Chiapas: Acteal, Site of Conscience, Impunity and the Other Justice

January 4, 2010


“We took our case before the highest court in the nation, (…) but all we encountered there was supreme impunity.”

On Dec. 22, 1997, 300 people prayed for peace when 45 of them were massacred by paramilitaries, a result of the low intensity warfare that the government implemented against the zapatista rebels and their sympathizers.

Twelve years later, this “State crime” which has been denounced by General J.F. Gallardo, continues in impunity. None of the planners of the massacre were found guilty and this year several of those who carried out the massacre were released. Denied justice and an official history, the Abejas Civil Society (La Sociedad Civil Las Abejas) held the Forum of Conscience and Hope, Building the Other Justice… (Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, Construyendo la Otra Justicia…) on Dec. 21, 2009. The Other Justice (A grassroots alternative to the official justice system)is that which remains in the historic memory of the people. The Other Justice does not seek punishment but rather repentance and reconciliation as was stated by the president of the Abejas. “The conscience is a very strong force in the construction of the other justice,” he said, “we have to begin with our own conscience,” “continue with the conscience of the people in general,” and “Finally, although it is the most difficult, (…) to touch the conscience of the aggressors.” As a result, the following day Acteal was declared a “Site of the Conscience of Humanity,” according to the banner hung above the entrance to the site “for inspiration for all of those that struggle for peace and an indelible memory for future generations.”

To make sure that the massacre at Acteal is never forgotten, on Dec. 21 the director of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (CDH Frayba) read the names of each of the 45 victims aloud. On Dec. 22, the representative from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico defined the massacre as “the bloodiest event in Mexico’s recent history” and denounced: forgetfulness and impunity are not the response expected from a democratic State which respects human rights. The bishop of the San Cristobal de Las Cases diocese, who celebrated the commemorative mass on Dec. 22, stated in his homily “It is a mockery and shameful that due to minor legal issues, 29 individuals have been exonerated [after committing] this horrendous crime (La Jornada, 23/12/09).

In the presence of more than 600 peoples, a large number of priests and social organizations from Chiapas and other states, in addition to a strong presence of international solidarity, the Abejas shared their path, their pain and their hope through a small theatre production and a long declaration in which they reiterated their vindication not solely for justice, but for peace. “We don’t want a war that will cost the blood of millions of brothers and sisters. We want a new revolution, but not a violent one, so that we can have liberty, justice and peace and to take back the land from those who are plundering and destroying it.”

Listen to the Forum of Conscience and Hope, Building the Other Justice (in Spanish):

Ponencias del “Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, Construyendo la Otra Justicia…”, 21 de diciembre de 2009 (blog de Las Abejas)

Programa de Radio con las conclusiones del encuentro (blog de Las Abejas)

For More Information:

Acteal: sembrando paz y esperanza (artículo de Milenio Online, 21/12/09)

Acteal, sitio de conciencia (Boletín 41 del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, 22/12/09)

Acteal sitio de conciencia: un recordatorio de la impunidad en México (artículo de La Jornada, 22/12/09)

“Una burla”, el desenlace jurídico del caso Acteal: Arizmendi (artículo de La Jornada, 23/12/09)

Pide Alto Comisionado de ONU al Estado poner fin a impunidad en caso Acteal (artículo de La Jornada, 22/12/09)

Foro de Conciencia y Esperanza, la Otra Justicia (artículo de Indymedia Chiapas, 22/12/09)

Sites of Conscience webpage

For More Information from SIPAZ:

The Massacre at Acteal (SIPAZ documents)


MEXICO: 61 Years After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 15, 2009

Sixty-one years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 11 years after the UN’s declaration on human rights defenders, several organizations dedicated to the defense and promotion of human rights are reporting the current situation in their respective states as well as at the national level.

In Chiapas, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) published a special bulletin in which they denounced the fact that in the state “the defense of human rights is subject to intimidation, attacks and killings.” After recounting the harassment suffered by human rights defenders Frayba concludes: “This year the work done in defense of human rights has been criminalized to the point of considering human rights defenders participants in organized crime or part of a supposed subversive network to destabilize the government in 2010.”

In Oaxaca, the “Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño” Regional Human Rights Center, made a public declaration in which they highlighted the state’s current situation “drowning in impunity, corruption, human rights violations and social decomposition.” They questioned the state government denouncing that: “In the Fifth Report issued by the Oaxacan State Government it is evident that this is a government made up of a small group, with an explicit goal of appropriating territories in order to turn Oaxaca into a personal dictatorship.”

In Guerrero, in a press conference held by the Guerrero Network of Human Rights Civil Organizations (Red Guerrerense de Organismos Civiles y de Derechos Humanos) in Chilpancingo, a number of campesino, indigenous, social and human rights organizations presented a joint statement. The document, titled “People and Rights Trampled On,” states that “In Guerrero the shadowy era of the dirty war continues to repeat, because governments allowed the army to return to poor regions were there have been armed uprisings. (…) Today the reappearance of the army throughout the state of Guerrero is a form of punishment against new insurgent movements. (…) We social and civil organizations that have documented serious violations of the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, are facing not just a slander campaign against our work as human rights defenders but we are also suffering surveillance, harassment and threats carried out with the sole purpose of putting a stop to our work, silence our denunciations and violate our right to defend human rights and fully exercise freedom of expression.”

At the national level, the Early Warning Network (Red de Alerta Temprana) together with other organization, published a report titles Panorama of the Current Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Mexico. In the conclusions they warn: “We consider that [the government] is implementing a strategy to identify human rights defenders and their organizations as ‘enemies’ of the system and identifying the political affiliation of the victims and rights defenders in order to criminalize their actions. Through the use of threats, harassment, murder attempts, arbitrary detentions and the application of arrest warrants against these individuals they are trying to create an environment of tension and fear with the clear objective of polarizing the collective work of these organizations, creating divisions and diminishing or ending the work they do. There is a pattern of aggression that corresponds to a psychological operation of terror.”

For Mor Information:

“Tlachinollan” Human Rights Center of the Montaña: Who defends human rights defenders? (10/12/09)

In Spanish:

Chiapas: Anti-Mining Activist Mariano Abarca Killed

December 1, 2009

From EFE Agency

San Cristobal de Las Casas (Mexico), November 27 (EFE) – NGOs reported that an indigenous leader from the municipality of Chicomuselo, located in the mountains of the southern state of Chiapas, was shot and killed today by an unidentified person who attacked him in the doorway of his home.

Activist Mariano Abarca Robledo belonged to the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) in Chiapas and was the head of organizing the communities in the border region of Guatemala who demanded the shutting down of the Canadian mining company Blackfire.

REMA member Gustavo Castro reported the assassination took place Friday night when the leader was outside of his house talking with another REMA member named Orlando Velasquez, who was also injured in the attack.

According to statements by family, an individual riding a motorcycle opened fire on Abarca, hitting him in the head and chest.

The indigenous leader had been jailed for one week last August for a roadblock set up with his followers to impede the transfer of mining materials to an open pit barite mine operated by Blackfire in the community of Grecia.

For more information from SIPAZ:

Mining in Chiapas: A New threat for the survival of indigenous peoples (december 2008)

Oaxaca: Meetings and Accusations

November 30, 2009

On November 13th and 14th the Oaxacan Collective for the Defense of the Land convened a Second National Forum entitled: “Weaving Resistance in Defense of Our Land.” The meeting took place in the Mixe community of San Juan Jaltepec de Candayoc, in the municipality of San Juan Cotzocon. The objectives were to “exchange experiences in defense of land, territory and natural resources of indigenous people and communities, and explore the possibilities of joining forces to create a common defense.”

The final declaration emphasized: “that the lack of recognition of the autonomy over our land and territory, the lack of legal mechanisms for defense, and the false mediation of agrarian requests has resulted in innumerable agrarian conflicts between communities… Today Chiapas and Oaxaca are examples of an experiment in megaprojects and public policies that have only generated conflict, internal division in communities, looting of land and the violation of our rights… From the hearts of our people we declare that our communities and indigenous people are in resistance. We won’t be defeated by this new neoliberal offensive stripping us of our land. We profoundly believe in the value of our collectivity, of exercising authority as a service, of the collective ownership of the earth and the rebuilding of our land as people, as institutions that give us strength.”

In light of these outstanding issues a communiqué denouncing the intimidation of the people of Paso de la Reina was circulated on November 19, a few days before the Forum. The previous day a mass had been held in support of their cause and was presided over by the Bishop of Puerto Escondido.

Before that, on November 18, the “Meeting for Justice and Against Impunity: Cases Before the Supreme Court of Mexico” was held in the city of Oaxaca. The goal of the event was to analyze the Supreme Court’s resolutions in the cases of Lydia Cacho, Atenco, Acteal and Oaxaca, and the implications for the social movement, victims of repression, and defenders of justice and human rights.

The final resolution underlined the fact that in all the cases presented there was a “prevalence of deep-rooted impunity” and pointed out that “Mexican administrative bodies and legal officials are quick and expeditious when it comes to punishing and reprimanding citizens who are defending their rights against government abuses, but they’re slow and inefficient when it comes to correcting an injustice, and are practically powerless when it comes to trying to apply justice to a higher official.”

For more information:

Declaración de Jaltepec, Foro la resistencia por la defensa de nuestros territorios (14 de noviembre)

Denuncia Paso de la Reina

Pronunciamiento final del Foro por la Justicia y contra la Impunidad

For more information from SIPAZ:

Oaxaca: Rechaza asamblea ejidal autorización a la CFE para construcción de presa en Paso de la Reina

Oaxaca: Foro Tejiendo Resistencias por la Defensa de Nuestros Territorios

Chiapas: The Viejo Velasco massacre three years later

November 18, 2009

Hundreds of Chol and Tzeltal indigenous people marched in the city of Palenque on November 13th to commemorate an attack against the people of Viejo Velasco Suarez three years ago. Four people died and four more disappeared when some Lancadon tried to evict the residents of Viejo Velasco from their land.

The same organizations that  to formed the Civil Observation Mission in Montes Azul at that time delivered a statement and denounced “the shameful acts committed by officers of the state and a paramilitary-style group of indigenous people, that resulted in the Viejo Velasco massacre”.

The statement was read in several indigenous languages during a religious service presided over by Father Geronimo “Xel” that revisited the events of that day when “close to 40 people in civilian clothing from the community of Nueva Palestina entered Viejo Velasco with a group of about 300 uniformed people carrying high caliber rifles, and proceeded to physically attack the indigenous people.”

The statement also documented the impunity in the case and stated: “Those of us who have been witnesses can testify to the inefficiency of the investigations carried out by the government of Chiapas, who haven’t provided an effective way to guarantee necessary legal protection to the massacre’s victims. The State Ministry of Justice has failed to carry out its work in a serious and effective manner with notorious procedural anomalies that have obstructed the right to access to justice, to the truth, to repair the damage, which leads us to believe in a possible cover-up to protect the material and intellectual perpetrators of the massacre.

For more information (in Spanish):

Pronunciamiento Público conjunto a 3 años de impunidad de la Masacre de Viejo Velasco, Selva Lacandona

More information from SIPAZ:

November 2006 : Confrontation in the borders of the Montes Azules Reservation leaves at least 4 dead (Urgent Action from SIPAZ, November 2006)

Enfrentamiento en los límites de la Reserva de Montes Azules deja un saldo de por lo menos 4 muertos. (Acción Urgente de SIPAZ, noviembre de 2006)

Chiapas: The OCEZ-RC sit-in, twelve days later

November 13, 2009
@Expreso de Chiapas

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:

Acción Urgente de Amnistía Internacional

– 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: Organizations and social movements descend on San Cristobal to call for justice (octubre 2009)

Chiapas: Prisoner forced to transfer to maximum-security prison in Tepic, Nayarit (october 2009)

Chiapas: OCEZ leader from the Venustiano Carranza Region captured(october 2009)

Chiapas: More prisoners released for Acteal Massacre. Abejas petition the IACHR

November 10, 2009

Abejas en la CIDH

On November 4, Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN, Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) ordered the immediate release of nine people who had been accused and sentenced as perpetrators of the Acteal Massacre, in a vote of four to one. At the same time another 16 prisoners received protection under the law, among them two who had confessed to participating in the killing. This decision means the multi-judge court (Tribunal Colegiado) will have to make a new ruling in the case without using evidence thrown out by the SCJN, which according to the SCJN was illegally obtained by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR, Procuraduría General de la República). Now the accused will be judged only for the crimes of homicide and injury, not for the use of firearms used exclusively by the military. In their ruling, the SCJN also threw out six requests for legal protection in the same case.

At the same time the group Las Abejas (The Bees, Organización Sociedad Civil Las Abejas) as well as members of Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas A.C. (Frayba) delivered evidence about the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washinton D.C. The two groups denounced “the impunity that the Mexican state has facilitated through the Supreme Court” and they asked the IACHR to draw attention to the case. The case had already been presented to the IACHR in February 2005 but had been on hold while waiting for internal legal appeals to run their course in Mexico. The result of those appeals has been the release of 29 people identified as responsible for the Acteal Massacre between August and November 2009.

Frayba also asked for the IACHR to “implement provisional measures to help the survivors of the Massacre as well as the leaders of Las Abejas in light of the imminent risk to their lives and personal safety due to possible retaliation and/or revenge by the recently released perpetrators of the Massacre, because paramilitary groups are in possession of firearms in the region.”

For more information:

For more information from SIPAZ:

Special Report on the Case of Acteal (August 30, 2009) – The Supreme Court (SCJN) Ruling: an irreproachable ruling judicially, a highly questioned decision based in the historical and actual context