2002

Zapatistas in Mexico City and after...

CHIAPAS


Pages:

Updates, March 2001, Zapatista Marcos' Speech, The March to Mexico City,
Jan. - Aug 2000, 1999, 1998, Chiapas Media Project

 


MSN WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY: March 25-31, 2002
From: "Mexico Solidarity Network" list-owner@mexicosolidarity.org



Mexican Government Prepares to Expel Zapatistas from Bioreserve

 

Indigenous communities in the region of Montes Azules in the deep jungle of Chiapas report military preparations for their removal from the region. Under the pretext of "environmental protection," the Vicente Fox administration has been threatening to relocate hundreds of indigenous families, most of them members of Zapatista support communities. According to La Jornada journalist Herman Bellinghausen, the question is not "protect or not protect the environment," but rather "who is going to protect it and how."

Many observers see the relocation as part of the Fox administration's development project for the region, called Plan Puebla Panama. Bio-diversity is of great strategic importance, and PPP calls for access to the region's abundant bio-diversity by transnational corporations rather than indigenous communities. Several US environmental organizations, led by Conservancy International, support "no people" environmental policies and are in the process of purchasing "environmental corridors" throughout the region, using corporate funds. Conservancy International maintains a camp complete with trailers in the same area from which they are calling for the expulsion of indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Commission for Defense and Promotion of Human Rights accused Governor Pablo Salazar of tolerating the presence of paramilitary groups rather than prosecuting them for human rights violations. In recent months paramilitary activities have been on the increase, with several reports every week from human rights groups in Chiapas. While members of paramilitaries have been released from prison, including several convicted in the 1997 Acteal massacre, the number of Zapatista political prisoners has increased recently from 9 to 24.

Governor Salazar is causing divisions in many regions of Zapatista influence by offering land titles and government assistance for land that was liberated in the 1994 uprising. Several groups that previously collaborated closely with the Zapatistas are willing to accept Salazar's offers, causing serious divisions in some communities. By mutual agreement, the liberated lands were declared communal, and Zapatista communities refuse to recognize the private land titles offered by the Salazar administration to groups such as ORCAO. Some potential landowners want to win titles for parcels so that they can be sold.

All of these actions appear to be a coordinated effort to pressure the Zapatistas to return to peace negotiations, abandoned when successive federal governments refused to implement the San Andres Accords.



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Bush's War On International Terrorism Fixes The Zapatistas In Its Sights


2001
from: John Ross
011-525-510-3376
johnross@igc.org
MexBarb #1128


SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS (Oct. 9th) - The Indians stood bunched together outside the shinny appliance store on the narrow main drag of this old colonial city, transfixed by banks of television monitors upon which jumbo jets kept plowing into crumbling skyscrapers. "They thought it was a movie at first" recalls the young clerk of that black Tuesday morning, "they were talking in Tzotzil and I could not understand."

Indian responses to traumatic events, even those as close to home as the seven year-long uprising of the largely Mayan Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), are often heavily veiled here in this chronically-impoverished, deeply indigenous southern state.

"We were at a meeting of women and they told us that the North Americans had been bombed. We did not understand this at first because it is always the North Americans who bomb other people" remembers "Irene", a member of an artisans collective in the Zapatista highland autonomous municipality of Aldama. Back in 1994, during the first days of the Mexican military's campaign against the Zapatista rebels, U.S.- manufactured helicopters dropped several bombs and Swiss jet fighters pumped U.S.-made missiles into and around rebel villages.

This September 11th, when some of the men from Aldama arrived at Ovantic, the EZLN's most public outpost in the Altos of Chiapas, the community restaurant was packed and all eyes riveted on the only television screen in town. "One companero joked that Bush was 'chichiron' (fried pork skin) but others shushed him" recalls "Manuel", "we all saw that many people must be dead..."

All throughout the Mayan highlands and jungle of Chiapas, whole villages gathered around single, flickering screens trying to make sense of the disquieting images of September 11th. In some, particularly the many Evangelical communities that dot the conflict zone, Black Tuesday was seen as the beginning of the end of the world - syncretically, Mayan sacred writings anticipate the end of this world - and the beginning of the next - between 2010 and 2012.

In other villages, observed non-government organization workers, the attitude was "more like what are the crazy gringos up to now?

"We go into a lot of communities and they are asking us to bring them videos of the airplanes" reports Gustavo Castro, chief analyst with a San Cristobal think tank that initials itself CIEPAC. "The indigenas cannot locate New York City on the map and they do not know what the twin towers were - but they know something has changed. They are assimilating the images and engraving them on their understandings. They have learned that the empire is vulnerable, that the U.S. is not invincible. Does this help them or hurt them? This is what they are weighing now..."

Although the terror attack on the U.S. has not yet provoked response from the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Subcomandante Marcos and his companeros were no doubt as mesmerized as the rest of the world by the unimagineable images transmitted on their car battery-powered black and white set September 11th. Tucked away in their mountain camps above the hamlet with the haunting name of La Realidad ("The Reality") down in the Lacandon jungle, the rebels' Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee (CCRI) has not spoken for five months, since May 1st, when the Mexican congress mutilated an Indian Rights law for which they had long fought.

The Zapatistas have repeatedly been labeled terrorists by Mexican and U.S. authorities - a current U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration web page tags them as such, as does Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, senate majority leader for President Vicente Fox's rightist National Action or PAN party. Former president Ernesto Zedillo alleged the EZLN was a terrorist organization during the first days of the 1995 economic collapse, and sent 30,000 troops into the jungle to bring its leaders to justice. 21 Zapatista supporters were rounded up and so charged - "terrorism" is usually teamed up with "sedition", "subversion", and "conspiracy" on Mexican courtroom dockets. 20 of the accused terrorists were subsequently absolved of all charges (one militant who confessed to toppling an electricity pylon with a pick up truck, was convicted.)

Chief of the Zapatista "terroristas" was Javier Elorriaga who spent 15 months behind bars before the charges dissolved. A mild-mannered, pipe-smoking, Mexico City intellectual, Elorriaga is still incredulous about the terrorism charges: "I am not a terrorist - the EZLN has historically always been against terrorism..."

If terrorism is to be defined as the use of deadly violence against a civilian population in order to sow fear and doubt about a government that can no longer protect its citizens, then the Zapatistas have been more terrorized than terroristic. The rebels' celebrated January 1st, 1994 uprising in the first hours of the North American Free Trade Agreement, was directed at military and police forces that had suppressed Indian social movements for decades, and not against civilians - in fact, it was the military and police which were responsible for almost all of the civilian loss of life during the 12-day shooting war. After less than two weeks of armed uprising, the EZLN acceded to the demands of the civil society to silence their guns and begin a dialogue with the government. There have been few incidents of armed conflict since.

Although terrorism and guerrilla warfare have become synonymous in U.S. President George Bush's declared war against the former, not all guerrilleros are terrorists - and the EZLN is neither. Militarily, the Zapatistas consider themselves a standing army that confronts the enemy on the battlefield - the EZLN remains at war with the Mexican government.

Since the first week of the 1994 uprising when some ultra-left groups sought to display their solidarity by blowing up banks and underground parking garages, the EZLN has repeatedly condemned bombings as provocations that only bring more repression down upon their bases - the Zapatistas espouse mass collective pressure, rather than individual acts of terrorism, as the most effective way to obtain social change.

In a sharp 1996 interchange with the Popular Revolutionary Army or EPR, a group deemed responsible for multiple bombings and deadly ambushes in which civilians have been killed (five members of a split-off group are currently imprisoned for bombing banks this August), the EZLN's silver-tongued spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos flatly turned down EPR support: "we didn't ask for your support and we don't want your support. We have different goals. We are fighting for democracy and justice. If you ever came to power, we would have to fight you too..."

But more recently, the EZLN has asked the Popular Revolutionary Army's endorsement of the now-moribund Indian Rights law.

Since that law was mangled by congress, the EPR has stepped up its activities in Chiapas and is thought responsible for a series of attacks on police-military convoys between Puerto Cate and Simijovel in the highlands - in one terrifying attack, three military vehicles were blown up on the open road.

In addition to denouncing left terrorism, the EZLN condemns state terrorism - whether that of U.S.-supplied Mexican army helicopters bombing Indian villages in Chiapas, or the United Nations carpet bombing Serbia. The EZLN once refused to meet with a high United Nations human rights official because of U.N. sponsorship of the bombings in the Balkans.

As if to enhance his Nostradamus-like aura, Subcomandante Marcos sometimes prophecizes a world war much like Bush has planned against international terrorism. In one document ("Seven Pieces of Neo-liberalism", 1997), the Sub describes globalization as "the fragmentation of the nation-state", later to be united in a U.S.-dominated coalition "by violence" - this "megalopolis of power" would use terrorist attack as a pretext to seize economic control of the planet, a scenario eerily reminiscent of Bush-Republican congressional strategies to win "fast track" authority to negotiate the Free Trade Treaty of the Americas" (ALCA in Spanish) and impose NAFTA upon the entire continent, as a supposed bulwark against Bin Laden and his terrorist gang.

Despite the threat of World War III and the impending triumph of corporate globalization, the EZLN remains locked in a deathly still quiescence. Indeed, the ski-masked Indian "terrorists" appear to be awaiting a very institutional signal - a Mexican Supreme Court decision on the validity of the gutted Indian Rights law that has been passed by congress and promulgated by Fox. "It is as if they are giving the system one more chance" marvels Castro, "the Zapatistas have taken the legal route. They have dialogued and negotiated and signed agreements and held peaceful protests - and they have gotten screwed over time! Vicente Fox ought to be grateful to them for not being terrorists."

At this writing, 320 appeals have been filed against the Indian Rights law with the highest court in the land by organizations such as the National Indigenous Congress, majority-Indian municipalities (counties), state governors, and political parties. One example: 250 indigenous municipalities in Oaxaca filed so many petitions to block the law, that a pick-up truck had to be hired to haul five tons of paper up to Mexico City to deposit the appeals with the court. In Michoacan, rather than await a court decision expected sometime early next year, the Purepecha Nation has simply declared itself autonomous - Indian autonomy was stripped from the law by the Mexican senate.

Indigenous autonomy is one Zapatista goal but certainly not the only one. Still, by refusing to speak out until the high court has passed judgment on the constitutionality of the Indian Rights law, the comandantes have painted themselves into a silent corner at a moment when many supporters feel keenly the absence of their voice. "They should be in the vanguard against the coming war but they are not heard from" laments Noe Pineda, communications director for San Cristobal's Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center.

Nonetheless, Bush's War against Terrorism may soon force the rebels to speak up for their own survival. Because Chiapas is a border state with abundant resources, it is considered a "strategic zone" for national security. Although no count is available, hundreds of troops and immigration agents were rushed to safeguard the southern border following the Black Tuesday attacks. Now they are reportedly fine-combing the jungle and the sierra for Arabs (13 Yemenis were recently picked up in Palenque), "terrorists" (indistinct from "Arabs" although the last international terrorist collared in Chiapas was an Austrian), and other subversives.

"Indians are always considered national security risks" remarks Marcos Macias, the first indigino to ever head up the government's National Indigenous Institute, "we are under permanent observation." In times of high tension, such suspicions are not going to make life any easier for the Mayan rebels, many of whose camps lie within 20 kilometers of a militarized border.

Moreover, Bush's campaign against international terrorism is going to require a lot of oil to power the war machine and EZLN jungle settlements appear to be sitting on top of important deposits of fossil fuels - Marcos once boasted potential reserves rivaled those of the Persian Gulf. Intensified efforts by the Fox administration to exploit petroleum, natural gas, and uranium reserves on Zapatista autonomous land under the guise of cooperation with Bush's war will inevitably lead to Indian resistance in this corner of Chiapas. Under the Bush doctrine of either being "with us or with the terrorists", resistance to supplying Washington's war efforts could be tantamount to terrorism itself.

The gathering war clouds and deepening world recession have hit Chiapas like a ton of stones. Tourism, the state's second industry, has collapsed in the wake of terrorist attack, and the price of coffee, Chiapas's key agricultural export, has toppled to its lowest level in a generation, thrusting 500 Indian farmers a month into the migration stream north to the U.S. Whole communities as spread as Nuevo Huistan near the heart of the jungle, and San Juan Chamula in the highlands, are now dependent upon remissions from "El Norte." In both those communities, reports Fray Bart's Pineda, families say they have not heard from their men since Black Tuesday.

The Zapatista flame first surged in the region ten years ago when the bottom fell out of the coffee market and NAFTA threatened the Mayan corn culture. But now, with the EZLN sworn to silence, observers like Pineda and Castro sense that the EPR will seek to fill the vacuum. "That is when the real terrorism could begin" Pineda frets.

Although the world is dominated by Washington's super-power vision, seven years of indigenous struggle in the Zapatistas' self-declared "war against oblivion" contain lessons for those who are about to plunge the planet into an excess of global revenge.

On the eve of Christmas 1997, 46 members of Las Abejas ("The Bees"), a coffee growing and honey gathering collective organized by the San Cristobal diocese and sympathetic to the Zapatista cause, were massacred by fanatic Presbyterians, members of the then-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), an act designed by the military and state police to separate the Zapatistas from their civil bases in the highlands. Given the smallness of the Abeja community, the killings can be quantified as an act of terror comparable to ten World Trade Center disasters. Nonetheless, the return of hundreds of Abeja families in recent months to communities from which they were once forced to flee under threat of death, seems to underscore that a modicum of reconciliation is still possible between the terrorized and the terrorists.

John Ross, author of "The War Against Oblivion - Zapatista Chronicles", the seven year saga of the Mayan Indian rebellion he has been covering since its earliest hours, and a new chapbook of poetry "Against Amnesia", will soon be leaving on an extended U.S. book tour. For those who have invited Ross to speak in many venues across the U.S., this will be the last "Mexico Barbaro" he will be able to personally distribute.

Those who have become addicted to these weekly glimpses from the Mexican underbelly should write David Wilson at nicadlw@earthlink.net and take out a subscription. For regular readers, "Mexico Barbaro" will appear at ten day intervals until Ross returns south in December.



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FROM CHIAPAS RIGHTS ACTION
October 11, 2001

Call for action: Indigenous Rights in Chiapas. Please contact the Mexican embassy or consular offices in your country or region, to help educate concerning Indigenous Rights in Chiapas.

This information is distributed by Rights Action. For four years, Rights Action has supported the creative and courageous work of both the

"Chiapas Community Defenders Network" and the "La Voz de Cerro Hueco". [If you would like to support the work of these 2 organizations, please contact: info@rightsaction.org]



To local, national and international civil society and the press:

Please Support The Zapatistas & Help Them Set A Precedent For Indigenous Rights Around The World As They Hold The Mexican Government Accountable To The International Treaty On Indigenous Rights, Justice, And Self-Determination

* What: Fax, E-mail, Phone and Letter Campaign demanding that the Mexican government comply with International Labor Organization Convention 169 which recognizes basic human rights including living on and defending ancestral lands (see sample letter below)

* When: Friday, October 12, 2001 all day

* Where: Your local Mexican Consulate (Fax, E-mail, Phone)

* Why: On October 12, the Chiapas Community Defenders Network is filing one of three cases with the International Labor Organization (ILO) demanding that the Mexican government comply with Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. ILO Convention 169 was ratified by the Mexican government in 1990, but continues to be blatantly disregarded.

Contacts:

Los Angeles: John of Estaci�n Libre: 323.261.4513, down4brown68@hotmail.com Orange County: Bethania of UCI: 949.823.9281, drjones34@hotmail.com Riverside: Carlota of Estaci�n Libre: eyesopen13@yahoo.com Bay Area: Shaw San of Estaci�n Libre: 408.255.3192, ssinmexico@hotmail.com

The Chiapas Community Defenders Network (La Red de Defensores) is a network of indigenous Zapatista representatives defending human rights in their communities, including those of non-Zapatistas. All members are elected by their communities and trained in Mexican and international human rights law.

On October 12 they will file the first of three cases against Mexico for its failure to comply with Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). In 1990, Mexico ratified ILO Convention 169 which obligates state governments to recognize and strengthen the rights of indigenous populations in the following respects:

� The right to land
� The right to be consulted in decisions that affect them
� The right to respect for their own institutions and customs
� The right to manage and control their own development

The Zapatistas (along with the vast majority of indigenous groups in Mexico) are calling attention to the programmed flaws of the recently passed indigenous reform, concern over the increasing militarization of their home regions, as well as outrage over the continued government occupation of 3 "withdrawn" bases in the conflict zone.

The first case, which focuses on paramilitary activity and state complicity, will be filed October 12. The other two cases, which challenge the validity of the recently passed indigenous law and the legitimacy of presidential land expropriations and militarization in Chiapas, will be presented at a later date.

In 1996, the San Andres Accords were signed by the Mexican government and the Zapatistas. However, peace negotiations stalled when the government failed to submit the resulting legislative proposal, already a compromise for the Zapatistas, to the Senate. Disheartened by the blatant show of disrespect, the EZLN demanded 5 signs that the government was serious about negotiations which the Zedillo administration never fulfilled.

When Fox was elected President, the Zapatistas reduced the number to 3 signs as a show of good faith. Unfortunately, the Fox administration has NOT FOLLLOWED THROUGH on those three signs. The three signs are: 1 - implementation of the San Andres Accords, through the Cocopa proposal,

2 - the liberation of all Zapatista political prisoners, and 3 - the withdrawal of the military from 7 key bases in the conflict zone.

To the disappointment of indigenous groups all over Mexico, the Reform on Indigenous Rights and Culture, signed into effect just last August, refuses to recognize indigenous representatives and governing structures. The Reform also subordinates community control of land use and ownership to national private property law. Already the Mexican government has opened the Lacandon jungle in the conflict region of Chiapas to petroleum drilling, bio-prospecting and wood pulp plantations, disregarding the fragility of jungle biodiversity.

Furthermore, the Puebla-Panama Plan promoted by Vicente Fox will run miles of highways through southeaster Mexico, displacing thousands from their homes and communities to search for work along the U.S.-Mexico border or to work for dimes in regional assembly lines.

To date, 9 Zapatista political prisoners remain incarcerated in Chiapas, Tabasco and Quer�taro under false charges. Zapatista political prisoner organization La Voz de Cerro Hueco considers them to be hostages of the government, pawns to be used to force the Zapatistas to cave in on their demands. The military has not withdrawn from the 7 bases, but actually relocated to old and new bases and checkpoints. 3 of the "withdrawn" bases remain under government control and the lands have not been returned to neighboring Zapatista communities.

According to the Chiapas Community Defenders, over 104 military operations have taken place between April and July of 2001, while paramilitary harassment and attacks have only increased. In fact, 11 members of the government-created and sponsored paramilitary group Paz y

Justicia, those responsible for the church massacre in Acteal of 45 unarmed civilians on February 26, 1996, were released after serving only 5 months in prison.

The Zapatistas rose up in 1994 on January 1st, the day NAFTA was enacted, proposing community control of their (and our) destiny. Please support them in their efforts.



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(IC)TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2001

The Zapatista National Liberation Front on Monday said Mexican President Vicente Fox has ordered Army troops to the southern state of Chiapas. The Indian rights group said they feared an attack. But the Army wouldn't confirm or deny the report of troop movement to Chiapas. Congress has certified an Indian-rights bill but most Indian leaders, and the Zapatistas, have rejected it as watered down.

Zapatistas: Mexico is sending troops to a rebel strongholds



By Alejandro Ruiz
Associated Press
8/14/2001


SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (AP) Zapatista rebels say the Mexican army is dispatching troops to one of their most important strongholds. In the statement Monday, the Zapatista National Liberation Front said President Vicente Fox had personally ordered the buildup of troops near the highlands town of San Andres Larrainsar, in southernmost Chiapas state.

The arrival of "hundreds of troops is causing tension for those living in our communities because we are afraid Mr. Vicente Fox is preparing a military attack," the communique said.

A Mexican army spokesman said Monday night that he had not seen the rebel communique and could not comment on its contents. He refused to discuss the movement of state forces in Chiapas.

Tensions have run high in Chiapas since last month, when Congress approved a watered-down version of an Indian rights bill that was supposed to put an end to the Zapatistas' seven-year uprising. The initiative was first drafted in 1996 during peace talks between the government and the rebels, who had risen up in a short-lived rebellion in the name of Indian rights two years earlier.

But then-President Ernesto Zedillo rejected it, saying it would compromise Mexican sovereignty and unity. The rebels stormed out of the talks and have never resumed negotiations with the government.

The Zapatistas want regional autonomy for Indian areas on issues such as native languages, traditional forms of government and a share of the resources taken from their lands.

 



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Mexico Ratifies Rights Law Over Indian Objections



JUL 12, 2001
By REUTERS


ETMEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico ratified landmark constitutional reforms on Thursday to strengthen Indian rights, though indigenous communities that inspired the bill dismissed it as useless in saving the Chiapas peace process.

State legislatures in Michoacan and Nayarit ratified the set of amendments known as the indigenous rights law, bringing the number of states approving it to 17. That was more than the majority of Mexico's 31 states required to change the Constitution. But ratification came over rejection by states with large Indian populations and opposition from indigenous leaders.

"This reform will be born dead," the governors and leading lawmakers in heavily indigenous Chiapas and Oaxaca states said in a letter published in the Milenio newspaper on Thursday.

Only months ago the reforms were seen as crucial to ending an impasse with the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, who rose up in arms in 1994 to defend Indian rights. But the rebel leadership and Indian supporters denounced the final version as a mockery of their demands and an obstacle to peace, arguing it gutted the original proposal for greater self-determination by Indian communities.

Chiapas, where more than 35 percent of the population is Indian, rejected the bill that was specifically designed to answer the Zapatista uprising.Oaxaca, where more than half the residents are Indians, also rejected it. Together, the nine states that rejected the bill are home to more than half of Mexico's nearly 10 million indigenous citizens.

The remaining states had yet to vote."We have always said this was an aborted law that did not meet the expectations of the indigenous," said federal deputy Hector Sanchez, head of the congressional Indigenous Affairs Committee and a Zapoteca Indian from Oaxaca.

REFORMS ILLEGITIMATE

Community opposition renders the reforms illegitimate and should prompt the federal government to consider new, farther-reaching guarantees of Indian rights, activists said. "The fact that the communities and state legislatures are rejecting this is a very solid argument to sensitize the federal Congress," said Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar

.The constitutional reforms take effect once the states notify the national Congress of ratification. The executive branch then certifies the amendments.

Since taking office last December, President Vicente Fox has seen his hopes dashed for a return to peace talks in Chiapas, stalled since 1996, despite key government concessions to the Zapatistas and a historic cross-country tour by the rebel leadership to rally support for Indian rights. The rebels rejected the rights bill passed by the national Congress in April and returned to their Chiapas stronghold.

Supporters of the final bill, including leaders of Fox's National Action Party, said it met indigenous demands for greater autonomy while preserving national sovereignty and individual rights under the Constitution

.Fox initially hailed the Congress's passage of the bill as a major step toward peace, but his government later backed away from the final version, calling it a good faith step rather than a full answer to Indian demands.

 



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The Mexico Solidarity Network is calling on all Community Organizations, Grassroots Groups, and Non-Governmental Organizations to sign onto the following letter in solidarity with the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatistas. The letter will be delivered to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC on May 18th with copies going to the COCOPA and the Mexican Congress. If you would like to sign on to the letter below, please e-mail the Mexico Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org.

WHY? On April 28th, Mexico's 12 million indigenous people and their supporters throughout Mexico and the world were startled to learn that the Mexican Senate passed a law claiming to address the problems regarding the Indigenous rights, culture and land issues.

President Fox, the corporate media, and political pundits in Mexico proclaimed success at the passage of the law, and (again) declared that peace had been acheived in the Zapatista conflict. However, many indigenous people were left angered and disappointed with Congress' action. Immediately, the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatistas denounced the law as deceptive and a betrayal of the dialogue process.

The original proposal, known as the COCOPA Law, was based on the San Andres Accords, signed between President Zedillo's government and the Zapatistas in Feb. 1996. The Zapatistas have called for the passage of this measure as a pre-condition to re-start the dialogue that has been suspended since September 1996.

The COCOPA proposal provides autonomy for indigenous communities throughout Mexico by giving them control over land, natural resources, local governance, judicial matters, education and health care. This law creates The Senate altered the COCOPA proposal in significant ways and indigenous people are left with a flowery document that sounds nice but does little to change the oppressive relationships that have characterized the past 509 years.

If you would like to sign on to the letter below, please e-mail the Mexico Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org.

 

Lic. Vicente Fox, Presidente de la Rep�blica
Residencial Oficial de los Pinos
Colonia M. Chapultepec, Delegaci�n M. Hidalgo
11850 M�xico, D.F., M�xico

President Vincente Fox,

We the undersigned are writing to express our deep concern regarding the Mexican Senate's version of the Indigenous Rights Law. This law in no way reflects the original COCOPA proposal, which you introduced to Congress, or the San Andr�s accords, signed by the EZLN and the government in 1996. While the new proposal includes general language concerning Indigenous Rights and Culture, it excludes key aspects of the original COCOPA proposal such as the right to autonomy and free determination, the recognition of indigenous territories, the recognition of indigenous communities as legal entities, the collective use and benefit of natural resources and the association of indigenous communities and counties.

We are very concerned that this proposal represents a step backwards in the peace prosess for Chiapas. As international citizens concerned about the rights of indigenous peoples and the peace process in Chiapas, we strongly urge you to reject the Senate version and insist on immediate implementation of the original COCOPA proposal in its complete and unaltered form.


Sincerely,

The Mexico Solidarity Network, ETC

 



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The Mexico Solidarity Network is calling on all Community Organizations, Grassroots Groups, and Non-Governmental Organizations to sign onto the following letter in solidarity with the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatistas. The letter will be delivered to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC on May 18th with copies going to the COCOPA and the Mexican Congress. If you would like to sign on to the letter below, please e-mail the Mexico Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org.

WHY? On April 28th, Mexico's 12 million indigenous people and their supporters throughout Mexico and the world were startled to learn that the Mexican Senate passed a law claiming to address the problems regarding the Indigenous rights, culture and land issues.

President Fox, the corporate media, and political pundits in Mexico proclaimed success at the passage of the law, and (again) declared that peace had been acheived in the Zapatista conflict. However, many indigenous people were left angered and disappointed with Congress' action. Immediately, the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatistas denounced the law as deceptive and a betrayal of the dialogue process.

The original proposal, known as the COCOPA Law, was based on the San Andres Accords, signed between President Zedillo's government and the Zapatistas in Feb. 1996. The Zapatistas have called for the passage of this measure as a pre-condition to re-start the dialogue that has been suspended since September 1996.

The COCOPA proposal provides autonomy for indigenous communities throughout Mexico by giving them control over land, natural resources, local governance, judicial matters, education and health care. This law creates The Senate altered the COCOPA proposal in significant ways and indigenous people are left with a flowery document that sounds nice but does little to change the oppressive relationships that have characterized the past 509 years.

If you would like to sign on to the letter below, please e-mail the Mexico Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org.

 

Lic. Vicente Fox, Presidente de la Rep�blica
Residencial Oficial de los Pinos
Colonia M. Chapultepec, Delegaci�n M. Hidalgo
11850 M�xico, D.F., M�xico

President Vincente Fox,

We the undersigned are writing to express our deep concern regarding the Mexican Senate's version of the Indigenous Rights Law. This law in no way reflects the original COCOPA proposal, which you introduced to Congress, or the San Andr�s accords, signed by the EZLN and the government in 1996. While the new proposal includes general language concerning Indigenous Rights and Culture, it excludes key aspects of the original COCOPA proposal such as the right to autonomy and free determination, the recognition of indigenous territories, the recognition of indigenous communities as legal entities, the collective use and benefit of natural resources and the association of indigenous communities and counties.

We are very concerned that this proposal represents a step backwards in the peace prosess for Chiapas. As international citizens concerned about the rights of indigenous peoples and the peace process in Chiapas, we strongly urge you to reject the Senate version and insist on immediate implementation of the original COCOPA proposal in its complete and unaltered form.


Sincerely,

The Mexico Solidarity Network, ETC

 



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Originally published in Spanish by the FZLN
Translated by irlandesa


To the People of Mexico.

 

On this May 1, 2001, we, the workers of the city and of the countryside ARE DENOUNCING that:

THE DEPUTIES AND SENATORS OF THE CONGRESS OF THE UNION USURPED THE POPULAR WILL. The Chamber of the Senate, unanimously, and the Chamber of Deputies, with 386 votes from the PAN, PRI and PVEM, have betrayed the sovereign will of the people, the demand by millions of indigenous and non-indigenous Mexicans who, through a multitude of peaceful demonstrations, have expressed our demand for the constitutional recognition of the rights of the Indian peoples contained in the Cocopa proposal. Heedful of the interests of their party leaders, of their personal and group interests, the Congress is imposing a law which is closer to Zedillo's, which has nothing to do with the Cocopa proposal on Indigenous Rights and Culture, which recognize rights but makes it impossible for them to be exercised, which continues to leave millions of indigenous Mexican brothers as second-class citizens, excluded. How much more indigenous blood do those "representatives," - who live off the people's money - want? How much more blood of honest Mexicans will be necessary for THOSE WHO GOVERN, TO GOVERN OBEYING and FOR THOSE WHO LEGISLATE, TO LEGISLATE OBEYING THE MANDATE OF THE PEOPLE?

This same Congress, a fitting heir to Zedillo, is the same one going about putting taxes on medicines, food and schools, while protecting with its laws bankers who continue to take the money out of our country. The same one which is more concerned about changing the laws in order to allow casinos than about the rights of retired persons and pensioners. The same one which is preparing to promote a labor counter-reform which will demolish what was fought for the entire 20th century, and which will leave us completely at the mercy of the savage capitalism which the legislators themselves are protecting. Because of all of this, we are saying: THIS CONGRESS DOES NOT REPRESENT US.

We will not be resigned, we have dignity, we shall continue to fight, we shall continue to resist until, in this our Patria, there is: Liberty! Democracy! Justice! for all Mexicans.

TRANSFORMATION OF THE COCOPA PROPOSAL INTO CONSTITUTIONAL LAW!

LIBERTY FOR ZAPATISTA PRISONERS!

NO TO THE IVA!

NO TO THE CONGRESS AND TO THE GOVERNMENT WHO SERVE ONLY THE RICH!

YES TO DIALOGUE AND ORGANIZATION BETWEEN ALL THE EXCLUDED AND OPPRESSED!

Zapatista Front of National Liberation (FZLN)



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Zapatistas reject Indian rights bill
Rebels break off all contact with Mexican government



May 1, 2001
ASSOCIATED PRESS


SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico, April 30 - Mexico's Zapatista rebels broke off all contacts with the government Monday and called upon supporters to protest against an Indian rights bill their leader said failed to meet rebels' demands.

SUBCOMANDANTE MARCOS, the rebels' leader, said the bill, modified by the Senate and passed by both houses of Congress last week, weakened clauses guaranteeing autonomy and self-determination contained in accords reached in 1996 by Zapatistas and members of a government peace commission.

"With this reform, federal legislators and the Fox government close the door to dialogue and peace," Marcos said in a communique issued from the rebel's jungle base in the southern state of Chiapas.

"It sabotages the incipient process of reconciliation between the government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army."

Marcos criticized President Vicente Fox for praising the bill. "In this way, Fox demonstrates that he only pretended to make the initial agreement his, while he negotiated with hard-line sectors of Congress a reform that doesn't recognize the rights of the indigenous communities."

The Zapatistas want regional autonomy for Indian areas on issues like native languages and traditional government and law based on councils of elders or village assemblies.

In Congress' version of the bill, autonomy would be more locally based, and state legislatures would have to enact those customs into law.

The original version also established Indians' communal rights to land and natural resources. Congress inserted language protecting private land holdings in Indian areas and said Indians would have preference, but not sole rights, to natural resources in their territories.

REBELS' SIGNATURE CAUSE

The Zapatistas launched a short-lived revolution in the name of Indian rights on Dec. 1, 1994. More than 140 people died in 12 days of fighting. While the rebels have not been a major military threat since, they have mounted a successful campaign to demand that Mexico rethink its treatment of its 10 million Indians.

Passage of the bill was one of the three conditions the Zapatistas established to reopen peace talks. Submitting the bill to Congress was Fox's first official act after taking office in December.

The Senate unanimously passed a modified version Wednesday. The lower house of Congress overwhelmingly approved it Saturday.

Pablo Salazar, the Chiapas governor elected by a coalition of political parties, including Fox's National Action Party and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, also rejected the bill Monday, saying it represented a "triumph for conservatism" in Mexico.



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Mexican Indian Rights Bill Raises Fears



April 19, 2001
by Fiona Ortiz and Adriana Barrera
Reuters


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - They have been revered as folkloric icons, patronized as ignorant poor folk, or completely ignored. For hundreds of years Mexico has treated its Indian peoples with extreme ambivalence.

A new bill before Congress is meant to vindicate Indian rights by reforming seven articles of the constitution, but critics fear the proposed new law would give too much power to local Indian governments.

Promoters of Indian rights law, born out of the Zapatista rebellion which claims that the globalization of the world economy threatens Indians, say it will finally enshrine rights and respect for 10 million Mexicans who are Indian, or one tenth of the nation.

But there are concerns are that such a law would endanger the environment by giving Indian groups total control over natural resources on their lands; allow Indian communities to legally discriminate against women under traditions known as ''uses and customs''; and undermine Mexico's ideal of mixed blood.

Mexicans claim pride in mestizaje, the mingling of European conquerors and Indians. But many -- even dark-skinned Mexicans with Indian features -- openly look down on people who speak Spanish with the accent of an Indian tongue.

A Long-Stalled Bill

The bill was drafted during peace talks between the government and the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which took up arms to fight for Indian rights in 1994. The peace talks fell apart in 1996 and the bill gathered dust for years.

Then President Vicente Fox (news - web sites), the first Mexican leader to come from outside the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 71 years, took office in December.

Acting on campaign promises to end the low-level conflict with the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, and holding out an olive branch to the rebels, Fox sent the bill to Congress, where his National Action Party (PAN) must gather support from the PRI and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

The reforms in the bill must be approved by two-thirds of the 128-seat Senate and then by the 500-member lower house.

On March 28, in an unprecedented Congressional appearance by a rebel group, Zapatista leaders wearing masks and traditional Indian clothes, lobbied for the bill.

The proposed constitutional reforms would give Indian peoples the right to free determination and autonomy, and the right to resolve their own internal conflicts without violating human rights and the dignity of women.

If passed, the law would also allow Indian villages to elect their own authorities and to collectively use natural resources on their lands.

It also would make the government responsible for improving Indian education and providing interpreters and public defenders when they are in the justice system.

Too Much Autonomy

Some experts say the proposed law is dangerous.

"It's one thing to recognize the autonomy that Indian people have a right to, and to respect their uses and customs, their languages. But it's another thing to convert these Indian communities into small independent states. That would be the destruction of the country," said Ignacio Burgoa, a law professor at Mexico's National Autonomous University and an expert on constitutional issues.

But Alcides Vadillo, an indigenous rights expert with the United Nations (news - web sites) human rights office in Guatemala, says that giving Indian communities autonomy is not incompatible with a nation's central government.

The real problem with such laws, he said, is that they are seldom properly implemented.

Mexican political analyst Lorenzo Meyer argues that Mexico's constitution already guarantees Indian rights, and the law just needs to be enforced.

"The bulk of what the law wants already exists. There won't be anything really new," Meyer said.

He says Indian communities have always been allowed to impose their ``uses and customs," without problems. For example, the obligation to do communal work without pay has always gone unpunished, although it's not strictly legal, he pointed out.

Uses And Customs

"Uses and customs," differ among Mexico's Indian communities. But in many villages traditional councils of elders, usually men, make decisions for the whole community. Sometimes the councils decide how the whole town will vote in state and national elections.

Some critics have said that because of that, the Indian rights law could threaten democracy in Mexico and discriminate against women.

The Zapatista's Commander Esther tried to lay to rest the fear that Indian women would be harmed by the proposed new law, when she spoke before Congress in March.

She said that current laws had marginalized and humiliated women and pointed out that the Indian rights law actually contains language to protect women.

"We, in addition to being women, are indigenous, and, as such, we are not recognized. We know which are good and which are bad uses and customs. The bad ones are hitting and beating a woman, buying and selling, marrying by force against her will, not being allowed to participate in assembly, not being able to leave the house," she told Congress.

Meyer said the reforms as currently worded would actually force Indian communities to modernize.

"Discrimination against women will not be allowed, they won't be able to do that any more," he said.

WHO IS INDIAN?

Lawmakers said another drawback of the Indian rights bill was that it would force the government to identify "authentic" Indian communities.

The lawmakers also worry that if Indian communities are free to exploit national resources they will destroy the environment.

But Environment Minister Victor Lichtinger said that more control will mean more protection.

"I am convinced that giving greater autonomy to Indian peoples in their own lands, will be favorable for the conservation of those ecosystems," Lichtinger said.

Whatever happens to the law in Mexico, rights expert Vadillo said the results will reverberate throughout the region, where Indian rights are being debated within the context of greater democracy in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala.

"What happens in Mexico will have an enormous political influence on the rest of Latin America," Vadillo said.



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EZLN: MILITARY BASES TO BE TURNED OVER TO INDIANS





Story Filed: April 10, 2001
http://library.northernlight.com/FD20010410460000029.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc


Mexico City, Apr 10, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX) -- EZLN guerrilla spokesperson Fernando Yanez, alias "Comandante German," on Tuesday announced that the Mexican army will turn over the three remaining military bases in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to the Indian communities next week.

Earlier, the Mexican army dismantled four of the seven bases as one of the conditions set by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) before it agrees to return to the negotiating table.

Now, however, the army will close the remaining three bases and physically turn them over to the Indians, Yanez said.

"In doing this, the federal government is meeting one of the conditions we demanded of them before agreeing to return to the peace talks, and I am very satisfied with the completion of this demand," Comandante German said in the Mexican capital.

In addition to dismantling the seven military bases in Chiapas, the EZLN is demanding that the government release all EZLN prisoners and approve the law on Indian rights and cultures, which the guerrillas defended in Congress on March 28.

Yanez made this announcement after meeting with the congressional peace commission for Chiapas (COCOPA), the author of the Indian rights bill whose members are from all the different political parties, and the government's Chiapas peace commissioner Luis Hector Alvarez.

"It is the will of both parties that all conditions be met," Yanez said after speaking with Alvarez.

By order of Mexican President Vicente Fox, the dismantled military bases in Chiapas will be turned into Indian community development centers. The evaluation and monitoring director for the future centers, Carlos Montemayor, said that this move is "well accepted among the population" and that the Indians' basic necessities such as health, education, food and productive projects are currently being studied. EFE fm-jm/kb/bp http://www.efe.es



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Mexican Guerrillas Make Historic Congress Address



March 28, 2001

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Masked Mexican Zapatista rebels made an unprecedented appearance before Congress on Wednesday to deliver an impassioned plea for Indian rights but most members of President Vicente Fox's party boycotted the historic session.

"We don't come to conquer, to supplant anyone...We come to be heard and to listen to you and to make dialogue, " Commander Esther who spoke first, said in stilted Spanish against a backdrop of two enormous national flags flanked by plaques bearing names of illustrious personalities in Mexican history.

The rebel's charismatic military strategist and spokesman, Subcommander Marcos, was noticeably absent from the motley rebel command seated in the front benches as Commander Esther, wearing a black knitted ski-mask and red and white embroidered shawl, spoke to the half empty chamber.

Esther, who spoke for 25 minutes, said Marcos was absent because as a subcommander he was of lower rank and not the sole voice of the rebels. "We gave Marcos and those who share our hopes and yearnings the mission to bring us to this tribune ... now is our hour. "

Four rebel commanders in all addressed senators and deputies from the podium of the Lower House -- a privilege normally reserved for Mexican presidents, foreign heads of states, ministers and lawmakers.

The rebels' landmark appearance before Congress was aimed at convincing lawmakers to pass an indigenous rights bill giving greater autonomy to Indian communities -- a key rebel condition for resuming peace talks.

The majority of deputies from Fox's conservative National Action Party (PAN) earlier said they would not attend in protest and that they oppose negotiating with people in masks.

Indigenous braided women wearing colorful frilly skirts and shawls and men in white with red sashes and tasseled hats packed the public gallery to watch the high political drama.

In response to frequently cited concerns that the Indian rights bill would fracture the nation's unity, Esther said Mexico was already deeply divided and that Indians lived in danger of extinction.

"In this fragmented country we Indians live with the shame of being the color that we are, " said Esther.

The Zapatistas, who rose up in 1994 in the name of Mexico's 10 million Indians, marched, unarmed, to the capital from their jungle hide-out in Southern Chiapas some two weeks ago, amassing grass-roots support during their 12-state trek.

EARLY VICTORY FOR REBELS

The event marks an early victory on the part of the rebels, who last week threatened to return to Chiapas if they were not allowed to speak before Congress.

Fox, who was not invited to attend the session, said he hoped the rebels succeeded in convincing lawmakers of the importance of the indigenous bill, which is aimed at giving greater autonomy to indigenous communities.

"Today is not the point of arrival but the point of departure so that this, our dear Mexico, pays the enormous debt that it has with 10 million indigenous brothers and sisters, " he said in a statement.

Three other rebel chiefs spoke after Esther's address, urging lawmakers to approve the indigenous rights bill.

Commander David said: "For nearly 500 years, the sons and grandsons of the (Spanish) conquerors did everything possible to exterminate us ... They imposed their laws, their ideas, their politics, beliefs and their gods in order to make what was ours disappear. "

Commander Zebedeo said lawmakers had it in their power to right these wrongs and open the way for peace.

"If you want to win the confidence of the Mexican people, if you want to pay your debt, if you want to be loyal and faithful to your word that you gave during your campaigns, now is the moment to fulfill that, to settle accounts..., " he said.

Fox has continued this week to make concessions to the rebels who have said they will return to the negotiating table on condition troops are withdrawn from seven bases in the conflict zone, all rebel prisoners are freed and a law protecting indigenous rights is passed.

Monday the government pulled out troops from the last two remaining bases of the seven in Chiapas.

Fox, who is the first Mexican president in seven decades not a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), sent the indigenous rights bill to Congress within days of being sworn in last December.

The Zapatistas' guerrilla war -- launched on New Year's Day 1994 -- and subsequent clashes between rebel sympathizers and PRI-back paramilitaries have claimed up to 200 lives.


Copyright CR 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

 

 

Masked Rebels Test Mexico Congress



John Rice, AP Writer
March 28, 2001


MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Leaving behind their jungle hide-outs and guns -- and their controversial leader -- 23 ski-masked Zapatista rebels strode Wednesday onto the floor of Congress and proclaimed the beginning of a political struggle.

Rebel leader Comandante Esther said the absence of Subcomandante Marcos, the rebels' military leader and media star, was intentional: the rebels' military mission was over, she said.

"Our warriors have done their job. Now it is our time for respect, " Esther told hundreds of legislators. "The person speaking to you is not the military leader of a rebel army, but the political leadership of a legitimate movement. "

For the first time, the Zapatistas acknowledged the peace overtures made by President Vicente Fox, who has bent over backward to meet to their demands.

"His orders have been a sign of peace. We too will give orders of peace to our people, " Esther said.

She and a string of rebel commanders described 500 years of repression against Indians and argued for approval of a rights bill now before Congress.

"It is symbolic that I, a poor Indian woman and a Zapatista, am here today, " Esther said.

While no longer a military threat, the rebels have mounted a successful media campaign to demand Mexico rethink its treatment of its 10 million Indians.

That campaign has been so successful, and the rebels so unyielding, that some legislators accused them of trying to bully congress.

"Our word is one of respect, " said Esther, who like other rebel leaders uses only her first name. "We came to have a dialogue ... not to shove anyone aside. "

But she went on to attack Fox's National Action Party, which opposed their appearance in congress. Many of the party's members didn't show up for the session.

About 100 of the 628 senators and congressmen were present, and they gave the rebels a rousing applause. Congressional workers said more legislators were expected to join the hours-long session later.

The rebel leaders all wore black ski masks under beribboned Indian hats and military field caps. The masks, which have become a trademark of their movement, anger many lawmakers who say the rebels should show their faces.

Esther continued to suggest that the rebels still had a military capacity, something experts doubt.

"We have ordered Subcomandante Marcos ... not to make any military advances " on army bases Fox has ordered closed in Chiapas, she said. The closures were part of a list of rebel demands for restarting peace talks.

The argument over letting the rebels take the floor created a bitter division within Mexico's newly independent Congress -- and within the National Action Party. Its members claimed the rebel's past rhetoric suggested they had come to lecture, not engage in a dialogue.

With National Action blocking a full joint session of congress, the rebel leaders technically addressed a committee meeting in the main chamber of Congress.

The absence of Marcos -- whose biting rhetoric had angered some congressmen -- indicated a more conciliatory tone on the part of the rebels.

"Subcomandante Marcos is just that, a subcommander. We are the ones who lead, as a group, " Esther said, referring to the other Indian rebels. Marcos is not an Indian, though he claims elders have given him that status.

Congress responded warmly, with Sen. Hector Sanchez giving the Zapatista rebels a welcome in the Zapotec Indian language. It was symbolic, because Zapotec is spoken in Oaxaca state, not Chiapas, where the rebels are from.

Rarely if ever has a guerrilla movement gained so much -- or been given it -- while posing such a small military threat. Actual fighting lasted only 12 days seven years ago. More than 145 people died before a cease-fire took hold.

But since taking office Dec. 1, ending 71 years of single-party rule, Fox has reversed the former ruling party's policy of isolating the rebels deep in Chiapas state. Fox has agreed to meet all of their demands, but the Zapatistas have refused to meet with him.

At issue is constitutional amendments that would allow Indians to govern themselves at the local level; promote their own languages, customs and justice systems; and grant them greater land rights.

Critics worry the law could allow traditional Indian councils of elders to discriminate against women, political or religious minorities, or to take over nature reserves for farming.

The rebels have been loath to accept any changes in the bill, and accused congressmen of being "racists " and "cavemen. "


Copyright CR 2001 Associated Press Information Services, all rights reserved.


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[Source: SIPAZ Report - March 2000 - Vol. V, No. 1]
For furthur information: SIPAZ International Office - P.O. Box 2415 - Santa Cruz, CA 95063 USA - Tel. & Fax: 831 425 1257 - Mailto: sipaz@igc.org - http://www.sipaz.org

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