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(en) Estacion Libre News Update #15

From Informa Action <informaction13@yahoo.com>
Date Mon, 22 Apr 2002 04:46:51 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Estación Libre Update #15
February 5 - April 19, 2002 
A.  Prioritizing Plan Puebla Panama
B.  Salazar?s Strategy Shift
C.  Three Still Unfulfilled Signs
D.  Human Rights Observation Visit


A. Prioritizing Plan Puebla Panama 
On June 14, 2001, President Vicente Fox stated "The
Plan Puebla Panama is a thousand times more
[important] than Zapatismo, or any indigenous
community in Chiapas."  The Plan Puebla Panama
encompasses: the construction of hydroelectric dams
(42 within the conflict zone of Chiapas alone),
highways, platforms for petroleum extraction, gold and
uranium mines; the creation of African palm and
eucalyptus plantations; and licensing for
multinational corporations to engage in
bio-prospecting and tree felling.  These projects will
not respect the rights of indigenous peoples to
control and protect their land, to decide the future
of their own development, nor to be consulted about
any government program that may affect them (rights
which are guaranteed by International Labor
Organizations' (ILO)  Convention 169 on Indigenous and
Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which Mexico
Prioritization of this Plan became increasingly
apparent in February as World Bank representatives
made a historic visit to Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero,
claiming to "investigate its economic potential." 
While denying that the visits were counterinsurgent in
nature (given that Mexico?s main armed movements
operate in these three states), representatives made
clear that these states were host to "abundant social
risk" and that they considered necessary many "reforms
?in the behavior of its inhabitants (02/09). "  The
World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB) are providing the majority of the loans
necessary to fund this $8 billion mega-project. 

Meanwhile, Chiapas governor Pablo Salazar met with US
President Bush, US Secretary of Commerce and top World
Bank executives in Washington DC to effectively
express his commitment to social control, promoting
Chiapas as "a very secure market for investors
(02/11)."   In the same vein, the Mexican government
budgeted US$900 million for Plan Puebla Panama
projects, in addition to another US$4 million loaned
by the IDB (03/04). 

B. Salazar?s Strategy Shift 
In line with the prioritization of the Plan Puebla
Panama in recent months, the state government has
shifted its strategy in an attempt to directly
undermine the EZLN since Zapatista communities have
effectively blocked resource extraction projects in

1. Attacks on Indigenous Human Rights Defenders 
The latest wave of human rights violations began
January 16 when state agents arrested and tortured 5
Zapatista sympathizers from the Autonomous
Municipality of Ricardo Flores Magón.  After holding
them incomunicado from their families and human rights
defender for over 7 days, state officials illegally
put them under house arrest 60+ days without
presenting charges (CCDN denuncia 03/14). 
[Ironically, Mexico later ratified the Inter-American
Convention on Forced Disappearances with the
Organization of American States (OAS) (03/10).]  

After a member of the Chiapas Community Defenders
Network declared these detainees just 5 of 21 new
Zapatista political prisoners, Pablo Salazar launched
a prolonged media attack on the integrity of not only
that lawyer, but the entire Chiapas Community
Defenders Network.  These attacks are extremely
dangerous given that the defenders already operate
under tremendous personal risk, as evidenced by the
increased number of death threats received by several
Community Defenders.  

2. Resurgent Paramilitary Activity and Recent Attacks
on EZLN Bases of Support 
Since late February, the Municipality of Tila (a
region rife with conflict since Zedillo?s reign) has
seen a marked increase in paramilitary activity. The
municipal judge of Tila arbitrarily issued arrest
warrants against 7 EZLN support bases, accusing them,
without proof, of being leaders of the paramilitary
organization Paz y Justicia.  In five different
communities across the Municipality of Tila,
paramilitary organizers started openly training and
threatening EZLN bases of support (Denuncia from Tila
- 03/18).  

In the community of Morelia, Autonomous Municipality
17 de Noviembre, local priista threats against EZLN
supporters intensified and culminated in a
confrontation that left Zapatista supporters and
foreign human rights observers injured with rocks and
sticks (03/20).  Days later, PRI militants severely
beat a young man and threw rocks at an elderly woman
who was in her own home.  On March 23, in the nearby
community of Ranchería de Nantze, about 19 Priistas
distributed arms and engaged in armed night patrols. 

In the Autonomous Municipality of Francisco Gomez,
tension has grown for months as state authorities
offered land titles to members of the Regional
Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (ORCAO) for
communal property worked and owned by Zapatista
communities.  In the community of Javier López, ORCAO
members attacked EZLN supporters, brutally wounding a
woman with an ax (03/24).  In Primero de Enero,
fighting broke out between Zapatistas and the ORCAO
after ORCAO members took EZLN supporters hostage,
under accusations of cutting a fence that held cattle.
 In response, autonomous authorities took two ORCAO
leaders into custody (03/04).  Two days later both
parties exchanged detainees, with ORCAO members
continuing to threaten the Zapatista community.  

In the same Municipality, in Ejido Pena Limonar, 70
members of a priista faction of the National
Coordinator of Indigenous People (CNPI) attacked two
women, one with a bicycle chain and another with a
machete, leaving both injured.  They burned down 11
houses belonging to Zapatista supporters, along with
their clothes, food, and work tools (April 17).  In
response, local authorities issued arrest warrants
against the Zapatista bases of support.  

The intensity of all of these attacks on indigenous
communities in the state suspiciously rose after Pablo
Salazar?s public assault on the Chiapas Community
Defenders Network. The fact that every incident of
paramilitary activity has been permitted by local and
state authorities, despite frequent denunciations by
the Community Defenders Network, and that local
governments have unquestioningly utilized false claims
to issue arrest warrants against EZLN bases of
support, attests to a collaborative effort on the part
of paramilitary groups, anti-Zapatista government
officials, and elements of the police to support Pablo
Salazar?s shift in strategy. 

3. Police and Military Troops Mobilize to Displace and
In addition to the marked increase in paramilitary
activity, the Federal Army -- under the command of
President Vicente Fox - with various Federal,
Preventive, Judicial and State police, recently moved
in to occupy communities in Zapatista territory. 

In Jolnixtie, Municipality of Tila, 120 elements of
the Federal Army occupied the streets and interrogated
local campesinos about the whereabouts and distances
of other communities as well as their activities. 
Since then the army, with elements of the Federal
Judicial and state Police, has patrolled the community
every other day and continues to occupy the schools in
Jolnixtie and Emiliano Zapata (03/01).  

In Nueva Esperanza, Autonomous Municipality of Vicente
Guerrero, 10 state Public Security police entered the
community intimidating locals and threatening to
return with additional forces (03/30).  

In addition to these attacks, state and federal
governments have renewed their plan (reiterated as
recently as April 4 by the Coordinator of the Montes
Azules Bioreserve) to displace over 1,500 indigenous
Chol, Tojolobal, Tseltal, and Tzotzil families from
the Montes Azules Bioreserve.  Communities in the
Autonomous Municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon
(situated in the bioreserve) denounced constant
overflights, incursions, and convoys of the Mexican
army and Federal Preventive Police into the
bio-reserve and their towns (02/23, 03/25). 

In 1972, then president Luis Echeverria ceded about
614,000 hectares of the Lacandon jungle to a small
group of Carib Indians from Campeche (who have since
then gone by the name of the Lacandons). This cession
of lands was made to the "Lacandons" despite the fact
that numerous competing claims to land in the region
had previously been filed by other indigenous groups
with larger populations. 

On September 12th, 2001 the "Lacandons" held a major
press conference in which, with the help of photos
provided by Conservation International (an
"environmental" organization that receives financial
support from Grupo Pulsar, Ford, McDonalds, and
Intel), they demanded the immediate and permanent
removal of 16 neighboring indigenous communities.  The
Mexican government has used the issue of Montes Azules
as a pretext to directly attack the EZLN (whose
communities of support make up more than 17 of the 35
communities cited for removal) so that it can open
this region for massive bio-prospecting projects and
foreign investment, much of which would take place
under Plan Puebla Panama. 

The displacement of these communities provide the
Mexican Army with the strategic advantage of
controlling the northern entrance into the Lacandon
Jungle and would symbolize the direct victory of
neoliberalism over indigenous autonomy.   

C. Three Still Unfulfilled Signs
17 months after the EZLN requested of the Mexican
government three signs as proof of its sincerity in
seeking dialogue, the signs have yet to be completely
fulfilled: 1) liberation of all Zapatista political
prisoners, 2) implementation of the San Andres Accords
(through the 1996 Cocopa proposal) and 3)
demilitarization of 7 key bases in the conflict zone.

1. Number of Zapatista Political Prisoners Rises to 24
EZLN base of support Salvador Lopez Gonzalez was
released last month after a judge formally recognized
his innocence (03/19).  According to the Chiapas
Community Defenders Network however, the number of
Zapatista political prisoners rose from 9 to 24.  The
16 additional prisoners were formally recognized as
EZLN prisoners by the autonomous communities from
which they came.  Furthermore, state authorities
issued over 8 arrest warrants against Zapatistas in
Tila and the Autonomous Municipality of Francisco

2. Indigenous Reform Still Under Debate
Even though indigenous organizations have filed over
330 legal complaints against the mutilated Indigenous
Reform (implemented last August), the Supreme Court of
Mexico has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the
"reform" and is postponing such ruling until June
(04/10).  Indigenous organizations pointed out that
the current Indigenous Reform not only violates the
Constitution of Mexico, Agrarian Law, and
international conventions on indigenous rights, but it
furthermore facilitates corporate exploitation of
indigenous land. 

In an attempt to "repair the error of having approved
the reform last year," 168 representatives of all
political parties (except the PAN) re-introduced to
the national Congress, the Cocopa Law -- the same
drawn up by the Cocopa based on the Accords signed
between the EZLN and the federal government six years
before (2/19).  Congress has yet to discuss the
proposal in session. 

3. Mexican Government Still Controls 2 of the 7
Demilitarized Bases 
One year after Vicente Fox claimed to have
demilitarized the 7 key bases in the conflict zone,
the government continues to control 2 of the 7 bases:
Amador Hernandez, and Rio Euseba.  Over one year ago
the Department of Agrarian Reform declared that the
land fomerly occupied by the military still "belonged"
to the military, even though troops had left
(03/24/01).  In violation of Mexican law and ILO
Convention 169, the federal government refuses to
return the land to the communities that previously
lived on it and furthermore maintains highly unpopular
"indigenous development centers" there.  

D. Human Rights Observation Visit
The International Civil Commission for the Observation
of Human Rights (CCIODH), made up of more than 100
members from 14 countries, made its third visit to
Chiapas in early March to follow up on the state?s
human rights record.  Before Salazar?s shift in
strategy became apparent, the CCIODH reported that
abuses against indigenous residents had increased
since their last visit.  Paramilitary presence and
military patrols reportedly continued in numerous
zones, most remarkably in the Ocosingo and border
regions (03/03).  

Government authorities seemed keen on keeping the
commission from meeting with political prisoners.
Human rights observers who attempted to visit the two
Zapatista prisoners in Queretaro were denied entrance
to the facility.  After the commission spoke with
three EZLN political prisoners at the San Cristobal
prison, the prisoners were punished with solitary

The commission also met with state Human Rights
Commissioner Pedro Raul Lopez Hernandez, whose house
was shot at mid-January after he denounced human
rights violations committed by the Salazar
administration in Marques de Comillas last August.


To read denuncias from indigenous communities and
their Defenders go to:
Chiapas Community Defenders Network (CCDN):
Enlace Civil: www.enlacecivil.org.mx

For further information on Plan Puebla Panama:
CIEPAC: www.ciepac.org/ppp.htm

Information Sources: denuncias by indigenous
communities, reports by the Chiapas Community
Defenders Network, Cuarto Poder, El Milenio, La
Jornada, AP, Expreso. 

Estacion Libre is a people of color organization in
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas working to promote
Zapatismo inspired community organizing in the US and
Canada.  We also maintain a permanent working space in
San Cristobal, Chiapas for use by activists from
communities of color.  
We can be contacted at: e-libre@tao.ca

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