(en) Zapatismo News Update--31 March 1997

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*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE* - March 31st, 1997

A service of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation in Mexico.

More information regarding the FZLN and the Zapatista struggle in Mexico can be found at: http://www.peak.org/~joshua/fzln (English) http://spin.com.mx/~floresu/FZLN (Spanish)

Please send comments to: joshua@peak.org

____________________________________________________________________ =20 NEWS SUMMARY FOR MARCH 16 - 31, 1997=20 =20 1. Violence continues with impunity in Chiapas 2. Mexico finally accepts--on paper--U.N. recommendation against discrimination 3. Human rights groups denounce clandestine detention centers =20 ____________________________________________________________________ =20 VIOLENCE CONTINUES WITH IMPUNITY IN CHIAPAS =20 =20 EL BOSQUE =20 On March 19th, the bodies of three of the four civilian Zapatistas killed by state security forces five days earlier in San Pedro Nixtalucum (municipality of El Bosque) were laid to rest in a ceremony attended by hundreds of Tzotzil sympathizers of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (the body of the fourth man man was buried in his home town of Chavajabal, rather than in San Pedro). During the ceremony, local leaders of the EZLN warned that they have had enough of these attacks against their supporters: =20 "We are despised by the governments. This is not the first time such a massacre has occurred; it happens all over the state. Public Security Police, judicial police, guardias blancas--all of them want to destroy the indigenous peoples. We are fed up enduring these injustices of the pri=EDsta government!", they said. =20 Three priests from the Diocese of San Crist=F3bal also attended the burial ceremony to officiate the mass for the murdered Zapatistas, calling for "reconciliation between brothers", and signalling to the deceased that "you are truly sons of God, and therefore you have a right to resurrection." =20 Meanwhile, judicial processes are continuing against 24 of the 27 civilian Zapatistas brutally detained during the events of March 14th in El Bosque, while the whereabouts of another two are still unknown. The state Attorney General announced on March 17th that the police would free two of the men, and formally charged the rest with crimes ranging from homicide (for thirteen of the prisoners) to kidnapping and assault. Four of the prisoners remain badly wounded (three with severe burns and one with a bullet in his leg), while the rest show visible signs of having been beaten during or after their arrests. Although they were detained on March 14th, none were given medical attention until their arrival at the Cerro Hueco prison four days later. =20 The Attorney General also declared that he would issue an additional 35 arrest warrants against campesinos from the town accused of participation in the kidnapping of local officials from the ruling party on March 13th. =20 However, there is no indication at this time of any action whatsoever being taken by the state government against the members of the PRI who kidnapped the PRD and Zapatista sympathizers on March 13th, nor against those responsible for the deaths of the four civilian Zapatistas the following day. It is also worth noting that while 13 of the zapatista prisoners have been formally charged with homicide, the government has not indicated who they are accused of killing; in fact, the only people who died that day were the Zapatista civilians killed by police gunfire. =20 The Miguel Agust=EDn Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, which has taken up the defense of the 24 prisoners, has formally complained of the rampant irregularities and unconstitutionality of the process thus far, asserting that the defense was denied access to the case reports and other important documents once the charges were filed, and that the judge only admitted testimonies from police and local PRI authorities before ordering temporary prison sentences for the 24, ignoring the eyewitness reports that all the prisoners were rounded up only after having been singled out by a local leader of the PRI as being members of the opposition. The Center has announced it will immediately present an appeal in defense of the prisoners. =20 Meanwhile, a bank account has been established in Mexico City in order to collect funds to purchase food for the 77 families (361 people in all) who were driven out of San Pedro following the events of March 14th. Those interested in helping out can deposit their donation in the Bancomer Account No. 1308643-4, Plaza 001, in the name of Julio L=F3pez Montoya (Mexico City). =20 VENUSTIANO CARRANZA =20 The month of March has not been a kind one for the peace process in Chiapas. First, there was the violence in Palenque against the peaceful indigenous organization Xi'Nich and the Jesuits who accompanied them. Then there was the attack by state security forces on the supporters of the EZLN in San Pedro Nichtalucum. Several days later there was even more violence which broke out in the town of Venustiano Carranza between militants of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ) and the PRI-sponsored paramilitary group Alianza San Bartolom=E9 de los Llanos. =20 One bystander was killed and two campesinos were wounded during a series of armed confrontations between the two sides in Venustiano Carranza, following the takeover of the municipal headquarters on March 17th by 3,000 members of the OCEZ. The demands of the OCEZ include the immediate abolishment of paramilitary groups (such as the Alianza San Bartolom=E9 de los Llanos), a lower price for electrical energy, freedom for the three political prisoners who belong to the OCEZ currently in the Cerro Hueco state prison, and the election of a new, plural municipal council. =20 The takeover came 40 days after a militant of the OCEZ, Jos=E9 Manuel Ram=EDrez de la Torre, was murdered at the hands of PRI-sponsored paramilitary organizations. =20 As of this writing the authorities have not intervened, the municipal offices continue under the occupation of the OCEZ (with the Alianza San Bartolom=E9 camped out three blocks away), and the situation remains very tense despite two "non-aggression pacts" signed by both sides. =20 ELSEWHERE IN CHIAPAS... =20 On March 22nd, a group of approximately 3,000 Zapatistas made a surprise appearance in the community of Maravilla Tenejapa (municipality of Las Margaritas, about 200 km from San Crist=F3bal), when a state commission made up of local deputies from various political parties was engaged in a "consulation" regarding a possible division of the area into various new municipalities. =20 When the commission arrived to begin the consultation at 11:00 a.m., there were only about 1,000 indigenous campesinos assembled. But when the event had just begun, two columns of ski-masked men and women arrived, orderly and peacefully, with chants of "Long live the EZLN!" and "Long live Subcomandante Marcos!". The Zapatistas then took center stage in order to demand the immediate constitutional implementation of the San Andr=E9s Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture: "Otherwise", they warned, "the only guilty party in the failure of the peace which we all desire will be the government, which talks in doublespeak and which only serves the interests of those who would sell out our homeland". =20 They also gave their opinion on the consultations being carried out--supposedly in fulfillment of one aspect of the San Andr=E9s Accords--saying they will not recognize them, because the Implementation and Verification Commission has not been participating (which is a requisite of the Accords), and because the consultations are "disguised and politicized", rather than taking the interests of the inhabitants of the area into account. =20 Before calmly leaving in the same manner in which they had arrived, the Zapatistas concluded with a rejection of the government's neoliberal economic policy "which only carries us toward misery and extermination", and demanded governmental recognition of indigenous autonomy for their communities- an autonomy which, they added, is not the same as "creating little States within a State", as the government's legal advisors have accused. "If that were so", they said, "then we would be drafting and approving our own Constitutions". =20 =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 =20 U.N. COMMISSION: DISCRIMINATION IS ALIVE AND WELL IN MEXICO =20 The legal advisor to the Secretary of External Relations in Mexico, Miguel Angel Gonz=E1lez F=E9liz, indicated last week that the Mexican government will accept the recommendation of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to criminalize all forms of segregation or exclusion against indigenous communities in Mexico. =20 This action comes amid a debate which heated up in past weeks between the U.N. committee and the Mexican government regarding the treatment of indigenous peoples in the country. The government had written a report to the committee in Geneva regarding the "new relationship between the Mexican State and the indigenous peoples", insisting that the Mexican State respects "difference" and recognizes indigenous identity as an important component of the Nation. =20 The Mexican report further dealt with the suspension of the peace process with the EZLN, saying that the EZLN's rejection of the government's counterproposal on indigenous rights and culture was "probably due to lack of juridical knowledge", completely ignoring the fact that the EZLN's rejection came after consultations with some of the most well-respected constitutional lawyers and legal advisors in the country. The report also insists the EZLN has "unilaterally" suspended the dialogue on eight occasions as "a recourse to call attention to its demands and statements", and has not reinitiated talks even though the government "has conceded to its five additional demands"--a statement completely lacking in truth (only one part of one of the five demands has been conceded: that of the installation of the Implementation and Verification Commission for the San Andr=E9s Accords). =20 The U.N. Commission for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination responded to the report by lauding its "highly diplomatic wording", but nevertheless called it "insufficient" to respond to the recommendations made by the Commission last August dealing with the treatment of indigenous peoples and communities in Mexico. =20 Many of the Commission's members continue to show great concern regarding the peace process in Chiapas, and suggest that the government still has a long way to go in order to deal sufficiently and positively with the demands of the indigenous communities in that state. "First of all", said one of the experts on the Commission, "[the report] speaks of normality in the state; but the facts indicate that the peace negotiations are suspended; the government does not respect the San Andr=E9s Accords, and ignores Convention 169 of the ILO, regarding the protection of the indigenous worker; the Cocopa is weakened; and the paramilitary groups, such as Paz y Justicia and the Chinchulines continue repressing the indigenous peoples with the impunity granted them by the authorities." =20 "Racial discrimination continues in Mexico", another member of the Commission added. "There are measures to improve this, but they are not being implemented; and the resistance continues against passing legislation on indigenous matters, which is an obligation [the Mexican government] took up when it ratified the UN Convention." =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 =20 HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DENOUNCE SECRET PRISONS IN MEXICO =20 At a press conference in Mexico City on March 18th, the existence of "underground clandestine prisons" on army and navy bases in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Chiapas was denounced by Jorge Bautista Mart=EDnez and Jorge Rafael D=EDaz, of the Fray Francisco de Vitoria= Human Rights Center (CDH-FFV), and Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, of the Comit=E9 Eureka!. =20 Together, the Comit=E9 Eureka! and the CDH-FFV have documented a total of 520 forced "disappearances" of indigenous leaders, campesinos, labor leaders, and opposition activists across the country, under the regimes of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo (from 1988 to the present). =20 According to Rafael D=EDaz, president of the CDH-FFV, the "disappearances" have been carried out by government agents--sometimes in uniform, other times in civilian clothes--who "secretly bring their victims to areas of reclusion which are not found on any official register....they are not reported to any judicial authority, and no government institution then takes responsibility for their lives, their integrity, or their security." =20 D=EDaz added that the victims--like nearly every detainee in Mexican prisons--are subjected to methods of torture in order to reveal information about them, their families, or their associates. "In the majority of cases," he affirmed, "the victims of these detentions and disappearances are executed by their captors...so as to maintain the clandestine nature of the repressive structures where the interrogations have been carried out....Sometimes the body of the victim is then left in a public place with the intent of spreading fear among the population, in order to dissuade them from participating in activities which question the regime." =20 Unfortunately, "forced disappearances" are nothing new, and have been part of the unwritten domestic policy of the Mexican government since the late 1960s. They became a common practice during the "dirty war" of the 1970s against the nacent guerrilla organizations operating in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, and have increased again in number and frequency in recent years, especially in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Sinaloa. =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 =20 Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, El Financiero, and La Cr=F3nica. =20 The primary responsibility for the content of this news page lies with its author, Joshua Paulson, and not necessarily with the Special Commission for the Promotion of the FZLN. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 Comments: joshua@peak.org =20 [END]

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