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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On 4th October Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group issued urgent appeals to the Mexican Embassy in London, to President Fox of Mexico, and to other Mexican authorities to urge that the Mexican government desist from sending in the military to attack protestors in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. In the last few days military aircraft and helicopters have flown over the protestors' encampments in Oaxaca City, thousands of troops are reportedly moving towards Oaxaca, and the Mexican press such as the daily La Jornada are reporting Goverment plans for a military intervention.
There is a real danger that if the Mexican government sends in the troops, then there is going to be a massacre on the streets of Oaxaca. The protestors, who are demanding the resignation of the corrupt and violent State Governor URO, have issued an urgent call for international support. " We appeal to the people of the world to organise protests at all the Mexican embassies and consulates in the different countries of the world to denounce the massacre that the Mexican government is organising against the people of Oaxaca." (statement by APPO, Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, 2nd October). The concern from the Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group is shared by Amnesty International, who have issued an Urgent Action call over the situation in Oaxaca.
We appeal to everyone to do anything they can to express solidarity with the struggle in Oaxaca, if you are interested in getting involved in solidarity action please contact us at email@example.com
One thing you can do to support the social movement in Oaxaca is send a letter to the Mexican authorities protesting the use of force by state entities.
Government attempts to end the Oaxaca crisis were looking likely to fail with the National Union of Education Workers rebuffing some of the Interior Secretary's overtures, partly due to his refusal to address the possible removal of Governor Ruiz. However, the recent move by the Senate to see if the state government has ceased to function, thereby enabling Ruiz to be removed, has given negotiations a "shot in the arm". Should negotiations be successful there is the possibility that arrest orders may be cancelled and 18 political prisoners released, but it appears that the PAN (who hold the balance of power in the government discussions) may still side with the PRI in supporting Ruiz. However, it is clear that the negotiations may well be "deceitful" and an attempt in themselves to weaken the position of the protestors.
Solidarity across Mexico continues to grow, as also shown in the support given to the march from Oaxaca that has recently arrived in Mexico City. Finally, there's yet another article providing useful background to the struggle in Oaxaca, with this one also giving an interesting insight into the role of female teachers.
The main news recently has been the continued tension in Oaxaca City, where the protests against governor Ruiz continue. The most recent development has been the recent helicopter flyovers in the area, designed to intimidate those protesting. The claims of the Interior Secretary that the flights were merely routine supply flights are rather negated not only by reports of troop trucks being assembled but by his own statement regarding the situation that "everything has its limit and the limit is close". As the situation heats up, Marcoshas commented that "Oaxaca is not just an emergency, it is also an example to follow". Elsewhere, The Guardian's Jo Tuckman gives a decent summary of the situation.
As noted earlier in our news reports, a recent meeting of Zapatista supporters has taken place in Tijuana, involving both US and Mexican activists and calling for the release of the Atenco prisoners.
Details of the upcoming International Encounter of Zapatistas have been released, with the first of two due at the end of the year in Oventik and the second in five separate caracoles in July 2007.
The major Zapatista news has been the recent announcement that the Other Campaign is set to recommence, having been halted earlier in the year in order to show support with the 29 victims of State assault in Atenco who are still in prison. The newly proposed plan has been ratified by the Zapatista municipalities and involves senior Zapatistas moving to Mexico City to enable the support of the Atenco prisoners to continue, while Marcos/Delegate Zero continues his tour of Mexico. Analyses of recent events are also promised, so watch this space! Doubtless connected with the resumption, Marcos briefly returned to Chiapas, as reported in the following report, with his talk there illustrating what may be an increased focus on the fraudulent election results in addition to continuing to highlight Atenco and other social issues.