Boxes of Flies being Dropped on Communities

Ocosingo, Chiapas July 19.

The “low intensity war” is heating up again against the Autonomous Municipalities in the area surrounding the cities of Ocosingo and Altamirano. This is primarily being expressed through paramilitarization, instigated by PRI groups and leaders and frequently paid for by the new federal and state governments.

In the Northern region of Chiapas, and in the northern part of the Selva Lacandona, paramilitarization has once again found a niche among the pro-government [read previous government, PRI] teaching bloc (which, in opposition, is taking advantage of every opportunity to provoke Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía’s government). The line of continuity between sectors of the SNTE [pro-government teachers union] and paramilitary groups (already extremely well documented in the case of Peace and Justice and their ties with the Socama group, part of the SNTE) is being repeated in the Ricardo Flores Magón Autonomous Municipality, where teachers in the PRI enclave of Santo Domingo, in the valley of the same name, are openly “organizing” in “contra.” That is why various observers of the region consider the northern part of Chiapas’ proximity to the state of Tabasco – hardline PRI bastion -to be significant (Tabasco, pro-government teachers, “new” PRI…).

Parallel with this, all kinds of civil – so to speak – military pressures are increasing. The Miguel Hidalgo Autonomous Council denounced that a wave of harassment has been unleashed over the last few weeks against EZLN support base campesinos who take their products to sell in the markets of Amatenango del Valle, Teopisca and Comitán. The PRI “controllers” of these markets have raised their taxes. “They are too high,” the autonomous authority said. A justification is thus created for turning [the campesinos] over to the police.

In the Olga Isabel Autonomous Municipality, authorities denounced that there had been persecution and threats following the sit-in at Crucero San Antonio, where the zapatistas were stopping the construction of a road. Local PRIs (official municipality of Chilón) and the police were going around looking for “who was leading that movement.”

Patrols by the Judicial Police are still continuous today in the autonomous communities along the Chilón-Bachajón stretch. The Olga Isabel council demanded “a halt to that persecution.”

Militarization continues its course, and everything indicates that it is on the rise. Over the last two weeks, movements of large military contingents between Ocosingo and Rancho Nuevo – and the patrols between Bachajón and Chilón – have become the norm again.

A short time ago an Army patrol stopped at the Cuxuljá crossroads, a thousand meters from the community of Moisés Gandhi, “crossed” the sit-in by EZLN support bases (established several months ago in order to protect the property) and went in to the Autonomous Municipalities’ community store. The soldiers, pretending to be shopping, threatened to “throw the zapatistas out of here.” The Ernesto Che Guevara Autonomous Council denounced the incident at the time as “a provocation by the Army.”

At a meeting of the seven municipal councils of this autonomous region – which was held this week – four of them concurred in a single denuncia, which suggested the possibility that bacteriological “weapons” are also being used against the communities in resistance. However strange it might appear, the autonomous authorities of Vicente Guerrero, 17 de Noviembre, Primero de Enero and Ernesto Che Guevara, all report the same experience.

Over recent weeks, planes and helicopters, which do not appear to be military, have been dropping “boxes with flies” from the air, which immediately infest the countryside and villages. As a consequence of that, entire families have come down with vomiting and diarrhea, and some children have become seriously ill, especially in Patria Nueva and Jerusalén, towns which are close to Ocosingo and the Toniná military complex, respectively.

The Che Guevara authorities recall that some years ago, on the occasion of another escalation against the Autonomous Municipalities, planes dropped boxes “with rats and mice, which ate the maize.” Later, that “bombardment” stopped.*

If the “rain of flies” has to do with some “health campaign”, no one has asked permission from the communities (or even notified them) to drop those Pandora-like boxes on their lands. Meanwhile, the “collateral effects” being experienced by the indigenous are putting their lives in danger.

************************************************************************ * [In an effort to put the above in perspective, I am attaching the better part of an incredibly detailed, comprehensive and damning report which CIEPAC [] did on the subject. In an effort, more than anything, I suppose, to address the need to…pay attention – irl] ************************************************************************* The Reason for the Rats [November 14, 1999] In an armed conflict, when the imposition of armed force is insufficient, because the enemy is, on most occasions, “well-versed,” difficult to attack or is, in any case, stronger than expected, other forms of war are resorted to in order to undermine the communities and populations. Low Intensity Warfare, which is expressed in different ways, is geared towards breaking up the organizational bases of the insurgent movement, cornering them, humiliating them, and it is geared, above all, towards undermining revolutionary morale, not just of the support bases, but also of the combatants. When the armies that are defending the imposed power do not have the territory under control, and they lack knowledge of the geographical conditions of the mountains, it is impossible to advance against the enemy in order to defeat him, and, thus, he resorts to other modes of war. In this case, Biological Warfare, which is merely one more repetition of the experiences of the United States Army in Vietnam, Cuba and other countries.

Concerning the indications of the use of defoliants and sprays in the Selva Lacandona, in August of 1994, the EZLN, through a communiqué, denounced the fumigation that the civil population was being subjected to around the vicinity of the Comitán-Altamirano highway. On November 2, 1998, in the community of Guadalupe Carrizal – previously Emiliano Zapata – in the municipality of La Independencia, a MOSCAMED airplane passed over, spraying an apiary consisting of 29 beehives, of which 16 were completely destroyed and 13 were rendered irreparably damaged. The honey, which was at the point of being collected, was lost. Following negotiations with and denunciations to MOSCAMED, they received compensation in the amount of 12,000 pesos (letter of denunciation from the community).

Of Rats, Toads and Snakes

Despite this being the month of the day of the dead, you should not believe that this subtitle refers to a costume party or to Halloween night. It refers to the expression of a new stage in the war that is being waged in one part of the mountains of Chiapas. For two months now, the indigenous communities of the “Tierra y Libertad” region have been denouncing to the press and the public how they are being affected by the Mediterranean Fly Program (MOSCAMED). Concerned about their situation, the following communities met this October 28 in order to discuss the effects they were experiencing from the application of the Mediterranean Fly Program (a program designed to fight that species of larval fly that is introduced into fruits): Nuevo San Juan, Nuevo Huixtán, Matzam, Jerusalén, Santo Domingo, Monte Cristo, Salto de Agua, San Andrés, San Mateo, San Francisco, San Antonio Los Montes, Trinidad Anexo La Revancha, San José el Zapotal, Saltillo, Nuevo San Antonio, Constitución, Caracolito, San Carlos, Rizo de Oro, Rancho Alegre, Santa Rita Bella Illusión, Poza Rica, José Castillo Tielmans, Monte Flor, Flor de Café, Zacualtipan, Tziscao and Pena Blanca – all of them belonging to the municipalities of Las Margaritas and La Trinitaria in the Border region with Guatemala.

They also prepared a letter which they sent to the media, and which we received as well. In order to understand more clearly what was going on, we made a trip to the area in order to gather more information. In the community of Francisco I. Madero, very close to the Rancho La Flores military checkpoint, we found a kind of MOSCAMED warehouse, located in a pasture. There we saw a the cab of a Trayler with a large sign saying MOSCAMED, a red helicopter and several bins with the same lettering. When we spoke with some persons from the communities (including zapatista sympathizers and PRI militants), they explained to us that the place we had just passed is where the MOSCAMED workers leave from every day in order to spray the region, throwing out sacks containing mosquitoes, rats, toads and snakes from the helicopters, without giving any explanations.

Only in the community of Castillo Tielmans – because of pressure from the residents – a MOSCAMED employee said that the rats and snakes they saw coming out of the sacks were to eat the flies. Under the pretext of fighting the Mediterranean Fly, they are spraying the mountains and coffee plantations of the region, causing the leaves of the trees to dry out as a consequence and the tender coffee beans to fail to reach maturity and to “dry up.” In their letter to public opinion, the campesinos say: “the dissent we are feeling in the region, for which reason we are denouncing the fly program, which is damaging our communities through our crops such as: coffee, maize, beans, oranges, mango, papaya, guineo, and in some communities in the area there are many plagues of rats and snakes which the fly program is throwing out of the helicopters or planes, we are now asking that this program be removed from our region”

Our conversation with residents of communities of the region follows. They told us the rats are eating the maize, “now they’re not letting it mature, and they eat it when it is very young, when we want to cut the corn, it’s nothing but husk. It’s going to be more difficult for us now because we’re not even going to have anything to eat, and if the coffee doesn’t come in, we’re not going to be able to buy things in the store either, we’re going to be hungry come summertime.” “And what is going on with the snakes? “Look, here’s an area, mountain and selva, that already has snakes. But we’ve never seen ones like these in the area now.

Some fifteen days ago, in Castillo Tielmans, the compañeros went and searched the bag that the helicopter had just thrown out, and it just had little snakes, but then they grow.” “The same thing is happening with the rats. They throw them out like that in little sacks, they spread them out over the mountain and then they grow, they’re a danger to us when we’re in the mountain.” “They throw out the mosquitoes wherever they feel like it, and then they’re all over the place, and when they bite us our skin swells up and turns red.” “That’s how it is.” “If you could tell them there, at some agency or government official, that we don’t want the fly program here anymore, because they only come to mess with us and screw up our crops.” The Production Plants for Sterile Flies and Barrenador Cattle Larvae are two official agencies whose main production plants are in the municipalities of Chiapa de Corzo and Metapa de Domínguez. They operate with 80% United States capital and with 20% national capital. They work on programs aimed at fighting the Barrenador Cattle Larvae and the Mediterranean Fly.

But, on several occasions, neighborhood organizations in those municipalities have denounced the amount of radioactive contamination being discharged into area rivers, especially into the Grijalva. The communities that have been being affected by this contamination for years now are Rivera de Copia in Chiapa de Corzo and residents located near the distribution center in the municipality of Ocozocoautla, who have suffered from respiratory problems. Among the denunciations of these plants, we have those from December 13 to 29 in 1987, when the state-wide newspaper Numero Uno published a series of articles in which they denounced the devastation wrought by the Sterile Fly production plant. They also stated that only North American personnel had access to the places where the larvae were being produced. During that time, workers who belonged to section 74 of the Fly Production Workers Union also denounced, with marches and sit-ins, the devastation caused by the discharge in the surrounding areas, and also to the personnel working there. In response to the seriousness of the problem, the Union for the Defense of the Interests of Chiapa de Corzo (their representative was Dr. Alberto Vargas Domínguez), and the leaders of the Fly Institute, established a coordinating group in order to lend more weight to the denunciations and the consequent plant directives. During that period, MOSCAMED workers in Metapa de Domínguez also held several work stoppages in support of the establishment of better working conditions, given that the radioactive pens were causing mucosity, bronchial respiratory diseases, nausea and headaches. In response to so much pressure, the Under Delegate of the SEDUE, Rodolfo Robles Solís, leapt to the defense of the Fly Production Plants, stating: “the Grijalva River receives residual waters and contaminants from its source in the Peten region in Guatemala, in addition to the 3000 liters a second it receives from the black waters of Tuxtla Gutiérrez” (El Orbe newspaper, May 29, 1990).

The Sterile Fly Production Plant in Chiapa de Corzo has been operating since August of 1972, in order to produce flies to fight the Barrenador Cattle Larva, such as the Mediterranean Fly, not only in Mexico and Guatemala, but also in other countries in Central America… This is what has been being denounced for a very long time. These denunciations are again valid today, because, not only are the workers being affected, but it is also being used as part of the strategy of the Biological War in the mountains and the Selva of Chiapas. They are not trying to fight the Mediterranean Fly, but rather the resistance of the Indian peoples, who have chosen to strengthen their resistance as long as President Ernesto Zedillo’s government does not carry out the San Andres Accords in Matters of Indigenous Rights and Culture. In addition to the fact that the people have now regained their dignity by refusing to take anything from the government, unless it is with dignity, and as part of what is theirs by right and which has been denied them for so many years by the PRI regime… Onécimo Hidalgo Center for Economic and Political Investigations of Community Action, A.C. CIEPAC is a member of the Movement for Democracy and Life (MDV) of Chiapas, the Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade (RMALC), Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas (COMPA ), Network for Peace in Chiapas, Week for Biological and Cultural Diversity and of the International Forum “The People Before Globalization”, Alternatives to the PPP

Translated by irlandesa

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