Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group

The Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group is one of many groups across the world which support the Zapatistas in their struggleand is part of the 'UK Zapatista Network'. Our main purpose is to raise awareness of the Zapatista struggle and to give practical help wherever possible.

We do this by organising talks, film showings, benefit gigs, street stalls and direct actions as well as publishing articles. We import Zapatista produce such as coffee, clothing and jewellery for sale with the money going directly back to the communities.

In Spring 2004 the Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group twinned with the '16 de Febrero' Zapatista autonomous municipality. The municipality is in a poor, rural community which lacked access to basic medical care and education. We have raised funding that enabled the community to build a health clinic in their area and further help is now needed to purchase medical equipment and supplies.

We welcome new people getting involved in the group, for info on our upcoming organising meetings please email us at edinchiapas@yahoo.co.uk.

'Other Campaign' update: 19th - 23rd November 2006

As promised, the Zapatistas achieved their mass road blockade in Chiapas in solidarity with those struggling in Oaxaca.

In Oaxaca itself the struggle continues, with occasional clashes breaking out. Nancy Davies of Narco News recently referred to the Oaxaca movement as "not a 'Paris commune', not a left-wing political party; it disclaims having leaders, it discounts the influence of the PRD and is not engaged in overt class war". Indigenous involvement and support has also been noted [ 1 , 2 ]. A detailed summary of events in Oaxaca can be found here.

'Other Campaign' update: 10th - 18th November 2006

The major news in the last two weeks has been the attacks on the 'Viejo Velasco' community and the defence of the Ch'oles de Tumbalá village against violent eviction. PLEASE scroll down to read more about the situation.

Meanwhile, Narco News' excellent coverage of the events of Oaxaca continues, with a chronicle of the recent police invasion (highlighting action taken by locals), and a piece on the continuing police repression (other information on repression and disappearances can be found here). Zmag carry an interesting piece by Laura Carlsencovering recent events in Oaxaca, the history of rebellion in the state and its implications, and concluding that "The Oaxacan rebellion is proof that for many people, even physical preservation can become secondary to fighting for a conviction".

Importantly, it appears that APPO has now dissolved itself "in favor of a permanent structure of government which includes an executive and legislative branch"to try and write a new constitution. However, it is worth noting that it is unclear whether the body is anti-capitalist (although it appears to be against neo-liberalism) and the main focus still seems to be on the removal of Governor Ruiz rather than more fundamental changes.

ATTACK ON THE 'VIEJO VELASCO' COMMUNITY: Update and Corrections - November 17th 2006

Further to our report dated 'November 13th' there are a number of corrections to the original story. Fortunately 8 of those reported dead by their families (including the 8 year old and the newly born child) had in fact escaped the attack by hiding in the forest and are now safe. Unfortunately the other 3 people are confirmed dead including a woman who was first raped. One other companero has also been reported dead, two are 'disappeared' and another two (one handicapped) are believed to have been kidnapped and being held hostage by the community behind the attacks ('Nueva Palestina'). The community has been destroyed by the attackers and around 40 people are now homeless.

It is now known that there were around 240 attackers, 1-2 of who also died in the attack. Many of these attackers were wearing police/black uniforms and were armed with high calibre weapons as used by the police and military forces. The only official police response to date has been the arrest of a nearby farmer who wasn't believed to be involved in the conflict but who was arrested and beaten after refusing to sign a testimony he couldn't fully understand.

This attack occurs in the context of the Mexican government's history of co-opting local communities in order to exploit the hardwoods and other natural resources in the biosphere of 'Monte Azules'. Despite the communities having gained legal protection in 1984 the local government continues to aid, encourage and abet other indigenous communities to intimidate, attack and evict people in return for economic privileges. More on the violent exploitation of the 'Monte Azules' region by the government and large multinational corporations can be found here.

ZAPATISTA'S DEFEND 'CH'OLES DE TUMBALÁ' VILLAGE AGAINST VIOLENT EVICTION

Zapatista families in the northern zone of Chiapas, Mexico urgently need solidarity in an important struggle to defend their community against a violent threatened eviction.

On 1st October 300 Zapatistas re-occupied the community of Ch'oles de Tumbalá from which 11 families were brutally evicted on 3rd August. But now they are being menaced by police and ranchers, and the Human Rights Centre Fray Bartolomé and The Other Campaign in Chiapas have issued a call for Urgent Action to stop any attempt at another violent eviction. In the attack of 3rd August three residents were detained and tortured by the police, and the entire village was burnt down.

The 532 hectare community Ch'oles de Tumbalá became home to indigenous families in 1999 when it was reclaimed as land to be held in common by the people. In the years following the 1994 Zapatista uprising, hundreds of such occupations have taken place, as the indigenous peasant people right the wrongs of 500 years of legalised land robbery.

The Zapatistas have continually to be ready to defend these reclaimed lands, as the rich landowners and state forces are prepared to use violence to deprive the indigenous people of their means of survival. This particular conflict is therefore an important episode in a much wider ongoing struggle.

Taking back the community

The re-occupation of Ch'oles de Tumbalá, in the paramilitary-ridden northern zone of Chiapas, took place on 1st October 2006, and involved 300 men, women and children.

On October 3rd detachments of police deployed near the community, and a police helicopter carried out low overflights, taking photos.

Massacre in Chiapas - November 13th 2006

Six women, three men, and two children have been assassinated in the Montes Azules region of Chiapas by presumed paramilitaries. All of the victims were indigenous Maya members of the 'Viejo Velasco Suarez' farming community that is theoretically protected by Mexican law. These massacres come just months after the federal Mexican government was warned by human rights organisations that the community and those around it were under threat of violent eviction by the Chiapas state public security police. According to the reports the assassinations were carried out by members of rival communities economically-allied with the government.

A full report can be found on Narconews.

'Other Campaign' update: 2nd - 9th November 2006

State violence has continued in Oaxaca City following the Federal Police attack which left them in control of the main city square (and many access roads) and three protestors dead. Last week the Feds attempted to gain control of the University area, with the pretext apparently being the presence of (planted) weapons on campus - with the La Luchita blog containing a good summary of action in its Thursday 2nd posting and (as per usual) excellent reports from Narco News here and here. However, the police were beaten back and failed in their attempt to dismantle the barricades due to considerable resistance. As noted, however, "the war is far from over". Background to APPO (whom, according to La Luchita, Marcos sees as the "most dignified representative" of the people of Oaxaca) and the struggle can be found here.

Popular Struggle in Oaxaca Successfully Defends Autonomous University - 4th November 2006

Saturday saw the fiercest pitched battle of the conflict as the PFP (Federal Preventative Police) using water cannons, tear gas fired from helicoptors, armoured vehicles and heavily armed riot police advanced on the Autonomous University of Oaxaca Benito Juarez which has been at the center of the popular uprising in Oaxaca City. Thousands of students, activists and local residents using slingshots, molotov cocktails and other makeshift weapons fought to defend the university campus for hours, eventually succeeding in repelling the police attack although the PFP claimed a tactical retreat. However the victory came at a cost with many protestors injured or abducted by government forces.

Full account at Narconews.

'Other Campaign' update: 30th October - 1st November 2006. DEATHS AND STATE VIOLENCE IN OAXACA CITY

As suspected (given the threats of Vicente Fox), state violence has hit Oaxaca City. Following the death of Bradley Will at the hands of government operatives, and the deaths of Emilio Alonso Fabian & Esteban Lopez Zurita (more tributes here and here) government forces moved in with force at the start of the week. A nurse, a teacher and a 14-year old were reported to have died in the attack. Of course, this was represented in some quarters as the government "scrambling to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Oaxaca" rather than a situation that was deliberately inflamed by the government and the police. Clearly the ambiguity in the comment of the Deputy Interior Minister that federal police would not enter Oaxaca city "unless the circumstances require it" was deliberate. Indymedia carries a timeline of events as part of their coverage.

'Other Campaign' update: 19th - 27th October 2006

The situation in Oaxaca is now looking interesting. FOllowing the death of Alejandro Garcia Hernandez earlier in the month matters have escalated significantly. Many teachers have rejected the planned return to work claimed by Rueda (the Oaxaca education workers union leader), calling him "a traitor" and a "sell out" and criticising him for refusing to discuss matters with APPO. The suggested deal would have left Governor Ruiz in place but given the teachers a 30% pay raise.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission have reported their findings on Atenco, blaming the 2 deaths on state police and stating that 207 individuals have been subject to cruel treatment, that 145 were arrested arbitrarily and 26 women were sexually abused. As they suggest, the violence could have been avoided had the state chosen to engage in dialogue rather than a show of force.

Finally, a small piece on a Mexican youth movement in California drawing inspiration from the Zapatistas and a fascinating testimony of a former Mexican people smuggler.

URGENT APPEAL

ZAPATISTAS DEFEND VILLAGE AGAINST VIOLENT EVICTION

Zapatista families in the northern zone of Chiapas, Mexico urgently need solidarity in an important struggle to defend their community against a violent threatened eviction.

On 1st October 300 Zapatistas re-occupied the community of Ch'oles de Tumbalá from which 11 families were brutally evicted on 3rd August. But now they are being menaced by police and ranchers, and the Human Rights Centre Fray Bartolomé and The Other Campaign in Chiapas have issued a call for Urgent Action to stop any attempt at another violent eviction. In the attack of 3rd August three residents were detained and tortured by the police, and the entire village was burnt down.

The 532 hectare community Ch'oles de Tumbalá became home to indigenous families in 1999 when it was reclaimed as land to be held in common by the people. In the years following the 1994 Zapatista uprising, hundreds of such occupations have taken place, as the indigenous peasant people right the wrongs of 500 years of legalised land robbery.

The Zapatistas have continually to be ready to defend these reclaimed lands, as the rich landowners and state forces are prepared to use violence to deprive the indigenous people of their means of survival. This particular conflict is therefore an important episode in a much wider ongoing struggle.

The re-occupation of Ch'oles de Tumbalá , in the paramilitary-ridden northern zone of Chiapas, took place on 1st October 2006, and involved 300 men, women and children.

On October 3rd detachments of Police deployed near the community, and a police helicopter carried out low overflights, taking photos.

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Get Involved

We invite you to join our email list (sign up here) and to attend our regular organising meetings.

Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group,
c/o 17 West Montgomery Place
Edinburgh
EH7 5HA
Scotland

Email: edinchiapas@yahoo.co.uk

Or click here for our Facebook page


The EdinChiapas group is part of the 'UK Zapatista Network': ukzapatistas.wordpress.com