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Other Campaign Success, Chiapas, Mexico.

Martin O'Neill | 05.10.2009 19:53 | Zapatista

Last month, the Tseltal population of San Sebastian Bachajon, municipality of Chilon, Chiapas, peacefully regained control of the booth collecting payments from visitors to the waterfalls at Agua Azul. In doing this, they were exercising their legitimate right to protect and manage the natural resources in their territory. The response of the government, headed by Juan Sabines, has been to intimidate and threaten the community by despatching about 250 police to the area..

The indigenous inhabitants of Bachajon are adherents to the Other Campaign which was called by the EZLN, and are also part of the resistance to the mega resorts which are being imposed by the government of Chiapas on communities in the region. As a result, they have been repressed and imprisoned on several occasions, without giving up their struggle.

The Fr. San Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre, which has been accompanying the community, and denouncing the ongoing harassment against them, documented the threatening presence of about 250 state troops, some at the turning for Agua Azul and some at the village of Xhanil, in five Torton type trucks and 12 patrol cars, together with agents of the Ministerial Police.

The human rights centre says that the reclamation of the booth was decided in a “consultation process in assemblies in the three centers of the community : Ch’ich, Centro Alan Sacjun and Centro Bachajon. With this action Tseltal residents asserted their rights over the use of their natural resources, which are recognized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, which the Mexican government has pledged to respect.

But the Chiapas government cares little for international conventions which do not involve foreign investment and the plundering of natural resources. There are innumerable examples to prove this : in this same community, on April 17, the payment booth was dismantled through an operation involving state and federal police, violating the territorial rights of the indigenous people, and attacking the personal integrity of the brothers Antonio and Jerome Gomez Saragosa through torture and arbitrary imprisonment.

Now, before the possible eviction of the community and due to the pressure and clear acts of harassment committed, a protest letter is circulating on the Internet which demands respect for the rights of the Tseltal people of San Sebastian Bachajon , removal of the police and the release of Geronimo and Antonio Gomez Saragosa.

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Martin O'Neill