Civilian Peace Camps in Chiapas

San Cristobal de las Casas

"FRAY BARTOLOME de las CASAS" Human Rights Center

Coordination of Non-governmental Organizations for Peace (CONPAZ)

I. for Coordination
II. for the volunteers in the Civilian Peace Camps
III. for the observers
IV. Basic norms of behaviour in the camps and the
Indigenous communities (for volunteers and observers)



Since February 9th, with the initiation of the military offensive and the breakdown of dialogue, thousands of Indigenous people in the areas which include the municipalities of Ocosingo, Las Margaritas and Altamirano, escaped to the mountains seeking refuge from the threats they felt with the presence of the Federal Army.

The displaced people as well as those who have stayed in their communities, have suffered a great deterioration in their health, because those who fled only took with them what they could take quickly and those who stayed in their towns have suffered the theft and destruction of much of their belongings, including their food reserves.

Because of their severe health problems, some of the people displaced have started to return to their communities despite the frail security they feel because of the presence of the Federal Army. Up to now, there have been reports among the displaced people of children and pregnant women who have died because of starvation and disease.

Despite the orders from the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the country to stop the advance of the military troops and to limit their role to supporting the security of the population, the military continues advancing throughout the region and spreading fear and mistrust in their way.

As a response, many Mexican and foreign men and women have felt the need to act to stop the situation from worsening and ending in genocide through starvation and disease. For this reason a permanent civilian presence in the region is necessary and important at this moment.

We consider the installation of Civilian Peace Camps that are well coordinated, that can help the population in danger, that monitor the situation in different parts of the region and that in their development and in their hope for a peace with justice and dignity are supportive of the communities' own process, to be urgent and important.

1. To open a civilian space that helps maintain hope and dignity and that helps reconstruct the communities while respecting their own dynamic, according to their selfdetermination.
2. To observe, give testimony and distribute information about the human rights violations that are carried out against the population.
3. To maintain a continuous flow of supplies and support to the communities until their means to produce for self-consumption are normanlized and reestablished.


There is a process of coordination in San Cristobal del Las Casas, Chiapas, in which the National Commission of Mediation (CONAI), the Human Rights Center "Fray Bartolome de Las Casas" and the Coordination of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONPAZ) participate. The two latter organizations will be responsible for the coordination of operations.

In order to have a pertinent and efficient effort the Coordinating body will have the following functions:
1. Register and accredit proposed participants in the Civilian Peace Camps, following the established criteria.
2. Establish the places where the Civilian Peace Camps will be installed.
3. Coordinate the supply distribution to the communities. 4. Determine the number of participants in each camp.
5. Schedule the visits of observers to the communities according to needs.
6. Based on reports from the camps, it will distribute information bulletins, denunciations, and urgent actions as they are needed.
7. Name the person responsible for each camp.
8. Provide needed support to volunteers and observers.

II. for the Volunteers in the Civilian Peace Camps.
The Volunteers in the Civilian Peace Camps will comply with the following requirements:
1. They will register in the Coordinating office, where non-transferable identification will be provided to be carried or worn during their stay in the Civilian Peace Camps.
2. They need to remain at least ten days in the camps.
3. They need to be adults.
4. They will have written reccommendation from an institution or organization.
5. They will be responsible for their own expenses, such as transportation, housing and food during their stay.
6. They will follow these guidelines.
7. If they are foreigners they will be fluent in Spanish.
8. At the end of their stay in the Civilian Peace Camps they will produce a written report of their activities and of the situation they confronted, to be turned in to the Coordinating office.
9. They will distribute all public information to all possible media within their reach.

III. for the Observers.
The observers are those who:
1. will register in the Coordinating office, where non-transferable identification will be provided to be carried or worn during their stay in the Civilian Peace Camps.
2. will visit the Civilian Peace Camps for a maximum of two days.
3. will subject themselves to the internal regulations of the Civilian Peace Camps and follow the instructions of the person responsible for the camp.
4. will also respect the life, customs, and decisions of the community or communities they will visit.
5. will distribute all public information to all possible media within their reach.

IV. Basic norms of behaviour in the Camps and the Indigenous Communities.
(for volunteers and observers)

1. To always respect the customs and daily life of the community.
2. Not to consume any kind of drugs or alcohol.
3. The person responsible of the Camp will deal with communications between the community(ies) and the observers and volunteers.
4. All the decisions in the Civilian Peace Camps will be taken as a group with the guidance and approval of the person responsible for said camp.
5. Not to respond or start any type of provocation.
6. Not to leave garbage in the Civilian Peace Camps and to try not to contaminate the environment.
7. Not to make promises of material help that could create false expectations in the people.
8. Any failure to comply with the regulations will be cause for expulsion from the Civilian Peace Camps and will be reported to the organization which provided the recommendation of the participant.

General Recommendations
1. Each volunteer and observer group will be responsible for taking all that is needed for their stay (food, medicines, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.)
2. To take necessary equipment to document their experience (tape recorder, video or photographic camera, paper and pen, etc.)
3. If they are foreign observers, to have a translator in their group if possible.
4. For volunteers: to provide a service or knowledge to the community during their stay (health, education, agriculture, construction, etc.)

Documents: It is always a necessity to have your documents.
Mexicans: Voters' card, professional identification, etc.
Foreigners: Passport and immigration documents.
For Everybody: Identification from the Coordination. To provide two pictures. One for the identification and another one for the records.

Recommendations of things volunteers should bring: 2-3 changes of clothes,
sleeping bag, blankets,
flashlight and batteries
or hammocks boots (for hiking)
insect repellent
personal hygine items
food utensils (not disposible)
garbage bags
can opener
toilet paper
hat/sun covering item
biodegradeable soap
raincoat, sweater
water purifier
water canteen

Do not bring political books or materials or anything that looks like a weapon

Rights and obligations of foreigners and nationals from the Constitution:
Article 1: In the Mexican United States all individuals will enjoy of the guarantees that this Constitution provides, which cannot be restricted or suspended except in cases that are established in it.
Article 11: All people have the right to enter the Republic, leave, or travel through its territory and to change residence, without need of a security letter, passport, safeconduct, or other similar requirements.
The exercise of this right is subordinate to the faculties of the judicial authority, in cases of criminal or civil responsibility, and to the administrative authority regarding the limitations imposed by the immigration laws, and public health of the Republic, or about pernicious foreigners residing in the country.

As you may have notice, in Mexico, foreigners have the same rights as Mexicans, regardless of their immigration status

Article 33: Foreigners have right to the guarantees provided in chapter I, first title, of the present Constitution (basic rights); but the Executive of the Union will have exclusive faculties to force the removal from the national territory, immediately and without previous trial, of any foreigner whose stay is consider inconvenient.

The foreigners will not, in any way, be able to get involved in the political affairs of the country.

If you came into the country, as a tourist, your immigration status is is non-immigrant and the activities that you can do will be for recreation, health, or artistic, cultural, or sports related reasons without renumeration or profit.

If the authorities cite some articles as argument to sanction you, demand the full quotation and that they show you the book they are referring to.
Do not offer information, only show your documentation when you are requested to do so.

Translated by Eduardo Vera, National Commission for Democracy in Mexico,

The National Commission for Democracy in Mexico will provide general coordination of this Peace Campaign in the United States. Please look for further information on the subject titled "US Chiapas Peace Brigades/ Camps" in the net. The coordinators will provide additional information and contacts. The project coordinators will provide coordination, so that each brigade member will have the same information. At the same time they will facilitate the contacts so brigade members can know about each other's presence in Chiapas, increasing support they can give to each other. Some members of the brigade may be asked to assume coordinating positions paricularly in San Cristobal, where new people may need to be welcomed and guided.

Individuals and committees are encouraged to participate and communicate any interests and questions to the project coordinators:
Eduardo Vera (512) 454-8097
Carmina Teran (713) 926-2786 phone (713) 926-2879 fax .

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