<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #33

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
Bem Vindos em Português!

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More Than 100 Families Retake their Communities

A Caravan of Supporters in Chiapas Accompanies the Zinacantán Refugees Back to their Homes

By Alex Contreras Baspineiro
Narco News South American Bureau Chief

April 27, 2004

Zinancantán, Chiapas, April 25, 2004: Most of the Zapatista faces are covered; through their ski masks and bandanas one can only see their eyes. Some let a tear escape those eyes, others keep their gaze fixed ahead, and others are clearly happy. Today, 101 indigenous families ejected from their villages by force on April 10 are returning home.

Zapatista children, men, and women return to their communities.
Photo: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
Around 11:40 AM, a caravan of more than a thousand people and dozens of vehicles arrived at the village of Pasté, in the municipality of Zinacantán. The people here greeted their returning Zapatista brothers and sisters with flowers and hugs, and accompanied them back to the simple country houses where they have always lived.

The first Zapatistas to return to their homes were from the community of Jechvó, near Pasté, and the site of the armed attack on Zapatista demonstrators on April 10. The caravan that accompanied them home included members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), together with many supporters from civil society.

As another demonstration of the “low-intensity warfare” going on here in the Mexican southeast, a Public Security Police helicopter flew overhead for the entire course of the caravan, while civilian agents known here as orejas (“ears”) filmed and photographed every participant in this peaceful mobilization.

“We want to say to our brothers who are not Zapatistas, and belong to different political parties, that we, the Zapatistas, do not want to fight against our own indigenous brothers, from the same town and the same municipality as ourselves,” declared a Zapatista soldier, reading a communiqué from the Oventik Good Government Council. “We do not bother anybody, we do not offend anybody, but rather, we respect all, without regard to their political party, organization, or religion. But we also want you to respect us and to respect our struggle and our resistance.”

The soldier said that while they may have been driven from their communities; while they may have problems with members of certain political parties, or with the municipal or federal government, they will continue organizing for autonomy.

A boy and his mother in the autonomous municipality of Jechvó.
Photo: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
Throughout the entire day, the nearly 500 Zapatistas – from 101 families – returned to their hometowns. Nineteen families were from Elambó Alto, thirty-three from Elambó Bajo, fourteen from Apaz and thirty-five from Jechvó. Silent and anonymous, disciplined and marching in columns, they came home.

On April 10, when the Zapatistas and their supporters held a demonstration in the town of Pasté to demand their rights, such as access to potable water, they were ambushed by hundreds of police and supporters of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) – the party which controls the municipality. On that day, 35 Zapatistas were injured, some by firearms. The rest were forced to flee into the mountains. But in the 15 days they were surviving out there, they got organized and returned to take back their lands.

Support from Civil Society

The caravan to support the Zapatistas began its procession today in the outskirts of the city of San Cristóbal de las Casa around 9:00 in the morning. Journalists from Mexico and around the world, activists, human rights workers, environmentalists and other supporters joined with EZLN representatives to accompany the refugees.

Foto: Alex Contreras Baspineiro, D.R. 2004
An hour later, at the Zacualpa ranch, dozens of Zapatista children, women, men and elderly that had been hidden were picked up in several vehicles to be taken home.

The members of the Oventik Good Government Council, known as the “central heart of the Zapatistas before the world,” led the procession. The members of civil society gave them their unconditional support.

As the caravan passed, along the sides of the highway stood indigenous people and police, watching, silently.

Lola, an activist here to support the caravan, said that outside organizations support the EZLN because of the challenge they have posed to neoliberalism and imperialism.

In the multipart communiqué “Chiapas: The Thirteenth Stele,” which the Zapatistas released last summer, they recognize that all the improvements in Zapatista lands are not only products of their own work, but also the work of civil society.

One peace activist described the relationship between civil society and the EZLN as a bridge. The bridge, she says, goes both ways, as proposals and answers go back and forth between the two. The Zapatistas have recognized the work of the Mexican people in creating an international grassroots support network.

In today’s caravan, that network not only supplied vehicles to transport the displaced Zapatistas, but also food, water, and medical supplies.

Thousands displaced

Although no one knows exactly how many Zapatistas have been displaced over the years in the state of Chiapas, many estimate that they number more than ten thousand. The ambush at Pasté is just one more abuse they must suffer as they struggle for a better world. Previously, the Zapatistas have met confrontations all over their territory. They have faced beatings, threats of expulsion from their communities, unjust arrests and the destruction of homes and farms.

When Narco News visited the town of Pasté on April 21, a Zapatista told us that they would no longer be “like caged animals” – that they did not believe in the ideology of the PRD or any other political party, and would support only the EZLN. It is this stance against the party system that has generated so many problems for them.

Juan, an old Zapatista from Elambó Alto, said that that although they have suffered human rights abuses, the Zapatistas want to continue their struggle for democracy, liberty and justice for all.

“We want to create a new society,” he told us.

In this area, the Zapatistas are still a minority, but they have already build an autonomous health clinic, a school, and their own justice system based on their indigenous customs. The Mexican government’s law does not exist for them; they have their own rules and standards of living.

Roberto, one of the representatives of the Oventik Good Government Council, said that the Zapatistas returning to their communities today would continue to strengthen their autonomous municipalities here in the state of Chiapas. From the local governments, all they get are broken promises.

“The government wants to keep deceiving us, and doesn’t have the will to carry out the San Andrés Accords,” he said. (The San Andrés Accords were a peace agreement signed by the government and the Zapatistas in 1996, on which the government later reneged.) “That’s why we, as Zapatistas, continue our fight and continue to obey the will of the people.”

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America