By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Dr. José Manuel Mireles, a leader of the Self-Defen se Groups in Michoacán

Dr. José Manuel Mireles, a leader of the Self-Defen se Groups in Michoacán

To disarm or not to disarm, at the heart of the current dispute in Michoacán. The United States pressures (Mexico) to demobilize the autodefensas (as the armed civilian self-defense groups are referred to in Mexico), the federal government summons them to relinquish their weapons and autodefensas demand that, before delivering one single gun, the authorities comply with a series of conditions. The three have put their ultimatums on the table. May 10 is the zero hour.

The pulse-rate has been rising since the beginning of the year. On January 9, the US State Department warned “its citizens about the risks of traveling in Mexico due to threats to integrity and security that transnational criminal organizations (TCO) represent in that country. US citizens have been the targets of violence, like kidnapping, assault and robbery at the hands of TCOs in various states.” Michoacán was burning.

The government response was quick. Five days after the US communication, the Secretary of Governance (Interior Minister), Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, summoned the self-defense groups to return to their places of origin and reincorporate into their daily activities, while federal forces, in coordination with state authorities, were put in charge of the security and protection of Tierra Caliente’s residents.

The armed civilians didn’t pay much attention. On January 12, after a two-hour fight, they took over the community of Nueva Italia, a critical point in the offensive against los caballeros templarios. One of the fightersthat participated in the battle turned to the Secretary of Governance: “Let Osorio Chong come to disarm us (…). He’s never going to come but may attempt it” (El Universal, 14/1/14).

One who understands well and speaks few words. So that there is no doubt about the message from Uncle Sam, on January 17, one week after the alert to its citizens about Mexico, Secretary of State, John Kerry, said he was “worried” about the emergence of militias to combat the Michoacán narcotraficantes and prepared to try being useful in any way possible.

Stability in Michoacán is important to Washington. Since that Mexican state divides one of the key corridors for the transport of merchandise between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, formed by the stem from the Port Lázaro Cárdenas and the Kansas City Railroad. A privileged trade with China has been established from there. Two of every three avocados that are consumed in the United States are grown in Michoacán and exported, principally by six big transnational packing companies with US capital. The Michoacanos are the second largest community of Mexicans on the other side of the Río Bravo; 4 million live there and send more than two billion dollars per year to their state.

On February 27, one month after Kerry’s statements, the annual report that Washington elaborates on human rights in the world warned about the “worrisome proliferation” of self-defense groups in several states of the Mexican Republic, especially in Guerrero and Michoacán.

Despite seeing some incongruences in the admonition of Uncle Sam, José Miguel Vivanco, executive director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), saluted the document: It seems to me –he affirmed– that the report on the point about the autodefensas, which reflects in trustworthy terms the growth of this phenomenon and the vacillating and contradictory attitude of the Mexican Executive, is unobjectionable.” “The autodefensas –he added weeks later– are a cancer that Colombia has suffered for several decades. It is very easy to fall into this kind of model where a Frankenstein is generated that no government can control afterwards.” [1]

The issue was a motive for concern not only for the Obama administration, but also for the big foreign investors. That was clear on January 23 at the World Economic Forum at Davos, when the ghost of the armed civilian groups in Michoacán appeared to President Enrique Peña Nieto. The president, who arrived at the annual fiesta of the Masters of the Universe presuming to approve a new cycle of neoliberal reforms, when he butted heads with Klaus Schwab, executive president of the Forum, over questions about the armed civilian groups. The president answered by offering to incorporate the autodefensas into security tasks (La Jornada, 1/24/14).

He then began a concealed bid to demobilize the militias and oblige them to put down their weapons, which quickly provoked strong clashes. On February 14, in the community of Antúnez, the Army killed three civilians that resisted being disarmed. The federal government saw itself obligated to postpone the measure. The issue has been a motive for permanent conflicts and a flood of statements from public officials, announcing the imminence and obligatory nature of the measure.

On April 6, the autodefensas responded by marching into 15 towns and organizing a motorized caravan. Through the voice of Doctor Mireles, they again said that they cannot be disarmed. “Without weapons any fool on a bicycle will kill us,” the spokesperson said in the community of Nuevo Urecho. Simultaneously they increased their demands: the freedom of at least 100 of their prisoner compañeros; eliminating or arresting 20 mid-level Templario commanders; legalizing and granting a legal personality to the autodefensas; integrating its members into the state police and restoring the state of law in Michoacán. They set the time period for having favorable solutions as Mothers Day (May 10th in Mexico).

The violent clash between the autodefensas and the federal government seems more probable every day. The three ultimatums on the table are the third call that it announced.


Translator’s Note:

[1] The issue of the self-defense groups (also referred to in Spanish as comunitarios or autodefensas) must be understood within its local context. These groups are not, as HRW is quoted as suggesting in this article, the same as the autodefensas of Colombia, who fight against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The autodefensas of Michoacán fight against an organized crime group called the Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios). Here is what one trustworthy source from Mexico says about the Templarios:

“When it comes to states such as Michoacán however, somehow the mainstream media, academia, and many solidarity activists have ignored the paramilitary tendencies of organized crime cartels.  The people of Michoacán have struggled to survive and persevere in the face of a violent onslaught by three different cartels: La Familia Michoacana, the Zetas, and now the Knights Templar.  Michoacán is known worldwide for marijuana cultivation and trafficking, but with a growing trend towards marijuana decriminalization and legalization in the United States of America, today the Knights Templar cartel has now diversified into the production and trafficking of methamphetamine.  In a globalized marketplace for cheap labor, land, and natural resources, cartels throughout Mexico have also diversified into a much more profitable industry, which is the use of coercion through violence in order to gain territorial control.  Today the Knights Templar cartel continues to harvest terror with the precision of a military death squad and engages in an international drug smuggling operation. The cartel, however, has also quietly been engaging in private security roles in the interest of illegal natural resource extraction strategies employed by corporations, banks, and political oligarchies.”



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/04/15/opinion/019a1pol







En Chiapas

1. Partidiario Zapatista asesinado cerca de Agua Azul – El 21 de Marzo, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, 22, fue emboscado y asesinado mientras conducía su camioneta. Fue atacado con más de 20 disparos. Gómez Silvano fue el Coordinador de los adherentes a la sexta del EZLN en el Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón (SSB). Vivía en la comunidad de la Virgen de Dolores en un terreno que adherentes de la sexta recuperaron en 2010 y participaron en la construcción de la autonomía. L@s residentes de la zona dicen que el ejército mexicano y la policía estatal constantemente l@s acosa y amenaza con desalojo. SSB ha estado resistiendo los esfuerzos del gobierno para tomar sus tierras con el fin de beneficiar a los intereses poderosos. Esos intereses planean desarrollar proyectos de turismo lujoso y alojamiento para l@s élites en las cascadas de Agua Azúl como parte de un corredor turístico de Agua Azul a Palenque y desplazaría de sus tierras a las comunidades indígenas. La carretera de peaje es también muy disputada.

2. Zapatistas anuncian planes para Mayo/Junio – El 31 de Marzo, el EZLN anunció sus planes para el comienzo del verano a través del sitio web, Enlace Zapatista: 1) un intercambio con los pueblos nativos del 26 al 30 de Mayo (sólo con invitación); 2) el 31 de Mayo en Oventik habrá una presentación de las conclusiones del intercambio con los pueblos originarios (abierto al público); 3) el 1 de Junio en Oventik, habrá un homenaje a Luis Villoro (también abierto al público); y 4) del 2 al 8 de Junio, en Oventik y Cideci, un seminario sobre “Ética frente al despojo” que se llevará a cabo con la participación de escritores e intelectuales. El seminario será abierto al público.

3. El Centro de Derechos Humanos Frayba celebra su 25 aniversario – El Centro de derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas celebra el 25 aniversario de su fundación este mes. El Obispo Samuel Ruiz fundó el centro Frayba en marzo de 1989. Desde entonces, ha ganado importancia nacional en la promoción y defensa de los derechos humanos y los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas. Su importancia, en una situación de guerra de “baja intensidad” en marcha contra los Zapatistas y sus simpatizantes, es enorme. Un artículo sobre el centro Frayba que proporciona más detalles acerca del trabajo actual y antecedentes del centro.

4. Continua la violencia en el Ejido Puebla – Según información documentada por el centro Fray Bartolomé de las Casas de derechos humanos (Frayba), la casa de Normelina Hernández López y Macario Gómez Arias en el ejido Puebla, en el municipio de Chenalhó, fué quemada totalmente. Se trata de una familia católica que fue desplazada por la fuerza el 23 de Agosto de 2013 junto con otras 17 familias, siendo un total de 100 personas, mismas que actualmente se encuentran viviendo en la comunidad de Acteal, Chenalhó. Unos días antes, el 7 de Marzo de 2014, a las 6:30 am, José Cruz Gómez encontró una puerta calcinada en las instalaciones de la iglesia católica en el mismo ejido. Estos hechos se produjeron a pesar de la presencia de aproximadamente 30 miembros de la policía preventiva del estado.

Frontera sur de México
1. Anuncian planes de seguridad para la frontera sur de México – La comisión nacional de seguridad en México ha dado a conocer un esquema general de su plan de 3 niveles para reforzar la seguridad en la frontera sur con Guatemala (y una pequeña frontera con Belice). El primer nivel será en la península de Yucatán y Chiapas, con otro en Tabasco y también en el Istmo de Tehuantepec. Cada nivel será un “cinturón de contención”. La seguridad estará tanto en tierra como en el mar y se apoyará en el uso de radares y trabajo de inteligencia. Cada nivel tendrá puntos de control formados con miembros del ejército ó marina, policías estatales y federales, así como agentes de varias agencias gubernamentales. La característica más interesante del plan es la “mezcla” de personal. Se dice que el propósito de estas unidades “mixtas” es para evitar la corrupción. Se espera que pronto haya más detalles. Los puntos de vigilancia en Chiapas se ubicarán en las zonas de Huixtla, Suchiate, Arriaga, Trinitaria, Comitán, Benemérito de las Américas y Palenque.

En otras partes de México
1. Fuerzas federales desarman a policía comunitaria de Santa María Ostula – El 19 de Marzo, unos 40 miembros de la armada mexicana desarmaron a 14 policías comunitari@s que vigilaban la ciudad de La Placita, hasta hace unas semanas un bastión de la delincuencia organizada. Esta acción dejó indefensa a la policía comunitaria. En respuesta, alrededor de 1,500 habitantes de la ciudad de Santa María Ostula y los municipios de Aquila, Chinicuila y Coahuayana, junto con 300 policías comunitarios y autodefensas, cerraron la Carretera Manzanillo-Lázaro Cárdenas durante dos horas en la base naval de la marina mexicana y el puesto de control en La Placita. Exigieron la devolución de las armas confiscadas. La acción de la marina contra los guardias de la comunidad de Ostula forma parte de la ofensiva del gobierno federal para desarmar y desmovilizar a las autodefensas en Michoacán. Pero también es uno más en la ofensiva para golpear y desarticular a los sectores más politizados de la movilización indígena y ciudadanos en Michoacán, aquell@s que luchan por los derechos históricos y que se enfrentan a los grandes intereses, como las empresas mineras transnacionales.

2. La relación entre los grupos de autodefensa y el gobierno: confusa – Este mes, las autoridades mexicanas arrestaron a Hipólito Mora, uno de los principales líderes de los grupos de autodefensa de Michoacán, conocidos como autodefensas, por presuntamente participar en un doble asesinato. Las autoridades también desarmaron al resto de las autodefensas leales a Mora y reinstalaron a un alcalde que había sido removido debido a supuestas conexiones con el crimen organizado. Mora está en prisión, acusado formalmente de esos crímenes mientras su abogado apela al auto de formal prisión. Entre tanto, grupos de autodefensa siguen expulsando a los miembros de los caballeros templarios de pueblos en Michoacán en compañía de las fuerzas de seguridad federales. La Jornada informó que los grupos de autodefensa han recuperado ahora el 25 por ciento de Michoacán.

3. México anuncia que eliminó a un jefe narcotraficante por segunda vez! – El 9 de Marzo, las autoridades mexicanas anunciaron haber al líder de la organización criminal caballeros templarios, Nazario Moreno González y que esta vez estaba realmente muerto. Los Templarios son un grupo que nació de la Familia Michoacana, grupo criminal del que Moreno González fue también la cabeza. En Diciembre de 2010, las autoridades mexicanas anunciaron la muerte de Moreno González ocurrida durante un enfrentamiento con La Familia cerca de Apatzingán, Michoacán. Se le conocía como El Chayo y El más loco. Hubo rumores persistentes de que estaba vivo y se le veneró como a un santo por aquéllos cercanos a los caballeros templarios. Parece que en realidad esta vez han acabado con él, pero no dice mucho de la credibilidad de los informes del gobierno. Las autoridades también anunciaron que mataron a Enrique Plancarte Solís, conocido como El Kike, el presunto jefe financiero de los caballeros templarios.
Compilación mensual hecha por el Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas.
Nuestras principales fuentes de información son: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista y el Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Frayba).






Conversations on Autonomy

Posted: April 4, 2014 in Autonomy, Events



FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014 – 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM



Requested donation: $5.00 (No one turned away for lack of funds)


The Chiapas Support Committee (CSC) is convening the first in a series of four community gatherings to discuss, dialogue and learn together about autonomy and the struggles for autonomy. These gatherings are inspired by CSC members, others that attended the Zapatista Escuelitas and, in report backs, from community members who expressed a strong interest in on-going discussions regarding Zapatismo and Autonomy.

Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
Tel: (510) 654-9587
Email: cezmat@igc.org

The EZLN Announces Activities for May and June 2014

Zapatista National Liberation Army



March 2014

To: The Sixth in Mexico and the World

From: Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

Compañeras, compañeros and compañeroas of the Sixth:

We send greetings from all of the Zapatista men and women of the EZLN

We want to let you know about our next steps:

1. Native Peoples: During the week of May 26 to 30, 2014, in one of our Caracoles, we will have an initial exchange with brothers and sisters from different native peoples and indigenous organizations. During this exchange, we will all share our ways of thinking and histories of struggle and resistance as indigenous peoples. For this initial exchange, we are inviting particular organizations and native peoples from Mexico, including: the Kumiai, Rarámuri, Náyeri, Wixárika, Odam, Nahua, Zoque, Coca, Purépecha, Hñahñu, Mazahua, Amuzgo, Ñuu Savi, Me’phaa, Ñuhu, Totonaco, Popoluca, Binnizá, Chinanteco, Mazateco, Ikoot, Chatino, Afromestizo, Triqui, Maya Peninsular, Tzotzil. Tzeltal, Chol, Zoque, and migrants.

In the future, we will invite other native peoples from Mexico and the world. This exchange is a closed event and is ONLY for the native peoples and organizations that are explicitly invited. Those people who have not been invited will not be allowed to enter.

2. On Saturday, May 31, 2014, in the Caracol of Oventik, we, along with some of our indigenous brothers and sisters, will present the conclusions from our initial exchange and a circulate a declaration about how we will proceed in our struggle against the dispossession we suffer and for our indigenous rights and culture. This event is open, all are invited, and whoever wants and is able to may attend. This will begin at approximately 1400 hours.

3. On Sunday, June 1, 2014, also in the Caracol of Oventik, we will have a modest homage to our deceased compañero: Don Luis Villoro Toranzo. This event is open, all are invited, and whoever wants and is able to may attend. It will be at approximately 1400 hours, and will include the participation of the comandantas and comandantes of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee- General Command of the EZLN, writer Juan Villoro, and Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés.

4. From Monday June 2, 2014 through Sunday, June 8, 2014, in the Caracol of Oventik and at the CIDECI facilities in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, there will be a seminar—that is, some talks—on the theme of “ETHICS IN THE FACE OF DISPOSSESSION.” This event is also in honor of our compañero Don Luis Villoro Toranzo. The seminar is open, all are invited, and those who want and are able to may attend.

The seminar will begin with a session in the Caracol of Oventik on June 2, 2014, at a time yet to be confirmed, with the participation of the EZLN. The seminar will continue on June 3 in CIDECI-UNITIERRA-Chiapas, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

This seminar is organized by the EZLN, CIDECI-UNITIERRA-Chiapas, and collectives of students from the Zapatista Little School in Mexico and the World. The following artists and intellectuals will participate, among others: Carlos González, John Berger, Dr. Pablo González Casanova, Dr. Adolfo Gilly, Dr. Immanuel Wallerstein, Neus Espresante, María de Jesús de la Fuente de O’Higgins, Gustavo Esteva Figueroa, Juan Villoro, Dr. Raymundo Sánchez Barraza, Dr. Paulina Fernández Christlieb, Hugo Blanco Galdós, Raúl Zibechi, Dr. Marcos Roitman, Dr. Sylvia Marcos, Dr. Gilberto López y Rivas, Greg Ruggiero, Karla Quiñonez, Dr. Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Corinne Kumar, Dr. John Holloway, Magdalena Gómez, Dr. Luisa Paré, Dr. Alicia Castellanos Guerrero, Maestra Ana Lydia Flores Marín, Dr. María Eugenia Sánchez Díaz, Dr. Eduardo Almeida Acosta, Julieta Egurrola, Dr. Arturo Anguiano Orozco, Dr. Fernanda Navarro, Beatriz Aurora, Efraín Herrera, Antonio Ramírez Chávez, Gloria Domingo Manuel “Domi,” Dr. Márgara Millán, Servando Gajá, Lic. Bárbara Zamora López, Malú Huacuja del Toro, Dr. Sergio Tischler Visquerra, Dr. Jérôme Baschet, Dr. Ángeles Eraña, Maestra Mariana Favela, Profesor Enrique Ávila, Claudia Aguirre, Alejandro Varas Orozco, Rosario Hernández, Manuel Rozental, Vilma Almendra, John Gibler, Dr. Eckart Boege Schmidt, Pablo Reyna Esteves, Roco, Guillermo Velázquez, Moyenei Valdés, Hebe Rosell, Amparo Sánchez “Amparanoia,” Modesto López, Marta de Cea, Nicolás Falcoff, Óscar Chávez, Sergio Rodríguez Lascano, and a few more who have not yet been confirmed.

5. During this seminar, the EZLN will announce a proposal for a new initiative for the National and International Sixth.

6. Over the next few days we will be announcing more details about these events.

Also, I wanted to let you know that, if his health permits, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos will be present and may participate in some of the public events.

That’s all.

From the Mountains of Southeastern Mexico,

Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés

Mexico, March 2014, the 20th year of the war against oblivion

Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista






 In Chiapas

1. Zapatista Supporter Murdered Near Agua Azul – On March 21, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, 22, was ambushed and murdered while driving his small truck. He was hit by more than 20 shots. Gómez Silvano was the coordinator of adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration in the San Sebastián Bachajón Ejido (SSB). He lived in Virgen de Dolores community on land that Sixth adherents recuperated in 2010 and participated in the construction of autonomy. Residents of the area say that the Mexican Army and state police constantly harass them and threaten eviction. SSB has been resisting government’s efforts to take its lands in order to benefit powerful interests. Those interests plan to develop tourism luxury accommodations for wealthy elites at the Agua Azul Cascades as part of a large tourist corridor from Agua Azul to Palenque. The San Cristóbal-Palenque Toll Road would connect that corridor to tourism sites throughout the Chiapas and would take land away from indigenous communities. The toll road is also highly disputed. You can read the complete article on Gómez Silvano’s murder, as well as some background on the Plan Puebla-Panamá and the tourism project on our blog.

2. Zapatistas Announce Plans for May/June – On March 31, the EZLN announced its plans for the early summer via its Enlace Zapatista website: 1) An exchange with Native Peoples from May 26-30 (invitation only); 2) On May 31 in Oventik there will be a presentation of conclusions from the exchange with Native Peoples (open to the public); 3) On June 1 in Oventik, there will be a homage to Luis Villoro (also open to the public); and 4) From June 2-8, in both Oventik and Cideci, a seminar on “Ethics Facing Dispossession” will take place featuring many writers and thinkers. The Seminar is open to the public.

3. The Frayba Human Rights Center Celebrates 25th Anniversary – The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding this month. Bishop Samuel Ruiz founded the Frayba Center in March 1989. Since then, it has attained national importance in the promotion and defense of human rights and the collective rights of indigenous peoples. Its importance in a situation of an on-going “low-intensity” war against the Zapatistas and their supporters is huge. An article about the Frayba Center provides more detail about this important Center’s current work and background.

4. Violence Continues in the Puebla Ejido – According to information documented by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), the home of Normelina Hernandez Lopez and Macario Arias Gomez in the Puebla ejido, in Chenalhó Municipality, was completely burned. They are a Catholic family that was forcibly displaced on August 23, 2013 together with 17 other families, a total of 100 people, who are currently displaced and living in the community of Acteal, Chenalhó. A few days before, on March 7, 2014, at 6:30 AM, José Cruz Gomez found a door in the Catholic Church’s facilities in the same ejido burned. These acts occurred despite the presence of approximately 30 members of the State Preventive Police.

Mexico’s Southern Border

1. Announce Security Plans for Mexico’s Southern Border – Mexico’s National Security Commission has released a general outline of its 3-tiered plan to beef up security on its southern border with Guatemala (and a small border with Belize). The first tier will be on the Yucatán Peninsula and in Chiapas, with another in Tabasco and also on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Each tier will be a “containment belt.” Security will be on both land and sea and rely on the use of radar and intelligence work. Each tier will have control points staffed by members of the Army or Navy, state and federal police, as well as agents from various government agencies. The most interesting feature of the plan is the “mixed” staffing. The purpose of mixed staffing is said to be in order to avoid the corruption of officials. It assumes that they would watch each other and report corruption. More details are expected soon. Vigilance points in Chiapas will be located in the zones of Huixtla, Suchiate, Arriaga, Trinitaria, Comitán, Benemérito de las Américas and Palenque.

In other parts of Mexico

!. Federal Forces Disarm Community Police in Santa María Ostula – On March 19, some 40 members of the Mexican Navy disarmed 14 community police that were guarding the town of La Placita, until a few weeks ago a bastion of organized crime. This action left the community police defenseless. In response, one day later around 1,500 inhabitants of the town of Santa María Ostula and the municipalities of Aquila, Chinicuila and Coahuayana, together with 300 community police and autodefensas, closed the Manzanillo-Lázaro Cárdenas Highway for two hours at the Mexican Naval Marine Base and checkpoint in La Placita. They demanded the return of the confiscated weapons. The marines’ action against the community guards of Ostula forms part of the federal government’s offensive to disarm and demobilize Michoacán’s autodefensas. But it is also one more in the offensive to hit and disarticulate the most politicized sectors of the indigenous and citizen mobilization in Michoacán, those that struggle for historic rights and that confront the big interests, like the transnational mining companies.

2. Relationship of Self-Defense Groups and Government: Confusing – This month, Mexican authorities arrested Hipólito Mora, one of the main leaders of Michoacán’s self-defense groups, known as autodefensas, for allegedly participating in a double murder. Authorities also disarmed the rest of the autodefensas loyal to Mora and reinstated a mayor that had been removed because of alleged connections to organized crime. Mora is in prison, formally charged with those crimes while his lawyer appeals the decision to formally charge him. Meanwhile, self-defense groups continue driving members of the Knights Templar out of towns in Michoacán in the company of federal security forces. La Jornada reports that the self-defense groups have now recuperated 25 percent of Michoacán.

3. Mexico Announces That It Killed Drug Boss A Second Time! – On March 9, Mexican authorities announced that they had killed the leader of the Knights Templar criminal organization, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, and that this time he was really dead. The Knights Templar are a spinoff from La Familia Michoacana of which Moreno Gonzalez was also the head. In December 2010, Mexican authorities announced the death of Moreno Gonzalez in a raid and shootout with La Familia near Apatzingán, Michoacán, the gang’s alleged stronghold. He was known as El Chayo and El más loco (the craziest). Rumors persisted that he was alive and he continued to be revered as a saint by those close to the Knights Templar. It appears that they actually killed him this time, but doesn’t say much for the credibility of government reports. Authorities also announced that they killed Enrique Plancarte Solís, known as El Kike, the alleged financial boss of the Knights Templar.

Compiled monthly by the Chiapas Support Committee.The primary sources for our information are: La Jornada, Enlace Zapatista and the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba).
We encourage folks to distribute this information widely, but please include our name and contact information in the distribution. Gracias/Thanks.
Click on the Donate button at  http://www.chiapas-support.org to support indigenous autonomy.


 Ethno-sociologist Andrés Aubry and Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, during the presentation of a Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center report, in April 2006.

Ethno-sociologist Andrés Aubry and Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, during the presentation of a Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center report, in April 2006.

** The NGO’s director recognizes the role of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the center’s founder

** The largest number of denunciations it receives now are from women “hooked” by usurers

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, March 28, 2014

“The Frayba is one more actor inside a liberating process,” points out Víctor Hugo López, director of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center. He makes it clear that the defense of guarantees is an action of commitment, and as much their violation as the denunciation and action in search of justice is essentially political. After a quarter of a century in non-stop activity at the state level, the Frayba’s influence and range has a national and international reach.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, the founder in 1989 and the center’s first president, “favored its independence from the Church hierarchy in 1996,” López recognizes. But the constructive role of the historic bishop of the indigenous diocese of Chiapas gave the Frayba a participative and educational character in the same communities. “Don Samuel formed many of the current human rights promoters, and they constitute invisible network of observation and denunciation that documents, telephones, comes to our door and guides us in the communities; people committed to their own liberation.”

He admits: “Today we have all fronts open, defense of territory, militarization and paramilitarization, justice,” and what he calls “structural violence” derived from inequality and poverty. He offers an unexpected example. Currently, the largest number of denunciations that the Frayba receives are from women “hooked” with loans from stores like Elektra or from illegal “loan sharks” that, protected in government offices, frequently public servants, grant loans and charge stratospheric interest. “Let’s say, they give 20,000 pesos to the women, and they have to repay 100,000.” The number of reports of sexual assaults, intra-family and gender violence also increases. “That is the case with teachers that abuse or violate minors, but the authorities hide them, and if they feel pressure they make an arrangement with the teacher and change his place.”

Does that mean that “political” issues are no longer the center’s principal work? he is asked. “Everything is political,” he answers. Poverty, structural violence and bureaucratic corruption seem as political to him as counterinsurgency, induced division, electoral manipulation, judicial persecution of innocents, the executions of representatives, or the evictions.

Upon evaluating the current state of the armed conflict, which has largely determined Frayba’s work since 1994, he exposes: “Here we think that the State has not forgiven the Zapatista National Liberation Army for the declaration of war. In Chiapas, all of the constitutional reforms, social policies and programs, including the (Nacional) Crusade Against Hunger, have a counterinsurgency function. Maybe in other places they function as a palliative, but here they always operate to stir up the conflict. The crusade against hunger has, just in Ocosingo, some 1,000 committees,” he illustrates. Those committees, coordinated by Martín Longoria, ex PRD member with a counterinsurgency trajectory in the region, “stipulate that their members are not in resistance, have their papers in order and do not maintain any autonomy; thus, they are added to those that are in officialist (pro-government) ranks, or those coopted with public resources at whatever price.” The backers “oblige them to fight their brothers that are in any form of resistance: recuperation of land, not paying for electricity, opposition to highways or tourist centers.”

He recognizes that the panorama in the communities has had “a complex evolution.” The situation “is not black and white, there is a strong social antagonism directly promoted by the State.” And cites two current events: “The attack on 10 de Abril, a community of the Caracol of Morelia, on January 30, by members of the CIOAC-democratic, could have been avoided. Prior to the acts, a group from the Frayba interviewed with officials in the government palace, and warned them that the Zapatistas were not going to permit people that suddenly have official roles to take their land away; that the agrarian authority was giving the green light to a provocation. They told us that there was a commitment not to attack or invade. They broke it within a few days.”

He remembers the role played by former Secretary of Government, Noé Castañón León, linked directly to the conflicts in some Zapatista communities; in others he even “recommended” expelling those that were in resistance (San Sebastián Bachajón, Venustiano Carranza). “Today, the state government attempts to present the community conflicts as between private parties and minimizes them in the voice of the new secretary, Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar.”

The Frayba today

López delineates the Frayba’s functioning, which has varied in the course of years. Today, as strange as it may seem, its basic function is not defense, but rather the strengthening of the organizational processes and the work of orientation with affected individuals, involving victims in their own defense. “We did not take the lead in the Alberto Patishtán case, he made his own strategies. But we helped to make his struggle visible, we were a platform for his defenders.” He adds an astounding reality: “There are some 11,000 cases in the country of indigenous prisoners that could be similar. They have to learn to get organized and defend themselves.” He also clarifies that the Frayba “maintains the litigation of unresolved “historic cases:” the massacres of Acteal, the Northern Zone and Viejo Velasco Suárez.

“To work within the context of Chiapas it is necessary to know the actors.” He mentions the number of times that in recent years alleged “comandantes” or “junta members” have presented themselves in Frayba’s offices with writings directed to the governor demanding something. “At times with seals of some good government junta, or signatures of ‘the commanders.’ Although the seals could be identical to those of a caracol, the falsification was recognizable. And the authentic Zapatistas don’t act like that.” It’s appropriate to wonder how many of these fakers arrive before governors or federal commissioners and make them believe that they were Zapatistas.

The Frayba, which maintains contact with the five rebel caracoles, only divulges denunciations and statements authenticated by the Juntas. López emphasizes that they (the Juntas) have very efficient documentation teams, “they support the denuncias with convincing evidence,” but they always try to avoid the public denunciation; “they prefer to conciliate with the other parties.”

Co-optation is a tradition in Chiapas. The government has pressured, besieged, threatened, courted, spied on, infiltrated and attacked the Frayba throughout the years. “To the current Secretary of Government, who different from his predecessors shows disdain, we would be organized only to ‘boycott’ the state government.” That’s how much the official mentality has advanced in the comprehension and respect of human rights. But the Frayba does not stop evolving and it deepens its prints on the communities.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/03/29/politica/012n1pol





[This article has been updated to reflect the opening of the Palenque International Airport and an additional murder in the Agua Azul region (Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano), which is reported in the post below this*]


 By: Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez

The Palace at Palenque Archaeological Site, Chiapas, Mexico

The Palace at Palenque Archaeological Site, Chiapas, Mexico

Vicente Fox took office as president of Mexico in December 2000. Not long afterwards, social organizations in Mexico and Central America learned about an ambitious plan called the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP), a virtual corporate wish list of “development” projects. It instantly became controversial because it threatened to displace people, damage the environment and sell off the region’s natural resources to transnational corporations. It was also severely criticized for its failure to consult with those affected and for the secrecy of its plans. Organizations formed in Mexico, Central America, the United States and Europe and joined together in an international network to oppose the PPP.

The Plan Puebla-Panama encompassed the southern (and heavily indigenous) Mexican states of Puebla, Veracruz, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo.  It also encompassed the seven Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize and Panama.

The purpose of the PPP was to develop the infrastructure needed for a dramatic expansion of trade via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Free trade agreements establish the legal structure for trade, while the PPP was to develop the infrastructure. The eight initiatives of the Plan were: 1) sustainable development; 2) human development; 3) prevention and mitigation of natural disasters; 4) promotion of tourism; 5) facilitation of trade; 6) highway integration; 7) energy interconnection; and 8) integration of telecommunications services.

In Chiapas the PPP initially envisioned at least 10 dams on various rivers, including the Usumacinta, Jataté and Lacantún, sweatshops in the central part of the state and mass tourism from the state’s Pacific Coast to the Usumacinta River.

Resistance to the PPP appeared to be successful. The PPP got a bad reputation and a public relations firm was employed to clean up its negative image. This led some to wrongly assume that the PPP was dead.

An important function of the PPP was to obtain financing for infrastructure projects, such as new or improved highways, bridges, ports and airports that would facilitate transportation for business ventures. Apparently the PPP was overly ambitious and could not find enough financing. The strong resistance coupled with the lack of financing signaled the demise of the PPP as originally proposed. But, that demise did not stop the infrastructure projects, and for about five years the projects for which funding was available continued without any mention of the PPP.

In June 2008, the heads of the affected countries and the governors of the nine Mexican states involved met together in Villahermosa, Tabasco for the 10th Tuxtla Summit on the Plan Puebla-Panama.  They all agreed to rename it the Mesoamerica Project and to reduce the 100 development projects to 5 mega-projects: electricity, highways, telecommunications, cybernetic information and health. The addition of a social aspect  (health) to the project may be to soften the impact of its more controversial aspects, like electricity and highways, both of which imply the displacement of indigenous people and environmental damage.

Some of the infrastructure projects that have been completed in Chiapas are:

1) Puente Chiapas – A bridge over the lake created by the Malpaso hydroelectric dam near the Chiapas border with Veracruz, which completed the highway connecting a large Gulf of Mexico port to the Pacific Highway in Chiapas and cut the travel time between Mexico City and Tuxtla Gutierrez to around 12 hours.

2) Puerto Chiapas – What was formerly known as Puerto Madero, a natural harbor on the Pacific Coast, was dredged and made into a deep-water port for shipping raw materials out and bringing in cruise ships full of tourists.

3) Angel Albino Corzo International Airport – A new international airport located in Chiapa de Corzo, near the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, facilitates both business travel and tourism.

4) Tuxtla-San Cristóbal Highway – A new toll road that whisks tourists from the new airport near Tuxtla to the colonial tourist Mecca of San Cristóbal de las Casas in one hour. It also facilitates commerce between the two rapidly growing cities.

5) Puente San Cristóbal – A bridge between two mountains that completed the toll road between Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas.

All of these infrastructure improvements facilitate commerce, attract investment and pave the way for elaborate tourist development. None of them has met with significant opposition.

One infrastructure project that has generated controversy and prolonged resistance is the construction of a toll road between San Cristóbal and the city of Palenque, the jungle city located a couple miles from the internationally famous archaeological site with the same name. The toll road will cut through numerous indigenous villages and territories, some of them Zapatista. Resistance to the toll road has resulted in violent confrontations between pro-government and pro-Zapatista groups, unjust imprisonment, torture and one death in the Mitzitón ejido, situated where the toll road begins.

The strongest resistance has been and will continue to be directed towards the massive development project the toll road is intended to facilitate: the Palenque Integral Center, known as the CIP for its initials in Spanish. This tourist project includes expansion of the small Palenque airport to accommodate international flights. Construction at the airport began several years ago and was completed in February 2014. The airport’s expansion is not the controversial part of the CIP project. It is the plan for development of a tourist corridor, approximately 35 miles long, between the Agua Azul Cascades and the Palenque archaeological site that is disputed.

A number of large ejidos (collective farms), some of them containing communities of Zapatistas and their supporters, are located within that 35-mile corridor. In addition to the Agua Azul Cascades and the Palenque Ruins, the Misol Ha Waterfall and the Agua Clara area for swimming and camping are also within the corridor. The Palenque site is an archaeological wonder left to us by the ancestors of the modern-day Mayas that inhabit this part of the state. The Agua Azul Cascades are a series of turquoise blue waterfalls that cascade down a mountain surrounded by lush green jungle.

The CIP project contains an elaborate plan to convert the area surrounding the Agua Azul Cascades into a “world-class resort destination.” The government plan includes a Boutique Hotel, a European 5-Star Hotel, a Conference Center with golf course, and a Lodge overlooking the waterfall at Bolom Ajaw, a Zapatista community on land reclaimed in 1994. But of course, one would have to helicopter into the Lodge at Bolom Ajaw due to its remoteness!

The Agua Azul area has become a flashpoint of conflict between pro-government communities (in favor of luxury tourist development) and pro-Zapatista communities (opposed to that kind of development). The controversial project proposed for Agua Azul has already generated three deaths, numerous violent conflicts, political prisoners, death threats and torture. The state government argues that these tourist projects will bring jobs and income into a very poor state, while Zapatista supporters and their allies argue that the volume of tourism envisioned will damage the environment, their food security and their traditional way of life; that is, their culture. In a state where two-thirds of the population is indigenous and that indigenous culture is one of the tourist attractions, this is an important debate.

* This article was originally written in November 2013 for educational background information. It is included in the recently published book “Mayan Whitewater: Chiapas & Belize” by Greg Schwendinger and Rocky Contos.