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Zapatistas reclaim Mother Earth

Martin O'Neill | 22.02.2010 00:02 | Zapatista

On 6th February 230 civilian Zapatistas took part in an action to retake
control of their reclaimed lands at Bolon Ajaw, Chiapas, Mexico, which
had been invaded and taken over since 20 January by the paramilitary group
OPDDIC, report the human rights group Fray Bartolome de Las Casas. The
25 Zapatista families of Bolon Ajaw, part of autonomous municipality
Comandanta Ramona, were given solidarity by Zapatistas from further

The human rights activists of Fray Bartolome present a detailed report
which dismisses claims by the state government, OPDDIC and the mass media
that on 6th February the Zapatistas shot at OPDDIC members, killing one
and injuring others. On the contrary, report Fray Bartholomew, it was
OPDDIC who at least four times opened fire on the Zapatistas, wounding
three Zapatistas, including a sixteen year old.

Fray Bartholomew (Frayba) confirm that the OPDDIC member killed and those
wounded were shot by mistake by fellow OPDDIC members, as two different
OPDDIC groups opened fire on the inhabitants of Bolon Ajaw, from opposite
sides of the village. OPDDIC, linked to the PRI - the Institutional
Revolutionary Party which governed Mexico for many decades - have been
involved in numerous attacks and harassment of Zapatista communities over
recent years.

Frayba give a detailed account of the several clashes which occurred
during the day. Actions included the Zapatistas repulsing an attempt by
OPDDIC to retake the land, and the Zapatistas breaking out of an armed
ambush and encirclement by OPDDIC in order to go to the aid of the
inhabitants of Bolon Ajaw, who were being shot at by OPDDIC gunmen.

The Zapatista Good Government Council based at Morelia has also issued a
full statement . This details the
attacks by the OPDDIC paramilitaries, naming names, and holding all three
levels of government - local, Chiapas state, and the national federal
government - responsible for the attacks against the indigenous people and
their lands. The statement describes how on 6th February OPDDIC shot at
unarmed Zapatistas, seriously wounding one man in the stomach, how they
completely destroyed a Zapatista's home, and smashed up sacred objects in
the Bolon Ajaw church.

The Zapatistas stress their willingness to hold talks over the problems:
'We, the Council of Good Government, have never closed the door on finding
a good solution to problems, we always show good will..'


The Frayba investigation emphasises that government plans for major
tourist developments at the renowned local waterfalls lie behind the
attacks on the Zapatistas. Nearby Agua Azul Falls are already heavily
promoted, featuring in international tourist guides such as Lonely Planet,
and Bolon Ajaw counts with five more as yet undeveloped Falls which are
even more beautiful.

These proposed developments are part of a much bigger tourist development
plan. Enormous interests are at stake in the Palenque CIP project, which
covers six municipalities in the north of Chiapas around the world-famous
Mayan temples of Palenque. The state government of Chiapas is due to
invest half of the money involved, the balance presumably coming from
private investment. The Project has been in development since 2007, and a
major extension of Palenque airport is due this year.

The CIP Project emphasises specialist and luxury tourism, and long-stay
visitors. A natural theme park is planned for the Agua Azul Waterfalls,
with commercial areas and significant accommodation for 'eco', adventure
and sporting tourism. But, international consultants point out, 'before
attracting investment the State must find a solution to the problems of
acquiring the land and the problems of access.'

In other words, for the state and business interests, the Zapatistas and
their determination to defend Mother Earth are 'a problem' standing in the
way of the realisation of multi-million tourist investments.

These planned tourist developments are closely linked to a new highway
through Chiapas, which threatens a number of communities on its route from
the colonial tourist centre of San Cristobal de Las Casas to the
magnificent Mayan temples at Palenque. As well as Bolon Ajaw, the
communities of San Sebastian Bachajon , near Bolon Ajaw, and Mitziton
near San Cristobal, both adherents to the Zapatista-initiated Other
Campaign, are among the communities resisting the new highway in the face
of state and paramilitary oppression.

Fray Bartolome denounce the Chiapas State authorities for trying to blame
the Zapatistas and the Other Campaign supporters of San Sebastian Bachajon
for the violence. They accuse the authorities of 'generating the
conditions for a military intervention ordered by the Federal Government
against the civilian population.'

The lands at Bolon Ajaw were reclaimed by the Zapatistas in the aftermath
of the 1994 uprising. Till then they had been in the hands of private
owners who brutally exploited the local indigenous people. Frayba detail
the numerous attacks by OPDDIC on the Zapatistas since 2003.


These latest events at Bolon Ajaw are noteworthy not only for the scale of
the threats facing the Zapatistas, but for the exemplary solidarity,
courage, self-organisation and self-discipline displayed by the Zapatistas
in taking collective direct action to defend 'Mother Earth and its natural

In Bolon Ajaw, in Montes Azules ,
in Mitziton, in Sebastian Bachajon, in Chicomuselo and throughout Chiapas and Mexico a
war is being waged by the state, paramilitaries and big business to once
more rob the indigenous and poor peasant peoples of their land and destroy
Mother Earth for money.

In Chiapas, and also in other Mexican states like Oaxaca and Guerrero, the
peasant and indigenous peoples' resistance and struggle for autonomy
continues - international solidarity is needed.

As the Fray Bartolome centre state:
'We issue an URGENT call to civil society, in Mexico and internationally,
to all those committed to the defence of human rights, to come out and
denounce the clear increase in the actions of violence against the
civilian, peaceful process of autonomy being developed by the Zapatista
bases of support and their Councils of Good Governments which are civil


If interested in solidarity with the Zapatistas and people of Chiapas and
Mexico contact Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group
Plus UK Zapatista site
There have already been solidarity actions in various towns and cities in
the Spanish State and in Mexico.

Full statement by Zapatista Council of Good Government of Morelia on the
events at Bolon Ajaw on 6th February, in English

Fray Bartolome site, info in english

Regular reports from Chiapas, mainly Spanish, some English, on Indymedia

Full report by Fray Bartolome human rights group on the events at Bolon
Ajaw on 6th February, in Spanish

Letter of protest to Mexican government about the eviction of Zapatista
community in Montes Azules, Chiapas, in Spanish

More info and protest letter in English can be found at:

Martin O'Neill