CHIAPAS: People affected by mining gather in Chicomuselo for the 2nd Meeting of REMA

August 31, 2009

Encuentro REMA (@Dominique Jarry-Shore)Encuentro REMA (@Dominique Jarry-Shore)

Just days after being released from jail for alleged anti-mining activity, Mariano Abarca Roblero is as resolved as ever to fight against mining activity in Chicomuselo. He and 240 people from as far away as San Luis Potosi and Guatemala gathered in Chicomuselo, Chiapas on August 29th and 30th to share in their struggle against mining in their communities. The conference was the second meeting in Chiapas organized by the Mexican Network of those Affected by Mining (REMA) and tackled themes such as legal means of resistance and the effects of mining on health and the environment.

Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration Ltd., whose website states it is “aggressively exploring and developing Chiapas”, is operating in the municipality of Chicomuselo. Community members say there has been little or no public consultation and that promises made to improve the lives of residents have not been carried out. According to an investigation by Human Rights Center Oralia Morales Frontera Comalapa, the people of Nueva Morelia cannot bathe or use water from a river because of Blackfire activity. The people of Nueva Morelia also report skin irritations if they bathe in the river.

On the final day of the conference an agreement was signed by representatives of 27 different social organizations that demands, among other things, the cancellation of all mining projects in Chicomuselo, especially those of Canadian company Blackfire, as well as all mining concessions in Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala. The agreement also demands the respect of the voices of the people, taking into account their human rights, especially the right to public consultation.

The conference was deemed a success by the organizers and it is hoped that more and more people from the affected communities will rise up in the coming months and join the movement against the destructive practice of mining. Unfortunately there continues to be repression and intimidation against people involved in the anti-mining movement, as seen in the recent arrest of Mariano Abarca and even at the conference in Chicomuselo, where suspected police officers posed as journalists and took videos and photos of conference participants.

For more information (in English and Spanish):

– Declaración del II Encuentro REMA en Chicomuselo

– Comunicado: Mariano Abarca ha sido liberado

[DETAINED] : Mariano Abarca, Mexican Community Leader organizing against Canadian Mining

-Blackfire Exploration Ltd. WebsiteENCUENTRO REMA CHIAPAS

More information from SIPAZ:

Mining in Chiapas: A New threat for the survival of indigenous peoples


Oaxaca: Demands made for reparation of harm caused by torture and by arbitrary privation of freedom

August 28, 2009

Conferencia de prensa - Fuente: LIMEDDH

Press conference – source LIMEDDH

In a press conference held on the 5th August, the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights–Oaxacan subsidiary (LIMEDDH), alongside the Magisterial Commission of Human Rights (COMADDH) of Section 22 of the Mexican National Education Workers Union (SNTE), and the Committee of Family and Friends of the Disappeared, Killed, and Imprisoned People of Oaxaca (COFADAPPO), presented their stance with respect to the report submitted by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) regarding Human Rights violations committed during the social conflict in Oaxaca, covering the period from May 2006 up to July 2007. They also announced that this year, 63 people who were detained on the 25th November 2006 have demanded, through LIMEDDH, that state authorities repair the moral damage cause by torture and arbitrary privation of freedom.

According to the press bulletin issued by LIMEDDH on the 5th August, “serious violations within the constitutional framework of individual safety and human rights have not been investigated and remain in the dark, following the conclusion reached by the preliminary investigation report (…) of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation in regards to the social political conflict of 2006 (…) in the area of Oaxaca. Arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and violations of the principle of right to a just process are a few of the Human Rights violations committed by the state and federal authorities”. LIMEDDH emphasized the importance of the work carried out by non-governmental organizations in regards to Human Rights in light of the existing climate of impunity. Furthermore, LIMEDDH also called attention to the fact that there exist various public reports carried out by international human rights organizations that contrast with the report submitted by the SCJN and that give evidence of the serious violations committed during the conflict.

In addition, LIMEDDH announced that, so far this year (2009), 63 people who were detained on the 25th November 2006 and who have been victims of Human Rights violations have demanded that state authorities repair the moral damage cause by torture and arbitrary privation of freedom, the total amount reaching 58,400,000.00 $ (Pesos Mexicanos), 940,000.00 $ for each victim. LIMEDDH stressed that “it is not a case of putting a price on personal freedom or on physical or psychological integrity and wellbeing, yet of restoring the right that the victims have to be compensated by the perpetrator, the Mexican State; furthermore, it represents the public shame that the State Government of Oaxaca should express, independently and without undermining legal and administrative responsibility, in the crimes committed by public responsible officials.” LIMEDDH also called upon state and federal authorities to abstain from any type of harassment against Human Rights defenders, victims and family members; on the contrary, it was stressed that all national institutional routes of obtaining justice will be considered closed and that they will turn to international Human Rights courts to denounce this if need be.

For More Information (in Spanish):

More information from SIPAZ:

Chiapas: Follow-up in the Acteal case

August 28, 2009

Abejas0809 018
In a press conference, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center reiterated their criticism with regards to the release of 20 people sentenced for their participation in the Acteal massacre. “What is happening today is a crime against humanity. It’s one more example of how impunity happens. It’s very sad to hear how different voices presume the innocence of all those paramilitaries.” The Human Rights Center said the release of the 20 prisoners signals inherent problems in the Mexican justice system, not the innocence of the accused.

“As far as this Human Rights Center is concerned, the truth is in the words of the survivors, in the documented history before the crime and in the experience and testimony of the people. This judicial decision has been made possible by the the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN)  and we suspect it is nothing more than an attempt to cover up a state crime.”

The Human Rights Center “interprets as a threat” the fact that 20 prisoners have been released and that there is a possibility that 37 more will be released. It also criticized the “unilateral methods” used so that ex-prisoners would not return to their communities. “We consider this to be an insufficient way to ensure the lives and physical well-being of the members of Las Abejas, especially the survivors who were witnesses for the prosecution. It is also insufficient for guaranteeing peace and calm in the area.”

While the state government works hard to find resources like land, houses and work so the ex-prisoners don’t return to their communities, the ex-prisoners themselves have expressed an interest in returning to Chenalho.

Adding context to the situation is the recent declassification of official U.S. documents from the National Security Archive that indicate the direct support of the Mexican military and paramilitaries in the counterinsurgency war against Zapatista support bases. At the request of the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) confirmed that paramilitary groups “were under the supervision of Mexican military intelligence during the time the massacre in Acteal took place, with Ernesto Zedillo holding the position of Executive” and in possession of “presidential authority”.

For more information (in Spanish):

“Persiste injusticia e impunidad contra pueblos indígenas de Chiapas”, Boletín 29, CDHFBC (20/08/2009)

“Archivos improcedentes de Acteal”, Milenio (20/08/2009)

“Breaking the Silence”, Archivo Nacional de Seguridad de los EEUU (20/08/2009)

“The Mexico Prohejct”, Archivo Nacional de Seguridad de los EEUU (20/08/2009)

“CSG y Zedillo autorizaron apoyo a paramilitares en Chiapas, dice EU”, La Jornada (21/08/2009)

“Teme el centro Frayba agresiones de los liberados por el caso Acteal”, La Jornada (21/08/2009)

“Aún se encuentran en los Altos de Chiapas, denuncia Serapaz”, El Milenio (21/08/2009)

“Amparados de Acteal no regresarán a Chenalhó”, Boletín 1674, Gobierno de estado (13/08/2009)

“Liberados por el caso Acteal quieren volver a sus comunidades”, La Jornada (14/08/2009)

Enlaces a los audios de la conferencia de prensa:

Chiapas: Indigenous Communities demand a stop to repression for defending their territory

August 28, 2009

Conferencia de prensa

On August 20th, a press conference was held by followers of “the Other Campaign” representing three communities affected by the construction of the San Cristobal-Palenque highway: Mitziton, Jotola and San Sebastian Bachajon. At the press conference, held at the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, the representatives denounced the current situation, saying they are face to face with “bad neoliberal projects that offer no benefit to indigenous people in any way” and the plundering of land that threatens their very presence on the land.

The Other Campaign members of Mitziton condemned the fact that after one month there has been no arrest made in the murder case of Aurelio Diaz Hernandez, who was killed on July 21st, 2009. They also reported that paramilitaries continue to “threaten with their guns, firing them often into the air during the evening and night” and that public officials from the Ministry of Communication and Transportation have made new attempts to “trick us into signing a meeting certificate to give them permission to pass through our territory to build the highway to Palenque.”

Members of the Other Campaign in San Sebastian Bachajon demanded the “immediate release” of Geronimo Gomez Saragos and Antonio Gomez Saragos, who were arrested between April 13th and 18th during police operations in the Chilon region. They also demanded that arrest warrants for Ricardo Sanchez Luna, Alberto Mendez Lopez, Isabel Moreno Miranda and Pascual Sanchez Perez be withdrawn. They reported the recent “illegal occupation of their land by state and federal police” and said members of the Other Campaign have been threatened by OPDDIC – the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights. The Jotola communal landowners have received similar threats and said OPDDIC members are “firing their guns, scaring our ‘compañeros´ and our children.”

To conclude the press conference, the representatives of the three communities explained they had met on this occasion to defend their land, their rights and their indigenous culture that “the bad government wants to destroy and continue destroying like they did with our ancestors.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Denuncia de los ejidos San Sebastián Bachajón, Jotolá y Mitzitón(20/08/2009)

“Persiste injusticia e impunidad contra pueblos indígenas de Chiapas”, Boletín 29, CDHFBC (20/08/2009)

“Teme el Centro Frayba agresiones de los liberados por el caso Acteal”, La Jornada (21/08/2009)

Links to audiovisual materials during the press conference:

Chiapas: The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visits Acteal

August 27, 2009

Alberto Brunori en Acteal

Alberto Brunori en Acteal

On August 16th the Mexican representative of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Alberto Brunori, visited Chenalho and the family and survivors of the Acteal massacre. Brunori took part in a ceremony organized by the civil group Las Abejas and gave a press conference in the afternoon in which he said, “it is unacceptable that the killings that occurred in Acteal on December 22nd, 1997, will go unpunished as a result of faults in the legal process.” He emphasized the danger of an upsurge in violence in the region and made a “call to the state authorities to reinforce the measures needed to ensure the lives and wellbeing of the people living in the area.”

For more information:

Declaracion de la OACNUDH en Acteal (17/08/2009)

Comunicado de las Abejas en Acteal (17/08/2009)

Chiapas: 20 prisoners sentenced for the Acteal massacre set free

August 27, 2009

At 3:30 in the morning on August 13th, 2009, 20 prisoners in jail for the Acteal massacre were set free. Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered their release after the prisoners had served 12 years in prison for having participated in the Acteal massacre that killed 45 Tzotzil members of the civil group Las Abejas, on December 22nd, 1997.

The following is a summary of information from the Prodh Center:

Yesterday, Mexico’s Supreme Court confirmed what had already been reported in the media regarding the case of the Acteal massacre. The Court, by a vote of four to one, decided to release 20 indigenous prisoners who had been sentenced as perpetrators of the Acteal massacre on December 22nd, 1997.  Judge Sergio Valls expressed his opposition to the decision and presented a plan to reject the appeal  for close to 30 others sentenced in the case, but this was rejected during the court session. A new plan will be revealed in the following days that will likely result in the release of all of the sentenced prisoners. The survivors of the Acteal massacre are appalled by the decision of the Mexican Supreme Court and held a press conference outside the court to deplore the decision.

At around three in the morning the prisoners were released and transferred to Berriozabal where they would  reportedly be given land to avoid future conflict. While the newly released prisoners expressed their satisfaction with the decision of the Supreme Court, Las Abejas along with the Frayba Human Rights Center, reiterated their previously stated worries about the situation, as well as the evidence that the sentenced men are responsible for the massacre.

On August 13th Amnesty International (AI) declared the need for a new investigation of the massacre: “This is another example of the serious shortcomings of the Mexican justice system which seems incapable of using a just court to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for human rights violations.”

For more information:

“En una inédita decisión la Corte libera a sentenciados por Acteal”, La Jornada (13/08/2009)

“Impiden a indígenas regresar a comunidades”, El Universal (13/08/2009)

“Nueva investigación es esencial en masacre de Acteal”, Amnistía Internacional (13/08/2009)

Comunicado de prensa acerca de la liberación de los presos de Acteal, OMCT (13/08/2009)


Chiapas: The Abejas Pilgrimage

August 27, 2009

On August 11th the Civil Society Las Abejas once again demonstrated their indignation and anger with regards to media reports that approximately 40 prisoners accused and sentenced for the Acteal massacre will soon be released. About 100 members of Las Abejas marched in a pilgrimage that began at the Quinta San Martin in San Cristobal de Las Casas and ended in the Cathedral plaza. The group sang, prayed and denounced the decision of the “Supreme Court of Injustice” which is expected August 12th. The group gathered on the steps of the Cathedral and held pictures of their loved ones who died in the massacre, as well as crosses with the names of the 45 people whose lives were lost on December 22, 1997. Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, members of the Otra Campaña, as well as members of other organizations and movements met them at the Cathedral.

In a statement, the Network for Peace, a coalition of various organizations in Chiapas, expressed its most “energetic rejection to the possible release of the perpetrators of the inhuman crime committed in Acteal on December 22nd, 1997.” The statement went on to say such a decision by Mexico’s Supreme Court “could result in a decision that is based on the exclusive revision of formalities related to judicial process without looking deeper into the penal responsibility of the people behind the crime, guaranteeing that crimes similar to the one committed in Acteal go unpunished.” They also stressed that in terms of the work alongside indigenous communities, the Acteal massacre “continues to be extraordinarily relevant because of the scale and repercussions of the crime. For this we demand the judges of the Supreme Court to carefully consider the possible outcome of their decision.”

For more information:

Boletín del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (11/08/09)

Pronunciamiento de la Red por la Paz (11/08/09)

-La Jornada : La Suprema Corte decidirá hoy sobre amparos en el caso Acteal (12/08/09)

– Cuarto Poder : Familiares refutarán de frente a la SCJN (12/08/09)