Chiapas is the southernmost state of Mexico, located towards the southeast of the country. Chiapas is bordered by the states of Tabasco to the north, Veracruz to the northwest, and Oaxaca to the west. To the east Chiapas borders Guatemala, and to the south the Pacific Ocean. Chiapas has an area of about 74,211 km2 (28,653 sq mi). The 2005 Mexican census population was 4,293,459 people. In general Chiapas has a humid, tropical climate. In the north, in the area bordering Tabasco, near Teapa, rainfall can average more than 3,000 mm (120 in) per year. In the past, natural vegetation at this region was lowland, tall perennial rainforest, but this vegetation has been destroyed almost completely to give way to agriculture and ranching. Rainfall decreases moving towards the Pacific Ocean, but it is still abundant enough to allow the farming of bananas and many other tropical crops near Tapachula. On the several parallel "sierras" or mountain ranges running along the center of Chiapas, climate can be quite temperate and foggy, allowing the development of cloud forests like those of the Reserva de la Biosfera el Triunfo, home to a handful of Resplendent Quetzals and Horned Guans. The state capital city is Tuxtla Gutiérrez; other cities and towns in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las Casas, Comitán, and Tapachula. Chiapas is home to the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Chinkultic, and Toniná.
The tropical rainforest of Chiapas, which includes the Selva Lacandona, is quickly being deforested. This is due to population pressures forcing highlanders into the rainforest. These include ladino (Spanish-speaking) landowners, indigenous and mestizo campesinos of the Ch'ol, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal and other groups. Migrants from Chiapas are being joined by Guatemalans fleeing the Civil War. These colonists constantly compete with one another for land, with the campesinos seizing or squatting on claimed land while landowners respond with the military or police. The economic activities of both groups contribute to the massive deforestation of the Lacandón. Rain falling on the forest drains into the Usumacinta river, which forms the border between Chiapas and the Petén department of Guatemala. The river flows into the sea in Tabasco, and deforestation may be a cause of the floods which inundated Villahermosa in 2007.
In order to mitigate the problems with the increasingly disaffected and
rebellious population in Chiapas' Lacandon region, the federal and state
government designed multiple social development programs. Many of these
were critized for being counter-insurgency projects, aimed at controlling
and pacifying the indigenous population, rather than investing in their
development and listening to their demands. Some of these programs include
Plan Cañadas, PIDSS, and Prodesis.
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