Zapatistas announce Mexico tour

The third and apparently last installment of the Zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Selva was released yesterday. While the first was entitled “Who We Are” and outlined the history of the Zapatista struggle, and the second was dubbed “How We See the World,” this one proclaims “What We Want to Do.” It begins by declaring solidarity with indigneous and popular struggles throughout Latin America, singling out Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as with Venezuela and Cuba in their “path of resistance.” It even offers to send a bus loaded with indigenous maize from Chiapas to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City as a symbolic donation to help ride out the embargo. It also announces the Zapatistas’ new plan to send a delegation to travel throughout Mexico, building alliances with other popular organizations in a bid to unite the left and indigenous movements, with the ultimate aim of a new constitution that “defends the weak against the powerful.” The statement says the delegation will only work with “non-electoral” movements, and those which embrace principles of popular democracy rather than seeking to “impose upon those below.” (Online in English at Narco News)

Zapatista delegations have toured Mexico before (with their masks, but not their rifles) with the aim of uniting the left opposition and advocating constitutional reform, and President Vicente Fox seems to welcome the Zapatistas’ emphasis on open political activity as lessening the risk of a return to armed conflict in Chiapas. However, hardliners to his right are aghast that the rebels should be allowed to travel and advocate freely in the country. Francisco Barrio, former Chihuahua governor and presidential aspirant with Fox’s right-wing National Action Party (PAN), blasted the government for giving “a blank check” to the Zapatistas, insisting they must surrender their arms and remove their masks before being allowed to participate in Mexico’s political life. (Notimex, June 28)

Meanwhile, the Fray BartolemĆ© Human Rights Center in Chiapas notes continuing abuses in the state. On June 19, the center reports, state police arbitrarily arrested and tortured two Tzotzil Maya men in Yabteclum hamlet, ChenalhĆ³ municipality.

One man, Teodoro PĆ©rez PĆ©rez, was detained by eight police agents, tied up, choked with a rope nearly to the point of suffocation, beaten with clubs and kicked, stripped naked, threatened with rape, searched and robbed of 500 pesos. PĆ©rez, whose family are followers of the pro-Zapatista Catholic pacifist group Las Abejas, was then turned over to the ChenalhĆ³ municipal authorities, who apparently still hold him in the local jail, on uncertain charges and in “inhuman conditions.” Las Abejas is the group targetted in the 1997 Acteal massacre, carried out by a paramilitary group that operated with the support of the ChenalhĆ³ authorities.

The other detainee, Juan PĆ©rez PĆ©rez (presumably no relation), was beaten with rifle butts as he was interrogated for nine hours about some local crimes.

(La Jornada, July 1)

See our last post on Chiapas.