Saturday, 1 March 2008

Zapatistas condemn invasion of community by state police

The Good Government Council of Morelia denounces the events of 21st February in the Zapatista community of Bolon Ajaw.
On Thursday 21st February 2008 at 4pm, two Zapatistas from Bolon Ajaw went for a wash in the river but before arriving at the river saw five members of the state police force 300m away accompanying a civilian reporter with a video camera.
On seeing the five agents they ran back to notify the other villagers. Whilst they were doing this one of the agents used his pistol, firing three 9mm shots in the air and advancing within 50m of the community. One of the three cartridges of the fired bullets is in our hands. Receiving the news the villagers at home gathered to defend their village.
The agents ran along the river flanking the village on the left in order to surround it. The villagers also ran along the river carrying sticks not to kill or beat them, but just to pressure the agents into leaving them alone to live their lives in peace. We don't carry weapons to shoot with, as we know that they are also human with families and we would never fire weapons as they do without respect for human life.
Aware of the villagers' movement the agents withdrew towards Agua Azul after beating two female villagers on the arms with rifle butts. One was beaten on the right side of the chest and the other on the left shoulder.
Since January 30th the villagers have known of a government plan to enter the community as a threat was made to evict the community on February 20th, and so have been awaiting this day.
The villagers have been peacefully living in their huts, going about their lives and working the fields when the agents disrupted this calm. The villagers aren't used to the presence of police in the village as they are not dangerous criminals but seek a peaceful life growing and harvesting corn and beans.

For full Spanish version of the denunciation visit:

The following article appeared in 'La Jornada', Mexico's left-leaning daily, on February 26th:
Anti-Zapatista tension and harrassment increases in Bolon Ajaw

Threat of eviction made in presence of internationals
Hermann Bellinghausen, Chiapas, February 25th

If tension could be measured by a thermometre here it would register "hot". Very hot. Overflights by helicopters at very low heights since Saturday. Physical and verbal attacks by neighbours from Agua Azul throughout January and February. A failed intelligence operation last Thursday on the land of the Zapatista community, resulting in an assault. Permanent patrols by federal and state police. Official versions of events for media effect have criminal consequences as confirmed by recent assaults on Zapatistas in the Agua Azul river area.
The Tseltal community of Bolon Ajaw, mostly monolingual, are on constant alert. The women and children no less than the men. No-one walks the paths alone, the men stick to the community and its immediate vicinity. A few adult women are the only ones with machetes, which they carry when fetching water in plastic containers weighing more than a child. Whilst a woman offers the reporter a calabash brimming with bitter pozol, the men sit silent on the family plot.
Two white helicopters circle above, one with the colours of the national flag in a stripe, the other smaller, with a blue stripe. "One belongs to the government, the other the police", the indigenous villagers deduce. Both helicopters descend almost to tree level above the village, and feint somersaults in a U-shaped manoeuvre.
Now there is no shortage of government "leaks", "it is said" in the reporting media that OPDDIC (the paramilitary group responsible for attacks on Zapatistas in the area-translator's note) will disband soon and it is predicted that its members will gravitate towards the PRD ("centre-left" party in power in Chiapas-translator's note). Some of them, from the Chilon municipality, have installed a second toll booth for tourists near to the entrance to Bolon Ajaw. The official booth, also administered by OPDDIC, is nearer the Agua Azul waterfall in the municipality of Tumbala.
The opening to the path leading to Bolon Ajaw is nicely fenced off, meaning a slope has to be climbed in order to reach the path. Just a few metres away on the road travelled by thousands of tourists, tour operators and official vehicles, a group of men in an apparent state of intoxication and identified as members of OPDDIC, offer insults and threats.
" Get the hell out of here!", one shouts and approaches the slope where international observers from Germany, the US, Switzerland and Mexico are accompanying Zapatista women waiting to take the reporter to Bolon Ajaw.
In Tseltal the same individual who the Zapatistas identify as Óscar García López, from Agua Azul, threatens:
"Tomorrow we're going to come and kick you all out", followed by a torrent of abuse.Such hostility is strange coming from those who don't have any right to the land they wish to evict, as if they are doing the dirty work of Profepa (the Mexican state environment ministry-translator's note) and the police.
"We are always worried. We get death threats, stones thrown at us and bullets fired at us", an older man says on the edge of the village. When questioned on the very public handover of weapons by OPDDIC he replies, "It was a farce. They themselves admit that they only handed over the ones that don't work, that they still have the 50 good ones for their "defence".

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