JULY 7-13, 2008

JULY 7-13, 2008

1. ZAPATISTA ECOLOGICAL RESERVE UNDER ATTACK
2. DISSIDENT TEACHERS CREATE PARALLEL LEADERSHIP
3. PRD CALLS FOR UNITY ON ENERGY REFORM
4. SEDENA ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES


1. ZAPATISTA ECOLOGICAL RESERVE UNDER ATTACK
The Zapatista’s self-declared environmentally protected area in Huitepec, located above one of the regions most important aquifers, is coming under increasing attack by the Mayor of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mariano Diaz.  On Friday, Diaz offered urban development funds to a neighboring community if they would join in opposition to the Zapatista’s environmental efforts, part of an ongoing campaign to free up the land for “development.”  The Community Ecological Reserve, which covers 200 acres, was in danger of being despoiled by illegal logging, overuse of fresh water, and urban development before the Zapatistas declared a protected zone in 2007.  Since then, the Junta de Buen Gobierno planted 2,000 trees in deforested sectors, and animals are beginning to return to the area.


2. DISSIDENT TEACHERS CREATE PARALLEL LEADERSHIP
Dissident members of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) formed a parallel leadership council during their First Grassroots Congress in an effort to challenge the power of current union president Elba Esther Gordillo.  Sergio Espinal Garcia, former general secretary of Section 18 in Michoacan, was unanimously elected general secretary of the dissident faction.  The parallel structure will not seek formal recognition from the Calderon administration, which in any case would be unlikely.  The First Grassroots Congress included teachers from eight states, but did not include representatives from the most militant elements of the SNTE in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Section 9 of the Federal District.  The First Grassroots Congress wants to maintain union unity, even in the face of widely acknowledged corruption by Gordillo and her family who exercise firm control over SNTE finances and politics.  The more radical dissident factions are calling for the formation of a separate independent union.  The SNTE is the largest union in Latin America with about 1.3 million members.

In related news, on July 1 Gordillo imposed Maria Perez as general secretary of the dissident Section 9 in the Federal District.  The “election” was held in the patio of an obscure home on the north side of the city, attended only by allies of Gordillo after the union president was unable to buy enough votes for her chosen candidate through distribution of housing credits and other favors.  President Carlos Salinas de Gotari appointed Gordillo president of the SNTE in 1989, and she has exercised near dictatorial control over the union ever since.  She led the PRI bank of Congress during part of the Fox administration, but always maintained close relations with the PAN president.  She broke with the PRI during the 2006 elections, forming her own political party.  Gordillo is largely responsible for the manipulations of the 2006 presidential election that brought Calderon to power.  Calderon re-paid Gordillo by appointing one of her family members as assistant Secretary of Education.  She is widely seen as one of the most corrupt union officials in the history of Mexico.


3. PRD CALLS FOR UNITY ON ENERGY REFORM
Guadalupe Acosta, the interim president of the PRD, proposed a meeting this week with leaders of the PRI and PAN to discuss a unified approach to energy reform.  Acosta represents the faction of the PRD aligned with Jesus Ortega, a group that has been willing to negotiate with the Calderon administration in the past.  Elements of the PRD aligned with former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador refuse to recognize Calderon as the legitimate president.  On Saturday, Lopez Obrador called on Calderon to withdraw his energy reform proposal that would privatize and allow foreign control of large segments of the petroleum industry.


4. SEDENA ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
On Friday, the Federal Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued a report on eight new cases of military abuse and torture.  In one case, army troops shoved splinters of wood under the finger and toenails of an immigrant caught near the US border, then forced him to drink large amounts of alcohol by forcing a tube down his throat.  They left him passed out in the Sonora desert, but miraculously he survived.  In a separate case, troops applied electric shocks to the testicles of two men and to the stomach of a third while searching their homes without warrants during drug sweeps in Michoacan.  Other cases include assassinations, torture, arbitrary detentions, robbery, and warrantless home searches.  High ranking officials, including lieutenants, captains and a major, are among the accused. The Secretary of National Defense (Sedena) called the incidents “lamentable” and promised to investigate.  Two military officials and ten soldiers are already before military tribunals in connection with three of the cases.  The army does not recognize the jurisdiction of civilian courts in cases of human rights abuses by troops.  President Calderon has sent more than 25,000 troops into at least nine states in his highly publicized war on drugs.  The CNDH has documented a total of 634 complaints against the army since Calderon took office in December, 2006, with three-quarters of the complaints linked to the war on drugs.