Human rights organisations have warned that the population of nearly 200 Zapatista supporters in the Chiapas highland indigenous community of San Marcos Aviles, in Mexico, are at serious risk of violent assault and displacement. The threats made against them have increased sharply since the Mexican elections in July.
The aggressors are government supporters organised in paramilitary-style groups, heavily armed with shotguns, rifles and pistols. They are specifically threatening the women and children. They have already stolen land, crops and livestock from the community, leaving them without a food supply. Human rights observers report that the situation is one of siege, and that families are heavily traumatised.
San Marcos Aviles has been living this nightmare since August 2010, following the construction of an autonomous Zapatista school.
Attacks escalated until October 2010 when 170 women, men and children fled the community seeking refuge on a nearby mountain for about a month. They lived exposed to the elements – under pieces of plastic sheeting, sleeping on the ground in the mud without any basic necessities. One displaced person described the situation: ‘We had no tortillas [corn bread] to eat. We had no pozol [cornmeal-based beverage] to drink. For 33 days we were wet, cold and hungry. During this period two of the women gave birth.’
The Zapatista good government council (JBG) of Oventic stated: ‘Our compañer@s from San Marcos Aviles are suffering this violence because they are indigenous, because they are Zapatistas, and because they have opened their own autonomous school.’
A San Marcos Aviles community member said: ‘We attach great importance to the autonomous school. We want a good education for our children, good learning, a good example. We see that the government has its schools, but it is not good education, nor do they teach our children well. They do not provide good learning, and what they teach has nothing to do with us. So we opened our school.’
After 33 days of displacement, in autumn 2010, neighbouring communities and the local human rights centre accompanied the San Marcos Aviles Zapatistas back to their homes. They found that their dwellings, belongings, fields of corn, beans, bananas, sugar cane and coffee, and their few chickens and cattle had been destroyed or stolen.
For the last two years the Zapatistas of San Marcos Aviles have lived in a state of trauma and terror, enduring constant threats, violations and insults. In July and August this year, the situation intensified to the point where a repetition of the events of 2010, or worse, is feared at any time.
The Zapatistas of San Marcos Aviles and the good government council of Oventic have called for solidarity. In the August call to action their supporters say: ‘We stress here that these attacks are not isolated incidents, but rather are integral components of the prolonged war of extermination that the bad government of Mexico, together with capitalist interests, has carried out for the past 18 years to wipe out the Zapatista movement and all it has given to the world.
‘The objectives of this war have been and remain to continue the colonial project and destroy at any cost indigenous autonomy and resistance, and take over their ancestral lands, and in this way, exploit for the exclusive benefit of those from above the natural resources with which our Mother Earth provides us.
‘Repression, violence, and death are meted out by the bad government of Mexico to those who resist this, who defend their lands, their identities, their cultures, and autonomy – their very existence’.
The UK Zapatista Network and New York City’s Movement for Justice in the Barrio among others are supporting San Marcos Aviles’ urgent call for support.