Mainstream News On The EPR In Mexico (fwd)

marta rodriguez (rmarta@world.std.com)
Sat, 14 Sep 1996 21:00:00 -0400 (EDT)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 3 Sep 1996 16:36:24 GMT
From: Arm The Spirit <ats@locust.cic.net>
Newsgroups: misc.activism.progressive
Subject: Mainstream News On The EPR In Mexico
Resent-From: ats-l@burn.ucsd.edu
Resent-From: rich
Followup-To: alt.activism.d

Mexican Guerrilla Squads Launch Coordinated Raids

By John Ward Anderson, Washington Post Foreign Service

(The Washington Post - August 30, 1996) Squads of masked gunmen
from a new anti-government guerrilla group launched apparently
synchronized attacks in three Mexican states Wednesday night,
killing at least 13 people and wounding two dozen in strikes that
shocked Mexican officials and sent financial markets here
tumbling.
The attacks, reported at seven sites in the southern coastal
states of Oaxaca and Guerrero and in Mexico state near the
capital, constituted a major escalation in an insurgency that
appears to have its roots at least partly in the widespread
disparity between Mexico's haves and have-nots and the political
disenfranchisement of the peasantry.
The government of President Ernesto Zedillo has consistently
sought to minimize the significance and military strength of the
guerrilla group, which first surfaced two months ago calling
itself the Popular Revolutionary Army. But it now appears to be
better armed, better funded, more mobile and more widely deployed
than previously realized.
Since June, attacks on the military, army counter-movements
and seizures of guerrilla arms caches have been reported in at
least seven of Mexico's 31 states, although no firm evidence has
surfaced connecting the incidents. "The government has a real
military problem", said Jorge G. Castaneda, a leading left-wing
scholar here.
"The group is coordinated; they are spread across a very
diverse geographic area, and they have expressed no interest in
negotiating", said Roderic Camp, an expert on Mexico at Tulane
University. "It has the potential for creating big difficulties
for the government and serious stability problems." Indeed, news
of Wednesday's attacks sent the Mexican stock market plunging
75.94 points, or 2.2 percent.
Analysts here said there is no indication that the guerrilla
group is powerful enough to mount a serious challenge to the
Mexican military or overthrow the central government or any
regional government. But its very existence clearly undermines
Zedillo's attempt to portray Mexico as a stable democracy on the
road to recovery from an economic collapse that began in late
1994.
The composition of the group has been largely a mystery
since it made itself known on June 28 at a memorial service
marking the first anniversary of a police ambush in which 17
unarmed peasants were massacred in Guerrero, a state notorious
for drug trafficking and human rights abuses.
At a secret news conference deep in the Sierra Madre
mountains three weeks ago, leaders of the group said its members
represent 14 left-wing political and social organizations seeking
the overthrow of the government and creation of a more inclusive
political system.
Today, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said for the
first time that the government believes the group is actually a
military arm of the Clandestine Revolutionary Workers Party, a
violent leftist organization that was active in Oaxaca in the
1970s.
At present, it appears that the new guerrilla group - whose
members wear olive drab uniforms, cover their faces with brown
scarves and are armed primarily with AK-47 assault rifles - is
content to target lightly guarded government facilities in quick,
violent raids - such as those of Wednesday night.
Officials said the first attack occurred about 10 p.m. in
Tlaxiaco, a mountain village about 60 miles west of Oaxaca city,
capital of the state of the same name. State officials said about
50 guerrillas armed with AK-47s opened fire on City Hall, killing
at least two policemen before withdrawing.
About two hours later - precisely at midnight - about 80
masked men launched attacks on virtually every federal, state and
municipal government building in the small tourist town of Santa
Maria Huatulco, one of the country's most exclusive beach
resorts.
"They had obviously studied the town and knew what they
wanted to target", said one local policeman.
Antonio Brena, 51, the town postmaster, was jarred from his
sleep by the sounds of gunfire and screaming. He watched as
scores of masked men leaped from a large covered truck and from
taxicabs and began raking his yellow stucco post office with
gunfire.
"I was so scared I was shaking", said Brena. "It was
terrible." Brena said he saw five people gunned down, including a
uniformed sailor at a government-owned gas station. A large patch
of dried blood stained the sidewalk there today.
Guillermo Garcia, 25, was the loan guard on duty at the
state attorney general's office when 15 masked men peppered the
front of the building with rapid gunfire. "It was a shootout",
Garcia said. "I shot back, trying to defend myself." Garcia was
not hit, but all the windows of the concrete building were
shattered, and bullets gouged large holes in the walls.
Marco Antonio Morales, 25, who lives in an apartment across
the street awoke to loud popping sounds. "I thought it was the
electrical cables", Morales said. "Then I heard the screaming. It
was very ugly."
According to state officials, at least nine people were
killed in the fray, apparently including two olive drab-clad
insurgents.
Meanwhile, two attacks were underway north of Oaxaca in
Guerrero state. In one assault, state officials said, a policeman
was killed and two police and two soldiers were wounded when
guerrillas attacked the police station in Tixtla, a town about
about 10 miles east of the state capital, Chilpancingo. At about
the same time, six soldiers were wounded by gunfire when a
guerrilla band attacked an army barracks in the city of
Altamirano.
In yet another raid, three police officers were wounded in
Mexico state, just outside Mexico City, when masked gunmen in a
pickup truck sprayed a patrol car with bullets.
Before Wednesday night, the guerrillas had confined their
operations to Guerrero, where in recent weeks they had attacked a
number of military convoys, killing at least one soldier and one
civilian in four known raids. In a second clandestine meeting
with reporters last week, the group said it had killed 59
soldiers over the last two months, a claim the government has
denied.
Wednesday's attacks came three days before Zedillo is
scheduled to deliver his annual State of the Union address and is
certain to dampen what was likely to be an upbeat assessment of
Mexico's economic recovery.
"It looks like [the attacks were] timed to occur close to
Zedillo's speech, and in an area frequented by foreign tourists
so that the message or the threat would have high visibility"
with both domestic and international audiences, said Delal Baer,
direct or of the Mexico Project at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington.
Last week, guerrilla leaders, angered by Interior Minister
Emilio Chuayffet's remark that their group was a "pantomime" and
comments by other officials belittling their power and
importance, said that it has 23,000 members nationwide, with
forces deployed in rural and urban areas, including the capital,
Mexico City.

(Correspondent Molly Moore in Santa Maria Huatulco contributed to
this report.)

New Guerrillas Threaten Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico (AP - August 30, 1996) A new rebel group
targeting President Ernesto Zedillo's government may prove much
harder for him to handle than the Zapatistas who surfaced in
Mexico two years ago.
The Popular Revolutionary Army, known by its Spanish
initials EPR, could hamper Zedillo's up-to-now successful efforts
to revitalize a Mexican economy battered by almost three years of
crisis and reform the country's political system.
Since it surfaced in June, the EPR has been intransigent.
Unlike the Zapatista National Liberation Army rebels, it says it
will not negotiate.
In its manifestos and in interviews with reporters, the EPR
is demanding the replacement of the government with a leftist
one.
Both groups use bandanna handkerchiefs and ski masks to
cover their faces. But the Zapatistas, with their pipe-smoking,
poetry writing Subcomandante Marcos, carried a certain romantic
aura.
The Zapatistas operated only in southern Chiapas state and
their weaponry was generally poor and antiquated.
The EPR's coordinated hit-and-run attacks in more than a
dozen communities in four states late Wednesday and early
Thursday showed they operate over a wider area and are better
armed, with powerful AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles.
They also project an image of ruthless, grim determination.
"They obviously don't have the same sophistication of the
Zapatistas, but they could be much more of a threat because of
their geographic diversity and unwillingness to negotiate", said
Roderic Ai Camp, an expert on the Mexican military from Tulane
University in New Orleans.
He said the Mexican army has limited resources, and already
has a disproportionate number of troops in Chiapas.

Economic Threat

Another apparent EPR aim was to destabilize the economy by
scaring away much-needed foreign investments, especially
undermining Mexico's tourist industry, a big dollar earner. "This
could delay foreign investment and affect the stability of the
stock market", Camp said.
Government officials had pooh-poohed the EPR as disaffected
leftists, maybe criminals as well, trying to put on a "pantomime"
with minor raids.
Political analysts say that was a mistake, and this week's
attacks proved otherwise.
"We have always considered them a serious group", said
Salvador Castaneda of the Center for Historic Studies of Armed
Movements in Mexico City. "Now the government must take them
seriously, too."
Castaneda should know. He was a leftist guerrilla when such
groups staged several bloody uprisings in the 1970s - mostly in
Guerrero state, where they did a number of kidnappings for
ransom, and in the Mexico City area, where they pulled off
spectacular bank robberies.
The EPR's manifestos have strongly Marxist overtones
reminiscent of some of that era's rebel leaders, such as Lucio
Cabanas and Genaro Vazquez, who criticized the nation's
"oligarchy" and called for "popular struggle."
The Zapatistas, whose leftist rhetoric tends to the
moderate, say they have no links with the EPR.

Mexico Sends Troops Against Rebel Group

Huatulco, Mexico (AP - August 30, 1996) Soldiers threw up
roadblocks Friday and scoured the hills for rebels after a day of
guerrilla attacks that left 14 people dead, the peso falling and
the stock market in retreat.
Mexican newspapers worried that the coordinated raids
Thursday in five Mexican states - the most wide-ranging guerrilla
action in decades - could be a new threat to the nation.
The U.S. State Department said the attacks didn't seem to
jeopardize Mexico's political or economic stability, and there
were no immediate signs of tourist cancellations that could
affect Mexico's $6 billion-a-year foreign tourism industry. No
tourists were injured.
But some visiting Americans were jittery. Ten people died in
an attack Thursday near the popular Pacific resort of Huatulco.
"Obviously, this hurts us", said Pia Oberholzer, manager of
the Huatulco Hotel and Motel Association. "We are concerned about
the repercussions in Mexico and abroad. It might produce a fear
that doesn't exist."
The government announced tightened security measures at
airports and coastal resorts to prevent more attacks. Around
Huatulco, in southern Mexico, army troops searched the hills for
rebels. Roadblocks dotted the countryside.
Margie Taylor, 53, from Tulsa, Okla., confessed: "I feel
nervous. I do. I'm sorry."
Normally, the only news from Mexican beach resorts is the
day's weather report.
With six corpses laid out Friday on the police station floor
of this Pacific resort favored by U.S. tourists - two policemen,
two rebels and two civilians - the headlines now are all about a
shadowy leftist group destabilizing the country.
Interior Undersecretary Arturo Nunez said the Popular
Revolutionary Army, the group which launched the raids and is
known by the Spanish acronym EPR, was an arm of a Marxist group
called the Clandestine Revolutionary Workers Party Union of the
People, or PROCUP.
"It is a radical group which said it seeks power through
violent means, which proclaims that a dictatorship of the
proletariat should be installed in Mexico to construct
socialism", Nunez told the Televisa network.
Declarations from the EPR have called for a new government,
a new constitution and leftist economic changes but not for a
socialist dictatorship.
However, Sergio Bautista, one of six men arrested in the
wave of attacks, told police "the ideology of the EPR is of a
Marxist-Leninist-Maoist type", according to testimony released by
the Interior Secretariat, the agency in charge of domestic
security.
Nunez, speaking later at a news conference, estimated that
less than 200 fighters took part in the attacks Wednesday night
and Thursday morning.
He said the dead included three soldiers, six policemen, two
civilians and two attackers. An officer injured in the Huatulco
attack died later Friday.
Another man who'd been feared a casualty of the attacks,
24-year-old policeman Guadalupe Cruz Martinez, was found
unwounded Friday, the Oaxaca state public security chief said.
Chief Juan Cruz Ramales said Cruz was walking around,
talking incoherently to himself, in the town of Tlaxiaco. He was
hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
The EPR attacked troops, police or city halls in Oaxaca,
Guerrero, Mexico and Puebla states. It blocked a road in the
southernmost state of Chiapas.
The State Department condemned the attacks, saying: "There
can be no justification for violence in pursuit of political ends
in Mexico. However, it is important to underscore that the United
States does not consider these actions threatening to Mexican
political or economic stability."
Officials have consistently downplayed the significance of
the EPR since it appeared June 28 near Acapulco.
Just last week, Nunez told reporters that the EPR seemed to
be confined to the state of Guerrero.
By Friday, he was saying "We should not make too much of it,
nor should we minimize it", adding: "The actions worry the
government."
With that, he announced the government has reinforced
security "in the strategic installations of the country" ahead of
Sunday's state of the nation speech by President Ernesto Zedillo.
Federal police with dogs strolled through Mexico City
airport on Friday and beefed-up detachments of troops where
checking cars, trucks and buses along many highways.
"New actions by this group cannot be discounted", Nunez
said, because the group "wants attention, to generate a climate
of anxiety, of uncertainty, to project an image abroad of a
destabilized Mexico."
Stock traders said the raids sparked Thursday's 2.2 percent
drop in the market, as well as a nearly 1 percent slide Friday.
The peso also dropped slightly against the dollar after rising
for months.
The government, meanwhile, said it had moved two PROCUP
leaders, Felipe Martinez Soriano and David Cabanas, to the
top-security Almoloya federal prison.
Officials have linked PROCUP to numerous bombings, robberies
and assaults in Mexico. Nunez suggested that the EPR might be
financing itself through bank robberies or kidnaps for ransom.
Zedillo on Thursday discounted any connection between the
EPR and Mexico's other rebel movement, the Zapatista National
Liberation Army. It appeared Jan. 1, 1994, in Chiapas and fought
the government for 10 days before a cease-fire.
Nunez said the Zapatistas have a base among local Indians
with legitimate grievances while the EPR is "a professional
group" without popular support.

Mexico's New Threat Classic Latin American Rebels

Mexico City, Mexico (Reuter - August 30, 1996) Leftist rebels who
sprang from the shadows on Thursday with bloody attacks and
propaganda acts in six states across Mexico are classic Latin
American guerrillas, inspired by Marxism and far less given to
poetry than the country's Zapatista rebels, experts say.
Political analysts, the Mexican government and their own
statements paint a picture of the Popular Revolutionary Army
(EPR) as a serious, well-funded group with a presence in several
parts of the country and a grounding in Marxist groups founded in
the early 1970s.
The government on Thursday condemned the group, whose
attacks overnight left at least 12 dead in the southern states of
Oaxaca and Guerrero, as "clearly terrorist."
The EPR made its first appearance just two months ago in
Guerrero, when several dozen armed men in military uniform showed
up at a peasant rally on June 28 to mark the first anniversary of
a police massacre of leftist activists.
They read out a manifesto calling for the overthrow of the
government of President Ernesto Zedillo.
Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the two-time presidential candidate for
the non-violent leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD)
dismissed the group as a "pantomime", an epithet later taken up
by Interior Minister Emilio Chuayffet.
"We wish to express that we are not a pantomime", an EPR
commander told Proceso news magazine in an interview published
this week, held according to Proceso in Mexico City. "The reality
is that we are a national force, we are everywhere and we have
only used a small part of our power."
"We do not wish for war and we do not wish to declare it,
but we cannot stand with our arms crossed in the face of crime
and impunity as a form of government", he said.
It is not clear how many combatants the EPR can call on.
The latest incidents - involving well over 100 fighters -
show the EPR has a presence in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca,
Chiapas, the central State of Mexico and Tabasco, as well as
possibly Puebla.
A clandestine news conference held earlier this month in the
Eastern Sierra mountains suggested they are also in the Huasteca
area, which straddles Hidalgo, Veracruz and San Luis Potosi
states.
Roberto Blum, a political analyst at Mexico's independent
Centre for Development Research, told Reuters Financial
Television on Thursday the group also appeared to have cells in
Mexico City and even in the northern state of Baja California.
"The EPR seems to me much more a traditional guerrilla
(group) like the ones that have been in Central America in the
past, classical Marxist guerrillas. The Zapatistas are more
post-modern", Blum said.
Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos is as well-known for
his literary musings on the Internet as for the burst of violence
with which the mostly indigenous rebels rose up in arms on New
Year's Day, 1994. They are now in peace talks with the
government.
The EPR says openly that funding for its powerful weapons -
AR-15 assault rifles and Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns, as
well as Soviet-designed AK-47s - came partly from bank robberies
and kidnappings of wealthy businessmen.
Attorney General Antonio Lozano told reporters earlier this
week that he had some evidence, though not conclusive, that the
EPR was behind the 1994 kidnapping of financier Alfredo Harp
Helu. A ransom reported at between $5 million and $25 million was
paid for Harp's release.

Mexico Rebel Attacks Kill At Least 13

Tixtla, Mexico (Reuter - August 29, 1996) At least 13 people were
killed in the biggest rebel assaults in Mexico in more than two
years when scores of masked guerrillas attacked police and
military posts in two southern states, officials and witnesses
said Thursday.
The attacks, which appeared to be closely coordinated, were
in six towns in Guerrero and Oaxaca states. They marked the most
serious fighting since the Zapatista rebellion erupted in the
southeastern state of Chiapas in January 1994.
This time, witnesses said, the attacks were launched by a
well-armed new rebel force calling itself the Popular
Revolutionary Army (EPR) that emerged two months ago. The
Zapatistas, who are in peace talks with the government, have said
they have nothing to do with the EPR.
Mexican financial markets, already hit by a drop in U.S.
stock prices, fell on the news. The main stock market index shed
68 points, or two percent. By early afternoon the peso weakened
by almost four centavos to 7.534 against the dollar.
The Mexican peso collapsed in December 1994, losing half its
value, when mounting lack of confidence in the government's
ability to pay its debts combined with Zapatista rebel movements
to spark a major exodus of funds from Mexico.
There was little comment on the attacks from the government
of President Ernesto Zedillo, who is due to give his second State
of the Nation address Sunday. Asked if the government was worried
about the attacks, Deputy Interior Minister Arturo Nunez told
government news agency Notimex: "Of course. We are working on
it."
The Oaxaca state government said 11 people, including
sailors, police, rebels and two civilians, died in two lengthy
gunfights, one near the Pacific tourist resort of Huatulco and
another in the mountain town of Tlaxiaco.
Oaxaca government spokesman Roberto Santiago told Reuters
the rebels had also taken hostage a policeman from Tlaxiaco and a
sailor from Huatulco's naval base.
Gov. Diodoro Carrasco appealed for calm but also urged the
population to be on the lookout for "possible new attacks".
"At around 10 p.m., in the town of Tlaxiaco ... a group of
approximately 50 heavily armed people, dressed as civilians but
wearing dark clothing, their faces covered with handkerchiefs,
suddenly burst into the center of town and began an attack
against the police", Oaxaca's government said.
At least two policemen died in the town, a radio control
base with a small airport.
In neighboring Guerrero, officials said two policeman were
gunned down in one attack and five soldiers were wounded in
another on an army barracks. Officials said the attacks appeared
to be coordinated and the guerrillas numbered at least 130.
In Huatulco, around 80 gunmen attacked police posts and a
naval base, killing three sailors, two policemen and two
civilians, one of whom was hit by machine-gun fire as he drove
by, the Oaxaca statement said. Two rebels in olive-green uniforms
were killed when police sought to repel the assault.
Radio station Radio Red said three people had been arrested
in Guerrero in connection with the attacks. There was no official
confirmation of the report.
The two state governments said there were a total of 21
wounded. None appeared to be rebels.
An unidentified witness from Tlaxiaco, speaking live on
Radio Red, said the rebels arrived in trucks and painted pro-EPR
slogans on roads and buildings. Then the shooting started in the
main square, sending locals fleeing for cover.
Municipal buildings were riddled with bullet holes in the
town of Tixtla, Guerrero, about 10 miles east of the state
capital, Chilpancingo.
Officials in the states of Guanajuato, Mexico and Tabasco
denied a newspaper report that the EPR had also clashed with
security forces in their states.

Masked Mexican Rebels Attack Towns, 13 Killed

By Henry Tricks

Mexico City, Mexico (Reuter - August 29, 1996) At least 13 people
were killed when scores of masked rebels struck at police and
military posts in Oaxaca and Guerrero states in the biggest
assaults in more than two years, officials said on Thursday.
The attacks, which appeared to be closely coordinated, were
in six towns in the two southern states. They marked the most
serious fighting since the Zapatista rebellion erupted in the
southeastern state of Chiapas in January 1994.
This time, witnesses said, the attacks were launched by a
well-armed new rebel force calling itself the Popular
Revolutionary Army (EPR) that emerged two months ago.
The Zapatistas, who are in peace talks with the government,
have said they have nothing to do with the EPR.
Mexican financial markets dipped on the news. The main stock
market index shed 50 points, or more than one percent, and the
Mexican peso weakened by more than two centavos to 7.517 against
the dollar by mid-morning.
The Mexican peso collapsed in December 1994, losing half its
value, when mounting lack of confidence in the government's
ability to pay its debts combined with Zapatista rebel movements
to spark a major exodus of funds from Mexico.
"The unsettling thing is that it (the killings) appears to
be co-ordinated", analyst Felix Boni of HSBC James Capel said of
the attacks. "But it may be more of an attempt to embarrass
Zedillo on the eve of his state-of-the union address."
President Ernesto Zedillo is due to give his second annual
address to the nation on Sunday.
The Oaxaca state government said 11 people, including
sailors, police, rebels and two civilians, died in two lengthy
gunfights, one near the Pacific tourist resort of Huatulco and
another in the mountain town of Tlaxiaco.
In neighbouring Guerrero, officials said two policeman were
gunned down in one attack and five soldiers were wounded in
another attack on an army barracks. Officials said the incidents
appeared to be coordinated and the guerrillas numbered at least
130.
"At around 10 p.m., in the town of Tlaxiaco ... a group of
approximately 50 heavily armed people, dressed as civilians but
wearing dark clothing, their faces covered with handkerchiefs,
suddenly burst into the centre of town and began an attack
against the police", Oaxaca's government said.
At least two policemen died in the town, a radio control
base with a small airport. It lies in barren mountainous land 60
miles (100 km) west of Oaxaca City, the state capital.
In Huatulco, around 80 gunmen attacked police posts and a
naval base, killing three sailors, two policemen and two
civilians, one of whom was hit by machine-gun fire as he drove
by, the statement said. Two rebels dressed in olive-green
uniforms were killed when police sought to repel the assault.
The two state governments said there were a total of 21
wounded. None appeared to be rebels.
An unidentified witness from Tlaxiaco, speaking live on
Radio Red, said the rebels arrived in trucks and painted pro-EPR
slogans on roads and buildings. Then the shooting started in the
main square, sending locals fleeing for cover.
"There was a massive gun battle", she said, adding that the
fighting lasted at least an hour. "Everyone ran, everything
turned into panic. We hid in the safest part of the house. The
town lived through an hour of sheer terror."
National teleivision network Televisa showed municipal
buildings riddled with bullet holes in the town of Tixtla,
Guerrero, where the police station was shot up. Tixtla is about
10 miles (16 km) east of the state capital, Chilpancingo.
Radio reports said police and army units rushed to the parts
of Oaxaca where the fighting occurred but the rebels appeared to
have vanished.

Army Also Hunts Rebels In Eastern Mexico

Emiliano Zapata, Mexico (Reuter - August 30, 1996) When Mexican
troops banged on his door recently demanding to search his house,
Nicolas Martinez, a left-wing peasant activist in this
mud-and-timber Indian village, thought he could outsmart them.
He demanded to see a search warrant, a request he admitted
was probably unusual in the impoverished Sierra Madre mountains
of Eastern Mexico where many peasants barely speak Spanish, let
alone have a useful knowledge of the law.
The soldiers had no warrant, but he said they barged in
regardless. After rummaging through his belongings, he said they
grilled him to see if he was hiding arms or uniforms.
"They said they were in search of guerrillas. They asked me
if I'd seen anyone from the EPR, but we've seen no one", he
added, referring to the Popular Revolutionary Army that in the
night of Wednesday-Thursday carried out attacks and propaganda
acts in six Mexican states, leaving at least 12 dead.
The weekend before the attacks, a Reuter correspondent saw
soldiers travelling on foot, in armoured troop carriers and
aboard helicopters in this eastern state of Hidalgo.
Troops in the region were under strict orders not to discuss
their mission with reporters. One officer, however, confirmed
that the army was on counter-insurgency manoeuvres, and he
speculated that the EPR may be at large in the state.
"There are armed people", he said, insisting that as yet
there had been no fighting in Hidalgo. With a soldier's bravado,
he added: "They're scared of us. They're cowards."
In early August, masked EPR rebels took some reporters to
eastern Mexico, saying they operated there though they declined
to reveal exactly where. It was believed they took reporters to
the Huasteca mountains that straddle the eastern states of
Hidalgo, Veracruz and San Luis Potosi.
Locals - both those in favour of the military presence and
against it - say the army has reacted by cracking down on hamlets
like Emiliano Zapata known for left-wing sympathies.
In the neighbourhood and the local press, a hostile campaign
has emerged linking radical politics to armed revolt. Peasant
activists like Martinez have struck back with a series of
protests to try and force the army out.
Among peasants loyal to the ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI), the army's presence in Hidalgo was
largely welcomed as a safeguard against insurrection.
But La Huasteca is a dirt-poor area as divided by political
rifts as it is by lush valleys and rugged cliffs. It is easy to
pinpoint villages where anti-PRI resentment is strong and support
for armed revolt runs close to the surface.
Emiliano Zapata, named after the peasant hero of the
1910-1917 Mexican revolution, was carved out of the side of a
densely overgrown hill in 1983, when some 100 members of the
left-wing Democratic Front of Eastern Mexico (Fedomez) abandoned
a nearby pro-PRI town complaining of intimidation.
It has no running water, and women strip-wash in the open
air. There are no cars and the town leader, Juan Arriaga, cannot
speak Spanish.
Similar Fedomez towns are scattered through La Huasteca, and
the organisation's members have set up what they say is a
permanent blockade of the town hall in the largest town in the
region, Huejutla, demanding the withdrawal of the army.
The Mexican government on Thursday alleged that Fedomez was
one of the front groups for PROCUP, a clandestine leftist
movement formed in the early 1970s which in turn, according to
the Interior Ministry, has created the EPR as its armed wing.
In the local press the organisation, made up of mostly
indigenous peasants, has been the target of virulent assault.
Pictures of its leaders were published in a local paper, El
Mundo of Poza Rica, in late July with captions that branded
several as "bloodthirsty murderers, hunted by police." The
accompanying article was unsourced.
The army appears to have joined the campaign. Alongside the
dirt road near Emiliano Zapata, some 60 troops were stationed in
a muddy camp, and villagers said the soldiers often stopped them
tending their cattle in the fields nearby.
When a truck packed with Indians drove along the road on
Aug. 25, a Reuters reporter saw troops order them out and frisk
them with their hands pressed up against the side of the
vehicle. Soldiers said they were enforcing gun control laws.
Just for the simple fact that we belong to an independent
organisation, they repress us", said Martinez, the spokesman for
the village.

New Mexican Guerrilla Attacks Add To Market Woes

By Robert Kozak

Mexico City, Mexico (Reuter - August 29, 1996) Co-ordinated
guerrilla attacks in two southern states caused Mexican stocks to
tumble and the peso to lose ground Thursday, showing how fragile
Mexico's financial markets still are.
Business leaders called for quick action, and Mexican
Finance Minister Guillermo Ortiz said he hoped the attacks would
be seen in their "real context."
The attacks, which left 13 dead, drove down the bolsa by
more than 2.0 percent in late trade, and helped the spot peso to
weaken by 4.0 centavos to 7.535/7.54 per dollar at its close.
Ortiz told reporters that the country's financial markets
had been performing "reasonably" and that he hoped leftist rebel
attacks that killed 13 people overnight would be seen in their
"real context."
"I hope that these actions will be taken in the real context
in which they are occurring", he said.
Many analysts say they believe the attacks were timed to
embarrass President Ernesto Zedillo before he gives his second
State of the Nation address on Sunday.
At least 13 people were killed and 21 injured when scores of
masked rebels struck at police and military posts in Oaxaca and
Guerrero states late Wednesday in the biggest assaults in more
than two years. A soldier and a sailor were also taken hostage,
one government official said.
Mexican business leaders said the surprise guerrilla
violence could scare off foreign investment and called for a
stern response from the government.
"With a belligerent group like this that uses high-powered
weapons, you can't fight them with holy water", Carlos Abascal,
president of the employers association, told radio station Radio
Red.
The attacks were in six towns in the two southern states,
and appeared to be the work of a well-armed new rebel force
calling itself the Popular Revolutionary Army, which emerged two
months ago.
Part of the volatilty in Mexican markets was also due to the
rise in the yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond. After
hitting record highs this week, profit-taking on the Mexican
stock market has also been widespread.
Analysts added that the impact of the guerrilla attacks has
been cushioned by improving economic conditions.
"The fragility will continue for some time. There are still
worries and volatility, but with consistent economic improvement
each time the volatility will be less", said Bancomer economist
Javier Maldonado.
Economists say Mexico's economy is much stronger than it was
a few months ago. Second-quarter gross domestic product came in
at 7.2 percent, marking an end to the recession.
On Wednesday Banco de Mexico said the nation had a current
account surplus of $641 million in the second quarter, compared
with a surplus of $441 million a year before.
Earlier guerrilla attacks in Mexico have combined with
economic imbalances to devastating effect.
On Jan. 1 1994 rebels in Chiapas seized six towns, starting
a period of prolonged political uncertainty in Mexico.
On Dec. 19 the same year movements by Zapatista rebels and
army troops in Chiapas, combined with mounting concerns about the
government's ability to pay its debts and a sudden drop in
investor confidence, kicked off an exodus of dollars that sparked
the Mexican peso crisis and tipped the country into its deepest
recession in half a century.

Mexican Rebels Claim Ties In Capital

Mexico City, Mexico (UPI - August 25, 1996) Two leaders of the
Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, claimed they have "forces" in
the nation's capital and other areas in interviews published
Sunday.
The Mexican government has claimed the shadowy rebel group,
which first appeared June 28 and has since engaged in a series of
small-scale attacks on army troops, is restricted to the southern
state of Guerrero.
"We have not yet used our full combat capacity. We have
reserves", said one of rebels, who wore a hood and identified
himself only as Commander Oscar.
In interviews with the Mexico City daily La Jornada and the
magazine Proceso, Commander Oscar and another leader who
identified himself as Commander Vincente said the EPR has "fresh
forces" in Mexico City and some of the poorer towns in the
surrounding State of Mexico.
"According to the intensity of the government's attack
against the people, we are disposed to act... and give a wider
character to our action", said one of the EPR commanders.
The EPR has stopped short of a declaration of war against
the Mexican government "because our action is one of
self-defense", according to the rebel leaders, who described
their movement as socialist.
Vicente and Oscar, two of six people who have identified
themselves as 'commanders' of the EPR, said the guerrilla group
has 23,000 combatants in the state of Guerrero.
The pair, interviewed at a guerrilla safe house in an
unidentified location three hours outside of Mexico City, called
for the resignation of President Ernesto Zedillo.
"For the good of the country the government headed by
Ernesto Zedillo should resign; if not, a military solution would
be needed, something that nobody wants", Commander Oscar told La
Jornada and Proceso.
During the interview, the two were flanked by a pair of EPR
guerrillas dressed in military-style uniforms and carrying AK-47
assault rifles, while nine other EPR rebels guarded the house.
In photographs accompanying the interview, the two guerrilla
leaders were also shown in front of a wall decorated with Mexican
flag, the EPR flag - a cross formed by a hammer, a machete and a
rifle - and the banner of a small Mexican leftist party, the
Popular Democratic Revolutionary Party.
The commanders accused the Mexican government - whose senior
officials have denied the EPR is an authentic guerrilla group -
of using "psychological war, disinformation and
counterinformation."
"(The government) wants to depict us in the public opinion
as a local problem, as warlike and irrational", Commander Oscar
said.
The rebel leaders claimed they had inflicted 59 casualties
in attacks on Mexican army troops in Guerrero, including 30 dead
in a purported attack in Encinos Prietos, Guerrero, and accused
the army of trying to cover up the deaths.
The EPR first appeared during a June 28 memorial service for
17 Guerrero farm workers killed by state police one year earlier
in what came to be known as the Aguas Blancas massacre.
Since that date, the Mexican army has acknowledged only one
death and several injuries among its troops in Guerrero, in
nearly a dozen small attacks and ambushes that it has ascribed to
"unidentified assailants."