Zapatismo News Update-May 11, 1997

Joshua Paulson (joshua@peak.org)
Mon, 12 May 1997 14:58:09 -0500


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*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--May 11, 1997

A service of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation.

More information regarding the FZLN and the Zapatista struggle in Mexico can be found at: http://www.peak.org/~joshua/fzln (English) http://spin.com.mx/~floresu/FZLN (Spanish)

This and previous news updates can also be found at: http://www.peak.org/~joshua/fzln/news.html

Please send comments to: joshua@peak.org

____________________________________________________________________

NEWS SUMMARY FOR MAY 1-11, 1997: =20 1. Joaqu=EDn Coldwell meets with Conai, Cocopa 2. Displaced families from Palenque, El Bosque attempt to return home 3. Indigenous organizations call for an end to the official "consultations" on the creation of new municipalities in Chiapas 4. 12 international observers in Chiapas "invited" to leave the country =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 Joaqu=EDn Coldwell Meets with the CONAI and the COCOPA =20 =20 The new head of the federal government's negotiating team in Chiapas, Pedro Joaqu=EDn Coldwell, has been holding "informal" meetings with the National Intermediation Commission (CONAI) and the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) this past week, in order to discuss the possibilities for reducing the level of violence in the north of Chiapas. =20 Coldwell was named on April 27th as the replacement for former chief negotiator Marco Antonio Bernal, who resigned in order to seek an elected congressional seat in the upcoming July elections. =20 While no commitments have yet been made by Coldwell or the government, the Cocopa has made a proposal to install a new negotiating table for the resolution of the problems in the north of Chiapas, similar to that installed late last year to defuse the internal situtation in San Andr=E9s Sacamch'en de los Pobres. The negotiations would involve the direct participation of the Cocopa, the Conai, the federal government, the EZLN, the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia, and representatives of the legislative and executive branches of the state government. =20 The next meeting between Coldwell and the Cocopa, in which they are expected to discuss the violence in the north of Chiapas, as well as the conditions necessary for a resumption of the dialogue between the EZLN and the federal government, is scheduled to be held on May 14th in Mexico City. =20 Meanwhile, individual members of the Cocopa are continuing to speak about the possibility of convoking an extraordinary session of Congress in order to discuss national legislation and constitutional reforms on Indigenous Rights and Culture. PRI deputy (and Cocopa member) Jaime Mart=EDnez Veloz announced this possibility during the May 7th presentation of a new issue of the magazine Este Pais, dealing exclusively with issues relating to indigenous rights. =20 PRD legislators Juan Guerra and H=E9ctor S=E1nchez, also members of the Cocopa, announced separately that if the EZLN and the federal government cannot reach consensus on a constitutional reform proposal, then it would be the task of the Cocopa to convoke an extraordinary session of Congress to present their original proposal, approved by the Zapatistas last December but essentially vetoed by the executive branch of the federal government in January. =20 In related news, the state congress of Chiapas replaced its representative in the Cocopa during a surprise action on April 30th, in which only seven legislators were present. By a vote of five to one with one abstention, Dep. Juan Roque Flores--a constitutional law expert who had previously been elected to the position by a unanimous vote of all 40 members in the state congress--was replaced by the pri=EDsta Carlos Alonso Hern=E1ndez. =20 The move came as a surprise to the Cocopa and to Roque Flores himself, who was in a meeting with the CONAI in San Crist=F3bal at the time of the vote, and wasn't informed of the decision until much later. The Cocopa, for its part, issued a declaration praising the work of Roque Flores, and denounced the fact that his replacement was not agreed upon by a full plenary session of congress, nor by consensus among the five political parties represented there. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 DISPLACED FAMILIES FROM EL BOSQUE, PALENQUE ATTEMPT TO RETURN TO THEIR COMMUNITIES =20 85 pro-Zapatista families from San Pedro Nixtalucum (municipality of El Bosque)--exiled following an attack by public security forces on their community last March 14th, leaving four Zapatistas dead and 24 imprisoned--attempted to return to their homes on May 9th, but were instead turned back by local leaders of the PRI party and state police. =20 The 350 civilian Zapatistas notified state authorities about their plans the day before they returned to San Pedro, hoping for assurances that they would not be harassed or attacked when they tried to enter their community. =20 "Our displaced families of the community have been suffering", they said in a letter to state officials, "and thus we have decided to return to our community. No one has the right to take away our goods, those things which belong to us. No one can pull us off of our land or from our homes. =20 "We continue with the will for reconciliation in our community; there is still much for all of us to discuss", they added. =20 Nevertheless, when they arrived in San Pedro Nixtalucum at noon on May 9th, they were met by local leaders of the PRI and public security forces who denied them the right to return to their homes, saying that "no one can be made responsible for the security of any person who decides to remain in this village". =20 After four hours of negotiations and discussions, the Zapatista families decided not to take any action which could be viewed as a provocation, and began their journey back to the municipal seat of San Juan El Bosque. =20 Meanwhile, in San Pedro Nixtalucum itself, the public security forces seem to have taken full control over the community in the absence of true authorities, and have even seized the local schoolhouse for use as their police headquarters. Furthermore, according to the Fray Bartolom=E9 de las Casas Human Rights Center, the police been giving military training to young members of the PRI in San Pedro, in order to bolster paramilitary groups such as Paz y Justicia in the region. =20 =20 In related news, the campesinos of Xi'Nich who were driven out of their homes near Palenque on March 7th by public security forces on the landholdings known as "Emiliano Zapata" and "Plan de Ayala"--peacefully occupied and farmed by Xi'Nich since February of 1994--have decided to re-occupy those lands and return to what is left of their homes. =20 The campesinos returned quietly at dawn on May 7th, arguing that the lands they were violently removed from two months ago "are the only alternative" they have left in order to survive, and affirmed that they will steadfastly resist any future attempts to remove them by force. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 INDIGENOUS ORGANIZATIONS, PRD CALL FOR AN END TO THE OFFICIAL REMUNICIPALIZATION PROCESS IN CHIAPAS =20 Following another failed attempt by the state government of Chiapas to carry out a "consultation" in the municipality of Ocosingo regarding the creation of new municipalities in the region, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and five indigenous-campesino organizations in Ocosingo and Las Margaritas have joined the calls of the EZLN and the CONAI to end such unilateral actions on the part of the government, which violate the San Andr=E9s Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture. =20 On May 7th, state PRI deputy Antonio Gonz=E1lez--president of the Special Legislative Commission for Municipal Reform, Redistricting, and Remunicipalization--led a small group of state officials to the community of Damasco (in Ocosingo) for what was supposed to be the fifth consultation carried out by the Commission in order to discuss the redistricting process. =20 However, before Gonz=E1lez's helicopter arrived, hundreds of members and sympathizers of the EZLN from Damasco and surrounding communities showed up at the ejido, and rolled a truck onto the small air strip which would serve as the helicopter's landing pad. When the helicopter finally arrived, the landing area filled with people, thus preventing it from landing. After circling the community several times, Gonz=E1lez and his entourage were forced to return to Tuxtla Guti=E9rrez. =20 This was the third consecutive time in the past two months in which members of independent indigenous-campesino organizations and supporters of the EZLN have disrupted or blocked the consultation process, arguing that the unilateral way in which it is being carried out can only further divide the communities in the so-called "conflict zone" of southeast Chiapas, and will likely have a negative effect on the upcoming July elections. =20 Following the events in Damasco, deputies in the state congress representing the center-left PRD opposition party--which pulled out of the redistricting commission on April 17th--demanded a full halt to the consultations for the same reasons cited above. Their call was echoed shortly thereafter by five important indigenous-campesino organizations in the zone. =20 The ARIC-Independiente, Tres Nudos, CNPI, ORCAO, and CIOAC all signed a document on May 10th addressed to the state congress, insisting that "the remunicipalization should be the product of consensus", and that they will "not accept any imposition regarding the creation of new municipalities carried out by the State". =20 Nevertheless, PRI deputy Antonio Gonz=E1lez declared that his congressional commission on redistricting and remunicipalization will continue to carry out the consultations in "non-Zapatista" communities, regardless of the mounting opposition to the commission's actions. =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 12 INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS "INVITED" TO LEAVE MEXICO =20 On May 1st, immigration authorities in San Crist=F3bal de las Casas "invited" a delegation of 12 European human rights observers to leave the country within 48 hours, under the charge of having "participated in activities not authorized in their visa of entry into national territory". =20 The "invitation" to leave--which technically is one step short of actual expulsion--came about following the foreigners' accompaniment, as neutral observers, of the caravan-march of representatives of displaced Chol communities in the north of Chiapas, which arrived in Tuxtla Guti=E9rrez on April 28th in order to demand, among other things, and end to the recurring political violence in the region. =20 While representatives of the marchers confirm that the Europeans--who come from Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and Holland--never took part in the march, but merely observed, the immigration authorities insist that their signatures on a statement to the press detailing their observations confirm that they "engaged in political activities". =20 While most of the 12 observers have now returned to their countries of origin (four were actually detained and deported on May 6th), a few have stayed to fight their "invitations to leave" in Mexican courts--and seem to be setting a new precedent for regulating the activities of Mexican immigration authorities. =20 On May 2nd, with the help of nationally-known human rights attorney Miguel Angel de los Santos (one of the defense lawyers who achieved freedom for the presumed-Zapatista prisoners arrested during the government's military offensive on February 9th, 1995), an appeal was officially set in motion against the "invitations" to leave Mexico. =20 As of this writing, no final "sentence" on the status of the remaining three observers has been issued; however, the official National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has intervened in the process on behalf of three of the observers still in San Crist=F3bal: Eduardo Ferr=EDn= Iglesias and Bozzo Pere Bargallo (both of Spanish origin), and Patrice Geerlin (from Holland). The CNDH called on the National Migration Institute (INM) to adopt "cautious measures" in order to avoid "irreparable violations" of the human rights of foreign visitors. As a result of the INM's acceptance of these "cautious measures", the three foreigners have been granted permission to remain in the country until their appeal has fully run its course. =20 According to De los Santos, the acceptance by the immigration authorities of the CNDH's intervention is nothing short of precedent-setting: "[The INM] is not accustomed to acting in accordance with the law, and regularly violates individual guarantees", he said. "At will, it seizes migratory documents; it interrogates foreigners as if they were responsible for crimes, without considering the principal of the presumption of innocence; and without any further explanation gives them short periods in which to leave the country. For all of these illegalities, which violate human rights, it was possible for the CNDH to intervene." =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, El Financiero, and La Cr=F3nica. =20 The primary responsibility for the content of this news page lies with its author, Joshua Paulson, and not necessarily with the Zapatista Front of National Liberation. _________________________________________________________________ =20 Comments: joshua@peak.org

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