Despite the rapprochement of the Zapatistas and newly elected president Fox, tangible reforms and passage of an effective indigenous law replicating the 1996 accords in San Andreas. Congress did just pass a new indigenous law but took most of the key provisions such as territorial rights, community jurisdiction and mineral rights out of the law. Watered down to the extent that opposition (PRD) deputies walked out of the Congress during debates in protest.
There are still military in the beautiful hills around Acteal. On our drive up there we passed no military or immigration checkpoints, however we did see one convoy with minitank, humvee and solierfull truck doing a perimeter convoy. There was a military base set off the main road as you plunge down a steep rocky road that leads eventually to the displace community of Yibelho. They are playing soccer and volleyball and I scout way up in the hills a weight training rack set up in the shade of hillside tree canopies.
Unhappily, there is still conflict in Chiapas. There was a massacre of 7 campesinos the day that I arrived in Mexico. No other killings were reported during our stay. One area was too hot to go to meaning that paramilitary activity is too dangerous. A Norwegian peace keeper told us about 5 people from Yibelho beeing beaten up by drunken paramilitary as they walked from the paved road (very close to Acteal) to their community. Not only is there a military base nearby but the security police also have an encampment.
The situation in Chiapas is in a state of limbo as the situation concerning indigenous rights is churning in the wheels of Mexican politics. The Zapatour was a great success with over 3 million Mexicans reported to have rallied with it’s passage through 14 states. Fox is struggling to establish a strong identity with the PRI still entrenched in congress. The situation remains difficult.
A disturbing conversation concerned a newly proposed plan for the Puebla to Panama Zone, a little heard of globalization ploy that we were told to fill the whole of central america with low wage factories and other ‘enterprise’. We were told by reliable sources of indigenous communities refusing access to their lands for uranium mining, all part of this scheme.
Our tour was full of laughter and smiling eyes. The kids were in seventh heaven and so were we.