by Victor Ballinas/
Second and last installment
From 1994 to the present foreign businesses have been established in Chiapas, like Mafer, along with Mexican businesses in co-investment with foreign ones, like Axa Yashaki, Herdez, Produce Foundation, the Chiapas Fund and Propalma, which have together invested more than 40 million dollars.
At the same time, the federal and state governments, along with private initiative, are promoting ecotourism projects in the state, like Nachig, in the Zinacantan municipality; The Grottos of Rancho Nuevo, in San Cristobal de las Casas; the Tzicao Lakes Ecotourism Center, in the Sumidero canyon; Shield of the Jaguar and the Macaws, in Ocosingo; Agua Clara, in Salto de Agua; Laguna Verde, Coapilla; Santo Domingo and Laguna de Colon, in La Trinitaria.
Three hundred million pesos had been slated for the Ruta Mundo Maya (Route of the Mayan World) in Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Chiapas--which has become the Route of the Narcotraffic, according to the head of the 10th Military Region, General Gaston Menchaca Arias. In 1997 this project generated 7 billion, 593 million dollars of income, as emphasized in the study entitled "Indigenous Profile of Chiapas," which is part of the "Indigenous Profile of Mexico" series.
However, the scheme of government, business and campesino relationships for the ecotouristic proyects "is not totally to the liking of the indigenous," who accuse one business of trying to get a 40-year lease on the campesino touristic complexes of Misolha, Agua Azul, Agua Clara, Frontera Corozal and Reforma Agraria, a lease which would cede full control for 14,000 pesos a month.
The series was financed by the World Bank and the Swiss Agency of Cooperation for Development, and was written by consultants, academics, and ex-officials, with the participation of the Secretaries of Social Development, Hacienda and Agriculture, and the Semarnap, as well as the National Indigenous Institute, the National Council on Population, the Council on Educational Promotion, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, and the Ecological Institute of UNAM.
In the study on Chiapas, the fact stands out that the campesino projects which enjoy governmental predilection "are those which can give important dividends to the state at the moment," like the project called Isman, of the indigenous of Sierra Madre de Motozintla, with which they won the international trophy for outstanding image of 1998, awarded by the club of business leaders of Geneva.
According to the researchers, Isman is the first business to export organic coffee packaged at its point of origin, to Argentina, and it is calculated that it will generate returns to the state of Chiapas around the amount of 352 million dollars.
They point out that on the national level, Chiapas is the top grower and producer of coffee, constituting 34% of total coffee land cultivated and contributing 36% of total coffee production. In absolute terms, the amount produced in Soconusco is comparable to that produced by the Dominican Republic.
However, the Chiapan indigenous do not obtain benefits of that cultivation to improve their living conditions. One example of that, they say, is the fact that the indigenous participate in export agricultre, mostly as daily wage workers, for rates below the legal minimum wage or as providers of cheap raw materials for the agroindustries.
They note that Mafer, a Japanese enterprise, invests in the production of peanuts, tuna and shrimp. In co-investment, the Axa Yashaki company manufactures automobile parts in Tuxtla Gutierrez; it is the first binational maquiladora. Mexican businessment also invest in the state: El Grupo Pulsar budgets resources for the production of eucalyptus and rubber in the northern zone, in the Playas de Catzaja, Salto de Agua and Valle del Tulija municipalities.
Herdez acquiered a fish-packing plant in Puerto Madero, in the municipality of Tapachula, with an investment of 15 million dollars; the Fundacion Produce has put 8 million pesos into the fish and agriculture sector; and Fondo Chiapas includes companies like Grupo Escorpion, Pepsi-Cola, Modelo Brewery, the Mexican Development Group, Minsa, Maseca, Chiapan investors, and Bancrecer, Bital y Serfin, which are banks.
Between 1920 and 1984, 3 million hectares in Chiapas were divided up among 144,000 applicants, via 1,845 agrarian actions. Of these, ejidal grants constitute the bulk, adding up to 1,900,000 hectares; these are followed by expansions to campesinos who already had land, with 630,000 hectares, and communal property, with 259,000 hectares.
The 58 municipalities which are inhabited by an indigenous majority make up approximately 46% of state territory, with 3,400,000 hectares. These municipalities include a land surface in ejidos and agrarian communities of 2,500,000 hectares, 62% of the state's total ejidos: 4,066,000 hectares.
The way agrarian distribution has occurred, far from resolving the problem "on occasion has worsened it." The process, rather than remitting to an idea of integral land reform, resembles a colonization process in its distinct stages in the jungle region, with the formation of small and medium-sized properties, and the protection of private property.
"It is not fortuitous that the primary concentration of land for cultivation corresponds to private property; of the 22,814 farms in the state, 77% are private property, and of the 7,421,000 hectares, 34.6% corresponds to this sector," according to the study.
The researchers point out a discrepancy in the official statistics: while the Population and Housing Census of 1995 says that in Chiapas there are 769,000 indigenous people of a total population of 3.6 million, the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologa Social, or CIESAS) calculates that the indigenous population at 1,266,043 people, which would constitute 32% of the total population of the state.
The researchers explain that the official numbers are low, or include underrepresentations, because at the moment of carrying out the Census of 1995, census-takers were unable to enter the conflict zone. The note that according to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografia e Informatica, or INEGI), the annual growth rate of the indigenous population in the 1970-79 period was 4.6%, and in 1990-95, was 1.26%, while the national rate in 1990 was 2.6%.
However, studies carried out in the Highland and Jungle regions, where the majority of indigenous people live, show that in 1990 the annual growth rate was 4.1%; in the Highlands, it was 3.7% and in the Jungle 5.6%--percentages much larger than the national median, information not registered by the INEGI.
This lack of clarity in the statistics has repercussions in the application of public policy; in not identifying the indigenous people specifically, neither numerically nor in their location, say the researchers. They propose a modification of the technical concepts used to identify the indigenous and the initiation of a new program-planning process, beginning with the establishment of a dialogue through which problems could be recognized and proposals and work methods discussed.
Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada, October 6, 1999 -------------------------- translated by Leslie Lopez