Office of the Good-Government Council of Morelia © SIPAZ
ANALYSIS: Chiapas – Carrot and Stick?


From the 31st of December 2008 to the 5th of January 2009 the First Global Festival of Justified Rage is celebrated. The fifteenth anniversary of the EZLN’s uprising is observed in the Oventic Caracol. A series of round-table discussions and activities takes place starting on the 2nd of January in the CIDECI-University of the Earth, located in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. These are moderated by the EZLN and focus on the theme Another world, another politics.

10 February

Mexico is evaluated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in accordance with the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UNHRC makes 91 recommendations, 83 of which the Mexican Government accepts. The Government expresses reservations about the remaining eight, many of which repeat criticisms that have previously been expressed by civil-society organizations, for example: legal impunity and the measures that need to be put in place to address it (particularly with regard to questions of gender, indigenous communities, minors, and journalists), as well as the issue of military courts, the legal concept of arraigo (pre-charge detention), and the definition of “organized crime.”

11 February

The investigation by Mexico’s Supreme Court into the events in Atenco in May 2006 concludes that hundreds of people suffered abuses and that individual liberties and constitutional rights were seriously violated. The Court also finds that the 2,726 police involved in the case behaved “justifiably” but “in a manner that was excessive, disproportionate, inefficient, and indifferent.” However, the Governor of the State of Mexico, the Federal Minister for Public Security and other high-ranking officials are exonerated of all responsibility.

17 February

In light of the limited nature of the Supreme Court’s judgement, the National and International Campaign for Liberty and Justice in Atenco is launched. The organization seeks to involve civil society in order to put pressure on the three branches of federal government to exonerate and release the thirteen (remaining) prisoners in the Atenco case, as well as to punish those responsible for the abuses with an eye to the larger goal of arresting the process of criminalizing social protest.

Between the 18th and 23rd of February, three prisoners from the Voice of Los Llanos and one from the Voice of Amate are released. Only one of those imprisoned who engaged in a hunger strike the previous year remains imprisoned: Alberto Patishtan Gómez (incarcerated since June 2000), a member of the Voice of Amate. Because his case is in the federal court, his appeal has to follow a different route.

23 February

The Defence Ministry’s Director-General for Human Rights, Brigadier General Jaime Antonio López Portillo expresses his opinion that the military’s behaviour with regard to human rights “is acceptable”. This is despite the fact that military presence in the country has increased, reportedly to fight organized crime (some 45,000 soldiers are said to be deployed daily). López Portillo further remarks that “not many” complaints have been filed against soldiers the previous year. Several NGOs criticize his comments, claiming that there can be no “acceptable” level of human-rights violations.

26 February

The Council of Good Government in Oventic denounces the incursion of federal troops into the caracol as well as overflights by helicopters and planes in the region.

7 and 8 March

A meeting of Zapatista women takes place in the caracol of Oventic to mark International Women’s Day. The meeting is dedicated to Doña Concepción García de Corral, or Mamá Corral.

27 March

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) releases a report in which it expresses its concern “because in some countries of the region military justice continues to be employed in the investigation and judgement of common crimes perpetrated by members of the armed forces and police. The IACHR repeats that the employment of military jurisdiction must remain exceptional and should be used only for crimes pertaining to its function.”

27 March

In Chiapas, a special prosecutor’s office is created specializing in the Protection of Non-Governmental Organizations in Defence of Human Rights. The office is created at the behest of the state government, after having accepted a recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) regarding delays in investigating aggressive acts directed in October 2006 at the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre .

13 April

Six indigenous Tseltals, supporters of The Other Campaign and residents of the San Sebastián Bachajón Ejido located in the municipality of Chilón, are detained by forces of the State Preventive Police (PEP). The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre denounces their arbitrary arrest and subsequent torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment to which the Tseltals are subjected, as well as violations of their judicial rights.

15 April

Some 3,000 Catholics from various municipalities of the Chiapas mountains demonstrate in favour of the cancellation of 56 permits for mineral exploitation that had been granted to Canadian and US firms.

15 April

Members of The Other Campaign from the San Sebastián Bachajón Ejido set up a roadblock at the crossroads at Agua Azul to call for the release of their six detained comrades. The roadblock is removed by the protesters two days later to avoid confrontations. Police then arrive and reportedly steal money and documents that the supporters of The Other Campaign had stored in a toll booth at the entrance to the Agua Azul waterfalls tourist centre, built when the Agua Azul waterfalls was occupied on June 18 2008.

19 April

Miguel Vázquez Moreno, a member of a Support Base of the EZLN, is detained at the crossroads of Agua Azul on the same grounds that were used to arrest the six Tseltals on 13 April. Vázquez Moreno is released a few days later.

21 April

The Mediation Committee between the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and the government declares its mission to be finished after a year’s work. This occurs after its attempt to identify the status of two EPR militants who were thought to have been disappeared.

23 April

With 287 votes in favour and one in opposition, the House of Deputies approves a constitutional reform on human rights. While it is recognised that this is a move forward, several human-rights organizations voice concern that several outstanding issues have not been addressed, including the relative standing of obligations in international treaties ratified by the Mexican government, the repair of damages for state misdemeanours, collective entitlement to rights, the obligation to comply with international sentences and recommendations, or the elimination of military courts.

26 April

The National Network of Civil Organizations for Human Rights “All Rights for All” presents a document that identifies at least 41 cases during the last two years of police repression, arbitrary detentions, inter-communal confrontations, and harassment and assassination of ecological defenders in thirteen states of the Republic, including Chiapas. The report stresses that the work of resource-defenders in the country (including water, land, forests, minerals, and biodiversity) has become increasingly risky, as such actions negatively affect the interests of governments, caciques, and transnational corporations.

End of April

The beginning of the AH1N1 virus health emergency highlights the risks of factory farming of animals, a process which is dominated by large transnational companies, as well as the structural failures of the health system in Mexico In this context, the Congress approves changes to the National Security Law that allow the declaration of an “internal security situation” which in turn would allow the executive branch to declare a state of emergency without prior approval from Congress.

7 May

The Morelia Council of Good Government publishes a new communiqué demanding the immediate release of the detainees from Bachajón and denouncing the “counter-insurgency campaign” launched by the Sabines Government en various municipalities in the Zot’z Choj zone.

17 May

Representatives of twenty organizations from seven Mexican states found the National Network of Civil Resistance Against High Electricity Prices in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

18 May

An Open Forum for Reflexion and Analysis is held in San Cristóbal de Las Casas on the subject of Threats against the Land and Territory of Indigenous People and Peasants in South East Mexico“.

28 May

The Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Centre (CDHFBC) releases its annual report, which records 675 violations of individual rights in Chiapas in 2008.

30 May

Members of The Other Campaign from the San Sebastián Bachajón Ejido hold a march in Ocosingo demanding the freeing of the members of the ejido detained in April.

9 June

Las Abejas organise Days of Action for Justice and Truth undert the title:Acteal: eleven years of impunity – how many more?

11 June

Mexico appears once again before the United Nations Human Rights Council, where it again refuses to accept the recommendations from the Council’s Universal Periodic Review, published in February. The recommendations deal with issues such as the use of military courts, the legal concept of arraigo (pre-charge detention), the definition of organized crime, and concerns regarding impunity.

14 June

Release of the Ostula Manifesto, a document compiled by indigenous communities from nine states of the Republic that attended the 25th meeting of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in the Central – Pacific region. In face of governmental and paramilitary repression and neoliberal policies “of denigration, discrimination, destruction, and death,” the indigenous communities once again assert their right to self-defence, to protect their lands and natural resources.

20 and 21 June

The Americas Meeting Against Impunity takes place in the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia. The meeting is attended by delegations from fifteen countries in the continent, as well as by Europeans and Australians. Impunity is repeatedly denounced as a common occurrence in Latin America in the past and present.


The Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Centre, the National Front in the Struggle for Socialism, and the NGO Maderas de Pueblo del Sureste denounce several incidents of harassment of human-rights defenders, including death-threats directed at them.

5 July

Elections are held for 1500 public offices in the country. Voter abstention reaches 55.19%, with 5.4% null votes. The null-vote movement had generated significant support in the run-up to the elections. The low participation rate notwithstanding, the results represent significant change compared to the end of the previous decade. In spite of losing control of the House of Deputies, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, the party that held power for more than 70 years until 2000) carries the day. Out of a total of 500 seats in the House, the PRI wins 237. It also wins five of the six governorships that were up for election.

9 July

Five of the seven Tseltal members of The Other Campaign from the municipality of San Sebastián Bachajón who had been detained near Agua Azul in April are released. Since May they had been incarcerated in El Amate Prison, after having spent several weeks in pre-charge detention at Chiapa de Corzo.

14 July

José Luis Soberanes, President of the National Human Rights Commission says the following in a speech to the federal Congress: “It is of concern that the deployment of federal forces has failed to halt the violence created by organized crime and drug-trafficking. On the contrary, there have been innumerable complaints regarding alleged abuses of innocent persons.” As the Commission reports, since the beginning of Calderón´s administration, more than 1,600 complaints have been registered against the military for crimes such as arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, sexual abuse, arbitrary detention, and excessive use of force and of firearms.

21 July

An attack takes place in Mitzitón Ejido in San Cristóbal de Las Casas municipality which leaves one dead and five injured. All the victims are Tzotzil members of the ejido and supporters of the The Other Campaign called by the EZLN

30 July

Supporters of The Other Campaign from the Mitzitón Ejido set up a road-block to advance their grievances: the rejection of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas-Palenque highway (which is expected to cross the Mitzitón Ejido), the free self-determination of communities, and immediate justice for Aurelio Díaz Hernández, who was run over on the 21st of July.

31 July

Chiapas becomes the first state in the world to include in its constitution the need to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

7 and 8 August

The Second National Meeting of Human Rights Defenders takes place in Mexico City. The meeting’s participants identify a number of common characteristics regarding the human-rights situation in the country, including“the criminalization of the activities of human-rights defenders, especially through the use of legal sanctions against those claiming their rights; systematic aggression directed at protesters by police; harassment” as well as “campaigns that seek to denigrate the work of human-rights defenders and social activists.”

9 August

During the close of a United States-México-Canada summit, Felipe Calderón claims that his government “scrupulously” honours its obligations in the realm of human rights and further comments that “whoever thinks otherwise needs to cite an example, just one example.” In response, five human rights organizations send him a letter describing seven cases of rights violations carried out against civilians by the Mexican military. All these cases occurred while Calderón was President.

10 – 11 August

Las Abejas undertake aDay of Action for Justice and Truth“, in an attempt to prevent the freeing of those convicted for the 1997 Acteal Massacre. Various national and international human rights organisations support them.

12 August

The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation(SCJN) upholds the appeal of 26 indigenous men, convicted of the killing of 45 people in Acteal on 22 December 1997 in Chenalhó municipality in the Chiapas highlands, who have been incarcerated for more than eleven years. The next day, twenty of the men are released from prison, while the remaining six face a re-trial. Demonstrating political realism, the Chiapas government attempts to prevent the return of the formerly incarcerated to Chenalhó so as to avoid confrontations. Toward this end, it offers the ex-prisoners land, housing, and work elsewhere. Las Abejas [from Acteal] denounce this. In August Las Abejas also publicly announce that the state government has been attempting to divide their organization, and using paramilitaries to harass them.

16 August

Alberto Brunori, representative in Mexico of the Office of the United Nations High Commisionner for Human Rights, visits Chenalhó and the families and survivors of the Acteal Massacre.

17 August

Mariano Abarca, opponent of mining activities in Chicomuselo in the Sierra of Chiapas, is detained for having participated in a sit-in that since June has been hindering the activities of Blackfire, a Canadian-owned transnational corporation. He is released a week later, though harassment of members of the anti-mining movement continues, as seen at the Mexican Network of Those Affected by Mining (REMA) which takes place in Chicomuselo on the 29th and 30th of August, where police officers attempt to pass themselves off as journalists.

20 August

Supporters of The Other Campaign in three communities (Mitzitón, Jotalá and the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón) affected by the construction of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas-Palenque Highway and the Palenque Central Integral Project demand an end to the repression directed against them for defending their territory.

20 August

Confirming what many human-rights groups have been claiming for more than a decade, several official U.S. government documents are released by the National Security Archive, detailing direct support given by the Mexican military to paramilitary groups during counter-insurgency operations directed at the Zapatistas in the 1990s.

28 August

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights denounces new acts of harrassment against the Centre’s staff as well as communities and organisations with which it works.

In August The federal government’s efforts to emphasise it is complying with the required conditions are sufficient to convince the United States to release US$ 214 million earmarked under the Plan Merida to support Mexico in its struggle against organised crime.

7 September

Las Abejas of Acteal publish an open letter to the Governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines Guerrero, rejecting his invitation to them to meet with his representatives.

11 September

The second stage of the Campaign for Freedom and Justice for Atenco is launched in Acteal.

16 September

More than a thousand members of the National Front in the Struggle for Socialism (FNLS) march from Mazapa de Madero to Motozintla in the Chiapas Sierra to express their “firm rejection of mining activity” in their territories.

18 September

The Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Centre (CDHFBC) denounces an armed attack against one of its members by the Organization for the Defence of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC) which occurred in the Jotolá Ejido, a municipality of Chilón. This latest act, a direct attack on one of Frayba’s members, takes place in the context of attacks by various actors including the media on the work of defending human rights. Two months after the attack, the perpetrators are arrested but shortly after are released, due in large part to threats made by the people of Jotolá promising revenge.

26 September

The premises of the K’inal Antsetik [Womens’ Land] Centre for the Education and Training of Women in San Cristóbal de Las Casas suffer an arson attack.

30 September

José Manuel Hernández Martínez, also known asDon Chema is arrested in the 28 June community in Venustiano Carranza municipality.

2 and 3 October

A forum on Women’s Perspectives in the Face of Militarisation is held in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

12 October

The Las Abejas Civil Society denounces acts of harassment on the part of the state government.

13 October

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Mexico criticizes Mexican authorities for their failure to establish a political environment that reduces or eliminates risks to human rights activists. The High Commissioner claims that of the 128 reports on aggressions suffered by human-rights defenders in Mexico in the past three years, 98.5% have gone unresolved. The UNHCHR notes an increasing “stigmatization” of defenders, especially by state authorities, and also notes various accusations, for instance that they are “defenders of criminals”, that they are trying to de-stabilize the country, or that they make money from the cases and exaggerating problems only to gain political power.

14 October

The Supreme Court releases a report on human-rights violations by the Mexican authorities in Oaxaca during 2006 and 2007. With this it can be concluded that the Governor of Oaxaca at the time Ulises Ruíz Ortiz bears responsibility for these violations.

Starting on October 26th, some 150 members of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization-Carranza Region (OCEZ – RC) start a sit-in in the centre of San Cristóbal de Las Casas to denounce political and military intimidation in their region and to demand the release of its leaders who were arrested in September and October. On October 30th, participants in the protest occupy the offices of the United Nations in San Cristóbal.

29 October

The Chiapas State Attorney General’s Office says it has in its possession evidence that could implicate several high-ranking officials at both state and federal levels for omission and negligence in the Acteal case.

4 November

The Supreme Court orders the immediate and unconditional freeing of nine people sentenced for taking part in the Acteal Massacre. A further sixteen are granted an appeal, including two people who had confessed to taking part in the killing.

8 November

At 3.30am eighteen police officers armed with rifles but dressed as civilians and wearing balaclavas suddenly enter the house of Adolfo Guzmán Ordaz (member of the organisation Networking, Training and Communication) and his family in the city of Comitán.

9 November

The National Front for the Struggle for Socialism announces the start of aNational campaign to denounce and reject the criminalisation of peoples’ struggleswhich will last until 15 December.

10 November

Judicial authorities in Chiapas free four of those accused (and detained on 4 November) of attacks against a lawyer of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights and indigenous supporters of The Other Campaign. The attacks were carried out in the Jotolá Ejido (Chilón municipality) on 18 September. A number of new threats are made.

10 – 13 November

The Fifth Meeting for Builders of Peace and Reconciliation is held in the community of Taniperla.

14 November

The newspaper La Jornada publishes parts of the report “The ongoing situation in the municipality Venustiano Carranza,” produced by the State Attorney General’s Office which documents the existence of a “subversive network” that is said to be planning acts of destabilization in 2010. The leader of the network is said to be the Catholic parish priest of Venustiano Carranza, Jesús Landín.

15 November

The Roberto Barrios Good Government Council (Northern Zone of Chiapas) publishes a statement denouncing a series of threats and attacks against it, and in particular against the Zapatista centre of autonomous education that works in Roberto Barrios.

23 November

Three leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ-RC) are released on bail paid for by the State government, which seeks to re-open negotiations by suspending the remaining arrest warrants. Initial negotiations between OCEZ-RC and the state government are arranged for November 26th.

25 November

Deputies from the Chiapas Congress state their intention of approving measures recognising the legality of the Zapatista Councils of Good Government. They say that the Zapatista communities have asked for this to be carried out, a claim that the Councils of Good Government dismiss as a lie the following day.

25 November

To mark International Day of the Elimation of Violence Against Women, women from independent organisations, indigenous people, members of The Other Campaign, trade unionists and international observers march through the streets of San Cristobal de Las Casas in order to draw attention to the violence that women continue to suffer.

27 November

Mariano Abarca, an anti-mining campaigner, is killed by an unknown assassin who attacks him at the entrance of his house.


Several raids and incursions into the area around surrounding Venustiano Carranza, the border area of the Lacandon Rainforest, and the Chiapas highlands are denounced on the anniversary of the founding of the EZLN.

6 December

Around 850 people from Catholic communities take part in a pilgrimage in Venustiano Carranza, denouncing mining activities as well as lies and abuses of power that are taking place at the current time.

9 December

Fifty demonstrators with masks and photos of the anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero, recently assassinated in Chicomuselo, protest during the visit of the Governor General of Canada to San Cristobal de Las Casas.

15 December

Adolfo Guzmán Ordaz, who was working with the organisation Networking, Communication and Training in the city of Comitan de Dominguez receives death threats at his home. On the previous 8 November his house had been raided in the early hours by state police.

21 and 22 December

On the anniversary of the Acteal massacre a Forum of Hope and Conscience, Building An Other Justice takes place in Acteal.

23 December

After having reached agreements with the state government on political, economic, and social issues, the OCEZ-RC suspends the sit-in which it had undertaken in San Cristóbal for two months.

29 December

The local Congress approves a law on Indigenous Rights for the State of Chiapas, an act which generates considerable controversy.