Ellen sent another update to the Rancho Esmeralda crisis. Things are terrible there at the moment - they are moving out. The update begins on this page and continues below. (click MORE)
2 February 2003
Tel 91967 08960
As a result of the violent attacks on Rancho Esmeralda owners and staff on Wednesday and Thursday the ranch has been closed to tourism. In spite of filing charges on Thursday regarding both the kidnapping and beating of staff member Ernesto Cruz and the continuing threat of invasion and violence by the Zapatistas of Nuevo Jerusalen no police protection, much less intervention, has been authorized by Chiapas state government officials.
Even though the American Embassy has been pressing the Mexican government for action, the only step that has been taken was to send local delegates of the
Gobernacion Secretariat, Jaime Ramirez and German de la Rosa, to the ranch on Friday to assist the owners and staff in walking off the ranch, leaving behind all of their belongings. Embassy officials were firm in communicating the message they had received from Gobernacion, in the person of Gabriel Gutierrez, Subsecretario, that this delegation would be the last and only assistance they would be providing.
Following the visit of the Gobernacion delegacion on Friday, ranch owners and staff began packing up valuables and preparing for the possibility of being forced to make an emergency exit.
On Saturday morning a large numbers of friends from Ocosingo
began arriving to help pack up and remove things from the ranch, parking their
trucks at the entrance to the ruins of Tonina. All day Saturday chairs, tables,
beds, kitchen equipment, saddles, tools, ornamental plants, etc. were carried across
the walking trail to be loaded onto the trucks waiting at the other end. At the end
of the day a successful effort was made to get the three trapped vehicles off the
ranch by driving them through several roadless ranch pastures over to the ruins
entrance. Retracing the route used to remove the ranch's vehicles, friends with a 3
ton truck were able to reach the ranch as well and begin to speed up the process of
removing things from the property by directly loading them onto the truck. The
owners and staff continued to remain on the ranch on Friday and Saturday nights
This morning (Sunday) the 3 ton truck arrived early and was able to make one more
successful trip before finding that even that access had been closed due to direct
threats to neighboring property owners from the Zapatistas. So what remaining
belongings that can be removed will all, again, have to be carried off on foot.
Additional neighboring ranchers have also been visited by members of this Zapatista
group warning them of consequences if they help Rancho Esmeralda in any way.
At this point there is an urgent concern for the personal safety of those who remain
at the ranch. When the Zapatistas released Ernesto Cruz on Thursday night they sent
him back with a note warning Rancho Esmeralda owners that they are not playing
around, that they want them to leave, and that the next time (referring to the
kidnapping and beating of Ernesto) things will be worse. (A copy of this written
message can be sent by fax if requested.)
When Rancho Esmeralda was first threatened with invasion, on December 31st 2002,
while the state government was unwilling to deploy police to provide protection
they, at that time, assured both the American Embassy and the owners of Rancho
Esmeralda that should something happen they would intervene. Now, barely a month
later, it has been made clear to both the Embassy and the ranch owners that no
matter what transpires there will be no police response of any sort.
In response to the American Embassy's issuing a new travel advisory for Chiapas this
week the head of the Gobernacion Secretariat, Emilio Zebadua, responded to the press
that this advisory was brought on only as a result of what he called "a conflict"
between Rancho Esmeralda owner, Glen Wersch, and the neighboring community of Nuevo
Jerusalen. He refers to the Zapatistas blocking their road access and then calling
ranch owners to a meeting to inform them that their ranch is to be invaded as
"differences that have developed between the ranch owner and community residents".
His statements do not reflect either the widespread hostile reaction in November to
the Isuzu Challenge tour of Chiapas or the detention of a team of 12 Canadian and
French kayakers in January who were agressively pulled from the Jatate River near
San Miguel, detained overnight in the village schoolhouse, fined $200 U.S. and sent
back the next morning. Neither do his statements take into account that similar
violence and intimidation have been and are taking place against other Mexican land
owners in the valley and throughout the region.
In spite of repeated attempts too communicate with Governor Pablo Salazar
Mendiguchia his office has never responded directly to the owners of Rancho
Esmeralda. Just this week the Governor has been in Europe at the Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland promoting Chiapas as an appropriate opportunity for foreign
Owners and staff of Rancho Esmeralda are facing another night of fear and continue
to work to remove what contents of the ranch they can.