On Dec. 22, followers of the indigenous pacifist group Las Abejas (the Bees) held a ceremony at the hamlet of Acteal, in the highlands of Mexico's southern Chiapas state, to remember the massacre there in 1997, and demand justice in the case. The group accused then-president Ernesto Zedillo and his Government secretary Emilio Chuayffet—today Secretary of Education—of being responsible for the attack, in which 45 unarmed Abejas were killed by a paramilitary group. The Abejas gathered at the "Pillar of Infamy," a monument erected at the massacre site, joined by supporters and those displaced by the violence of the 1990s from throughout the Chiapas Highlands.
Thousands of Maya followers of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) marched, masked but unarmed, on the towns of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Palenque and Altamirano, in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, marking the turning of the Maya calendar Dec. 21. The largest march was in Ocosingo, on the edge of the Lacandon Selva, the rebels' jungle stronghold, with 6,000 arriving at dawn for a silent procession through the town's center. A mass silent vigil of thousands of Zapatistas in the town's central square continues at press time, despite unseasonable rain. There were no speakers, and no visible leaders present. The EZLN is expected to release a communique for the occasion. The group's last communique was in May 2011, proclaiming solidarity with the poet Javier Sicilia and his movement against Mexico's Drug War militarization. The EZLN's spokesman Subommander Marcos also issued a presonally signed statement on the then-upcoming Mexican elections later last year. (CNN Mexico, W Radio, APRO, Dec. 21)
An Oct. 8 report on Yale University's Environment 360 website, "In the Land of the Maya, A Battle for a Vital Forest" by William Allen, states that "In Guatemala's vast Maya Biosphere Reserve, conservation groups are battling to preserve a unique rainforest now under threat from Mexican drug cartels, Salvadoran drug gangs, and Chinese-backed groups illegally logging prime tropical hardwoods." The Maya Biosphere Reserve covers approximately the northern third of what Allen calls the "Selva Maya," Central America's largest remaining expanse of rainforest, which stretches across the northern half of Guatemala and also extends into the Mexican state of Chiapas to the west and the country of Belize to the east. More taditionally, the forest is called El Petén within Guatemala and the Selva Lacandona on the Mexican side of the border. Allen cites Guatemala's National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) to the effect that international criminal networks are now the biggest threat to the Selva Maya. Cattle ranching and logging have long been eating into rainforest—but now in a convergence with organized crime:
The US State Department issued a finding Sept. 7 that former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, now teaching at Yale University in Connecticut, should be immune from a civil lawsuit brought against him in the US in connection with the 1997 massacre at Acteal hamlet in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Chiapas. "The complaint is predicated on former President Zedillo's actions as president, not private conduct," said Harold Hongju Koh, a State Department legal adviser and a professor at Yale Law School, also citing the complaint's "generalized allegations." The US Justice Department submitted the letter to federal District Court in Hartford, where a judge is to make the final determination. "We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the Department of State to grant immunity to the ex-president, which will prevent us from proceeding with the case against him," attorneys Roger Kobert and Marc Plugiese of the firm Rafferty, Kobert, Tenneholtz & Hess told Notmex news agency.