A shadow of death is being raised in the heart of our land, of our mother, of our selva

Ricardo Flores Mago'n
Autonomous Municipality in Rebellion

March 25, 2002.
Chiapas, Mexico.

To the People of Mexico.
To the Peoples of the World.

Brothers and sisters:

A shadow of death is being raised in the heart of our land, of our mother, of our selva. A cloud of soldiers, paramilitaries, plans and projects is coming once again to threaten us, to rob us of our dream and to dislocate our indigenous communities from the Comprehensive Biosphere Reserve of Montes Azules (REBIMA) and from the so-called Lacando'n area. But also the dignity of a people who, despite the storms it walks, speaks with truth and strength, and which will never again be silent, and which denounces the government's tricks it is using in order to make its war of extermination against the communities in resistance, now under the pretext of the reserved areas. The voice of this people is now repeating to the bad federal and state governments that the indigenous communities of Ricardo Flores Mago'n are not going to permit dislocation, nor the relocation of our communities, we are going to defend them with everything we have in our hands, in our truth, rights and reason, we are going to defend our lands and communities as the territories and rights of our indigenous peoples.

Today we are saying it quite clearly, the project to exterminate our indigenous communities through dislocation and relocation is a strategic part of the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP) and of its economic interests, which are attempting to extend neoliberal policies and projects to the South and Southeast of Mexico and to all of Central America. In addition, in order for these policies to be imposed in our lands, the PPP is, at the same time, a counterinsurgency plan, because neoliberal interests find themselves thwarted by our indigenous communities and our different cultures, which understand land as mother, as a communal good that cannot be used for the benefit of just a few, because it cannot be destroyed or stolen in order to be made private and destroyed in order to take out its wealth. They are also seeking counterinsurgency because we have dignity, struggle and resistance, because we have our own history and organization which exists and is defended, which does not surrender, nor does it sell itself, nor is it humiliated.

Owing to the great, unique and special riches which are brought together in the REBIMA and in the entire Selva Lacandona - but also owing to the struggle, dignity and resistance of the indigenous and the EZLN communities against neoliberalism and injustice ñ the Selva Lacandona has turned into a geo-strategic territory for the interests of multinational companies, of governments, of the federal army and of the counterinsurgency war, the war which attempts to reassure those political and economic interests which are trying to reap benefit from the Selva, by excluding and exterminating our indigenous peoples.

That is why the federal and state governments, multinational companies and secretaries of state have already drawn up various programs which they are trying to impose on the peoples and present them to society as programs drawn up along with the people. These programs are primarily the "National Program for Service to 250 Micro-Regions," the "Program for Sustainable Development of the Selva," and the "Comprehensive Program for Sustainable Development of the Selva." We are denouncing that these programs are nothing more than the federal and state program for promoting the PPP at a local level.

There is also a program, which has not been made public, that was elaborated along with companies interested in the Natural Resources of the Selva. In that program, the relocation of indigenous communities inside these areas is proposed, as well as the expulsion, through the use of military force, of those communities which refuse to negotiate and to abandon the lands. In order to accomplish this, they are going to utilize the legal resources offered by the reserved area laws which are, nonetheless, in violation of Convention 169 of the ILO and of the San Andre's Accords. At the same time, it proposes that all government aid be withheld from those communities in the Reserve and the Lacando'n Area, and that aid be made conditional on environmental measures for those inside the buffer zones (including education and health). The purpose of this is to prevent the communities from developing and to force the residents to leave for other regions with greater opportunities for development. This plan first envisages the expulsion of communities inside the Reserve, next from the Lacando'n Area, and, finally, the re-ordering of communities in the buffer and forest protection zones into so-called "Strategic Development Centers (CED)."

The CEDs were planned by the PPP, and they are replicated in the different programs until they reach the local and micro-regional level, although the regional plans say that they are an initiative by the communities themselves. The purpose of the CEDs is, in fact, to concentrate development aid in a few centers, in order to force campesino people to leave their communities, little by little, because of a lack of opportunities. They would then concentrate in these centers, where they would have to look for work that had nothing to do with the land, with their communities and culture, such as the maquilas and tourism. The idea is that they leave and forget about their land, that they forget about being campesinos and indigenous, and that they then no longer teach their children these things, and so they would, little by little, forget their love for the land, forget being indigenous, they would forget the resistance and struggle which our peoples have always contributed.

In order to achieve this, however, they need to divide, in order to divide there is counterinsurgency, the same old wiles, the army, the paramilitaries, the threats, political and economic pressure, and worst of all, the extreme poverty which, out of necessity, forces many brothers to take the first way out, not necessarily the better one.

They have created 34 micro-regions in the Selva Region, with a CED in each one. They have tried to divide the territory of Ricardo Flores Mago'n into 8 micro-regions. They have created these so-called "Micro-Regional Councils" - which they say are made up of representatives from all the communities and organizations ñ without real support from the assemblies and communities. We are making it quite clear that they ignored us throughout this entire process, and all the zapatista communities and communities in resistance have opposed it. In many cases they have also made pacts with just the leaders of organizations, or directly with Ejidal Commissioners and corrupt officials or with minority officials in each community, never with the real approval of all the organizations and brothers who make up the assembly in a community. These Micro-Regional Councils are going to be the lie with which the government says it is consulting and receiving proposals from the communities. And it is through them that they will justify the entry of the PPP's neoliberal measures, those counterinsurgency measures that include expulsions and relocation.

The more than 110 communities, villages and rancheri'as of this Autonomous Municipality find themselves in danger of expulsion or relocation by various means, since all of them are located in the buffer zones, others within the Reserve, others in the Lacando'n Area. The fear that is being felt in some communities today is, therefore, a warning for everyone. The communities that are most at risk of being expelled, relocated or affected in our rebel territory are:

Total Dislocation within the REBIMA:

Ejidal Rights Directly Affected (provisions or extensions) by the REBIMA:

Ejidal Rights Directly Affected by the Lacando'n Area:

Communities Directly Affected by the REBIMA Buffer Zone:

Communities Affected by the Forest Protection Zone in Rio Tulija':

We are making it quite clear that in the middle of all this are the economic interests of large multinational companies that are dedicated to exploiting biogenetic resources, covered with the masks of environmental foundations. There are also the interests of the Mexican government and various other governments for natural resources, such as fresh water, oil, uranium and other soil and subsoil resources. There are also the interests of many businessmen who are willing to exploit and use the displaced indigenous populations as cheap labor for the maquilas (the new industrial fincas). There are similar interests on the part of hotel owners and shopkeepers in order to develop eco-tourism projects, and those fools who are trying to change the lives of the indigenous so that we will cease being what we are: indigenous and campesinos with our own ideas and culture, which are valuable and which have the same right to exist as any other.

Even though the bad government says it is not doing anything, it is, in fact, fabricating the legal lie for expulsion and for war against us. On the one hand they have prepared the Carib indigenous (called the Lacando'n by the government), with advice from businessmen and from the secretaries of state, to file charges of environmental crimes and seizure against the Tzeltal, Tzotsil, Chol and Tojolabal indigenous who reside in the Reserve, and so that they will say that if the government does not do the expulsion then they, the Carib, are going to do it with their own hands. In other words, they are manipulating them, as they have always done with the Carib.

On the other hand, the SEMARNAT speaks of the ecological danger which the indigenous inside the Reserve represent. The businessmen and the North American government speak of the importance of investing in the reserve owing to its great biological and genetic wealth, which the indigenous there are putting in danger, and they therefore speak of the benefits which would be brought by expulsion. North American ambassadors and military attaches are saying that if anyone opposes their plans for the reserve, they will not hesitate to eliminate them.

The managers of the REBIMA, in turn, speak of the violations against the Reserve laws which the indigenous are committing, and, along with the PGR, they are preparing the legal arguments which will allow the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) and the federal army to dislocate our communities and remain inside the REBIMA and the Lacando'n Area.

And the state government is saying that it is peacefully negotiating with the communities in order to relocate them, and, on the other hand, through their Secretary of Indian Peoples, Porfirio Encino, it talks of forming "Guardians of the Reserve," in other words, paramilitary groups legalized for the dislocation. At the same time, the state government has set up an "Environmental Table," purportedly in order to seek negotiation with the affected communities. The Table is made up, however, of the same persons who are calling for dislocation, that is, representatives of the SEMARNAT, of REBIMA, of the federal and state SEDESOL, of the Agrarian Prosecutor's Office, Carib leaders and even the PGR. At its meetings they have recommended that, if the residents demonstrate "unfriendly behavior," corresponding denuncias should be brought against them, and legal charges should be filed for crimes of ecological damage and seizure. In other words, harass the populace and make legal preparations for expulsion. The Table is planning, among other things, to assess damages, achieving the maximum amount of information through infiltrations, land incursions and overflights. In addition, government officials are harassing and visiting different communities, threatening them with dislocation or with limiting their agrarian rights in the buffer zone.

While all of them are speaking and covering up their intentions with legal masks, the federal army and paramilitary groups are acting and preparing for expulsion through violent means. The federal army has renewed its operations inside the REBIMA and the Lacando'n Area, surrounding and going in to the communities affected by the Reserve. Federal soldiers are acting along with PGR agents and government officials, as we have denounced previously. Paramilitary groups have gained new strength, and are harassing the communities. Low helicopter overflights are continuous, primarily in the Reserve areas, where they are taking photographs and making aerial video recordings of the communities, information which they are also passing along to the government departments which are planning the expulsions. PFP commandos in Chiapas are getting ready to attack, along with the federal army, and to take over military control of the entire REBIMA, dislocating the communities.

To National and International Civil Society:

We are asking all of society, all the peoples, to denounce this injustice, to denounce this war of extermination against our indigenous communities, to take the necessary actions, demanding that the Mexican government stop its war and threats against our indigenous communities, that it respect and recognize our collective rights as indigenous peoples, among them the right to territory.

Liberty, Justice and Democracy.


Originally published in Spanish by Enlace Civil, A.C. enlacecivil@laneta.apc.org ***********************************   From: Enlace Civil, A.C. enlacecivil@laneta.apc.org Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 23:45:41 ñ0600


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