(en) Eyewitness on Dirty War in Chiapas

mark_c (mark_c@geocities.com)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 11:35:27 +0000

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Comite Provisional Internacionalista Contra el =

Neoliberalism y por La Humanidad (COPICONH) 4/4/97 =

Special Urgent ! Bulletin #6

The following are two articles concerning the increasing =

incursions and provocation of all the Federal, State, and =

local forces whose obvious interests is the elimination of =

the Zapatista communities and Army. Here we try to =

provide an analytical summary of the dirty war strategy. =

Mexican Military enters Roberto Barrios in North of =


The community of Roberto Barrios, 32 kilometers from =

Palenque in the north of Chiapas, is home to one of the =

five Aguascalientes community centers, and has, over =

the last few years, been a very strong center of Zapatista =

support. I was there in January and February of 1997, =

working on the installation of a potable water system, =

and again in March, and in the space of these few =

months, a noticeable increase in tension and decrease in =

the security of the community has been evident.

Roberto Barrios lies along the banks of a river, and across =

this river, some few hundred meters from the entrance =

to the community, is an encampment of the Mexican =

federal army. In order to enter or leave the community, =

one must pass through the military base. The =

community is divided between Zapatista supporters and =

Priistas; according to what members of the community =

told me, among the Priistas there are members of the =

paramilitary group "los chinchulines", who are receiving =

military training in the federal army encampment. =

According to the compa=D2eros, many Priistas regularly =

pass over to the army base for military training, and =

receive as well, gifts of rice and beans in exchange for =

their support.

During the time of my stay in January and February, two =

members of the Zapatista organization in Roberto =

Barrios received written death threats, notes apparently =

written in good grammar and good handwriting, causing =

community leaders to believe that authorities in the =

military base had something to do with it. Around the =

same time, confrontations were occurring in nearby =

communities of El Bosque, Aguas Blancas and Sabanilla, =

and refugees from some of these communities made =

their way to Roberto Barrios. At the same time there =

were internal conflicts in the community regarding the =

fact that the government arrived to install a water system =

one week after our team had arrived to install a similar =

system. In other words, there were two systems being =

installed at once, forcing members of the community to =

decide to which one they would lend support. This is =

typical of government intervention in the communities =

-- arriving to increase tension rather than support =

peaceful resolutions.

In the month of March, just after the lynching and arrest =

of two Jesuit priests in nearby Palenque, and PRI protests =

outside of the parish there in which the angry =

government supporters shouted "Murdering priests out =

of Palenque!", I arrived in Roberto Barrios for a few days. =

Immediately upon my arrival I noticed that tension had =

increased dramatically. I was told that the government =

water project was nearly completed, and though it was =

not going to bring water to the houses of the Zapatistas, =

but only to the Priistas, a number of Zapatistas were =

working on the project, they told me, because "they =

didn't want trouble". =

This was cause for some tension. But, besides this, the =

people in charge in the community told me that, for =

about a week, the army had been crossing the river, fully =

armed and entering the community every day. During =

the first occurrence of this, a group of women washing =

clothes in the river formed a human chain before the =

river bank, and the soldiers turned back. But they =

continued coming, day after day, crossing the river and =

crossing back, as if simply to scare the community. I was =

also told that the soldiers had been firing their rifles into =

the river. And that the community felt helpless to do =

anything. Presumably these events continue to this day, =

and, for fear of reprisal, the community remains quiet, =

suffering these acts of terror in silence as the war of low =

intensity slowly evolves into a war of high intensity.

4/3/ 1997





ZAPATISTA ZONES: On March 14 a Seguridad Publica =

Helicopter shot at unarmed villagers from San Pedro =

part of the El Bosque Municipality in the Highlands of =

Chiapas who were blocking the road to prevent the =

passage of an Army truck which was intending to =

transport 6 Zapatista Sympathizers. Two minutes after =

the shooting started 4 unarmed Zapatista sympathizers =

were dead and 5 were injured.

Several witnesses of the incident have testified that the =

person ordering the murder of the 4 Zapatistas was the =

State Attorney General, Jorge Enrique Hernandez. El =

Bosque the seat of the municipality has been a strong =

Zapatista Community, however San Pedro Nichtalucum, =

one of the communities, was known as a majority PRI =

community. =

Several days before the murders, members from the PRD =

of San Pedro demanded to know where and how federal =

proceeds directed to the community were being spent. =

This is one of many communities that has parallel PRI =

and PRD governments where the government only =

recognizes the PRI governments. The PRD-Zapatista =

sympathetic forces proceeded to arrest several PRI official =

and took over the municipality offices. The PRI forces =

then came in with the intentions of taking back the =

offices and in turn arrested 12 PRD members. =

This is all the authorities needed for the State Security =

forces to intervene. The State Security forces came in =

and arrested Zapatista sympathizers. It is now thought =

that the State Attorney General was heard shouting from =

a helicopter the orders to shoot several PRD forces that =

were blocking the road. One of the persons shot was 80 =

year old Miguel Gomez Hernandez, who was still alive =

when he was intentionally run over by one of the State =

Security Trucks. Immediately after that shooting the =

helicopter maneuvered up and down the road, shooting =

randomly at anyone on it. =

74 Zapatista Families Numbering 346 Men, Women and =

Children Thrown Out of Their Homes Emboldened by =

the support from the State Security forces, the PRI =

members of San Pedro proceeded to attack and ransack =

all of the homes of the 74 families. The Zapatista =

sympathizer families were forced to leave their homes =

and are now camping in a nearby location. Our human =

rights delegation visited several of these homes and =

witnessed a state inspection commission call out the =

hundreds of missing items which had been stolen. The =

terrorized representatives were very happy to see outside =

people who could get the truth to the outside world. =

24 Zapatista Sympathizers Acussed of the Murder of =

Their Friends and Family Members and Ambushing =

State Police Forces. Simultaneously 24 Zapatista =

sympathizer leaders were arrested for the murder of their =

friends and relatives and transported to Cerro Hueco, =

where they are presently held without bail. =

On March 31, I and a delegation of three Chicano =

students from Cal State Northridge visited the prisoners =

to get their testimonies. The 24 prisoners from El Bosque =

have now been added to the more than sixty political =

prisoners from la Zona Norte of Chiapas, where PRD- Zapatista sympathizer leaders have been systematically =

arrested during the last two years. The prisoners told us =

of beatings and torture that they had been subjected to, =

which included the use of plastic bags to bring the =

prisoner near suffocation, the "tehuacanazo," which is =

the use of agitated carbonated water infused through the =

nose, and the "ca=D2a," which is the insertion of sugar cane =

splinters underneath the finger nails. "At the moment =

that they arrest us they beat us profusely and then we are =

applied one, two or sometimes all three methods of =

torture so that we can sign a blank confession," said =

Artemio, leader of the Voz de Cerro Hueco, an =

organization of political prisoners, some of them held for =

over 27 months. =

On Tuesday April 2, I traveled to the area with a =

delegation from the US, headed by Lydia Brazon, Director =

of the Humanitarian Law Project, which included =

Chicana-Mexicana actress, Marisol Padilla, a film crew =

headed by Director Ben Eichert and San Diego Teacher =

and Teacher Union leader Peter Brown, who is also =

heading up a project to construct a High School in =

Oventic. This delegation was part of a major delegation =

which included the Press and representatives of Human =

Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas and members =

of the CONAI which is the mediation organization =

headed up by Bishop Samuel Ruiz. .

When we arrived at San Pedro for first hand observation =

of the ransacked homes and to talk and visit with the =

displaced families whose members numbered 346, the =

first thing we literally bumped into was the 57th =

Battalion of the Mexican Army, which had already =

established a base in the community. =

A Definite Pattern Emerges

The northern area, Roberto Barrios and now El Bosque =

all show definite patterns and tendency of a dirty war =

carried out against the indigenous people of Chiapas in =

General and the Zapatista Communities in particular. =

First of all, the government militarized the general area. =

Typically, foreign priests and nuns are singled out as =

Zapatista sympathizers and are expelled from the =

country. =

With the means of communicating to the outside world =

unplugged, the terrain is now ready for the next step; the =

organizing of the local caciques and the training of their =

forces into Chinchulines (PRI Shock Troops) or their =

recruitment to the notorious Paz y Justicia (which should =

really be called Ni Paz Ni Justicia). Indigenous youths =

unemployed or working for indigenous wages are =

offered relatively lucrative bribes to participate in =

vigilante groups and are trained by the closest Army base. =

The main job of the Chinchulines and Paz y Justicia is to =

be a Commando Counterrevolutionary force to terrorize =

the Zapatista families until the families are forced to =

leave. The Chinchulines and Paz y Justicia typically join =

forces where ever Guardias Blancas exits. Guardias =

Blancas, which were formed in the 1920 for the purposes =

of repelling any effort to execute agrarian reform are =

mainly troops of the White Cattle Ranchers and land =

owners of Chiapas. =

The Seguridad Publica works in conjunction with the =

Army and then defends, protects and absolves the =

terrorists' troops of any crime they might commit. On =

the other hand, any controversy which may result from =

any of these provocatory forces become excuses to kill or =

jail, beat and torture the community leadership and hold =

them without bail and without a fair trail.

When and where elections are held, they become useful =

tools of contention, division and provocation. Most of =

the community follows the indigenous tradition of =

convening a township assembly and elect their =

leadership openly, but their elections are not recognized. =

The PRI hold elections in which many times only a PRI =

minority participate, but it is these elections that the State =

Government recognizes. Both Governments are set up, =

but money from the State Government are sent to the =

PRI local government. =

During the last three years, any one of these structures of =

division and oppression can cause a defensive reaction =

from the pro-Zapatista-PRD forces. Any sign of resistance =

is then quickly squelched by the Seguridad Publica and =

the violent incident that normally ensues is used as the =

excuse for the Army to bring an encampment next to or =

into the community. In this systematic manner, the =

Army together with State and local authority and anti- zapatista forces divide the Zapatista community base and =

move their way into the jungle to surround the solid =

campamentos which hold the Zapatista Army. =

The most insidious part of this whole plan is that the =

effectiveness of all of these crimes and gross human =

rights violations depends largely on the amount of =

racism that still exists on a global scale and on the slanted =

media coverage. This critical mass of racism allows for =

this "Stealth War" to fly under the global human rights =

screen undetected. The government media creation of a =

"war between indigenous people" is essential not to alert =

investors and carry out an invisible slaughter of =

indigenous people. This long term hushed gradual dirty =

war strategy has been absolutely critical to not provoke =

the fear of investors and the destabilization of the =


The World Calls For An End To The Dirty War

In a letter to La Jornada, organizers of the Intergalactic =

Conference for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism =

call for an immediate end to this dirty war. I will here =

paraphrase their 6 demands: =

1) That the Mexican government stop its tactics of =

provocations and that it commit itself to peaceful =

dialogue solutions...

2) That all charges against the political prisoners of Cerro =

Hueco be dropped and that all political prisoners be =


3) That the government honor without modification its =

signature of the Agreements of San Andres signed on =

February the 16, 1997.

4) That the State Police, Army, the Guardias Blancas, the =

Chinchulines and Paz and Justicia forces leave their =

occupied areas....

5) The Mexican Government end this Dirty War being =

carried out in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca and =


6) That international national human rights individuals =

and organizations be given free and safe passage through =

the Northern Zone and in other conflicted areas of =


The following are the words of Comandante Moises =

concerning the dirty war. As he came into the meeting =

room he was visibly worried and upset:

"For the last three days the Army has be operating =

maneuvers, some of them less than one kilometer from =

here. Comandante David cannot be here with you =

because he is out looking into some of this. It would be =

good if you told the world what is happening. Since =

January we are under much pressure..at this moment =

there are no signs of peace and all the signs of war. We =

don't want war and we will resist provocations and are =

trying to avoid any situation where we have to defend =

ourselves and our families. We as Indigenous and =

Zapatistas never lie, we always say the truth...We have =

always said that the Mexican government is coward. =

Why doesn't the Mexican Government tell the world the =

truth? Why doesn't the government tell the World that =

what it really wants is to kill all the indigenous people of =

this country.....Why doesn't it tell the world that they are =

patrolling this close to keep us from planting our corn. =

We only have ten more days in this season to plant our =

corn and we can't go out because we need to be vigilant =

and be ready to do what we have to do to defend =

ourselves. We will have less food this year than last year =

which was already very bad. We all understand this and =

we are strong in our beliefs and we appreciate your =

presence and solidarity. You come from far to see us and =

we get stronger from your solidarity. When you =

demonstrate in front of the Mexican Consulates we hear =

about it, and when you bring caravans of food, clothes =

and medicines we appreciate it and all of this helps us to =

keep strong." =

=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D= =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D Peter Rashkin <prashkin@wavenet.com>

SPANISH DAGGER PUBLICATIONS PO Box 3008 Long Beach, CA 90803 http://www.wavenet.com/~prashkin/ =

-- =

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