Tuesday, 17 December 2013
LASC, Dec. 2013: Background
Bill Jungels spoke about the economic crisis for Mayan campesinos in Highland Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost, poorest and most indigenous State. The corn crop on which they depend for a large part of their diet failed and they are forced to buy their corn. Coffee sold at a very low price (about 70 cents a pound for those lucky enough to have a small plot) eliminating a main source of cash. And sales of women’s weavings have been off due to recession in places like the U.S. where they hope to get a just price for their work.
In this context there has been a heating up of paramilitary activity, with people being violently forced off uncultivated land they occupied in the wake of the 1994 Zapatista uprising. From Puebla, township of Chenalho, 98 persons have been forced to flee to Acteal (in the same township) site of the 1997 massacre of 45 unarmed members of the Catholic organization, the Abejas (Bees). Most of those who fled are Catholics who were trying to rebuild a church. Some fear that things could escalate to new mass killings by paramilitaries. In Chiapas religious and political affiliating often go together and those driving the people out are from protestant sects allied with the PRI, the most powerful and corrupt party in Mexico. Padre Manuel, the Catholic pastor of Chenalho was held by the paramilitaries for four hours, beaten and threatened with having gasoline poured on him and being set on fire. The 98 people who fled to Acteal are living in sub-human conditions crowded into a very small dwelling and sharing a single kitchen (where food is cooked over an open wood fire).
To purchase weavings from 3 cooperatives: http://www.weaving-for-justice.org
For information and actions on human rights violations in Chiapas, including the Puebla incidents: http://www.frayba.org.mex (English and Spanish available, with some documents only in Spanish. For the Puebla conflict look on the Spanish site under “Acciones Urgentes”)