SIPAZ Activities (From mid-August to mid-November 2010)
30/12/2010
Don Samuel Ruiz García © Friar Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center
ARTICLE : BEYOND CHIAPAS – The legacy of Don Samuel Ruiz García (1924-2011)
28/02/2011

2010

13 January

The federal Congress sets the direction for the work of the COCOPA (Commission for Negotiation and Peace), a body of legislators created in 1995 to adjudicate in negotiations between the EZLN and the federal government. The PRD Senator, Carlos Navarrete states that the Commision will work to prevent further armed uprisings, and that it is important not to wait for things to get worse. He adds that it is important to pay attention to the situation in Chiapas and to make sure that the government attends to the state’s needs. At the beginning of January, members of the Commission visit Chiapas in order to make contact with all the actors with direct or indirect links to the EZLN to invite them to re-join negotiations.

22 January

Around 120 indigenous people who had been living in the villages of El Semental and San Pedro in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve are evicted by federal police, soldiers and agents of the Federal Agency for Environmental Protection. The state government says that the eviction was peaceful and that the families in question will be re-located. On 26 January it announces that in order to re-forest the area and to establish a centre for eco-tourism it will remove a further seven settlements.

In contradiction of this version of events, on 29 January the La Garrucha Council of Good Government releases a communiqué denouncing the violent eviction of the Laguna San Pedro community, stating that the Zapatista inhabitants were forcibly taken to the city of Palenque in helicopters while their houses and all their belongings were burnt to the ground.

25 January

The 50th anniversary of Don Samuel Ruiz’s ordination as bishop is celebrated (he was first Bishop, and then Bishop Emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas) .

6 February

A new confrontation takes place in the Bolon Ajaw area in the municipality of Tumbalá, between supporters of the EZLN and members of the Organisation for the Defence of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC). It leaves one person dead, 28 injured, and five people detained. Contradictory accounts of what happened emerge.

11 February

The Morelia Council of Good Government makes a statement clarifying what happened in Bolon Ajaw.

12 February

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights releases a statement, saying that “the government of Chiapas is trying to evade responsibility for the the conflict which it has stirred up since 2007, and is trying to blame the Zapatista supporters themselves for the armed attack on the Zapatista village of Bolon Ajaw.” The Centre denounces the fact that “the federal government is increasing the pressure in order to start a military intervention against the Zapatistas, and also increasing intelligence gathering operations.”

25 February

In San Cristóbal de Las Casas Margarita Martínez, the wife of Adolfo Guzman Ordaz suffers an attack and arbitrary deprivation of her freedom by unidentified persons. They beat her and threaten her, insisting she withdraws a legal case against officials of the Chiapas Government. The attack occurs just 35 hours after a reconstruction of the breaking into of her house, which took place in November 2009.

28 February

A new confrontation takes place in Mitzitón, when the community authorities seize the timber from five trees cut down by their evangelical neighbours without permission.

3 March

The La Garrucha Council of Good Government denounces the Organisation for the Defence of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC) for threats and violent incursions against the Zapatista community of Casa Blanca and Santo Domingo, whose lands come under the authority of the La Garrucha caracol.

5 – 6 March

The Montes Azules Social Forum takes place at the Candelaria Ejido, in the municipality of Ocosingo and in the heart of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. 200 people take part, including indigenous people who face the threat of expulsion from the area as well as social organisations and citizens from the rest of the country.

8 March

To mark International Women’s Day, around 500 female and male supporters of The Other Campaign take part in a march and protest meeting outside the Cathedral in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. A march also takes place from Yabteclum to Acteal in the municipality of Chenalhó; a statement condemning the role of the Army in Chiapas politics is read out in public in front of the Mexican Army base at Polhó (on the route of the march).

9 March

The Las Abejas Civil Association releases a statement rejecting the state government’s call for dialogue which was recently repeated on 27 February in advertisements placed in the media.

16 March

Zapatista supporters from the Amaytik Ranch in the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magón are chased and threatened with being killed or driven away by 200 members of the Organisation for the Defence of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC).

24 March

Supporters of The Other Campaign in Mitzitón in the municipality of San Cristóbal end their blockade of the highway which they had started the previous day after the detention of their comrade Manuel Díaz Heredia by agents of the federal Attorney General’s Office. They release two policemen and three officials from the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) who they had taken prisoner at the same time that Díaz Heredia was detained in order to secure his release. Díaz Heredia is released the following day.

27 March

The national daily newspaper Reforma publishes an article in which an alleged former high-ranking member of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) “reveals” a supposed link between the EZLN and the Basque separatist organisation, ETA. The article includes various photos supposedly giving details of the structure of the movement, its finances, arms and the international support it receives.

March

Serious concerns about the the state of human rights in Mexico are raised by the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, the US State Department and the Plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (the latter, in a resolution entitled “Escalating violence in Mexico”).

9 April

The Movement of Popular Resistance in the South East announces the creation of the Digna Ochoa Grassroots Committee for Human Rights in Chiapas, with a presence in Petalcingo and Tumbalá in the northern zone of Chiapas.

11 April

Thousands of peasants from the Tila Ejido march through the city in support of their right to their lands, calling for legal rulings that have found in their favour to be implemented, and denouncing multiple cases of harassment they have suffered and the criminalization of their protests.

30 April

The La Realidad Council of Good Government issues a statement denouncing “the new evictions Calderón is organising in Zapatista communities in order to make a breach which will close off the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve… as the EZLN, we will not allow another eviction, nor will we allow further actions [against us] and even less will we give up. We will defend our lands come what may, because for us the land is not for renting nor for leasing out, let alone something that can be sold.”

11 May

The Emiliano Zapata Peasants Organisation (OCEZ – Casa del Pueblo) starts a strong protest movement in the Venustiano Carranza area which leads to the closing of federal, state and municipal offices as well as the banks. The demonstrators demand the freeing of four prisoners who have been in gaol for the last nine years, accused of the murders of eight members of the San Bartolomé de los Llanos organisation. In spite of this, the protests are hardly reported in the media.

12 May

5 Tzeltal peasants, belonging to the Zapatista support bases from Ranchería Amaytic who had been detained in the municipal prison at Ocosingo the day before are freed without charge by the authorities. They had first been apprehended by inhabitants of the Peña Limonar Ejido.

22 May

The Las Abejas Civil Association publishes a statement opposing the construction of new Rural Cities in Chiapas like the one being constructed in Santiago El Pinar. The statement also denounces the intention of the government to create another Rural City in Chenalhó municipality. Both sites are in the Chiapas highlands.

22 May

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights publishes its annual report on the current state of affairs in Chiapas.

1 June

OCEZ – Casa del Pueblo ends its sit-in in front of the offices of the United Nations in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and hands them over to the local authorities, along with other public and private offices that it had occupied. The Governor of Chiapas, Juan Sabines, commits himself to respond to their demands within a month.

10 June

The Roberto Barrios Council of Good Government denounces the attempt by a group of provocateurs to take over the Choles de Tumbalá Zapatista community near Palenque.

11 June

Nataniel Hernández Núñez, Director of the Digna Ochoa Centre for Human Rights in the city of Tonalá faces an investigation for the charge of “attacking a public highway”, for having been present as a human rights observer at a demonstration the previous April by the Autonomous Regional Council of the Coastal Zone.

21 June

A confrontation takes place between Zapatista supporters and members of the PRI and PRD who were threatening to cut off water and electricity supplies to the community of El Pozo in San Juan Cancuc. The confrontation leaves one dead on the PRI/PRD side.

26 June

Violence occurs in the community of Nachig in Zinacantán municipality near San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the Chiapas highlands, in the context of the local municipal elections. Two people are killed, twenty injured and fifteen houses and thirty vehicles are burnt.

4 July

Elections for Chiapas’ 118 municipalities and the state congress are marked by violence and vote-buying. The alliance “Unity for Chiapas” (made up of the PAN, PRD and Convergencia parties) wins the major cities in the state. Of 118 municipalities, it wins a majority in 55 town halls; the PRI is left with 41, won either with its own candidates or in alliance with the Mexico Green Ecological Party.

5 July

For five days, members of the Mitzitón Ejido who are supporters of The Other Campaign block the Panamerican Highway along the stretch that links San Cristóbal de Las Casas with Comitán. They demand the re-location of the group of “non co-operators” belonging to the Army of God group, who are linked to the Wings of the Eagle evangelical church outside the community. The blockade is lifted after a meeting with representatives of the state government who commit to resolving the demands raised by the ejido members from The Other Campaign.

14 July

A conference entitled “Flight Plan Towards Sustainable Biofuels for Aviation in Mexico” is held in Tuxtla Gutierrez in which the state government announces that Chiapas has developed the cultivation of biofuels to a greater extent than any other state in Mexico, with 50,000 hectares dedicated to the production of palm oil and 10,000 for jatropha oil.

16 July

A number of arrests are carried out in Tuxtla Gutierrez, including several teachers from the Democratic Teachers Block of the 7th Section of the National Union of Education Workers, Doctor Victor Hugo Zavaleta of the 50th Section of the National Union of the Health Ministry, and the leader of the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organisation, Caralampio Gomez Hernandez, along with six members of the same organisation.

22 July

The Las Abejas Civil Association denounces the Rural Cities: “even if officially they deny it, the bad state and municipal governments know that plans have already been made to construct rural cities in Chenalhó; many people believe that this is development, but many others don’t want to accept this mega-project. We’re not the only ones that know that this project is part of the Project Mesoamerica, formerly known as the Plan Puebla-Panamá”

The same day the Emiliano Zapata Peasants Organisation – Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC) denounces the arrival in one of its communities the previous day of a vehicle belonging to the Department for the Navy.

23 July

Journalists Isain Mandujano and Angeles Mariscal, Chiapas correspondents for the magazine Proceso and the Mexico City daily La Jornada respectively, denounce a campaign to defame them and discredit their work. They note the active participation in this campaign by media dependent on the Chiapas state government.

28 July

Members of organisations awarding the Tatic Samuel jCanan Lum Award, and of those organisations that were previously awarded the prize, try to visit teacher Alberto Patishtan Gomez who is a prisoner in San Cristóbal’s prison and also a recipient of the award. Despite having authorisation from the state government, the director of the prison refuses them entry.

30 July

The Morelia Council of Good Government denounces aggressions by members of the Independent Movement of Agricultural Workers and Peasants (CIOAC-I) against Zapatista supporters in Campo Alegre on 29 July.

End of July

The People’s Front for the Defence of the Land from San Salvador Atenco wins the freedom of twelve of its members who had been imprisoned as a result of the confrontation with municipal, state and federal police in May 2006.

4 August

The case of Alberto Patishtan Gomez, held prisoner in the prison at San Cristóbal de Las Casas and a member of both the Voice of Amate and The Other Campaign arrives before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

8 August

The Parish of San Pedro Chenalhó expresses concern and opposition to plans to construct a Rural City in the municipality.

12 August

More than 200 indigenous people from the Las Abejas Civil Association carry out a twelve hour Protest for Justice and Truth in San Cristóbal. The demonstrations continue their protest against the Supreme Court’s decision twelve months previously to free 29 Tzotzils accused of taking part in the Acteal Massacre.

13 August

The Emiliano Zapata Peasants Organisation – Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC) presents three denunciations to the Special Commission for the Protection of NGOs Working in Defence of Human Rights. These cover acts of torture and an attack against its members on 30 September 2009 in which two peasants were killed and another left paraplegic.

30 August

Members of the Tila Ejido demonstrate outside Mexico’s Supreme Court against the continuing expropriation of 130 hectares from their ejido by the authorities.

31 August

A new confrontation takes place in the community of Mitzitón in the municipality of San Cristóbal de Las Casas between members of The Other Campaign and those termed “non co-operators” (traditionalist Catholics and evangelicals belonging to the so-called Army of God).

1 September

An aggression against a human rights worker from the Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada Centre for Human Rights in the Agua Azul region in Ocosingo municipality is denounced.

9 September

According to a statement by the Oventic Council of Good Government, 170 Zapatista supporters are expelled from the San Marcos Avilés community in Chilón municipality. The perpetrators are members of the PRI, PRD and PVEM parties, acting as a reprisal for the building of an autonomous school in the locality.

10 September

Having signed an agreement to do so, ten families that had for the last 26 years lived in the village of San Jacinto Lacanja, on the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve hand over 99 hectares of communal land to the authorities.

11 September

Members of the Parish of San Pedro Chenalhó publish a denunciation of the Rural Cities. Referring to their communiqué of 8 August, they state that it is in fact true that the authorities “want to construct a Rural City in Chenalhó”.

18 September

Four members of the Emiliano Zapata Peasants Organisation – Casa del Pueblo (OCEZ-CP) are freed after nine years in prison, accused of having assassinated eight PRI supporters in Multajiltic in April 2001.

29 September

In the Masojá Shucjá community in Tila municipality in the northern zone of Chiapas a commemoration is held for the victims of the conflict in 1995 and 1996, some of whom came from Masojá Shucjá and others from nearby villages.

End of September

Chiapas and other states in south-east Mexico suffer damage from tropical storm Matthew.

Beginning of October

The Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas denounces death threats made against Eleazar Juarez Flores, the parish priest of Chicomuselo municipality, for having taken the side of local communities opposed to barite-mining operations undertaken by the Canadian company Blackfire.

5 October

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights publishes a denunciation of the criminalisation of its work, following a demonstration by members of the organisation “Vision of the Wings of the Eagle – Army of God” that took place on 1st October in San Cristóbal. The demonstration, headed by Esdras Alonso González, is undertaken by a group of evangelicals from the Mitzitón community in rejection of any moves to re-locate them. During the demonstration they shout slogans against the Centre.

7 October

The Network for Peace in Chiapas publishes a report on the current situation in the Frontier Zone.

12 October

Zapatista supporters from the community of San Marcos Avilés in Chilón municipality who were forced out of their homes on 9 September by threats and harassment from supporters of other political parties in their ejido return home.

In a joint operation, agents from the State Attorney General’s Office and a special unit of the Chiapas State Police dismantle the community radio station “Proletarian Radio 107.5” located in the offices of the Emiliano Zapata People’s Organisation in Tuxtla Gutierrez.

14 October

Agents who are apparently members of the Federal Electricity Commission try to gain entry to CIDECI-University of the Earth in San Cristóbal, and threaten its members.

15 October

Concluding a fifteen day visit to six states in Mexico (including Chiapas), the Special Reporter for the Independence of Magistrates and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, publishes a preliminary report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in June 2011. It covers issues including pre-trial detention, military courts, constitutional reforms on human rights and justice issues, reform of the appeal process, autonomy of public prosecutors and the lack of access to justice for vulnerable groups, as well as structural deficiencies in the justice system.

Fifteen people who had been found guilty of taking part in the Acteal Massacre in 1997 are released from prison. They benefit from a partial reduction of their sentences which allows them to be freed before the end of their prison terms. As 34 prisoners sentenced for the same crimes were released the previous year, a total of 49 have now been released, out of the total of more than 80 people originally detained in 1997 and 1998. The Las Abejas Civil Association, to which the victims of the massacre belonged, registers its anger at the releases.

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights issues a statement condemning the failure of the Mexican government to guarantee the safety of human rights defender Margarita Guadelupe Martínez Martínez so that she might attend the National Conference on Violence against Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, organised by a number of organisations including the Office in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This is despite the fact that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has formally requested the Mexican government to take precautionary measures to guarantee Margarita Martínez’s safety.

18 October

President Felipe Calderón sends a proposal to reform the Code of Military Justice to the Senate. Thirteen human rights organisations and security specialists sign a letter condemning the reform as “a limited and insufficient proposal that will not affect the conditions allowing soldiers to commit crimes against civilians with impunity”.

19 October

A legal judgement at federal level decrees that the barite mine located in the Grecia Ejido in Chicomuselo municipality must remain closed until the Canadian company Blackfire, holder of the mining concession, complies with environmental requirements imposed by the Department for the Environment, Housing and Natural History of the Chiapas government. The judgement follows a request by the Department to over-rule an appeal secured by Blackfire on 30 April 2010 authorising the re-opening of the mine, which had been closed following the assassination of Mariano Abarca, the leader of local opposition to the mine, in 2009.

20 October

More than sixteen years after the 1994 rape by soldiers of the indigenous Tzeltals Ana, Beatriz and Celia Gonzalez Perez in Altimirano municipality, the victims accept a compensation payment from the Chiapas government. However, in a public letter they clearly announce that “we are accepting this proposal as the only proof that we can get that the Mexican government recognises its responsibility for the violation of our bodies, our rights and our dignity… we will not take part in any public act, so that the government cannot use our words in its favour. Neither will we accept the programmes that it offers because they do not resolve the real problems of the people.”

24 October

The Morelia Council of Good Government denounces an attack with fire-arms against Zapatista supporters in Balneario El Salvador in the Comandanta Ramona autonomous municipality, bordering on the Agua Clara Ejido (Salto de Agua).

October

Supporters of The Other Campaign from the Mitzitón Ejido continue to denounce the felling of trees, aggressions and “criminal acts and provocations” which they attribute to followers of the evangelical organisation, the Army of God.

1 November

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepts the Acteal case, on the grounds that thirteen years is a sufficient period to apply the condition that attempts to secure redress through domestic courts have been exhausted. The event is celebrated as much by Las Abejas as by its advocate, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights.

3 November

Supporters of The Other Campaign from the San Sebastian Bachajón Ejido in Chilón municipality publicly denounce a growing strategy of outrages, injustice and provocations they have observed in the previous five months on behalf of the authorities. They also note a growth in aggressive acts and harassment from members of the Organisation for the Defence of Indigenous and Peasant Rights (OPDDIC).

Agents of the Chiapas Attorney General’s Office detain the journalist and blogger Héctor Bautista, accusing him of being involved in organised crime and distribution of child pornography. Journalists, NGOs and alternative media organisations declare the detention of Héctor Bautista an attack on freedom of expression, and denounce the campaign of intimidation and repression on the part of the Chiapas government.

6 and 7 November

Women from different villages and organisations in Chiapas gather for the Meeting of Women in Resistance and Hope for Defending Our Mother Earth and Territory, which takes place in the premises of CIDECI – University of the Earth.

16 – 19 November

The Sixth Meeting for Builders of Peace and Reconciliation is celebrated in the community of San Salvador in the Francisco Villa autonomous municipality.

19 November

Catholics from eleven municipalities in the Chiapas highlands make a pilgrimage to San Cristóbal de Las Casas to demonstrate their opposition to mining operations and the construction of dams and “rural cities”, projects that they consider “projects of death”.

24 November

In a new act of aggression, Margarita Martínez Martínez is intercepted by two unknown men who threaten to kill her and also demand she passes on threats they make against the staff of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights.

25 November

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights publishes the results of its report on the situation of human rights defenders in Mexico in which it notes that the states of Chihuahua, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero head the list of attacks. The Office also releases a public statement condemning the acts of aggression against the human rights defender Margarita Martínez, whom a member of the Office had met just before the recent attack on her.

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, events, meetings and marches are carried out to focus greater attention on the violence suffered by women in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

2 December

Servicio Internacional para la Paz (SIPAZ) announces that it will start a programme of international accompaniment for members of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Centre for Human Rights in light of the recent death threats that they have received, and more generally for the risks they run while carrying out their work.

Beginning of December

A number of new incidents occur putting two human rights defenders at risk: Julio Cesar Perez Ruiz, member of the “Innocent Voices” Committee for Ex-Prisoners, as well as José Alejandro Meza, member of the Network of Doctors and Mental Health Workers Attending to Survivors of Torture (an external collaborator with the Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Centre) are the subjects of surveillance and harassment taking place on different occasions in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

12 December

Héctor Bautista, who had been detained since 3 November on charges of holding child pornography is freed after the State Attorney General’s Office drops the case against him.

20 – 22 December

To mark the 13th anniversary of the Acteal Massacre, the Las Abejas Civic Association holds a meeting over three days entitled Weaving Resistance and Autonomy in the Face of Counter-Insurgency and Dependency“.