In Chiapas, a Response to the Violence Against Atenco
The Struggle of Other Campaign Adherents Against the Police Invasion of their Rural Communities Inspires a Demonstration and Other Actions in San Cristóbal
By Giovanni Proiettis
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Chiapas
May 4, 2006
SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS: No one had to wait for a reaction to the events in San Salvador Atenco, where a brutal police intervention has just led to a teenage boy’s death, dozens of seriously wounded, and about 100 arrested. In San Cristóbal de las Casas, the city closest to the Zapatistas’ highland bases in Chiapas, adherents to the other campaign — calling themselves the “Other Jovel,” after the indigenous name for the city — held a demonstration on Thursday afternoon in the central Cathedral Plaza.
In a document released to the public and the media, the group reports speaks of “the state and federal governments’ violent actions against the people of San Salvador Atenco, which are now registered among the systematic aggressions against the people of Atenco, starting with the federal government’s attempt to build an international airport there in 2002.”
Four years ago, Atenco’s swinging machetes caught the attention of the world’s press and townspeople were able to halt construction of the airport in Texcoco. This project would have expropriated 4,500 hectares of cultivated land for the ridiculous compensation of six pesos (about 55 cents) pero square meter.
Since then, the farmers of San Salvador Atenco have come to be a living symbol of the popular struggles. They have built an autonomous municipality and adhered to the Other Campaign, strengthening their ties to the Zapatistas. And the state and federal governments have never forgiven this, waiting until now to manifest their aggression.
On May 1, the people of Atenco had once again captured public attention as Subcomandante Marcos’ security escorts in that day’s huge demonstration. One more reason, according to those “from above,” to punish them.
The most offensive thing during this critical situation that is happening less than two months away from the July 2 elections is the behavior of the mass media — printed and electronic — who try to portray the Atenco farmers as “an isolated violent minority.” The media brand the farmers’ solidarity with the Texcoco flower vendors as a “criminal plan” and call for a tough hand against the local people, ignoring the boy murdered by police.
Javier Cortés Santiago, 14, was killed by a tear gas canister shot at his chest. Another boy of 16, according to news sources, is in critical condition. There are also many other farmers and police that were seriously injured.
The true intentions — which can now be seen with total clarity — were to break up the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Earth by imprisoning its leader Ignacio del Valle (who pushed for dialog while the authorities shut him out) after a brutal beating. Dozens of other farmers from Atenco and nearby areas were jailed along with Ignacio del Valle, guilty of resisting police aggression. Not even the reporters from the pro-government media have been safe in the face of the cops’ ferocity.
The responsibility for this new attack on a popular movement is shared by Texcoco mayor Nazario Gutiérrez (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD in its Spanish initials), Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), and President Vicente Fox and his administration (National Action Party, PAN).
Upon learning of these events, Delegate Zero suspended the Other Campaign, announcing a Red Alert and the closure of the five Caracoles (Zapatista base communities in Chiapas). He declared the Zapatistas’ solidarity with the Atenco farmers and invited all the adherents to the Other Campaign to fight against this, the latest of countless acts of state violence.
The members of the Other Jovel demanded during their demonistration:
- That the agreesions against the people of San Salvador Atenco be ceased.
- The immediate release of the men and women in jail, and the complete removal of the government forces that are invading our compañeros’ land.
- That the corporate media stop manipulating us with their disinformation strategy of constantly placing value judgments, and that they respect our right to true information with context.
- A call to civil, national and international society to express its solidarity with the people of San Salvador Atenco and its repudiation of repression, through peaceful actions.
An improvised assembly of about a hundred adherents to the Other Campaign – most of them young people and students – discussed , in the San Cristóbal Cathedral plaza, despite the rain, what forms of struggle to use: roadblocks, an information campaign directed to local media and civil society, or citizen marches involving the entire population.
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