The World Responds to Chiapas Situation

[translated by irlandesa]

As a result of the recent attacks against the Autonomous Municipalities in Chiapas (which have left four dead, more than 20 wounded, families displaced and great tension in the indigenous communities), environmental as well as human rights civil groups and solidarity committees, persons engaged in various cultural fields and academic specialists, have all sent urgent messages to the Mexican president, and the embassies are beginning to receive protests over paramilitary violence in Chiapas.

In an unusually severe tone, an important collection of US environmental activists sent President Fox the following letter:  “Human rights activists and committed citizens throughout the world have been waiting for a long time for you to assume control of the Mexican Army, and also of the paramilitaries.  As Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces you have an obligation to do so.  We will not tolerate human rights violations perpetrated by the Mexican Army and paramilitaries in Chiapas, Guerrero and other states.”

“We are aware of the outrageous escalation of abuses, including assassinations, which have taken place with impunity in Chiapas this month,” the activists added.  They also announced that they would be sending a group of observers to Chiapas, in order to help “de-escalate” the situation and to bear witness to the brutality which is being practiced against the indigenous.

The organization which is using that tone, Save the Redwoods/Boycott the Gap (SRGB), is an environmental coalition with headquarters in the United States, and it provides a support network for 1500 groups throughout the world.  While their principle goal is protecting the forests and water sources, locally and globally, SRGB also works in coalition with humanitarian groups in order to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, “which frequently goes hand in hand with protecting and restoring the environment.”  That is how they represented themselves to the President of Mexico, whom they urged to “recognize the Indian peoples as an integral part of real peace.”

“The entire world is watching,” they added, before announcing that “we will be speaking to the Department of State shortly about this intolerable situation.”  They also announced that they would be making “a formal expression” of their “indignation” to the Mexican ambassador in Washington.

Fox’s Mexican ambassadors are just beginning to get a taste of what it means to represent Mexico in Paris, Madrid, Washington, Rome, Barcelona, Brazil and other cities, at the very moment that the rebel indigenous in Chiapas are being suppressed, who, as the entire world knows, are continuing to wait.  In their communities in resistance, under conditions which are becoming more difficult everyday, on weakened terrain.

Claude Heller, Mexican ambassador to France, has already been questioned by civil groups in that country over the “tremendous increase in operations by paramilitary groups, who are still harassing indigenous populations on a continuous basis.”

The Fundación France Libertés, meanwhile, which is headed by Danielle Mitterand, expressed this week, to the same Ambassador Heller, their “concern in the face of the intensification of confrontations, threats and assassinations in the indigenous communities of Chiapas during this month of August,” and they asked him to convey that concern to the Mexican government.

“This escalation of violence is unacceptable in a democratic state of law,” stated France Libertés, which said that it had verified “that the conditions of daily life in chiapaneco indigenous populations are deteriorating even more dramatically every day; that the paramilitary presence has increased, and their members are harassing, even to the point of assassination and causing the forced displacement of entire families.”

The foundation asked the Mexican government to “put all necessary measures in place for an end to this climate of violence and impunity, to establish the entire truth concerning these incidents, and to see that those responsible are held accountable for their acts before a tribunal.”

Canadian sociologist Gilles Cormier sent President Vicente Fox Quesada the following letter, with a copy to the Prime Minister of his country, Jean Chrétien, in which he expressed his concern for the “precarious situation” of members of Autonomous Municipalities in Chiapas:  “Paramilitaries from the OPDIC group, led by PRI Deputy Pedro Chulín Jiménez, carried out an armed operation on August 25.  On that day, paramilitaries killed two persons:  Lorenzo Martínez Espinosa and Jacinto Hernández Gutiérrez.  And several others were wounded.  The only sin these people, members of Autonomous Municipalities, committed was to organize themselves.

“I know that you want to establish a state of law in Mexico.  I know the situation of the indigenous in Chiapas because I did my doctorate on this subject.  Above all else, I am certain that various indigenous communities are carrying forward the democratization process in Mexico.  These communities should be helped, instead of having their efforts stopped.

“I would like to congratulate you, Señor Presidente, for your efforts in that process, and ask you to do everything possible to look for those who are responsible for the incident of August 25 in the Ricardo Flores Magón Autonomous Municipality (and for the crimes against members of Autonomous Municipalities), to dismantle the paramilitary groups in Chiapas, and to support the indigenous’ autonomous organizations.  That is not an easy task, but you have already accepted the challenge.”

Protests have been voiced over the last few days in Barcelona, Geneva, Paris and Madrid, and by various organizations in Argentina, the Basque Country, Canada and the United States.  A display ad with numerous notable signatures appeared this week, directed to the Mexican government, calling upon it to also finally deal with indigenous demands, and to give them an opportunity for peace.

In another letter to Ambassador Claude Heller, the zapatista solidarity group Ya Basta, of France, asked the Mexican government to “take the necessary measures for ending, once and for all, this climate of violence and impunity, and for those responsible and the authors being held accountable for their acts.

“We are asking you to dismantle the paramilitary groups, to punish those responsible and to withdraw the federal Army, according to the wishes of the indigenous populations.”

The Brazilian organization Avante Zapatista expressed their “indignation” to President Fox for the “constant persecutions of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.”  The scenario under which the incidents took place, the Sao Paulo organization said, “makes us think that your government is in complicity with paramilitary groups (…) protected by the silence of government agencies.

“Remember, Señor Fox, that you were elected by the Mexican people in order to respect and enforce the rights of all Mexicans, and especially those whose rights have always been disregarded.”

The Brazilian group demanded of President Fox “punishment for Captain Alfredo Alvarado R., of the Altamirano military base, and for all his accomplices, for organizing a paramilitary group against the peoples in resistance of the 17 de Noviembre Autonomous Municipality.”

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