Threatened Communities Speak


[translated by irlandesa]

To the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation.

To the People of Mexico.

To the Peoples of the World.

To the National and International Press.

To National and International Civil Society.

To the federal and state governments.

Brothers and Sisters:

We want to inform you of, and denounce, the new attempt by the bad Mexican government to dislocate our indigenous communities from the Montes Azules Comprehensive Biosphere Reserve (REBIMA) and from the so-called Lacandón Area. We want to denounce the trickery that the government is plotting in order to continue its war against the communities in resistance, using the reserve regions as a pretext now. We want to repeat to the bad federal and state governments that the indigenous communities of Ricardo Flores Magón are not going to allow this expulsion, nor the relocation of our communities. We are going to defend them as territories of our indigenous people.

Denial and Forgetting

Once again we are saying Ya Basta! to the bad government that is devising and making plans for relocating and expelling the indigenous and rebel communities. Ya Basta! because no one took us into account, nor did they ask us, in 1972, when the President of the Republic decided to turn our lands over to a handful of Carib families, creating a latifundo of 614,321 hectares called the Lacandón Area or Community. No one asked us in 1978, when they again turned over 331,200 hectares to REBIMA, because of the president’s wish, not taking into account those of who lived here, those of us who have been asking for years for our agrarian rights which we inherited from Zapata, nor was the indigenous peoples’ collective right to their lands taken into account. The government has been plundering these lands for many years. It has allowed lumber companies and Pemex to enter them, and now it says it is worried about the environment.

They, the bad governments, never look at those to whom these lands belong by historic right, by collective right, that is, at us, the indigenous Tseltales, Choles, Tojolabales and Tsotsiles of the state of Chiapas, the most first. Nor are the bad governments interested in how much effort, resources, hopes and dreams of the indigenous applicant communities are being tossed into oblivion with the decreeing of the Lacandón Area and the Montes Azules Reserve. We have been working for years and requesting these lands, and it does not matter to them that our peoples occupied them in the past, and we have need of the land in order to feed our families, in order to live as who we are, indigenous and campesino. Nothing matters to the bad government now.

The government has never looked at us. Today they are looking at us, but as illegal, as invaders of land, as hindrances to be dislocated, as woodcutters. The government never looked at us when we had right in our hands, when we were legally requesting the land. We spent administrations requesting those lands, and no one saw us, no one signed our requests, or remembered the right of campesinos to land, nor the right of the indigenous peoples to land. But one President, in two days, signed a Reserve resolution which was invented out of nothing. After the signature, they looked at us in the 80s, and they dislocated dozens of communities and threatened hundreds of indigenous communities who have populated these lands since the 50s and 60s.

Once again, no one consulted us, or took us into account, when they betrayed the Revolution of 1910 by reforming Article 27 of the Constitution, and by that, the zapatista struggle of the most first. Once again they ignored and excluded us. No one asked us if we were in agreement with that reform, with which we have never agreed. With that betrayal once again came the cancellation and legal denial of our campesino right to lands, our agrarian dreams and hopes. That is why today we do not recognize any of those decrees and reforms.

We continue here today thanks to the organization of the communities against the decrees, to their organization in order to give life to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), to their courage in rising up in arms in 1994, thanks to their resistance and just struggle, we continue here today. We resisted, and because of that, because it is our constitutional (Old Article 27), historic and collective right, we are not going to negotiate our territories, nor are we going to allow ourselves to be expelled from our lands and territories which we are working today, in which we live and create our culture.

Today the bad government is repeating the denials and obliviousness in a framework of a silent war of extermination against the indigenous of these lands, of all the lands. Once again, in 2001, they are making constitutional reforms betraying international agreements on the rights of tribal and indigenous peoples, like the ILO’s Convention 169. Betraying the San Andrés Accords, agreed to in 1996 with the EZLN and supported by all the indigenous peoples of the country and by broad sectors of Mexican society, as was demonstrated in the National Consulta of 1999 and in the March of the Colorof the Earth in 2001. Today they are once again looking at us as illegals, as invaders, as criminals, and once again they are threatening us with violence, persecution, expulsion, jail and the bad death. Today the only thing they see in their laws is what serves these ends, but they have never seen our rights.

Today we are saying quite clearly: the communities that are within the so-called Lacandón Area and in the REBIMA were already on these lands, or they had requested their agrarian rights prior to these decrees and reforms. The communities who have taken possession of their legitimate lands and territories over the last few years, and who have made their population centers, have been forced to do so because of the growing militarization of their original communities, because of persecution, military, paramilitary andlegal, and because of the very threats to take away their lands. In other words, they are displaced by war. It is the government itself that has caused more and more people to come in and take their right to land in the Lacandón Area and in the Reserve.

A History of Violence and Lies

1) The lands of the Selva Lacandona were populated from historic times by different indigenous populations, as demonstrated by the ruins of our ancestors. In 1524, at the time of the Conquest and the Spanish colonization, a people called the Lacandón inhabited these lands. The true Lacandón.

2) The true Lacandón people, a dignified, rebel, guerrero people, resisted and fought against the conquistadors for more than 150 years, until the last true Lacandón died in 1695.

3) Since the death of the true Lacandón, the colonial, and later the national, governments allowed the exploitation of the Selva by private finqueros and latifundistas. They took out the wood in the monterías, exploiting the Tseltal and Chol indigenous whom they brought to work in conditions of near slavery. Thousands of them died in the Selva owing to the miserable living conditions, excessive work and mistreatment.

4) In 1700, a group of Carib indigenous from Campeche and Mérida arrived in the Selva Lacandona. This group of indigenous had no problems with the conquistadors, because they were considered to be friendly, peaceful people who obeyed the conquistadors’ rules.

5) After the Mexican Revolution, campesinos were given the constitutional right to agrarian distribution. In the 1950s, because of pressure from campesinos who were demanding their agrarian rights of landlord’s fincas and finqueros in Los Altos, Northern and Central Regions of the state, the government opened the lands of the Selvato agrarian distribution, so that they could prevent the landowners from being affected by the distribution.

6) From that time until the 70s, a process of indigenous colonization of the Selva took place. The populating took place without any planning or support from the governments. The indigenous were envoys with nothing, their own destiny, in order to confront a Selva that seemed to swallow them up. The indigenous who came from the Northern, Los Altos and Central Regions were landless peons who had come from the coffee plantation and ranching fincas, because of economic destitution, the lack of productive lands and the violence of the finqueros and White Guards.

7) From the time of their arrival in the Selva, hundreds of indigenous communities that had been established in the Selva Lacandona presented their agrarian requests. The people waited and worked for years to negotiate their lands, without receiving any response from the government.

8) In 1963, the government granted new concessions for taking out wood, primarily to Aserraderos Bonampak, Maderera Maya and COFOLSA. Pemex’s explorations and digging also began, throughout the entire Selva region, and the first oil wells were opened in Ocotal, Villa la Rosa and Nazareth.

9) The 66 Carib families were grouped into three villages (Metzabok, Nahá and Lacanjá Chansayab). On April 3, 1971, they presented their agrarian requests for the awarding of 10,000 hectares among the three of them.

10) Just eight months after the Carib had presented their request, the Luis Echeverría government provided them 614,321 hectares of land called the Lacandón Community. The process declaring the Lacandón Community was full of irregularities.

a. The government changed the name from Carib to Lacandón and tried to present them as the direct descendents of the true Lacandón who died in 1695 and who defended their territory and culture with dignity. b. Of the three villages, Nahá and Metzabok were outside the area of the communal lands that they had been granted. c. The entire process took only eight months, while communities which had been requesting lands for more than 15 years were ignored. d. The Carib received 604,000 more hectares than they had requested. e. The decree ignored the fact that 17 communities with ejidal rights already existed in 1972, that more than 30 communities had already presented award requests, and that more than 20 communities had extension requests for lands in the Lacandón Area. In other words, they ignored the fact that there were more than 60 communities on those lands with rights and with agrarian requests prior to the decree and the Carib’s request. f. The decree provided for only 66 Carib families, and it ignored the presence of more than 1500 Tseltal, Chol, Tsotsil and Tojolabal families. The decree, however, did make provision for two private latifundos.

11) The indigenous communities that had been affected by the decree began organizing in order to defend their territories. Various independent indigenous organizations were formed, such as Quiptic ta Lecubtesel.

12) In 1975, the federal and state governments began the repression of dislocating the indigenous communities and striking at the independent organizations that were defending their lands inside the Lacandón Area. Thousands of families and at least 21 communities were harassed. Their houses were burned, and they were forced to relocate in the towns of Nueva Palestina and Frontera Corozal. The communities of Quiptic resisted the expulsion.

13) In 1977, hundreds of families decided to return to their old lands. Government repression against the indigenous communities that were resisting grew. White Guards were formed, and the Mexican Army intervened on several occasions.

14) Instead of resolving the problem and giving the communities a just response, the government continued to do them harm, now with the REBIMA decree, with an area of 331,200 hectares. Some 30% of the REBIMA’s hectares are outside the Lacandón Area, and they mostly affect indigenous communities with ejidal rights and agrarian requests which had not been previously affected. In addition, a buffer zone was established, which covers the 900,000 hectares, affecting hundreds of indigenous communities in the region, restricting their agrarian rights and canceling out their unresolved requests. The resistance of the communities became greater, more independent organizations appeared, the Union of Unions was formed and the bad government’s repression also grew greater. That same year, a presidential decree was issued that declared the Tulijá River to be a forestry protection zone, primarily affecting the San Jerónimo Tulijá ejido.

15) Out of the forgetting, the repression, the violence and the extreme poverty, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation was born in the heart of the Selva Lacandona.

16) In 1985, the government realized that the Carib communities of Metzabok and Nahá were outside the Lacandón Area, and they added 7627additional hectares to the 1972 decree. Various communities were violently expelled from the Lacandón Area.

17) Between 1986 and 1989, thanks to their struggle, more than 26 communities received the regularization of their lands inside the Lacandón Area and the REBIMA. Their agrarian rights were limited, however, by laws protecting the environment which were in force in the buffer zones and the reserved areas. The government also ceded the lands in order to cover up the growing conflict in the region and to minimize dislocations in the Lacandón Area closest to the Usumacinta River. They were, in addition, laying the groundwork at the national level for modifying Article 27 of the Constitution. The government signed Convention 169 of the ILO on the collective rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

18) In 1991, the government declared more land in the area as reserved. Now there was the Comprehensive Biosphere Reserve of Lacan’tún, the Flora and Fauna refuge of Chan’kin and the natural parks of Yaxchilán and Bonampack, which were put in the care of the Carib Indians.

19) In 1992, the federal government, facing discontent and the refusal of hundreds of campesino organizations in the country, carried out the constitutional reforms which cancelled agrarian distribution and permitted privatization, embargo and harm to ejidal lands. Those communities which had not yet received a response to their agrarian requests were affected, hundreds in the state of Chiapas and thousands throughout the entire country.

20) In 1994, zapatista support base indigenous communities and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation raised up in arms against the bad government. Among their primary demands were the political, economic, social, territorial and cultural rights of the indigenous peoples. The EZLN took total control of the zapatista territory in the Selva for more than one year, recovering finquero and landowner lands, and recognizing the right of the communities to those lands which had been denied them by the Lacandón Area and REBIMA decrees. Within these territories, the Revolutionary Agrarian Law was established, which delivers the lands into collective possession and does not allow non-rational felling in the Alta Selva, nor the selling of the natural wealth of the indigenous peoples. Also operating on these lands should be the accords of the indigenous communities and the autonomous laws of indigenous governments.

21) In February of 1995, the federal government betrayed the EZLN and attacked the indigenous communities in rebellion with the entire might of the federal army. The federal army militarized the area and established more than 200 military barracks in the communities in order to initiate the counterinsurgency war, the low intensity war, and it also began forming paramilitary groups. There are currently more than 50 federal army positions inside the Lacandón Area and the REBIMA, and approximately 30,000 army troops.

22) With the federal army’s entrance, thousands of families from the indigenous communities found themselves forced to take refuge in the mountains and uninhabited lands. When they returned to their communities, they found their houses, material possessions and tools destroyed, and their harvests, animals and food stolen. The displaced who returned were harassed by the army and paramilitary groups. Owing to this situation, many families returned to their places of refuge, and, little by little, new population centers were established in lands which they had been denied.

23) In 1996, the federal government signed the San Andrés Accords with the EZLN regarding Indigenous Rights and Culture, within which the right to the regional autonomy of the indigenous peoples was recognized, as was the use and enjoyment of the territories they occupy. Months later, the federal and state governments refused to carry out the Accords, and they intensified the militarization, paramilitarization and harassment of the indigenous communities. The communities resisted.

24) Between 1997 and 1998, the Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion began functioning, and they once again recognized the right of the communities to the lands they had been denied. Accords were created for protecting natural resources and rationally exploiting natural resources in a collective manner.

25) In the middle of 1998, the federal and state governments unleashed a wave of intense military, police, judicial and paramilitary repression against the Autonomous Municipalities and the communities in resistance. New groups of populations in resistance found themselves forced to live in the Selva indigenous communities, because of the military harassment. The government and the federal army increased their support to paramilitary groups, in order to harass the displaced, and they set fires throughout the region in order to blame the support bases and to fabricate a new pretext for justifying the dislocation of those communities affected by the REBIMA and the Lacandón Area, now with a real counterinsurgency purpose.

26) In that same year, the government, with the permission of the Carib, declared the lands of Nahá and Metzabok as Flora and Fauna refuges, and formal petitions by the Carib and the SEMARNAT were initiated for expelling the indigenous communities. At the same time, authorization was given to the Pulsar business group for entry into the reserved zones in order to carry out bioprospecting research programs. Care and planning of the Reserves were handed over to international foundations like International Conservation, which is clearly close to the interests of large multinational companies related to the business of biological and genetic resources.

27) In 2000, using the pretext of the fires that had been set by paramilitaries and soldiers in 1998, the government increased the pressure for the expulsion of 32 communities, whom they called “illegal and invaders.” The government reinforced the military encirclement of the region, low overflights increased in the threatened communities, and the mixed operations increased in quality, quantity and weaponry. The communities resisted, and they denounced the situation, nationally and internationally, through the Autonomous Municipalities.

28) With the elections at the end of 2000, and the change in federal and state governments, the pressure on the threatened communities decreased. The new government approved the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP), in order to take the policies and plans for neoliberal development to the communities and regions of the Mexican south and southeast and to Central America. The reserved areas, bioprospecting programs and the relocation of the indigenous communities are basic points of the PPP. The indigenous communities and campesino communities expressed their disagreement with the PPP. The communities in rebellion and resistance rejected it completely.

29) Today, the government’s new tricks for clearing the region -so that they can continue the counterinsurgency war and put the new neoliberal policies of the Plan Puebla-Panama into practice – are at the ready. Increasing once again are the harassment and the threats to clear the communities out of the Reserve and the Lacandón Area, as well as limiting the agrarian rights of the communities that are inside the buffer zone.

Communities Affected and Threatened in the Autonomous Territory of Ricardo Flores Magón:

Total Dislocation inside the REBIMA

Laguna el Paraíso (Ocotal) Laguna Suspiro (Semental or Yanki) Nuevo San Pedro (Innominado or Suspiro) 6 de Octubre (Ojos Azules) Nuevo Guadalupe Tepeyac. Nueva Cintalapa.

Ejidal Rights Directly Affected (provisions or extensions)by REBIMA:

San Antonio Escobar. Plan de Ayutla. Chamizal. La Culebra. Cintalapa. Limonar. Santa Rita. Taniperla. ElJ ardín. Villa las Rosas. Zapotal.

Ejidal Rights Affected by the Lacandón Area:

Lacanjá Tseltal. Santo Domingo. Arroyo Granizo. Plan de Guadalupe. Niños Heroes.

Communities Directly Affected by the REBIMA Buffer Zone:

Monte Líbano. Santa Elena. Censo. Taniperla. Manuel Velasco Suarez. SanJerónimo. Agua Azul. Emiliano Zapata. Perla de Acapulco. El Zapotal. San Caralampio. San José. Calvario. Nuevo Monte Líbano. Guadalupe San Luis. Sibal. San Francisco. Infiernillo. Zaragoza. Lacandón.

Communities Affected by the Forestry Protection Zone inTulijá River:

San Jerónimo Tulijá. Ranchería Paraíso Tulijá. Ranchería San Isidro. Ranchería San Felipe. Ranchería San Pedro. Ranchería San Marcos. Río Jordan. San Juan. Jol Tulijá.

Total Number of Communities Affected: 49.

The New Shadow of Expulsion and War

Today, the interests of multinational companies are hardening, and they are pressuring the government to begin the dislocation of our communities. The federal government, through the head of the Federal Environmental Protection Prosecutor’s Office (PROFEPA) said: “If they don’t put these areas of great natural wealth into order, private enterprise won’t invest in them.” He also said “they will be opened up (the reserved areas) for the Mexican Army in order to eliminate the organized crime that is concealed there, and in that way also guarantee security for private enterprise.” The SEMARNAT, the Agrarian prosecutor and the SEDESOL seconded him.

Meanwhile, the Carib, with advice from businessmen and from the secretaries of state, are saying that if the government does not effect the dislocation, they are going to do it themselves. The SEMARNAT speaks of the ecological danger represented by the indigenous inside the Reserve. REBIMA directors talk about the indigenous’ violations of the Reserve laws, and, along with the PGR, the Carib and others, are filing charges of serious crimes against indigenous residents of the Reserve. Pedro Chulín, PRI federal Deputy for Ocosingo and paramilitary leader of MIRA, has demanded that the state government clearly define its position on the affected communities, and he is demanding their immediate dislocation.

Businessmen and the North American government are talking about the importance of investing in the reserve because of its great biological and genetic wealth, which the indigenous there have endangered, and, therefore, talk of the benefits that would be brought by expulsion. North American ambassadors and military attaches are saying that if anyone opposes their plans for the Reserve, they won’t hesitate to eliminate them.

The state government says they are peacefully negotiating with the communities in order to relocate them, and, on the other hand, its Secretary of Indian Peoples, Porfirio Encino, speaks of forming “Guardians of the Reserve,” in other words, legalized paramilitary groups for the expulsion. At the same time, the state government is establishing an “Environmental Table,” purportedly in order to seek negotiation with the affected communities. The Table, however, is made up of the same people who are calling for dislocation, that is, representatives from the SEMARNAT, from REBIMA, from the federal and state SEDESOL, from the Agrarian Prosecutor’s Office, Carib leaders and even the PGR. At their meetings they have recommended that, if the residents demonstrate “unfriendly behavior,” the corresponding denuncias should be made, and legal charges should be filed for environmental damage crimes and dislocation, that is, harassing the population and legally preparing for the expulsion. The Table is planning, among other things, to take a census of damages that have been caused and to secure maximal information through infiltrations, land incursions and overflights. In addition, government officials are harassing and visiting different communities in order to threaten them with dislocation or with limiting their agrarian rights in the buffer zones.

Federal and state governments, multinational companies and secretaries of state have drawn up a plan already which recommends the relocation of indigenous communities inside these areas. They also have recommended the expulsion, through military force, of those communities which refuse to negotiate and to abandon their lands. To that end, they are proposing the utilization of the legal resources offered by the Reserved areas’ laws, which, nonetheless, violate Convention 169 of the ILO and the San Andrés Accords. This project proposes excluding the communities that are inside the Reserve and the Lacandón Area from all government support, and for support to be made conditional on environmental measures for those inside the buffer zone (including education and health benefits). The purpose of this is to not allow the communities to develop, and to force the residents to leave and go to other areas with greater opportunities for development. This plan calls first for dislocating communities inside the Reserve, then from the Lacandón Area, and finally, the reordering of communities in the buffer and forestry protection zones.

While all of them are talking and covering up their intentions with legal masks, the federal army and paramilitary groups are acting and preparing for the expulsion through violent means. The federal army has renewed operations inside the REBIMA and the Lacandón Area, surrounding and going into the communities affected by the Reserve. Federal soldiers are operating alongside PGR agents and government officials, as we have previously denounced. Paramilitary groups have gained new strength in order to harass the communities. Low helicopter overflights are continuous, primarily in the Reserve areas, where they are taking photographs and videos of the communities, information which they are also passing along to the secretaries of government who are planning the expulsion.

We are saying quite clearly that there are economic interests of the large multinational companies in the middle of all this, companies devoted to exploiting bio-genetic resources, concealed behind the masks of environmental foundations. There are similar interests on the part of the Mexican and various other governments for natural resources, such as fresh water, oil, uranium and other soil and subsoil resources. There is also the interests of many businesspersons who are ready to exploit and utilize the displaced indigenous populations as cheap labor for maquiladora businesses (the new industrial fincas). There are also the interests of those fools have who are trying to change the lives of us, the indigenous, so that we will cease being what we are: indigenous and campesinos with our own ideas and culture, which are valuable and have the same right to exist as any other. The Mexican government has particular interest in extending the low intensity war through different means, in order to do away once and for all with the zapatista communities in resistance and rebellion.

In other words, this is the Plan Puebla-Panama, which the indigenous communities are hindering, because we have dignity, because we have another way of understanding life, land, work, differences…we have a form and a culture which is not useful for world money interests, the world of the powerful. And in that very otherly way, which has history, organization, culture, dignity and resistance, many other brothers and sisters of the world are finding a mirror, a solution, a hope, an alternativeof a world which is different from the one that the powerful, the bad governments and the world of money want to impose. That is why we say:

To the bad governments:

We are reminding you that this Autonomous Municipality was born under the military repression of the previous governments of Albores andZedillo, and we have, nonetheless, resisted all their lies and theirviolence. The indigenous communities of this Autonomous Municipality were born in neglect, in denial and in the forgetting, and, nonetheless, here we are, and we have resisted. The zapatista communities of these lands have withstood the entire military might of the federal army, the low intensity war, and they continue in resistance. Today we are going to continue resisting, we are going to continue fighting for all our rights, and we are going to continue denouncing injustice to all the world, we are never again going to be silent, and we are not going to sell ourselves, nor are we going to surrender.

We are demanding that the federal and state governments once and for all end their lies, their projects and plans for expulsion and relocation of our communities, that they end the war of extermination against our indigenous communities, and that they get used to the idea that there will be no Plan Puebla-Panama in our indigenous communities, nor bioprospecting projects, nor eco-tourism projects, nor exploitations of fresh water sources, of oil, of uranium, of wood, of animals, of genetic resources, nor of anything that you have already committed yourself to with businesspersons and national and international foundations. These lands and territories will be cared for and utilized with intelligence and respect for nature by our indigenous peoples. All the cultural and natural wealth which exist in them will be for the collective benefit of our indigenous peoples, for the people of Mexico and for humanity, not for the benefit of a few who oppressing the world, not so their wealth can be privatized.

To National and International Civil Society:

We are calling on all of society, all the peoples, to denounce this injustice, to denounce this war of extermination against our indigenous communities, to take the necessary actions in order to demand that the Mexican government stop its war and threats against our indigenous communities, that it respect and recognize our collective rights as indigenouspeoples, among them the right to territory.

Liberty, Justice, Democracy.

AUTONOMOUS COUNCIL Communities in Resistance. [Seal]

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