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(en) Mexico, CHIAPAS, REVOLT IN SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

From <kazi@tao.ca>
Date Sun, 10 Mar 2002 04:25:10 -0500 (EST)


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REVOLT IN SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, CHIAPAS, MÉXICO ON EVENING OF 7TH
MARCH 2002

Large crowds repel police, set police vehicles on fire, and loot supermarket
and big shops.
A carnival atmosphere prevails as crowds control the streets for over 3
hours.
Later police enter area, fire tear gas and make a reported 50 arrests
The conflict occurred in the area around the public market, a poor area
where many indigenous people live and work, and followed a police operation
against sellers of pirated merchandise.
On the morning of 8 March police with riot gear cordon off an area around
the public market.

This is an incomplete report written a few hours after the events from eye
witness reports, and info in the local press and radio.  More info hopefully
to follow.  Feel free to circulate but please remove e mail address.

A major revolt with thousands on the streets engulfed the area around the
public market in San Cristobal de Las Casas on the evening of 7 March.
Large crowds broke into at least 3 big stores, including a supermarket and
department store.  In a festive atmosphere men, women and children joyfully
carted off large amounts of food, drink, clothes and furniture over a period
of over 2 hours.  Onlookers, including women with babies, elderly people and
children watched with interest, and some shouted advice to the looters about
the best route to take to avoid the police.

Two police vehicles were set on fire and burnt in the middle of the street.
The crowd repulsed an attempt by the police to enter the area, hurling
missiles.  A shop was set alight and the fire was still burning at midnight.
  From before 7pm till after 10pm thousands were on the streets, and the
police seemed to have little or no presence an no control over the
situation.

The conflict reportedly started at 6pm after a police operation to arrest
sellers of pirated CDs etc.. Local newspaper La Foja reports that a police
attempt to enter the area around this time was repulsed by the crowd
throwing missiles.

By 7pm a police vehicle was ablaze in the street by the public market,
hundreds, if not  thousands were in the streets and police were not to be
seen.  Around 8pm missiles were seen being hurled, and slightly later a line
of riot police were formed across the road behind Santo Domingo church.

Around 8pm the crowd began to break into large shops by the market, breaking
plate glass windows and tearing off iron grilles on the entrances.  Tela de
Mexico, Alamanecenes Grandes, and then the  supermarket which is opposite
the last named, on a side street by the market, were all sacked.  Around the
same time another fire was burning in the street by the market, reportedly a
second police car ablaze.

Large crowds of men, women and children carried off bags and boxes of food
and groceries, sacks of rice or beans, bottles of wine and spirits,
mattresses, sofas and much more.  Eye witnesses reported a joyful and
excited atmosphere.  There were few vehicles in the area, but taxis and cars
that strayed into the area were allowed to pass unhindered.

Around 10.15pm a large fire was seen burning near the market, reportedly a
shop.  Around 10.- 10.30pm police, some armed and some with riot shields and
helmets, entered the area, charged the crowd and made arrests.  According to
local radio 50 men, women and children were arrested.  La Foca paper reports
the use of ?an excessive use of force? by the police when making arrests.
Police fired tear gas on more than one occasion, and tear gas swept down
nearby streets, causing discomfort to inhabitants of houses.  Fire fighters
entered the  area to combat the fires.

By 11.30 pm police appeared to have regained control of the situation,
though there were still crowds in the street, the shop continued to burn and
there were remnants of a fire in the street.  Local radio reports 6 police
received hospital treatment.  It is not known how many civilians were
injured by the police violence.

Reports in the media that some of the crowd applauded the entry of the
police into the area were not confirmed by eye witnesses who reported
instead mass participation in looting, and many onlookers observing without
any worries.  The reactions observed to the arrival of the police were
either resistance or flight.

At 9am the next morning, 8 March, an area around the public market was
cordoned off by police with riot gear who were preventing entry by the
public.

More news may follow, and there may be reports on Indymedia Chiapas (this
report is not however from Indymedia Chiapas or any organization)

Note  San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, southern Mexico  has a
population of over 130,000, many of whom live in poverty, many lack basic
services such as electricity, piped water and drainage in their houses.   A
large proportion of the population are indigenous people, the majority
Tzotziles, and suffer racist discrimination.



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