Guerrero Activists Are in the “Line of Fire”
La Jornada 28th July, 2014
Sergio Ocampo Arista
On the 20th Anniversary of the Tlachinollan Center for Human Rights in the Mountain, thousands of indigenous people marched in Tlapa de Comonfort demanding the release of political prisoners
Photo: Sergio Ocampo
Chilpancingo, Guerrero - The Tlachinollan Centre for Human Rights of the Mountain [region] reported that during the administration of Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero “serious human rights violations continue and, since the arrival of President Enrique Peña Nieto, they have increased. [Human rights] Defenders in Guerrero are in the line of fire.”
On Saturday night, in the auditorium of Tlapa de Comonfort, the 20th Annual Report, titled “Glimmers of Justice and Hope” (Destellos de justicia y esperanza), of activities from June 2013 to May 2014 was presented as a summary of the work performed by Tlachinollan in defence of the rights of indigenous, mestizos [mixed heritage, Spanish-Indigenous] and Afro-mestizos [Africans brought to New Spain to work as slaves on sugar, coffee and hemp plantations].
The report emphasized that “the criminalization, arbitrary arrests, fabrication of crimes, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, disappearances, killings and forced displacement, are acts committed against sectors that are organized and demand respect for their rights; they should join the thousands of homicides that make Guerrero one of the three most dangerous states in Mexico.”
The report pointed out that “more people are imprisoned for being part of Community Police or resistance movements against mega-projects, than for the murders of social activists. The message is clear: in Guerrero, to participate in Community Police is more punishable than the killing of a human rights defender.”
The Tlachinollan report noted that between 2011 and 2014, there were at least 60 aggressions or attacks against social organizations, students, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and rural communities. It shows that in the:
The Centre stressed that 44 percent of cases “are murders or executions of members of social organizations and their families; 25 percent are arbitrary arrests with fabrication of crimes, and the majority of these occur in the Costa-Montaña [Coast-Mountain] region.”
Tlachinollan reported that from June 2013 to May 2014, it granted 801 consultancies:
In addition, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre advised 200 communities suffering emergency situations arising from Hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid.
*Abel Barrera Hernández, Mexican anthropologist and human rights activist, founded the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre in 1994. Amnesty International has awarded his work; in 2010 he received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
Translated by Jane Brundage
News from Sipaz 28/07/2014
Chiapas: New communique from Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
July 28, 2014
In a new communique published on 25 July, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés reported that the support-bases from the La Realidad caracol have decided to share 59,000 pesos that have been collected for the reconstruction of the autonomous clinic and school that were destroyed in May to support the transportation of members of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) which is soon to be held in Chiapas. It should be recalled that from 4 to 9 August, this meeting between Zapatistas and other indigenous peoples belonging to the CNI will take place in La Realidad.
Subcomandante Moisés explained that this decision has been made public “because we cannot be like the bad governments, which say that money is dedicated to one thing but ends up being moved elsewhere.” He expressed furthermore that “the construction of the accommodations for our indigenous brothers and sisters has now been completed, and we are finishing the last details so that everything will be ready with joy in our hearts to receive our guests. The construction of the new school and clinic continues, also with joy. Because while those from above destroy, we from below rebuild.”
National: thousands march in Mexico City to demand agrarian reform
July 28, 2014
On 23 July, between 25,000 (according to the government of Mexico City) and 35,000 campesinos (according to organizers of the action) marched in Mexico City to demand a comprehensive agrarian reform, in repudiation of the reform laws on energy, and in favour of respect for the rights of peoples and communities.
Protestors presented a document with their proposals for agrarian reform, to be taken into account at the national Congress, which is about to address the matter in response to a proposal made in March by President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The slogans that were uttered at the protest spoke to the principal grievances: for example, “Hunger is not combated with handouts but rather through food production in communities,” or “Mexico demands food and energy sovereignty.”
Organizations that covered the whole spectrum of politics in Mexico, including some groupings allied to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is at present in power.
Chiapas: denunciation of threats of possible attack on Migrant Home in Arriaga
July 28, 2014
On 21 July, Carlos Bartolo Solís, director of the Migrant Home “House of Compassion” in Arriaga on the coast of Chiapas denounced that he had received a threat from organized crime groups dedicated to the trafficking in migrants against the centre. That same day, a migrant warned him that an attack was being prepared, as led by someone known as Simón N.
Bartolo Solís mentioned that police surveillance of the trains has diminished over the past several months, and that fewer and fewer patrols are seen. He announced that he would contact federal authorities and the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) so that they intervene to guarantee the protection and security for the migrant home. At present, the local authorities do nothing more than “provide promises and speeches.”
Some weeks ago, Father Ramón Verdugo, from the Migrant Home “All for All” in Tapachula, also denounced death-threats and persecution for his work as a defender of the rights of migrants.
Indigenous organizations and peoples challenge federal reforms, considering them to be “a legalized land grab”
July 27, 2014
On 14 July, upon the close of the “Water and Energy” seminar held in Oaxaca de Juárez, civil organizations and communities pertaining to the Mixteco, Chatino, Zapotec, and Mixe peoples of the state of Oaxaca as well as organizations from Chiapas and Mexico City issued a communiqué denouncing the reforms being implemented in the country. They indicated that said reforms betray a lack of respect for humanity rights and represent “a legalized land grab,” given that they were approved to favour national and international firms.
The authors of the communiqué explained that the laws on Hydrocarbons, National Waters, Mining, Public Service of Electricity, Geothermal Energy, Housing, Foreign Investment, Expropriation, National Goods, Labour, Regulation of Energy, Public and Private Associations, the National Agency on Industrial Security, Protection of the Environment, Education, and Telecommunications “have been presented and approved without the participation of the communities and citizenry in general who live in the country.”
They denounced that “they have found the three levels of government to lie, trick, threaten with death, repress, arbitrarily arrest, forcibly disappear, and even execute communal human-rights defenders,” and they affirmed that they will continue defending their lands and territories amidst this new attempt at looting.
Chiapas: new communiqué from the Las Abejas Civil Society
July 27, 2014
On 22 July, during the monthly commemoration of the Acteal massacre of 1997, the Las Abejas Civil Society released a new communique positioning itself on several prevailing realities, “because it is our responsibility to say the truth and condemn lies, violence, and war.” Las Abejas denounced that the “bad government of Mexico has coordinated with large neoliberal-capitalist interests to create plans to extract the riches of our Mother Earth. These plans criminalize social movements; they imprison women and men who criticize the rotten system in Mexico.” They gave as examples of such tendencies the murders of Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano from the San Sebastián Bachajon ejido, who adhered to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle, in addition to the Zapatista support-base (BAEZLN) Galeano in La Realidad.
Las Abejas indicated that “we are saddened that still many of our brothers and sisters who do the dirty work of the government see us as enemies, insulting us and claiming us to be provocateurs. All these thoughts that they have are the result of the crumbs given in the ‘Procampo,’ ‘Opportunities,’ and other welfare programs.” They stressed the role of the “so-called leaders of a community or an organization”: “the bad government seeks to create divisions in a community or organization in resistance by offering a bit of money or a public office in exchange for providing information on what the organizations are doing.” To illustrate this point, Las Abejas made reference to the “present conflict between the neighbouring communities of Ch’enalvo’ and Chalchihuitan regarding the land dispute that has gone on for 40 years.” They reiterated the call to dialogue “both to the peoples of Ch’enalvo’ and of Chalchihuitan and not to take up arms.”
Lastly, they shared a message of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Chiapas: TPP pre-audience judges Mexican State for crimes against humanity
July 27, 2014
On 18 July in El Limonar, Ocosingo municipality, there was held the pre-audience for the People’s Permanent Tribunal (TPP), “With Justice and Peace We Shall Find Truth.” As part of the work on “Dirty War as violence, impunity, and lack of access to justice” covered by the Mexican chapter of the TPP, the Viejo Velasco massacre was addressed. This atrocity, which took place on 13 November 2006, resulted in the execution of four persons and the disappearance of four others. Two of the disappeared were found dead some months later. Furthermore, 37 residents of the community were forcibly displaced, seeking refuge in the neighbouring community of Nuevo Tila.
After having reviewed the relevant documents and the declarations of victims and witnesses, the judges declared that the “The fact that these acts of violence from the State did not solely target combatants but also the civilian, non-combatant population–including boys and girls–shows that the only common factor among the victims was that they pertained to certain ethnic groups and social organizations. It also shows that said acts were committed ‘with the intention of destroying’ these groups ‘totally or in part,’ thus qualifying these as crimes against humanity.” For this reason, they judged the Mexican State to be culpable of having violated the rights to life and personal integrity as well as the right not to experience forced disappearance in the cases of Viejo Velasco and Acteal in the Northern Zone of Chiapas.
In conclusion, the tribunal declared that “the State must use the appropriate means to observe its obligation to investigate the acts that have been denounced, as well as to identify, judge, and sanction those responsible and the beneficiaries of these crimes.” It stressed that “the Mexican State is obliged to comprehensively compensate the damages caused by these crimes against humanity.” Lastly, it recalled that the cycle of the Mexican chapter of the TPP will end in November 2014, a time in which the “grave human-rights violations committed by the Mexican State that to date enjoy impunity” will be denounced and made visible before the national and international public.
Chiapas: Believing People organize fourth pilgrimage in Simojovel
July 20, 2014
On Saturday 12 July, the Believing People of Simojovel carried out a fourth “Pilgrimage for peace.” Thousands of persons marched to highlight the increase in violence in the municipality due to alcoholism, drug-trafficking, prostitution, and arms trading, and to denounce the death-threats received by the priest Marcelo Pérez and other members of the Council of Parishes of San Antonio de Padua. On the same occasion, they accused municipal authorities of being corrupt and of favouring this situation which undermines peace and security for the people of Simojovel. In a communiqué, the Believing People declared that “Amidst these death-threats, we cannot be silent or be indifferent; we cannot simply cross our arms while seeing so much suffering caused by the corruption of the authorities.”
Furthermore, they publicly demanded that the corresponding authorities re-establish peace and tranquillity for the people by closing places for drug and alcohol sales, prostitution centres, and repressing the traffic in weapons. In this way, they specified that “We demand security for our people; enough of violating our rights. We demand liberty and justice.” They added: “This is our action so that peace be restored in this community. We will not tire; if we see that there is no result, we will take other measures in the coming days and months. The people must continue raising their voice.”
Protests against Oligopolies, Inequality, Mining, & Dispossession in the Mexican Countryside (#23JMX)
“…The rich man came and broke [my yoke-ring],
He took off with all my corn,
Without even leaving me enough to eat,
And he presented me with my ‘bills’,
… What a shameless boss!
… My beloved said to me:
Don’t work for that man any more,
He’s just stealing from us,
… Long live the revolution,
And the end of supreme government…”
El Barzón (Mexican revolutionary song) 
“El Barzón” (“The Yoke-Ring”) is a civil society organisation of farmers in Mexico which takes its name from the song above (about injustice in the countryside). Formed officially in 1994, it aims to “correct the political and economic causes of the recurring crises in the country that impoverish the population and stop the nation achieving sovereign, fair, and sustainable development on the basis of true democracy”.  Over two decades under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the group has fought to protect Mexican agricultural workers and ensure that they have not had to suffer from the economic effects of peso devaluation as much as they would have otherwise. It is considered partly responsible for the defeat of the PRI in the 2000 elections and, in December 2002, members of the group even entered the Mexican Congress on horseback along with other protesters.  On July 23rd 2014, El Barzón called for a protest in Mexico City (which will be discussed later in this article).
The leader of El Barzón, Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar, has warned that the Countryside Reform (Reforma al Campo) announced by President Peña Nieto is distinctly neoliberal in character.  Instead of dealing with the real problems in the agricultural sector, he affirms, the reforms will simply continue with the policy of hand-outs and ignore calls for profound change. He also insists that the so-called reforms will just continue to encourage the growth of inequality and the enrichment of a small number of private companies.
The true solution, for Ramírez, is to dismantle the oligopoly of countryside businessmen, which uses its money to take ownership of resources and the means of production. As a result of this current system, he says, small producers find it impossible to compete, and therefore have to sell their produce at extremely low prices. Meanwhile, the new reforms will only ‘reorganise rules’, leaving this vicious cycle completely intact. As an alternative, Ramírez proposes the creation of a public company capable of gathering, marketing, and selling agricultural produce. This, he says, would help producers to earn a living wage and ensure that consumers were not subject to the abuse of large corporations. Business speculation, he affirms, has seen the price of beans, eggs, and chicken rise unexpectedly, and can only be dealt with through greater competition and regulation. (One criticism of Ramírez is that, although his hopes for greater justice are honourable, his plan ill-advisedly seems to believe in the capitalist system rather than in true democratic control of the economy.)
On July 22nd 2014, a movement against mining corporations raised its voice in Mexico City, protesting at the Ángel de la Independencia on the ‘World Day against Toxic Mega-Mining’.  Numerous organisations showed their opposition to the abuses of foreign mining corporations, claiming that the reforms proposed by Peña Nieto will simply contribute to further destruction of land and communities in Mexico. In particular, they said the changes will open the door even wider for multinational mining corporations to enter the country and take control of water, land, and natural resources. The existent laws are already too relaxed, declaring as they do the ‘preferential’ nature of the corporate mining activities over all others (Article 6 of the Mining Law of 1992), but the currently proposed reforms will simply exacerbate the situation, the protesting groups insisted.
Francisco Cravioto, from the Centro de Investigación y Análisis Fundar, affirmed that, according to official data from 2012, mining concessions exist on 16% of Mexican land (and this figure doesn’t mention whether this land is in protected areas or places where productive agricultural activities are already present). According to the current law, landowners are obliged to give their land to mining corporations for exploitation or ‘temporary occupation’. Cravioto argued that such allowances (which are given mostly to foreign companies) are unjustified, as they barely contribute to the wealth of the country – with only 114,000 jobs (of a temporary nature and only representing around 0.2% of the economically active population) being created as a result.
Organisations and communities from eight states of the Mexican Republic have presented an initiative for a new Mining Law, which would place the consent of inhabitants as a priority and would abolish harmful and polluting forms of exploitation. Unfortunately, however, the government has ignored these groups. Sergio Serrano, meanwhile, from the Pro San Luis Ecológico collective, continues in his attempt to form a citizen initiative to propose a new Mining Law and Water Law, and hopes to collect at least 110,000 signatures in order to support his proposal. He says that the most recent Energy Reform will simply facilitate increased exploitation and occupation of land by adding even more concessions to the 900 already in existence.
Meanwhile, a day after the anti-mining protest, on July 23rd, thousands of agricultural workers marched in Mexico City against the ‘privatising’ and ‘dispossessing’ reforms of President Peña Nieto. Under the motto of #ElCampoEsDeTodos (the Countryside Belongs to Us All), protesters included El Barzón members, ejido inhabitants, indigenous groups, and consumers from around the country. El Barzón claimed that it was marching because “Mexico has over 119 million food consumers and more than 30 million producers, but a tiny handful of companies control the market, paying miserable salaries to peasants and fixing high prices in the city”. 
These protests are simply two in a long of examples of social organisation against neoliberalism in Mexico. Yaquis have acted to defend their water in Sonora; the Wixáritari have stood up to Canadian mining companies in San Luis Potosí; communities have taken the decision to defend themselves in the absence of government support in Guerrero, Michoacán, and elsewhere; and the Zapatistas from Tojolabal, Tzeltal and Tzotzil communities have resisted oppression and dispossession in Chiapas for over 20 years, forming an alternative to the dominant political model.
With all of these popular struggles throughout the country, the protests of the 22nd and 23rd of July are not at all surprising, but they show that, after 20 years of the injustices compounded by NAFTA, there are many Mexicans who are conscious of the dangerous effects of allowing neoliberal reforms to continue. They also give us hope that awareness, dignified rage, and just resistance to the current system are growing on a daily basis. And, wherever we may be in the world, we can draw inspiration and lessons from these struggles, using them to strengthen our own resistance.
 Amparo Ochoa – “El Barzón” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFVUQN9CYEc
 Website of “El Barzón” http://elbarzon.mx/quienes-somos/
 Protesters Enter Congress on Horsebackhttp://www.emol.com/noticias/internacional/2002/12/11/100216/campesinos-irrumpen-a-caballo-en-congreso-mexicano.html
 http://revoluciontrespuntocero.com/el-campo-mexicano-entre-oligopolios-especulacion-y-desigualdad-productiva/ (@RHashtag #RevistaHashtag #BocaDePoleno)
 El Campo Es De Todos http://www.lajornadajalisco.com.mx/2014/07/22/el-campo-es-de-todos/
Nodo de Derechos Humanos, Puebla, México