UK DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR THE PEOPLE OF SAN SEBASTIÁN BACHAJÓN
Representatives of groups from around the UK delivered a letter to the Mexican Embassy in London this week, demonstrating against the continued harassment of the indigenous Tzeltal peoples of San Sebastián Bachajón, in Chiapas, South East Mexico.
This protest was part of a worldwide campaign to alert the public about the situation in San Sebastian Bachajón, through letter writing and demonstrations. The October 24th celebration marked the six month anniversary of the asassination of their community leader, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. Since then there has been no evidence of any kind of effective police investigation into his murder, nor have the material and intellectual authors of the crime been identified or punished in any way.
The community of San Sebastian Bachajón has been an inspiration for their resistance and their struggle for land and territory in Chiapas in recent years. There are plans to convert their lands into a lucrative tourist destination for the nearby waterfalls of Agua Azul. As a result, the community has suffered many years of violence, dispossession, threats, abuse, arrests on false charges and invasion and occupation by state forces.
Members of groups from the Zapatista Solidarity Network in the UK and other European groups are calling for the return of their lands to the people of San Sebastián Bachajón, and respect for their rights as indigenous peoples. They are also demanding a full investigation into the murder of Juan Vazquez Guzman, that those responsible for his murder are brought to justice and that the Bachajón prisoners are released.
On delivering the letter to the Mexican Embassy in London, the groups reported a recent alarming increase in threats, intimidation and harassment against the community. Local pro-government authorities and political party members are organising with officials from the municipal and state governments to evict the common landholders from their recently opened gravel quarry, which they are working collectively for the benefit of the community. The groups in the UK and Europe demanding an immediate end to this climate of violence against the common landholders of Bachajón, and hold the three levels of government responsible for any injury that they may suffer.
For more information about the dignified struggle of San Sebastián Bachajón, we recommend the website: http://vivabachajon.wordpress.com/
The letter follows:
Sr Alejandro Ives Estivill Castro
Mexican Ambassador to the UK
Embassy of Mexico
16 St George Street
W1S 1FD November 2013
Re: The dispossession of the common lands of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, the assassination of their community leader Juan Vázquez Guzmán, and the unjust imprisonment of Antonio Estrada Estrada and Miguel Demeza Jiménez.
24th October, 2013, marks the commemoration of six months having passed since the community leader and human rights defender from the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón in Chiapas, Juan Vázquez Guzmán, was shot down in the doorway of his home on 24th April, 2013. Since that time there has been no evidence of any effective investigation into his murder, and neither the material nor the intellectual authors of the crime have been identified or punished. It seems to be another example of the impunity which so often prevails in the case of crimes against the indigenous peoples of Mexico.
This assassination, together with the repression being experienced by the indigenous Tseltal inhabitants of this community, forms part of a violent campaign to displace the ejidatarios from their ancestral lands and territory in order to construct a luxury upmarket tourist development.
We wish to express our profound concerns at the failure to adequately investigate this crime and at the ongoing campaign of harassment, dispossession and criminalisation being conducted by the three levels of government, and their allies in big business, against the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, with the use of state police and military forces and locally recruited paramilitary groups, which has been underway since 2007.
On 3rd November 2013, the ejidatarios denounced the risk of “a violent eviction at any time from our gravel quarry, Nah Chawuk, which we recently opened as an organization and as ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, to benefit the people in general.” We assert their right as indigenous people to open this gravel quarry in their territory and will hold the three levels of government responsible for any harm suffered by those who work there.
The judgement concerning the petition for amparo 274/2011 of the Seventh District Court in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, presented by the people of Bachajón against the arbitrary deprivation of their common lands following the mass arrest in February 2011, and in favour of the protection of their territory and collective rights, has been handled with a disturbing lack of impartiality and independence. This demonstrates a shocking lack of respect for indigenous peoples, contrary to their rights established under ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both of which have been signed by the Mexican government. The ejidatarios have asked the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to address this case, and have also asked the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutiérrez to study the Appeal Hearing 274/2013 and, in accordance with its powers, to ask the highest court in the land to resolve the request for amparo from the indigenous Tseltales; therefore we expect the court to treat the ejidatarios with fairness and justice, as is their right.
The repression being endured by the ejidatarios, as a result of their resistance and their defence of their territory and the natural resources of the area, forced them, on 26th May, 2013, to take their case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, based in Washington DC, in order to safeguard their rights and the integrity of their territory, and to protest the arbitrary deprivation of the life of Juan Vázquez Guzmán. We insist that it is essential and fundamental to guarantee the safety and security of those who seek to defend the communally held lands of indigenous peoples against plunder and dispossession.
Finally we call for the liberation of the Bachajón ejidatarios Antonio Estrada Estrada, prisoner in CERSS 17, Playas de Catazajá, Chiapas, and Miguel Demeza Jiménez, prisoner in CERSS 14, El Amate. Both of these men have had their rights to due process violated, were denied access to a translator and a lawyer with knowledge of their Tseltal language and culture, and were tortured to make them confess to crimes which they did not commit. We also call for the immediate release of Alejandro Díaz Santiz, from Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate.
We therefore demand:
A full and fair investigation into the material and intellectual authors of the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, and punishment of those responsible
Respect for the fundamental human rights of the indigenous Tseltal peoples of San Sebastián Bachajón, and guarantees for their security and integrity
Respect and guarantees for their right to the full use and enjoyment of their territory
Respect for their right to self-determination and the construction of their autonomy
That the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation uses its power to resolve in a just, impartial and objective manner the case for amparo 274/2011 of the Seventh District Court in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, and, currently in process, amparo review 274/2013, before the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
An end to the plunder and dispossession, the theft of commons, the militarisation of the area, and to the threats and violence being experienced
The immediate release of Antonio Estrada Estrada, Miguel Demeza Jiménez, and Alejandro Díaz Santiz
We will continue to monitor closely any developments in the area, and to offer the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón and the family of Juan Vázquez Guzmán our total support.
UK Zapatista Solidarity Network
Dorset Chiapas Solidarity Group
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
London Mexico Solidarity Group
Manchester Zapatista Solidarity Group
Zapatista Solidarity Group – Essex
Les trois passants, Paris, France.
Comitato Chiapas "Maribel" – Bergamo, Italy
Nodo Solidale, Italy and Mexico
CafeZ de Liège, Belgium
CGT-Estado Español, Spanish State
Centro de Documentación sobre Zapatismo -CEDOZ- Spanish State
Caracol Zaragoza, Spanish State
Asociaciòn Ya Basta! Milano, Italia
Plataforma Vasca de Solidaridad con Txiapas, Eskerrik
Gruppe B.A.S.T.A., Munster, Germany
Asociacion Espoir Chiapas / Esperanza chiapas; France
Plataforma de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Guatemala de Madrid, Spanish State
Caracol mundo-eco de latido en solidaridad, Austria