Directly from the mountains of Mexico’s southeast, a communiqué from the General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) – the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee (CCRI) – called on the world to turn its eyes to the intensifying conflict in Chiapas. The Mexican state bordering Guatemala is where all the autonomous Zapatista territory is located. “Chiapas on the brink of civil war” is the title of the declaration denouncing the escalation of attacks on native communities, made public on Sunday (19) and directed at the peoples of the world.
The alert comes after two indigenous authorities of the Junta de Bom Governo de Pátria Nueva – Sebastián Nuñez Perez and Jose Antonio Sanchez – were kidnapped and were missing for eight days. After mobilizations in Mexico and around the world for their appearances alive, the two Zapatistas were released on Sunday (19).
According to the EZLN and the Red de Resistencias y Rebeldías AJMAQ (an articulation that brings together various collectives and social movements in Mexico), the kidnapping took place on the morning of September 11 and was carried out by the Ocosingo Regional Coffee Makers Organization (ORCAO), accused of being a paramilitary group serving the government of the State of Chiapas.
“The comrades were released (…) thanks to the intervention of the parish priests of San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oxchuc, belonging to the diocese of San Cristóbal,” said Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano in the statement.
escalation of violence
Founded in 1988 by 12 communities in the municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas, ORCAO initially emerged to organize itself around demands related to the price of coffee and agrarian issues. Until the late 1990s, the relationship between ORCAO and the Zapatista movement was friendly. The perspective told in an article by Rádio Zapatista points out that the break, aggravated by the arrival of politician Pablo Salazar to the government of Chiapas in 2000, occurred when the coffee growers “gave in to the temptation to dispute government support and public office in exchange for favors”.
The most recent episode of the kidnapping of two Zapatistas is part of a history of conflicts over political and territorial disputes that in recent months have escalated the violence against the Zapatista peoples. At least since August 2020, the autonomous community Moisés y Gandhi has been denounced by the ORCAO that it has suffered looting, robbery and the burning of an autonomous cooperative store called Arco Íris.
Even the practice of kidnapping is nothing new. Between 8 and 11 November 2020, the Zapatista of the San Isidro community, Félix López Hernández, remained under arrest by ORCAO paramilitaries. And in April of that year, it was the turn of two members of the Fray Bartolomé Center for Human Rights in Las Casas: Lázaro Sánchez Gutiérrez and Victórica Gálvez Pérez. At the time, the activists were released after 40 hours.
In the communiqué, the EZLN said that the most recent episode was the responsibility of the governor of Chiapas, Rutilio Escandón (of an alliance between the same party as Mexican president López Obrador, Movimiento Regeneración Nacional – Morena, with the Partido Verde Ecologist de México – PVEM), and the Secretary General of Government, Victoria Cecilia Flores Pérez.
Contextualizing the attack as one among others recently suffered by the population of Chiapas, the text of the General Command of the EZLN cites the police repression against students at the Escola Normal Rural de Mactumactzá and the failure to comply with federal government agreements with teachers of the teaching profession.
The text also denounces that the Crossing for Life – a tour of Zapatista delegations for each of the continents and which is currently in its European stage – is suffering several sabotage attempts.
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State alliances “with drug trafficking are forcing native communities to form self-defence groups,” the statement said, denouncing that the Chiapas government “encourages, promotes and finances paramilitary groups.” Rutilio Escandón’s regime – described as balancing the scales – is also accused of implementing a “purposefully slow and random vaccination policy”.
Call to international solidarity
“In view of the action and omission of the state and federal authorities regarding current and previous crimes”, states the CCRI note, “we will take the pertinent measures so that justice is applied to the criminals of the ORCAO and the employees who sponsor it”.
The Zapatista communiqué ends by calling for solidarity demonstrations to be held in front of Mexican embassies and consulates around the world on Friday, 24 September. The demand is for all instances of government in Mexico to cease with “the provocations and abandon the cult of death they profess.”
Edition: Vinícius Segalla