Zapatista Report

Mercedes Osun, translated by Irlandesa

causes that led to the Zapatista uprising—poverty, hunger, diseases, a lack of
services, injustice and racism against the indigenous communities—have not, in
any way, been resolved. The economic, political, and social conditions have been
made worse by the government’s failure to carry out the accords signed between
the EZLN and the federal government, and which were synthesized by a legislative
commission (the COCOPA). But those conditions have also been exacerbated by the
positioning of more and more tens of thousands of military and police personnel
from various forces, as well as by systematic attacks by paramilitary groups
against the indigenous communities, destroying the material conditions of life
and the community fabric and feeling of these Indian peoples.

Meanwhile, there
has been much and varied academic and journalistic research that has
corroborated and clarified the suspicion regarding the extraordinary strategic
importance of the material wealth of the Selva Lacandona: issues such as oil,
biodiversity (more and more involved with genetic engineering and its various
bio-piracy activities), water (which serves not only for hydroelectric use, but
also for irrigating high consumption forestry plantations, such as eucalyptus,
and bamboo for paper production), minerals, plantations, archeological ruins
(now in the process of being privatized), the eco-tourism of the Mayan Route,
and, of course, drug trafficking.

Such varied uses
of the land, within the context of NAFTA, allows one to foresee the convocation
of a multitude of businesses and capital interested in new methods of looting
the natural and historical resources there, as a new means of acquiring
extraordinary profits. It has been denounced in many media how the 1992
amendment of Article 27 of the Mexican Political Constitution—regarding
campesino ownership of land—had to do with agricultural integration into the
North American market. This integration is sacrificing not only the cultivation
of our traditional products (maize, beans, etc.), but also, and above all, the
1,000-year-old continuation of Mexican campesinos on their farming lands. In the
case of Chiapas, however, the pressure on land ownership is not coming just from
the aggressive and implacable North American agricultural companies, but also
from the various capital tied to the oil, hydroelectricity, paper,
pharmaceutical, and hotel industries, as well as from genetic sequencing
companies, seed producers. All equally interested in various forms of
privatization of the strategic resources there.

The ruination of
Mexican farmers is leading, throughout the country, to the accelerated
abandonment of their lands and their forced migration to big cities or to the
United States. As is the case in Chiapas, the possibility of the exploitation of
strategic resources lead to their privatization, and it can be expected that
these changes will unavoidably lead to the massive expulsion of hundreds of
thousands of campesinos.

The military,
police, and paramilitary deployment above and around the strategic resources of
the Selva, even in areas where there is little or no population present, is the
unlucky signal of a coming war of expulsions and extermination. In this regard,
let us look at the most recent incidents.

Recent events

Manuel: Since March 29, there have been simulations of weapons turn-ins in this
municipality by para- militaries and PRIs from the area, as if they were
Zapatistas. In June, the soldiers set up a camp at the entrance to La Trinidad
ejido, impeding access to the community’s health center. Everyone traveling
through that area is being searched and harassed by this detachment. There have
been various denunciations by communities in the region asking for the Army’s
withdrawal from that town.

Ricardo Flores
Magón: On July 22, 5,000 military troops entered this area, setting up new
camps and checkpoints in the communities, offering to replant the area with
mahogany and cedar. In the communities where they were accepted, they have
reforested even the plots (beginning with the PRI communities, and then moving
to the other Zapatista communities). They subsequently entered other areas,
reforesting without the consent of the communities. In the Viejo Velazco Suárez
ejido, Señor Pedro López Hernandez, 75, was detained on July 21, and his
whereabouts is still unknown. It is in this area where children are being given
money in order to obtain information, and for them to bring in their sisters to
work as prostitutes. Soldiers and their prostitutes are going to the springs
there to bathe, leaving trash, contaminating the rivers, etc., which the
communities use for drinking water.

San Pedro de
Michoacán: The community of La Realidad is located in this important
municipality. Since May, defoliants have been applied as part of a program for
controlling the Moscamed Mediterranean mosquito, which is being carried out as
part of an agreement between Mexico and Guatemala. It is an extremely aggressive
defoliant that pollutes the entire environment, affecting the communities’
primary crops, such as maize, beans, coffee and fruits, as well as also
contaminating the springs. The chemical being applied affects the skin and
causes headaches and vomiting. A generalized poisoning can lead to death.
Residents of this municipality have denounced that the persons carrying out this
program are foreigners, as they were in 1995.

Libertad de los
Pueblos Mayas: The Army entered Amador Hernández on August 11, under the
pretext of buying food. On the 12th, around 550 Army, Air Force, and Navy troops
arrived in helicopters and by land, and they set up a camp one kilometer from
Amador Hernández, within the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. After huge
protests from the communities and from civil society in solidarity—and after
the COCOPA’s arrival—the federal government declared the temporary
suspension of the building of the San Quintín/Amador Hernández/Rio Perla/Monte
Libano highway.

Tierra y Libertad:
On August 25, the Army entered the community of San José La Esperanza. Patrols
were being carried out on the outskirts of this community. On this day, however,
the Army decided to enter the community, and the women blocked the Army’s
passage while the men were working in the fields. When they heard the women’s
cries, the men came running to the village with their work machetes in their
hands. When the Army saw them they began firing, purportedly into the air, but
two campesinos were wounded by gunfire. One of them stands to lose his leg. The
Army detained three men and took them to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The men were
brutally beaten.

17 de Noviembre
Municipality: Early in September in the community of Morelia—which is also one
of the five Aguascalientes—a group of PRIs went to the house where national
and international human rights observers were staying, giving them 30 minutes to
leave the house. They looted the homes of some of the residents in the
Autonomous Municipality, and, during the incident, the PRIs detained six members
of that municipality’s Autonomous Council, who were released two days later.
Because of this, the community decided to take refuge in the Aguascalientes’
facilities, many of whom still remain in the Aguascalientes. Following these
incidents, and under the pretext of repairing roads in the village, the PRI
municipality of Altamirano sent purportedly technical personnel, who appear, in
fact, to be police officers. They seem to be anticipating a military operation
there soon.

Dangers in the Conflict Zone

federal government, international bodies, and world capital are attacking the
lives of the communities. Like the embodiment of death, they are also attacking
the survival of the Selva (even against the supposed strategic importance that
biodiversity has for cutting edge technologies). One example is the
deforestation caused by fires that were started in 1998 in various regions of
Los Altos and La Selva, primarily around the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
These fires were used at that time as an excuse for entering the indigenous
communities. In this regard, one should recall the numerous complaints in the
national press that accurately denounced how the drought that year was
deliberately caused in the Selvas of Chiapas and Oaxaca in order to feed the
artificial fires. As we can see today, they also laid the groundwork for
reforestation activities of the single crop culture of cedar and mahogany being
carried out by the Army this year.

The environmental
fakery of the federal and state governments has also been made manifest through
the following incidents:

1. The application of
strong defoliants (under the pretext of the Moscamed program) during 1995
and 1999 in the San Pedro Michoacán municipality

2. The request by local PRI
officials for the opening of roads and the establishment of military camps
(among other things under the aegis of the construction companies), which
involves the felling of trees, even in areas of high environmental
protection, such as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve

3. The production of trash
and urban consumer waste from tens of thousands of military troops in dozens
of camps and detachments in the middle of the Selva (as denounced by the
Ricardo Flores Magón Autonomous Municipality)

4. The one-sided planting
of forest species that destroys the equilibrium of the complex diversity of
species in the Selva, as also denounced by the same municipality

5. Military and
paramilitary aggressions against all the Zapatistas communities who, once
they have been expelled from their places of origin, find themselves forced
to go more and more deeply into the Selva 

6. The openinAR and by
national and international companies, or the proposal for the mass
cultivation of specialty coffee (also transgenetic), developed by the
Mexican multi-national company, Pulsar SA (today re-named Savia)

To all of
this must be added the destructive effects which could still be occasioned
by the planned oil exploitation there, as well as the building of 43
hydroelectric dams planned by CFE for the Selva Lacandona, and the seven
private dams also being proposed by the Mexican Business Council for
International Affairs (CEMAI) for the same location (without forgetting that
there are 33 other dams proposed by CFE for the rest of the state).

In the face
of this devastation, the (government’s) manipulative environmentalism is
ironic. It is only being used as an instrument for the expulsion of the
indigenous population from the Selva, by reforesting cultivated fields. This
implies that those campesinos who want to plant their own lands would be
seen as the new enemies of the environment. It is commonplace among many
ecologists to lament the population growth of indigenous and campesino
populations as a destructive factor in the forests of the world.
Nonetheless, those who see things like that are not only ignoring the way in
which large genetic engineering multinationals are today seeking alliances
with some international environmental organizations (such as Conservation
International) in order to privatize the areas of natural protection. They
are also forgetting that it is the indigenous cultures that have the
greatest cultural wealth for the employment of sustainable technology and
conservation of the great Latin American Selvas. From our point of view,
these are crucial problems that should be fairly evaluated by truly
humanitarian environmental organizations. The survival of thousands of
indigenous, as well as the true conservation of the Selva, requires the
participation of the international environmental community, to vigorously
call on the Mexican government for an immediate halt to the current war it
is waging, in both a veiled and an open manner, against the indigenous

A second
widespread element, which is present in all the events going on in the
current low intensity war in Chiapas, is the systematic destruction of the
conditions for the production of the indigenous communities’ basic foods.
Destruction of the immediate material conditions, as well as those
conditions which assure a mid and long range subsistence. Such is the case
with the spraying of defoliants that prevent the current cycle of a year’s
production of maize, beans, squash, coffee plants and their natural shade,
bananas, citrus, and other fruits. The reforestation programs, which are
absurdly planting trees of precious woods in the campesinos’ plots, have a
similar effect. In the long term, once the use of transgenetic seed becomes
widespread in the area, what campesino in Chiapas is going to be able to buy
the technology package of trans-genetic seeds, hormones, and appropriate
pesticides? And that is without taking into consideration the total
catastrophic effect of introducing these genetically modified organisms into
the middle of the Selva, one of the primary regions in the world for the
domestication of foods. This warlike aggression against the conditions of
agricultural production, and the lack of foods which it artificially
creates, is added to the chronic poverty of the place, for the deliberate
purpose of defeating the struggles of these communities against hunger. The
immense perversity of these actions is reflected in the most recent studies
on malnutrition among the population of Chiapas. These studies have
confirmed the generalized decrease in stature among all recent newborns. In
response to this situation, we are asking you for the physical presence of
observers who can bear direct witness to what is going on there, and to,
accordingly, take whatever measures you find most suitable.

If one
carefully looks at a map of all the military, paramilitary, and
anti-environmental activities organized recently in the Selva region, one
can ultimately observe the attempt to try to establish an encirclement of
infrastructure and of aggressive actions, around the community of La Reali-
dad. This is where the federal Army supposes that the EZLN comandancia is
located, and their purpose is to deploy a sudden attack against them, at the
same time cutting off supposed evacuation routes of the command. Northeast
of La Realidad, residents in the area are reporting the future construction
of a highway leading towards the town of Agua Zarca, at the request of
residents there. In the same region, they are attempting to develop the
construction of a highway from San Quintín to Amador Hernández (with a
possible prior destination at Monte Libano, crossing the entire Montes
Azules Biosphere Reserve from south to north).

Southeast of
La Realidad, the Army attacked the community of San José La Esperanza in an
attempt to establish a camp there, which was prevented by resistance from
the people.

South of La
Realidad a fumigation program is being carried out against the Mediterranean
mosquito which serves to apply defoliants that increase the army’s
visibility in the Selva, at the same time destroying the conditions for
growing food in the area. This action is being accompanied by the current
construction of a highway from El Edén to Guadalupe los Altos.

Lastly, west
of La Realidad, the construction of another highway has also been observed,
leading from the community of Vicente Guerrero, and which is assumed will
lead to the Aguascalientes of Francisco Gómez (previously La Garrucha).

To these
operations should be added the entrance of 5,000 military troops north of
the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, right at the site that Pemex has called
the Region of Ocosingo. As the Ricardo Flores Magón Autonomous Municipality
has denounced so well, these new military emplacements are flooding the
northeast of the Selva, controlling the border highway that runs parallel
with the Usumacinta River. Since these troops are in addition to the
numerous detachments already posted in the area where oil and biological
reserves intersect, as well as certain bioprospecting facilities belonging
to the Pulsar group, one could think that control over this region is
important, not only for military reasons, but also, concomitantly, as a
defense of wealth that the Mexican government is now seriously at the point
of privatizing.

Because of
all of this, and of all that was described above, we are reiterating our
invitation to visit the conflict region as soon as possible as civil
observers, while at the same time mobilizing within your own country,
demanding of the various governmental and international bodies the necessary
measures for the building of a true circumstance of peace in the region,
which will resolve all the injustices and grievances which gave rise to this
unhappy conflict.

Osuna is director of Enlace Civil, a non-governmental organization based in
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas (www.Enlacecivil.Organization mx/