Initial report on the Tri-National Friendship Delegation to Chiapas
by Tom Hansen, Jul 9, 1998
"We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the indigenous communities we visited, especially in the face of widespread fear and rampant poverty," reports one of the leaders of the Tri-National Friendship Delegation to Chiapas. "We will return to our countries of origin with a renewed commitment to our indigenous brothers and sisters."
The Tri-National Friendship Delegation, organized by the Mexico Solidarity Network, spent a week in Chiapas from July 2-9. Eighty-six members from the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia divided into ten groups and visited 30 indigenous villages throughout the state. Ten Native Americans from the US, Canada and Guatemala led the delegation, and delivered traditional gifts of sage and tobacco to several communities.
The Mexico Solidarity Network is a newly formed coalition of 57 organizations from the US and Canada. The Network is dedicated to promoting democracy, economic justice and human rights in North America.
A fundraising campaign, centered mainly in the US and organized in conjunction with the delegation, raised over $13,000 for refugee relief. The funds will be used to purchase food and seeds for some of the 19,000 internally displaced refugees who have been forced from their communities by paramilitaries associated with the ruling PRI government.
Delegates were not prevented from visiting any of the communities on their itinerary, although in several places they encountered judicial police and military who demanded identification several times a day. In one case, heavily armed troops surrounded a group of ten delegates while judicial police insisted that they meet with PRI representatives from the area (something which the delegates intended to do in any case). Indigenous women from the community surrounded the delegates, offering themselves as protection against the military. The women accompanied the delegates to the PRI meeting and waited nearby to help insure the security of the delegates.
One group of delegates attempted to visit prisoners in the state prison, Cerro Hueco, but were denied entry without explanation. Five days earlier a US group led by Con. Gutierrez and Rush were able to visit the same prison and conduct interviews with two prisoners.
The Tri-National Delegation will prepare a full report on their visit to Chiapas which will be available within a few weeks.
For more information, contact:
Mexico Solidarity Network
4834 N Springfield
Chicago IL 60625
773-583-7728 or e-mail
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