FRAY BARTOLOME CENTER PROVOKES GOVERNMENT
The coordinator of the National Immigration Institute (INM), Alejandro Carillo Castro, claimed that the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, headed by Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, was provoking [the government] by declaring that the immigration checks on foreigners in Chiapas is a violation of their human rights. He warned that inciting foreigners to break immigration laws is a crime that could be punished with three years in prison.
The Interior Ministry official also said that so-called "revolutionary tourism" of the kind offered by the U.S. organization Global Exchange, in which foreign visitors arrive as part of a package to visit the Highlands of Chiapas and celebrate the fifth anniversary of the appearance of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), would not be allowed.
He also explained that they will not tolerate, as happens in other coutries, that foreigners are invited to build or help to build schools in Mexico, as has been the case in Oventic, Chiapas. He said that to argue that the human rights of foreigners were being violated was a "provocation".
"I insist that a tourist agency visiting Chiapas is not breaking any laws, but if the organization is making seditious visits with the pretext of discovering the reality of the country and intervening in situations of a political nature, that is prohibited, starting with article 33 of the Constitution."
As for the work of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, he signalled that the government is not against the fact that they defend human rights, not just of Mexicans, but of any person whatsoever who visits [Mexico]. But "what we consider to be inappropriate is that human rights defending is used as a pretext to invite people to break Mexican laws," he warned.
Cuarto Poder, 29 December 1998
INTERIOR MINISTRY WILL EXPEL FOREIGN ACTIVISTS
The National Immigration Institute (INM) affirmed today that the government will be vigilent about enforcing the law in fulfillment of article 33 of the Constitution [which gives the President of the Republic the power to expel any foreigner that he consider "inconvenient" without a prior hearing for "meddling in the internal politics of the country"] as a response to the invitation of foreign organizations like Global Exchange to carry out "a revolutionary tourism" in the conflict areas of Chiapas.
"The INM will be vigilantly enforcing the law, with full respect for human rights, but also for national sovereignty," said the head of the immigration service, Alejandro Carrillo Castro. He also added that they would not be employing any additional mechanisms in relation to the fifth anniversary of the appearance of the EZLN, although he he said that they had detected some 250 foreign observers.
In relation to the invitation of foreign organizations like Global Exchange to carry out "revolutionary tourism" in the conflict areas of Chiapas, Carrillo Castro affirmed that the government would apply the law in order to enforce article 33 of the Constitution.
These kinds of activities, he said, "are mere acts of provocation so that when the laws are enforced they can start to shout that the human rights of tourists are being violated".
"Is the government ready to apply article 33 in Chiapas?"
"Well, not only are we ready, but we've been applying the law any time that it's been necessary."
Cuarto Poder, 30 December, 1998
SO THAT THEY EXPLAIN THEIR ACTIVITIES IN CHIAPAS
Foreign citizens from the New Year [reality tour] in Chiapas organized by the NGO Global Exchange will be cited to explain their activities in Chiapas before the National Immigration Institute (INM).
Sources close to the INM made it known that this federal institution has decided to control the flow of foreigners to prevent them from carrying out activities that are not authorized by their visa.
According the same source, the above is to take place because the North American organization Global Exchange has offered an $800 package by internet to attend the fifth anniversary of the public appearance of the EZLN in Zapatista support base communities.
The purpose of the citations given out by the immigration authorities is so that the foreigners can declare the activities that they have planned to carry out. The documents will be given to them when they cross an immigration checkpoint.
The 14 foreigners, who entered the country on tourist visas so that they could spend seven days in Chiapas, should carry out cultural and recreational activities and should not get involved in any of a political nature, as indicated in the INM rules.
[The article then lists the names of each and every one of the tour participants.]
All of the above responded to the package offered by Global Exchange, which included transport from Mexico City to Chiapas and from there to the villages where there is a rebel Zapatista Army presence.
GLOBAL EXCHANGE RESPONSE
Global Exchange is unable to defend itself against the recent media attacks (which have been diffused by local radio, national television and several of the main national newspapers) as the INM has prohibited foreign nationals from communicating with the Mexican media, arguing that this is a political activity that contravenes article 33 of the Constitution.
In reference to the recent media attacks to which Global Exchange and the participants of its current reality tour have been subjected, we would like to clarify the following points:
1. We deeply regret the aggressive attitude adopted by the INM in relation to our current reality tour to Chiapas. According to the Mexican Constitution and General Population Law we cannot find any reason why tourists should not be able to visit indigenous communities in Chiapas.
2. The INM has threatened to apply article 33 of the Mexican Political Constitution in the event that our tour visits an indigenous community where the fifth anniversary of the public appearance of the EZLN will be celebrated on January 1st. Article 33 stipulates the following:
"All persons who do not comply by the qualities established by Article 30 are foreigners. They have the right to the guarantees instituted by Chapter I, Title I, of this Constitution, but the Executive Office of the Union will have the exclusive power to remove from national territory, immediately and with no need of a hearing, any foreigner whose permanence the Executive judges unconvenient.
Foreigners shall not, in any way, meddle in the political affairs of the country."
We do not understand why the INM and the federal government insist on considering cultural and educational visits to indigenous communities by foreigners as "meddling in the political affairs of the country." The non-profit reality tours of Global Exchange are not organized so that foreign citizens can vote, promote a particular political party, or seek public office while in Mexico, for these are the exclusive political rights of Mexican citizens. The purpose of our tours is rather to give participants the opportunity to observe at first hand the cultural and social life of indigenous communities.
This activity is fully permitted by Article 1 of the Mexican Constitution which guarantees foreigners the same fundamental rights as Mexicans, including freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. These rights are applicable to all people, regardless of nationality, sex, race, creed or any other individual or collective characteristic. According to Article 2, any individual, by the simple fact of entering Mexican territory, is protected by these constitutional rights.
Furthermore, the federal government reserves the right to expel any foreigner whom it considers to be "inconvenient." We therefore ask ourselves for whom the presence of foreigners in indigenous communities is considered "inconvenient" - for the federal government or for the indigenous communities?
3. In recent days the INM harrassed foreigners who attend the commemorative mass for the massacre of 45 indigenous people that took place in Acteal on December 22, 1997. Various of the more than 70 foreigners who visited the community were given citations to appear before the INM office in San Cristobal de las Casas. We ask ourselves if attending a commemorative mass, which is essentially a humanitarian and religious act, is also considered "political meddling" by the Mexican authorities?
___________________________________________________ NUEVO AMANECER PRESS-N.A.P.To know about us visit: http://www.nap.cuhm.mx/nap0.htm (spanish)