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Wellington activists for Juan Vázquez Guzmán and Zapatistas

Wellington group takes part in the “Week of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!”

by Julie Webb-Pullman
June 27, 2013

At lunchtime today members of the Wellington Zapatista Support held a candlelight vigil outside the Mexican Embassy in Wellington as part of the “Week of Worldwide Action: Juan Vázquez Guzmán Lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!”

After constructing a small shrine with flowers and candles in remembrance of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, an indigenous community leader assassinated in April, the group hand-delivered a letter to the Mexican Ambassador to New Zealand, demanding that Guzman’s killers be brought to justice, and an end to the blatant abuses of rights of the Tzeltal communities of San Sebastián Bachajón.

Grace Leung and Paul Bruce outside the Mexican Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Her Excellency Ms Rosaura Leonora Rueda Gutierrez
Embassy of Mexico

27 June 2013

Dear Madam

We, the Wellington Zapatista Support Group, have been following with concern Mexican Federal, State and Municipal responses to the civil resistance in defence of their land by the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents to The Other Campaign in the Agua Azul region of Chiapas.

Since 2007, the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón have suffered violence and repression at the hands of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)-backed authorities and paramilitary organizations. Their resistance to the take-over of Tzeltal traditional lands for transnational projects, particularly the site of the Agua Azul waterfalls which the ejidatarios have been responsibly and sustainably managing for many years, has placed them squarely in the firing line of those who seek to dispossess them of their lands for commercial gain.

Concerted attempts to break up the community and its resistance began in 2009, with the detention of eight ejidatarios and adherents to the Other Campaign by state and federal police, and the arrest and vicious assault of Ricardo Lagunes at a PRI paramilitary checkpoint after he left a meeting in Bachajón. Two years later in 2011, 117 ejidatarios were arbitrarily detained by police during an eviction attempt at the toll booth at the entrance to the Agua Azul area. Ten, including Pérez Álvaro, remained political prisoners for an extended period of time.

Physical violence and repression have been coupled with legal and judicial abuses, including court decisions denying the rights of ejidatarios, and their arrests and eviction in 2011 enabling authorities to take control of the collectively-owned lands.

The ongoing assaults on Bachajón autonomy culminated on the night of April 24, 2013 in the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán in the doorway of his home.

Guzmán, Secretary General of the three centres of the ejido since April 2010, was riddled with six bullets after answering his door – the assailant fled the scene in a red pick-up, and no-one has yet been charged with his murder.

Hugo Blanco, director of Peruvian magazine Lucha Indígena, this week noted the participation of the rogue state of Israel, notorious for its impunity for 65 years of crimes against humanity and human rights abuses of Palestinians, in assisting the Mexican state to repress its indigenous peoples in Chiapas. “So far there has been no progress in the investigations into the perpetrators of the crime; on the contrary, harassment and persecution are constant. A few days after the murder of Juan Vázquez Guzmán, Jorge Luis Llaven Abarca, Secretary of Security and Civil Protection in the State of Chiapas, announced the training that the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Mexico will provide for the local police,” he wrote.

This does not augur well, either for the bringing before justice of the killers of Juan Guzmán, or for the protection of the collectively-owned lands of the indigenous Tzeltal from the ‘tourarism’ being practised by transnational business interests.

In this, the “Week of Worldwide Action: Juan Vazquez Guzman Lives! The Bachajón struggle continues!” the Wellington Zapatista Support Group adds its voice to the international chorus demanding justice for Juan Vázquez Guzmán, and in support of the struggle of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón for their rights.

We demand:

1. a full investigation into the assassination of Juan Vázquez Guzmán in the doorway of his home on the evening of April 24, 2013, and punishment of those responsible;

2. The release of ejidatarios Antonio Estrada Estrada (prisoner in CERSS 17, Playas de Catazajá, Chiapas), Miguel Vázquez Deara (prisoner in CERSS 16, Ocosingo, Chiapas) and Miguel Demeza Jiménez (prisoner in CERSS 14, El Amate);

3. Respect for the right of the Tzeltal people of San Sebastián Bachajón to self-determination and to exercise their autonomy as stipulated in Agreement No. 169 regarding indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the San Andrés Accords, Document 1, 3. 1. Document 2, II, IV (2. 3.); Document 3.1 (c, d); Document 1, Principle of the New Relationship 5;

4. Respect for their right to use and enjoy their natural resources, which as indigenous peoples they have protected for centuries, as referenced in Agreement No. 169 regarding indigenous and tribal peoples in independent countries, pursuant to article 13.2 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and San Andrés Accords 1.4 B. 2.; Document 1, Principle of the New Relationship 2; and

5. The immediate withdrawal of all military, paramilitary, and police forces from the entire region, such that the natural and national treasure of Agua Azul is returned to the common ownership from which it has been wrested, and the rights of the ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón are upheld.


The Wellington Zapatista Support Group
“¡Juan Vázquez Guzmán Vive!”
“¡La Lucha de Bachajón Sigue!”


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