An estimated 5,000 Tzotzil Maya peasants have been forced to flee their homes in the municipality of Chalchihuitán, in Mexico's southern Chiapas state, facing threats by armed men in a land dispute with the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó. The displaced, living in improvised camps since their homes were attacked in October, only started to receieve aid this week, as Chenalhó residents blocked all three roads to the community. Army vehicles started delivering aid Dec. 12 after one blockade was relaxed, but on condition that only humanitarian aid be allowed through. The army and state and federal police have established a Mixed Operations Base in the area. The local Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas said that an "atmosphere of terror" prevails in the area, and warned of a repeat of the 1997 Acteal massacre, when 45 were killed by paramilitary gunmen in a hamlet of Chenalhó.
A consortium led by China Three Gorges Corp has agreed to buy a giant hydro-electric plant under construction in Peru from scandal-mired Brazilian company Odebrecht. The Chinese consortium, also including Hubei Energy Group, is reported to be paying $1.39 billion for the Chaglla power plant, which is located on the Río Huallaga in Chaglla and Chinchao districts of Huánuco region. The Chaglla complex has recieved $150 million in funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. When completed, it will be Peru's third largest hydro-electric facility.
At a meeting in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico's newly formed Indigenous Government Council (CIG) chose a Nahuatl woman from Jalisco state as its candidate to contend in the 2018 presidential race. The woman, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known as "Marichuy," is a traditional leader of the Nahuatl indigenous community of Tuxpan. Marichuy said her candidacy was part of a larger effort to wiin indigenous participation in "the reconstruction of the country." The assembly was attended by nearly 850 delegates representing 58 indigenous peoples across Mexico. The CIG was created earlier this year by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The assembly was overseen by Zapatista leaders including the elusive Subcommander Galeano. (Radio Formula, Aristegui Noticias, Radio Zapatista, Animal Politico, EFE, May 28)
Member organizations of Mexico's National Indigenous Congress (CNI), meeting in the Chiapas village of Oventic Jan. 1 for celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Zapatista rebellion, announced formation of a new Indigenous Government Council (CIG) "to govern the country." The CNI said it had carried out a "consulta" with over 500 indigenous communities across the country, and that a "constituent assembly" will meet in May to formalize the CIG's governance structure. The statement said an indigeous woman will be chosen as candidate for Mexico's 2018 presidential race, but that parallel structures of autonomous self-government would be built simultaneously. The meeting was overseen by Comandante Insurgente David and Subcomandante Moisés of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which has run its own autonomous government in the highlands and rainforest of Chiapas since the 1994 New Year uprising. (Colectivo Pozol, Jan. 1)
Mayor Rosa Pérez Pérez of Chenalhó, Chiapas, stepped down May 26—after days of violence in the indigenous Maya municipality that even turned deadly. Pérez finally resigned after two state lawmakers from her Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM) were taken captive by opponents at a meeting called to negotiate an end to the dispute at the offices of the Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The lawmakers were forcibly removed from the premises by masked men who invaded the meeting and drove them to Chenalhó, where they were held to demand Pérez's resignation. By then, some 250 residents of outlying hamlets had fled inter-factional violence and taken refuge in government offices in Chenalhó's municipal center. A 56-year-old man was killed in fighting at the hamlet of Puebla. Violence has continued even after the resignation, with a 14-year-old girl shot in Puebla, where several homes were put to the torch. Opponents charged Pérez with diverting funds for development projects to her personal account, and say she represents the traditional ruling families of Chenalhó, who for the past generation have terrorized opposition with paramilitary groups to maintain power. The PVEM, now the ruling party in Chiapas, is assailed by critics as a "satellite party" of Mexico's ruling machine, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Striking teachers on May 28 took over the installations of three radio and TV stations in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of Mexico's Chiapas state, in an ongoing campaign against President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposed education reform. Days earlier, state and federal police violently evicted a protest camp ste up by the teachers in Tuxtla's central plaza. The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) is demanding that the national government cancel the new education reform. Campesinos from rural Chiapas villages have mobilized local marches in support of the teachers. The pending reform would impose strict teacher evalutions, but critics say it fails to address the critical problem of under-resourced schools in poor areas of the country. The pending reform was crafted with the participation of business-friendly groups such as Mexicanos Primero, led by figures including Televisa president Emilio Azcárraga. (Left Voice, May 29; Uno TV, May 28)
The first district court of Chiapas in southern Mexico on Feb. 23 ruled that charges of "terrorism, rebellion and sedition" brought almost exactly 21 years ago against Subcommander Marcos and 12 other leaders of the Zapatista rebel movement have officially expired under the country's statute of limitations. Marcos would have faced 40 years in prison under the charges, which were brought February 1995 against Rafael Sebastian Guillen, a long-missing philosophy professor named by authorities as as subcommander's "real" identity. Marcos was last seen in public in May 2015, although he had earlier issued what he said would be his final communique, announcing that he was to be replaced by a "Subcommander Galeano." (AFP, TeleSur, Feb. 24; El Universal, Feb. 23)
The Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas marked the anniversary of their 1994 New Years Day uprising by hosting a national activist gathering in their territory. Guests of honor at the proceedings in the small pueblo of Oventic were a group of parents and other family members of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014. The students, from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case. The Zapatistas' Subcommander Moises, joined by 43 masked rebels (one for each missing student), oversaw the ceremony and each embraced the family members. Moises expressed his own skepticism of the official investigation: "The Zapatistas believe that we cannot trust the bad governments anymore, they are the servants of capital, stewards of big capitalist business," he said. "The one calling the shots is global capitalism, that is why we cannot believe them." (TeleSur, Jan. 1)