Imminent Expulsion of Autonomous Communities

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The expulsion-relocation operation of communities located in the coveted extremes of the Montes Azules Biosphere reserve is almost underway. Taking advantage of the dry period, federal public forces, and even the Army, could be preparing to enter in to the Selva and remove the residents of at least 35 indigenous communities that have settled there. This old obsession of Zedillo’s has been turned into an issue of no longer just national, but now international, security. For the government, it is a serious problem of ‘ungovernability’.

The steps to be taken for such a maneuver are already being put in place at federal and state decision-making levels. The crux of the matter is the packet of denuncias which were presented last September 12 by Margarito Chanka Yun Yuc, Pablo Lopez Rodas and Fidencio Marti­nez, representatives of three Lacandon communities (there are a total of six) against the residents of 16 communities. The accusation, which is still in litigation, is for dislocation, damage to the environment and consequences.

These are serious crimes in Chiapas, federal in nature and not subject to bail, and they can result in up to 8 years in prison. A day later, on the 13th of September, the Environmental Table was set up in Tuxtla Gutierrez. Governor Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia presided over it, and state and federal agencies participated. While investigations were getting under way against the 16 villages, the Table agreed to start actions in some communities in Montes Azules (A week ago, on March 7, the federal Environmental Protection Justice Department (Profepa) delegate, a member of the Table, stated that he had already progressed 90% in his work, which includes the ‘relocation’ of communities). Since then, there have been meetings and hearings in various national and international decision-making centers.

Zapatista communities and ARIC-Independent communities, which are the ones being threatened with dislocation, have been denouncing Army incursions, low overflights and threats of imminent dislocation since last December. According to the head of Profepa, Ignacio Campillo García said four months ago that the federal government has ‘detected nine areas of high ungovernability.’ Of these, two are priorities: Montes Azules and El Vizca íno (whale reserve in the California ocean). These areas were chosen as being ‘the highest priority regions for establishing order and the rule of law,’ the official stated (El Universal, December 25, 2001), while admitting that the federal Army would probably participate as necessary. ‘We are going to need them to help us in the operations and later in the operational and security work.’

The ‘high ungovernability’ in these regions had already been noted last November by the then National Security advisor, and current Mexican representative on the UN Security Council, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser. The Environmental Table for Chiapas, which is charged with ‘lubricating’ governability, is made up of Semarnat, Profepa and Conafor, as federal agencies; and for the chiapaneco government, the Departments of Government, Agrarian Development and Indian Peoples, as well as the Institute of Natural History and Ecology, the state Sedesol and the Department of Justice.

Plan Puebla-Panama

Many things are taken as a given in government circles, due to the determination that the Plan Puebla-Panama Plan will be implemented whatever it takes. Right there, in fact, is where the maquiladora route will be between Benemorito de las Americas and Palenque, all along the northern stretch of the Selva Lacandona. Various industries will be up and running over the next few months, and everything is ready for turning the already brand-new border road, which passes just a few kilometers from the Montes Azules, into a four-lane highway.

Also making progress are the plans for a huge dam at Boca del Cerro, at the cost of the waters from the Usumacinta River and forest lands, even the villages, which belong to thousands of indigenous. It is a transnational hydroelectric project, on Mexican and Guatemalan lands, ambitious and full of investment promises. It was those very investors to whom the head of Profepa was referring last Christmas, when he said that the federal government should offer them ‘a strong, well-oiled infrastructure.’ Campillo Garcia calmly stated that this would take place ‘as we are able to offer a legal framework of inspection and adequate security’ so that national and foreign investors would be ‘willing to put in more funds,’ and he mentioned Montes Azules as his first example. According to independent observers, officials ‘want to clear the Selva of the villages.’

According to various denuncias, there are 49 communities in danger. Sixteen of them are already facing the countdown of the investigations: Primero de Enero, Nuevo Caracol, Nuevo Chamizal, San Antonio Miramar, Nuevo Aguadulce, Rancheri­a Corozal, San Francisco, San Gregorio, Nuevo Guadalupe Tepeyac, Nuevo Israel, El Semental, Salvador Allende, Santa Cruz, Primera and Segunda Ampliacion San Antonio Miramar, Sol Paraiso and Arroyo Cristalina.

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