Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Learning & Mobilizing for Zapatistas

a demonstration in madrid

UPDATE Mar 3 '08: Two articles have been published on CAPISE's NYC presentation on repression against the zapatistas (1,2) and european groups have put forward a proposal for how they are going to respond to this repression.

Two pieces this week: First is a call out for a day of action this Friday from two German groups (our friend -Kolya 1,2- has just translated this into English) ... perhaps some of us can't pull something together by the 15th (and perhaps some can?!) but it gives us an idea of what is happening in Europe and what we could be doing! Second is an announcement for a rare educational event here in New York City with Ernesto Ledesma Arronte of CAPISE on the repression in the zapatista communities - check it out, this could be a space for us to plan our own solidarity actions!

Also, Gloria Muñoz Ramirez has begun her tour of the USA and make sure to check out El Kilombo Intergaláctico's first book, "Beyond Resistance: EVERYTHING!" and maybe even help organize their "Beyond Resistance: Everything" Book Tour: The Zapatistas, The Other Campaign and US. Now back to zap solidarity in Europe and NYC...


February 15th, 2008

We call on all fellow adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and those struggling and resisting from below and to the left to join us on February 15th, 2008, for an international day of action against the repression in Chiapas and for the respect of indigenous autonomy.

In recent months, aggressions against the Zapatista communities have drastically worsened. The low intensity war has acquired a dimension not seen since the Acteal massacre ten years ago. At the same time, media coverage remains low. We believe that it is crucial that we make it clear to public opinion in Europe that we have not forgotten the conflict and resistance in Chiapas. We will show the Mexican government that here in Europe we are closely watching the worrying situation in Chiapas. For this reason, we are calling for an international day of action on February 15th in front of Mexican Embassies and Consulates. The date coincides with the 12th anniversary of the San Andrés Accords. (The anniversary is actually on February 16th, but this is a Saturday, so embassies will be closed on the day).

The San Andrés Accords negotiated between the EZLN and the Mexican government had as their objective to guarantee indigenous autonomy. Amongst other things, they included indigenous autonomy and self-management of natural resources by the indigenous inhabitants of the area. However, the EZLN broke off the negotiations due to the fact that the government neither fulfilled nor respected the Accords. We are in solidarity with the realization of indigenous autonomy.

The situation of the indigenous communities in resistance has worsened since the implementation of Plan Puebla Panama and other neoliberal mega projects, which require access to Chiapas’ biosphere reserves for infrastructure and tourist purposes.

In August 2007, four communities were violently displaced in the biosphere reserve of Montes Azules in the Lacandon Jungle. Over the last year, the number and intensity of paramilitary attacks carried out by OPDDIC (Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasant Rights) against Zapatista communities has increased in the area of Agua Azul, the most visited and well-known waterfalls in México.

Since September 2007, OPDDIC has issued several threats and carried out attacks against the Zapatista settlement Bolom Ajaw due to the fact that the people are located in the road to some waterfalls, which are currently still inaccessible to tourists. In cahoots with the state government OPDDIC is planning a new tourist project for which it intends to displace the community. Now that the community has refused voluntary resettlement, it has suffered numerous attacks and death threats, as well as threats of rape, at the hands of OPDDIC. Furthermore, some houses were burnt down in Bolom Ajaw. The perpetrators of these deeds were inhabitants of the ejido Agua Azul, nearly all of who belonged to OPDDIC. For this reason, both local and international organizations are calling for a tourism boycott until the aggressions against Zapatista communities cease.

In the community of Vetel Yo’chib, near to Agua Azul, on December 29th, 2007, on the road to his milpa [plot of land], compañero Pablo Silvano Jiménez received a bullet in the leg from two policemen and a member of OPDDIC. From then on, he has had to go into hiding and can no longer work to feed his family. In the last week of January an international observation brigade that was in Vetel received death threats and also threats of rape. On February 1, 2008 members of OPDDIC and the police shot at compañero Eliseo Silvano Jiménez and his son. Afterwards they were arrested in an OPDDIC truck. In prison they were tortured and forced to have photos taken of them holding arms. Currently they are still in prison in Palenque and there is no media attention.


1. The suspension of all forms of aggression against the Zapatistas and other communities in resistance.

2. The suspension of the counter-insurgency war against the indigenous and zapatista communities and the withdrawal of the military bases from the indigenous region of Chiapas.

3. The release of Eliseo Silvano Jiménez and Eliseo Silvano Espinoza as well as all other political prisoners.

4. A total halt to the violent evictions in the indigenous territory of Chiapas.

5. The end of cooperation between paramilitary organizations such as OPDDIC and the federal army and police, as well as the legal recognition of the crimes that this organization has committed.

6. Respect for Indigenous Autonomy.

This call was issued by Activists from the Gruppe B.A.S.T.A. (Münster, Germany) and Atenco Resiste (Berlin), who are currently in Chiapas, México

For more information see:


Movement for Justice in El Barrio

invites you to learn more about the escalating low intensity warfare being waged by the Mexican government against the Zapatista communities: the brutal displacement, death threats and incarceration.

Currently, there are 79 permanent military bases in Chiapas and paramilitary groups are threatening Zapatista families.

Our special guest Ernesto Ledesma from the Chiapas-based Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigation (CAPISE) will share with us how the main three Mexican political parties (PAN, PRD and PRI) attempt to displace the Zapatistas from their land.

We will also present the New York Premiere of "One Big Train Called The Other Campaign", a new documentary filmed by the Zapatista communities on the Zapatista-initiated national Mexican movement.

Monday, February 18th @ 7 pm
New York University's KJC Center
53 Washington Square South, Suite 201
Manhattan, NY

(Take subway A,B,C,D,E,F to West 4th St. Walk east on West 4th St. West 4th St. becomes Washington Square South)

The new book collection of Zapatista communiques "Speed of Dreams" will be also be available.

For more information, please contact Movement for Justice in El Barrio at movimientoporjusticiadelbarrio@yahoo.com

Co-sponsored by the National Congress on Latin America (NACLA)


ProfesosraGrace said...

Would it be possible for somebody who attends the presentation by Ernesto Ledesma Arronte to take good notes and post them here/send them to me in an email? Or better, video it and post to youtube? I'm in KY doing grad school research on this stuff and would love to attend, but unfortunately I can't make it to NYC on Monday. I would love it if someone would take copious notes on my behalf, though.

RJ Maccani said...

Sounds like a plan profesosraGrace... somehow and someway, we'll post some notes here after the presentation on Monday.

ProfesosraGrace said...

Thanks - wish I could be there in person. I'm very interested in hearing/reading what he has to say. Gracias!

n2zm said...

zapagringo, i've read a few things on yo blog, and i think you're amazin. i dont care if you are a gringo, you are down for the people of the world as well as america. i'm glad to know theres folk like you writing about the nau-spp, zapatistas, and other important stuff goin on.

RJ Maccani said...

Mamnoon n2zm! We gotta connect up the struggles, right?! I checked out the May 11 post on your page and thought you might be interested in seeing this site if you haven't already. We Are Everywhere!

I'll be back on monday night (or tuesday) with an update here in these comments from monday night's teach-in on the repression against the zapatistas...

ProfesoraGrace said...

If it doesn't get addressed during his talk, and if it's possible, could you ask this question (or some form of it) for me:

"What role are religious organizations playing in indigenous movements in Chiapas at this point? How has the role of the Catholic Church changed with the new leadership of the San Cristobal diocese since the departure of Bishop Samuel Ruiz in 2000? Also, are the Protestant churches involved in any meaningful way with the struggle for indigenous rights?"

I would greatly appreciate knowing what Mr. Ledesma Arronte has to say about this, so if you can work it in to ask, I'd be grateful, but if not, I'd just be happy to get good notes or video from his talk. Thanks a million!

n2zm said...

you are now considered more awesome than before for knowin some farsi. i will definitely hook the page up with some folks of mine. i may be connected to the person who writes in farsi, but i'll check. yet again, i'll be lookin at ya page a lot from now on.

RJ Maccani said...

i'm very humbled n2zm... thanks for the appreciation - i'll try to keep things interesting here for ya!

AND tomorrow night i'll try to work that question in for you profesosragrace :-) shouldn't be a problem but who knows?

RJ Maccani said...

Reportback from last night’s Forum on Repression Against the Zapatistas here in NYC:

One thing that was really touching about last night’s event was that it was PACKED. People from a wide range of communities came to learn and support the zapatista struggle in this time of repression.

The event began with members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio giving an introduction to the zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and to Mexico’s Other Campaign before screening “A Very Big Train Called the Other Campaign.” This film, shot by zapatista community members, covers the preparatory sessions of the Other Campaign held in their communities and the first stops in Chiapas of Marcos’ 2006 tour through the country.

Then came Ernesto Ledesma of CAPISE who began by suggesting that we would all need to know a bit of the history of the zapatistas to understand where they are at today. He gave a great 15 minute overview of the reasons for their armed uprising in 1994, the appropriation of land in Chiapas by workers –sometimes enslaved- from the large landowners, the creation of the San Andres Accords between the Mexican Federal Government and the zapatistas (in dialogue with indigenous groups from around the country), the betrayal of the accords by the government, the passage instead of the government’s counter-reform indigenous law with the support of all three major political parties (including the ‘center-left’ PRD), and the Zapatistas’ de-facto implementation of the original accords through their creation of the Caracoles, Good Government Councils, and the many autonomous institutions that meet their needs.

Having brought everyone up to speed on this history, Ledesma discussed the strategy implemented in the last year of former president Vicente Fox and now escalated with the presidency of Felipe Calderon. He remarked that us here in the USA have our George Bush and the Mexicans have their Felipe Calderon. Ledesma emphasized that it’s been over 10 years since they’ve seen this kind of escalating repression against the zapatistas. And 10 years ago that repression led to the Acteal massacre. The idea today is to mobilize to prevent a massacre rather than after it has already happened.

In 2006 and even more so in 2007, the Federal Army has been building its presence up in Chiapas, specifically around the zapatista communities and the five Caracoles. Although they don’t officially recognize them, CAPISE has documented 79 military encampments in Chiapas – 56 of which are on indigenous territory. They have literally been doubling their forces and, according to Ledesma, 90% of the Mexican Army in Chiapas has been trained as special forces.

Another aspect of the government’s effort to dislodge the zapatistas are the expropriation decrees to create nature reserves. This is a strategy used not only in Chiapas but throughout Mexico to take thousands of hectares out of the hands of indigenous peoples and into the hands of the government… ostensibly to protect the natural environment. Meanwhile, they’ve begun super highway projects through these so-called reserves –such as in the Montes Azules reserve that includes zapatista territories- in order to facilitate private “eco-tourist” projects. In the particular case of Montes Azules, zapatistas and other indigenous people have had their houses destroyed without payment. In one case, some zapatista-affiliated families were airlifted out of their territory while their houses were burned by the government.

In addition to direct government repression, members of the organization OPDDIC have been undertaking paramilitary attacks and threats against the zapatista communities. So there is both an official government threat as well as paramilitary formations that the zapatistas now face. In the case of the community of Bolon Ajaw, which encompasses 339 hectares reclaimed during the zapatistas’ 1994 uprising and now stands in the way of development around the most popular waterfall in Chiapas, community members have been threatened with the destruction of their homes, rape, and murder.

The zapatistas’ Councils of Good Government –along with groups like CAPISE- have been issuing denunciations of this and many other injustices for months. CAPISE has documented the specific identification numbers of cars and the names of police and paramilitaries involved in attacks. Ledesma said that they have identified over 300 paramilitaries, having for each their complete name, what they did, where they live, when they did it, who they harmed, and more.

All the denunciations and documentation have been met with a “scandalous silence” by the media. Nothing has been done according to Ledesma. In other words, as pointed out by the one person who got a chance to speak in the Q & A afterwards, it is up to us to break the silence – no on else is gonna do it for us. Ledesma had a whole lot more info to share but I’ll stop there. He did suggest, however, that there may be a national forum in the USA for people to meet, make proposals, and coordinate this effort. As for here in NYC, Movement for Justice in El Barrio sent around a sign-in sheet and it seems that for the time being they will be our bridge to more information and will help facilitate mobilization here.

I’ll keep you posted on what the next steps will be and also of any audio, video, or other writing that comes out from this. My apologies to ProfesoraGrace, the Q & A consisted of one question… and it wasn’t from me! Hopefully there will be another way for your question to get answered.

ProfesoraGrace said...

This is really great stuff! Thanks RJ! These caracoles and comites del buen gobierno are things I need to know more about. Am I on the right track in thinking that caracoles are like autonomous communities that have their own schools, public works programs (to the extent possible) etc.? And the Councils of Good Government are the governing bodies of these communities? I'm just guessing here, so I'd love some clarification.

Is Ledesma on some kind of US tour? Was this meeting just part of his agenda in NYC or was it the reason for his visit? Also, with respect to people in the States being involved...what kind of involvement are we taling about? Are there NGO folks there on the ground doing stuff? Sorry to bombard you with questions...any info or insight you can offer would be wonderful. What you've already given me is fine, just fine. Excellent note-taking skills you have. No problem about the question...thanks very much for taking such good notes!

RJ Maccani said...

Hey profesoragrace,

Good questions... that's actually some of the stuff I left out of the notes :-)

The Zapatista territory is made up of Five Caracoles, which house a total of over 40 autonomous municipalities. The Caracoles (which means "snail" or "conch") are places of gathering, of listening and speaking to each other and the rest of the world. The significance of the term Caracol is important when thinking of the symbolism of the snail or the conch.

In a 2004 interview, zapatista Comandante Bernal remarked “We are at war, my friend. That is why we all must be prepared. Our enemy, the bad government, certainly does not sleep, and so we must not sleep either; we must be better-prepared then they are...Snails are tough little animals. They work in silence, walking slowly and always forward, never backward. If it rains, or if the sun is very hot, they stay on track. When they are on the move, not even a river or an intense downpour can stop them. And if they stumble or fall, they get back up and keep going. We must be like the snails.”

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos elaborated on the significance of the conch on the founding of the Caracoles in 2003:
"They say here that the most ancient say that other, earlier ones said that the most first of these lands held the figure of the shell in high esteem. They say that they say that they said that the conch represents entering into the heart, that is what the very first ones with knowledge said. And they say that they say that they said that the conch also represents leaving the heart in order to walk the world, which is how the first ones called life. And more, they say that they say that they said that they called the collective with the shell, so that the word would go from one to the other and agreement would be reached. And they also say that they say that they said that the conch was help so that the ear could hear even the most distant word. That is what they say that they say that they said. I don’t know. I am walking hand in hand with you, and I am showing you what my ears see and my eyes hear. And I see and hear a shell, the “pu’y’, as they say in their language here."

So that gives you an idea of what the Caracoles are... and within the Caracoles are housed the Councils of Good Government, which are made up of 1 or 2 representatives from each of the Autonomous Municipality Councils - and there are as I mentioned over 40 councils between the 5 Caracoles. These representatives to the Good Government Council rotate frequently -usually after several weeks- so that corruption can be avoided and so that everyone learns to 'govern by obeying'.

The provision of justice; community health; education; housing; land; work; food; commerce; information and culture, and local movement are handled by the Autonomous Municipalities themselves. One of the important things handled by the Good Government Councils is coordinating outside visitors and any projects that might be brought into the communities in order to make sure that they are appropriate and that resources are evenly distributed throughout the zapatista territories.

And yes, there are autonomous health, education, justice, economic projects, etc established and running throughout the territories - managed by the zapatistas themselves.

Ledesma is on a tour that started on the 13th of the month here in the US but will soon take him to Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. He's touring to do what he did here in NYC.

The zapatistas have said, "Be a zapatista wherever you are." The big idea is that we engage in our own struggles where we are and connect it to the global struggle. At the same time, this happens to be a moment where we can take specific action to try to prevent a massacre in their territories. It's still up to us to be creative in figuring out how to do that.

Hope this helps...