FEBRUARY 4-10, 2008

1. ZAPATISTAS RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER TORTURE
2. CCIODH VISITS CHIAPAS
3. PARAMILITARIES ACCUSED OF KIDNAPPING AND THREATS
4. PROPERTY OWNERS INHIBIT CONSTRUCTION OF BORDER WALL
5. UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER VISITS MEXICO
6. CONGRESS AGREES ON NEW IFE MEMBERS


1. ZAPATISTAS RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER TORTURE
Before daylight Friday morning, a judge ordered the release of two Zapatista civilians who were falsely arrested and tortured by police affiliated with paramilitary groups in the area around Betel Yochip located along the Ocosingo-Palenque highway near Agua Azul.  Police working in close coordination with the paramilitary group Organization in Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic) arrested Eliseo Silvano Jimenez and his son, Eliseo Silvano Espinosa, on February 1, accusing them of stealing money from a bus driver.  Over the ensuing week, the two suffered torture, including savage beatings, application of teargas at close quarters, plastic bags placed over their heads to simulate suffocation, severe burns on the back from an unknown substance, and genital beatings.  The father also suffered a gunshot wound to the foot.  The abuse was so severe that a local judge finally stepped in and ordered the two released, an uncommon occurrence in the Mexican legal system.  During the torture sessions, police produced a signed “confession” that included obviously invented language such as: “We are delinquents.  We like to go around armed.”  The case demonstrates the close cooperation between police and paramilitaries trying to displace Zapatista communities from their land in the Agua Azul region.


2. CCIODH VISITS CHIAPAS
The International Civil Commission for Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH) arrived in Chiapas this week with more than fifty representatives from Europe and the United States.  The Commission visited Acteal, the five Zapatista Juntas of Good Government, and several hot spots where paramilitaries have been threatening Zapatista communities. 

The CCIODH reported on the ongoing, though largely ineffective, investigation of the decade-old Acteal massacre in which paramilitaries assassinated 45 indigenous civilians.  Although Governor Juan Sabines created a special investigator for the case, “there has no significant advance in the investigation.  The arrest of certain individuals, the review of administrative sanctions, and the signing of agreements with the community without clarifying the truth of what happened are simply political acts of a symbolic character that are not useful for the advance of justice.”  The CCIODH reported Chiapas continues to suffer from social dynamics “characterized by a profound inequality and exclusion” that affect the majority of the population.  The process of autonomy promoted by Zapatista communities “is, without a doubt, the most advanced example” of organization “generating spaces for social, economic and political participation.”  The CCIODH is scheduled to visit Oaxaca next week.


3. PARAMILITARIES ACCUSED OF KIDNAPPING AND THREATS
Members of a civilian human rights observation team organized jointly by the Center for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigation (Capise) and the Latin American Peace and Justice Service (Serpaj-AL) brought formal charges against five members of the paramilitary group Opddic for kidnapping and threats.  On December 30 the human rights observers tried to enter Bolon Ajaw, a Zapatista community under siege by Opddic in recent months.  Five members of Opddic, identified as Juan Cruz Lopez, Adolfo Cruz Lopez, Manuel Cruz Lopez, Samuel Moreno Estrada and Adolfo Moreno Estrada, blocked the human rights team on a public highway and threatened them with a pistol.  The formal legal complaint includes a fifteen minute video showing the five paramilitaries blocking the highway, threatening to “fuck you over, you sons of bitches,” and flattening the tires of the vehicle transporting the human rights observers.


4. PROPERTY OWNERS INHIBIT CONSTRUCTION OF BORDER WALL
More than 100 property owners along the US-Mexico border are refusing to allow federal officials access to their lands in preparation for the construction of a 700-mile border wall.  Seventy-one of the property owners are from Texas.  Legal proceedings initiated by the property owners challenge the ability of the federal government to confiscate lands and significantly alter current land uses.  More than 200 US property owners may be negatively affected by the wall.  The mayor or Eagle Pass called the wall “a violation of property rights.”  Eagle Pass is one of several dozen urban areas along the border that are scheduled for wall construction this year.  More than 300 miles of the planned 700 mile wall are already built.


5. UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER VISITS MEXICO
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, spent the week in Mexico calling on the Calderon administration to combat femicides in Ciudad Juarez, end the assassination of journalists, and prosecute child pornography rings and sexual abuse of minors with the same vigor and commitment of resources dedicated to the fight against drug cartels.  The government must “invest whatever is necessary to strengthen civil institutions and combat the corruption that exists among the police,” said Arbour in a statement released on Friday.  Arbour also called for civilian oversight of the war on drugs.


6. CONGRESS AGREES ON NEW IFE MEMBERS
Congress unanimously agreed this week on three new members of the largely discredited Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) which validated fraudulent presidential elections in 2006.  The three major parties – PAN, PRI and PRD – came to a surprise agreement after months or wrangling.  An unusual alliance between the PAN and the PRD gave Leonardo Valdez Zurita the presidency of the IFE.  Valdez was previously a member of the Federal District Electoral Institute, a position from which he cast several votes supporting PAN positions and in opposition to former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  He is widely seen as a PAN supporter.  The faction of the badly divided PRD that supports Lopez Obrador, the National Democratic Left, condemned the appointment.  Marco Banos, a member of the PRI old guard, and Benito Nacif, a close friend of the discredited former IFE president Carlos Ugalde and a supporter of President Felipe Calderon, were appointed unanimously to the other two open positions.