E mail to Earth Justice
Re: "Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment" mailing
Marketing feedback: Though we are fighting passionately for the same causes, we're not sending a contribution in response to the packet you sent for the following reason:
+medium does not square with message+
This thick, custom color packet obviously cost you and the environment a fortune to produce. It contains plenty of paper, color ink, and even in vast quantity must have cost at least a dollar to produce, perhaps three or more.
So far as I know the packet was unsolicited; I don't recall any prior contact with your organization. Such resource use in a "shotgun" campaign shows that neither thrift nor conservation are an integral part of your organization's methods.
The medium of the solicitation screams a warning that any contribution we might make would be used in a very inefficient manner. This is so clear I felt no point in bothering to read the message contained in the words.
Again, I expect we support the same aims. I've taken the time to write in the hope that you'll be spurred to bring your methods more in line with your message.
Yours in hope of good news in the future,
Suggestions to increase the effectiveness of your action alert e mails.
Tarahumara Blockade Suspends Logging; Violence Feared
Chihuahua, Chihuahua Mexico
September 23, 2002
1) Summary of the situation
2) TAKE ACTION: Letters needed ASAP to President Fox asking for intervention to
prevent further loss of life. Sample letter follows the summary--all you have to
do is cut, paste, sign, and send it!
3) More on the situation in the Sierra Madre and recent incidents
4) About About Sierra Madre Alliance, ways to support our campaign
Last night, a federal judge from the Tribunal Agrario personally
delivered an order suspending logging in the ejido Coloradas de la
Virgen, ending a day-long blockade of SEMARNAT (Secretariat of the
Environment) by 70 Tarahumara, Tepehuan, and mestizos from Coloradas.
This is a great decision, but now the real work begins: enforcing the suspension
of logging, and keeping people from getting killed in retaliation as has happened
in the past.
International pressure is needed immediately to bring resources and
security to this region. Please write President Fox:
Presidente Vicente Fox Quezada
Palacio Nacional, edificio 10, planta baja
Colonia Centro, Delegacion Cuauhtemoc
C.P. 06067 Mexico, D.F. Mexico
Dear President Fox,
I am disturbed to learn that the Tarahumara of the community
Coloradas de la Virgen, in the state of Chihuahua have been defrauded of
their forested lands and now are threatened with violence. In the past
month, local caciques, known drug traffickers, and murderers, have been
logging one of the last remnants of ancient forests in the Sierra Madre.
The logging was recently suspended but the entire pueblo is now at risk
from threats made by the Fontes family, whose leader, Artemio Fontes has
terrorized the region for decades.
I urge you to do everything in your power to prevent violence in
Coloradas de la Virgen. The world is focused on eliminating terrorism,
but narco-terrorists continue to control large areas of the Sierra Madre
in Chihuahua and other states. Mexico signed the free trade agreement
with the United States and Canada, pledging to protect the environment
and uphold international standards of human rights, justice, and
democracy. Mexico has progressed in many areas in recent years,
however, regions like Coloradas de la Virgen remain neglected.
I urge you to grant land rights to the Tarahumara in Coloradas and
neighboring communities such as Pino Gordo. I urge your government to
invest in schools, jobs, environmental protection, and restoration,
agriculture, and infrastructure needed to build alternatives to drug
trafficking in these regions. Above all, I urge your government to
cooperate with local communities and nongovernmental organizations in
the region to create democratic and culturally appropriate processes to
plan a better future.
MORE ON THE SIERRA MADRE AND RECENT INCIDENTS
Last night, a federal judge from the Tribunal Agrario personally
delivered an order suspending logging in the ejido Coloradas de la
Virgen, ending a day-long blockade of SEMARNAT (Secretariat of the
Environment) by 70 Tarahumara, Tepehuan and mestizos from Coloradas.
The Tarahumara maintained a 36 hour vigil in front of SEMARNAT until a
written agreement with the government was delivered this evening. The
Tarahumara fear for their lives and one mestizo rancher was threatened
since the blockade began Monday morning. International attention is
needed to prevent a repetition of the violence that devastated this
community a decade ago.
Coloradas de la Virgen possesses one of the last remnants of old
growth forests in the Sierra. The Tarahumara have paid heavily for past
efforts to defend their forests and lands. Between 1986 and 1994, 36
Tarahumara were murdered in Coloradas, leaving 146 dependent children
and widows. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Outside Magazine, and
other media covered the courageous efforts of Sierra Madre Alliance
(SMA) partner, CASMAC to help this embattled community. CASMAC and
community members combined political pressure and physical intervention
to stop logging there in 1991 which was controlled by the Fontes family,
headed by Artemio Fontes.
Coloradas is one of the most isolated Tarahumara communities in the
Sierra. To the west and south are mestizo ranches, to the east are
Tepehuan, and to the north the mile deep Sinforosa Canyon. The main
economy has been cultivation of marijuana and opium since the late
1970s. The illicit economy gave rise to the Fontes and other gangs in
neighboring ejidos who sought to control both logging and drug
trafficking in the region. With their profits and untouchable
political prowess, they began to take over indigenous lands. In many
areas, Tarahumara and Tepehuan are treated like serfs, working their
former lands for the mestizo lords. In Coloradas, the Fontes attempted
total domination of the Tarahumara through violence to produce more
When logging controlled by the Fontes commenced in Coloradas in 1986,
Tarahumara leaders protested and the killings intensified. The first
Tarahumara assassinated (although far from the first murder committed by
the Fontes) was Julio Baldenegro in 1986. For the next six years,
Tarahumara leaders were systematically assassinated for protesting
logging in the region. In 1991, the World Bank financed road
improvements in the region sparking an international campaign against
the project. The first road improved with World Bank funds was to
Coloradas de la Virgen. The World Bank effectively cancelled the
program in 1992.
After a series of brutal murders in 1993, most Tarahumara fled
Coloradas. They suffered greatly in exile in neighboring communities or
hidden in the canyons. The widows with dependent children suffered
most of all. Following years of pressure from the government and
CASMAC, the violence subsided. Since 1996, the Tarahumara have
In 2002, SMA and our new partner organization, Coalición Sierra Madre
(COSIMA) finally received sufficient funding and help to begin anew to
help this community. We had maintained contact with Coloradas but
lacked resources to help for many years. The first planning workshops
were promising. However, it was soon discovered that the Fontes had
acquired a new logging permit via a fraudulent application of agrarian
procedures known as PROCEDE. They registered 17 dead souls and a number
of long absent residents on the agrarian registry and named themselves
ejido authorities. They sent young gunmen to disrupt workshops, but
Ramiro Castellano, David Curiel, and Manuel Garcia of COSIMA persisted
with help from Ramon Alfonso Herrera of EcoLogic Development Fund. A
number of courageous community leaders and indigenous promoters whose
names are withheld for security brought the people together.
Meanwhile, the Fontes felt secure that the 37,000 acres of virgin and
high quality forests were theirs for the taking. They began working
with 5 contractors, mostly based in Parral, including one company
reportedly tied to a high level authority in the state government. In
late July they began marking and cutting trees, but were delayed by
heavy rains. In late August, they began one of the heaviest forest
clearing operations in the history of Chihuahua, reportedly taking all
trees greater than 14 inches in diameter. Some of the old growth in
Coloradas exceeds six feet in diameter. Disappearing was a forest even
richer in ancient trees and wildlife than nearby Pino Gordo where 46
endangered, threatened, and protected species have been identified. The
total damage in Coloradas has yet to be assessed.
The Tarahumara had little recourse but to protest publicly against the
logging of their traditional lands. Over thirty years ago, the ejido
was carved out of the community of the same name, taking all of the
rights to the forests from the Tarahumara majority. Currently, 61
Tarahumara and mestizos are applying for ejido membership based upon
their traditional use of the ejido lands. The Tarahumara wish to
reunite their divided lands as one community, which will include all of
the 360 Tarahumara families and a over a dozen mestizo families who live
in the community. However, these applications must be processed in the
agrarian courts, which will take over a year. Meanwhile, the forest was
disappearing at alarming rates.
In late July, COSIMA and the land agency, Procuraduria Agraria, helped
two recognized ejido members, both poor mestizo ranchers, file a claim
with the Tribunal Agraria denouncing the fraudulent ejido acts. These
ranchers signed the claims in solidarity with the Tarahumara. Poor
mestizos are often as bad off as the Tarahumara and sympathize with
them. Returning from vacation in August, the Tribuanal Agraria
reviewed the case but refused to suspend the logging, despite
irrefutable evidence of fraud. The community decided to protest in
Chihuahua until the logging was halted.
Yesterday's action began with a short protest in front of Palacio
Gobierno and a march down University Avenue and Avenida de los Americas
to SEMARNAT headquarters. The state director of SEMARNAT, Jose Treviño,
was present but hid (and later slipped out of the building). SEMARNAT
locked the doors to prevent the Tarahumara from entering. Lawyers and
subdirectors of SEMARNAT with other authorities from Reforma Agraria and
Coordinacion Estatal de la Tarahumara (CET) tried to stop the protest,
promising the Tarahumara they could see the SEMARNAT Director on
Wednesday. CET offered housing and food. The Tarahumara refused to
accept a delayed negotiation and immediately swung into action and
blockaded Avenida de los Americas, one of Chihuuahua's busiest streets
with banners and human shields. The public was incredibly supportive
despite the inconvenience of the blockade. Local television and
newspapers came in force.
Finally at 7:00 pm Monday evening, the Tribunal Agrario arrived with the
order for suspension. SEMARNAT, thinking that it was over, asked the
Tarahumara to leave. The Tarahumara refused to leave until completion
of negotiations with state and federal agencies scheduled for the
following day. The Tarahumara demanded a full investigation into the
logging and protection from certain retribution from the Fontes. The
Comission for Solidarity and Defense of Human Rights (COSYDDHAC)
facilitated the negotiation. In addition to COSIMA staff, the
Tarahumara were supported throughout the action by attorney Agustin
Bravo, Director of Fuerza Ambiental. The Tarahumara were also
supported by Frente Democratico Campesino, Instituto Nacional
Indigenista (INI), and representatives from ANIPA (Independent National
Assembly of Autonomous Pueblos).
Today, the Tarahumara and advisors were locked in negotiations with an
extremely aggressive group of state and federal agencies. Only INI
consistently offered support. The Subdirector of Natural Resources
from SEMARNAT, Guadalupe Ramirez was very respectful and showed concern
for the plight of the Tarahumara. However, the outcome of the
negotiations is quite favorable:
1. SEMARNAT and PROFEPA (the federal environmental protection agency)
agreed to suspend the logging permit as ordered by the Tribunal Agraria.
The suspension will be delivered from one to seven days , as soon as
the ejido authorities are located.
2. The Tribunal Agraria agreed to cancel the PROCEDE authorization that
included the fraudulent ejido registry.
3. PROFEPA will launch an official inspection and technical audit of
the logged area.
4. The state of Chihuahua will cancel all timber transport permits from
5. CET will pay part of the travel costs for the people to return to
6. INI and COSYDDHAC offered to document any threats or human rights
abuses (however, the people in fear of retribution have not submitted
any claims yet.)
7. The Secretaria de Gobernación of the State of Chihuahua will speak
directly with the Artemio Fontes who has a residence in one of the
wealthiest areas of Chihuahua.
8. SEMARNAT has delivered a copy of the logging plan to the Tarahumara.
These results are remarkable, however, future actions of the government
are unpredictable. In another indigenous land case in Pino Gordo, all
the agrarian agencies have worked against Tarahumara claims. The Fontes
are even less predictable. Artemio Fontes, allegedly a financial
supporter of governor Patricio Martinez and business associate with high
level state functionaries, reportedly threatened one of the
demonstrators as he drove by.
The 70 Tarahumara, mestizo and Tepehuan who protested have recently
forged their alliance, but the the pueblo consists of over 1,000
Tarahumara and approximately thirty mestizos. Solidarity will take
time to build in a community torn by over a decade of violence. The
region needs much attention and support. The Tarahumara and friends
have a long and dangerous trip home and a much more difficult struggle
to survive in the long term.
Coloradas de la Virgen has always been neglected by the Government .
Once considered beyond governmental control by distance and rugged
terrain, Coloradas and most of the municipio of Guadalupe y Calvo has
been left in control of local bosses, narcos, and timber companies. In
1990, a narco threatened the school teacher in Coloradas, who
immediately fled. The government did nothing to intervene, nor replaced
the teacher, but continued planning World Bank funded logging roads.
In 1992, CASMAC helped restore the school. However, lacking sufficient
classrooms, dormitories, cafeterias and food, hundreds of children are
unable to attend school. Due to the violence and lawlessness, an
indigenous pueblo that once drew over eight hundred to week-long
ceremonies has declined into chaos and anarchy, but not without hope.
The 70 Tarahumara and friends who journeyed to Chihuahua have gained
solidarity and confidence that they can change things. They are the
nucleus that has resisted the Fontes for the past sixteen years.
Sierra Madre Alliance and our partner organizations are dedicated to
helping them improve the quality of life in their community. Our first
goal is to help resolve the land issues, while cultivating local,
national, and international vigilance to help maintain the peace. With
help from EcoLogic Development Fund, we have begun processes with the
community to plan a better future. But, until security is developed
with cooperation from the government, the Catholic church, and
nongovernmental organizations, progress will be difficult.
In ten years, SMA has never forgotten the Tarahumara of Coloradas. We
have supported incredibly courageous Mexican and indigenous partners in
the region. We are making great strides in neighboring Baborigame and
Pino Gordo. We appeal for international support to continue to build
hope for the future.
ABOUT THE SIERRA MADRE ALLIANCE, HOW TO SUPPORT US
SMAs mission is to advise, strengthen, and support the Mexican
organizations that serve these pueblos advance sustainable community
development and preserve and restore traditional indigenous culture and
the natural environment in conservation priority areas of the Sierra
Madre Occidental in Mexico.
Our Programs and Services:
SMA provides financial support, technical assistance, educational
services, and international representation towards the overarching goal
of protecting the natural resources and traditional cultural of the
region by improving the quality of life for the inhabitants, creating
locally declared protected areas, all planned through participatory
processes. Cultural survival in the Sierra requires a collective vision
and practical strategies to preserve the indigenous peoples knowledge
and to defend the indigenous peoples rights to land and natural
resources. Three program areas:
Culture-Based Conservation ● Restorative Development ●
Land Tenure and Management
each encompassing the priorities of the Tarahumara and Tepehuan people
and their environment.
Summary of Needs:
Sierra Madre Alliances total 18-month budget is $928,000, of which
$378,000 has been committed to date by several foundations and agencies.
SMA needs to raise an additional $550,000 in order to cover 18 months
of operational expenses for six conservation initiatives, six
restorative development projects, two land tenure cases, and nine new
projects currently being developed, together which will directly affect
the lives of over 500 Tarahumara and Tepehuan families in five
communities, set regional conservation initiatives for neotropical
migratory birds, protect three of the most important biological hotspots
in the Sierra Madre Occidental, and improve forest management of over
750,000 acres of endangered pine-oak woodland and tropical canyons.
The SMA-funded team of agriculturalists, biologists, foresters,
anthropologists and twenty-five indigenous promoters is committed to
bringing about a lasting transformation for these embattled communities
and their forests.
SMAs Culture-Based Conservation Program provides training, biological
and ethno-ecological research, legal services, and technical assistance
to indigenous communities to sustain their forests and natural resources
through strengthening of traditional knowledge and integrating
environmental restoration and conservation science with traditional
management practices. Projects include ethno-ecological education
programs, community declared protected areas, conservation planning,
training indigenous research assistants and promoters, biological
research to support local conservation goals, and watershed restoration.Goals for 2002-2003 are to improve management and reduce risks to the
biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of 300,000 acres, through
strengthening traditional culture, resolving land conflicts, and
planning protected areas and restoration zones in three communities with
active participation of 180 families.
SMAs Restorative Development Program facilitates self-diagnostic and
planning processes in indigenous communities to set direction and
develop specific development projects for each community. Program
staff then helps communities acquire financial support, training, and
technical advice to achieve their objectives. Projects include school
construction and participatory curriculum design, soil and watershed
restoration projects, biodynamic gardening projects, womens education
and craft cooperatives, educational projects to preserve knowledge of
traditional medicine and healing, and an initiative to build
community-based sustainable forestry operations in areas of ongoing
exploitation, which currently benefit outside contractors and local
Goals for 2002-2003 are to plan and begin implementation of ten projects
in three communities and seven rancherias to directly benefit 180
Tarahumara and Tepehuan families and to begin the process of community
organization to transform forest management to the benefit of the
community and the environment in three communal forests. [MENTION
ACREAGE, AS IN CONSERVATION ABOVE?]
SMAs Land Tenure and Management Program defends the agrarian rights of
indigenous people and other campesinos through local training, conflict
resolution, historical research, participatory planning, negotiation
with government agencies, and legal action.
Goals for 2002-2003 are to restore the land rights for 500 Tarahumara
families in two ejidos, restore traditional management, and defend the
limits of those ejidos from outsiders who threaten to log the area.
[MENTION ACREAGE, AS IN CONSERVATION ABOVE?
SMAs Mexican Partners
SMA supports the following Mexican partner organizations that share its
vision for the Sierra:
Coalisión Sierra Madre A.C. (COSIMA) is the principal partner in the
region, dedicated to building community based conservation, land tenure,
and a growing list of development projects in four indigenous
Fuerza Ambiental is one of the most effective public interest
environmental law groups in Mexico and a key advisor to COSIMA and
indigenous pueblos in the Sierra.
MITYTAC is a Tarahumara and Tepehuan womens craft cooperative, and
support organization based in Baborigame.
Additionally, SMA collaborates with a number of researchers, volunteers,
consultants, national and international agencies, Mexican and
international NGOs, including EcoLogic Development Fund, to meet its
Sierra Madre Alliance
U.S. Mailing Address:
1650 Sioux Drive CH44-119
El Paso, TX 79925
Emilio Carranza 910
C.P. 31000 Chihuahua, Chihuahua Mexico
Tel 011 52 614 415-5912
Tel/fax 011 52 614 416-0861
Web site: sierramadrealliance.org
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