Mexican indigenous community takes on armed gangs

[One minute video (en espanol) showing the protest in Cheran, Michoacan, last week. — Frontlines ed.]
May 03, 2011

Mexico City: Around 17,000 people from an indigenous group in western Mexico have blocked access to their community and declared a “state of siege” against armed groups protecting illegal loggers, a spokesman said.

“It’s a desperate measure” faced with the lack of security from federal authorities, a spokesman for the Purepecha community told a news conference yesterday in Mexico City, wearing a face mask to remain anonymous.

It was a “self-imposed state of siege” that started April 15 in the village of Cheran, in Michoacan state, not far from famous sanctuaries for migrating Monarch butterflies, the spokesman said.

The community started the blockade after armed men fired on some of its members after they captured illegal loggers to hand them over to the authorities, he added.

An armed group entered the community on April 27 and killed two people. Since 2008, nine have been killed and five others have disappeared, he said.

Illegal loggers have deforested 80 percent of some 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) of the region’s forests in more than three years, according to the community. Continue reading

Mexican Consulate in NYC Occupied

April 5, 2011

The Mexican Consulate in New York has been occupied by the Movimiento por Justicia en el Barrio in solidarity with five political prisoners from the community of Bachajón, Chiapas. On February 3, Chiapas state police raided the community and arrested 117 people. After worldwide protests erupted in response, the government released 112 of the prisoners. But five remain in jail, facing charges of murder or attempted murder.

The Bachajón Zapatista supporters are adherents to the Other Campaign, which was initiated by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in order to form national and global alliances amongst leftist organizations and movements.

The arrests stem from a confrontation between rival indigenous groups that occurred the previous day in San Sebastian Bachajón, which is an ejido, or communally held lands. Marcos García Moreno, an ejido member who belonged to the faction that allied itself with the government, was shot and killed during the confrontation with ejido members who are Other Campaign adherents. The government accuses the Other Campaign adherents of murdering García Moreno and attempting to murder a second man who was shot during the confrontation. The Other Campaign adherents deny the charges. They say they were unarmed, and that the government-allied ejido members were shooting guns into the air during the confrontation.

The government has attempted to paint the conflict as a dispute between rival indigenous factions over control of a tollbooth that charges a fee to enter the Agua Azul waterfalls, one of Chiapas’ most popular tourist attractions. However, the Bachajón adherents and their lawyers at the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (“Frayba”) say that they have proof that the tollbooth confrontation was designed to provoke government intervention and police occupation of the region. The Bachajón adherents argue that the government orchestrated the confrontation at the tollbooth “as a pretext to take over the Agua Azul Waterfalls Ecotourism Center for its transnational interests and projects.” Continue reading

Mexico’s indigenous peoples won’t celebrate ‘independence’

Hill ravine settlement of indigenous people, forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands by profit-hungry companies, real estate developers and speculators

Bicentennial Nothing to Celebrate, Say Indigenous Peoples

 

By Daniela Pastrana

MEXICO CITY (IPS) – “I don’t understand why we should celebrate [Independence]. There will be no freedom in Mexico until repression against indigenous peoples is eliminated,” says Sadhana, whose name means “moon” in the indigenous Mazahua language.

Over the course of the year, the Mexican government has organised a series of lavish celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the start of the war of independence against the Spanish Empire, Sep. 16, 1810. The main events, held Sep. 15, included a military parade with soldiers from several other countries and a fireworks display.

But to many of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, the festivities are an alien concept.

According to indigenous organisations, at least a third of Mexico’s 108 million people are of native descent. But the government’s National Council on Population says the majority of Mexicans are mestizo (of mixed European and indigenous ancestry), while 14 million belong to one of the country’s 62 native groups. Continue reading

Mexico: Oaxaca as a ‘Laboratory of Repression’– Interview with Human Rights Defender Alba Cruz


Written by Peter Watt and Alba Cruz, Upside Down World, 11 November 2010
Following the 2006 uprising in the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, the official crackdown on dissidents, social movements and human rights defenders reached unprecedented proportions. Human rights organizations note with alarm that the presence of around 50,000 military and police personnel patrolling the streets and controlling much of civilian life – often under the pretext of a war on narcotrafficking – has made Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico increasingly dangerous.

 

Alba Cruz, a human rights lawyer working with the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca, has experienced the climate of fear and intimidation first-hand. Since taking on over 100 cases relating to human rights violations in Oaxaca, which include the murder, torture and forced disappearance of activists, continual threats have been made to her personal safety. She represented Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, the man wrongly convicted (and subsequently released in February 2010) of the murder of US independent journalist and political activist, Brad Will. Eyewitness accounts suggest that Will was shot by police dressed in civilian clothing.

Outside the Middle East, Mexico is now the recipient of the United States’ largest foreign aid program. After numerous declarations from civic and human rights groups that the program – the Mérida Initiative – closely emulates Plan Colombia, an aid program which allowed Colombia to become the most flagrant violator of human rights in the Western Hemisphere, US Congress blocked release of the funds to Mexico unless the administration of Felipe Calderón could prove it was committed to protecting human rights and investigating alleged violations. The prosecution of Martínez, who was released this year after Cruz and the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca presented evidence which demonstrated that he could not have murdered fellow activist, Brad Will, was a particularly cynical attempt to secure the funds of the Mérida Initiative, while justice for the real killers remains elusive.  Continue reading