INFORMATION CENTRE AND ANALYSIS OF CHIAPAS (CIACH)

The magazine Palabra Created in the mid-eighties in the South East of Mexico, CIACH publishes a monthly magazine La Palabra broadcast in the indigenous rural communities, it organizes discussions in communities and also disseminates information on the Net. Ostensibly, even if no contact directly with the Zapatista rebellion, the CIACH supports its claims and participates in the process of asserting political, cultural and social Indians. He maintains regular contact and association with the”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. A commitment to it being now a target of the authorities in the tense situation in Chiapas.

  • The role of CIACH
  • Indian rights
  • Resumen Informativo
  • Palabra the Internet
  • With civil society
  • Funding and perspectives
  • Contact

The role of CIACH

Located almost at the end of the long narrow street Flavio Paniagua as far back from the main avenue that connects the Parque Central in San Cristobal de Las Casas in his local market of India, the current offices of CIACH are both close and back to the center of the city… Close enough not to feel too far away from the heart of the colonial city around key locations that ensures the future of the region, far enough away as to enjoy a certain peace of mind essential to the work.

In What made ​​these offices the monthly La Palabra (speech), distributed in thirty municipalities of the State of Chiapas in the central region of Altos around the colonial city and tourist center of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in La Selva and valleys where now lives a large part of the Mayan Indian population, and the north of the state.”In recent years, information has become a strategic area for the government and the army, says Elizabeth Polito Barrios, head of CIACH. More than ever, they intend to control it. As long as in the source distribution. They have their own version of the current state and they impose by whatever means. This ensures the”loyalty” of the major media – newspapers, radio and television – but also, and even worse, by intimidating the independent media that do not comply.” In short, the Centre has an independent certainly not the favor of the authorities, like many other actors of civil society Chiapas. The CIACH is defined as”a media open to the outside and serving the people and Indian and peasant organizations in the region”. It’s objectives? Informed of what’s really going on in Chiapas, “bringing in communities and grassroots elements that help in the analysis of reality” and “help raise people’s participation in making decisions that concern”. The government has the will to suppress the attempts to change data in the region. In particular, when they come from the Indian communities themselves. All independent organizations that want to give voice to the excluded are viewed by the government as obstacles to be swept or accused of all evils. Evidenced by the smear campaigns that the organizations most claims have been victims in the media when it is not harassment or even open repression…

Modestly but continuously, with ups and downs, the work of CIACH is therefore to cope. To participate, against all odds and from his work on information, self-organization of rural Indian communities and the articulation of popular movements independent. Meetings for analysis and discussion are organized in villages or with representatives of farmers’ organizations, or Indian human rights. From the themes developed in La Palabra – land distribution, marketing of coffee, elections, etc.. – And experience that each organization or individual can have, participants try to understand their social, political and economic and increase their ability to act on it.

Indian rights

The situation is not rosy every day for the campesinos (peasants) in Chiapas, especially for Mayan Indians, the majority in this part of the state where the work CIACH. Majority but obviously forgotten in the distribution of wealth in the region. And, for more than five hundred years! Very rich in natural resources (wood, oil, water, livestock, tourism…), the Chiapas only benefits a minority of Chiapas braced on their privileges. Today, however, following the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and despite the impasse in the peace process and the deterioration of the situation that tends to prevail, most of the Indians of this region of Mexico continue to brag their “Ya basta!” (that’s enough!).”Earth, education, food, health, shelter, freedom, democracy, justice… that’s what we were refused, that is what we demand.”

In 1985, when the center was established, its leaders had first intended to coordinate efforts in the field of information from many sectors of society in turmoil. Teachers, peasant movements, indigenous associations, students… each group at the time realized its own newsletter. All with the same goal: to circulate among the members an alternative to the official version information and prevent almost systematic repression suffered by independent organizations. These bulletins were still by force of circumstances sectoral and geographically limited. Students from San Cristobal had their own magazine and were the main players, the peasants of the northeast of the state not only by them spoke to the press releases sent, etc.. The CIACH was then formed with the idea to provide each organization a common space of expression and information, where one could find information on all the players and where the links between them would be favored…

The first steps were laborious. Without a lot of ways, the few volunteers began to buy, read, codify and classify systematically all the newspapers and news magazines sold in Chiapas. Besides the specific contribution of each of the independent organizations in the region, information was gathered and made available to all popular sectors of Chiapas, organized outside government institutions.

Resumen Informativo

Soon, however, was felt the need to publish this information in order to increase accessibility. Thus was born the first publication of CIACH the”Resumen Informativo” (Summary Information), a monthly manageable than fifty pages printed in a thousand copies, sold or distributed within a large network of grassroots organizations more or less Consolidated: peasant and indigenous organizations, such as the Central Independiente de Campesinos y Obreros Agricolas (CIOAC), the Union of Unions”are Pajala Kactic”, the Committee Defensa de la Libertad Indigena (CDLI), the Consejo of indigenous representatives in Los Altos de Chiapas (CRIACH )…, teacher union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación…), sector workers of hydroelectric power, student associations, promoters or” Pastoral” of the Catholic Church in the diocese of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, development NGOs or human rights organizations, research centers, etc..

The edition of Resumen Informativo was divided into eight parts, each them with a descriptive summary of the facts of the past month in one of eight areas of social life in Chiapas. The current agricultural union, urban, educational, political, economic and religious there was treated in detail in conjunction with events related to the Mexican border with Central America and the lives of Guatemalan refugees in Chiapas. The opportunity therefore for managers or members of many grassroots organizations to learn from information previously inaccessible due to cost, distance and lack of independence of the mainstream media…

Each new issue of Resumen Informativo was also an opportunity for readers to”take stock of the ins and outs of the news of the region and establish links between different issues”. And it is precisely to emphasize this aspect of his work, along with business writing and editing, CIACH organized from the beginning, periodic workshops and decentralized to”regional scan” for all the popular actors of social life in Chiapas. Workshops, to ensure the”memory”, also came out on a new quarterly publication:”The Review of Regional Workshops trends”.

In the early nineties, against a backdrop of economic crisis and a reflux movement social area facing repression, CIACH experienced a slump of three to four years and went to cease operations of writing and editing. Only continued to be provided by a team employee, but now reduced to a minimum, the job classification of information and maintaining the center.

Palabra the Internet

Today, CIACH found a high level of activity. The interest aroused by the news of Chiapas and the future of the Zapatista rebellion abroad brought him new ways. And, more than ever, information literacy is one of the central issues of the imbroglio Chiapas, both in rural than in urban India and the rest of Mexico. The monthly Resumen Informativo the eighties has been replaced by La Palabra, shorter, more illustrated than its predecessor and still pulled a few thousand copies. Next to this periodical, the CIACH publishes from time to time, on its own initiative or on a proposal from the outside, various documents: a detailed chronology of the conflict in 1998, full text of the agreements on indigenous rights signed by the government and the Zapatista rebellion in 1996, assessing the impact of Chiapas in the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), selection of news of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), etc..

Since 1996, the daily information, and analysis of cross CIACH is only intended only to residents of Chiapas. It is now the turn of Mexico or the world via the Internet.”It is also a way for us to qualify the idyllic image of the country that the government intends to promote outside our borders, confirms Elizabeth Polito Barrios. Many groups in Mexico and elsewhere are demanding of our synthesis and use it to weigh on some international decisions that affect the field. They also denounce their government to human rights violations which are daily victims in favor of the Indians Zapatista rebellion: intimidation, imprisonment, militarization, repression… These actions are very important to us.” They are about two thousand correspondents to receive direct or indirect in the world of synthesis CIACH – daily or weekly – via e-mail. In early 1999, a web page was opened on the Internet and allows permanent access to the information collected.

With civil society

The current activities of CIACH and its links with civil society in Chiapas vary the rhythm of the news. From early 1994, when the Zapatista Indian uprising in late 1996, when the suspension of negotiations between insurgents and authorities, the CIACH was an active member of the Coordination of civil associations in Chiapas for Peace (CONPAZ). Essentially representative of an urban population tends to favor the Chiapas indigenous rebellion and order to ensure a political solution to the conflict by peaceful means, the CONPAZ touched all areas dear to its members: humanitarian assistance to indigenous communities displaced by the conflict, community development projects in the rebel regions, organization of Indian women to voice their demands equality, etc…

Thanks to the means of international solidarity, important in the early years of the uprising, the CONPAZ also provides Much of the work of logistics related to different phases of the negotiation process between Zapatistas and government: accreditation of observers from civil society, protection of the delegation of the EZLN, oganisation of human chains (“cinturón los de la paz” ) as security cordons around the table of the negotiations…

Within the CONPAZ, staff CIACH specifically assumed responsibility for the work of information in pursuing its usual work of writing and editing, but also taking into support relations with the press. The CONPAZ but did not survive. Subject to internal wrangling over the distance to be against the leaders of the rebellion, a victim of its success, the news knocked and redoubled the curiosity of the authorities, the association, upon dissolution, gave way to to Other attempts at coordination point.

Today, CIACH regular contact with the association”Enlace Civil”, prozapatiste pressure group that gathers information from the native villages, about violations of human rights because of the federal army or paramilitary groups. On the occasion of the various elections in Chiapas (July 1997 parliamentary, municipal, October 1998), the CIACH also serves as a relay to the association”Alianza Civica”, specializing in the observation of elections and the reporting of irregularities within communities. Past two years, the staff of the Information Centre has also participated in the Commission’s efforts for community reconciliation (CORECO) which includes, besides the Centre, an organization of human rights, NGO development and Alianza Civica. The goal is to resolve conflicts within and between communities that divide the natives. Work is being done by the verbal confrontation between opposing parties and a flat common causes of social and political divisions.

Funding and perspectives

The problem of the functioning of CIACH remains crucial. The team needs resources to ensure its daily editorial (salaries, office rent…), purchase and maintenance of equipment, but also for printing the numbers La Palabra, dissemination and their discussion within organizations and independent villages of Chiapas.”At the moment, even if our international correspondents and local associations who can pay us in exchange for the palabra or information that we provide, our aim in the short term can not be profitability, says one member. If at the beginning, we have benefited from the logistical support of any local organization, today we depend almost exclusively on subsidies from foreign NGOs, Canada and Belgium… The urgency for us is the strength, peace in Chiapas, the improvement of living conditions of Indians and their participation in democracy building. Otherwise, we will see. I do not know of any independent media that have reached break even…”

Financially, it is clear that the CIACH directly benefits from the attention generated beyond the borders of Mexico by the news of Chiapas. But it could also be the victim. While in the past, there was no plethora of initiatives in the field of activity covered by the CIACH, the current conflict between the federal army and the Zapatista rebellion has attracted a lot of people in the south- is Mexican, many journalists and social workers… with their own projects in information. The result is confusion among the initiatives in the presence and, consequently, the potential weakening of CIACH. Its members know and are aware of the benefit that could draw the authorities. Fragile and financially dependent on the outside, the Centre has however decided to continue its choice: retain its independence vis-à-vis government authorities but also vis-à-vis the EZLN, and continue its”information work in favor of popular demands for Chiapas Mexico and a fairer, freer and more democratic.”

Bernard Duterme

Journalist and sociologist, he is currently responsible for relations with Mexico and Latin America within the NGO and Brotherhood Mutual. Author of”Indians and Zapatista. Myths and Realities of a rebellion on borrowed time” (1998).

Contact

CIACH – Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas, AC
Calle Comitan 6-B, El Barrio Cerrill
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas – Mexico
Tel / fax (967) 813-64. ciach@laneta.apc.org

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