Tlanlnepantla declare autonomy,
Mexican government reacts
By Andrea Golden
Tlalnepantla, Morelos, Mexico, Jan. 20 (AGR) On Sunday,
Jan. 10, there was a ceremony declaring autonomy in Tlalnepantla,
and the prior Municipal President, who had served the town from 2000
to 2003, gave the keys of the Presidency and the inventory of the
Presidency to the Popular Autonomous Council of Tlalnepantla.
The government responded to the declaration of autonomy by sending
more than 700 police to invade Tlalnepantla on Jan. 14, 2003. The
representatives of the Popular Autonomous Council and all of their
supports were very firm in their decision to defend their town against
an invasion, in sight of the repression that they experienced during
a march on Nov. 26, 2003 and were prepared to defend against the police
attack. The governments response, however, was immense, and
in addition to the 700 police forces, snipers and helicopters assisted
in the invasion.
According to the official report, there was one man killed, Gregorio
Sanchez, an inhabitant of Tlalnepantla. He was shot fatally in the
mouth in the central plaza. Other versions, according to the townspeople
of Tlalnepantla, say that there are many more dead, already disappeared
and buried by the police in the mountains surrounding the town. The
government has prohibited the passage of human rights groups to enter
the mountains in search of such casualties.
Currently in Tlalnepantla there are no more than 200 people, the rest
of the population has been displaced due to fear of further repression.
They have fled to surrounding towns, and many families suspect that
there are still people hiding in the mountains. In the days immediately
following the invasion, many people fled to the mountains; 3 women
gave birth, and one woman lost her baby due to the harsh conditions.
Also, during the invasion and in the days immediately following, 23
people were detained and are currently being held in a state prison.
On Jan. 18, a human rights commission was organized to investigate
the conditions in Tlalnepantla and the surrounding mountains. The
group brought food, clothes, water, and medicine to the refugees of
Tlalnepantla that are currently staying the neighboring town of Tlayacapan.
Upon arriving at the entrance of Tlalnepantla, police refused the
passage of the human rights commission, accompanied by the people
of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico (who in 2001-2002 successfully defended
the sale of their farming lands against the proposal to build an airport).
The police requested to search all of the men in assurance of their
entrance. Many men from the human rights commission got off the bus
to consent to the search. However, the situation only escalated, largely
between the police, the people of San Salvador Atenco, human rights
observers who had gotten off of the bus, and a small group of people
from Tlalnepantla who support Elias Osorio, who received the mayorship
under highly contested conditions. When the large majority of human
rights observers were attempting to retreat in hopes of deescalating
the situation, the police attacked those who had gotten off the bus.
Several people from Atenco were seriously wounded, by blows to the
head and legs. The police also used tear gas on the whole crowd. The
police also forced the driver from Atenco out of his truck and the
vehicle was confiscated. In the moments that followed, the police
began to attack the bus of human rights observers and social organizations,
who had already begun to retreat. Three residents of Asheville, North
Carolina, and one resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who were participating
in the human rights commission, were on the bus when the police attacked,
breaking the windows and using tear gas against all of those present,
including two children. The bus was filled with the gas, creating
chaos and panic, with no escape for those suffering the attack.
In the last negotiations, on Jan. 7, 2004, the people of Tlalnepantla
decided to break the negotiations with Osorio, stating that to continue
would imply recognition of his authority, and declared an autonomous
The government of the state, which is controlled by the PAN, refused
to recognize the autonomy of Tlalnepantla, declaring such actions
to be illegal, despite the fact that this right is defined in the
articles 39 and 115 of the Mexican Constitution. The secretary of
the Federal Government, Santiago Creel, announced that he would not
permit the creation of any more autonomous municipalities in the country.
This affects many communities, including people in the states of Oaxaca,
Guerrero, and Chiapas, all of which currently have movements demanding
the recognition of their constitutional rights to determining their
form of government. Tlalnepantla, Morelos is a small municipality
with no more than 4,000 inhabitants, located approximately 2 hours
from the state capital, Cuernavaca, and 45 minutes from Mexico City.
Despite the geographical proximity to urban centers, Tlalnepantla
has remained somewhat untouched by neoliberalist development, and
continues to practice rural traditions. The economy of Tlalnepantla
is widely based on the growth and sale of nopal, an edible cactus.
The price of one paca of nopales (3,000 nopales) ranges between $200
and $300, depending on the season. Because of this, the people of
Tlalnepantla live in drastically uncertain economic conditions.
Historically, the town officials of Tlalnepantla have been elected
through a traditional process called usos y costumbres (uses and customs),
in which a town assembly reached consensus on who would be the Municipal
President. After this process, that person would register with the
Institutionalized Revolutionary Party, (the PRI, who ruled Mexico
for 70 years until the elections of 2000 when Vincente Fox, of the
National Action Party, the PAN, won the federal elections.) In turn,
the PRI would sponsor the person elected through usos y costumbres
as their candidate in the formal elections. This ensured that the
Municipal President of Tlalnepantla would always be registered as
a candidate supported by the PRI, and at the same time, allowed the
town to continue to use their traditional electoral process.
Until 1970, the elected officials of Tlalnepantla did not receive
a salary, reflecting that their role was still one of service to the
town and not of authority.
A conflict began this past electoral period of July 2003, when the
candidate that was elected through usos y costumbres, Conrado Pacheco,
refused to register with the PRI for the upcoming formal elections.
Upon his refusal, the PRI responded by sponsoring another candidate,
Elias Osorio, already notorious for dishonest practices. In the past,
there had only been the candidate in the formal elections who was
elected through usos y costumbres, and perhaps one other candidate
from another party. This guaranteed that the person who had won through
usos y costumbres would also win the formal elections, thus taking
office as Municipal President.
However, in the most recent elections, due to the refusal of Conrado
Pacheco to register with the PRI, the entrance of Elias Osorio on
behalf of the PRI, and the registration of 6 candidates of different
political parties, there was mass confusion in the municipality. In
addition, Osorio, the candidate of the PRI, bought the votes of many
townspeople for the equivalent of $50 and $100, which given the economic
situation of the town is a large quantity of money. Osorio also gave
water pumps to those who promised to vote for him, which is something
that most families would never have had access to. Another tactic
that Osorio used to win the elections was to register the deceased
and count their votes in favor of Osorio in the elections.
In the elections, Elias Osorio won with a total of approximately 400
votes, which would be officially considered that he has the support
of 10percent of the population. However a large number of those votes
were the result of bribery and falsehoods. Another factor in the victory
of Osorio was the mass confusion in the community that resulted in
little participation in the elections.
The victory of Elias Osorio as a candidate of the PRI who was not
elected for usos and costumbres was a great amount of tension in the
municipality, because the majority of people did not accept or recognize
him as Municipal President.
In response, the other 6 candidates that had run in the elections,
their supporters, and those that had not voted united in a common
movement to manifest their rejection of Elias Osorio. In October,
the town organized a plebiscite in which 1,357 townspeople voted in
support of the recognition of usos y costumbres in Tlalnepantla. In
contrast there was one vote for Elias Osorio.
This was an overwhelming reflection of the sentiments of the people
of Tlalnepantla and the illegitimacy of Osorio. Nov. 1, 2003, the
day that Elias Osorio was to have taken office as the President, those
who opposed Osorio took over the presidential building and would not
allow him to enter. From then on, there were people guarding the building
24 hours a day in order to prevent Osorio from taking office.
On Nov. 26, the people of Tlalnepantla marched in Cuernavaca, asking
for the disappearance of powers of Elias Osorio in Tlalnepantla. The
march went through the center of the city, and proceeded to take over
the highway between Cuernavaca and Mexico City. The government responded
with brutal repression just as the demonstrators were beginning to
retreat from the roadblock that they had created to generate public
interest. There were more than 70 people detained without any charges,
and many were seriously wounded as a result of the violence of the
police and tear gas used indiscriminately against men, women, children,
and the elderly present in the highway takeover.
After this march, many organizations offered solidarity to the people
of Tlalnepantla, and the movement began to grow. The people of Tlalnepantla
who oppose Elias Osorio were able to arrive at a table of negotiations
with Osorio, the executive government of the state, and three representatives
of the Congress of the state.
There were four sessions of negotiations, and Osorio offered to open
certain positions of local government to those who insisted on the
use of usos y costumbres. The representatives of the movement of Tlalnepantla
would not accept his proposals, insisting that Osorio be removed from
office and that the town have the power to elect their officials according
to their traditions.
In view of all of these events and the current conditions of Tlalnepantla,
where the majority of the population is now in exile, families have
been separated, and many more people have been disappeared, international
support is crucial. Letters may be sent demanding the end of the violent
repression against the people of Tlanepantla and the respect of the
constitutional rights of the people.
Sergio Estrada Cajigal, Governor of Morelos: email@example.com
Canadian journalist caught in post-9/11
By Marty Logan
Montreal, Canada, Jan. 23 (IPS) When police raided
an Ottawa journalists office and home this week because
of an article she wrote about a Canadian deported from the United
States to face torture in Syria, it was a reminder how closely
this country has followed the US lead in the war on terrorism.
Just four months after Sept. 11, 2001, Canadas Parliament
passed sweeping legislation, the Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-36),
which amended 19 existing laws and allowed authorities to suspend
long-held judicial rights to combat vague threats.
But aside from that new law, 9/11 ushered in a climate that has
emboldened security agencies to make use of extraordinary powers
that were already part of the legal system but seldom employed,
according to experts.
Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet ONeill had her office and
home searched and her computer and notes seized Jan. 21 by officers
of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) searching to discover
who leaked information to her about the case of Maher
Arar is the Syrian-born Canadian who was stopped in New York in
June 2002 on his way home following a holiday in Tunisia. Nine
days later US officials deported him to Damascus, where he was
jailed and tortured for 10 months.
On Jan. 22, Arar filed a lawsuit against US Attorney General John
Ashcroft for deporting him to a country that US officials knew
practised torture. He wants an apology and unspecified damages
Canadian security agencies have denied they were involved in Arars
deportation, although US officials, including Secretary of State
Colin Powell, have suggested otherwise.
In her article, ONeill included details about Arars
alleged stay in a terrorist training camp, information
the RCMP says could only have come from a document protected by
the post-9/11 Security of Information Act.
If ONeill is charged with breaching that law, she faces
up to 14 years in jail. The Security of Information Act is basically
the former Official Secrets Act, revamped in the fear-filled months
that followed 9/11.
Neither this nor other measures in the anti-terrorism laws have
been used often by authorities to target suspected terrorists.
Late last year the Supreme Court heard the appeal of a man who
was forced to testify in a secret hearing, a process created by
Bill C-36, about a plane bombing in the 1980s.
It is the only known instance of the Anti-Terrorism Act being
used to date. Yet judicial rights continue to be violated in the
name of security, say experts.
Canadas anti-terrorism legislation is broader than
the anti-terrorism act. It plays out in a number of different
pieces [of legislation], says Alex Neve, secretary general
of Amnesty International Canada.
For instance, authorities are beginning to employ a rarely used
measure in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, called
the security certificate, says Neve in an interview.
There are at least five cases of individuals who have been
arrested under the (Immigration Act), who are facing deportation
from Canada on allegations that they have some sort of link or
are involved in terrorism activities, he said.
In most of the cases theres serious reasons to believe
that torture awaits them at the other end. And the security certificate
is profoundly flawed. Theres no opportunity to know the
extent of the accusations against you.
At the same time, the Arar case suggests that security agencies
might be acting beyond the scope of any laws, says Neve.
His case points to the fact that there may be very serious
things being done by law enforcement and security agencies outside
the rubric of even C- 36, which are not regulated and are not
subject to any kind of legal framework.
Prime Minister Paul Martin on Jan. 22 denied that the ONeill
raid signalled Canada has become a police state.
Freedom of the press is an essential condition to protect
our democratic freedoms, said Martin, in Davos, Switzerland
to attend the World Economic Forum.
The reason any kind of security legislation is put in place
is so we can continue to protect those democratic freedoms,
he added, reported the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Were not going to do something that will go against
those basic values.
But Alan Borovoy says legal experts protested the Official Secrets
Act, the forerunner of the law used to arrest ONeill, 25
years ago, for inadequately safeguarding legal rights. Their advice
was not followed.
When the government announced new measures to fight terrorism
after Sept. 11, we said, the existing powers are broader
than you need, why do you want new powers? said Borovoy,
general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in
He feels that Bill C-36 helped to embolden the authorities,
and makes them a little more likely to resort to these (long-standing)
Other experts say measures in the new bill themselves threaten
the balance between the state maintaining rights while protecting
In a paper delivered to a June 2003 conference, Canadian Senator
Raynell Andreychuk wrote that Bill C-36 gave itself very
wide ministerial discretion in a number of areas, void of any
scrutiny in some cases, and without the possibility for appeal
The former judge added that most troubling was the curtailment
of the Access to Information Act (in some cases unlimited in time),
the Privacy Act and the reduction of due process.
After her materials were seized in the police raid, ONeill
told CBC, Ill always remember what happened to me
as part of the post-9/11 witch hunts. We know many Canadians of
Muslim faith and Middle East origin have had a knock on the door
from the RCMP. And as a journalist Ive now experienced that
Leavitt joins lobbyists at industry
conference on environment
By Amanda Griscom
Jan. 21 This morning, some 50 people powwowed in
the chandeliered Ticonderoga conference room of the Hyatt Regency
hotel on Capitol Hill for a conference entitled Environmental
Issues 2004: How to Get Results in an Election Year. There
werent more than a handful of environmentalists in attendance
perhaps because the conference was hosted by the National
Association of Manufacturers [NAM], known to be one of the most
anti-environment industry groups in the country. The great attraction
of the affair (which cost up to $150 a head) was its keynote speaker
not an industry kingpin, not a bigwig GOP pollster like
Frank Luntz, but Enviromental Protection Agency [EPA] Administrator
Leavitts headliner status was peculiar given the focus of
the conference: how to craft pro-industry environmental messages
to influence the 2004 elections. And this was only Leavitts
second speaking engagement outside the EPA since he took the agencys
helm. The first was his address two weeks ago to another industry
group, the Edison Electric Institute, which all reporters but
one were barred from attending. Leavitts NAM appearance
reaffirms, if nothing else, that his heart is with industry
the corporate folks are the ones hes making time for,
said Frank ODonnell, executive director of the Clean Air
Conference organizers unabashedly described the event as a tutorial
to help industry representatives bone up on their public messaging
skills as they prepare to face off against environmentalists in
the cutthroat media circus of an election year. Many of
our members run businesses in arenas to which media is not, shall
we say, sympathetic, said NAM spokesperson Darren McKinney
just before the event. In general terms, we are hoping to
provide our members with an education about how environmental
stories are created and reported, and how the creation has an
effect on the political process in an election year.
McKinney insisted that NAM is just trying to play the same game
as the Sierra-Club, sky-is-falling crowd. As he explained
it, Were all part of the same ballgame, we have the
same goals to get our message out through the media, make
our case as best we can, and convince voters to get the type of
policy-makers in office who will see things our way.
Frank Maisano, a spokesperson for the Electric Reliability Coordinating
Council and one of the most oft-quoted industry apologists in
the media, spoke on a conference panel entitled Crafting
Environmental Messages. Before the event, he told Muckraker
that industry is never going to have an advantage over the
enviros in the media the enviros are always going to be
able to say you are killing children or theyll
play the asthma card. Theyll make these highly emotionally
charged claims claims that will get more melodramatic in
an election year.
When Muckraker pressed Maisano to outline his strategy for crafting
messages, he described a three-pronged approach: 1) distill the
regulatory reform in question to its simplest terms and give some
easy analogies; 2) explain why the reform is needed and how it
will streamline the system, create jobs, balance economic concerns,
and so forth; and 3) explain that it will actually improve the
environment. You can take a lot of the issues and use this
approach, he said. Whether its ANWR or MTBE
or efficient air conditioners or whatever, you can replace the
parts. Simplicity has to come through. The messages cant
be complex. Maisano conceded that he cannot in all situations
argue that there is an environmental advantage to the reforms
he advocates, but insisted that in most cases he can.
Another conference participant was Greg Casey, CEO of BIPAC, a
political action committee with a mission to elect business-friendly
politicians to public office. Obviously I come from a slightly
biased point of view, he told Muckraker. I represent
the political interests of the American business community. My
message is: Now is the time for our message and our messaging
mechanisms [for reaching voters] to mature.
Casey advised executives not to simply direct their messages to
the media which he believes to be a losing battle
but to direct them closer to home: My suggestion to the
business community is you have a natural, affinity-driven relationship
with those folks who are your employees, your stockholders, your
customers, your suppliers, and your investors. Messages on the
environment and the impact of environmental regulations
on industry should be directed through personal emails
and newsletters to these folks who really want to believe their
business leaders, and who have a stake in those issues.
So what did Leavitt have to say on these matters? Well, nothing.
He delivered a stump speech that was totally detached from the
focus of the conference. In an upbeat tone, he assured manufacturers
that environmental quality in the US has advanced by leaps and
bounds in the past 30 years and that its time to move beyond
command-and-control regulations. We need to do [environmental
policy] in a better way that doesnt compromise our economic
competitiveness, he declared.
One of the few enviros at the conference, Rob Perks of the Natural
Resource Defense Council, found it troubling that audience members
executives and flaks from companies such as Halliburton
and Bristol-Myers Squibb seemed oblivious to the implications
of the policy changes they want to spin. Over and over people
said, We keep hearing that this is the worst administration
in history, so how do we sell our message? How do we snooker people?
How do we fight back in the messaging wars? said Perks.
It was as if it totally didnt register in their minds
that a regulatory crisis was occurring at all. The sole concern
was putting a good mask on it.
While NAM officials may not fancy much of what they read in the
media these days, they should be tickled pink by a report entitled
Manufacturing in America, released by the Commerce
Department on Friday, which calls for rollbacks of environmental
and other regulations. The report complains that environmental
regulations soak up roughly 2 percent of the gross domestic product
created by the manufacturing sector, and that the cost of these
and other rules is rising faster than the sectors income
not surprising, perhaps, given that manufacturing income
plateaued during the recession of the last two years.
A Small Business Administration study cited in the report found
that the cost to manufacturers of complying with regulations was
$147 billion in 1997, or a cost per employee of $7,904.
Environmental regs accounted for nearly half of that $69
billion in 1997, or a per-employee cost of $3,691 while
workplace-safety rules, tax-compliance regulations, and the like
accounted for the rest.
The report calls on the trusty White House Office of Management
and Budget to promptly evaluate...proposed reforms and,
when appropriate, implement those reforms on a priority basis.
As Commerce Secretary Donald Evans explained when the report was
released, This is our strategy to remove the barriers that
are holding back American manufacturers and costing jobs.
In a public statement, NAM President Jerry Jasinowski praised
the report and complained that because US manufacturers must comply
with onerous regulations, they carry a cost burden 22 percent
greater than our nine major trading partners. According
to Larry Fineran, NAMs vice president of regulatory and
competition policy, the report is consistent with the Bush administrations
shift away from command-and-control regulations in order
to improve Americas competitive advantage in the global
The Bush administration today has broken new ground,
Jasinowski rhapsodized, acknowledging that manufacturing
is vital to the nations economy, recognizing the unprecedented
challenges to our global leadership, and recommending reforms
to strengthen our manufacturing competitiveness. ...This is the
first time in modern history that an administration has made manufacturing
in America a top national priority.
What he didnt mention, of course, is the trade-off: When
the health of the manufacturing industry becomes the top priority,
the health of the public at large may get the shaft.
Source: Grist Magazine