered to capitalism.

The bulk of the so-called intellectuals dedicate themselves to justifying the errors and horrors of the parties of the electoral left, rather than criticizing them, with the sad argument that they don’t want to favor the right. If criticizing the left were that, Marx and Lenin would have been dismissed as right-wingers, as they dedicated some of their best works to questioning their comrades-in-arms.

The second is that critical thought should remove the veil from the structural and long-term causes of the situation we are living in. Not entertaining audiences with fallacious arguments. To be able to link the pandemic with the neoliberal extractive model, the brutal financial speculations, and the 4th world war against the people, instead of attributing the failures or the successes in combating the virus to this or that government. This is what I call entertaining instead of analyzing.

Moreover, critical thinking should not be satisfied with diagnoses. We are overwhelmed by judgements of the most diverse kind, many of them contradictory. Years ago, peak oil was mentioned as the vault key to the end of capitalist civilization. Much earlier, it was assured that the system would fall victim to inexorable economic laws.

Every day, there are diagnostics that place the limits of the system on the environment, the depletion of resources, and a long list of supposed objective causes that do nothing more than elude social conflict as the only way to put a stop to and defeat capitalism. Benjamin already said it: if the system were going to fall for objective reasons, the struggle wouldn’t make the least bit of sense.

The third seems to me the most important. Until today, those in charge of expressing critical thinking were academic, upper-middle class white men. Of course the kinds of ideas that they shared were Eurocentric, patriarchal, and colonial, although it should be acknowledged that they weren’t all wrong because of this. We just have to pass them through the sieve of the people, the women and the children.

Now those who are issuing critical thought are no longer individuals, but peoples, collectives, communities, organizations, and movements. Who are the theoretical representatives of the Mapuche people or the indigenous peoples of the Colombian Cauca region? Who embodies the ideas of the feminist and the anti-patriarchal women’s movements?

There are still those who believe that Zapatista thinking was a work of Subcomandante Marcos and now Subcomandante Galeano. They will never accept that they are thoughts born of collective experience that are communicated by elected spokespeople below. They will never accept that the current spokesperson is Subcomandante Moíses.

This is the reality of the current critical thinking. Detours above, creativity below. Like life itself. There is nothing essentialist about this. Living knowledge arises among those who struggle. Only those who are changing the world can know it in depth, among other things because they’re going through life that way, because they can’t have any illusions about those above, much less the political colors and discourse that they broadcast.

Benjamin said it with absolute clarity: The subject of historical knowledge is the oppressed class itself, when it fights.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, December 4, 2020

Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee with English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas


The war for water in Morelos

Police evict the resistance camp. Photo: La Jornada

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Cuauhtémoc Blanco, the Mexican midfielder who has scored the most goals in official competitions, scored a self-goal. Last September 24, now as governor of Morelos, he declared that the head of the State Attorney General’s Office (FGE, its initials in Spanish), Uriel Carmona Gándara, “knows who” murdered the activist Samir Flores Soberanes, but doesn’t want to reveal it because he’s “afraid.”

Samir Flores, the Nahua communicator who hosted the Amanecer ranchero program on Amiltzinko community radio, an opponent of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM, its initials in Spanish), was deviously murdered outside his home, in Amilcingo, Morelos, on February 20, 2019. Just the day before he had participated in a meeting organized by the federal government delegate in Morelos, Hugo Erik Flores, the lawyer for the paramilitaries responsible for the massacre of 45 innocent people in Acteal, Chiapas. There, the blacksmith questioned “the lies that they’re telling about the thermoelectric plant in Huexca and the PIM.”

But, on that occasion, Carmona was silent. That, despite the fact that on September 25, 2019, he declared to the Morelos Congress that the killers of the environmentalist were identified and that they would soon be apprehended.

Following his statements, the Peoples Front in Defense of Land and Water of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala (FPDT) asked Cuauhtémoc Blanco in a communiqué: “Do you know who killed Samir, Mr. Governor? Why do you say the attorney general is afraid? Of who, whom or what is he afraid? Would you be willing to declare what you know about Samir’s murder, Mr. Governor?” His response, like the attorney general’s, was a resounding silence.

Offense upon offense, the unsolved homicide of the Nahua indigenous man acquired even more relevance in the early morning of November 23, when 300 members of the National Guard evicted two encampments that the ejido owners installed since 2016, on the banks of the Cuautla River, in San Pedro Apatlaco, to impede the diversion of water from the riverbed to the thermoelectric plant in Huexca.

Before dawn, a campesino who was guarding the occupation, showed the National Guards a restraining order (amparo). They responded that they didn’t want to see it. The CFE and the Interior Ministry have falsely stated that there is no legal impediment to resuming the work. But the ejido owners have 19 amparos and outright suspensions currently in effect against the PIM: nine of them for the water from the Cuautla River and against the aqueduct. There are three more against the aqueduct, among which are two from Nahua towns of Amilcingo and Atlixco. There’s another one against the thermoelectric, filed by Huexca since 2014 ( But the federal government doesn’t care about that.

Campesinos use water from the Cuautla River for their crops; with it, they water grains, fruits and vegetables with which they feed their families. In it is their life, their heritage and the survival of their peoples. According to Jorge Zapata González, the grandson of Emiliano Zapata: “We have through concessions, through presidential decree since 1926 all the ejido grants and it is clearly specified that all the water from the Cuautla River and its tributaries, including the treatment plant belongs to the ejido owners, it’s one single water, so how are they going to divide it.”

This clash between “Obradorismo” [1] and the peoples of Morelos didn’t always exist. In May 2014, in Yecapixtla, Morelos, Andrés Manuel López Obrador opposed the thermoelectric plant. At a rally, he pointed out: “We don’t want the construction of the gas pipeline or of the thermoelectric plant or of the mines, since they are going to destroy the territory and pollute the waters.” He added: “Imagine that you want to build a thermoelectric plant, in Anenecuilco, the land where the best social leader in the history of Mexico, Emiliano Zapata, was born. It’s like going to Jerusalem and building a toxic dump or a nuclear plant.”

The government justifies the entry into operation of the thermoelectric plant so as not to lose the 25 billion pesos that have been invested in the project. “The plant –said the President– belongs to the CFE, a public company, a national company […] If the plant doesn’t function that investment is lost, which is the public budget, the people’s money.” He “endorsed” carrying out the work with a “rigged” consultation, approved by only 24, 783 people, mostly residents of municipalities outside the project. In 2018, AMLO obtained 613, 906 votes in Morelos, 96.12 percent more than on the “consultation.”

However, beyond pesos and centavos, the PIM is an extremely risky project. The gas pipeline that feeds the thermoelectric plant is installed in a zone considered high risk due to seismic activity caused by the Popocatépetl Volcano. The combined cycle terminal that integrates it, installed a few meters from the town, is poorly planned and emits an infernal noise. As if that were not enough, they plan to build another terminal there. And, although it is said that it will use wastewater, it will probably have to take water from the Cuautla riverbed.

In Morelos, the water, like the land, belongs to those who work it. To its peoples, its defense comes as an inheritance. And they have been faithful to it. That’s what the Zapatistas, Jaramillistas, Vinh Flores (Samir’s uncle, murdered like him for defender his people) and Samir Flores did. Like 100 years ago, in the current war for water, the heirs of Zapata and Jaramillo are willing to assert their legacy.

[1] “Obradorismo” refers to the policies of the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



The CNI-CIG and EZLN: For Life and Against Money

The CNI-CIG and the EZLN Call for Solidarity with the People’s Front in Defense of the Land and Water of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala

November 2020.

To the people of Mexico:

To the peoples of the world:

To the Sixth in Mexico and abroad:

To the media:

The National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council [CNI-CIG] and the Zapatista National Liberation Army [EZLN] denounce the National Guard’s cowardly eviction of the compañeros maintaining the resistance camp in San Pedro Apatlaco, Morelos, on November 23, 2020. This eviction was carried out in order to resume the illegal construction of the aqueduct that carries water from the Cuautla River to the Huexca thermoelectric plant.

With utter cynicism the neoliberal government says it governs this country while actually just obeying its real bosses—big capital. With utter cynicism the armed forces, under their overseer’s orders, violate the rights of our peoples, stealing water from the Cuautla River from the peasant communities of Ayala and turning it over to the corporations that will profit from the Morelos Integral Project: Elecnor and Enagasa, who were awarded the contract for the gas pipeline; Bonatti and Abengoa, who will build the gas pipeline and the thermoelectric plant in Huexca; and Saint Gobain, Nissan, Burlington, Continental, and Northeast Natural Gas, who will profit from gas sales.

The armed forces and the neoliberal government use the Morelos Integral Project to justify military flyovers to exercise repression and advance the development of energy infrastructure, which is based on the destruction and dispossession of the Native peoples’ territories. Over the spilled blood of our people, like our compañero Samir Flores Soberanes, they exploit nature, allowing the owners of transnational capital to destroy the mountains through mining concessions and ceding the region’s water to the industrial corridors in Cuautla, Yecapixtla, Cuernavaca, and elsewhere in the states of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala. The overseer who claims to govern this country ordered, with total cynicism and impunity, the trampling of the supposed rule of law, violating eight court-ordered suspensions of the aqueduct project, which would divert and contaminate the region’s water through the construction of the Huexca thermoelectric plant. This is also a violation of two other court-ordered suspensions regarding gas pipeline construction within the periphery of the sacred Popocatepetl volcano and contamination of the Cuautla River, both part of the Morelos Integral Project.

Given the above and faced with increasing tensions and violations of the rule of law, we hold the bad governments of the state of Morelos and the nation responsible for any repression or attacks against our compañeros and compañeras in struggle who resist these megaprojects of death. In particular we call for solidarity with the People’s Front in Defense of the Land and Water of Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala.


November 2020

For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples

Never Again a Mexico Without Us

National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council [CNI-CIG]

Zapatista National Liberation Army

Mexico, November 2020


Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista





Chenalhó Paramilitaries injure Aldama resident with gunshots, the mayor denounces

Women and Children hide from paramilitary gunfire in the Chiapas Highlands.

By: Elio Henríquez

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

Yesterday, members of “paramilitary-style armed groups” in Santa Martha, Chenalhó, shot and injured an inhabitant of Aldama, Mayor Adolfo López Gómez reported.

“Andrés Jiménez Pérez, 39, a native of San Pedro Cotzilnam community, was wounded by a shot from a high-caliber weapon when he was walking along the highway that leads to Tabac and his house,” he explained.

He added that the indigenous man, a member of the permanent commission of 115 Aldama comuneros and displaced persons, “was returning from cutting coffee and was carrying a bundle of it when the armed groups from Santa Martha strongly attacked and wounded him in both legs.”

López Gómez said that Jiménez Pérez was initially taken to the Aldama health center for medical care, and then moved to the Hospital of Cultures, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

“Gunshots from high-caliber weapons were coming from the spot known as T’elemax, located next to the Exatlón Telesecundaria and were directed at Tabak and Cocó communities,” he said.

The attack occurred two days after Aldama and Santa Martha authorities, the latter headed by the municipal authorities of Chenalhó, signed an agreement [1] to put an end to a conflict that originated 45 years ago over the dispute of 60 hectares, but which since some time ago took on another connotation.

Municipal authorities sign the “definitive agreement.”

In this context, the Board of Directors of Cáritas in the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas urged the “expedited action” of government agencies so that “they attend to and promote the full resolution of the conflict in accordance with justice” between Aldama and Santa Martha, Chenalhó, and that “they take the urgent and necessary determinations for disarming of the paramilitary groups that operate in this zone emboldened.”

[1] Pedro Faro, Director of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center stated in a public conversation Tuesday, December 1, that the definitive agreement was a “simulation.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, November 30, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



November in Aldama

Displaced women and children in Aldama

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

In November, the coffee trees of Aldama, Chiapas, wear red. The aromatic cherries reach their optimum maturity. Right then, growers must collect the beans by hand, one by one, leaving the green ones for later. If the fruit stays on the bush longer, they change color and acquire a bitter and vinegary taste.

But this November, Aldama’s small producers cannot harvest their coffee. Nor were they able to collect it in its entirety last year or in 2018. Doing so, puts your life at risk. When they walk to their fields, the Santa Martha paramilitaries shoot to kill them, with weapons for the exclusive use of the Army. Therefore, they have to use the darkness of night to pick a few fruits from the bushes. The violence against them, present every month since 2017, intensifies in the harvest season.

For a coffee grower, not picking the aromatic is ruin. With the little profit he obtains from its sale, he raises the money necessary to acquire products that the milpa doesn’t produce. If you don’t market the grain, you have no income. This has happened to those in Aldama for the last three years.

The same thing happens with the women who are dedicated to artesanía. Not only were they displaced from their communities along with their children and their parents; they spend each day between bursts of projectiles, fearing for their lives and the lives of others, unable to go out to work.

According to the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, as of September 19 there had been 628 intimidations and attacks with firearms. As Ernesto Ledesma and have documented, the authorities have not intervened to prevent the attacks; to the contrary, the state police have supported the Santa Martha paramilitaries. These attacks have forced inhabitants of Aldama to build concrete walls in order to protect themselves from the bullets. They have even erected parapets in the schools (

Starting in March 2018, the paramilitary offensive caused the forced displacement of more than 2,000 people from 13 communities. Houses, personal belongings, lands, milpas, orchards, animals and the right to live in peace have been taken from those in Aldama. Every day and night, hundreds of women and children live in the mountains, under the threat of something bad happening to them. Hunger is their habitual companion.

Aldama is a small Tsotsil Maya municipality in the Chiapas Highlands, with its municipal capital in Santa María Magdalena. It emerged from the 1999 re-municipalization, promoted by the government of Roberto Albores, El Croquetas, [1] to confront the Zapatista expansion. During the XIX century, it had the rank of municipality, until it was subordinated to San Pedro Chenalhó in 1921 (

The aggressors belong to the neighboring ejido of Santa Martha, in Chenalhó. In 1975, the Agrarian Reform Ministry improperly awarded 60 hectares (approximately 148 acres) belonging to Santa María Magdalena. Thus began, by governmental error, a long agrarian litigation, aggravated over the years by a mixture of governmental partiality and laziness. In 2008, the Unitary Agrarian Court ruled in favor of Aldama regarding the 60 hectares. However, Santa Martha rejected the court’s decision.

But, the Aldama-Santa Martha fight is not the only one existing in the region. Inside Santa Martha there is an internal conflict that has caused deaths, which began with the release of the paramilitaries that perpetrated the Acteal Massacre. There is a strong dispute between the former mayor of Chenalhó, Rosa Pérez, and the former trustee, who lives in Santa Martha.

Throughout the years, peaceful coexistence agreements that are not complied with have been negotiated and reached ( Meanwhile in the region, the business of junkyards for stolen cars (of good brands and recent years), the trafficking and sale of weapons, piracy and local drug dealing (narcomenudeo) are flourishing. These activities show the presence of organized crime groups, with national articulations, that seek territorial control for their operations, and that can only act with the collusion of the authorities. Zapatista autonomy and the autonomy of other indigenous communities are disturbing to these groups.

In Santa Martha, a paramilitary group with high-powered weapons and the capacity and resources acts with impunity to daily harass an entire municipality, without the authorities preventing it. To suppose that a paramilitary operation of this magnitude originates exclusively because of a conflict over 60 hectares is, to say the least, naive. Of course, the agrarian problem exists and has to be resolved. But it isn’t limited to that. The revival of inter-community disputes forms part of the counterinsurgency warfare manual. Aldama is no exception.

More: since 2006 in Oaxaca, with the APPO struggle, civilian authorities have subrogated counterinsurgency tasks that were previously entrusted to the Army and police to organized crime groups. The model has been extended, at least to Guerrero, Michoacán and Baja California ( Everything appears to indicate that it also operates in Chiapas, where there is a close relationship between institutional politics (the Chiapas family reloaded) and criminal activities, such as trafficking migrants and drugs.

[1] El Croquetas is the nickname Subcomandante Marcos gave Roberto Albores. It means Doggie Biscuits. Albores promoted and the legislature approved the creation of new municipalities carved out of large ones that were heavily Zapatista.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Anti-capitalist solidarity: Make a donation to acquire artesanía zapatista

Show Your Support for Zapatista Autonomy:

Make a donation for blouses & purses, hand-embroidered and created by Zapatista women artists in Chiapas!

The year 2020 has made our call and our work for solidarity and justice across borders even more urgent. Indigenous people in Mexico, like in the U.S., have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Your support, your donations, are crucial to express solidarity with heart, love and respect! And we have a lot to learn!

The members of the Chiapas Support Committee (CSC) have focused on raising awareness on the situation in Chiapas and Mexico. This year we continue to find new ways to support the work of Zapatista communities who have been organizing autonomous power, as they create and strengthen their projects for self-determination in health, land and justice in the midst of a world capitalist crisis.

Today, we are inviting you to join us in taking care of one another by taking anti-capitalist solidarity action that supports the organizing resistance by Indigenous people in Chiapas.

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”—Eduardo Galeano

We invite you to consider making a donation to acquire one of the following items produced by members of a Zapatista women’s artist collective. Each item comes with a suggested minimum donation. And we ask you to consider being as generous as possible for each item!

How to make a donation

  1. To acquire an item: Click here (to use PayPal) or Venmo, @Enapoyo1994, to send in your donation. Please add $5.00 per item for postage and handling.
  2. After you’ve made your donation, send a message to to notify us.
  3. In the email: write in the subject line: “Donation for zapatista item.” Include the description of the item requested (For example: C, left, blue blouse with ezln snail) and the address to mail it to you. Thanks!

All your donations for these items go to the Zapatista communities to support their work of creating and strengthening their vision of autonomy.

MAKE YOUR DONATION HERE: Chiapas Support Committee

Or send through Venmo: @Enapoyo1994

The Chiapas Support Committee appreciates your generous donations in solidarity with the Zapatista cause!

Artesanía from Zapatista Chiapas

MAKE YOUR DONATION HERE: Chiapas Support Committee Or use Venmo: @Enapoyo1994.

Thank you for being with us in solidarity with the Zapatista communities!

Chiapas: War and Peace

By: Raúl Romero

On November 8, around 3:30 pm, Felix Hernández López – a support base for the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) – was returning to his home when he was attacked by 20 paramilitaries belonging to the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (Orcao). Felix was beaten and kidnapped. For several days he remained locked up, tied up, and without food or water. All of this was denounced by the Good Government Council Nuevo Amanecer en Resistencia y Rebeldía por la Vida y la Humanidad (New Dawn in Resistance and Rebellion for Life and Humanity) of the Caracol Floreciendo la Semilla Rebelde (Flowering the Rebel Seed), located in the community of Patria Nueva; [1] in Zapatista Chiapas (

This aggression is registered within a framework of intensification of the war against the EZLN, a war that in its various ways and forms has not ceased since 1994. In May 2019, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center presented a report in which it documented that since the end of 2018, the Mexican State has increased the militarization of EZLN support base territories as part of the continuation of the counterinsurgency strategy to erode projects of autonomy in Chiapas (

In the case of the Zapatista autonomous communities of Nuevo San Gregorio and the Moisés Gandhi Region, aggressions by the ORCAO paramilitaries have been on the rise since April 2019. This was detailed in the Report of the Caravan of Solidarity and Documentation” presented on November 11 ( Among the forms of direct violence that this civilian mission identified are: invasion of land, destruction of crops, homes, cooperatives, dining halls, and electrical and water supply infrastructure; shootings, robberies, violation of the right to access water, depriving the population of food, defamation, slander, and disinformation; violence against women’s bodies-territories, etc. For the region of Moisés Gandhi alone, the quantifiable damages amount to one million 456 thousand 21 pesos.

In this intensification of the military phase of the war, the paramilitary groups once again take a leading role. ORCAO itself, the Chinchulines, Paz y Justicia, and other groups who, like the political class, learned to switch hats in order to maintain the perks they obtained as mercenaries, figure here. These groups act with protection and financing from local, state and federal administrations; from caciques (local landowners and businessmen who have interests in the region). Let us not forget either that many of these groups were founded, trained and financed by the Mexican Army itself. The paramilitaries are the informal hand of the state that throws the stone. Their attacks are the provocation in the interest of something greater: to continue deploying the neoliberal war, that which destroys peoples and communities for the conquest and reorganization of territories. With the war capital wins, it generates profits, it opens markets, it eliminates the expendable.

The EZLN is the political and ideological reference point for the anti-capitalist left, nationally and internationally; even more relevant today. It is also, in Mexico, a joint that articulates native peoples, women’s movements, intellectuals, artists and different organizations of the critical left that have not aligned themselves with the current administration. Moreover, it is, and this should not be forgotten, the political-military force with great weight in the country and perhaps in Latin America.

Our army is a very different army because what’s being proposed is to stop being an army, the late Subcomandante Marcos told García Márquez and Roberto Pombo in March 2001. A very different army that since 1994 has bet on peace and life. It is an army that recovered land so that it would once again belong to those who work it, built houses so that everyone would have a roof over their heads; built hospitals, clinics and micro-clinics so that no one else would die of curable diseases; raised cooperatives to strengthen its self-management character; and set up schools and cultural centers so that science and the arts would become the seeds of the new world.

Anchored in the knowledge and customs of the indigenous, but also adopting what is useful and necessary for them in the modern world, the Zapatista emancipation project took an important turn in 2003 with the founding of the Caracoles and the Good Government Juntas. In this way, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation handed over the entire government to the civilian power, that is, to its support bases. But the EZLN continued to fulfill another fundamental role: that of defending these peoples, that of being the Votán-Zapata, the guardian and heart of the people.

The recent attacks on the Zapatistas are not inter-community or agrarian conflicts as the federal government would like to present them. They are merely the spearhead of a socio-environmental and territorial conflict that is looming larger and which the Zapatistas have been warning of since 2018. Hopefully, as in 1994, society will once again be on the side of peace and the people. In war, capital always wins.


[1] Patria Nueva (New Homeland) is a community founded on land recuperated during the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. It is located right outside the city of Ocosingo.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, November 15, 2020

English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas

Re-Published with permission by the Chiapas Support Committee






EZLN: 37 years of dignity and autonomy

By: Raúl Zibechi

In these fierce times there is little to celebrate. While the darkness of the system becomes routine, when those above dispossess us with death and violence, the lights from below shine with all their brilliance, tearing the night, illuminating the trails and slopes. The 37th anniversary of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is, surely, the most powerful light in the Latin American firmament.

The EZLN celebrates its 37th anniversary facing one of the largest military offensives in a long time, encouraged by the “progressive” government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the governments of Chiapas and of several municipalities in the state that launched a war of attrition against the autonomous territories, in order to dispossess and destroy the EZLN and the bases of support.

But, concretely, what do we celebrate? We celebrate the continuity and perseverance of a revolutionary movement different from all previous ones, something that we must value in all its transcendence. Not only did they not give up, not sell out and not surrender, rather they did not repeat the vanguardist scheme, which reproduces the dominant culture to convert its leaders into new elites.

We celebrate coherence, but also how much they taught us in these almost four decades. So as not to speak in general, I want to refer to what I have learned, either in the “little Zapatista School,” or in the different gatherings and exchanges in which I was able to participate.

The core of Zapatismo is autonomy. Not theoretical or declarative, but rather living practice of the peoples, in each and every one of the moments and spaces in which they make their lives, from the ejidos and communities, to the municipalities and the good government juntas. Autonomy is a way of life, it’s the dignity of the peoples; collective autonomy, not individual autonomy like certain Eurocentric thought transmitted to us.

We need autonomy to continue being peoples and social sectors that practice other ways than those above. Autonomy can be practiced in all spaces, in the barrios of cities, among campesinos, native and black peoples, in the most diverse collectives and communities.

Autonomy is that immense umbrella of dignity that we all hold together. It is not an institution; it consists of living human relationships, woven with the dignity that allows us to harmonize.

The support bases and the EZLN also teach us that autonomy must be complete, comprehensive, or at least tending towards it, encompassing all aspects of the life of the peoples. That’s why they construct schools, clinics, hospitals, cooperatives and all that rich web of production and care of life.

Autonomy is combined with self-government and autonomous justice; the engine of autonomy is collective work.

Defense of territories and communities is another of the EZLN’s teachings. But another feature of autonomy appears here, unprecedented in the field of revolution: the defense of our spaces cannot be a mere reaction to what those above do, to us. Choosing how, when and in what way we act is also a feature of autonomy, not falling into provocations, because they want war, because war benefits capital.

At this point, the EZLN has taught us not to respond to aggression with aggression, death with death, war with war, because there we stop being autonomous, that is, we stop being different. And that has nothing to do with pacifism.

We learned that there is no single mode of autonomy, valid for all peoples at all times. They have taught us that each one who walks his own way and according to his times, and that is what the pueblos of Latin America are doing.

I can testify to the way in which the autonomies are expanding across our continent. Dozens of Mapuche communities in southern Chile and Argentina are reconstructing themselves autonomously, confronting the politics of the states that present them as terrorists.

The Indigenous Regional Council of the Cauca, in southern Colombia is a notable expression of construction of autonomies. The indigenous guard is expanding to the black and campesino peoples, who have starred in the recent Indigenous, Black and Campesino Minga that culminated in Bogotá after walking 500 kilometers (

In Peru, the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation has been formed, a process that three other Amazonian peoples in the north are following. In the Brazilian Amazon, 14 peoples are moving towards autonomy to defend themselves from mining and agribusiness, as the militant geographer Fábio Alkmin has shown in an ongoing investigation.

It would be abusive to give the impression that all autonomies follow the paths that the EZLN is traveling. But I want to emphasize that the EZLN’s existence is an impulse, a reference, a light that tells us that it’s possible to resist capital and capitalism, that it’s possible to construct other worlds, resisting and living with dignity.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, November 29, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee