ricardo dominguez on Thu, 12 Sep 2002 12:06:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Farmers Declare Town Autonomous (SAN SALVADOR ATENCO, Mexico ) + more

Farmers Declare Town Autonomous
Wed Sep 11, 1:52 AM ET
By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

SAN SALVADOR ATENCO, Mexico (AP) - Radical farmers have declared this town
outside Mexico City to be autonomous, two months after they forced the
government to abandon plans for a new airport.

If Tuesday's declaration in San Salvador Atenco holds, it would be one of
the first "autonomous municipalities" outside of the southern state of
Chiapas, where Zapatista rebels run some towns.

"We are aware that that the government will not recognize this action by
the people, but they have no choice but to respect our decision," a new,
14-member People's Council said in a statement read at their swearing-in

Council members said Tuesday's declaration meant that police and
government officials would no longer be allowed to enter the town. They
said the decision was approved by voice-vote in neighborhood assemblies.

Government officials refused to comment on the move until the know more
about the situation.

Federal and state authorities have been kept out of San Salvador Atenco
since machete-wielding farmers erected barricades to protest the low price
the government offered for their land to build a new international

"What they have done is frankly illegal," said ousted Atenco Mayor
Margarito Yanez, who was forced from his office last fall, when federal
officials first proposed the new airport project.

In July, the farmers clashed with police, seized 15 hostages and launched
a five-day standoff that forced the government to cancel plans for the

Since then, radicals have seized almost any government vehicle that comes
near town and have kept order with "security patrols" armed with machetes
and steel pipes.

"They rule by intimidation, shouts and screaming," said Ruben Sanchez, 62,
a resident of the township who, like many here, is worried that "autonomy"
will mean an increase in crime and the loss of federal and state funds.

Sanchez said he knew of no one in his neighborhood who had been allowed to
vote for the council's members.

But resident Victor Manuel Mata said the majority of the town supports the
new council.

"They try to scare people with the word autonomous, but what it means that
the people's will is respected," the 33-year-old said. "It doesn't mean we
want to close ourselves off. The people are just going to decide how to
police the town."

The People's Council said that, unlike the Zapatistas, they would accept
state development funding. The Zapatistas' largely Indian rebel townships
refuse all contact with the government, including aid.

But the government is unlikely to give money to a town that has declared
itself in rebellion and allied itself with a motley array of Zapatista
supporters, anti-globalization activists and far-left groups.


Former French First Lady laments Court decision on Indian Rights law DPA -

Former French first lady Danielle Mitterrand expressed sadness Monday over
a Supreme Court decision upholding an Indian Rights law opposed by
Zapatista rebels and indigenous peoples across Mexico.

"We have learned with sadness about the decision," Mitterrand wrote in an
open letter printed in La Jornada daily. "[However], I and all of those
whom my voice represents tell civil society; the Zapatistas, that we will
continue to walk by your side."

The Supreme Court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by 330 indigenous
communities against the Indian rights law approved by Congress in April
2001. The court decided it could not overrule Congress in matters
pertaining to constitutional amendments.

The law was approved after President Vicente Fox pulled troops out of
southeastern Chiapas, the site of the short-lived Jan. 1994 Zapatista
rebellion, fought for indigenous rights. Fox also ordered the release of
nearly 100 insurgents upon taking office.

As a condition to return to peace talks, Zapatista leader "Subcommander
Marcos" had demanded the passage of a law that established respect for
native traditions as well as self-rule.

But the Senate approved only a watered-down law that sparked the anger of
Zapatistas and other indigenous groups


Subject: EFE,Indigenous groups protest "inadequate" legislation,Sep 10
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 07:11:37 +0200

Indigenous groups protest "inadequate" legislation EFE - 9/10/2002

Mexican indigenous groups and their supporters demonstrated Monday outside
the Supreme Court to protest the tribunal's ratification of an "Indian
rights" law rejected as inadequate by virtually all advocates for the
country's 10 million indigenous citizens.

The Court last week ruled out any changes in the law upon declaring
"inadmissible" the 330 constitutional challenges filed against it by
municipalities in states with the largest numbers of Indians.

Groups representing most of the nation's indigenous communities have
rejected the legislation, saying it does too little to guarantee
indigenous peoples' control over their resources, their autonomy or their
cultural patrimony.

The law was also repudiated by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, a
guerrilla organization in the southern state of Chiapas that supports
broader Indian rights.

The Zapatistas broke off contacts with the government with the approval of
the Indian law in April 2001. The guerrillas said the document "mocks"
indigenous peoples.

Activists gathered Monday in front of the Supreme Court to call on Indians
from all across the country to mobilize themselves against the law and
take part in a series of protests culminating in a huge demonstration on
Oct. 12, known in Latin America as "Dia de la Raza."

"It's a worrisome ruling due to the consequences it might bring," Jesus
Gonzalez, spokesman for the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Center for Human
Rights, said. "The resolution prompts confusion and uncertainty among
indigenous peoples vis-a-vis the government," he added.

The center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has announced its
plans to join in the protest and introduce a bill aimed at reforming the
constitutional changes incorporated in the controversial law.

The PRD made the decision "with an eye to the possibility that this might
spill over into violence, because the existence of armed groups in several
of the states is well known," Rene Lobato, the party's human right's
secretary, explained.

Chamber of Deputies head Beatriz Paredes said the Court's ruling will be
respected, noting that the Indian issue, nonetheless, "remains alive."

"There are alternative ways to go about it in terms of new initiatives,
new reforms and institutional agreement building," she said.

Different sectors of the Catholic church have urged officials to guarantee
respect for Indian rights and improve the living conditions of indigenous
peoples to avoid confrontations.

"Indian peoples deserve to have their cultures, their viewpoints and their
autonomy recognized," said the Mexican Bishopric's Social Pastoral
Commission, which has called for a new "national dialogue" on the Indian

"Indians, unfortunately, don't eat laws," said Cardinal Norberto Rivera,
archbishop of Mexico City.

While the law fails to satisfy all indigenous demands, it must be
respected if outbreaks of violence are to be avoided, said Felipe
Arizmendi, the bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

Arizmendi called on state legislatures to apply all necessary regulations
that would make the law "respond to the most basic needs and situations of
each ethnic group."

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