A human rights observers’ account from Chiapas

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By Jon Singer, ROAR Collective

A human rights observer reflects on his experiences in the Zapatista communities, where ordinary people try to build autonomy in a context of conflict.


By John Singer

Before you start reading, I want to clarify one thing: do not expect a precise analysis of the Zapatista movement, neither a clear-cut theoretical writing which considers the pros and cons of human rights watch. I can not write that. I have been to Chiapas for the first time this year and have lived there for nearly five months. This report will be more like a collection of thoughts, rather than a straight thesis.

Most of my time in Chiapas I spent working as a volunteer with the Human Rights Center “Fray Bartolomé de las Casas” (FrayBa). FrayBa started its work with the Civil Observation Brigades for Peace and Human Rights (BriCO) back in 1995 when both the EZLN and its civilian supporters were massively attacked by the state and its army forces. Directly after the Zapatista uprising in 1994 the Mexican government started to react with the military troops which were at that time available (about 17.000 soldiers) and culminated its efforts in the beginning of 1995 with a huge invasion in the Zapatista territory, including the Lacandon Jungle.

Since then, their tactics have changed but the troops are still there undertaking patrols and making their presence clear. But nowadays they are part of the wider tactic of so called “low intensity warfare”, which includes not only military forces but also the effort to split the civilian supporters by offering them money or houses, provided that these former EZLN supporters drop their fight for a better life. In the face of a very rough living situation, the ongoing deaths of kids in regions which are far away from medical attendance, and the overall difficult conditions, the government’s offers fall on good ground because people simply need to survive — if not them, at least their kids. Read More


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