Land, resource conflicts in Chiapas

At least three are dead in a land dispute between Tzeltal Maya ejidos (collective farming communities) in Mexico’s conflicted southern state of Chiapas. More than 20 families have been displaced following the violence between the ejidos of El Chamizal and Laguna Semental in Ocosingo municipality. (Proceso’s APRO news service, Aug. 5, online at Chiapas95)

In the capital, Tuxtla Guutierrez, the federal Agriculture Secretariat is demanding police evict some 1,000 striking sugar cane workers who began occupying their office Aug. 2. The cañeros, from the communities of Huixtla and Pujiltic, are demanding changes to federal agriculture policy to favor local producers. (APRO, Aug. 5, via Chiapas95) Chiapas sugar producers are threatened by cheap US corn imports, with corn syrup displacing cane sugar from the market. (CIEPAC, Sept. 5, 2001)

Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar, meanwhile, threatened to go Mexico’s Supreme Court to halt the government oil monopoly Pemex from continuing operations in the state. “If this wealth was benefitting Chiapas, we wouldn’t be as poor as we are… Pemex has sunk its teeth into the earth and exploited millions and millions of dollars in petroleum and gas, while our villages here are impoverished, forgotten and abandoned.” (APRO, Aug. 5, via Chiapas95)

Salazar has ordered Pemex to close a well at Santa Cruz in the north of Chiapas, near the border with Tabasco, a state which has suffered severe ecological damage due to oil operations. In Tabasco, two pipeline explosions within 10 days of each other in June and July left eight dead and 20 injured. An April 13 rupture of an ammonia pipeline in Veracruz state caused six deaths and the evacuation of 6,000 residents.

“With the experience of the explosions in Tabasco and Veracruz, the governor of Chiapas has shown that his state takes preventive measures,” Salazar said at a news conference in Tuxtla Gutierrez. “We can’t lower our guard and wait for our house to burn down without doing anything.” (LAT, Aug. 6)

Subcommander Marcos, spokesman of the Zapatista rebels, emerged from the jungle for the first time in four years Aug. 6 to speak with reporters at the village of San Rafael, where he blasted all candidates in next year’s presidential elections. “They’ll pay for everything they have done to us,” Marcos said from behind his trademark black ski mask. “They are a bunch of shameless scoundrels.” (LAT, Aug. 7) He especially accused the left-opposition candidate Andres Lopez Obrador of “treason.” (EFE, Aug. 6, via Chiapas95)

See our last post on Chiapas.