Oaxaca: Sixth National Assembly of the Environmentally Affected

September 30, 2010

Petroleum installations, Veracruz (@AP)

The Sixth Assembly of the Environmentally Affected took place on 11 and 12 September in the municipality of Magdalena Ocotlán, Oaxaca, with the participation of more than 1100 people representing some 90 civil organizations.

In the declaration released at the close of the meeting on 12 September, those who participated in the assembly warn that, since the previous assembly held a year ago in Chichicuautla, Puebla, “the grave environmental situation lived in the country not only has not improved or stagnated; it has, rather, seriously worsened.” The communiqué mentions “the silent death of dozens of people” that results from the kidney failure that follows from “the uncontrolled discharge of industrial waste” in the Atoyac River in Tlaxcala, the Santiago River in Jalisco, and the Blanco and Coatzacoalcos rivers in Veracruz.  The assembly also denounces “the over-explotation of aquifer reserves” that is seen in the states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, Morelos, Michoacán, Jalisco, Veracruz, and Mexico City due to “the numerous private-road and highway projects, airport expansion, and the unregulated sprawl of unsustainable housing units and thousands of commercial centers.” Furthermore, the communiqué condemns “the setting-aside of experimental lands for transgenic corn” in the northern states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, and Chihuahua, together with the plans made by the transnational corporation Monsanto to cultivate 30,000 hectares of transgenic corn in the region.  The assembly once again pronounces itself in favor of the “total prohibition of transgenic corn in Mexico.”

In addition, the assembly denounces the plan to begin operating “thousands of new petroleum-drilling sites” in the region of Chicontepec, Veracruz, a project that, according to the assembly, has the support of the U.S. corporation Halliburton and of the Canadian Blackfire.  In general terms the assembly’s communique condemns the fact that “the national territory is being pockmarked by hundreds of open-air mining projects in several states of the country,” and it calls for the cessation of mining operations in San José el Progreso, Oaxaca, and for the closing of the San Xavier mine in San Luis Potosí.  Similarly, it denounces the recent attempts to reinitiate the construction of the La Parota dam in the state of Guerrero and the progress made toward constructing the El Zapotillo dam in Jalisco and the Paso de la Reina dam in Oaxaca.  It demands “the definitive cancellation of each one of these projects.”

At the close of the communiqué, the assembly’s participants express their “desire for life and […] for struggle” and their commitment to “explore through self-management the construction of alternatives and collective, sensible forms of using and metabolizing our material conditions of existence.” They also declared their wish to participate in the protest-movement against the Conference of Parties 16 (COP16) regarding the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that will be held in Cancún from 29 November to 10 December.  With these commitments the assembly’s participants hope to resist “the situation of extreme danger in which [Mexico] finds itself,” together with the “deviations of power and general decadence into which the Mexican State has fallen.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Full communiqué of the Sixth National Assembly of the Environmentally Affected (.doc)

Blog of the Assembly of the Environmentally Affected

The true environmental and climatic policy of Mexico (La Jornada, 25 September)


Oaxaca: Urgent Action for new harassment against Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno

September 30, 2010

During the afternoon of 24 September, the home of Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, in the municipality of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca, was raided by strangers.  Martínez Moreno explained that nothing of value was stolen, but that those who entered did so by forcing the lock; they also left a number of official documents disorganized.  These documents are related to denunciations presented by Juan Manuel Martínez before the local attorney general’s office against previous acts of intimidation.  According to Juan Manuel Martínez, he and his family have considered it necessary to move houses three times due to the constant intimidation to which they have been subjected.  His wife has received threatening phone-calls, and the family has seen armed men watching their house and the school that his children attend.

Juan Manuel Martínez was detained in 2008 on the charge of murdering the U.S. journalist Brad Will during the 2006 conflict, but he was released in February 2010 when a federal tribunal conclued that charges against him were false.

For more information (in Spanish):

Urgent Action 25 November Committee: New act of intimidation against Juan Manuel Martínez

Oaxaca: the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copalá is dismantled

September 30, 2010

On 13 September, a group of 500 heavily-armed men entered the Municipal Palace of San Juan Copalá, occupying it with fire.  There, they presented an ultimatum demanding the removal of 100 families from the municipality within 24 hours.  In the following days, given rumors of a possible massacre, the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle-Independent (MULT-I) made public a number of denunciations regarding the violence: on 18 September were killed David García Ramírez and Paulino Ramírez Reyes, MULT-I sympathizers.  The same day were disappeared Eugenio Martínez, Jordán González Ramírez, María Agustina Flores y Susana López Martínez, all residents of the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copalá.  Jorge Albino, member of the autonomous municipality, warned during the weeked of 18 September that the residents of San Juan Copalá no longer had “either food or water,” claim confirmed by Joaquín Rodríguez Palacios, general sub-secretary of governance in Oaxaca, two days later.  On 19 September, authorities of San Juan Copalá made yet another call for the organization of another humanitarian-support caravan for the residents of the autonomous municipaliy.

According to declarations made by Jorge Albino (MULT-I), on 20 September militants from MULT (Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle) and UBISORT (Union for the Social Welfare of the Triqui Region) entered San Juan Copalá at mid-day and began to burn 100 homes, causing the MULT-I sympathizers still residing in the community to flee. On 23 September, all had fled, with entire families displaced.  MULT declared publicly not to have participated in these acts.

On 20 September, 10 Triqui women and 9 children began a hunger strike in the Oaxaca de Juárez’s Zócalo in protest of recent events, while residents of the autonomous municipality held protests outside the Secretary of Governance in Mexico City and a rally in front of the Oaxaca State Attorney General’s Office.

At the same time negotiations aimed at reducing the violence lived in San Juan Copala that had been called by the Catholic Church failed.  Only one MULT representative came to the proposed meeting arranged by Arturo Lona Reyes, bishop of Tehuantepec, and the legal adviser of the Archdiocese, Wilfrido Mayren Peláez.  MULT-I initially responded by saying that it was not in principle opposed to such negotiations, although it established pre-conditions for such: “the cessation of violence and aggression, as well as guarantees for the life and integrity of the residents of San Juan Copala; the presentation with life of the disappeared, in addition to permitting human-rights and civil-society organizations access to the region, so that they can verify the conditions lived in the community.”

In light of this alarming context, Amnesty International released an urgent action demanding that the Oaxaca’s state government and the federal government investigate the aggression and sexual violence directed against two Triqui women on 7 September, as well as other aggressions against the residents of San Juan Copalá, and that their basic rights be observed.  Similarly, the Ecclesiastical Observatory and the Bartolomé Carrasco Regional Center for Human Rights (Barca) declared that, in case that violence continue unabated in the Triqui region, primary responsibility would lie with the state and federal governments.  Gabriela Juárez, execuive secretary of the Ecclesiastical Observatory, observed that “we are outraged by what has happened in San Juan Copala, because while our brothers are being ravaged, the government celebrates the bi-centennial, as though they wanted us to forget about the violence.”


In contrast, in declarations published in La Jornada on 25 September, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, governor of Oaxaca, claimed there not to be paramilitaries, dead, or disappeared in San Juan Copalá: “That is merely an invention of those who claim such [to exist].” The governor also rejected calls for public security forces to resolve the conflict, declaring that “the problem is one of different ideologies […] that will be solved if the three groups come together to promote dialogue and accords.”

For more information (in Spanish):

The destruction of Copalá (La Jornada, 27 September)

In Copala, there are neither dead nor paramilitaries: Ulises Ruiz (La Jornada, 26 September)

MULTI demands a cessation to violence in San Juan Copala (La Jornada, 22 September)

Triqui children and women begin hunger strike against paramilitary siege (La Jornada, 21 September)

Ulises Ruiz is called on to stop “genocide” (La Jornada, 21 September)

Triqui people call for an urgent caravan against armed attacks in Copala (La Jornada, 20 September)

Second murder in one day of MULTI members in Copala (La Jornada, 20 September)

Residents of San Juan Copala demand protection from public-security forces for the autonomous municipality (La Jornada, 18 September)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Oaxaca: threat of massacre in San Juan Copala is denounced (20 September)

Distrito Federal: visiting Mexico, the parents of Jyri Jaakkola demand justice for the case of their son and that of Bety Cariño (9 September)

Oaxaca: new ambush in Triqui region leaves 3 dead and 2 injured (1 September)

Oaxaca: mujeres triquis denuncian contexto que padecen (20 de agosto)

Guerrero: With false proceedings, members of Radio Ñomndaa are condemned to 3 years imprisonment

September 30, 2010

@ Radio Ñomndaa

On 27 September, Genaro Gruz Apóstol, Silverio Matías Domínguez and David Valtierra Arango, founding members of the autonomous municipality Suljaa´ de Xochistlahuaca, were sentenced to 3 years and 2 months imprisonment and a fine of 1,753 pesos.  According to the communiqué published jointly by the Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights and Radio Ñomndaa, “they have been since 2004 subject to a fabricated judicial process as suspects responsible for the kidnapping of Narciso García Valtierra, close to then-mayor Aceadeth Rocha Ramírez.”

It should be stressed that “the penal demand integrated in 2004 was only one of the many to which have been subjected members of the Suljaa´ autonomous municipality, Radio Ñomndaa, and those opposed to the cacique, given that in 2007 they were accused of being responsible for the kidnapping of Ariosto Aceadeth Rocha, act that gave rise to 31 fabricated arrest-orders in October 2009, which were found to be baseless, resulting in suspension of charges.”

The communiqué concludes by saying that “the sentence today released demonstrates once again that the justice apparatus lacks impartiality and finds itself linked in a corrupt manner to cacique interests, persecuting social activists who raise their voices in defense of social justice.  This justice criminalizes social protest but also grants impunity to those who commit crimes from positions of power.” The Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights will represent the case before the Superior Triuanl for Justice (TSP).

For more information (in Spanish):

With fabricated proceedings, members of Radio Ñomndaa are condemned to 3 years imprisonment (press-release from the Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights and Radio Ñomndaa, 27 de septiembre)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Guerrero: David Valtierra released (9 March 2010)

Guerrero: Prison sentence for David Valtierra, founder of Radio Ñomndaa (19 November 2009)

Chiapas: Bishop José Raúl López Vera receives the 2010 Rafto Prize

September 28, 2010

José Raúl López Vera (@ La Jornada)

On 1 September, José Raúl López Vera, Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, received the 2010 Rafto Prize, an honor bequeathed annually by the Norwegian Rafto Foundation.  According to the Foundation, the Rafto Prize “contributes to promoting awareness of the importance of closely observing human-rights violations and persons and communities that need the world’s attention.” In the past, this recognition was bestowed upon Aun San Suu Kyi (Burma), Kim Daejung (South Korea), and Shirin Ebadi (Iran), all of whom were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Foundation’s press-release announcing this year’s award emphasizes the alarming context lived in Mexico: increasing militarization, rights-violations associated with the presence of the military, impunity, institutional corruption, and repression directed against journalists and social activists.  For the Rafto Foundation, the situation for Central-American migrants passing through Mexico en route to the United States is particularly grave, given the number of kidnappings and rapes to which they are subjected.  In light of such considerations, the Foundation sees in Raúl Vera someone who “speaks aloud and without fear against rights-violations, corruption, abuse of power, and the absence of law.” Raúl Vera’s life work, the Foundation adds, “demonstrates an unbreakable commitment to and faith in action toward improving the living-conditions of the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed populations of Mexico.” The communiqué also mentions his efforts directed at putting an end to the violence suffered by migrants and denouncing the lack of protection afforded to journalists, as well as his denunciations of the corruption of the Supreme Court of Justice in the Nation (SCJN) and other governmental institutions and his public support for gays and lesbians.  During the time he spent as assistant bishop in Chiapas between 1995 and 1999, he worked together with bishop Samuel Ruiz García to improve the rights of impoverished campesinos and indigenous individuals and to maintain the cease-fire between the government and the Zapatistas.

Most recently, Raúl Vera has founded the Fray Juan de Larios Diocesan Center for Human Rights and the organization Belén, located in Saltillo, which gives refuge to Central-American migrants and Mexicans deported from the United States.  It is estimated that Belén has served some 40,000 such migrants since its founding in 2002.

In sum, the Rafto Foundation finds that Raúl Vera “uses his authority as bishop to criticize the government, although he also refers in detail to social structures that promote oppression,” “systematically works to allow the poor and oppressed to struggle for their rights,” and, through his organizations, “works with communities to provide emergency aid to individuals living in desperate conditions.” In this sense, Raúl Vera represents “the voice of those without voice,” an actor who, in the words of the Foundation, “contributes to giving Mexico’s most vulnerable population a life with dignity and hope for a better future.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Rafto Prize is given to bishop Raúl Vera in Norway (La Jornada, 24 September)

Rafto Foundation press-release in full (pdf)

Chiapas: Letter of support from Las Abejas of Acteal to the Triqui region

September 28, 2010

On 22 September, during the monthly commemoration of the Acteal massacre, the civil organization Las Abejas published a communiqué in which they denounce the context currently prevailing in Mexico:  “We can mention many of [these] massacres, such as that of the 72 migrants killed in Tamaulipas that is nothing more than a demonstration that which happens every day but fails to make it to the news, or what is happening in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, that reminds us of what happened in Chenalhó in 1997–that, despite all the denunciations, the government does nothing and, when a large massacre occurs, goes on to say, as did Emilio Chuayffet in 1997, that no one knew what was happening.”

They also stressed the case that “is taking place closest to us, one that shows how, for indigenous people, neither independence nor autonomy exist 200 years after the struggles of Hidalgo”: that of the Zapatista support-base families from the community of San Marcos Avilés in the municipality of Sitala, Chiapas, displaced following harassment carried out by PRI, PVEM, and PRD militants.  Las Abejas emphasized that “their only crime is to have constructed autonomous education from below and for the people, an education different from that of the government that seeks to destroy our roots and make us docile slaves of the neoliberal system.  The behavior of the members of these parties reminds us of the way paramilitaries acted in Chenalhó in 1997: death-threats, stealing of crops, charging of fines, and demanding that people renounce their organizations and struggles.  More than a decade after the Acteal massacre, it is not possible that the same acts be repeated with all the protection of the government.  Whatever it is that happens to our brothers and sisters, those responsible will be the governments of Calderón and Juan Sabines, ones that clearly are to be found on the list of repressive governments in the history of our Mexico.”

Las Abejas made a call to organize and engage in struggle, affirming that “we are convinced that, to effect actual change and bring about a new Mexico, the struggle must be as it is termed by our Zapatista brothers: from below, with a new system of government and a new constitution. This is not realized by miracles; instead what is needed are the action and efforts of all those who were born to struggle and to live freely in this world, which in our Tsotsil cosmovision we call ‘to live in harmony with the heart of the sky and the heart of the land.'”
In other news, on 24 September Las Abejas sent a letter to authorities expressing their concern regarding the situation in the Triqui region, especially with regard to San Juan Copala.  “We see that that which occurred with the Acteal massacre may soon be repeated.  Many times have been denounced the death-threats and human-rights violations in the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala by human-rights grops and some media sources.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Communiqué of Las Abejas in observation of the commemoration of the Acteal massacre (22 September)

Letter of support from Las Abejas of Acteal to San Juan Copala (24 September)

Guerrero: briefs – Tlachinollan director received Kennedy Prize; Military Justice Code to be reformed: Blake; event – Indigenous Social Forum; event – Communal Police Anniversary

September 27, 2010

On 23 September, the Robert F. Kennedy center, headquartered in Washington, D.C., announced that it would grant the Robert F. Kennedy Human-Rights Prize to the director of the Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights, Abel Barrera Hernández.  The director receives the prize “for his energetic efforts to put an end to the abuse of human rights that results from the impunity enjoyed by the military and narcotraffickers.”  The Robert F. Kennedy Human-Rights Prize was established in 1984 to honor brave and innovative human-rights defenders across the globe who resist injustice, often placing themselves at personal risk for so doing.

In other news, on 23 September, José Francisco Blake Mora, secretary of governance, assured legislators that the federal government will observe the sentence handed down by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) regarding the case of Rosendo Radilla and will send a proposal to the Senate regarding reform of the Military Justice Code.  Given that this was one of the most-frequent questions posed by PT, PRD, and PRI senators present, the government-official assured that the government will follow the demands made by the IACHR which demand that the Mexican State modify legislation so as to allow soldiers accused of rights-violations to be judged in civil courts rather than military ones.

Finally, two events that will be carried out in the state of Guerrero this October should here be mentioned.  From 8 to 12 October will be held the 2010 Indigenous Social Forum, to be held in the Intercultural University of the State of Guerrero, in the community of La Cienaga, municipality of Malinaltepec.  Beyond giving space to discussion- and analysis-tables, there will be held workshops to improve practices and promote the exchange of knowledge, during which time different organizations will be able to share the projects, expeiences, methods, and techniques that have strengthened and consolidated their work, in addition to spaces dedicated to the presentation of artistic and cultural creation.  Later, between 13 and 16 October, there will be held the XV anniversary of the Communal Police in its headquarters of San Luis Acatlán.  This event will include discussion-tables, presentation of books, videos, and photographs, a communal market, an exchange of criollo seeds, popular dance, and artistic and cultural participation.

For more information (in Spanish):

The 2010 RFK Human-Rights Prize will be granted to a brave defender of indigenous and campesino communities in Mexico

The Code of Military Justice will be modified: Blake (La Jornada, 23 September)

Soldiers who violate human rights will be judged in civil courts (Centro Prodh, 23 September)

Indigenous Social Forum Weblog

Invitation to the XV Anniversary of the Communal Police

Para más información de SIPAZ:

Guerrero: breves – Tierra Caliente is second-highest national location in number of feminicides; SCJN will analyze recommendations of the Inter-American Court in the case of Radilla (14 September)