Mexico News and Analysis: January 24 - 30, 2011


Bishop Samuel Ruiz, a staunch defender of indigenous rights in Chiapas and one of Mexico's few liberation theologists, died Monday in Mexico City at the age of 86.  Ruiz presided over a largely indigenous diocese in Chiapas for 40 years, but was removed by the Vatican in 2000 within days of reaching retirement age.  Indigenous parishioners filled the San Cristobal de las Casas cathedral on Tuesday for a memorial mass that also commemorated the 51st anniversary of his ordination.  Ruiz began his work in Chiapas in 1960 as a staunch conservative formed in the right wing Catholic church of Guanajuato and the Vatican.  He spent his first years touring indigenous communities and learning Mayan languages.  This experience, in combination with the growing influence of the Second Vatican Council in which he played a leading role, led him to build a popular church grounded in indigenous community and led by indigenous deacons.  By the 1970s, more than 8,000 catechists and 400 deacons were leading a church-based movement demanding equality and an end to poverty in eastern Chiapas.  Ruiz supported the general demands of the Zapatista movement, but clashed over the organization of an armed rebel group.  While opposed to the 1994 Zapatista uprising, Ruiz acted as intermediary in peace talks between the rebels and the federal government, where he won the disdain of PRI President Ernesto Zedillo.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) broke a two-year public silence to issue the following communiqué:

The Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee - General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation expresses its sorrow for the death of Emeritus Bishop Don Samuel Ruiz García.
In the EZLN there are people with different creeds and without any religious belief, but the human stature of this man (and of those who, like him, walk beside the oppressed, the dispossessed, the repressed, the despised) calls for our words.
Although our differences, disagreements, and distances were neither few nor minor, today we want to highlight a commitment and a trajectory not only of an individual, but of a whole current within the Catholic Church.
Don Samuel Ruiz García not only stood out for a Catholicism practiced in and with the dispossessed, but his team was also part of a whole generation of Christians committed to this practice in the Catholic religion. Not only did he worry about the grave situation of misery and marginalization of the original peoples of Chiapas, but he also worked with a heroic pastoral team to improve those disgraceful conditions of life and death.
That which governments purposely forgot in order to cultivate death, became a testimony of life in the diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
Don Samuel Ruiz García and his team not only made every effort to reach peace with justice and dignity for all indigenous peoples of Chiapas, they also risked and continue to risk their life, freedom, and goods on this path cut short by the arrogance of political power.
Even long before our uprising in 1994, the Diocese of San Cristóbal suffered harassment, attacks, and defamation from the Federal Army and the subsequent state governments.
At least since Juan Sabines Gutiérrez (remembered for the massacre of Wolonchan in 1980) and through General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, Patrocinio González Garrido, Elmar Setzer M., Eduardo Robledo Rincón, Julio César Ruiz Ferro (one of the authors of the Acteal massacre in 1997) and Roberto Albores Guillén (better known as "croquetas"), the governors of Chiapas harassed those who in the diocese of San Cristóbal opposed their murders and the management of the state as if it was an hacienda from the times of Porfirio Díaz.
Since 1994, during his work in the National Commission for Intermediation (CONAI) and in the company of women and men who made up this entity for peace, Don Samuel was pressured, harassed, and threatened, including assassination attempts by the paramilitary group ill-named "Paz y Justicia" (Peace and Justice).
And as president of the CONAI Don Samuel also suffered, in February 1995, the threat of imprisonment.
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, as part of a strategy of distraction (like the one carried out now) to hide the serious economic crisis in which he and Carlos Salinas de Gortari had sunken the country, reactivated the war against Zapatista indigenous communities.
At the same time as he launched a large military offensive against the EZLN (which failed), Zedillo attacked the National Commission for Intermediation.
Obsessed with the idea of getting rid of Don Samuel, the then president of Mexico, now an employee of transnational corporations, took advantage of the alliance that, under the tutelage of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Diego Fernández de Cevallos, had been created between the PRI and the PAN.
Those days, at a meeting of the high leadership of the Catholic Church, the then General Attorney, member of the PAN, and fanatic of the most ludicrous spiritism and witchcraft, Antonio Lozano Gracia, waved before Don Samuel Ruiz García a document with a warrant for his arrest.
And it is said that the attorney and graduate in Occult Sciences was confronted by the other bishops, among them Norberto Rivera, who came out in defense of the bishop of San Cristóbal.
The PRI-PAN alliance (which would later be joined in Chiapas by the PRD and the PT) against the progressive Catholic Church did not stop there. From the federal and state governments, attacks, slanders, and attempts were sponsored against members of the Diocese.
The Federal Army did not stay behind. At the same time as it financed, trained, and armed paramilitary groups, it promoted the discourse that the Diocese sowed violence.
The thesis at that time (repeated today by idiots of the left that sits behind a desk) was that the Diocese had formed the bases and leadership of the EZLN.
An example among many of these ridiculous arguments was when a general displayed a book as proof of the links between the Diocese and the "lawbreakers."
The title of the incriminating book is "The Gospel according to Saint Mark" (San Marcos).
Today these attacks continue.
The "Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas" Human Rights Center constantly receives threats and harassment.
In addition to having been funded by Don Samuel Ruiz García and being inspired by Christian beliefs, the "Frayba" has as "aggravating offenses" its belief in the Integrity and Indivisibility of Human Rights, respect for cultural diversity and the right of Self-Determination, integral justice as a requirement for peace, and the development of a culture of dialog, tolerance, and reconciliation with respect to cultural and religious plurality.
Nothing could be more vexing than these principles.
And this vexation reaches all the way to the Vatican, where maneuvers are made to split the diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in two, in order to dilute the alternative in, for, and with the poor, in the complaisance that launders consciences with money. Taking advantage of the death of Don Samuel, this project of control and division is reactivated.
Because up there they understand that the option for the poor does not die with Don Samuel. It lives and acts in that whole sector of the Catholic Church that decided to act in consequence with what it preaches.
In the meantime, the pastoral team, and especially the deacons, ministers, and catechists (indigenous Catholics from the communities) suffer slanders, insults, and attacks from the neo-lovers of war. Power continues yearning for its days of sovereignty and sees in the work of the Diocese an obstacle to reinstate its regime of the gallows and the knife.
The grotesque procession of personalities from the local and national political scene before the coffin of Don Samuel is not to honor him, but to confirm, with relief, that he has died; and the local media pretend to grieve what in reality they celebrate.
Beyond all these attacks and ecclesiastical conspiracies, Don Samuel Ruiz García and Christians like him had, have, and will continue having a special place in the dark-skinned heart of Zapatista indigenous communities.
Now that it has become fashionable to condemn the Catholic Church for the crimes, outrages, commissions and omissions of some of its prelates...
Now that the self-proclaimed "progressive" sector takes delight in mocking and ridiculing the entire Catholic Church...
Now that people are encouraged to see in every priest a potential or active pederast...
Now it would be good go back and turn our gaze downward, to find there those who, like before Don Samuel, stood up and continue to stand up to Power.
Because these Christians firmly believe that justice must also reign in this world.
And thus they live and die, in thought, word, and deed.
Because although it is true that there are Marcials and Onésimos in the Catholic Church, there were also Roncos, Ernestos, Samuels, Arturos, Raúls, Sergios, Bartolomés, Joels, Heribertos, Raymundos, Salvadors, Santiagos, Diegos, Estelas, Victorias, and thousands of clerics and laypersons who, standing on the side of justice and freedom, stand on the side of life.
In the EZLN, Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers, today we not only honor the memory of Don Samuel.
We also, and above all, salute the consequent commitment of Christians and believers who in Chiapas, Mexico, and the World, do not keep a complicit silence before injustice, nor do they remain idle in the face of war.
Don Samuel departs, but many others remain who, in and for the Catholic faith, struggle for an earthly world that is more just, freer, and more democratic, in other words, for a better world.
We salute them, because their endeavors will also give rise to tomorrow.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee - General Command of the EZLN.
Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, January 2011

The National Action Party (PAN) backed a Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate in Sunday's gubernatorial election in Guerrero, setting the stage for a possible center-right alliance in the 2012 presidential election.  President Felipe Calderon's original candidate, Marcos Parra Gomez, dropped out of the Guerrero race last week as the PAN threw its support behind Angel Aguirre of the PRD.  Parra was polling in the single digits, so the PAN had little to lose in supporting the PRD.  Aguirre leads in polls and is expected to defeat PRI candidate Manuel Anorve.  The Guerrero vote is the first in a series of six state elections leading to the presidential campaign in 2012.  The PAN-PRD association follows successful alliances in other states, most recently Oaxaca where the PRI had ruled for decades.  The next test case may be the February 6th gubernatorial election in Baja California Sur.
Probable PRI presidential candidate and current Governor of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto is leading all opposition contenders, and without a PAN-PRD alliance in 2012, the PRI is expected to win the presidential election handily.  The PAN and PRD are historically on the opposite sides of many political issues, and their uncomfortable electoral alliances are expected to increase an already high level of cynicism in Mexico over a political class driven more by power and access to corruption than political program.  There may be no better example than the Guerrero elections.  Aguirre belonged to the PRI until last year when he joined the PRD, even though he came under severe criticism from the PRD when he served as interim PRI governor in the late 1990s.  And Aguirre and Anorve are second cousins.
A Wikileaks document made public last week and written originally in August 2009 claims 4,952 Mexican troops received military training at US bases and within Mexican territory.  The information comes from an electronic database maintained since 1996 at the US Embassy's Office of Defense Coordination.  Research on the database was intended to show that members of the Zetas, one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels founded by former special forces troops, did not receive US training.  The search found one case in which a known Zeta member was trained at Fort Bragg, but concluded, "we cannot know the name of every Mexican soldier who has joined the Zetas."  The investigation did not take into consideration special forces who received US training that was subsequently passed along to other Mexican troops.
Already challenged In federal court over its anti-immigrant laws, Arizona legislators launched a new initiative this week that would criminalize the children of immigrants by denying citizenship to babies born in US territory to undocumented workers.  As many as a dozen other states are expected to follow, according to the State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a 40-state coalition founded by Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalf (R).  And two Republican Senators, David Vitter of Louisiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky, introduced legislation this week that would alter the 14th Amendment to the Constitution along similar lines.  These largely symbolic efforts will have little legal impact, as the Supreme Court most likely considers the legal questions settled in an 1898 case, but they certainly increase an already difficult social/political climate for undocumented workers.  In 2008, about 340,000 children were born in the US to undocumented immigrants, accounting for about 8% of the newborn population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mexico Monday with a strong support for the Calderon administration's war on drugs and human rights record, despite mounting human rights violations over the past four years.  Tensions have increased recently between the two neighbors over mild criticisms contained in US diplomatic reports made public by Wikileaks.  But the main agenda item appeared to be the 2012 presidential campaigns in both countries.  "Whenever we have electoral cycles that coincide, a lot of silly things are said on both sides of the border," said Mexico's Ambassador to Washington Arturo Sarukhan, who wanted to make sure campaign rhetoric "doesn't contaminate the relationship."  Sarukhan was apparently referring to the tendency of both Democrats and Republicans to look for scapegoats during electoral cycles, with Mexico often serving the function during economic downturns.  The political rhetoric in 2012 could impact the PAN's electoral hopes, particularly since Calderon closely linked his administration to Obama while making no progress on US immigration reform or weapons smuggling.
The Mexican subsidiary of German automaker Volkswagen announced a US$550 million investment this week in a new engine plant in Silao, Guanajuato.  The project is expected to generate 700 full time jobs.  Volkswagen, with a 50 year history in Mexico, pays as little as US$1.50 per hour for new hires, well below German wages.  The new factory will begin production in 2013 and plans to turn out 330,000 engines per year.  Volkswagen currently produces 435,000 vehicles a year in Mexico, most destined for the US market.