Zapatistas

Chiapas: Zapatistas mark 20 years of rebellion

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern Chiapas state released a new communique Dec. 28 reflecting on the history of the movement since the New Year's Day 1994 uprising that announced it. Marcos took aim at "the criminals of the Mexican political class," but also "the for-pay press" for distorted portrayals of the movement. The communique emphasized that members of the press will not be permitted to attend commemorations of the uprising that the rebels will be holding in their communities Jan. 1. The statement acknowledged that the revolution the Zapatistas announced in 1994 has not acheived its aims, but expressed determination to continue resistance: "In December 2013, it is just as cold as 20 years ago, and today, like back then, the same flag protects us: that of rebellion," Marcos wrote. (AFP, Jan. 1; Latin Times, Dec. 30)

Mexico: protesters pledge to resist energy 'reform'

Some 40,000 teachers, union members and opposition activists took to Mexico City's streets Dec. 2 in a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI). The protesters joined a rally led by Peña Nieto's ex-challenger Andrés Manuel López Obrador, formerly of the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and now heading a National Regneration Movement (Morena) to oppose the administration's economic policies. The teachers' union CNTE and electrical workers' SME were heavily represented as López Obrador led the march from the iconic Angel of Independence statue to the Zócalo, Mexico City's central plaza. A key issue at the rally was Peña Nieto's planned reform of the state oil monopoly Pemex, which protesters assailed as a privatization of the company. "We are here to avoid a big robbery," López Obrador told the crowd below a massive banner declaring "NO to the sale of Pemex!" Another banner addrressed to Peña Nieto read: "Sell your body. It's yours. The oil is mine." 

Mexico: imprisoned Chiapas schoolteacher released

Alberto Patishtán Gómez, a schoolteacher from the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, was freed from imprisonment on Oct. 31 after receiving a pardon that day from President Enrique Peña Nieto. Patishtán had been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in Chiapas' El Bosque municipality in June of that year. He has consistently maintained his innocence. Human rights activists in Mexico and around the world demonstrated and petitioned for his release, charging that the teacher was being persecuted as an indigenous Tzotzil activist and a supporter of the leftist Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN).

Mexico: police attack teachers' strike encampment

Carrying plastic shields and armed with nightsticks and tear-gas canisters, some 3,600 helmeted Mexican federal police moved in on Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, at 4 PM on Sept. 13 to clear out an encampment teachers had set up as a base for actions that they had been carrying out since Aug. 21 to protest changes in the educational system. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the dissident union group leading the protests, had negotiated an agreement with the government to vacate the plaza in time for the Sept. 15-16 ceremonies that traditionally celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain, but a smaller group of teachers from the militant locals in the southern state of Oaxaca tried briefly to hold out against the police. Confrontations followed for several hours involving police agents, teachers and local anarchists. National Security Commission (CNS) head Manuel Mondragón gave a preliminary count of 29 people arrested. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 13, from correspondent; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 14)

Mexico: thousands march against 'energy reform'

In the first street demonstration that former center-left presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano has led since 2000, thousands of Mexicans marched in Mexico City on Aug. 31 to show their opposition to President Enrique Peña Nieto's plan for opening up the state-owned oil and electric companies, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Federal Energy Commission (CFE), to greater participation by foreign and Mexican private companies. The marchers set off from the Angel of Independence, a traditional starting point for Mexico City demonstrations, but they stopped short of the usual destination, the Zócalo plaza, which dissident teachers are occupying as part of a series of protests that have tied up various parts of the capital since Aug. 21. The education workers are protesting President Peña’s plans for teacher evaluations.

Mexican military harasses Zapatista gathering

Over the past week, some 1,500 activists from around the world converged on Mexico's Chiapas state for the Zapatista rebels' first international organizing workshop, the Little Freedom School (Escuelita de Libertad), with course names such as "Freedom According to the Zapatistas." On Aug. 15, three days into the gathering,  the rebels' Comandante Tacho issued a statement charging that "military planes were doing flyovers over the zones of the five Zapatista caracoles." The caracoles (snails) are the community centers the rebels have built to govern their territory in open assemblies, and where the Freedom School is being held. Tacho signed off: "We say to the government of [President Enrique] Peña Nieto, that if your soldiers want to learn in the Little School, they should ask to be invited. We won't, however, invite them. But then they can use the pretext that they are spying because we didn't invite them." (El Enemigo Común via Climate Connections, Aug. 15; Waging Nonviolence via Upside Down World, Aug. 12)

Nine indigenous prisoners released in Chiapas

The southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas released nine indigenous prisoners from its Los Llanos prison near San Cristóbal de las Casas in the state's highland region on July 4. State governor Manuel Velasco Coello arrived at the prison from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, to deliver the release papers in person. The nine prisoners, described as adherents of the 2006 Other Campaign of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), had participated in hunger strikes and other actions over several years to win their freedom. Rosa López Díaz, the only woman in the group, was pregnant when she was arrested in 2007; she lost her child, reportedly as a result of torture.

Mexico: Israel training Chiapas police?

Israel's embassy in Mexico City denied reports in the Mexican media that Israeli military advisors are training police in the southern state of Chiapas. Early last month, Chiapas' Secretary of Security and Civil Protection, Jorge Luís Abarca, announced that he had met with Yaron Yugman of the Israeli Defense Ministry to discuss the program. This supposed meeting was widely reported in respected newspapers such as El Universal and Excelsior, but Israeli officials in Mexico City contacted by Fox News Latino denied knowledge of the meeting, calling the news reports "nonsense" and "completely wrong." Said Yael Hashaviet, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy: "I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This never happened and this will never happen." 

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