First Stage of Expulsions will begin in Eight Communities

[translated by irlandesa]

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas. March 17. The expulsion of communities that are located in the vicinity of Montes Azules, in what is called the protected part of the SelvaLacandona, could be beginning quite soon. There will be dislocations and relocations. The first acts of expulsion are expected to take place in the communities of San Antonio Miramar, Sol Paraíso, El Buen Samaritano, Nuevo San Rafael, Nuevo Salvador Allende, Las Ruinas Sol Paraíso, Arroyo Cristalina and Noreste de Ocotal.

In a document from the Chiapas government’s Environmental Table that was delivered to the Secretary of Government during the last few days, a “second stage” was also decided on, to dislocate Primero de Enero, Nuevo Limar and 8 de Febrero (that is the date that a purported settlement, which no one has ever seen, was “picked up” by satellite in the southern part of the Biosphere Reserve).

In operations to be carried out by federal public forces –and which some sources are saying will take place this Holy Week – the attempt will be made “to relocate, out of the protected areas,” in a first stage, Ojo de Agua Las Pimientas, Nuevo Israel, Nuevo Agua Dulce, Nuevo Guadalupe Tepeyac and Ranchería Corozal. During the second stage, residents of El Semental, San Francisco and “Unnamed” (sic) will be thrown out of their homes.

According to members of the Environmental Table, the “relocation” of the indigenous will be to “their communities of origin, ”although many of them will, in fact, be expelled from their precise communities of origin. In any event, this Stalinist type policy, if it has its way, will create reverse displaced, to the areas of their ancestors, where there will certainly not be any lands for them. Although the federal Environmental Protection Justice Department (PROFEPA) delegate has said that campesinos in the Reserve have lands on the other side, it is not true in all cases.

Echoing the Table’s Positions

During the first days of March, at the request of the head of Semarnat, Víctor Lichtinger, some members of the Chiapas Environmental Table met in Mexico City with the Secretary of Government, Santiago Creel, and they presented him with the document Problems of Irregular, Cleared Settlements in Protected Natural Areas of the Selva Lacandona. Although this document had been signed by the state government, at least part of its contents took the state executive and president of the table, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, by surprise.

Although the initial operational direction of theEnvironmental Table – which was established in September – was that all of its agreements would be reached by consensus (at least those that appear in the press), the document that was delivered to Creel had not been approved by representatives of the Chiapas government, who were even unaware of it.

Nonetheless, very precise “actions” are presented there, which have been echoed by federal members of the Table. Hernán Alfonso León, state Profepa delegate, stated on March 8 to the Maya Press agency that some 35 communities inside Montes Azules would be “relocated,” unless they demonstrate that they have acquired rights.

Insisting that the indigenous will be “relocated, not expelled,” Alfonso Leon indicated that “85% of the irregular settlements are regrettably located inside the core area, that is why the respective agencies are concerned. The relocation project has, however, found itself slowed down because of its rejection by the irregular settlements, which have been badly advised by social and environmental groups.”

Making it understood that the campesinos who are resisting being expelled are being manipulated by “people from outside,” the official repeated the old argument by the powers and the bosses against those eternal “minors,” the indigenous.

The Lacandón Factor

At the same time, the collusion of the small Lacandón (with fewer than 200 surviving members) community with governments for the last three decades is no secret. They have gained privileges which are relative, but, even so, which are still greater than any other indigenous people. They have repeatedly been “the regime’s favorite sons,” to the point of having become the only Mexican indigenous people that does not participate in any action by these peoples in the country. They were granted an immense part of the Montes Azules by President Luis Echeverría, and they became the government’s constant shield against demands for rights to the Selva by Tzeltal, Chol and Tzotzil communities, which are much greater in number than the vanishing Lacandón families.

Alienated from the other peoples, the Lacandón were the only people which called for the EZLN to be militarily crushed in 1994, the only one which rejected the San Andrés Accords, and the only one that applauded the indigenous counter-reform of 2001, which did not fulfill the Cocopa proposal. Their historic hijacking by he powers has, in fact, made them the only Mayan people who do not participate in forums or encuentros called by the indigenous or their organizations.

They themselves are the victims of a mythification which is very useful for the government and the cream of international environmentalism. They have been trapped in a game which they no longer control. Historians identify them as Carib, a forest people from the Gulf, who occupied the lands and the name of an extinct people, the true Lacandón, whose last members died in the 18th century. This historic event is being used, wrongly, to discredit them. The problem with these Lacandón, who are increasingly used as scenery and less tied to the Selva, is that they are being used as an excuse for “clearing” the Indians from “their” lands for ends that are, indeed, alien.

It has been documented how they have almost completely abandoned agriculture, and are, on the other hand, engaging in forbidden hunting. One often sees them at the Tumbo crossroads, in the Tulijá basin, selling mountain tepezcuintle (rodents),or in Chensayab, selling the teeth of night monkeys, jaguar claws and toucan beaks.

Their official and private promoters have provided them with access to the tourism industry (granted, at a philanthropic level), allowed them the custody and administration of the archeological sites at Bonampak and Yaxchilán (again, not exactly a Sheraton). From a rigorous historical perspective, in case it does matter who has the ticket box, it would not be they who are the heirs of these ruins, but the Chols in the region, who, however, have to pay 70 pesos to get into the ruins.

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