13th September 2011
From August 27 to September 3, 2011, the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities toured the Caracoles of Oventic, La Realidad, La Garrucha and Morelia. This brigade was made up of fifty-seven participants, some from Mexico and others from Argentina, Brazil, the Spanish State, Guatemala, Italy, Norway, the UK and Poland, and was divided into four groups for the journey to listen to the voices of the Good Government Juntas, of the communities, and of their women, men and children.
The brigade recorded the testimonies of the communities concerning the various forms of aggression and provocation that are being carried out against Zapatista territory. The remarkable increase in intensity of these acts is a matter for concern and watchfulness, as they represent an attempt to put an end to and destroy the progress being made in the construction of autonomy and in the development of social, economic, educational and health services in the Zapatista communities, as well as to provoke confrontations with the EZLN. The attacks are perpetrated by people associated with the official institutions of the three levels of government: municipal, state and federal, and therefore under their protection and guidance.
It was noted that the most continuous and systematic attacks and provocations are being made by the Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (ORCAO). Their presence in the vicinity of the caracoles of Morelia and Garrucha appears strategic. Their actions are identical in all their areas of operation: the theft of agricultural equipment, the attempted theft of recuperated lands, threats to the Zapatista support bases, intimidation with guns, assaults with rocks and slingshots, kidnappings and the destruction of the homes and cultures of the Zapatista communities. While the Organization for the Defence of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC), which used to be the main aggressor against the Zapatista communities, are continuing their acts of aggression, it became clear that they have decreased their active presence, which is maintained only in the Agua Azul area and in parts of Ocosingo.
As for the participation of members of political parties (PRI, PRD, PVE, PAN) in the attacks, they are increasing in intensity in the areas of the Caracoles of La Realidad and Oventic, persuading ejidatarios and communities to take part in the dispossession of land and the destruction of Zapatista autonomous projects. Even the Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has been used to seize liberated territory in the Caracol of La Garrucha.
The seizure, or attempts to seize, liberated territory have been constant for years, perhaps even since 1994. The excuses vary, and the violence escalates. Ecotourism business projects, for example, want to get rid of the Zapatista presence in the area of Agua Azul, in the Caracol of Morelia. Meanwhile, in the Caracol of La Realidad, the attacks have been directed primarily towards the sabotage of coffee crops, the theft of bushes, the destruction of plantations, and the stealing of land cultivated for the production of this crop; a similar situation exists in communities in the Caracol of Morelia.
A new form, of aggression, which has become constant since 2010, was noted: attacks on social projects, especially those related to education. In August 2010 the General Command of the EZLN called for the building of autonomous schools to provide education in all the communities of the Zapatista Caracoles. Several communities which did not yet have a school began this much-needed work. The attacks began straight after the announcement. For example, in the caracol of Morelia, in the Ejido Tierra Madre, a women’s collective shop and an autonomous kindergarten were being operated from the same site. ORCAO managed this year, 2011, to convert the space into an official classroom and prevented access to the school and shop. In Ejido Patria Nueva, also in the Caracol of Morelia, there are threats of the destruction of the collective shop, houses and a classroom. Meanwhile, in La Garrucha, in the community of Peña Limonar, Priistas have stolen, in addition to land, electricity cables and wire for fencing, and school supplies such as blackboards, a table and benches.
At the same time, in the Caracol of Oventic, attacks against the Zapatistas of San Marcos Aviles are also associated with autonomous education. These attacks, as is well-known, resulted in the displacement of 170 Zapatistas on September 9, 2010. On October 12th, accompanied by Zapatista support bases and in the presence of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre, they returned to their homes which had been ransacked. Autonomous Education was also the cause of aggression in Tentic, Cruztón, Tenejapa and in the Caracol of Oventic. Systematic acts of aggression against the autonomous education projects were, therefore, clearly observed.
The Brigade did not only record complaints and attacks against the Zapatista communities, they also observed their progress in the strengthening of autonomy, education, health and the participation of women. Seeing the progress in these areas has been very encouraging and inspiring.
The information collected by this brigade of Observation and Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities is so abundant and rich that it has been decided to produce full, timely and thorough reports to include all the voices and testimonies of the communities visited. These reports will be submitted shortly. For now we suggest listening to the audios of the reports which were presented at the press conference conducted by the Brigade in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, on September 2, 2011, which can be heard at http://radiozapatista.org/?p=4089, also included are press releases written by the brigade, and we share the following link to view the video of the press conference: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17026528
The Organizing Committee of the Brigade of Observation and Solidarity with Zapatista Communities
Communication Team of the Network for Solidarity and Against Repression
brigade of observation and solidarity