APRIL 2013 ZAPATISTA NEWS SUMMARY
1. Political Assassination of Pro-Zapatista Leader in San Sebastián Bachajón – On Wednesday, April 24, Juan Vazquez Gomez, leader of the pro-Zapatistas in San Sebastian Bachajon, was assassinated by unidentified individuals as he was entering his home. He led the ejido owners who are adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in their resistance to the government taking away their land to exploit for tourism purposes. This is the first political assassination in Chiapas involving Zapatistas or pro-Zapatistas in some time and could signal more repression now that the PRI has returned to power. Click here for more details.
2. Threats of Forced Eviction Continue in San Marcos Aviles, Caravan Threatened – On April 19, the Good Government Junta located in Oventik issued a denunciation that listed all the continuing threats and acts of harassment suffered by the Zapatista support bases in the San Marcos Aviles ejido since July 2011. The Chiapas Network for Peace then announced that on April 21 and 22, a Civil Observation Caravan would go to San Marcos to collect testimony from the Zapatistas. The Caravan was threatened by “political party members” in San Marcos Aviles. They threatened to take away the Caravan’s vehicles and that blood would run if the vehicles were not turned over to them. Fortunately, the threats did not turn into action and the Mission was able to collect testimony of specific continuing death threats, including threats to kill children, and land grabbing.
3. Chiapas March for Patishtan’s Freedom - On April 19, the movement to free Alberto Patishtan organized a march in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, to demand Patishtan’s freedom. The march of many Tzotzil supporters from the Highlands, the Catholic organization Believing People and Las Abejas was joined by the Democratic Block of Section 7 of the national education Workers Union, a total of 15,000 people. Marchers went to the Chiapas headquarters of the Federal Judicial Power, which is supposed to issue a decision on Patishtan’s case any day now. For more info about the march, see: http://compamanuel.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/chiapas-march-for-alberto-patishtans-freedom/
4. Mexico’s Supreme Court Releases Another 15 Men Convicted in the Acteal Massacre Case - On April 11, Mexico’s Supreme Court released another 15 of the men accused and convicted in the Acteal Massacre of 45 Tzotzil indigenous on December 22, 1997. The release and recognition of innocence was based on the use of illegal evidence, the same as in the prior releases of those condemned for the Acteal Massacre. Of the original 87 who were convicted only 6 remain in prison. Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of the San Cristobal de las Casas Diocese lamented the release of those convicted, many of whom had confessed to their crimes. In condemning the release of these men, the civil organization La Abejas noted that they are seen walking around Acteal and nearby towns. Moreover, Las Abejas reported hearing gunshots from several communities. Both Las Abejas and Bishop Arizmendi ask: “If the men convicted and now released are not responsible for the massacre, who is?”
In Other Parts of Mexico
1. Communities Form Their Own Police Patrols - As a result of the dramatic increase in organized crime and the utter inability of Mexico’s security forces to deal with it, a new phenomenon is emerging. Some communities are trying to protect their residents by forming their own community police patrols. So far, at least 40 communities in 8 states have formed such patrols. While much of the violence plaguing communities is connected to drug trafficking and government officials, police and military corrupted by the drug gangs, communities are also seeking protection from illegal logging and the encroachment of mining companies and their armed “guards.” Some indigenous communities have a tradition of elected police/guards who protect the communities from common crimes like theft or public drunkenness and its associated crimes. They have been doing this for more than 15 years. These elected community police have their hunting rifles, machetes and clubs, none of which is illegal. However, other communities have police that are armed with high-caliber weapons that are illegal. The state and federal governments are worried about this new development and want to bring these community patrols under the control of local authorities in some official role, but the communities see the local authorities as part of the problem.
In the United States
1. President Obama to Visit Mexico and Costa Rica May 2-4 – United States President Barack Obama has plans to visit Mexico beginning May 2. While Mexico hopes to obtain an agreement on more money for the Merida Initiative, US Secretary of State John Kerry says President Obama also wants to focus on economic and trade issues. Human rights groups, however, sent a letter to President Obama, Mexican President Pena Nieto and the Central American presidents asking them, among other things, to re-think the regional security model (Drug War) and consider the regulation of drugs rather than their prohibition. Additionally, 23 US Congresspeople, of both parties, sent a letter to Secretary Kerry expressing concern over the five-fold increase in human rights complaints against military personnel over the last 6 years. Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee signed the letter.