Chiapas Support Committee

Zapatista News Summary – November 2012


In Chiapas

1. The EZLN Celebrates 29th Anniversary – November 17 was the 29th anniversary of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). In Chiapas, alternative media and other organizations celebrated. Nationally and internationally, the Worldwide Echo concluded with organizations and collectives holding demonstrations and delivering the Statement of Support for the Zapatista Communities to Mexican Embassies and Consulates. We thank all those who signed the letter. It is posted on our main website: http://

2.  La Realidad Denounces Unjust Imprisonment and Attempted Land Grab

The Good Government Junta in La Realidad denounced that 2 Zapatista brothers and 2 more of their brothers have been in prison since June, falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. The detention stems from a 2011 incident when the 2 Zapatista brothers were severely beaten by people that are referred to as “criminals” and 2 other brothers came to their rescue. A year later, the aggressors lodged complaints against the 2 Zapatista brothers they beat up and also against the 2 who came to their rescue. The 2 Zapatista brothers are from the San Ramon section of Motozintla municipality. The same Junta also denounced an attempted land grab in Motozintla by members of the Mexico’s Green Ecologist Party (PVEM, its initials in Spanish) from Che Guevara community.

3. EZLN’s Word Expected Soon – The EZLN’s website posted an announcement on November 25 that said the EZLN’s word is coming soon. We assume that it will have to do with Enrique Pena Nieto taking power as president of Mexico and thereby returning the PRI to power. As soon as this communication is available, we will send it out.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Enrique Peña Nieto Assumes the Presidency on December 1 – On December 1st, Enrique Peña Nieto became President of Mexico amid violent protests from a broad spectrum of organizations opposed to the PRI’s return to power and the way Pena Nieto was elected. Pena Nieto inherits a Drug War in which approximately 90,000 have been killed, 25,000 are disappeared and tens of thousands displaced from their homes. As Pena Nieto takes office, the government reports that 4 out of every 10 Mexicans in the labor force are unemployed and poverty affects roughly 46 percent of the population. Finally, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reported a 500% increase in torture, as well has a huge rise in forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

2. US Vice President Joe Biden Attends Ceremonies – US Vice President Joe Biden headed the US delegation to the ceremonies for Pena Nieto’s swearing-in. In his first address to the nation, Pena Nieto announced measures geared to address the insecurity, hunger and to kickstart the economy. He says he will focus security forces in areas of high violence to protect the public, rather that focusing on capturing crime bosses. He is also proposing a Universal Social Security system. At least 100 people were injured in violent demonstrations around the country.

3. 14 Police and 5 Commanders Indicted In Ambush of 2 CIA Agents at Tres Marias – As previously announced, 14 federal police agents have been formally charged with the attempted murder of 2 CIA agents and a Mexican marine  on August 24 near Tres Marias. They have also been charged with causing bodily harm, abuse of authority and damage to the property of another. Additionally, 5 police commanders have been charged as accessories after the fact for participating in an attempted coverup. The 14 police are in prison while awaiting a determination of their case. The five commanders are free on bond.

In the United States

1. President Obama Meets with Pena Nieto – On November 27, US President Barack Obama met with president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto at the White House. While the US press emphasized that the meeting focused heavily on economic issues, reports in the Mexican press stated that that the meeting also focused on immigration reform and security issues.


Zapatista Store at Toniná Provokes the Government’s Wrath

Photo taken of a sign at Toniná village during March 2012 delegation. Zapatista signs are seen by tourists who visit the well-known archaeological site.


Zapatista Artesanía Store at Toniná Provokes the Chiapas Government’s Wrath

** There is an arrest warrant out for me and I have not committed crimes: José Alfonso Cruz

** It doesn’t want anything that says EZLN during tourist events for the end of the world, accuses the property owner

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

On the outskirts of the City of Ocosingo, Chiapas, near the Toniná archaeological site, Zapatistas from Francisco Gómez autonomous municipality recently installed a store with artesanía on a piece of recuperated land. That has unleashed a governmental rejection as much from the official municipality as the state, which issued an arrest warrant against the owner of the contiguous property, also a support base of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, its initials in Spanish).

The essence of the conflict is the attractive hand painted sign that the Zapatistas put at their place, located at the Toniná entrance, a famous archaeological site where tourist activities will be celebrated next month, taking advantage of the “end of the Maya world” mode and the end of the year vacations. We’re talking about an investment of 5 to 8 million pesos by the municipal government of Octavio Elías Albores Cruz, a PRI member.

According to declarations to La Jornada from José Alfonso Cruz Espinosa, a Zapatista base that legally owns the Toniná lands up to the foot the foot of the pyramid, who resides near the archaeological zone and has repeatedly suffered harassment and attempts at plunder on the part of authorities, who have made it known that they don’t object to the store, only the sign that announces it, which only expresses that it is an autonomous store with artesanía from indigenous Zapatistas and it belongs to the Francisco Gómez rebel municipality.

“The state’s attorney general is already looking for me,” Cruz Espinosa declared via telephone. “Judicial police dressed as civilians want to search my house, and I had to take shelter in an autonomous community.” He insists that he has not committed any crime, and that his compañeros from the autonomous municipality are within their rights to establish their business and to announce it.

“The government doesn’t want anything that says ‘EZLN’ during the end of the world tourist events,” he added. Those events will be celebrated from December 21 to 23, with the participation of the resident archaeologist, and “almost owner” of Toniná, Juan Yadeum.

Weeks ago, the same Cruz Espinosa had denounced the construction of a bridge and a path inside the site, utilizing valuable archaeological material and “destroying a patrimony of humanity.” He placed responsibility on Yadeum, the current mayor Albores Cruz and principally on the former (mayor), Arturo Zúñiga Urbina, who with other associates wants to make use of the “end of the world” (events) and the expected tourist flow from such an emotional happening without the endorsement of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which while it sanctioned the archaeologist, did not stop the work.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, November 26, 2012

En Español:


EZLN to Issue Pronouncement Soon!

Próximamente la palabra del Comité Clandestina Revolucionario Indígena – Comandancia General (CCRI-CG) del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, Comisión Sexta y Comisión Internacional del EZLN.

The Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command (CCRI-CG) of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the EZLN’s Sixth Commission and International Commission will issue their word soon.

(We assume this announcement will be about Enrique Peña Nieto taking power.)

Zibechi: Colombia: Peace, Land and Rights

Colombia: Peace, Land and Rights

By: Raúl Zibechi

The social climate has changed. What was said before in a whisper is now pronounced openly in the streets, plazas and markets. The historic fears, which increased exponentially during the eight years of the Alvaro Uribe government, are slowly receding, although they are far from having disappeared. In the cities is lived a situation very different than that in the rural areas, where one is made to feel the armed power of the narcos and the big landholders.

The peace process is felt as something irreversible by a good part of the population. Hope is a sign of this time in which almost 80 percent support the negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, their initials in Spanish) and the government headed by President Juan Manuel Santos. Hopeful lights and shadows exist that can once again abort the path to peace. Anyway, the current scenario is very different from the one we were familiar with decades ago.

The first difference is that the guerrilla comes to the negotiations very beaten up. The last conversations, initiated in 1999, were a consequence of hard tactical blows inflicted by the FARC on the armed forces, which took advantage of the detente to recompose and equip themselves with air capability and new technology contributed by Plan Colombia. Members of the Colombian Army, like a good part of the dominant class, continue aspiring to annihilate the insurgency, an old dream that now feels wounded in the realized conditions.

Within the country it is speculated that one of the military command’s objectives is to provoke a division within the guerrilla among those who would be added to the demobilization and a sector that would continue the conflict. It is also possible that they might launch a powerful attack to kill several commanders in the midst of the negotiations, as a way of pressuring for concessions.

The second question that differentiates these negotiations from the previous ones is that the so-called cacaos, the economic power elite, agree with Santos on the need to arrive at a negotiated end with the guerrilla. This sector, composed of an urban bourgeoisie linked to finance and industry, bet on international business and modernization as a way of consolidating power and profits. The image of a country in conflict does not usually seduce the capitalists.

Nevertheless, the archaic class of landholding ranchers, whose interests appear interlaced with drug traffickers and paramilitaries, do not seem happy with the negotiations. The recent massacre of 10 campesinos in a municipio to the north of Antioquia can be the beginning of an escalation impelled by this sector, which would lose power with the end of the conflict.

The key to peace is land for the campesinos. The class war that began towards the end of the 1940s turned around land: big landholders that grabbed it from campesinos armed in order to defender it. What began as a struggle for survival, for which they created campesino self defense, was prolonged into a four-decade war that was consumed in a real narco-landholder agrarian counter-reform,Alvaro Uribe is the incarnation of this sector.

The third difference is the international and regional reality. The victory of Barack Obama benefits the peace plans of Santos and prejudices the obstructionism of Uribe. In any case, the White House does not have a defined policy towards Latin America, except for the persistence of military pressure through the Southern Command. But the changes that continue to be produced in the region push towards the end of the Colombian war.

The consolidation of the Bolivarian process after the victory of Hugo Chávez implies that for a long period Colombian diplomacy will have to choose between conflict or cooperation with its neighbor. It’s clear that Santos opted for the second. In Ecuador, after four years Brasil once again has a decisive weight. These days the BNDES signs the first of a series of loans for big public infrastructure works that was won by Odebrecht, the same company that had been expelled in 2008.

The government of Rafael Correa had approached China in search of loans for public works, but the interest rates are very high and the Asian country demands oil to guaranty the loans. The government of Ecuador offered Brazilian companies that have BNDES credit a package of public works for 2,500,000 dollars (Valor, November12). The repositioning of Brazil in Ecuador represents another inflection in favor of regional integration, of the Unasur and of the South American Defense Council.

The fourth aspect is the difficult situations that pierce the social movements. They are what could weigh on the negotiating table in decisive themes like land, the working group that began this November 15 in Havana. Nevertheless, after some advances, a situation of stagnation and recession exists, above all in the cities, where the cultural and political hegemony of the right is overwhelming.

On October 12, the three principal groupings, the Patriotic March, the Congress of the Peoples and the Coalition of Movements and Social Organizations of Colombia, called a day of struggle collecting the principal demands of society. The response was scarce and they basically mobilized the universities. A political culture of a patriarchal, hierarchal and masculine cut, anchored in the disputes for spaces of power, continues dominating inside the movements and blocks being open to differences.

New times are open in Colombia. The end of the conflict is one possibility among others. All the actors have a “Plan B” faced with the eventuality of reinforcements for armed confrontation; all except the indigenous peoples, the Afro-descendants and the urban and rural popular sectors. As has been happening to the Nasa (tribe) in Cauca, they only win with peace, unlike multinational mining companies and armed combatants.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, November 16, 2012

En español:



October 2012 Resumen de noticias sobre los zapatistas


En Chiapas

1. Las Abejas denuncian la reactivación de grupos paramilitares – Las Abejas de Acteal, una organización de la sociedad civil, denunció la reactivación del grupo paramilitar Mascara Roja en el municipio de Chenalhó. Ellos lo atribuyen al gran numero de paramilitares encarcelados por su participación en la masacre de Acteal que han sido liberados durante los últimos años. Las Abejas dicen que quienes han sido liberados se han reincorporado con quienes nunca fueron llevados a la justicia, y que ahora portan armas en las carreteras, en las montañas y en los senderos a las milpas de maíz y café. Las Abejas también dicen que hace un mes un priísta disparó a un zapatista en la espalda.  Además denuncian el resurgimiento de Paz y Justicia, el grupo paramilitar que esta atacando a dos comunidades zapatistas en la región del caracol de Roberto Barrios, cerca de Palenque.

2. Alberto Patishtan se recupera después de neurocirugía – El 3 de octubre, Alberto Patishtan fue transferido al Instituto de Neurología y neurocirugía Manuel Velasco Suárez en la Ciudad de México, donde le operaron el 8 de octubre para extirpar un tumor cerebral.  Se informó que la cirugía fue exitosa y que se está recuperando ahora en el hospital Vida Mejor en Tuxtla Gutiérrez.  Sus amigos informan que ha recuperado el 70% de su vista. Mientras tanto, la corte suprema de México aceptó el pedido del abogado de Patishtan de considerar si la corte tiene la jurisdicción de realizar una audiencia y dictar una decisión sobre la inocencia de Patishtan. Amnistía Internacional mandó una carta a la Corte a favor de Patishtan.

3. Sigue el asedio contra las comunidades Comandante Abel y Unión Hidalgo – La Junta de Buen Gobierno de Roberto Barrios denunció el asedio continuo por paramilitares de dos comunidades zapatistas, Comandante Abel y Unión Hidalgo. En un comunicado publicado el 30 de octubre por Enlace Zapatista, la junta describe cómo los paramilitares ya han distribuido las tierras que robaron de los Zapatistas el 6 de septiembre.  Han recogido y sacado toda la cosecha de maíz y frijol.  Dispararon al aire durante la noche y la policía esta patrullando el área para proteger a los paramilitares. La junta insinúa, describiendo algunas acciones, que la policía estatal está entrenando a los paramilitares quienes están realizando ejercicios de tipo militar. también declara que las actividades de la policía y los paramilitares están siendo coordinados bajo el mismo comando. Además, parece que quienes se quedaron atrás para proteger las casas y pertenencias de los zapatistas permanecen en las comunidades bajo asedio.

4. Detienen a zapatista en Zinacantan en represalia por entregar una invitación – En principios de octubre, la Junta de Buen Gobierno en el caracol de Oventik denunció que las autoridades de Jechvo (Zinacantan) han usado la violencia otra vez para cortar el suministro de agua a los zapatistas.  Uno de los zapatistas civiles, Mariano Gómez Pérez, pidió la ayuda de un juez autónomo y de la junta. El juez autónomo mandó una carta al agente del PRI, invitándolo a una reunión para discutir el problema. Cuando Gómez Pérez intentó entregar la invitación, el agente del PRI lo detuvo y lo llevó ante la asamblea comunitaria, la cual fabricó unos crimines en su contra y lo mandó al juez municipal en Zinacantan. El juez municipal dijo al agente del PRI que no debería aceptar la invitación.  Esta situación repite la del 2004, cuando las mismas autoridades, en ese entonces miembros del PRD, cortaron el suministro de agua a los zapatistas. Cuando los zapatistas de toda la región les trajeron agua en una muestra de solidaridad, los del PRD les abrieron fuego.

5. Seis zapatistas detenidos en Guadalupe Los Altos – El 12 de octubre, la Junta de Buen Gobierno de La Realidad denunció que seis bases de apoyo zapatistas de la comunidad Guadalupe Los Altos habían sido encarcelados durante 12 dias, y que sus familias estaban siendo amenazadas con expulsión.  Las autoridades comunitarias son parte de la organización CIOAC Oficial, y también miembros de los partidos PRD y PAN.  Parece ser que hay una historia larga de provocaciones relacionadas con la participación en cuanto a asuntos comunales, en particular la contribución económica para proyectos como  escuelas y carreteras.  La JBG sostiene que los zapatistas tienen sus propias escuelas, sin embargo tienen actualizadas sus cuotas para el beneficio de la comunidad, siempre y cuando no sean proyectos del mal gobierno.  Este es un punto común en los conflictos dentro de las comunidades divididas entre integrantes pro-partidos oficiales y bases de apoyo zapatistas.
Por otras partes de México

1. Continua investigación de la emboscada contra 2 agentes de la CIA – Las indagaciones continuan en el caso de lo que ahora se conoce como “intento de asesinato” contra dos agentes de la CIA y un marino mexicano, el 24 de agosto, cerca de Tres Marias.  El juez correspondiente extendíó el periodo de detención sin cargos (el llamado “arresto domiciliario”) a los 12 elementos de la Policía Federal por 40 dias más.  Además, otros dos agentes de la policía federal fueron arrestados en conexión con el caso.  Marisela Morales, Procuradora General de la República en México, se refirió al incidente como “intento de asesinato” una semana después del testimonio de los agentes de la CIA quienes lo denominaran como un “ataque directo”. Morales estableció que todos los agentes actualmente detenidos enfrentarán cargos oficiales en dos semanas más.

2.  Policías toman 3 normales rurales en Michoacán, 176 detenidos –  Policías federales y estatales tomaron las normales rurales de Tiripetio, Cherán y Arteaga,  Michoacán para acabar con las protestas estudiantiles. Detuvieron a 176 estudiantes que protestaban por la implementación de cursos obligatorios de inglés y computación. Protestas similares ocurrieron en normales rurales de otros Estados conforme el gobierno federal intenta severamente restringirlas y regularlas. Las normales rurales en México preparan estudiantes para enseñar en zonas rurales e indígenas. Muchos de estos estudiantes son indígenas. Las escuelas han enfrentado reducción de presupuestos, admisiones y de personal, al mismo tiempo que la educación superior en México se enfoca más y más en los intereses empresariales.

3. Urapicho organiza su policía comunitaria – Otra comunidad purépecha, Urapicho, vecina de Cherán, está construyendo su propia fuerza de seguridad ante la completa ausencia de protección policiaca del gobierno oficial . Urapicho difundió un video a través de YouTube enumerando los problemas que han enfrentado con el crimen organizado y los talamontes. Miembros enmascarados de la comunidad aparecen en el video hablando de las y los que han sido desaparecidos. Uno de ellos porta un sombrero con la imagen del Ché y un paliacate zapatista. El gobierno ha acordado enviar a la policía comunitaria a recibir entrenamiento en la academia estatal de policía. También ha incrementado los campamentos de policía en el área. Para las y los que participaron en la Marcha del color de la tierra en 2001, esta comunidad se localiza en el área general de Nurio. Puedes ver el video en:


Compilación mensual hecha por el Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas.

Nuestras principales fuentes de información son: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista y el Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Frayba).


Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas

P.O. Box  3421, Oakland, CA  94609



Frayba: Recent Elections Fragmented Chiapas Communities

[Below is an article about a report from the Frayba Human Rights Center. It confirms and elaborates what our delegation learned in March 2011 about the massive infusion of money to divide Zapatista and Other Campaign communities. An excerpt from our report on the 2011 delegation follows the article.]

The Recent Elections Fragmented Chiapas Communities: Frayba Center

  ** It documents in a broad report political pressures, vote buying and acts of corruption

** It emphasizes the persistent practice “of counterinsurgency directed at the EZLN and its support bases”

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

In recent months the state and federal electoral campaigns converged in the state of Chiapas, with troubling social effects. The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) documents in a broad report “the political pressure that was exercised in the towns and communities, to the end that through the purchase of votes and other classic means of electoral corruption electoral they would vote for the alliance of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the New Alliance Party (Panal), converting the Green Party into the first political force and leaving a deep fragmentation in the communities.”

The Frayba has monitored the armed conflict in Chiapas from its beginning, giving an account of the diverse junctures, always characterized by a counterinsurgency policy directed at the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) and its support bases. This is sharpened “when it is dealing with a change of diplomatic couriers and the distribution of political control.”

The lawyer Pedro Faro, a member of the Fray Bartolomé Center, says: “We have located a pattern of recurring violence during the electoral changes, which unleashes rancor and conflicts between the power groups for government posts, and once the essential scenario is established, actions are let loose for beating up the enemy. In these circumstances the dispute for the EZLN’s recuperated territories is specific.”

Between May and September 2012, Faro points out, “we have documented the continuous strategy of community confrontation that the government, at all three levels (municipal, state and federal), carries out in the autonomous Zapatista communities by means of local power groups, which benefit from the protection” that it offers them. Since 2000 “an integral war of wear and tear has been constructed,” and the government jointly “distorts” in the communications media the forced displacements, the armed attacks and the harassment that the EZLN’s support bases now receive. This scenario is corroborated with the hostilities underway against the Zapatista rebel autonomous municipalities and the communities of San Marcos Avilés, Comandante Abel, Jechvó and Banavil.

The “double discourse”

On the one hand, the federal government makes the EZLN invisible, and on the other, the state (government) expresses attending to their demands, removing itself as a contender and presenting itself as the administrator of the scenarios and the mediator of the conflicts, classified as “intercommunity.” Nevertheless, “the state government plays a fundamental role in the war of wear and tear, especially with the use of economic resources for confronting and coopting organizations or communities that resist the system.”

In the communications media we’re “dealing with blocking the EZLN’s posture and that of the organizations that differ with governmental policies.” The government “imposes its opinion or diverts attention with tourist publicity or the diffusion of ‘vanguard’ achievements, being that it gives continuity to the policy of displacing the autonomic process and the civil and peaceful resistance constructed starting at the beginning of the ceasefire, on the gamble of unilaterally fulfilling the San Andrés Accords, disavowed by the Mexican government.”

The Frayba registers that the counterinsurgency strategy has operated very patently in the armed incursions of groups of a paramilitary cut of Sabanilla, in Comandante Abel community, which already provoked the forced displacement of 87 people.

These are the facts, despite the fact that the local government “tries to hide the consequences of its policy of violence using a discourse of ‘human rights’ through reforms that are dead laws, and through the State Human Rights Council, which serves as a political operator for endorsing and maintaining impunity.”


En español:


Report on the 2011 CSC Delegation to Chiapas

By: Mary Ann Tenuto

Shiny new cars slithered over the dirt road like snakes. “Lots of traffic,” a delegate commented in Spanish to a small group chatting nearby. Sitting in front of his home by the side of the unusually busy road, a Zapatista elder responded to that observation about the parade of vehicles: “The government is sending money and projects to all the non-Zapatistas and even trying to buy off individual Zapatistas and Other Campaign adherents. The three political parties are doing the same thing because next year is an election year for all three levels of government. They’re looking for votes and trying to divide people.” He frowned as he finished talking, obviously upset by the government’s economic counterinsurgency tactic.

The topic of the government trying to divide the Zapatista and Other Campaign communities with tons of money received equal attention with that of the war and violence throughout Mexico during the two and a half weeks spent in Chiapas at the end of March 2011 preparing for and participating in the Chiapas Support Committee’s 10th delegation to Chiapas.

As a matter of principle the Zapatistas do not accept money from government aid programs. That applies to all three levels of government: federal, state and municipal (county). Consequently, these different levels of government have always used the aid programs to divide people from the Zapatistas. Now, it seems that both the amount of money and the amount of effort have increased/intensified. One wonders where the money comes from in a state where many have no money to buy medicine or school supplies. Are the corporations that want indigenous lands giving money to the state government?

One of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) visited summed it up this way for the delegates: “Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero is known as the man with the checkbook.” Another NGO said: “The government has an economic strategy: give lots of money to the campesino communities they know can be divided.” Those include some campesino communities belonging to the Other Campaign.

Regardless of where the delegation went or with whom delegates spoke, the vast quantity of pesos being spent to divide pro-Zapatista communities and the political conflict it was causing dominated the conversation and is a cause for genuine concern.

During a long interview with the Good Government Junta in La Garrucha, Caracol 3, Tzeltal Jungle Zone, we asked about the government’s strategy to divide people. Different members of the Junta responded to the various strategies being used. “The government is taking communal land and privatizing it. Government agents tell the people that the land will be theirs, but the people end up without any land and poorer than they were before,” one Junta member told delegates. Another man on the Junta said: “The Government offers housing with strings attached and people in the community are refusing it because most people don’t have confidence in the government and don’t believe it will keep its promises.”

Asked about money the government is offering to people in the region, the Junta responded: “The government’s plan is pretty powerful because they are using a lot of money to entice people away and divide the communities. But, the Junta is trying to keep everyone united and keep everyone participating together.” This Junta is in the last month of its three-year term of office and has learned a lot during those three years of experience governing the large region.




Zapatista News Summary for October 2012


In Chiapas

1. Las Abejas (the Bees) Denounced the Reactivation of Paramilitary Groups

Las Abejas of Acteal, a civil society organization, denounced the reactivation of the paramilitary group, Mascara Roja, in Chenalhó Municipality. They attribute this to the large number of paramilitaries imprisoned for participating in the Acteal Massacre who have been released over the last several years. Las Abejas states that those released have re-grouped with those who never were brought to justice, and that they are now carrying firearms on the highways, in the mountains and on the paths to corn and coffee fields. Las Abejas also states that a PRI member shot a Zapatista in the back about a month ago. Furthermore, they denounced the resurgence of Paz y Justicia, the paramilitary  group that is attacking 2 Zapatista communities in the region of the Roberto Barrios Caracol, near Palenque.

2. Alberto Patishtan Recovering from Neurosurgery – On October 3, Alberto Patishtan was transferred to the Manuel Velasco Suarez National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City, and operated on October 8 to remove a brain tumor. The surgery was reportedly successful and he is recuperating now in the Vida Mejor Hospital in Tuxtla Gutierrez. His close friends report that he has recovered 70% of his eyesight! Meanwhile, Mexico’s Supreme Court accepted the request from Patishtan’s lawyer to consider whether the Court has the jurisdiction to  hold a hearing and issue a ruling on Patishtan’s innocence. Amnesty International sent a letter to the Court in favor of Patishtan.

3. The Siege Against Comandante Abel and Union Hidalgo Communities – The Good Government Junta in Roberto Barrios denounced the continuing siege of the two Zapatista communities, Comandante Abel and Union Hidalgo, by paramilitaries. In a communiqué posted October 30 0n Enlace Zapatista, the Junta described how paramilitaries have already redistributed the land they stole from Zapatistas on September 6. They have harvested and taken away all the corn and bean crop. They fire shots into the air in the middle of the night and the police are patrolling to protect the paramilitaries. The Junta suggests, describing certain actions, that the state police are training the paramilitary members, who engage in military-style exercises. It also alleges that police and paramilitary activities are coordinated under one command. Moreover, it appears that those who stayed behind to protect the Zapatistas’ homes and belongings remain in the communities under siege.

4. Zapatista Detained in Zinacantan in Reprisal for Delivering an Invitation  – In early October, the Good Government Junta in the Caracol of Oventik denounced that authorities in Jechvo (Zinacantan) once again used violence to cut off the water supply to the Zapatistas. One of the civilian Zapatistas, Mariano Gomez Perez, asked for help from the autonomous judge and the Junta. The autonomous judge sent a letter to the PRI agent, inviting the agent to a meeting to talk about the problem. When Gomez Perez attempted to deliver the written invitation, the PRI agent detained him and took him before a community assembly, which fabricated crimes against him and sent him to a Zinacantan municipal judge. The judge told the PRI agent not to accept the invitation. This situation is a repeat of 2004, when the same authorities, then PRD members, cut off the water supply to the Zapatistas. When Zapatistas from throughout the region brought water in a show of solidarity, the PRD members opened fire on them.

5. Six Zapatistas Detained in Guadalupe Los Altos – On October 12, the Good Government Junta in La Realidad denounced that 6 Zapatista support bases from  Guadalupe Los Altos community had been in jail for 12 days and that their families were being threatened with expulsion. Community authorities are part of the CIOAC Official organization and are members of the PAN and PRD political parties. It seems that there is a history of provocations over the degree of participation in community issues, specifically making financial contributions to projects such as schools and roads. The Junta maintains that the Zapatistas have their own school, but are current in their contributions for the benefit of the community, as long as they are not projects of the bad government. This is a common point of contention in divided communities with a mix of pro-government party members and Zapatistas.

In Other Parts of Mexico

1. Investigation Into Ambush of 2 CIA Agents Continues – Investigations continue into what is now being called “the attempted murder” of 2 CIA agents and a Mexican marine  on August 24 near Tres Marias. A judge extended the detention without charges (sometimes referred to as house arrest) of the 12 original Federal Police agents for an additional 40 days and 2 more federal police agents were detained in connection with the case. Mexico’s attorney general, Marisela Morales, termed the incident “attempted murder” the week following the testimony of the CIA agents who termed it a “direct attack.” Morales stated that all of the police agents currently detained will be charged within the next 2 weeks.

2. Police Raid 3 Michoacan Teachers Colleges, 176 Detained – State and Federal police raided teachers colleges in Tiripetio, Cheran and Arteaga, Michoacan to break up student protests. They detained 176 students who were protesting obligatory English and computer classes. Similar protests have occurred at teachers colleges in other states as the federal government tries to severely restrict and regulate them. Teachers colleges in Mexico prepare students to teach in rural and heavily indigenous areas. Many of the students are themselves indigenous. The schools have faced reduced budgets, admissions and staffing, as higher education in Mexico focuses more and more on business interests.

3. Urapicho Organizes Community Police – Another Purépecha community, Urapicho, a neighbor of Cherán, is constructing its own security force in the absence of any police protection from the official government. Urapicho posted a video on YouTube enumerating the problems they have faced from organized crime and woodcutters. Masked members of the community appear in the video talking about those who have been disappeared. One of them wears a hat with a Che logo and a Zapatista paliacate. The government has agreed to send the community police to the state’s police academy for training and has also added police encampments to the area. For those of you who participated in the March of the Color of the Earth in 2001, this community is in the general   area of Nurio. You can watch the video (in Spanish) at: 


Uruguay Rejects “the War on Drugs”

Uruguay Rejects “the War on Drugs”

By: Raúl Zibechi

     The government of President José Mujica achieved its main objective when it proposed legalizing marijuana: to spark a broad national debate regarding drugs, prohibitionist policies, and the repressive measures used to date.

     State participation “would ruin” the market “ for the marijuana traffickers “because we will sell the product cheaper at a price you can’t get on the black market”, Mujica said to CNN [1]. The president told reporter Andres Oppenheimer “that a private business” could be in charge of selling marijuana, under strict state control.

“And if this law is passed wouldn’t it make Uruguay a tourist mecca for marijuana smokers?” Oppenheimer asked. Mujica responded that his plan is “a mechanism for Uruguayans,” who would be registered and get a monthly ration, and that foreigners would not be able to buy marijuana.

“What we cannot do is pretend to be ignorant and look the other way”, while consumption increases along with violence associated with drug trafficking, Mujica concluded.

On Aug. 8 the Uruguayan government sent legislation to the parliament containing only one article: “The state assumes control and regulation of activities related to the importation, production, acquisition of any title, storage, commercialization, and distribution of marijuana and its associated products, in terms and conditions defined by the respective regulation.”

The explained motives behind the proposed legislation criticizes prohibitionist policies because they have aggravated the drug problem and the objectives of legalization establish that “users not be stigmatized or treated under penal law, but instead create conditions to work with them and with society as a whole.”

Based on field studies, the government maintains that the consumption of marijuana is widely considered legitimate in society. It also affirms that “this substance, whose capacity to generate physical or psychological dependency is slight to moderate, is clearly differentiated in the risks it poses from other drugs with far greater toxicological and addictive potential.” Included in the group of addictive and toxic drugs are cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, and psycho-pharmacological drugs.

The proposed legislation states that marijuana users who do not have problems associated with the drug “are exposed to psychological, social and legal risks due to the necessity of obtaining the drug illegally.” This is the main point issue that legalization seeks to address.

The government’s proposal served to open up a wide social debate on drugs, where finer points are being discussed since the objective is to regulate and control marijuana so it is no longer a step toward consumption of cocaine paste, which the government considers the most dangerous.

War against drugs and repression

Julio Calzada, secretary general of the National Drugs Board, an office of the presidency, is part of a different generation from the current president. A sociologist and former member of the MLN-Tupamaros youth, he stood out in grassroots movements that espoused non-traditional ways of dealing with social problems.

In his analysis to support the new drug policy, he goes back two centuries to the two opium wars fought against China [2] that in his opinion were wars of piracy that led to the 1912 Conference at the Hague where the International Convention on Opium was signed establishing a number of drug prohibitions.

“If we analyze what has occurred over the last 40 years, after the Vietnam War, the war on drugs became part of the lexicon and there are those who argue that with the fall of the Berlin wall the drug war was promoted due to the need for a new enemy after communism disappeared as a credible adversary”, Calzada declared during an interview the CIP Americas Program. [3]

“In 1998 the UN established [goals for] a substantial reduction in the production, commercialization and use of three substances and a series of very restrictive policies. After ten years, in 2008 an evaluation was conducted that discovered the production and consumption of opium increased by 120% and that cannabis and cocaine registered important increases.”

As a result, he notes, “when you look at the results, they are contrary to what was intended, we should make a change. For us, the key isn’t prohibition but regulation.”

In the opinion of the principal government adviser on drugs, prohibition generates two types of extremely harmful deregulation–it leaves intact black markets for drugs and it gives power to financial circuits dedicated to laundering illegal money.

A bold bet

Even though Uruguay is not the first country in the world to legalize the consumption of marijuana, Uruguay will be the first to produce it legally. This is a bold move that shakes up the status quo and obliges the political system to engage in a debate that began and grew within society some time ago.

In many countries around the world within the last few decades there have been important legal changes. Holland is an important point of reference since it separated the marijuana and heroin markets back in 1978. “The results were so good that Holland had a much lower incidence during the AIDS crisis of the1980’s,” Calzada explains.

The legalization proposal involves separating the marijuana market from other drugs, after finding that marijuana consumers approach illegal dealers and if they cannot obtain marijuana sometimes end up buying heroin. An important example is Portugal, which stopped criminalizing the use of marijuana without registering any negative impacts.

“In Uruguay consumption has never been criminalized, so we can’t make comparisons like the Argentines can when they legalize the consumption of marijuana,” Calzada continued. A different case is Australia, which has regulated cultivation for personal consumption since the 1980’s, something the Mujica government rejects.

The Uruguayan diplomatic corps is taking its policy position on drugs to different world forums. The Uruguayan Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Milton Romani, who led the National Commission on Drugs during the administration of Tabaré Våzquez (2005-2010), highlighted that he supports three principles: “the adequate integration of the system of human rights into the criminalization of drugs; the participation of civil society in the design of international policies, at the UN and the OAS, and the openness for a transparent democratic debate to rethink criminalization policies on the international and regional levels that transcends the regulation of markets through criminal law.”[4].

Geopolitical Risks

The Cartagena Summit saw an unprecedented convergence of critiques of the war on drugs driven by the U.S., from countries with very different governments like Colombia and Guatemala, on one side, and Bolivia and Uruguay, on the other.

“The Cartagena Summit gave a mandate to the OAS to conduct an extensive study, analyzing the actual policies regarding drugs in collaboration with the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) and the Pan-American Health Organization,” Romani explains.

In his opinion, “a drug policy that bases regulation on punitive laws has proven to be insufficient and cause harm.” He noted that President Juan Manuel Santos stated that “the problem of drugs is like a waterbed, step on one side and the other rises.”

The proposal to convert the government into the producer and distributor of marijuana has not only been criticized by the opposition, but has a long road to travel to define the rules with the objectives expressed by Calzada of  “guaranteeing that there are no deviations into a national or regional black market.” A geopolitical reality limits the capacity of one country to adopt measures of this type without running the risk of affecting the entire region that, he hopes, will take the same path in the years to come.

“The term legalization opens up to different interpretations, such as buying marijuana at a local store, something not true,” declared Calzada. Regulation would encompass every component of the trade including financing, production, and distribution to the point of sale, although it would not remain a government operation.

According to the last national poll on the consumption of drugs this past May, there are 75,000 habitual consumers of marijuana, that is, persons who consume between 30 to 60 cigarettes of marijuana per month (some 30 grams). When occasional users are included, the estimate rises to130, 000. [5]

One of the most controversial aspects is how to establish a registry of users, which means that buyers must show their identification cards to make a purchase. Based on this method, when the user goes to buy they do not run the risk of being offered other drugs, as currently happens. The separation of markets is the product of long experience, and backed up by field studies.

“All users of cocaine paste consumed marijuana before,” Calzada says. The path to use of cocaine paste begins with alcohol, beginning at age 12 to 13 years, and continues with tobacco, depending the person’s age when they started smoking at or about 15 years of age, then marijuana use, which begins heavily at 17 years of age.

Just a few continue on to cocaine paste or cocaine. “When a major seizure of marijuana occurs the price rises and some people switch to paste,” explains Calzada to show how legalization can act to stop the cycle.

Buyer Beware

The new official drug policy, launched at the beginning in June, establishes five mechanisms to attend to drug users, the greatest concern for the government. The Hospital Teams for Immediate Response in Addictive Crisis can hospitalize the addict for three to six days until the crisis abates. There will be four teams, two in the capital, Montevideo.

In conjunction, they will create various “on-hand units” as listening centers and mobile doctors’ offices based on experience accumulated since 2007 through various NGO’s that work in the streets and in the community. In Montevideo these work in neighborhoods with high levels of social decay and are accompanied by detox programs.

Through these efforts, the government calculates it can reach 30 percent of paste users, who will be in outpatient clinics, prisons, and treatment centers.

Calzada maintains that the consumption of cocaine paste is leveling off and even dropping slightly, while alcohol consumption has risen dramatically and the experimental consumption of marijuana and cocaine grown slightly. The most worrisome case is alcohol, which the society treats as though it were unimportant and yet it is the gateway to the use of other dangerous drugs.

“We are undergoing important cultural changes related to the use of leisure time, the hours of operation for bars and family control, which means that persons between 15 and 17 years of age are the most exposed and vulnerable when consuming psycho-active substances. We cannot remain indifferent when one out of three youths has episodes of acute intoxication in the past 15 days,” Calzada concludes.

Uruguayan society has calmly accepted the proposal to legalize marijuana, which would be cultivated on150 hectares under the control of the army. However, it will not be easy to turn away from the “heavy-handed” measures against youth.

En español:

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst for the weekly Brecha of Montevideo, professor and researcher on social movements in the Multiversidad Franciscana of Latin America, and advisor to several grassroots organizations. He writes the monthly “Zibechi Report” for the CIP Americas Program

Translation: Joseph J. García

Editor: Laura Carlsen


Delegation into Zapatista Territory

Comandante Pedro Autonomous Zapatista School

Annual Delegation Visits Zapatista Regions, Witnesses Building of Autonomy

By: Todd Davies

This year’s Chiapas Support Committee delegation to Zapatista Territory happened in March, as it has for the past three years. Seven delegates, all of whom currently reside in California, represented the CSC as we traveled to three Zapatista Zonas (autonomous regions), including the Selva Tseltal  (Tseltal Jungle) region, which is the target of most of our fundraising projects. This was a special trip because it offered our first visits to schools that have been built with funds raised by the CSC as part of a three-year education project. The Good Government Council (Junta de Buen Gobierno, or JBG) of La Garrucha directs the education project, the Caracol (regional headquarters) of the Selva Tseltal. Others who helped organize and conduct the delegation were Carolina Dutton and Michael Kozart of the CSC Board.

Our delegation began with a visit to Oventik, which is the caracol for the Highlands Zapatista region near San Cristóbal de las Casas. Zapatistas and their supporters in this region have been taking extra security precautions since 2009-10 when the government released prisoners who had been involved in the 1997 Acteal Massacre, which killed 45 Zapatista-sympathizing members of the Catholic pacifist group Las Abejas and created thousands of Zapatista refugees from the Official Municipality of Chenalhó. Many Zapatistas still live without adequate food and shelter in the refugee camp of Polhó, close to Acteal. We have visited both Acteal and Polhó on recent delegations, but this time we had a long meeting with the JBG in Oventik and heard how the Tzotzil-speaking Zapatistas of the region are coping with continued harassment from the state and federal governments and local paramilitaries who want to take over Zapatista land. In Oventik we bought artesania produced by Zapatista collectives to bring back and sell at community events. Selling these Zapatista fair trade goods in the U.S. is one way that we support the Zapatistas, and the proceeds allow us to continually buy more during our visits.

Following visits with three organizations in San Cristobal (SIPAZ, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, and CIDECI/Universidad de la Tierra), we traveled to the Tzotz Choj autonomous region and stayed at the Zapatista hotel at Agua Clara. This is another hot spot in the conflict with the “Bad Government”, which wants to develop this and nearby areas such as Agua Azul into major tourist destinations. Agua Clara is an idyllic spot for river swimming and sunbathing, and is an affordable option for overnight stays just off the road between Ocosingo and Palenque as well as being a way to support the Zapatistas.

Following Agua Clara, we traveled to our main destination: the Selva Tseltal autonomous region. The region’s JBG in La Garrucha briefed us on progress made during the first year of the education project that we are helping to fund in the region. The JBG had recently been restructured in this region in a way that allows it to work together as a team, but with some division of responsibilities among members of the Junta. Members of this turno (shift) of the JBG, who represent all four autonomous municipalities in this region, rotate with two other turnos every ten days. They spoke with enthusiasm about the structural changes that have taken place, as well as about the progress being made in education.

The CSC had recently sent the second installment (100, 000 Mexican Pesos) of a MP300, 000 commitment to help with education in each of the four autonomous municipalities (municipios) of the Selva Tseltal.  On this trip, we mainly learned how funds from the first installment had been put to use. These projects included two new one-room schools in the municipio of Francisco Gomez, a general equipment purchase for all existing schools in Francisco Villa, three new schools in Ricardo Flores Magón, and one new classroom in an existing school plus a new school in San Manuel.

The delegation traveled to San Manuel, where we have had an hermanamiento (sister relationship) for the last decade. This allowed us to see old friends, but also to see the new schoolroom and schoolhouse that funds raised by the CSC had made possible. We learned about the various levels in the schools, and about the four subject areas for children between 5 and 12 years old: language (Tseltal and Spanish), math, history, and vida y medio (life and means – natural science of the local environment and ways of living). Children are building local history through listening to the stories of local ancestors. I was glad to see that the pharmacy of the clinic in Emiliano Zapata (the headquarters of San Manuel) was well stocked and to learn that the Health Promoters there are now getting good training and regular visits with volunteer doctors from around Mexico.

After briefings with the Education Promoters and the lead Health Promoter in this municipio, as well as a wonderful fiesta that took place that Friday, we ended our visit to San Manuel with a celebration and lunch in 8 de Agosto (August 8), the community where the new schoolhouse had just been built. We met with children and their families who were attending the Comandante Hugo School, and heard music sung by formadores (trainers of the education promoters). Many Zapatistas in San Manuel are Tzotzil-speaking refugees who have come here from Chenalhó, and we heard songs that movingly told of the Acteal Massacre. Following this joyous occasion, many of the compañeros/as joined the truck taking us back to Ocosingo, accompanying us on a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins of Toniná. Delegates and our Zapatista hosts climbed the steps of Toniná together as we listened to a guide tell about the history of this amazing site.

This article first appeared in the Chiapas Support Committee’s Newsletter, Chiapas Update. See:

Mining Moratorium Expires in Chiapas

Moratorium On Mining Expires in Chiapas

By: Jose Plascencia

The state of Chiapas produces about 3.1% of natural gas, 1.8% of oil, 7.5% of electrical production, and contains about 30% of México’s surface water.  This means Chiapas is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources.

Moratorium On Mining Expires in Chiapas

The state of Chiapas produces about 3.1% of natural gas, 1.8% of oil, 7.5% of electrical production, and contains about 30% of México’s surface water.  This means Chiapas is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources.

It is estimated that just ten countries contain between 50 and 80% of the planet’s biodiversity; Mexico is one of them.   The state of Chiapas includes about a third of the Mexican flora (around 8,000 different plant species) and 80% of the tropical tree species in the country. Approximately 30% of amphibians, 28% of reptiles, 65% of birds, and 55% of mammals known in Mexico are found in Chiapas. What this means is that Chiaps is also one of the regions richest in biodiversity.

Unfortunatley, Chiapas is also home to a diversity of minerals, which include some of the more highly exploited such as gold, silver, lead, titanium, and zinc.   This makes Chiapas of huge interest to transnational mining corporations seeking mining concessions, many of which are granted in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, which begins in the northwest of Chiapas and extends into Central America.

This territory is also home to communities that have generational history in the region whose interests are being ignored and human rights outright violated. One famous case is that of anti-mining activist leader Mariano Abarca Roblero of the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA), who was shot to death in front of his home. Abarca was one of the most visible figures to publicly denounce the negative impacts of Blackfire Exploration Limited’s mining practices in Chiapas. At one point Mariano Abarca had to file charges against two Blackfire employees for threatening to kill him for continuing to organize community members to protest the loss of land and subsistence to mining concessions.  As of now, three men linked to Blackfire are in prison for Abarca’s murder.

Blackfire has also admitted to the validity of documents filed in 2009 by REMA with the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office that exposed Blackfire’s monthly payments of $1,000 to the bank account of the Mayor of Chicomuselo, the town in which Mariano Abarca was organizing. This payoff sealed a mutual agreement that municipal authorities would suppress opposition from community residents.

The conflict around mining is not new, it is a complex conflict that dates back to more than 500 hundred years of history of oppression and exploitation and was recently made worse by constitutional reforms in 1993 to pave the way for NAFTA.  These reforms allowed for an increase in mining concessions to transnational mining corporations that have caused an even greater transfer of wealth because most of the profits generated are not invested back into the communities in which these mines are located, (and don’t get me started on the labor violations)!  Mining companies also gain access into the communities because of promises of development, but it’s all marketing.

What typically happens is that the mining companies mine the areas for several years, devastate the local water supplies and in some cases causing serious issues of public health with increased cases of chemical poisoning, lung disease, and leaving the community without the ability to go back to their subsistence farming because lands are contaminated. So these transnational mining corporations are basically leaving communities sick, jobless, and landless after pillaging their mines.

Presently in Chiapas the air is buzzing with talk that a moratorium on mining that had been placed on the region is about to be lifted, or may very well be lifted by the time you’re reading this.  What this means is more displacement of communities, of culture, serious environmental degradation of one of the last remaining biospheres our planet has, loss of wild life, and the list goes on and on….

Please support our work with the Zapatista communities that continue to live in resistance in order to keep this from happening to their communities. Support us by continuing to read our newsletter and staying informed, and of course every dollar counts in the fight to build autonomy.

In Solidarity…


This article is featured in the September 2012 Chiapas Update newsletter: