Alongside the several thousand other Zapatista communities in resistance, San Marcos Avilés is an indigenous pueblo located in Chiapas, Mexico.
VIDEO MESSAGE FROM THE ZAPATISTAS OF SAN MARCOS AVILÉS
SAN MARCOS AVILES: EZLN SUPPORT BASES UNDER NEW THREAT OF DISPLACEMENT
The ejido San Marcos Avilés is located in the municipality of Chilón, where a climate of hostility has grown against the support bases of the EZLN from municipal authorities and officers of the state government, who exacerbate and take advantage of any differences within the ejidos and communities to encourage groups against the Zapatistas, as part of the war of attrition against the process of building autonomy.
In this district live Tzeltal indigenous EZLN support bases, of the the Caracol II of Resistance and Rebellion for humanity, highland zone of Chiapas.
The autonomous school of San Marcos Avilés is part of the “Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Education System”. The Zapatista communities have created alternative, democratic institutions, such as schools, health clinics, and cooperatives. The Zapatista schools are a non-hierarchical educational model that promotes education rooted in local indigenous culture and worldviews. They are viewed by the Zapatistas as a fundamental right of the people and a form of resistance.
In this context, autonomous education is a pillar of the broader process towards indigenous autonomy initiated by the EZLN, and the struggle for a “world in which many worlds fit.”
Attacks and Repression
On a daily basis, the Zapatista community of San Marcos Avilés continues to endure severe repression from members of the dominant political parties of Mexico.
Of the major aggressions currently being faced include theft of food and belongings, physical and death threats, and land grabs. Food crops and harvest are continuously being seized and destroyed.
Recently, more threats against the Zapatista support base members have taken place in San Marcos Aviles. The culprits remain a group of political party members (attack groups) who have stated that they will kidnap authorities of the Zapatista community, and in this way, forcefully displace the support base members from the ejido. They have also made threats against those who denounce these acts of aggression and harassment, claiming that they will incarcerate them. It is feared that another widescale displacement of the community, similar to the one that took place in 2010, will occur.
San Marcos Avilés: attacks on Zapatista Autonomy continue
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
December 26, 2013
Bulletin No. 39
Political party supporters from San Marcos Avilés continue their attacks on Zapatista Autonomy
Three years and two months of harassment, threats and displacement
This Human Rights Centre has documented and received reports from the international civil observation brigades (Bricos), since December 15, 2013, of a continuation of harassment, attacks, and threats of death and forced displacement against Support Bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) in the community of San Marcos Avilés (hereafter SMA), in the official municipality of Chilón, Chiapas.
For three years the Good Government Junta from Oventik and the BAEZLN in SMA have resisted the group described as Partidista [political party supporters] which has carried out actions against education and against the whole project of Zapatista autonomy, under the cover of officials from Chilón municipality and from the state government, now headed by Governor Manuel Velasco Coello.
With reference to the most recent events in SMA, on December 11th, 2013, at 6:30 am, Juan Pérez Cruz and his wife María Elena Cruz, both from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), went into the coffee field of a BAEZLN and stole the fruit of 200 coffee bushes. At 20:00 hours on the same day, from the house of Juan Pérez Cruz, which is fifty metres from the camp of the Bricos, a shot was heard, intended to intimidate the BAEZLN. On 12th December, 2013, at 6:00 am, Juan Pérez Cruz came to the house of a BAEZLN and said literally, “I came to advise you that your coffee field no longer belongs to you, it is now mine, because you do not pay the property tax, do not go back to your coffee field and your milpa [cornfield], because if you do, I will kill you there with a machete.” On December 14th, 2013, another shot was fired from the house of Juan Pérez Cruz.
Given the systematic acts of aggression and harassment against the BAEZLN, they have made known their position:
We the EZLN support bases of this community of San Marcos Avilés have been patient, we have endured and resisted all the bad things done to us by the partidistas of this community [ …] we have now run out of patience and today we say enough! of all the evil deeds they are doing to us, now by agreement of the support bases of the community of San Marcos Avilés we say that the time has come to defend ourselves whatever the cost, whatever happens, and in any way possible we will defend ourselves and we will no longer allow them to disrespect us and deny us the right to live in our own community [ …] As of this moment we hold the three levels of official government responsible for everything that is going to happen in the community of San Marcos Avilés, because they have failed to do anything about this matter [ …]
Following these events, we have received information from the Bricos that the partidistas are continuing with aggressions against other BAEZLN, consisting of robberies from their milpas and other workplaces.
As a result of these events, this Centre for Human Rights is concerned about the grave situation perpetrated against the BAEZLN of SMA. For this reason it demands that the Chiapas state government: controls the Partidistas who are acting with complete impunity in the community; immediately takes appropriate measures regarding the punishment of those responsible for the acts of assault, death threats, thefts, dispossession and forced displacement; ensures respect for the exercise of the right to autonomy, freedom of thought and expression, the right to ownership and possession of the lands worked by the BAEZLN, in accordance with ILO Convention no. 169, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in mark of respect for the San Andrés Accords.
On September 9, 2010, 170 people – men, women and children of the BAEZLN, inhabitants of the ejido of SMA, suffered forced displacement, an act perpetrated by 30 people from the same ejido affiliated with the political parties the PRI, the Party of the Democratic Revolution and the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, who entered violently with sticks, machetes and firearms into the homes of BAEZLN. These incidents took place after the construction of the first autonomous primary school in the ejido, for the start of the planned activities of the Zapatista Autonomous Rebel Education System.
Ii is important to note, that on that day, so as not to respond to aggression, the BAEZLN fled their homes seeking refuge in the mountain and bush. After 33 days of forced displacement without food and without any form of protection, on October 12, 2010, 27 BAEZLN families (women, men, boys and girls, in total 170 persons) returned to their community.
Since 9th September, 2010 , when this Human Rights Centre first had knowledge of the problems in the ejido of SMA, we have informed the government authorities of this situation through various oficios (1) on these dates: September 9, 2010, oficio 031-028-10/033/2010; oficio 031-028-10/088/2010; oficio 031-028-10/089/2010, oficio 31-038-11/167/11; and on 22 February 2013, through oficio 031-038-11/012/2013 among others, in order to seek the fulfilment of their obligation to guarantee the integrity and personal safety of the inhabitants and to find a solution to the conflict, as of today their only response has been to administer the conflict.
Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre
Note: (1)..An oficio is an official communication
Attacks in Chiapas
Gloria Muñoz Ramirez,
Los de Abajo
This week, Chiapas was, once again, the scene of violence against the indigenous and campesinos who defend their land and practice autonomy, facts which are blurred in the electronic media, so busy struggling to spread images of the “intolerable violence” – as they call it – of the teachers from Guerrero, who are protesting against the imposition of educational reform, and the students who have taken the rectory of the UNAM.
Both attacks were directly against Zapatistas and pro-Zapatistas. The former are EZLN support bases from the community of San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilón, belonging to the caracol of Oventik. The second exemplify the struggle for the defense of their land in San Sebastian Bachajón, home and birthplace of the leader of the adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, assassinated by five bullets.
Active in the defense of his community since 2007, Juan Vázquez had denounced on 17 April, along with other ejidatarios adherent to the Zapatista initiative, new threats to their territory from a tourism project in the region.
The climate of violence in Chiapas, a state visited last week by the president Enrique Peña Nieto to kick-start his National Crusade against Hunger, is escalating with direct threats and harassment against those who defend their territory. The attacks have never gone away, it is true, but the violent events of this week are warnings that should not be overlooked, because a political assassination has not occurred in the state for a long time.
The attacks on San Marcos Avilés are not new either, but right now the hostilities are renewed against the families of this community, which, since August 2010 – when they established the autonomous school Emiliano Zapata – have been threatened by members of the group they call “party supporters”. The core of the conflict is the intention to displace them from their land.
In a recent communiqué, the Good Government Junta based in Oventik detailed the daily violations that they have suffered for the last three years, and commented that “the three levels of official government have done nothing to stop the acts of injustice and the violations of their human rights which are being committed against our support bases of the ejido San Marcos Avilés. The response has been one of swearing, ridicule and more threats to our compañeros.”
In Chiapas there is a latent threat of forced displacement against the Zapatistas, and a new political assassination.
Report of the Civil Mission of Human Rights Observation in San Marcos Avilés
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico April 25, 2013
On 21 and 22 April 2013, members of the Network for Peace in Chiapas conducted a Civil Mission of Observation and Documentation to the community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón; as a result of this we state, from the evidence collected, that the community are still receiving death threats, threats of rape, assaults, robberies, and the main source of aggression, dispossession of their arable land, and threats of forced displacement,prompted by the political party supporters in disagreement with the advances of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)’s project of autonomy.
The situation of escalating violence has intensified into actions during daylight. The women reported that party supporters are now not afraid to threaten and harass them on a daily basis. This results in the women not doing their work outside their home and the men, for reasons of safety, not going out alone to work their land. “…we cannot go out alone due to the threats. Our husbands go to work in groups of three, even though threats to kill them, and rape us continue.”
Likewise women from Support Bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) reported a situation of constant threats of rape, which significantly affects the lives of the women. A woman from BAEZLN describes her current life.
“We are all suffering from this conflict, we harvest coffee with fear. One day when I returned to the house, they had stolen chickens, poisoned pigs, and robbed other things. They also said that if women were out alone they would rape us. Two years ago, my daughter died at the age of 10. The girl died of sadness because they told her many times they were going to rape her. The women´s suffering comes from their concerns that the men will assault them.”
Another woman BAEZLN mentions: “My concern is that I have two children who go to collect firewood, but there are many death threats, and now I do not let my children go out, I don’t feel in peace.”
The children of the BAEZLN are constantly asking why they cannot go out to play; why they are kept locked up; they feel the anxiety of their mothers and fathers and this affects their emotional development; they have difficulty sleeping, they worry about the pain and stress suffered by their families due to the violence in which they live.
The psychological consequences are very serious, and have led to a loss of sleep, as a BAEZLN woman said: “there is a lot of anxiety because of the insecurity, and now none of us sleep due to the risk to the community….”
The testimonies show that the discrimination and exclusion are a result from belonging to BAEZLN, which leads to constant aggressions and humiliations which they are not willing to tolerate any longer.
Statements also show a situation of constant thefts from their own homes and places of work, which according to the victims have intensified, because these acts are now taking place in daylight. Below is one of the statements from a male member of the BAEZLN:
“On March 13, 2013, I had 800 selected little coffee plants (in a bag), then I realised they had stolen seven little coffee plants, which had involved loads of effort to put in the bag, a practice which happens regularly and normally agreed amongst the ejidatarios, who are linked to the authorities and we do nothing, so to avoid consistent provocations
To sum up, we documented many death threats which have been happening in recent months, like on March 27, 2013 when the ejidal and municipal authorities met together in a private place to share information about a BAEZLN man, to decide whether to kill him. They agreed that once they had executed this person, they would do the same with the other BAEZLN. The person who gave this statement asked not to be named, because they would burn him alive or he would have to pack his bags.
It should be noted that during the stay of the caravan, while we were gathering statements from the BAEZLN, we, the participating organizations, were living in a hostile environment. We received information that the party supporters were meeting, calling all men and women, and said that outsiders should not be coming in to solve their problems, that the caravan does not have the right to measure the land, (the party supporters thought that this was the function of the caravan, as we visited a site where BAEZLN denounce dispossession). Subsequently, we reported that the party supporters threatened the caravan with taking away our vehicles, saying “if you do not give them up, the good will become bad, and if blood flows, then blood will really flow”.
Meeting with municipal authorities from Chilón
As part of the Mission of Observation, we requested a meeting with the municipal president of Chilón, Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar, who was unable to attend, but we met with the government delegate in the area, Nabor Orosco Ferrer, and the Municipal Receiver, Francisco Guzmán Aguilar, among other municipal officials.
We shared the documentation of violations to human rights that are being experienced in San Marcos Avilés currently, and expressed our great concern about the situation of constant threats, robbery and risk of forced displacement. We emphasized the obligation of the state to guarantee security amidst a situation of threats, and it is an urgent matter, because the violence is escalating to irreparable levels. We also asked them to provide the necessary conditions for the BAEZLN to return to their land and the right to and respect for their autonomy and self-determination.
For his part, the Municipal Receiver of Chilón, Francisco Guzmán Aguilar, acknowledged the displacement and dispossession of land from the bases of the EZLN since 2010, commenting that “what is certain is that the Zapatistas bought the land, but it was taken from them because they do not pay property taxes, or pay for their light and water”, but he denied the existence of a situation of violence today.
At the same time, the government delegate in the area, Nabor Orosco Ferrer, admitted that there are people with political interests behind these events, who could be provoking the situation of conflict.
Regarding the recent acts of plunder on April 18, 2013, when machines came to work carrying gravel to fill in a lagoon in a plot of land belonging to a BAEZLN, acts organized from the Chilón municipal government, municipal officials told us that: “the filling in of the plot of land is necessary because it has a lagoon which attracts many mosquitoes which transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, but we had no knowledge that part of the land belongs to a BAEZLN”.
Hopes of the BAEZLN
The BAEZLN told us that they hope this conflict will soon be resolved peacefully and with justice, as they are suffering very much. They want to have peace, because they want to see their children playing happily. They are waiting for the return of their lands, which have been taken by the people responsible for the violence, so that peace can return to the community.
Conclusions of the Civil Mission of Observation
The organizations of the Network for Peace have verified that as a result of repeated threats and attacks, there is food shortage among the EZLN families. This does not allow them to live a full life, among other situations that might constitute acts of torture due to the constant and widespread violence committed against them by the party supporters of San Marcos Avilés.
We wish to express our great concerns about the continuing violations of the personal and psychological integrity of the BAEZLN. We regret the lack of action from the government of Chiapas, which has allowed and tolerated the fact that the situation is based on constant human rights violations.
We ask the government to foster actions from the party supporters which involve respect for the autonomy of the BAEZLN, within the framework of the rights of indigenous peoples contained in ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the San Andrés Accords, in accordance with Article 1 of the Constitution of the United Mexican States.
In this way the fundamental rights to health, education, housing, residence, freedom of movement and other rights of the BAEZLN families of the community of San Marcos Avilés, which are being violated, can be ensured, respected and protected.
According to the information documented, there is an imminent risk that, for a second time[i], a forced displacement may be carried out by people from the same ejido who are affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Mexican Green Ecological Perty (PVEM).
We make clear to the government the seriousness and urgency[ii] of the situation, and ask them to take immediate action to prevent irreparable harm to the life and personal integrity of the indigenous Tzeltales belonging to the BAEZLN in the community of San Marcos Avilés.
The members of the Network for Peace:
Fray Pedro Lorenzo de Nada Human Rights Committee (CDHFP),
Centre for Indigenous Rights, A.C. (CEDIAC),
Services and Consultancy for Peace, A.C. (SERAPAZ),
Support Committee for Community Reconciliation and Unity, A.C. (CORECO),
Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans, A.C. (DESMI),
Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba),
Education for Peace, A.C. (EDUPAZ), LINK, Communication and Training, A.C. (ENLACE CC),
International Service for Peace (SIPAZ),
and the Chiapas Centre for Women’s Rights, A.C. (CDMCH).
[i] Background: On September 9, 2010, the Good Government Junta Central Heart of the Zapatistas Before the World, Caracol 2 Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity, based in the community of Oventic, San Andrés Sakamch’en de Los Pobres, Chiapas, made a denouncement about the threats, harassment and forced displacement which had been suffered by the 170 men, women and children of the BAEZLN in the ejido San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilón, Chiapas; this was following, in August 2010, the BAEZLN building the first autonomous primary school in the ejido, for the start of the planned activities of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System.
That day, 30 people from the ejido San Marcos Avilés, affiliated with the political parties the PRI, the PRD and the PVEM, headed by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, entered violently, with sticks, machetes and firearms into the homes of the members of the BAEZLN, and tried to rape two women, who escaped. So as not to respond to this aggression, the BAEZLN left their homes seeking refuge in the bush. After 33 days of forced displacement without food or any protection, on October 12, 2010, 27 families of BAEZLN (women, men, boys and girls, in total 170 individuals) returned to their community. They are still living in a precarious situation, still displaced from their work and under constant threats to their integrity and personal safety.
[ii] Increase in acts of repression and tension against the BAEZLN in San Marcos Avilés; downloadable here:
Denunciation of attacks on families in Chilón in order to take their land
Caravan of observation has presented a report of their visit to the area
La Jornada, Friday April 26, 2013
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, April 25
Death threats, threats of rape, attacks and robberies are continuing against Zapatista families in San Marcos Avilés (Chilón). The Network for Peace in Chiapas has released a report about the situation in the community, after a caravan of observation visited last Monday. “The main source of the aggression is the dispossession of their workable lands by members of the PRI, PVEM and PRD”. There are also threats of displacement “prompted by the disagreement of the party supporters with the progress of the project of autonomy of the EZLN”, the report added.
The women of the community denounced that the party supporters harassed them on a daily basis. One described how: “we are harvesting the coffee with fear. One day when I returned to the house they had stolen the chickens, poisoned the pigs, and robbed other items. They say that if we go out alone, they will rape us. Two years ago my daughter died at the age of 10 of sadness, because they told her many times they were going to rape her.” Children “are constantly asking why they cannot go out and play, they feel the anxiety of their parents”. The psychological consequences “are severe”, the report said. According to another witness, “now we do not sleep on account of the risk”. The discrimination and exclusion against the Zapatistas “is evident”, and provocations “are constant”.
They documented a number of death threats. “For example, on March 27 the ejidal and municipal authorities met in a private place to share information about a Zapatista man and decide if they would kill him. They agreed that once they had done this, they would do the same with the other bases of the EZLN”.
During their stay in the ejido, the caravan experienced “a climate of hostility”, and the party supporters threatened to seize the vehicles of the observers.
Subsequently, the mission of 10 civil organizations met with the Chilón municipal authorities. While the Mayor Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar (PVEM) did not attend, observers met the government delegate Nabor Orozco Ferrer, the receiver (síndico) Francisco Guzmán Aguilar and other municipal officials.
Faced with the documentation of human rights violations, the receiver “acknowledged the displacement and dispossession of land from the bases of the EZLN since 2010, commenting that ‘what is certain is that the Zapatistas bought the land, but it was taken from them because they do not pay property taxes, or pay for their light and water’, but he denied the existence of a situation of violence today”. The Government delegate “admitted that there are political interests behind these events on the part of some people which might be causing the conflict”.
The mission found “food insecurity” among the EZLN families. “This does not allow them to live a full life, among other situations that might constitute acts of torture due to constant and widespread violence committed against them”.
“We regret the lack of action from the government of Chiapas, which has tolerated the constant human rights violations”, the Network for Peace declares, and demands guarantees of health, education, housing and freedom of movement for the EZLN support bases. “There is an imminent risk that, for the second time (the first was in 2010), a forced displacement may be carried out by people from the same ejido who are affiliated with the PRI, PVEM and PRD. We make clear to the government the seriousness and urgency of the situation, and ask them to take immediate action to prevent irreparable harm to the life and personal integrity of the indigenous belonging to the EZLN”, the report concludes.
Zapatistas Denounce Aggressions from PRI and PVEM Supporters
** They threaten the civil mission from the Chiapas Network for Peace
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, April 23, 2013
The Good Government Junta (JBG) of Los Altos, based in the Zapatista Caracol of Oventic, has denounced the numerous aggressions that the support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the San Marcos Avilés ejido (Chilón) have been suffering, particularly this year. The aggressors are identified as “party members” of the PRI and PVEM.
The context in which the communiqué was released is that the civilian mission of the Chiapas Network for Peace was threatened last Sunday, during its visit to the Tzeltal community to document the constant violations of the rights of the Zapatista bases. Frayba, one of the 10 participating organizations, denounced that: “the party members threatened the ‘Civil Observation Caravan’ with taking away its vehicles,” and warned that if they did not give them up (the vehicles) “the good” would become “the bad, and if blood flows, it is going to flow.” The threats did not materialize, but they give an idea of the climate in San Marcos Avilés. The caravan concluded without further incidents, and announced [it will present] a report in the next few days.
Meanwhile, the Junta recalls that “it has been denouncing all the shameful acts of these party supporters” who provoke problems among the indigenous of the same community. They are “organized by the governors Juan Sabines Guerrero and, now, Manuel Velasco Coello.” The three levels of government “have done nothing to stop the injustices that they are committing against our compañeros.” And he points out: “The response to our denunciations has been swearing, jokes and more threats.”
The communiqué details more than 20 attacks against the Zapatista families from July 2011 until last week, when a Zapatista was dispossessed from a plot of land by the mayor of Chilón, who, on April 17, “sent a tractor to level a 32 by 25 meter plot owned by Javier Ruiz Cruz, which started to work, guarded by 120 people from the different political parties.” “Our compañero was not able to do anything to defend his property.”
The next day “the tractor continued working in the plot, surrounded by the same number of party supporters and seven dumper trucks to carry gravel.” Earlier, last January 29, Ruiz Cruz had reported to the Junta that the land, on the banks of a lagoon, “was circled by the aggressors,” among “rumors that we are dealing with the construction of a military camp.”
The threats and harassment “have not stopped” since 2011, usually headed by the municipal police and the PVEM member Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez. The Junta describes various attacks against the autonomous families: seizure of land, robbery of crops and animals, sacking of coffee fields, death threats, false accusations, suspension of electric service and attacks with arms and with rocks, together with the arbitrary actions of Chilón’s municipal officials, openly colluding with the PRI and PVEM aggressors in San Marcos Avilés.
Already, in March 2012, the PRI member Ernesto López Núñez boasted: “that those in his party have a new plan” to evict the Zapatistas, and that there would be a “second phase of taking away their rights.”
On March 3, “aggressors and authorities of the PVEM met with the principal ringleader” (the above-mentioned Ruiz Gómez), who would have said: “that there is no other way than to murder the children of our compañeros,” and then asked his accomplices “to murder Juan Velasco Aguilar and the rest of the Zapatistas.” His fellow believers, according to the Junta, said they were “ready” to do it and that they have “sufficient weapons”.
The Oventic Junta “blames” the above-mentioned Ruiz Gómez and López Núñez “directly,” as well as the former’s sons, Socrates and Ismael Ruiz Núñez. It adds the PRI members José Cruz Hernández, Santiago Cruz Díaz, Vicente Ruiz López, Manuel Vázquez Gómez and José Hernández Méndez, besides the Greens Rubén Martínez Vásquez, Manuel Díaz Ruiz, Victor Núñez Martínez, Victor Díaz Sánchez and another 30 individuals. These aggressors do not allow the Zapatista bases, who were already temporarily evicted in 2010, to live in peace.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Urgent note: Caravan to San Marcos Avilés receives threats from political party supporters
Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas
April 22, 2013
Caravan to San Marcos Avilés receives threats from political party supporters who say: “Blood will flow”.
According to information we have received up to now, the political party supporters of San Marcos Avilés have threatened the “Network for Peace in Chiapas Civil Caravan for Human Rights Observation in San Marcos Avilés” with taking away their vehicles; according to information they said: “If you do not hand them over quietly it will be the worse for you, and if blood is going to flow, then blood will flow”.
As a Human Rights Center we demand the prompt and immediate intervention of the Chiapas government to protect and ensure the integrity of the human rights defenders from the civil caravan.
Finally we ask national and international civil society to keep abreast of the situation.
NETWORK FOR PEACE IN CHIAPAS INFORMS ABOUT CIVIL MISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVATION TO SAN MARCOS AVILÉS
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico,
April 18, 2013
To national and international human rights organizations
To national and international media
To public opinion
Civil Mission for the Observation of Human Rights in San Marcos Avilés, Chilón municipality, Chiapas, by the Network for Peace
The members of the Network for Peace in Chiapas would like to inform you that on 21 and 22 April, 2013, we will be undertaking a Civil Mission of Observation and Documentation to the community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón, in order to collect testimonies after the recent threats to forcibly displace the support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN), made by the inhabitants of the same ejido belonging to different political parties. In this context, we also hope to meet with the municipal president of Chilón, Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar, and the government delegate in the area, Nabor Orosco Ferrer. At the end of this visit, we will prepare a report which we will present afterwards.
The Network for Peace in Chiapas was set up in late 2000. It is a space for reflection and action composed of 10 civil society organizations, which maintains an ongoing analysis of the local and national context, along with specific actions such as statements about matters of gravity, observation missions or thematic gatherings (Encuentros) on Human Rights. We believe it is important to carry out this mission and the meetings with the authorities, in order to halt the escalation of threats and their possible realization, especially considering that 170 BAEZLN from the ejido San Marcos Avilés have already been displaced, between August and October 2010, and that today they are still living in a precarious situation, remaining displaced from the lands they work, and with their integrity and personal safety under constant threat.
To national and international human rights organizations, national and international media and public opinion, we ask you all to remain alert as to what might happen in the context of the mission and to circulate the contents of the report when it is made public.
The members of the Network for Peace:
Fray Pedro Lorenzo de Nada Human Rights Committee (CDHFP)
Center for Indigenous Rights, A.C. (CEDIAC)
Services and Consultancy for Peace, A.C. (SERAPAZ)
Support Committee for Community Reconciliation and Unity, A.C. (CORECO)
Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans, A.C. (DESMI)
Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba)
Education for Peace, A.C. (EDUPAZ)
LINK, Communication and Training, A.C. (ENLACE CC)
International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)
Chiapas Center for Women’s Rights, A.C. (CDMCH)
Civil Mission in Chiapas in response to threats to EZLN support bases
Sunday April 21, 2013
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, April 20
Members of the Network for Peace in Chiapas have reported that this Sunday 21st and Monday 22ndApril, they will undertake a civil mission of observation and documentation to the community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón, “in order to collect testimonies, following recent threats to forcibly displace the support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), made by the inhabitants of the same ejido who are affiliated to different political parties.”
The 10 civil agencies involved in the action, who have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the Zapatista population of this community, said they also hope to meet with the municipal president of Chilón, Rafael Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, and the government delegate for the area, Nabor Orozco Ferrer.
They also called on human rights defenders, the media and the public “to remain alert as to what might happen in the context of the mission”. At the end of this visit to the Tzeltal families under threat, the observers will present a report.
They emphasized the importance of the observation and the meetings with officials “in order to halt the escalation of threats and their possible realization, especially considering that 170 Zapatista bases from the ejido San Marcos Avilés have already been displaced, between August and October 2010, and that today they are still living in a precarious situation, remaining displaced from the lands they work, and with their integrity and personal safety under constant threat.”
The Network for Peace in Chiapas, established in 2000, describes itself “a space for reflection and action composed of 10 civil society organizations, which maintains an ongoing analysis of the local and national context, along with specific actions such as statements about matters of gravity or observation missions.” The network is made up of: Fray Pedro Lorenzo de Nada Human Rights Committee (CDHFP), Centre for Indigenous Rights, A.C. (CEDIAC), Services and Consultancy for Peace, A.C. (SERAPAZ), Support Committee for Community Reconciliation and Unity, A.C. (CORECO), Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans, A.C. (DESMI), Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), Education for Peace, A.C. (EDUPAZ), LINK, Communication and Training, A.C. (ENLACE CC), International Service for Peace (SIPAZ), and Chiapas Centre for Women’s Rights, A.C. (CDMCH).
Harassment Worsens Against EZLN Support Bases in San Marcos Avilés Ejido, Chiapas
** “Party members” threaten to incarcerate the Oventic Junta if it intervenes in the matter of the displaced
Indigenous Tzotzil support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, in the Municipality of Oventic, located in the Highlands of Chiapas.
[Photo archive/ La Jornada]
By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy
San Cristóbal de las Casas, March 5, 2013
Every day the situation of threats, harassment and tension becomes more serious against the support bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the San Marcos Avilés ejido (municipality of Chilón), from followers of the PRI, PRD and the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, whose ringleaders have even threatened to “incarcerate” the Good Government Junta (JBG) of Oventic, if it should intervene.
According to “trustworthy” information, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) says that this situation has worsened since February 23, when the “party members” met with an unidentified local Chiapas deputy in Ranchería Yoc’ja, Chilón. “After this meeting an assembly was held in San Marcos Avilés, where the “party members (partidistas)” stated: “There will be war against the support bases because there is no longer another way of resolving the problem.”
On February 24, strong rumors were generated that “in the coming days” the “party members” would evict them together with other communities, for this reason the community of Zapatistas bases was on alert.
On February 26, at 8:00 at night, the ejidal commissioner, Ernesto Pérez Núñez, announced through the community’s sound system an assembly meeting the following day, which the 70 ejido members would have to attend, along with the residents who are not (Zapatista). The commissioner also warned: “No one from another place will have the right to come to settle the ejido’s problems, and if anyone from the JBG comes, we are going to incarcerate them.”
From February 27 until the present time, the Zapatista families “are living in a situation of grave tension, under direct threat and harassment of a forced displacement by the party members”.
Frayba “considers it urgent to address the situation of harassment as it is resulting in grave human rights violations, related to personal integrity and security, residency and free transit, among others.” Besides affecting coexistence and harmony in the community and family, it has repercussions in a potential humanitarian crisis “with possible consequences difficult to repair if a forced displacement is carried out for the second occasion against the Zapatista bases,” as already occurred in April 2010.
The new escalation against the autonomous families has already been denounced in recent days (La Jornada, 02/24/13). State authorities have been conspicuous for their inaction to avert possible violence against the Zapatistas of the Tzeltal community.
Amicus curiae on behalf of Patishtán
The University of Minnesota in the United States submitted to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in which it argues that in the case of Alberto Patishtán the evidence should be dismissed from the beginning, “since it was wrongfully obtained and as a result his fundamental rights were violated, which existed since before the publication of the new thesis and jurisprudence of the SCJN.” The Mexican State was obliged to protect and guarantee the rights of the prisoner.
Patishtán’s defense validated the argument developed in the writing (in an amicus curiae, experts on a topic unrelated to a judgement express their opinion with respect to a particular case, supporting elements that can be transcendent in the court’s decision). This, because “it maintains judicial elements for which the SCJN ought to assume its jurisdiction and take up the fundamental issue on the strict question of violations to guarantees and judicial protection, rights that were trampled at all times in the criminal proceeding.”
Meanwhile, those in Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate, members of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle detained in the San Cristóbal de las Casas prison, also spoke out in this respect: “After almost 13 years of unjust imprisonment of our compañero Alberto, the time has come for the anomalies and irregularities in his case to be discovered.” This Wednesday “there will be a hearing to discuss the SCJN’s resumption of jurisdiction in the matter. We trust that when the ministers discover all the lies in our brother’s case, they will dictate his immediate liberation.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Political party militants and police demand that Zapatistas pay predial tax
They are at imminent risk of expulsion from the Chilón ejido, warns the Frayba centre
We will not pay; the government does not respond to complaints made: EZLN support base
Sunday February 24, 2013
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, February 23. The Zapatista families of the ejido San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón, are at imminent risk of displacement by the inhabitants of the same ejido who are affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Mexican Green Ecology Party (PVEM). The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) today issued an Urgent Action to demand guarantees for the threatened indigenous from the federal and state governments.
On Tuesday 19, ejidal authorities and police from the community aggressively delivered a letter to the support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), demanding the payment of the predial tax. The Zapatista civilians explained their reasons for not participating in any area of the state and federal governments: We have suffered very much as a result of all these aggressions from groups of (political) party members, and the government has done nothing. Now is not the time to pay, because we are in resistance and we demand respect for our right to our lands. If we do not receive anything from the government, we are not going to pay taxes.
The ejido authorities replied that they had to pay because it was an order from the municipal president and (the secretariat) of Finance. Otherwise they would be evicted. We will arrest you ourselves and take you to the authorities. We are going to cut off the light and water, they said.
On the 20th the party supporters met to agree actions against the bases of the EZLN. According to testimony gathered by Frayba, they drafted a memorandum of agreement in which they agreed to seek the way to displace them, as well as addressing the municipal and state governments to seek strategies for the eviction of the Zapatistas from the community.
On the 21st the party supporters left San Marcos Avilés very early in order to fulfil the agreement and speak with the municipal president and the Agrarian Procurator in Ocosingo, so as to enable the eviction, also sending letters to the municipal, state and federal governments.
The bases of the EZLN reported that the ejido authorities informed them of this. That night, around 9 o’clock, the officialist (ie government-supporting) ejidatarios threatened the Zapatistas, saying that the municipal president of Chilón had given the eviction order and that on Monday 25 they would request intervention by the state government in Tuxtla Gutierrez .
The Frayba centre makes clear its concerns about the imminent risk to the life, integrity and personal safety of the Zapatista bases of San Marcos Avilés, based on the death threats and acts of intimidation which have increased in recent weeks.
To this they add forced displacement and the dispossession of their lands and livelihood since April 9, 2010, a situation that has led to a food crisis and a constant threat to their process of autonomy.
The Frayba centre emphasizes the responsibility of the government of Chiapas, which through deliberate omission has not acted to ensure the integrity and personal safety of the Zapatista bases and their access to their lands, despite several interventions sent by the organization itself to the Mexican government demanding the necessary measures to ensure the integrity and personal safety of the threatened indigenous, along with their right to the fundamental freedoms of free speech and thought, and their right to their dispossessed lands and to the autonomous process which they are building under the right to the free determination of peoples.
It should be remembered that on September 9, 2010, the Good Government Junta from Oventic denounced the forced displacement of 170 Zapatista men, women and children from the ejido, following the building by the Zapatistas, in August of that year, of the first autonomous school in the ejido.
On that day, 30 people from the ejido, led by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, entered violently, with sticks, machetes and guns, into the homes of the Zapatistas and attempted to rape two women, who managed to escape. So as not to respond to this aggression, the Zapatista families took refuge in the woods. After 33 days of displacement, the 27 families returned to their community on October 12. For more than two years they have remained in a precarious situation, deprived of their lands and under constant threats, which now could be fulfilled.
A Meeting of Struggles: Report from The Other Campaign New York about San Marcos Avilés, Zapatista Support Base community
17th January, 2012.
The ejido of San Marcos Avilés, a Zapatista support base community, is located in the Chilón municipality of Chiapas, amidst verdant jungle. The population here is tzeltal-speaking indigenous people, and has for years fought for their autonomy, dignity, and justice, as indigenous peoples and Zapatistas.
For over a year, our compas of San Marcos Avilés have suffered under a climate of terror and violence organized by local groups and individuals with intimate ties to the PRI, PRD, and PVEM political parties of Mexico, who wish to undermine the Zapatista struggle to build autonomy. In the case of San Marcos Avilés, the construction of their autonomous school represents the primary target for the bad government, as it symbolizes and exercises that autonomy.
Last week, shortly after the Second International Seminar of Reflection and Analysis convened by the CIDECI-University of the Earth, a delegation of Movement for Justice in El Barrio, The Other Campaign New York, accompanied by two compas from the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (FrayBa), visited the community of San Marcos Avilés. The purpose of the visit was to meet the community and learn more about their dignified struggle, and at the same time, share our own.
On arriving at San Marcos Avilés, we presented to the entire community a giant banner of the Worldwide Declaration in Support of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés. The banner was printed by FrayBa and had a map indicating all the cities and countries that signed on to the declaration to demand an immediate end to the repression.
Afterwards, the compas of San Marcos Avilés welcomed us and recounted their struggle and experiences. They spoke on the situation they are currently facing. The bad government’s repression has been an unending nightmare for them. Among the various forms of violence that have been employed, include sexual aggression (in some instances, attempted rape), theft and plunder, physical attacks, forced displacement, and the destruction of food, crops, and animals—in essence, everything the community needs to survive and sustain itself. In addition, death threats continue to the present.
During the evening, we gathered in the church that our compas built, and presented a bit on our local struggle. We screened a video message that featured the immigrant members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio speaking on their struggle in East Harlem, New York. We also screened several video messages from the international campaign to free the “Bachajón 5.”
We know that the neoliberal border walls that those on top impose on us attempt to keep us divided. But that evening, with our words and faces, we were able to open a crack in those walls, and we wove together our struggles even more. The message was clear: The distance and border will never keep us apart.
The following day we spoke more with the compas regarding the repression they are facing. They explained how the bad government continues to terrorize the community. To this end, some inhabitants residing near the community are of the political parties. This essentially has turned the area into a zone of aggression. Off in the distance, one could hear music being played by these aggressors. The feeling of terror weighs heavily upon the air, and is constantly reinforced by the music. Despite all of this, the dignified people of San Marcos Avilés have not given up and will continue its struggle by building the Zapatista autonomy from below. They send affectionate greetings to all of us at Movement for Justice in El Barrio and around the world who have supported them. They ask that we continue to support them and that we continue advancing in our own struggles.
Worldwide Declaration in Support of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés, Chiapas, Mexico.
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre and the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, The Other Campaign, New York, have written the following declaration with the goal of collecting signatures of support.
We ask that you please send us your signatures of support, including the name of your organization or collective and country, no later than Monday, October 24, 2011, to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
After this date we will send out the declaration with all of the signatures, so that we can disseminate them together and in doing so, we will demand an end to the repression they are confronting.
Worldwide Declaration in Support of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés, Chiapas, Mexico.
It has been over ten years since the Colour of the Earth March, during which the Zapatistas gave the political class of Mexico one more opportunity to advance in the historical debt of 500 years of oppression against indigenous peoples throughout Mexico and the Americas. In spite of this violent and enduring experience, the indigenous Zapatista communities have kept alive a vibrant and profound history of resistance and struggle for over 17 years with the public uprising of the EZLN.
Since this historic moment, which represented an important step forward in their struggle for dignity and construction of autonomy, they have continued to fight against the neoliberal capitalist system that seeks to erase them.
Today, the Zapatista communities are a spirit of struggle, life, and dignity in the necessary building of communal being and the exercise of self-determination.
As a consequence of this, the Mexican State, by way of political actors and pro-government organizations, has attempted to dismantle the process of realizing the San Andrés Accords that is being carried out through the daily practices of the community, including for instance their projects of self-governance, justice, jobs, health, appropriate technology, education, and others.
The advancement of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System has served as a pretext to attack the Support Bases of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, of the San Marcos Avilés ejido, in the Chilón municipality of Chiapas, which have suffered various forms of violence—such as death threats, harassment, dispossession, sexual assault, forced displacement, amongst others—at the hands of members of the PRI, PRD, and PVEM.
On September 9, 2010, after the construction of the first autonomous school in said ejido, which forms part of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System, over 170 people were violently displaced from their homes by a paramilitary group, comprised of 30 individuals and headed by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López—both affiliated to the PRI, PRD, and PVEM. This group, which was armed with machetes and firearms, violently broke into their homes and even attempted to rape two women of the ejido.
According to testimony from inhabitants of the region, this attack was deliberately orchestrated to undermine the autonomous education project. Consequently, the Zapatista Support Bases were forced to flee their homes and spent over 33 days in the wilderness, surviving off plants and herbs. On October 12, 2010, upon returning to their community, and accompanied by a solidarity caravan, the displaced found their homes and belongings—including their animals, corn, and beans—ransacked. Their central crops, such as coffee and fruit-bearing trees, were also destroyed. At present, the aggressions, harassment, and threats persist.
The ongoing harassment and aggression have created the conditions of possibility for further violence, impunity, and systematic human rights abuses. They have, moreover, severely debilitated the daily life of members of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés by preventing the harvest of their basic dietary foods, such as corn and beans.
Currently, with regards to the status of their health, we are aware of several severe cases of malnourishment of the population, which acutely impact women and children, and of the death of a young girl. In the San Marcos Avilés community, like in nearby communities, a typhoid epidemic runs rampant, and has claimed the life of at least one child.
It is clear that violence was utilized against the exercise of Zapatista autonomy, as embodied in its educational system, in order to undermine this historical process which the Zapatista Support Bases continue to develop via this new institution of learning. As indigenous peoples, they have an undeniable right to build their autonomy, defend their ancestral lands, and create educational systems that support and reflect the cultural and intellectual practices of their own community. This right, furthermore, is endorsed by the San Andrés Accords, Convention #169 of the International Labour Organization, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In light of the ascending severity and frequency of these acts, we demand the following:
1. An immediate and permanent end to the harassment, death threats, plundering, dispossession, sexual violence, and forced displacement perpetrated against the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés.
2. Respect for the right to self-determination, particularly as expressed in the construction of autonomous governance, justice, and education of indigenous peoples.
3. That the right to adequate nutrition be guaranteed and upheld, as it constitutes the foundation of the right of all human beings to enjoy the highest level of mental and physical health.
Declaration of Support from Liberty Plaza, New York to the Zapatistas in Mexico.
19th October, 2011
Declaration produced by the Movement for Justice in el Barrio, New York Signed by 1000 protesters from Occupy Wall Street
For over 17 years, with the public uprising of the EZLN on January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas have made enormous contributions to the social, cultural, and political struggles of those from below for another world. In doing so, they have touched the hearts of countless people of good conscience from every corner of the planet; and have proven that justice, dignity, and democracy are not simply ideas to be imagined or discussed, but realities to be lived and created.
They have successfully created spaces of true autonomy and practice genuine democracy. In their communities, they exercise self-determination and develop self-sustained community institutions, such as schools, health clinics, and cooperative farms, that reflect and embrace indigenous worldviews and cultures.
They are living proof that it is possible to create this other world that we want.
As history teaches us, for the powerful and privileged few who control our lives and plunder our world, a struggle such as this must be rejected, distorted, silenced, beaten, imprisoned, assaulted, ignored.
The Zapatista autonomy infuriates the servants of the capitalist system who make up the bad governments. In Mexico, these bad federal, state, and municipal governments – which are headed by the brutal repressor, President Felipe Calderon, and controlled by the reigning PAN, PRI, and PRD parties – systematically use their army, police forces, and paramilitary groups to attempt to destroy their autonomy and exterminate the dignified, indigenous Zapatista communities.
Over the past year, the autonomous indigenous communities of San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz have endured numerous acts of violence, harassment, and displacement. In recent months, these grave acts have intensified at alarming rates. In San Marcos Avilés, since September 2010, the population has suffered from death threats, harassment, dispossession, sexual assault (including attempted rape), forced displacement, and malnourishment, which has resulted in the deaths of at least two children. These horrific crimes have been and continue to be committed by members of the PRI, PRD, and PVEM political parties.
Similarly, last September 7, inhabitants of the San Patricio community have received constant threats of displacement and even death by a paramilitary group called, “Peace and Justice,” which desires to seize their territory. Alongside these heinous acts, the paramilitaries continue to destroy and plunder the San Patricio community’s crops, animals, and possessions – in essence, their livelihoods. Women and children have been experiencing this violence acutely, as the paramilitary group has consciously sought them out and threatened them directly.
Beginning this past October 6, community members of Rancho La Paz have suffered equally heinous attacks, such as repeated death threats involving firearms, theft and the destruction of foodstuffs, and beatings, including the physical attack of group of women with machetes. The perpetrators are government-protected residents of nearby communities.
These horrific crimes are part of a deliberate strategy to retaliate against the Zapatistas for exercising their rights to be autonomous and not allowing the bad government and its lackeys to seize what rightfully belongs to them: their ancestral territories, resources, and labor. The bad government with its corrupt political parties does this with the goal of displacing them from their land so that they can take possession of it and later construct lucrative tourist zones for the benefit of those from above.
In light of the abovementioned forms of violence targeting the Zapatista indigenous communities of San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz in Chiapas, Mexico:
We, the undersigned, participating in Occupy Wall St. in New York City, gathered at Liberty Plaza and part of the civil society of the United States, declare the following:
1. The Zapatistas are not alone in their struggle for a world of dignity, justice, and democracy. We echo and repeat their honourable “¡Ya Basta!” here in New York City.
2. We strongly condemn the violations taking place in Chiapas, Mexico, and will remain on alert for further aggression.
3. We will not let Mexico’s bad government achieve its objective of annihilating the Zapatista communities.
4. We hold the three levels of government (federal, state, and municipal) in Mexico responsible for all of the repressive acts against the Zapatista indigenous communities, who are targeted for exercising their undeniable right to autonomy and self-determination as indigenous peoples.
1. Respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the Zapatista indigenous people.
2. An end to the violent repression towards the Zapatistas, and their support communities, such as San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz.
THE ASSAULT ON AUTONOMOUS EDUCATION IN SOUTH-EAST MEXICO
15, November 2011
“As a direct result of asserting their legitimate right to education, they do not have food, shelter, or water for their children”
This article was published to coincide with the issue of the Worldwide Declaration in Support of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés, Chiapas, Mexico by The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) and the Movement for Justice in el Barrio, the Other Campaign, New York (MJB), November 2011
Zapatista Autonomous Education
Before the Zapatistas set up their own education system, many communities had no schools at all. Others had poorly funded and run government schools, many of which had teachers irregularly, if at all. Often, lessons were not taught in the communities’ indigenous languages, nor were they based on the local customs and traditions. The children had to wear uniform. So, “we decided to set up our own autonomous schools”.
“The difference between the government schools and the autonomous schools is that in our schools we are working for our brothers and sisters. The government imposes education designed for the rich, it imposes its own ideas. It imposes another language. We develop our own language, our own culture.” In their own schools they can learn their own history, how to care for their land, in their own way and according to their own needs.
Education in these schools is free and is open to all ages and all people, whether or not they are Zapatistas. There is no competition, learning is a shared experience. The schools are staffed by education promoters, based on the belief that education is a collective experience. “The education promoters work voluntarily. They are not working for a wage or for personal interest, they are acting on their conscience, teaching for the sake of the community”. Usually, the community provides food and shelter for the promoter. “Here we share learning and learn from each other, it’s not like the promoters know everything. Even the youngest child can contribute”.
Education is based on the needs of the community, and hours are agreed accordingly. Pupils are educated to take up positions of responsibility and to work for the good of the community. “We want our children to learn about freedom and dignity and to value all human beings”. Agro-ecology is an important part of the school programme, how to work the land and to care for the earth, how to save seeds, how to use and prepare natural remedies, the importance of conserving water sources and forests, the need to work together to build and strengthen the community and the resistance. Both the indigenous languages and Spanish are used. It is forbidden to hit, punish or disrespect the children.
All this is undertaken despite seemingly overwhelming odds: grinding poverty, no resources or equipment, and, increasingly, direct attacks conducted with total impunity aimed at breaking the will to resist and thereby destroy the entire movement.
The current situation in the communities
For nearly eighteen years now, the Zapatista communities in resistance have been enduring a counterinsurgency war designed to put an end to their movement. In recent years, acts of aggression, repression, intimidation, violence, theft, land eviction, and provocation have increased, and in 2011 their frequency and cruelty have markedly intensified. In August and September, 2011, therefore, an Observation and Solidarity Brigade visited some of the communities to listen to the voices of those under attack, to document the repression, to witness continuing advances in autonomy, and to show solidarity with the men, women and children surviving this daily reality.
The Brigade reported the testimonies of communities who have no doubt that, while the attacks represent a concerted effort to take their land, crops and possessions, they also represent an attempt to destroy and put an end to all the progress these communities have made in the construction of autonomy, and in the development of their own services of education, healthcare, justice, government, community work, co-operatives, the participation of women, appropriate technology, and other social and economic projects. They believe that the aggressions are also aimed at provoking a response from the EZLN, and are determined not to respond with violence: “We are all brothers and sisters here”.
Primary schools targeted
An area of extreme concern highlighted by the Brigade was that the Zapatista autonomous education project has become the pretext and focus of attacks in the escalating level of violence. In August 2010, the EZLN General Command called for the building of autonomous schools in all Zapatista communities. Several communities did not yet have a school, and the need was recognised to offer all children the opportunity to be educated in their own language and culture, according to their own customs and traditions. Immediately after this call was made, the attacks on communities proposing to set up a school began. The majority, though not all, of these aggressions have been in communities in the highland region, the Caracol of Oventik, leading to situations of acute emergency in these areas.
San Marcos Avilés
The Zapatista Support Bases (BAZ) within this community started to set up their autonomous education project in August 2010, with the construction of the first Zapatista Rebel autonomous primary school Emiliano Zapata. They informed the official ejido authorities that they would be withdrawing their children from the official school. The response was one of taunts, threats and harassments, and a promise to destroy the new school. On 21st August, two BAZ were tied up and held hostage for 25 hours in an attempt to force them to renounce the school and the Zapatista movement.
The next stage was to threaten to steal their land, and to increase the level of intimidation. The aggressors, who are members of three Mexican political parties (PRI, PRD and PVEM), stationed themselves at locations throughout the community on 22nd August, firing gunshots into the air until late at night. On 24th and 25th August they carried out their threats to steal the land, taking over 29 hectares of BAZ recuperated land throughout the community. 8500 coffee plants (equivalent to 360 sacks of coffee) were also stolen, along with 10 hectares of corn and beans, a hectare of bananas, seven cows, six horses and three humble dwelling-houses.
The BAZ wrote a polite letter to the community officials, asking for the attacks to cease, but this was met with more humiliations and insults. The threats and harassments continued, culminating, on 9th September 2010, in the forced displacement of 170 BAZ from San Marcos Avilés: to avoid responding to another act of aggression when their homes were broken into, 47 men, 50 women and 77 children took refuge in the wild bush and mountain area without any food or belongings, “enduring the cold and rain, without a roof to protect them, with very young children and two pregnant women who had to give birth on the mountain”.
This they endured for 33 days, before an accompanied return to find their homes looted and their possessions stolen, their lands taken over, their fences broken down, their animals killed and their crops burned. The death threats, bullying and harassment from the political party supporters have continued, preventing members of the community from performing their daily activities, and severely undermining their mental and physical health.
The aggressors are heavily armed with guns of different calibres and semi-automatic pistols, allegedly provided by an ex-member of the local Chilon police. They behave exactly like a paramilitary group, carrying and firing arms openly and threatening to take the Zapatista women as spoils of war. It is reported that much of the land of the BAZ has been put up for sale, and when it is sold, the money is used to buy more weapons.
As negotiations with the official authorities completely broke down following the eviction, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) has been monitoring the situation. They helped set up a Civil Peace Camp in April 2011, to observe and report occurrences; this has since also been the victim of unprecedented threats and hostility. Frayba have on several occasions informed the government authorities of the situation, to request compliance with the government’s obligation to ensure the integrity and personal security of the inhabitants and to seek a solution to the conflict. There has been no response. On 27th June 2011 they issued an Urgent Action about the situation.
For the simple action of asserting their right to self-determination, to set up their own school, the BAZ of the ejido San Marcos Avilés are now in a desperate and critical state. The theft of their crops and the plundering of their land have left them without access to food; they are threatened if they try to go to work on their lands. They are thus being deprived of their basic right to food.
The lack of food and free access in and out of the community have contributed significantly to a state of acute malnutrition, and to what the observers describe as a ‘severe health emergency’. There have been outbreaks of acute fever, and Frayba refers to a ‘rampant typhoid epidemic which has led to the death of at least one child’. While the Brigade was visiting the community, a 10-year old girl, Maria Ignacia Velasco Martinez, died during a very high fever. The Brigade commented “the health of indigenous children is not a priority for this government….It is clear that in the 21st century the children of Mexico are still dying of curable diseases”.
All reports comment on the very severe psycho-emotional toll the daily threats are taking on the BAZ community; that all the men, women and children are living in a state of constant fear and anxiety, reflected in their very tense mood, and depressed state of mind. “The women in particular express the suffering resulting from their displacement, and the pain and suffering caused by having no security of any kind, neither for themselves, nor, above all, for their children. As a direct result of asserting their legitimate right to education, they do not have food, shelter, or water for their children”.
Because of the continual threats and aggressions, the primary school is still not functioning. Between 60 and 80 children are therefore denied their right to education.
Response from the Zapatista authorities
“We will not remain silent about any threats or aggression against our compañeros…….we want to make clear to public opinion that we are going to continue with autonomous education throughout all Zapatista territory, our sons and daughters will not go to government schools because they will never teach them the truth about how we live as indigenous peoples….” JBG Central Heart of the Zapatistas before the World, Caracol II, Oventik, July 2011
Conclusions of the Observation and Solidarity Brigade
“It is clear that the Zapatista Autonomous Education is a threat and a hindrance to the national project of the bad government. In all reported cases, the attacks, threats, humiliations, dispossessions and displacement, have as their sole cause the implementation of the Zapatista autonomous education project. Apparently, the 3 levels of the bad government: municipal, state and federal, are afraid to see the autonomy project strengthened, perhaps for the reasons suggested by the BAZ compañero/as:
Because the indigenous have the right to better education, because with autonomous education we better understand our life, and our situation for the development of our struggle. It is important that our young people understand the reason for our struggle, why we live in this condition of poverty and misery, the reasons for their own life. We know that the country’s wealth is appropriated by the bad government, so it is important that the children understand the causes of this plunder. It is important to understand that official education is opposed to the Zapatista project. The official education is a form of domination, making us believe it is intended to make life better.
“Right now the Zapatista autonomous education project is the focus of attacks from the bad government. By attacking Zapatista autonomous education, they are attacking the fundamental human rights, not only of adults, but above all of the indigenous children of the state of Chiapas, that is to say that Mexico is violating the rights of children.
“Moreover, it is urgent to denounce the alarming situation of extreme poverty in which indigenous communities are still living in our country. As for the speeches about progress and welfare in the state of Chiapas, we observed the facts, the conditions of marginalization in which the autonomous communities live due to the blockade of food and products that the repression and harassment of these same communities generates, simply because they want to defend their autonomy”.
At the same time the Brigade were inspired by the Zapatista achievement: “we found that the Zapatista autonomy project continues to advance in gigantic steps. The equal participation of women in various areas of work is increasing every day, clothing and crafts cooperatives are being brought to fruition by the women themselves. Organic coffee cooperatives sell their produce in Mexico and the world, new agro-ecology projects are being implemented in each of the caracoles, where people can obtain organic produce friendly to Mother Earth. In all the autonomous communities there is at least one health house (casa de salud) or microclinic, in addition to the central clinic in each caracol.
We see that, in fact, the Zapatista autonomy project asserts the rights that are enshrined in the declarations, conventions and treaties related to the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those related to autonomy and free determination. We witnessed terrible humiliations perpetrated by the bad government, but we also saw with our own eyes that despite the threats of repression, suffering, pain and poverty, not one of the compañero/as wants to give up. This belief in the process of liberation means that the Zapatista movement is stronger than ever.”
Frayba have stated clearly: “indigenous peoples have the right to construct their autonomy, to defend their ancestral territory and to create an educational system that supports and reflects their cultural and intellectual practices”.
In response to the desperate situation they have witnessed there, in November 2011, Frayba, in conjunction with the Movement for Justice in el Barrio (MJB), issued the Worldwide Declaration in Support of the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés, Chiapas, Mexico. This powerful document, signed by organizations, groups and individuals all over the world, concludes:
“It is clear that violence is utilized against the exercise of Zapatista autonomy, as embodied in its educational system, in order to undermine this historical process which the Zapatista Support Bases continue to develop via this new institution of learning. As indigenous peoples, they have an undeniable right to build their autonomy, defend their ancestral lands, and create educational systems that support and reflect the cultural and intellectual practices of their own community. This right, furthermore, is endorsed by the San Andrés Accords, Convention #169 of the International Labour Organization, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.
“In light of the ascending severity and frequency of these acts, we demand the following:
1. An immediate and permanent end to the harassment, death threats, plundering, dispossession, sexual violence, and forced displacement perpetrated against the Zapatista Support Bases of San Marcos Avilés.
2. Respect for the right to self-determination, particularly as expressed in the construction of autonomous governance, justice, and education of indigenous peoples.
3. That the right to adequate nutrition be guaranteed and upheld, as it constitutes the foundation of the right of all human beings to enjoy the highest level of mental and physical health.”
 Forcing indigenous children to wear uniform means that children cannot wear traditional Mayan clothes and so is an attack on their identity.
Death threats, harassment and risk of forced displacement in San Marcos Avilés
According to information documented by the Centre for Human Rights (Frayba), in the ejido of San Marcos Aviles, Chilon municipality, there are death threats, harassment, looting and the risk of forced displacement of support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) at the hands of some residents of the same ejido, members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Green Party of Mexico (PVEM).
In response, Frayba is making known its concern at the imminent risk to life, personal integrity and security faced by BAEZLN, inhabitants of the ejido of San Marcos Avilés, as these death threats and harassment have increased during recent days, further, the plundering of land is preventing work in the fields and the harvest of their crops, which results in those affected suffering from a lack of food, causing serious damage to the health of children, women, men, and the elderly.
Given these facts, BAEZLN families fear being displaced again, for which reason the Centre of Human Rights states:
The responsibility of the state by default, as to date government authorities have not acted to ensure the integrity and security of BAEZLN and access to land despite the many interventions submitted by the Centre for Human Rights;
* An end to death threats, harassment and theft against BAEZLN by members of political parties in the ejido San Marcos Avilés;
* To protect and safeguard the life, integrity and personal security of the members of BAEZLN, respecting their autonomy process that they have been building for years under the right to self-determination of peoples, established in the Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and tribal people in independent countries, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, 2007
Ratified by Mexico, 2007
Article 14 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
Article 1 Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international human rights law.
Article 3 Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Article 4 Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 26 (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
ILO 169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 1989,
ratified by Mexico 1989
1. Governments shall have the responsibility for developing, with the participation of the peoples concerned, co-ordinated and systematic action to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity.
2. Such action shall include measures for:
(a) ensuring that members of these peoples benefit on an equal footing from the rights and opportunities which national laws and regulations grant to other members of the population;
(b) promoting the full realisation of the social, economic and cultural rights of these peoples with respect for their social and cultural identity, their customs and traditions and their institutions;
(c) assisting the members of the peoples concerned to eliminate socio-economic gaps that may exist between indigenous and other members of the national community, in a manner compatible with their aspirations and ways of life.
1. Indigenous and tribal peoples shall enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. The provisions of the Convention shall be applied without discrimination to male and female members of these peoples.
2. No form of force or coercion shall be used in violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples concerned, including the rights contained in this Convention.
1. Education programmes and services for ITPs shall be developed and implemented in co-operation with them to address their special needs, and shall incorporate their histories, their knowledge and technologies, their value systems and their further social, economic and cultural aspirations
3…governments shall recognize the right of ITPs to establish their own educational institutions and facilities…
San Marcos Aviles: Dignity and Resistance threatened
Education is not only in San Marcos, it is in all Zapatista autonomous municipalities.
The compas have suffered so many injustices, but they have had had the patience not to respond with violence.
Skarlos, Regeneration Radio, September 1, 2011
In the township of San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilon, support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) are under a constant climate of aggression, constant death threats, harassment, imprisonment, dispossession of their land, theft of crops (coffee , corn, bananas), animals (horses, cows, chickens, pigs), wire fences, all this by the three levels of government (official authorities of the municipality, state government and the Federal government) and people affiliated to the political parties, the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) who are all found in this same community.
It is these people who foment differences within the community in order to create conflict and prevent the growth of the project of autonomy which the Zapatistas have been building since the armed uprising in 1994.
San Marcos Avilés belongs to the municipality of Chilon which is in Caracol II, Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity, situated in the community of Oventic, in the municipality of San Andrés Sakamch’en des Pobres in the Highlands of Chiapas.
What has triggered the state of tension between members of the community has been the beginning of an autonomous education project in the community, with the construction of the first Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Primary School “Emiliano Zapata”, belonging to the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System. The project was unveiled by the compas to the authorities during an assembly, the answer was: destroy the autonomous school if it is built.
Despite the threats and pressures to withdraw, from the official authorities of San Marcos Avilés ejido in the municipality of Chilon, together with those of the municipality of Pamala in Citalá, and people affiliated with the PRI, PRD and PVEM, the construction of the autonomous school began with donations from the compas support bases of the EZLN (BAEZLN).
The attackers, belonging to the political parties, threatened the compas with the theft of 25 hectares [of land]. On the 24th and 25th August, 2010, they carried out their threats and stripped [the compas] of 29 and a quarter hectares in different locations in the same community; in addition to the theft of 8500 coffee plants (360 sacks of coffee), 10 hectares of milpa with sowings of beans, a hectare of bananas, and 7 cows, 6 horses, and three humble shacks where the compas live.
On September 9th 2010, at 2 am, the compas support bases of the EZLN were evicted. It happened when 30 people from the different political parties, armed with machetes, sticks and guns broke into two houses, and tried to rape two sisters. So as not to respond to aggression, the compas decided to leave their homes, leaving all their belongings.
In total 170 people, including men, women and children, were displaced to the mountain of the community of Guadalupe Picoté, where, in extremely precarious conditions, two women support bases gave birth; the contempt [with which they were treated] reached such heights that the people of the community of Picoté, party members, denied them water, food and blankets, the children being most affected.
1 month and 3 days later, on October 12th, the compas returned from the displaced peoples’ camp, after receiving indications, they were accompanied by the Good Government Junta of Oventic, observers from the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) and BAEZLN, up the doors of their homes.
After the return, they found that all their homes had been robbed (corn, beans, modulares, musical instruments, pigs, chickens, corn on the cob), the fences broken and the land of the BAEZLN stolen. The horses stolen and killed. Several acres of sugar cane and banana plantations broken down. Several areas of planted crops had also been burned.
These acts of harassment and displacement resulted in the Good Government Junta of Caracol II in Oventic, and the compas BAEZLN in the community of San Marcos Avilés, deciding not to participate any more in the community assembly, nor to pay the tax for light or property.
A person identified as a former member of the Chilón Township Police has been supplying firearms to the aggressors in the community of San Marcos Avilés. The same hostile people have put up for sale the land that they have stolen, the price is 14 pesos each, and they have agreed to use the money to buy new weapons for the war against the Zapatista communities. The aggressors have approximately 25 or 30 firearms, including sizes 30-30, 38, 22, 16, and 38 pistols, and 12 gauge shotguns. The Leader of the armed group has also been identified, his name is Lorenzo Ruiz Gomez.
The compas mentioned that the food supply is inadequate, because their lands were stolen and are being worked by the aggressors, in addition they are being threatened with death if they try to work on them. This affects men, women and children by taking away their right to food.
As of April 6th, 2011, an international peace camp has been permanently installed in the community. Human rights observers who participated in it were threatened during late March and early April 2011, and were also accused of theft by the party members.
In short, we can say that the conditions in the community of San Marcos Avilés are those of acute poverty, and an increasing number of diseases are occurring particularly in the children; the theft of crops and plundering of land perpetrated by members of the various political parties have left the Zapatistas in a critical state.
Among the most outstanding issues are the serious Health Emergency from which the families of this community are suffering. During the last 15 days, about 28 members of this community have been reported with high temperatures, which they themselves describe as a fever, the cause of this illness is not yet known, but there has already been one death from this illness.
On Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 5:00 am, the young support base, Velasco Maria Ignacia Martinez, aged 10, died following suffering high temperatures during the the two days of her illness. The autonomous community assembly reported that at the time of her death, she had a black spot on her neck and a yellow liquid coming out of her mouth. The attackers have blamed the international observers who are currently in the community for having been carriers of the disease; this is an attempt to prevent their work of observation in solidarity with the BAEZLN.
Moreover, the assembly interviewed mentioned that the official authorities have had blood tests taken from other people from San Marcos Avilés. However, to date, no official information on the outcome of these studies is forthcoming, nor of the cause of this illness, which according to the description could be classified as an epidemic; this demonstrates once again the contempt in which Indian peoples are held; not only have the Zapatistas been denied this information, so have the whole community of San Marcos Avilés, including the attackers.
Importantly, the group that harasses, threatens, steals from and displaces the Zapatista support bases behaves like a paramilitary counterinsurgency group, since they carry firearms of different calibres and threaten to take the Zapatista women as spoils of war.
Without exception, the men, women and children are living in a state of constant anxiety and fear which is reflected in their very tense mood. The women in particular express their suffering resulting from their displacement, and the pain and suffering caused by having no security of any kind neither for themselves, nor, most especially, for their children. They do not have food, shelter, or water for their children, purely as a result of asserting their legitimate right to education.
From this space we ask for respect for the rights asserted by the declarations,conventions and treaties relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly to their autonomy and self-determination as peoples, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Articles 3, 4, 14.1 in relation to 1), the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 1, 13), and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization.
The Zapatista communities continue to resist in their dignified struggle for freedom, justice and democracy, and they walk firmly towards the construction of a world where many worlds fit.
Report by the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities
13th September 2011
From August 27 to September 3, 2011, the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities toured the Caracoles of Oventic, La Realidad, La Garrucha and Morelia. This brigade was made up of fifty-seven participants, some from Mexico and others from Argentina, Brazil, the Spanish State, Guatemala, Italy, Norway, the UK and Poland, and was divided into four groups for the journey to listen to the voices of the Good Government Juntas, of the communities, and of their women, men and children.
The brigade recorded the testimonies of the communities concerning the various forms of aggression and provocation that are being carried out against Zapatista territory. The remarkable increase in intensity of these acts is a matter for concern and watchfulness, as they represent an attempt to put an end to and destroy the progress being made in the construction of autonomy and in the development of social, economic, educational and health services in the Zapatista communities, as well as to provoke confrontations with the EZLN. The attacks are perpetrated by people associated with the official institutions of the three levels of government: municipal, state and federal, and therefore under their protection and guidance.
A new form, of aggression, which has become constant since 2010, was noted: attacks on social projects, especially those related to education. In August 2010 the General Command of the EZLN called for the building of autonomous schools to provide education in all the communities of the Zapatista Caracoles. Several communities which did not yet have a school began this much-needed work. The attacks began straight after the announcement.
In the Caracol of Oventic, attacks against the Zapatistas of San Marcos Aviles are also associated with autonomous education. These attacks, as is well-known, resulted in the displacement of 170 Zapatistas on September 9, 2010. On October 12th, accompanied by Zapatista support bases and in the presence of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre, they returned to their homes which had been ransacked. Autonomous Education was also the cause of aggression in Tentic, Cruztón, Tenejapa and in the Caracol of Oventic. Systematic acts of aggression against the autonomous education projects were, therefore, clearly observed.
The Brigade did not only record complaints and attacks against the Zapatista communities, they also observed their progress in the strengthening of autonomy, education, health and the participation of women. Seeing the progress in these areas has been very encouraging and inspiring.
The Organizing Committee of the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities
Communication Team of the Network for Solidarity and Against Repression
The Zapatista communities take not even one step back
Presentation of the Report from the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities
Saturday September 3, 2011
In their general report, the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities confirmed the attacks on regional projects in the communities in resistance. They cited, as a clear example, attacks made on schools such as San Marcos Aviles, in the Caracol of Oventik, and elsewhere, as well as the attempted thefts of land reclaimed in 1994. The Brigade summarized in these two areas countless violations of the rights of the compañer@s which have been reflected in threats, harassment, assaults, kidnapping, robbery and even blatant attacks against certain people. The compañer@s also confirmed that those responsible for all these [attacks] were the federal government led by Calderón, the state government headed by Sabines, and the various municipal governments, in some cases led by the PRI or the PAN, or which are the result of partnerships with the PRD or the Green ecological party and others.
The Brigade summarized that the general situation is one of a counterinsurgency war that the government is trying to bring to a head, supported by development programmes that did not exist before 1994. Their intention, they say, is to weaken the Zapatista movement, their rebellion and their resistance. After the visit, all agreed that in the building of autonomy substantial steps have been taken towards creating better living standards than those that existed before 1994, and that the Zapatista project continues to advance. They also stated that they felt happy and proud to participate in this Brigade, to make contact with communities and to learn from them. These communities, the brigade said, have not taken a single step back, and send a hug of solidarity to those people who support their struggle and who in turn are in struggle and resistance.
Companer@s from the Network of Free Media, among others, were covering the reporting of the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities. “The Brigade had 57 members, who visited four of the five Zapatista Caracoles between August 28th and September 1st (17 went to the Caracol of La Realidad, 12 toOventik, 16 to La Garrucha, and 12 to Morelia). On September 2nd, at a press conference at the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Centre, the brigade reported on the situation in the Zapatista communities”.
Audio and video reports from the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities are also available, and a special report from Dissident Radio “San Marcos Aviles: Dignity and Resistance Threatened”.
The report submitted by the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities is dedicated to the memory of two young Zapatistas who died during their visit. Maribel Lopez Garcia died on the first of September at the Caracol of Morelia. Maria Ignacia Velasco Martinez, aged 10, died of a fever, in San Marcos Aviles, as a result of the counterinsurgency strategy the autonomous communities are enduring. The case is explained in detail in the report from the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity, who, together with those who attended the press conference, also kept a minute of silence in memory of two compañeras.
Report of Brigade: Oventik
Report on San Marcos Avilés
Brigade No: 2
Caracol: 2, Oventik, Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity, Highland Zone (Zona Altos) of Chiapas
Official municipality: Chilón
Location: San Marcos Avilés
Date: August 29, 2011
Since the 24th of August, 2010, the community of Zapatista support bases (BAEZLN) in San Marcos Avilés has been enduring a series of threats, harassments and humiliations, as well as the forced displacement of 170 people: 47 men, 50 women and 77 children. These attacks were committed by 30 people who are from the same community, but who are affiliated to various political parties, such as the PRI, PRD and the Mexican Green Ecology Party (PVEM).
In August 2010, the General Command of the EZLN called for the building of primary schools to provide autonomous education in all the communities of the Zapatista Caracoles. After this call, the compañero(a)s in all the autonomous communities were given the task of notifying the official authorities of the ejido of their decision to remove their children from the government schools, so they could start their autonomous education project.
Once the school was built and its activities had started, about 30 people from the community, who belong to the PRI, PRD and Mexican Green Ecology Party, asked to meet with the official authorities of the municipality and some residents of neighbouring communities (Pamalá, Nuevo Tacuba, etc.) in order to address the issue.
This assembly was held on August 21st; they sent for Manuel Vazquez, representative of the autonomous community of San Marcos Avilés, and warned him that they would only accept children being taken out of the official school if they were building a high school (COBACH). This was rejected by compañero Manuel, who argued that “autonomous education is beginning, not only in San Marcos Avilés, but also in all the autonomous municipalities where the Zapatista organization exists.” The reply to his answer came through mocking, swearing at, and humiliating not just compañero Manuel, but the whole Zapatista movement.
Furthermore, they wanted to force him [Manuel] to sign a document agreeing to renounce the Zapatista indigenous movement. When he refused to sign this document, he was bound and imprisoned for 25 hours, along with another compañero who had arrived later (Pedro Gomez Cruz). During all this time, both the compañeros held hostage by these people endured threats, ridicule and humiliation, which did not cease at any time, periodically compañero Manuel was brought out of his cell, to try to make him sign.
On 22nd August, 2011, the aggressors from the political parties involved fired several shots into the air in the presence of the BAEZLN compañero/as. Later, these same aggressors positioned themselves in various parts of the community, carrying machetes and guns of different calibres until late into the night, with the aim of intimidating the inhabitants. Also needing mention are the theft and destruction of several hectares of crops (beans, corn, coffee, bananas, along with the stealing of cattle and wire fencing). Given these serious events, the people of the autonomous community chose to write a letter to the community officials reporting the facts and asking them, politely, to stop attacking and harassing them. The response from the official authorities was more taunts, along with more humiliations and insults.
Nevertheless, the most serious incident in this outbreak of acts of harassment and repression against the community of San Marcos Aviles took place on the 9th of September; this was the eviction of 170 BAEZLN by 30 members of the political parties (PRI, PRD and PVEM), headed by Mr Lorenzo Ruiz Ruiz Gomez and Mr Vicente Ruiz Lopez, who violently broke into the homes of the BAEZLN compañero/as bearing sticks, machetes and guns. In this serious act of eviction, they attempted to rape two female compañeras . In order to avoid being provoked, the 170 compañero/as, including children, women and men, were forced to leave San Marcos Avilés to safeguard their lives and physical integrity. They went towards Guadalupe Picoté, without food, without their belongings, enduring the cold and rain, without a roof to protect them, with very young children and even two pregnant women, who both had to give birth in the mountain without any form of medical care.
The compañero/as were ford to live under these unacceptable conditions for 33 days, with a plastic roof as their only protection. After 33 days of displacement, they were able to return to their community on October 12th, 2010, thanks to the accompaniment of other BAEZLN, the support of the Good Government Junta and the presence of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre. On arriving at their homes the looting and theft of their possessions was recorded.
However, since their return, the compañero/as have continued to suffer threats (including death threats), bullying and harassment by people in the political parties, preventing them from performing their normal daily activities and severely undermining their physical and emotional health through living in a constant state of repression and violence.
The previous negotiations with the official authorities broke down at the time of eviction. Since this breakdown, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre has been given the task of spreading news of the attacks in the form of Urgent Actions, at a national and international level, seeking an immediate solution to this conflict. They also collaborated in the establishment of a Civil Peace Camp, whose aims are: to maintain observation of the area, noting potential conflicts and producing reports about what happens every day in the community. This camp was set up on 6th April this year.
Currently the BAEZLN in the community of San Marcos Avilés continue to receive threats and harassment from the aggressors, the primary school is still not functioning, meaning that the children still lack access to their right to education, and some of their land remains in the hands of the party members.
The compañero/as say that their supply of food (corn and beans) is insufficient because their lands are still being worked by the attackers, and that they are threatened if they try to go to work on them. This affects the nutrition of the men, women and children, taking away their right to food.
One of the most serious issues is the grave health emergency that the families of this community are suffering. For the last 15 days, high temperatures have been reported in about 28 members of the community, which they themselves describe as fevers, so far it is unclear what has caused these.
Rest in peace
Unfortunately, on Thursday, August 25th, 2011 at 5:00 am, María Ignacia Velasco Martinez, a 10 year old girl, died as a result of the high temperature that she suffered during the two days of her illness. The autonomous community assembly reported that, at the time of her death, she had a small black spot on her neck and a yellow liquid coming out of her mouth. They also say that before she died, the young girl had the chance to speak of Ruben Martinez Ruiz and Vicente López Vázquez as the alleged perpetrators, in the sense of their practicing witchcraft being the cause of her death. This means that, in the words of the compañero/as, “the death of the girl made the aggressors very happy”.
The truth is that the attackers had no reticence about expressing their pleasure at the death of the child. And perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the director of civil protection of the municipality, said that the international observers were the cause of the illness. He explained as follows: “the mosquitoes bite the internationals, who carry the illness, and then the mosquitoes bite the locals, thus spreading the disease”.
This improbable argument contributes to the bitterness which leads to the aggressors from the political parties rising to the level of stating that this form of “contagion” will result in the cheapest form of death for the international observers, meaning they [the aggressors] would not have to waste any more bullets.
Moreover, the interviewees from the assembly mentioned that official health personnel have taken blood test samples from other residents of San Marcos Avilés. But, to date, no official information is available on the outcome of these studies, no explanation about the cause of this disease, which, according to the information, could amount to an epidemic in the area.
Currently, the harassment against the civil peace camp is continuing. For example, there was a report that on 26th August at 3 in the afternoon, a group of political party members carrying machetes stationed themselves in a threatening manner in front of the camp.
Among the possessions and belongings stolen or ruined are: Clothes, food, kitchen utensils, crops of corn, beans, 8500 coffee plants and fruit trees taken over, 10 hectares of milpa (corn field) sown with beans destroyed, 7 cattle, 6 horses , chickens, pigs and 3 occupied houses plundered, and the theft of laminas (tin sheets used for roofs) for houses and wire for fencing. Together this makes a total of 31 ¼ hectares affected and /or damaged, located in different parts of the community’s territory.
In addition it was found that the daily threats they receive are taking a very severe psycho-emotional toll on the community. Without exception, all the men, women and children are living in a state of constant anxiety and fear that is reflected in their very depressed state of mind. Women in particular expressed their pain and grief resulting from the evictions, mentioning the suffering it causes them to have no security of any kind, not only for themselves, nor, above all, for their sons and daughters. Added to this is the fact of not having food, shelter, or water for their children, merely as a result of claiming another right: their legitimate right to education.
The names of the 30 attackers, belonging to the PRI, PRD and Green Ecology parties, are as follows, along with a former municipal police officer:
Ernesto Lopez Nunez (ex pólice officer from Chilón) carrying a 22 calibre weapon.
Lorenzo Ruiz Gomez, political party leader, has 30 / 30 calibre gun, as well as a 38 calibre pistol.
Jose Cruz Hernandez has 30 / 30 calibre gun.
Manuel Diaz Ruiz, 22 calibre gun with ten shots.
Santiago Cruz Diaz, has a 12-gauge shotgun.
Victor Diaz Sanchez has a 22 calibre gun with 16 shots.
Vicente Ruiz Lopez, political party leader, has a 22 calibre gun with16 shots.
Ernesto Lopez Nunez, has 22 calibre gun with 26 shots.
Victor Nunez Martinez, has a 38 calibre semi-automatic pistol
Tomas Hernandez Aguilar, has a 22 calibre gun with 16 shots.
Ernesto Mendez Gutierrez has 38 calibre semi-automatic pistol
Ruben Martinez Vazquez has a 38 calibre semi-automatic pistol
Abraham Kante Lopez, has a 22 calibre gun with 2 shots.
Juan Perez Cruz, has has a 22 calibre gun with 2 shots.
Vicente Ruiz Mendez has a 22 calibre gun.
Rogelio Ruiz Gomez has a 22 calibre 16 shot gun.
Manuel Vázquez Gómez, has a 22 calibre semi-automatic pistol
Jose Cruz Diaz has a 22 calibre gun with two shots.
Ezequiel Cruz Diaz has a 22 calibre gun with two shots.
Pedro Kante Cruz, has a 22 calibre gun with one shot.
Andres Nunez Cruz, has 38 calibre semi-automatic pistol
Manuel Ruiz Gómez, has a 22 calibre pistol.
Kante Nicolas Cruz, has 22 calibre gun with two shots.
It is important to mention that several of the attackers carry their weapons in the community with total impunity.
Since April 20th 2011, both the international observers and the BAEZLN have heard and witnessed shots being fired and shouts uttered by the aggressors, and have also repeatedly been threatened with guns. That is to say, the harassment and the repression have not ceased, on the contrary, they appear to be getting worse.
Moreover, on 3rd June this year, a military patrol travelled along the road to Tacuba Vieja, and on another occasion four trucks of federal police arrived in the town.
Conclusions: It is clear that the Zapatista Autonomous Education Project is a threat (and a nuisance) to the national project of the bad government. In all reported cases, the attacks, threats, humiliations, dispossessions and displacements have as their sole cause the implementation of the Zapatista autonomous education project.
Apparently, the 3 levels of the bad government: municipal, state and federal, are afraid to see the autonomy project strengthened, perhaps for the reasons suggested by the BAZ compañero/as:
“Because the indigenous have the right to a better education, because with autonomous education we better understand our life and our situation, for the development of our struggle. It is important that our young people understand the reason for our struggle, why we live in this condition of poverty and misery, the reasons for their own life. We know that the country’s wealth is appropriated by the bad government, so it is important that the children understand the causes of this plunder. It is important to understand that official education is opposed to the Zapatista project. The official education is a form of domination, making us believe it is intended to make life better.”
Right now the Zapatista autonomous education project is the focus of attacks from the bad government. By attacking Zapatista autonomous education, they are attacking the fundamental human rights not only of adults, but above all of the indigenous children of the state of Chiapas, that is to say that Mexico is violating the rights of children.
Moreover, it is urgent to denounce the alarming situation of extreme poverty in which indigenous communities are still living in our country. It is clear that in the 21st century the children of Mexico are dying from curable diseases. The tragic death of little Maria Ignacia Velazco Martinez, aged 10, of unknown causes, but whose symptom was a high temperature, shows that, in this country, the health of indigenous children is not a priority for this government. At the same time, the complete disregard for indigenous communities in general is evident, since more than two weeks after detecting the illness in much of the population of San Marcos Avilés, no information had been received from the official health authorities about the cause of this outbreak of fever in the area.
As for the speeches about progress and welfare in the state of Chiapas, we observed the facts, the conditions of marginalization in which the autonomous communities live due to the blockade of food and products that the repression and harassment of these same communities generates, simply because they want to defend their autonomy and do not want to receive crumbs from the bad government. While only one child dies from fever, all talk of poverty and development is a dead word.
The BAZ compañero/as understand that the solution is not to fight their own brothers and sisters; the Zapatista autonomy project struggles against the bad government system which tries to make [the indigenous] fight each other.
At the same time, we in the Brigade of observation and solidarity with the Zapatista indigenous communities found that the Zapatista autonomy project continues to advance in gigantic steps.
The equal participation of women in various areas of work is increasing every day, while clothing and crafts cooperatives are being brought to fruition by the women themselves. Organic coffee cooperatives sell their produce in Mexico and the world, new agroecology projects are being implemented in each of the caracoles, where people can obtain organic produce friendly to Mother Earth. In all the autonomous communities there is at least one health house (casa de salud) or micro-clinic, in addition to the central clinic in each caracol.
We see that, in fact, the Zapatista autonomy project asserts the rights that are enshrined in the declarations, conventions and treaties related to the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those related to autonomy and free determination as well as the rights enshrined in the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (Article 3, 4, 14.1 in relation to 1), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 1, 13) and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, among others.
We witnessed terrible humiliations perpetrated by the bad government, but we also saw with our own eyes that despite the threats of repression, suffering, pain and poverty, not one of the compañero/as wants to give up. This belief in the process of liberation means that the Zapatista movement is stronger than ever.
In the words of the Zapatista compañero/as (BAZ) themselves:
“Despite the threats and persecutions, my family and I are going to carry on the struggle, even if they take away our land. If we have to die, we will die, if we can live, we will live.
We cannot give in because of what the bad government is doing.”
Report of the Brigade from the Caracol of Oventic
JBG, Central heart of the Zapatistas before the world
Because hunger, dispossession and destitution have a name … this report is devoted to the BAZ compañera, Maria Ignacia Martinez Velasco.
Letter from the UK Solidarity Network
United Kingdom Chiapas Solidarity Network
United Kingdom, 28 June 2011
President of Mexico, Lic. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
Government Secretary, Lic. José Francisco Blake Mora
Governor of Chiapas, Lic. Juan Sabines Guerrero
Secretary of the Chiapas Government, Dr. Noé Castañón León
Office of the Chiapas Attorney General
National and international human rights organisations.
Re. Call to end violence, guarantee security and protect human rights in the San Marcos Aviles ejido, Chiapas
On 9 September the Frayba Human Rights Centre received a denunciation from the Council of Good Government Caracol 2 Resistence and Rebellion for Humanity, based in Oventic San Andrés Sakamch, Chiapas, in relation to threats, harassment and enforced displacement of 170 men, women and children from the San Marcos Aviles ejido, which is a Community in Support of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chilon municipality in Chiapas.
This violent, unjust act was led by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Tuiz López together with 30 people from the San Marcos Aviles ejido who are afiliated to the PRI, PRD and PVEM political parties. They used violence to enter the houses of the members of the Support Community in the ejido, armed with sticks, machetes and guns, and tried to rape two women who fortunately were able to escape.
According to the Frayba Centre for Human Rights the displaced persons from the ejido found that on their return their dwellings had been emptied of all their posessions; that their coffee and maize plantations had been completely destroyed along with other crops. As the Frayba Centre had known about problems in the ejido for some time, it had previously informed the authorities in order to ensure that they complied with their duty to guarantee the security of the inhabitants and to find a solution to the conflict. Until now the authorities have done nothing to achieve this.
Although several criminal acts took place several months ago, and even though the displaced population has been able to return to its homes, to this date threats continue, and there is a high risk of a new expulsion. The families and inhabitants of the ejido live in constant threat of being attacked and driven out, for which reason the Frayba Centre and our own organisation based in the United Kingdom demand the following from the Mexican authorities:
- An immediate end to death threats, harrassment, and threats against the property of members of the Support Community by members of the political parties in the San Marcos Aviles ejido.
- Protect and guarrantee the life and safety of members of the Support Community with respect to the process of autonomy that they have been developing for several years, under ILO Convention 169 regarding indigenous people and tribes and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both of which Mexico has signed.
The members of the San Marcos Aviles Support Community are not alone: they have the complete support of our international network. We will pay close attention to what happens there in the following days and hope that our petition will be complied with in the name of justice.
Chiapas Solidarity Network, United Kingdom
Communiqué from the Oventic JBG about aggressions and death threats from people affiliated with political parties against Zapatistas in San Marcos Avilés
SIPAZ, July 5, 2011
In a 2 July communiqué, the Good Government Council (JBG) “Central heart of the Zapatistas before the world” from the Oventic caracol denounced the situation of Zapatista support-bases in San Marcos de Avilés, where, it suggests, the death-threats and aggressions directed these on the aprt of groups linked to political parties has increased, as has the looting of lands and the violation of rights. The JBG emphasizes that it is not a new situation, and it reviews the events in the community since 2010. Presently, it fears that there be an armed aggression, given that the aggressors have been gathering rifles and pistols, many of them supplied by Ernesto López Núñez, ex-police officer from the neighboring municipality of Chilón.
Death threats to Zapatista supporters in San Marcos Avilés
SIPAZ, July 5, 2011
On 27 June, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC) warned that in the ejido San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilón, Zapatista support-bases (BAEZLN) find themselves harassed, threatened with death, and running the risk of a new forced displacement due to the aggressions on the part of residents from the same ejido who are affiliated with the PRI, PRD, and PVEM.
In its Urgent Action, the CDHFBC “manifests its concern for the imminent risk to the life, security, and personal well-being suffered by the BAEZLN residents of the ejido San Marcos Avilés, given that these death-threats and harassment have continued augmenting during the course of the last few days; furthermore the looting of lands impedes work done on the land and prevents the sowing of basic products. All this results in that the affected suffer lack of food, generating grave health problems for children, women, men, and the elderly.”
The same communiqué informs as well that since “6 April 2011, in the ejido has been installed a Civil Camp for Peace, constituted by civil observers there placed to dissuade possible violent actions. Regardless they too are the object of death-threats and harassment.”
June 27, 2011
URGENT ACTION # 3
Death threats, harrassment and risk of forced displacement in San Marcos Avilés
According to information documented by the Centre for Human Rights (Frayba), in the ejido of San Marcos Aviles, Chilon municipality, there are death threats, harrassment, looting and the risk of forced displacement of support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) at the hands of some residents of the same ejido, members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Green Party of Mexico (PVEM).
In response, Frayba is making known its concern at the imminent risk to life, personal integrity and security faced by BAEZLN, inhabitants of the ejido of San Marcos Avilés, as these death threats and harrassment have increased during recent days, further, the plundering of land is preventing work in the fields and the harvest of their crops, which results in those affected suffering from a lack of food, causing serious damage to the health of children, women, men, and the elderly.
Given these facts, BAEZLN families fear being displaced again, for which reason the Centre of Human Rights states:
The responsibility of the state by default, as to date government authorities have not acted to ensure the integrity and security of BAEZLN and access to land despite the many interventions submitted by the Center for Human Rights;
* An end to death threats, harassment and theft against BAEZLN by members of political parties in the ejido San Marcos Avilés;
* To protect and safeguard the life, integrity and personal security of the members of BAEZLN, respecting their autonomy process that they have been building for years under the right to self-determination of peoples, established in the Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and tribal people in independent countries, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
On September 9, 2010, the Centre for Human Rights received a complaint from the Good Government Junta Central Heart of the Zapatistas before the World, of Caracol 2 Resistance and Rebellion 2 for Humanity community based in Oventic, San Andres Sakamch’en of Los Pobres, Chiapas, in relation to threats, harrassment and forced displacement that were suffered by 170 men, women and children of ejido San Marcos BAEZLN Township Chilón Avilés, Chiapas, following the construction in August 2010 of the first autonomous school in the ejido to begin the planned activities of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System.
That day, 30 people of the ejido San Marcos Avilés affiliated with the PRI, PRD and PVEM parties, led by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, violently entered the homes of members BAEZLN armed with sticks, machetes and guns, and tried to rape two women, who managed to escape. In order not to respond to aggression, the people of BAEZLN left their homes and sought refuge in the bush. After 33 days of forced displacement without any food or protection, on October 12, 2010 27 families (50 women, 47 men and 77 children, in total 170 people) returned to their community.
As documented by the Centre for Human Rights, they found that in the properties of the displaced: the houses had been looted of all their belongings, corn and beans, their coffee plantations and fruit trees had all been destroyed, as well as the animals each family had in their corral.
Since Frayba learned of the problem in the ejido San Marcos Aviles, they have on several occasions informed the government authorities of the situation, to request compliance with their obligation to ensure the integrity and personal security of the inhabitants and to seek a solution to the conflict. Despite this, there was no response.
However, even when the displaced returned to their home community, we received and documented persistent daily threats in the community, so there is a risk of forced displacement. On April 6, 2011, a Civil Camp for Peace was installed in the ejido, composed of civilian observers to deter any violent actions, however they are also being subjected to threats and harassment.
Send appeals to:
Presidente de la República
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos
Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec,
C.P. 11850, México DF
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Secretario de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, 1er. Piso, Col. Juárez,
C.P. 06600 México D.F.
Fax: (52.55) 50933414; Correo: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 1er Piso
Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Fax: +52 961 61 88088 – + 52 961 6188056
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Secretario General de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas, 2do Piso
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Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Conmutador: + 52 (961) 61 2-90-47 , 61 8-74-60
Extensión: 20003; Correo: email@example.com
Procuraduría General de Justicia de Chiapas
Libramiento Norte Y Rosa Del Oriente, No. 2010, Col. El Bosque
C.P. 29049 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
Conmutador: 01 (961) 6-17-23-00 . Teléfono: + 52 (961) 61 6-53-74 , 61 6-53-76, 61 6-57-24,
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
1889 F Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, A.C.
Calle Brasil 14, Barrio Méxicanos,
29240 San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México
Tel: 967 6787395 , 967 6787396 , Fax: 967 6783548
The daily situation in a Zapatista community: San Marcos Aviles
3rd June, 2011
Some of you will remember the events of last autumn in the small community of San Marcos Aviles, municipality of Chilon.
On September 9, 2011, 170 Zapatista support bases were expelled from this community by members of the PRI, PRD and PVEM political parties in retaliation for the building of an autonomous school in San Marcos. According to the Good Government Junta in Oventik, the Zapatistas fled into the woods after the political party members “came with machetes, sticks and firearms, entered two houses and attempted to rape two women.” The eviction followed a series of hostile acts against the Zapatistas over a period of several weeks.
After a month living out in the open, on October 12th, they returned to their looted and destroyed homes with the support of Zapatistas from neighbouring communities. In a communique, the junta asked people to remain watchful of the situation.
A German companera has recently returned from San Marcos and sent out a brief report on the current situation there. “The situation in the community is very disastrous”, with daily death threats from the political party members being made to people going about their daily work, the women are threatened with assault, and the observers were threatened with kidnap for ransom.
The Zapatistas are still surviving on donations as the party members have taken their land and stolen their crops, destroyed their coffee and banana plantations. Without their land, they have no means of support. The children have swollen stomachs, often a sign of chronic malnutrition, and internal parasites. The community, especially the children, have no clothes for the winter – their few possessions were destroyed in the attack last year. They have no medicines. They are told they will be killed if they go to collect wood.
The companera was told that the attackers have thirty guns, purchased with last years’ stolen harvest. Shots are fired in the night.
Her request is for this information to be spread widely.
DISPLACED ZAPATISTAS RETURN HOME
21, October, 2010
‘Freedom is a dream that education can make into a reality’
San Marcos Avilés is a Zapatista village in the Caracol of Oventic, located in the official municipality of Chilon in Chiapas. Like many other communities, the inhabitants have built a school as part of the Zapatista autonomous education project, and from 60 to 80 girls and boys participate in the classes.
The official authorities of the ejido San Marcos Avilés, Chilon, and the official authorities of Pamala, in the official municipaliy of Sitala, along with members of the PRD, PRI and PVEM political parties illegally detained two Zapatista support bases (and education promoters) at the beginning of September, demanding that they destroy the autonomous school, put an end to autonomous education, and resign from the Zapatista organization. They threatened that if these demands were not complied with, the support bases would be forcibly evicted.
Accordingly, on September 9th 2010, at 2 am, 30 people from the political parties PRI, PRD and PVEM, armed with machetes and firearms, violently broke into the houses of the Zapatista families in San Marcos Avilés, forcing these families to leave their homes and abandon all their possessions. 170 men, women and children became refugees in the mountains, enduring, throughout the recent torrential rains, hunger, cold, sleeplessness, mud and the fear of attacks on women and children
‘If you touch one of us, you touch all of us’
The international network quickly mobilised in support of the evicted community. The campaign ‘Thousands of Rages, one heart: the Zapatista communities live!’ organized a support caravan which departs from Mexico City on October 22, and leaves San Cristobal de Las Casas on October 23, to go to San Marcos Avilés, bringing items such as non-perishable foodstuffs, clothing to provide protection from the cold, blankets, medicines, and school materials, which they have been collecting for the displaced people. This caravan arose from the 5th National Forum of Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities which was convened following the evictions. Other solidarity actions, including a travelling photo exhibition, were organised in Switzerland, Italy and Spain. The Italian group said:
“There exists a world where children can learn without hierarchies being imposed, without having to buy a uniform to go to class, without having to pay for their schooling. Where, between games and songs of struggle, they can learn along with adults how to be free, how to make collective decisions, how to respect Mother Earth, the elders of the community, the other.
“One world, one space, one small school where children can learn in the same language as they speak at home, a place where their culture, their customs and their history from below is the basis of their learning. Where there are no teachers, but education promoters, in other words, teaching is a circular process.
“This is not utopia, this is the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System, painstakingly constructed in hundreds of indigenous communities in Chiapas, which has educated and continues to educate thousands of young Zapatistas in the struggle.
“Autonomous Education is one of the main pillars of Zapatista autonomy, the heart of the tomorrow which is already being constructed. Along with other advances in healthcare, justice, work, transport and agro-ecology,
autonomous education is an important part of Zapatista indigenous autonomous government.
“That is why it is attacked. The latest in a long series of attacks has been made specifically against the residents of the community of San Marcos Avilés, who are guilty, according to the political parties and the bad government, of wanting an autonomous school and of being Zapatistas. The attack clearly represents not only aggression against the support bases of that community (and another community, Pamala) but is also an attempt to put an end to the autonomous projects inspired by the EZLN”.
This is not by any means the first attack directed against an autonomous school. For example, according to La Jornada, in July 2010, members of the PRI “took over” the autonomous school in the community of Amaitik in the caracol of La Garrucha.
In a communiqué issued on the 13thOctober 2010, the JBG of the highland zone said that the displaced Zapatistas had finally, after just over a month, returned to their homes and lands on October 12th. The significance of this date, 518 years after the disastrous arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, will not have gone unnoticed. This day is, for the indigenous peoples, the day of resistance, the day of solidarity with mother earth. The return was accompanied by Zapatista supporters from nearby communities.
“Now our compas are back in their community, because it is not justice for so many children, women, elderly and sick people to be suffering need and deprivation, away from their homes, while their aggressors are enjoying their freedom, receiving full support from the local, state and federal governments .
“Our companer@s are already back in their humble homes, although they have been looted and partially destroyed by the attackers, but our supporters are going to stay there because our brothers and sisters are entitled to live in their home village and work on their lands; they are not going to disturb anybody, they just want to live in their own community and to work in order to survive, because they will not be begging for alms from the bad government, our compas will live and eat by their own work and sweat.
“Our compas are going to carry on working to build their autonomy in health, education, collectively working and electing their own authorities, but with respect for others, if their rights are also respected. They will not be submitted to the will of the official authorities or of people from the political parties.
“If anything happens to our brothers and sisters now they are back in their community, it will be the municipal, state and federal governments who are responsible, by advising, financing and arming paramilitaries and manipulating the poor and miserable.
“We the Zapatistas do not bother anybody, we do not evict our compas from the political parties, we do not persecute anyone, we do not steal the land of our brother and sister farmers, nor do we take any other property from other poor people; we only defend what is ours, what are our rights; we live and eat through our own work and sweat, and we want to fight for true democracy, freedom and justice for everyone. These are our crimes as Zapatistas”.
The JBG go on to say that their supporters in El Pozo, in the official municipality of C’ancuc, have also been attacked and assaulted by members of the political parties for asserting their rightto water and electrical services. Three of their companeros, Miguel Hernández Pérez, Diego Martínez Santis and Miguel Méndez Santis, have, they assert, been unjustly arrested and imprisoned for a crime, the killing of a PRI-ista during the attack, of which they are innocent. They are now imprisoned in CERESO 5.
“It is clear that the bad state, federal and municipal governments at all costs want to destroy us, want to wipe us out, because the Zapatistas speak the truth, because we do not lie, because we say clearly that the murderers, the aggressors and unjust destroyers of humanity are the bad governments and the powerful, because it is they who are plundering the wealth of our country, destroying nature, massacring our people, killing and putting in jail innocent people.
“It is the bad governments who hand over the wealth of our country to large national and multinational corporations, they are the ones who invade and occupy our territories. And now the bad government says that there is no land for the peasants, no water and electricity for the people, and when they get a tiny bit of services, our people have to pay taxes and those who do not pay are deprived of light and water ….and their land is taken from them and given to the paramilitaries and the chiefs.
“The bad government encourages poor indigenous people to threaten, attack and evict people who struggle and defend their rights …… in exchange for social and economic incentives such as housing, toilets, food stores and cash”.
But, they say,” Mexico and the whole world knows that it is a crime in Chiapas and Mexico to exert people’s right to education, health and autonomy”
The communiqué ends by asking people to remain watchful of the situation in these and other threatened communities.
Report of the Caravan of Solidarity with the displaced-returnees of San Marcos Aviles
1. Organization of the caravan
On September 9, 2010, 170 children, elderly people, women and men, all Zapatista support bases from the community of San Marcos Avilés, were displaced from their homes and lands by people and officials from the political parties PRI, PRD and the Green Ecologist Party.
On learning about this, the 5th Forum of Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities, attended by 80 companer@s from 11 states, and several internationals, agreed to conduct a caravan of support and solidarity.
A campaign of selling solidarity bonds was held, bonds were sold at 1,000 for 30 pesos, and dozens of organizations participated from the Other Campaign: social, political, Kolektives, international solidarity, artistic groups, free media, university groups, transport, etc.
The compas from San Cristobal de las Casas made a radio recording and organised a support campaign, collecting blankets, medicines, school supplies, clothes and toys for children. Many people, organizations and collectives from around the World, as well as from Mexico and Chiapas, took part in this campaign..
Finally on October 29 the caravan was able to depart, bringing together people from Australia, France, the USA, Galicia, Italy and the Basque Country, also people from Tamaulipas, Michoacan, from the Loxicha and Chinanteca regions of Oaxaca and from Mexico City and from Mitzitón, Candelaria, San Antonio and San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. We began our journey in Oventik, and there we handed over the items collected to the Good Government Junta, and coordinated with them the visit to San Marcos Avilés.
The next day we left for the community in the early morning, and arrived there after midday.
We were greeted by our compas in the newly built schoolhouse, which is a small blue house. There we shared the testimony of our comrades, and explained to them the reason for the karavan and who we are.
They told us that the political party members were saying on the radio that they would attack the caravan of “mad white people” and that we had “the 666 mark”. We finished by listening to the testimonies.
We thanked them very much, because we now knew about their situation, they prepared a meal for us, and after spending a while together, we said our words of goodbye. The compañera Erika, daughter of Alvaro Sebastian Ramirez, prisoner in San Agustin Loxicha, thanked the compas for their food and generosity which she said are always found in indigenous communities.
Afterwards we left for San Cristobal de las Casas.
2. Testimony of the community of San Marcos Avilés
People from the political parties, PRI, PRD and PVEM objected to this. They began to gather their people and called Manuel Vázquez Alvarez; when he arrived, the authorities and political parties said they could not have an autonomous school.
Manuel defended the autonomous schools which are being set up in the Zapatista communities and municipalities, they swore and were rude about autonomous education and the Zapatista organization and tried to make him sign a document renouncing the Zapatista organization and destroy the little school. He refused and resisted, and then they put him in jail, a compañero from Guadalupe Kaptetaj arrived, Pedro Cruz Gómez, to ask about, and they put him in jail too. Each time they were pressured to sign the document and threatened with a fine of five thousand pesos each.
They resisted and said they would pay nothing, they were finally released on 23 August, but threats and profanities were made against the Zapatista organization and the autonomous school.
On the 23 and August 24 people from the political parties arrived, went to the cornfields and coffee plantations and begin to split them between them.
On September 8 they took down the fences from the pastures, the cattle were taken out, and have not yet been returned, so they were left without their cows and horses. On September 9, the pressure increased, thecompañerxs stayed in their homes and they went from house to house and chased them out of their homes. The compañerxs Zapatista support bases, 170 in total, decided to leave, not to respond to aggression and provocation, the party members pursued them to a community called Tacuba.
They went to the home of compañero Manuel and threatened to rape his wife. This was done by the municipal agent Rubén Martínez Vázquez.
A compañero testified that he stayed at home because his baby had just been born, and they surrounded the house and broke in kicking the door down; they threatened him with death, this was done by the José Cruz of the PRI and Santiago Cruz Diaz, deputy commissioner. They ransacked the house. The compañero and his wife, who had just given birth, left on foot with the baby and another bigger baby.
The party members were thirty-three days in the community, they broke into the houses and took everything, chickens, pigs, corn, beans.
During those days the compas support bases were in difficult conditions because where they were camping they could not get water or firewood and they continued to threaten them by radio not to return.
On 12 October, accompanied by Zapatista support bases from nearby municipalities, they were able to return to their homes. And they saw their homes looted. The problem is they have not been able to return to their fields and coffee plantations which are still occupied.
The people and officials of the political parties PRI, PRD and PVEM who conducted these attacks are:
Jose Cruz Hernandez
Manuel Díaz Ruiz
Víctor Díaz Sánchez
Luis Vicente López
Rubén Martínez Vázquez
Tomás Hernández Aguilar
Ernesto Méndez Gutiérrez
Ernesto Lopez Nuñez
Alejandro Nuñez Ruiz
Rodolfo Ruiz Pérez
Santiago Cruz Díaz
Víctor Manuel Núñez Martínez
Vicente Méndez Ruíz
Carmelino Hernández Hernández
Sing Lee Abraham
Sing Raúl López
Manuel Ruiz Gómez
Carlos Ruiz Gómez
D Gómez Ruíz
Rogelio Ruiz Gómez
José Hernández Méndez
Hara Miguel de Santis
Peter Cante Mendoza
Peter Cante Cruz
Cante Nicolas Cruz
Antonio Gómez Pérez
Sing Antonio Mendoza
Juan Perez Cruz
Manuel Vázquez Gómez
Genaro Vazquez Gomez
Juan Gómez Pérez
Sing Gustavo López
Domingo Guzmán Gómez
Cante Nicolas Gomez
Juan Nuñez Martinez
Cante Manuel Gómez
THE MAIN REQUIREMENTS AT THIS TIME FOR SAN MARCOS AVILÉS are:
Corn, Beans, Soap, Lime, Salt and Sugar, Oil, Rice, Soups, Medicines, Serum, Thermometer, Stethoscope, (surgical equipment to supply the health house which was also ransacked)
We, the participants in the caravan call for an immediate halt to the harassment of the community of San Marcos Avilés by political party members and for the withdrawal of these persons from the coffee plantations.
We stand for respecting autonomous education and health, with which the Zapatistas have solved problems that the bad governments have failed to resolve for centuries.
STOP THE HARASSMENT against Zapatista communities!
RESPECT FOR THE EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO ARE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANOTHER WORLD!
170 ZAPATISTA SUPPORTERS EXPELLED FROM THEIR LANDS AND HOMES IN RETALIATION FOR BUILDING AN AUTONOMOUS SCHOOL
In the early hours of the morning of Thursday 9th September 2010, 170 Zapatista supporters were expelled from their homes in the Tzeltal community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón, Chiapas. They were attacked by members of the Mexican political parties PRI, PRD and PVEM (the green party), in retaliation for the construction of an autonomous school.
The Zapatista Good Government Junta (JBG) based in Oventik, denounced the attack, which was led by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, and said the attackers were armed with guns, machetes and sticks, and broke into two houses where they tried to sexually assault two women. So as not to respond with violence to these acts of severe provocation, the Zapatista men, women, children and old people left their homes and belongings and fled to the mountain “where they suffer hunger, cold, sleeplessness and fear”.
Zapatistas from Pamalá, in the municipality of Sitalá, had previously informed the JBG that, at the end of August, a compa from their community, Manuel Vázquez, had been forcibly ordered by the authorities and leaders of the political parties in San Marcos and Pamalá to dismantle the autonomous school. The authorities told him that they were then going to attack other communities which had autonomous schools. The JBG stated that “the purpose of these attacks is to prevent the education of our children and to stop the progress of construction of our autonomy”.
Manuel Vázquez was thrown into prison on the 21st August, where he was threatened, harassed and intimidated in an attempt to force him to abandon the project of autonomous education. When Pedro Cruz Gómez came from another nearby community to try to help Manuel Vázquez, he was also imprisoned. A knife was planted in his trousers in an attempt to accuse him of intention to murder. When the prisoners were freed, they were told to abandon the Zapatista organisation and to leave the lands they had bought ten years ago. Threats were made to cancel the land rights of fifteen families.
On the 24th and 25th August the aggressors seized 29 hectares of land with 5,850 coffee trees, 10 hectares of maize, along with beans, cattle, horses and three houses, and destroyed a banana plantation. On the 8th September, they took cattle, pulled down fences and fired shots into the air. They threatened to “take the land next, and to evict the men, kidnap the women and children, and burn the houses”.
“The three levels of the bad government don’t know how to stop the Zapatista struggle for national liberation, so they are trying to stop our autonomous education”, stated the JBG. “However, we are going to continue with autonomous education throughout Zapatista territory; our sons and daughters will no longer attend the official schools where they will never be taught the truth about how we live as indigenous people, and how all the poor of Mexico live. We demand that our evicted companer@s be allowed to return home and be treated with respect”.
The Network for Solidarity and Against Repression immediately issued a statement “This act of barbarity, designed to destroy the autonomous school, has led to the displacement of 170 people from the lands they have worked for ten years….If it were not for our Zapatista compas, there would be no schools in these indigenous communities…..Lies, deceit and repression are the way the state government constantly behaves….Zapatista education in the autonomous communities is an example of how another Mexico is possible, where with honest hard work a level of community development can be achieved which those from above neither understand nor accept. To fight power and its money with learning and knowledge is the best way to build the foundations of a new Mexico”.
On Monday 13th September, Other Campaign adherents set up roadblocks in Chiapas as a protest against “the threats, robberies, evictions and attacks being made against Zapatista communities by the government, ….. paramilitaries, political parties, local leaders and businessmen”.
A march took place in Tonalá, in the coastal zone, to demand that the Zapatista supporters from San Marcos Avilés be allowed to return to their lands, and to insist that “their way of life and process of autonomy, with their schools and clinics, must be respected”. They also demanded “the expulsion of paramilitary groups from Chiapas and the punishment of the material and intellectual authors of the attacks on the communities”.
Another roadblock was set up near Mitziton, where, along with the departure of the paramilitaries, the participants also called for “the cancellation of all the projects, such as the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque, and the ecotourism park in Bachajón, which cause conflict in the indigenous communities, and threaten the environment and the traditional ways of living of the communities “.
Autonomous Education in the Zapatista Communities: schools to cure ignorance
“Antonio dreams that the land he works belongs to him. He dreams that his sweat earns him justice and truth; he dreams of schools to cure ignorance and medicines to frighten death. He dreams that his house has light and that his table is full; he dreams that the land is free and that his people reasonably govern themselves. He dreams that he is at peace with himself and with the world. He dreams that he has to struggle to have this dream…” – from‘Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds – A Storm and a Prophecy’
In July 2010, a European Solidarity Brigade visited the Zapatista communities andCaracoles of Chiapas and reported on the current situation there[ii]. One aspect of their reports was autonomous education, which is for the Zapatistas an important part of their “construction of autonomy and resistance to capitalism”. The school is only a part of the education process, along with “sharing and working in the community throughout life”. It is based on “the ancient and fundamental principle of caring for the earth and its natural resources. Food sovereignty depends on the principles of agro-ecology, the rejection of chemicals and the conservation of native seeds”. “Everything we take from the earth, we must return”.[iii]
A letter written by the Zapatistas in 1994 to some schoolchildren in Guadalajara describes the life of an indigenous child in Chiapas: “For our children there are no schools or medicines, no clothes or food, not even a dignified roof under which we can store our poverty … For our boys and girls there is only work, ignorance and death … Our children have to begin work at a very young age … our children’s toys are the hoe, the machete, and the axe; when they are barely able to walk, playing and suffering, they go out looking for firewood, clearing brush and planting …They cannot go to school to learn Spanish because work kills the days and sickness kills the nights. This is how our children have lived and died for 501 years”.
Indigenous peoples suffer from a lack of proper education, in particular education based on their own languages, traditions, customs, history and beliefs. “In the bad government schools they do not teach the language and culture of the peoples. The bad government sends teachers to government schools for two or three days and then the teachers leave without worrying about the children left without classes. They also make them wear uniforms.”
“The bad government didn’t give us our schools, we built them ourselves”.
So the autonomous communities set up their own schools, where “children learn their own language and become aware of their own culture”. They can wear traditional dress. They are taught in their own language and learn their own history, rather than the version of their conquerors. They learn “not to pollute the environment and to care for the forests, because without that there is no life”. “The stories of the older people play a vital role in education”. People can go to school at any age, and children from non-Zapatista communities can also attend.
Teachers are known as ‘education promoters’ because all work together and teach each other, based on the belief that everyone has something to contribute to the understanding and teaching of every subject, so the promoters are learning alongside the students. Promoters receive no salary. They are chosen, housed and fed by the community, and the position is an honour. It is seen as a ‘cargo’, based on the ancient Mayan idea whereby individuals are chosen to provide unpaid service for the good of the community. The cargo of ‘promoter’ is especially demanding; the communities are very poor, and the work to raise consciousness in the communities is very hard. Experienced promoters go on to teach new promoters and so the system grows. “Being in resistance we have severe shortages of school supplies, but that does not prevent us from organizing our educational system”.
The Brigade visited all five regional areas, or Caracoles, and found each area had its regional differences, while being based on the same principles.
CaracolI, La Realidad
The promoters explained to the Brigade that here they have four levels of education, each level lasting as long as the individual needs. The pre-school level is called ‘Wake up’, and starts at the age of 4-5, with songs, games and group activities. The second level is called ‘New Dawn’, the third ‘New Creation’, and the fourth ‘Path towards the Future’.
From the second level, students learn reading, writing, maths, life and environment, languages and history. Classes are held three days a week from 7am until 1 pm, with a break for breakfast. Classes are organised according to people’s needs, so sometimes there is a holiday during the coffee harvest. All classes are open to children from non-Zapatista families.
Education promoters receive two levels of training over six years, in the fifth year they learn how to teach reading and writing to adults. “The promoters do not work for money, but through their sense of responsibility”.
“We have spent a long time discussing and analysing the subject of education. Education is essential for the construction of autonomy, to prepare for the struggle. “It is easy to deceive someone who cannot read”, so classes are compulsory for children and adults, all learning together.
Caracol II, Oventik
Oventik has two levels of education: primary, lasting around six years, and secondary, which takes another three. The secondary school opened in 2000. After completing secondary school, a student is ready to take on the role of promoter, and this is why since 2003 they have had a primary school in every municipality.
The promoters emphasised to their visitors the need to provide a model of education which will meet the needs of the people in the communities. The government schools force children to speak Spanish even though they have no knowledge of the language. The result is a failure of education in indigenous communities and impoverishment of the native languages.
In the autonomous schools, the children speak their mother tongue (mainly Tzotzil in this area), but the students also learn Spanish in order to speak with people from other communities who speak other languages. They believe that the autonomous schools must take on the role of preserving the indigenous languages in their spoken and written forms.
The promoters emphasised to the Brigade the prime importance of developing political, economic and cultural awareness through the development of analytical, critical and creative skills. Studying their own history is extremely important: knowledge of their origins, their traditional culture, ways of living and beliefs, and the history of colonisation and resistance, the history that is hidden in the official schools. The autonomous schools also teach social and natural sciences, rooted in the reality of the community, learning to work the land, and to cook the food they have grown.
In Oventik, schools are open five days a week. Breaks in the school year are known as ‘change of activities’, when the children are needed to help with work at home or in the community. Primary education is compulsory for young children and adolescents, but at present secondary education exists only within the Caracol itself. Each secondary student goes home every fifteen days and brings back enough food to cover the following two weeks. Classes last from 8am to 3pm, and in the evening students do sports, art and craft activities or read. In the future, the compas hope to extend secondary education to all, and to develop a third level of learning. They would also like to offer adult literacy classes to everyone.
Caracol III, La Garrucha
The members of the Education Commission from La Garrucha explained to the Brigade members that their education arose from the needs and demands of the rebel communities, providing an alternative model of education in resistance. This means that education, as part of daily life in the communities, is anchored in the daily struggle. Within all the four municipalities, the main aim is one of sharing, of learning together, of learning from everyone.
Education in this zone has since 2008 been called ‘Little Seeds of the Sun’, and is being organised on three levels, although only two are functioning in all the schools in the communities. At the first level, children learn to read, write and draw. The second level covers the Zapatista demands, and in the third level texts, reports, communiqués,denuncias, government strategies, ‘why we fight’, and the construction of autonomy are all studied.
All levels cover four main areas: history, languages, life and environment, and mathematics. History shows how the ancestors cared for the earth and the natural world, and how this tradition must be continued, preserving indigenous culture. They study past and current history, different ways of working, how to save native seeds, and the need to work together to build and strengthen the community and the resistance. Life and environment covers the care and conservation of the land and nature, natural resources, pollution, and sustainable land management. In mathematics the children learn from attacks and exploitation of indigenous peoples.
The study of languages starts with the mother tongue; in this zone four indigenous languages are spoken – tzeltal (the most numerous), tzotzil, chol and tojolabal. Texts are studied in all these languages as well as in Spanish; studies include law, autonomy, defence of natural resources, writing reports and translations.
Schools are open Monday to Thursday from 8.30 am to 2pm, with a break from 11 until 12. There are no exams or grades, and children or adults can join at any age. It is forbidden to hit, punish, or disrespect the children. “Education is a right and a duty”. If parents fail to send their children to school they must explain why to the authorities. “Children go to school in order to serve the community, not to go away and work for the capitalists”. They hope to implement the third level (secondary) education throughout the zone as soon as possible, at the request of the communities.
There are two levels of training for promoters and two training centres – one in the Caracol of La Garrucha, and the other ‘Companero Manuel’ Centre in La Culebra, autonomous municipality Ricardo Flores Magon. After completing the two levels, promoters can train new promoters. Four one-month periods of training are run each year at each centre, and promoters need to study for two years. They work together collectively, sharing their knowledge ready to take it to the community. All are equal, and all learn the same things. “We believe that we do everything for everyone. We have to do it together”.
Caracol IV Morelia
“Education”, the promoters told the Brigade, “is compulsory until old age”, as it is essential for the construction of autonomy. Education begins at the age of three or four and is also available to adults. There are three compulsory levels of primary education, and three more of secondary. Each level takes as long as the student needs. Each child must complete at least two levels of primary education. After completing secondary school, students can become education promoters.
The schools operate through the community assembly, which is where the people choose their own education promoters who receive special training workshops. The community works together to provide for the needs of their promoters, such as beans and maize. Some communities also work the fields of the promoter.
Classes are held from Monday to Thursday. Each region has its own secondary school, with dormitories for the students who often have to travel a long distance to the schools. Every two weeks, the students return to their communities for a two-week period. Classes are in the student’s own language, but at a later level they can also study Spanish. The areas covered are reading and writing, maths, natural history, geography, political studies, traditional history and culture, art and music. In the secondary schools there are gardens for growing vegetables and plants. This system of education began in 1999.
Caracol V, Roberto Barrios
“The teaching is not good in the bad government schools, and some areas don’t have schools at all. This is why, in 1999, each community chose its own education promoters… The promoter comes from the community, and it is the people of the community who decide what is taught”. Now every community has promoters to co-ordinate the work, and every six months they all meet together to share ideas and discuss how things are going.
There are two levels of education. The first is called ‘Little Seeds of the Sun’, and the second is CCETAZ (the Zapatista Cultural Centre for Autonomous Education and Technology). School starts at the age of four or five, with pupils studying three levels. After six years of primary education they can progress, if they wish, to the second level. There are no comparisons, no tests, no final scores and no failures. Education is open to all.
The CCETAZ has only been open for a year, so the levels have not been defined yet, but there are to be six terms, of which so far only two have been completed. The college is for young people up to the age of fourteen.
Teaching is in Tzeltal, Chol and Zoque, “if we lose our language, we will lose our culture, beliefs and customs. Craftspeople are being trained as their grandparents were”. Young people learn to be critical of the way of life that is being imposed on them, and of the problems of the communities. They are taught maths and history, but also how to work the land, how to improve the harvest. The schools have a small field where they grow corn and beans to eat. They do not use chemicals or genetically modified crops, “because these are the tools of a system which threatens the campesino” They value working in the field so as to have good food to eat.[iv]
Education open to all, with no failures – “We learn as we walk, side by side with our education”
The Brigade’s reports reveal an astonishing achievement. All this from a people living in dire poverty, many of them under constant attack and harassment, never knowing when their crops and houses will be burned, and many of them unable to read or write or to speak Spanish when the rebellion erupted in 1994. They know they still have a long way to go; they would like to extend secondary education throughout, to have more materials, supplies and equipment. In many communities, there is only one promoter, so the older children teach the younger ones. There are no resources to build new schools, but one day, they dream there will be a Zapatista university.
Throughout the process of building schools the communities have been supported by national and international civil society. Groups from many countries including Spain, Italy, Japan and the USA have been involved.
The strength of the system is in the community, the collective way of living and working. Children go to school carrying maize, beans and firewood. They know that if they go to the government schools they will lose their identity, their culture, language and tradition. In the government schools they are taught as individuals, in order to lose their sense of community as the basis of life. “The government teachers don’t teach what our children want to learn”. “We want our children to learn about freedom, dignity, and to value all human beings, both men and women”[v]. This is truly education from below.
An education for the world
The Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Secondary School (ESRAZ), at Oventik, also operates the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Spanish and Maya Languages Centre (CELMRAZ) where students come from throughout the world to study Spanish and Tzotzil in “the context of the reality of the indigenous people in resistance”. All the fees paid go towards supporting the secondary school.
In presenting the project, the statement reads: “To educate is to learn, which is to say, ‘to educate by learning.’ We can educate students –who educate us- so that those of us who are in favour of life can educate each other mutually and so construct those many worlds of which we all dream. We can say that we know how to educate those who educate us, that is why our school is for the entire world and is why we say ‘for everyone everything, nothing for us’.
“This is the form of the autonomy of our people, of our culture, and in this way we can recreate the different languages that have never existed for those who dominate, while our faces have been denied for being the color of earth”.[vi]
iiihttp://www.jornada.unam.mx/2010/07/17/index.php?section=politica&article=017n1pol Resistencia al capitalismo, escuela para la libertad zapatista: brigada europea.
Return of displaced Zapatista support bases to San Marcos Avilés
SIPAZ, October 18th, 2010
On 12 October, Zapatista support-bases, forcibly displaced on 9 September by what the Good-Government Council (JBG) of Oventic referred to in September as “death-threats and aggressions [carried out by] people from political parties in the ejido,” returned to their community of origin, San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilón. The return was accompanied by a commission of support-bases from the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) hailing from municipalities close to San Marcos Avilés.
The communiqué, released from Oventic on 13 October, explains that “our comrades now are back in their humble abodes, though pillaged and some even semi-destroyed by the aggressors. Our support-bases will be there because our comrades have hte right to live in their community and work their lands; they will not bother anyone: they only want to live in their community and work to survive, as they won’t be requesting welfare from the bad government. Our comrades will live and eat from their own work and sweat […]. If something happens to our comrades that are now there in the community, those responsible will be the municipal, state, and federal governments that advise, finance, and arm paramilitary groups and manipulate the impoverished. We Zapatistas bother no one: we do not evict our brothers from political parties, we do not persecute anyone, we do not loot the lands of our peasant brothers or any other poor brother. We only defend what is ours, which is our rights: we live and eat from our proper work and sweat, but we also want ot struggle for true democracy, liberty, and justice for all. These are our crimes as Zapatistas […]. The autonomy of peoples is not something that is wanted by the mad governments, because they want to continue having under their control indigenous communities; they are frustrated when we indigenous peoples learn how to organize and govern our own selves. In any case, the struggle we today carry out cannot be stopped by anyone.”
Chiapas: Denunciation of the Oventic JBG regarding violent expulsion of Zapatista support-bases in San Marcos and Pamala
SIPAZ, September 14th, 2010
On 9 September, some 170 Zapatista support-bases were expelled from the community of San Marcos Avilés in the official municipality of Chilón by members of the PRI, PRD, and PVEM parties, according to the public denunciation released by the Good-Government Council (JBG) of Oventic. This denunciation claims that the aggressors “arrived with machetes, sticks, and firearms; they entered two homes and attempted to rape two women. So as not to respond to the provocation, the Zapatistas left their houses and possessions. Men, women, and children find themselves at this moment residing in the mountains: they are suffering from hunger, cold, lack of sleep, and fear.”
The JBG discloses that Zapatista support-bases from Pamalá and Guadalupe el Kaptetaj, municipality of Sitalá, reported that Manuel Vázquez, from San Marcos, was forced to meet with authorities and leaders of the political parties of San Marcos and Pamalá at the end of August. These persons demanded that the autonomous Zapatista school be dismantled, and they affirmed that they would continue doing the same with other communities that also have autonomous schools.
As claimed in the JBG’s communiqué, the objective of these actions, favored by the three levels of government, is to inhibit the education of children and progress toward the construction of autonomy. Manuel Vázquez was imprisoned on 21 August, together with a comrade from Guadalupe Kaptetaj. Once released, the two’s captors told them to abandon the EZLN, not to report to the JBG, in addition to warning them that they would take from the lands they had bought over 10 years ago.
According to the communiqué, these individuals followed through with their threat in the following days: “On 24 and 25 August of the present year authorities and persons associated with different political parties took away the land that our support-base comrades had bought more than 10 years ago. The total amount of land that the party-people took is 29 and one-fourth hectares, located in different locations of the same ejido, where each family of comrades had come to work year after year. On these lands are found 5850 coffee-plants, 10 hectares of milpa on which are cultivated beans, in addition to 7 cows, 6 horses, and 3 houses, all of which belong to our support-base comrades.”
“On 8 September the invaders had already removed the 7 cattle that had been there, and surely went somewhere to sell them. The same day, they stole the fences our comrades had used. There were several gun-shots.”
STATEMENT CONCERNING THE ATTACK MADE, BY MEMBERS OF THE PRD, THE PRI AND THE GREEN PARTY, ON ZAPATISTA SUPPORTERS IN THE COMMUNITIES OF SAN MARCOS AVILA AND PAMALA.
September 10, 2010.
Yesterday we read the report from the Good Government Junta of Oventic, which tells of the attacks and acts of provocation that people affiliated with the PRD, PRI and the Green Party, financed by the three levels of government, have committed against our companer@ Zapatista Support Bases (BAZ) from the community of San Marcos in the official municipality of Chilon, and on the person of our companero, Manuel Vázquez, from Pamala community, located in the official municipality of Citala.
The illegal detention of Manuel Vázquez and Pedro Gómez Cruz, deprived of their liberty for being Zapatistas and for not giving in to to the pressures of the attackers to destroy a school, where Zapatista children receive an autonomous education which allows them to know and understand their own reality, as well as the national and international situation. In addition, if it were not for our Zapatistas companer@s, they would have no schools in these communities.
This barbaric action of wanting to destroy an autonomous school was followed by direct aggression and the displacement of 170 Zapatista Support Base companer@s from their homes and their dispossession from their lands, which they acquired ten years ago, and have worked continually ever since.
As stated by the Council of Good Government, these actions seek to “lead us into acts of provocation … and (stop) the advance of our struggle for the construction of autonomy”
While Sabines, whose bad government of the state of Chiapas spends millions of dollars on promoting its image and telling how it governs through dialogue and political agreement, the government’s employees and thugs through their actions demonstrate otherwise. The government uses violence, threats, ridicule, aggression, plunder and repression as a means to impose its authoritarian decisions, always made for the benefit of the rich and against the interests of communities and peoples.
Lies, deception and repression are the continual means of action of the bad state government. They are driven mad by the dignity, ethics and beliefs of the bases of support and Zapatista communities. Wrongs, crimes and robbery will not stop the march of dignity, which has successfully built their autonomy and a Mexico for those from below.
Zapatista education and autonomous communities are examples showing that another Mexico is possible, with honesty and effort a community development can be achieved, which those from above cannot understand or accept. To combat power and money with letters and knowledge is the best way to lay the foundations of a new Mexico.
We demand the immediate return of the companer@s of San Marcos to their homes and lands and the restoration of all that was stolen and plundered by the the militant aggressors from Green party, the PRD and the PRI with the complicity of local, state and federal authorities.
Long live the Zapatista Support Bases!
Freedom for Political Prisoners!
Groups, organizations and adherents of the Other Campaign
Network for Solidarity and Against Repression (RvsR)