Since Monday October 26th about 150 members of OCEZ-RC (Emiliano Zapata Campesina Organization, Carranza Region) have maintained a sit-in in the center of San Cristobal de Las Casas to denounce intimidation by the military and police in their region, and to demand the release of their members: Jose Manuel Chema Hernandez Martinez was arrested on September 30th, while Jose Manual de la Torre and Roselio de la Cruz Gonzalez were apprehended on October 24th. All three are accused of stealing, causing damage and criminal association, among other charges.
On October 29th Amnesty International asked the Mexican government to investigate the complaints against the Chiapas police, who are accused of torturing OCEZ leaders. Amnesty International also asked for the guarantee of a fair trial for Jose Hernandez Martinez who remains unable to communicate since being transferred to a maximum-security prison 2000 kilometers from Chiapas.
On October 30th in “a desperate measure to call attention and obtain the release of our fellow members,” participants from the sit-in occupied the offices of the United Nations (UN) in San Cristobal de Las Casas. The OCEZ members explained that the occupation was a “peaceful act related to international rights against forced internal displacement.” They said they were afraid police and soldiers would conduct raids in their communities in Venustiano Carranza.
UN official Arnaud Peral said “the UNDP has determined the peaceful nature of the protest up until now, despite the imposition of having their headquarters occupied, and has asked the authorities not to proceed with any forced removal based on the principal of respect for the inviolability of United Nations offices.” However, he stated that the UN would join “the negotiation process once the offices were vacated, and once the framework for dialogue as well as representation of the occupying group had been clarified.”
On November 4th prisoners Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez and Roselio de la Cruz Gonzalez asked that those occupying the UNDP offices vacate the building. That same day the National Front in the Struggle for Socialism (Frente Nacional de Lucha hacia el Socialismo, FNLS) denounced the “fact that the last two OCEZ-RC members who were arrested (Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez and Roselio Cruz Gonzalez) had agreed to change their lawyer Lic. Marcos Lopez Perez, are spreading the news that they weren’t tortured and now ‘ask’ their fellow members to vacate the UNPD offices is undeniably proof of the terrorism of these supposed state authorities. It’s obvious they were subject to pressure and threats to take these positions.” They also pointed out “the FNLS doesn’t rule out that the repressive strategy being used against the OCEZ-RC – which has been used to facilitate the militarization of their region – is part of the declared intentions of the Governor Juan Sabines in the sense that he is going to create the ‘social conditions’ necessary to give access to transnational mining extraction in Chiapas.”
On November 5th the OCEZ announced that they had proposed that the Government Secretary of Chiapas, Noe Castanon Leon, set up a working group “to ease tensions and show good faith” in order to find a solution to their demands and the occupation of the United Nations offices. This initiative may take place as early as this weekend.
For more information:
– Solicita AI que se indaguen denuncias de tortura contra líderes de la OCEZ (La Jornada, 29 de octubre)
– Toman oficinas de la ONU (Cuarto Poder, 31 de octubre)
– Descartan líderes de la OCEZ-RC toma del PNUD (Milenio, 4 de noviembre)
– Posición del FNLS antes el conflicto de la OCEZ-RC (Carta abierta, 4 de noviembre)
– Propone la OCEZ mesa de distensión (La Jornada, 6 de noviembre)
For more information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: The OCEZ-RC sit-in, twelve days later