JUNE 9-15, 2008

1. ZAPATISTAS SUFFER CONTINUING MILITARY AGGRESSIONS
2. OAXACA DEMONSTRATIONS
3. THREE MILLION MINORS WORK IN RURAL AREAS
4. MEXICO DENIES SALMONELLA PROBLEM
5. PAN REPLACES HEAD OF SENATE


1. ZAPATISTAS SUFFER CONTINUING MILITARY AGGRESSIONS
The Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center issued a stinging report this week accusing government officials of waging a campaign of low intensity warfare against indigenous communities in Chiapas.  The report documents a series of military and police actions that are patently inconsistent with the official justification of searching for marijuana fields and clandestine landing strips.  Among the incursions were:  
April 27:  Five hundred police officers guided by seven local paramilitary members entered the community of Cruzton, ostensibly to execute arrest warrants.
May 19-20: The army accompanied by local and federal police entered San Jeronimo Tulija and the Zapatista autonomous community of Ricardo Flores Magon where they burglarized three houses.  The operation was most likely an effort to gather intelligence, including the location of Zapatista leadership and meeting places.
May 22: The army installed checkpoints near the communities of 28 de Junio and San Jose in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza
May 23:  Residents of five communities in the municipality of Tila reported the installation of roving military checkpoints in the region.  On the same day, Air Force reconnaissance flights were reported near Ocosingo.
May 27: Residents of the ejido Nuevo Chamizal reported a large contingent of police, army troops and officials from the Federal Attorney General in the region.  On the same day, two small communities in the Montes Azules region were displaced by police, army troops and officials from the Federal Attorney General.
May 29:  Residents of El Carrizal near Ocosingo reported army troops and federal and state police tried to enter the community. 
June 4: The Junta of Good Government in La Garrucha denounced an attempted incursion by a military convoy accompanied by federal and local police and officials from the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) in four Zapatista communities.  When residents prevented the convoy from entering the communities, army officials threatened to return in 15 days with an even larger force.


2. OAXACA DEMONSTRATIONS
Demonstrations coordinated by Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) continued this week despite an agreement reached last week with SNTE President Elba Esther Gordillo calling for new statewide union elections in September.  The dissident Section 22 has always challenged the leadership of Gordillo, one of the most corrupt and powerful union leaders in Mexico.  Last year Gordillo created Section 59 of the SNTE to compete against Section 22, but her efforts never took hold in more than a few schools.  Now Gordillo is praising the agreement with Section 22 as an example of diversity in the SNTE, Latin America’s largest union with about 1.3 million members.  Despite the agreement, Section 22 continued a month-long series of road blockades and occupation of the center of Oaxaca City in a virtual renewal of demonstrations that rocked the state in 2006.  The SNTE is demanding release of political prisoners from the 2006 demonstrations, removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz and revocation of dozens of arrest warrants stemming from the 2006 movement.  The demonstrations culminated on Saturday when tens of thousands of teachers and APPO members took to the streets in commemoration of the second anniversary of the ineffective police invasion of Oaxaca City on June 14, 2006.


3. THREE MILLION MINORS WORK IN RURAL AREAS
At least three million children, including at least a million under the age of 14, are employed as jornaleros (temporary day laborers) tending or harvesting fruits and vegetables in Mexico’s northern rural areas, according to the National Campesino Confederation (CNC).  Children provide up to 35% of some family incomes, but don’t attend school as a result of their work schedules.  Many children work ten or twelve hour days and are paid as little as 20 pesos, well below the minimum wage of 48 pesos per day, according to the CNC.  Most of the children are employed on large farms that produce for export to the US market.  In northern and northwestern states, children between the ages of 6 and 14 make up 27% of the rural workforce.


4. MEXICO DENIES SALMONELLA PROBLEM
Mexican growers complained bitterly this week after US officials warned that certain types of tomatoes grown south of the border may be contaminated with salmonella.  Growers were particularly distraught because officials offered no proof of the assertion.  No salmonella problems have been reported in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico’s largest tomato producing region.  Mexico’s tomato industry is worth US$900 million per year, and the warning brought cross-border sales to a virtual halt.  The US Food and Drug Administration is searching for the source of a salmonella outbreak linked to three types of raw tomatoes that affected 167 people in 17 states since mid April.  It has cleared imports from six countries, but not Mexico, which sends 80% of its tomato exports to the US market.  Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and other animals.  The disease, which can cause vomiting and high fevers, is usually transmitted when humans eat food contaminated with animal feces.


5. PAN REPLACES HEAD OF SENATE
In a surprise move, the National Action Party (PAN) replaced Santiago Creel as the leader of the party in the Senate this week.  Gustavo Madera, a close ally of President Felipe Calderon, will replace Creel.  The change came as the PAN finds itself increasingly isolated over Calderon’s plans to privatize PEMEX, the national petroleum monopoly.