Chiapas: government marks more settlements for eviction from Selva

Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat) announced that six more setlements—some which have been established for 70 years—have been slated for relocation from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the lowland rainforest of Chiapas, the Lacandon Selva. The named settlements are San Antonio Miramar, Rancho Corozal, Salvador Allende, Nuevo Salvador Allende, El Buen Samaritano and Nuevo San Gregorio. The communities are made up of some 60 families, covering around 5,000 hectares.

The heads of Semarnat and the Agrarian Reform Secretariat (SRA), Juan Rafael Elvira Quezada and Rafael Escobar Prieto, pledged to work with the communities to find lands elsewhere in Chiapas. The SRA’s own documents recognize Salvador Allende and Nuevo Salvador Allende were created by Tzeltal Maya settlers in 1935—more than 40 years before the biosphere was declared. The Tzeltals had fled cattle ranches in Las Margaritas, where they had worked as peones acasillados (resident farm hands).

Nuevo San Gregorio was founded months before the 1971 presidential order that turned 614,000 hectares over to the “Lacandon Community,” recognizing the rights of a small group of indigenous forest-dwellers over the more numerous settlers who had been enouraged to colonize the Selva under previous government policy.

The communities of Rancho Corozal, El Buen Samaritano and San Antonio Miramar are on lands taken in the Zapatista uprising of 1994. The inhabitants are integrated into the Zapatista movement, including the rebel militia. (APRO, April 3)

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle in Chiapas.

  1. Update
    The Chiapas Council of Traditional Indigenous Healers and Midwives (COMPITCH) issued a statement protesting that the planned evictions are illegal because the communities were established before the reserve was declared. The group cited Article 48 of the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection. (La Jornada, April 14)