On April 24, the New York based Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) will launch several days of global action calling for the release of five indigenous Zapatista supporters, who are being held by the Mexican police in the state of Chiapas. The “Bachajón 5,” as they are called, were arrested on February 3 when approximately 300 state police raided a meeting of indigenous Zapatista supporters in San Sebastian Bachajón, Chiapas. One hundred and seventeen people were arrested. After intense international pressure, all were released but the “Bachajón 5,” who are facing serious charges; one is accused of murder, one of attempted murder, and all five are accused of “crimes against the peace.
Human rights organizations have called the arrests, intimidation and imprisonment a fabricated conflict to strip the community, particularly the Zapatistas, of their territorial rights.
“The State did not intervene to prevent confrontations. Instead, it planned a strategy for territorial control in the zone,” the Center for Human Rights Fray Bartholome de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico told reporter Kristin Bricker. “Territory is an essential element of a dignified life and the clear exercise of indigenous peoples’ collective rights run contrary to the business interests that the federal and state government have promised to private investors. Projects that benefit Mexican and foreign investors and cause poverty and death for residents.”
The Mexican government is looking to develop the region with many, potentially massive, multinational ecotourism projects. Bachajón, where the arrests took place, is located near the popular tourist destination of Agua Azul and the Mayan archeological site Palenque. According to leaked government documents, reported by Bricker, “the government plans to have multinational corporations build a multi-million dollar ecotourism hotel on indigenous land.”
The leaked “Palenque-Agua Azul Waterfalls Development Strategy” PowerPoint, which was prepared by a U.S. consulting firm, argues:
"The state and local government need to ensure that tourists that visit Chiapas and Palenque feel safe and protected. The Zapatista movement is still strongly associated with Chiapas . . . Many of those unfamiliar with the region still consider Chiapas to be unsafe . . . The state needs to protect the developers and hotel operators against the perception of political instability . . . Before attracting investments, the state must resolve land acquisition and access problems. The acquisition of lands adjacent to the waterfalls is vital.”
Earlier this month, the MJB called for the first “5 Days of Action for the Bachajón 5.”
However, on April 9 according to the newest MJB communiqué, more than 800 police and military officers again descended on the community. They violently displaced community members from Bachajón in order to control transportation in and out of the area. Three more people were disappeared.
According to anonymous first-hand testimony from one arrested member of the Bachajón 5, the prison conditions are deplorable:
“They only give us food and scarce amounts of water once a day, and we have gotten sick due to the horrible food that they give us. They do not provide any medication. And when our relatives visit us, they deny us the food that they have brought for us, and they force them to remove their clothing in order to be searched.”
From abroad, MJB—a member of the Otra Campaña and largely composed of Mexican migrants—has been leading the international fight to free the “Bachajón 5.”
The following is an excerpt from the April 10, 2011 MJB communiqué:
It is clear that all of these acts of aggression were provoked by the organized resistance of the people of Bachajón and by the national and international pressure that we generated via our solidarity actions during the “Worldwide Day of Action for the Liberation of the Political Prisoners of San Sebastian Bachajón” and “5 Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5.”
In agreement with this account, a letter recently released by the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, confirms that
“it is feared that the threats and acts of harassment they are suffering are the result of the solidarity actions which are taking place in support of the prisoners, in particular those of the campaign '5 Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5' which were held between the 1st and 5th of April 2011.”
In spite of the numerous threats and harassment, in spite of all the hordes of anti-riot helicopters and vans, our sisters and brothers of San Sebastián Bachajón have not given up. Rather, they are advancing in their struggle.
For this reason, we cannot give up either. We must not rest until our 5 brothers are in complete freedom and until the Bachajón community’s just demands are respected.
As such, we propose the following:
1) That we anticipate and remain vigilant for anything that happens. Likewise, that we be prepared to organize immediate, emergency actions if the bad government inflicts any form of violence upon the ejidatatri@s of San Sebastian Bachajón during the following weeks.
2) That we unite our forces once again to realize “5 MORE Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5” in order to continue fighting together to free the 5 political prisoners of San Sebastián Bachajón, who are adherents of The Other Campaign, and in support of the struggle for dignity and autonomy that the ejidatari@s of Bachajón are carrying out.
Through our solidarity actions, together, we were able to make echo the true history of the Bachajón people and their struggle to defend their lands and natural resources from the avarice of the multinational corporations and their political lackeys. Both of whom seek to dispossess the ejidatari@s from their tollbooth in order to seize the natural wealth that exists in the ejido’s territory. (The second video-message on this can be seen at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YRULc-2cBY)
Each time we come together to denounce and contest the bad government and neoliberalism that do all of this simply to accumulate more wealth, we create inalterable cracks in the walls of the prison that confines our five brothers. Now more than ever, we must continue to apply pressure so that these cracks turn into dust.
Once more, we invite each one of you, from every part of the world, in your own way, to realize actions to demand that the PRD governor and repressor Juan Sabines Guerrero immediately release each one of the five political prisoners.
We propose that together we join forces by organizing actions–from our respective locations and different forms of struggle—such as demonstrations, marches, informative street actions, flyering, public forums, theater, teach-ins, and any other activity to bring about:
"5 MORE Days of Worldwide Action for the Bachajón 5” from April 24th to the 28th.
We ask that you please let us know as soon as possible, if you accept our proposal and will participate. You may contact us via e-mail at:
We send you embraces of love and solidarity.
From El Barrio, NYC
Movement for Justice in El Barrio
The Other Campaign New York