(en) ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE--April 13, 1997

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Mon, 14 Apr 1997 17:03:07 +0000


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*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--April 13, 1997

A service of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation.

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)

This and previous news updates can also be found at: http://www.peak.org/~joshua/fzln/news.html

Please send comments to: joshua@peak.org

________________________________________ NEWS SUMMARY FOR APRIL 1-13, 1997

1. April 10th: 78th Anniversary of Emiliano Zapata's assassination 2. Chiapas Attorney General implicated in the massacre of San Pedro Nixtalucum 3. Peace in Chiapas, "farther away than ever": Marcos 4. Sen. Heberto Castillo dies; Cocopa calls for new efforts for peace in his memory 5. Government launches new media offensive, calls for reinitiation of=20 the dialogue ______________________________________ April 10th: 78th Anniversary of Zapata's Assassination

On April 10th, Mexico commemorated the 78th anniversary of the death of Emiliano Zapata, leader of the Ejercito Liberador del Sur. In Morelos, Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Michoacan, Veracruz, Tabasco, Jalisco, Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, and in Yucatan, tens of thousands of campesinos, indigenous peoples, and members of popular organizations marched and held demonstrations with demands ranging from land, housing, fertilizers, and credits, to the fulfillment of the San Andres Accords signed fourteen months ago by the EZLN and the federal government, freedom for political prisoners, an end to repression and the militarization of the country, and a peace with dignity and social justice.

In Chiapas alone, more than 15,000 people took part in demonstrations in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Ixtepa, Jitotol, Simojovel, Venustiano Carranza, San Cristo'bal de las Casas, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, and Tapachula, in order to demand that the government honor the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, and that the Mexican Army leave their communities and return to its barracks.

In Mexico City, the demonstrations turned violent when members of the April 10th Movement tried to reach the offices of the Interior Ministry in order to demand freedom for the 4,500 indigenous prisoners across the country, but were blocked by hundreds of riot police. In the scuffles which ensued, 40 members of the April 10th Movement were wounded, two more were reported "disappeared", and one was detained by police. An unidentified photographer from the Associated Press was also reported hurt in the fighting.

Meanwhile, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos recorded a letter to Emiliano Zapata, which was played back on audiotape to the indigenous Zapatista communities in the jungles and highlands of Chiapas during the cermonies on April 10th, and was later published on April 12th in the Mexico City daily La Jornada.

The letter, addressing Zapata as the "Maximum Leader of the EZLN", informs Don Emiliano that "Just as the time when you called to struggle for land and liberty, today the Mexican lands are handed over to the rich foreigners. As was the case then, today the governments pass laws to legitimize the robbery of land. As then, those who refuse to accept the injustices are persecuted, imprisoned, and killed. But as then, my General, there are right men and women who are not being silenced and who struggle and organize in order to demand land and liberty. For this, I write to you, Don Emiliano, so that you may know that we are here...."

"As during your time, Don Emiliano, the governments have wanted to trick us. They talk and they talk, and they don't fulfill anything, except the massacres of campesinos. They sign papers over and over again, and nothing becomes reality, except explusions and persecution against the indigenous peoples."

"And now you see," continues Marcos, "the campesinos continue without land, the indigenous peoples are still forgotten, the bad governments continue, the rich keep getting fatter, and, yes, the campesino rebellions continue. And they will continue, my General, because without land and liberty there is no peace.

"Now the governments go on saying that there is no war, because the law says that there is no war. But there is a war, my General, and that is why we are your army, because before, the war was just from there to here, and now it will also be from here to there.. And if they want to kill campesinos, then governments will also have to die...."

"Finally", concludes Marcos, "I tell you Don Emiliano, so that you may enjoy a bit of laughter, that those bad governments we have still believe they were able to assassinate you on that April afternoon in 1919. They don't realize that you didn't die, that you simply became us, and thus you went into hiding and appeared in us and in all of the landless campesinos, in all of the forgotten indigenous peoples. So you see, my General, how forgetful are these governments. They forget the most important, that which you and we know well, Don Emiliano: that Zapata lives, and the struggle continues."

_________________________________ CHIAPAS ATTORNEY GENERAL IMPLICATED IN SAN PEDRO NIXTALUCUM KILLINGS

As 24 civilian Zapatistas remain enclosed in the Cerro Hueco state prison in Chiapas, falsely accused of the murder of their own companeros, human rights organizations have released information indicating that the state Attorney General, Jorge Enrique Hernandez Aguilar, directly participated in the violent acts of March 14th in San Pedro Nixtalucum, which left four civilian Zapatistas dead, numerous wounded, several "disappeared", 27 arrested and tortured, and 95 families exiled from their community.

The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, based in San Cristobal de las Casas and presided over by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, released the information to the press on April 2nd in a document titled 'Information Regarding the Massacre of San Pedro Nixtalucum'. In the document, the Human Rights Center describes a meeting with state government undersecretary Uriel Jarquin and government director Marco Antonio Coutino in Tuxtla Gutierrez on March 19th, in which the government officials informed them that the Attorney General personally conducted the operation in San Pedro Nixtalucum from a helicopter--the same helicopter which fired upon a passing vehicle filled with passengers outside of Los Pl=E1tanos the same day.

According to Pablo Romo of the Human Rights Center, this would not be the first time that Hernandez Aguilar has personally participated in operations which have resulted in the deaths of campesinos. On January 10th, 1995, the Attorney General was also present during a shootout in Chicomuselo in which the public security police intervined in favor of the local guardias blancas, attacking members of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization (OCEZ) and the National 'Plan de Ayala' Coordinating Council (CNPA). That operation left four OCEZ and CNPA members dead.

Hernandez Aguilar has since denied participating personally in the operation in San Pedro Nixtalucum, although he has tried to play down the matter by saying, rather ironically: "What is relevant now is not whether or not the Attorney General participated in the operation, nor whether or not the operation took place, but rather to find the formulas which allow that community to come back together in reconciliation, and to reactivate their lives, and it is toward that sense that all of the efforts of the state government are currently engaged."

In other news regarding state government officials, the Chiapas government secretary, Eraclio Zepeda, resigned his post on April 8th. Zepeda, a famous poet who was once a left-wing activist and prominent opposition figure, was named government secretary (the number-two position in the state) in December of 1994 by then-Governor Eduardo Robledo Rincon, following the latter's fraudulent election to the post the previous August.

When Zepeda accepted the job, it was the cause for great surprise and disappointment on the left, as Zepeda had previously been known as a sympathizer of the EZLN and was also a state leader of the PRD opposition party, whose gubernatorial candidate, Amado Avendano, was then in the process of establishing a parallel "government in rebellion" against Robledo's fraudulent administration.

Once in power, Zepeda quickly learned to change his discourse from that of opposition and resistance to repression and domination. For the 28 months when the security of the state was under his charge, he presided over more than 56 violent police actions which left 111 people dead, and countless others wounded or driven out of their communities.

Eraclio Zepeda was one of only a handful of state officials who had been a part of the governor's cabinet since the shortlived adminstration of Robledo Rincon; the Attorney General, Hernandez Aguilar, is now the only one from those days left in the Cabinet, although his resignation is also expected within the coming weeks. Sources within the state government indicated that Zepeda may now be awaiting a diplomatic appointment to an oversees consulate or embassy in another Latin American nation.

Zepeda's new replacement in the Government Secretary's office is Homero Tovilla Cristiani, an economist who has previously served with the Defense Department (SEDENA), and who was a two-time federal deputy.

___________________________________ MARCOS: PEACE IS "FARTHER AWAY THAN EVER"

In a recorded interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos--finally published this week in the Argentinian newsmagazine Noticias, after having been confiscated for more than 70 days by the Mexican government--the EZLN's military leader and spokesperson affirmed that peace in Mexico "appears farther away at every moment", and that the federal government is responsible for the apparent failure of the dialogue process.

He also warned that if the government decides to implement a military solution to the conflict, the EZLN will be prepared to resist. "If they attack us again, as they did in 1995, then we would have to revise our response", said Marcos. "On that occasion, we decided to retreat in order to hide ourselves in the mountains. Now, since we are already in the mountains, we would have no other option but to resist with a fight".

The subcomandante reiterated that the Zapatistas will not put down their arms until their demands are met, and made a call to national and international civil society to put pressure on both sides for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

"We have a civil society which is very sensitive to indigenous issues, and stubbornly opposed to a military solution and to the use of force, both on the part of the government as well as on the part of the Zapatista Army", he said. "We would be much closer to peace if were possible for that third force to impose itself upon the two contenders".

In related news, the EZLN's official periodical journal--El Despertador Mexicano--has begun circulating again in San Cristobal de las Casas, after about a one-year absence. The most recent issue includes an article by Subcomandante Marcos insisting that the decision of the government to accept or reject constitutional reforms on indigenous rights and culture, in accordance with the agreements signed one year ago in San Andres, will signal a decision for peace or for war.

"It would be a bad signal", he wrote, "for the agreements on this theme to be delayed even longer; that would entrap the peace process and make the construction of political solutions even more difficult than it already is....Aborting the process of reforms will cause a resurgence of the spectre of violence and political decomposition."

Meanwhile, Comandante Tacho harshly attacked the government's responses to the demands of indigenous peoples during a meeting last week with human rights observers from Canada and the United States, who were visiting the tojolabal Zapatista community of La Realidad following a tour through the conflictive northern zone of Chiapas. "The signals which the evil government of this country has sent us are those of war, death, threats, and expulsions", affirmed Tacho.

Speaking of the murders of four civilian Zapatistas last month in the community of San Pedro Nixtalucum, he added: "This is the way in which they want to respond to the just demands of our indigenous brothers and sisters in all of Mexico. That is the response to those who struggle for their rights. This will be heard in other regions of Chiapas, and in other states of the country." _______________________________________

COCOPA CALLS FOR NEW EFFORTS FOR PEACE IN WAKE OF CASTILLO'S DEATH

Heberto Castillo, long-time activist, inventor, engineering professor, former political prisoner, founder or co-founder of three political parties (PMT, PMS, PRD), former presidential candidate, Senator of the Republic, and active member of the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa), passed away on April 5th in Mexico City, as a result of his second heart attack in two weeks.

Jaime Martinez Veloz, a federal deputy for the ruling PRI party and a member of the Cocopa, declared that the death of Heberto signified "an irreparable loss" for the Cocopa, and that "because of the attitude he demonstrated in the heart of the Commission, our best tribute will be a serious effort to achieve peace" in Chiapas.

During the memorial service held for Sen. Castillo in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on April 12th, Martinez Veloz went even further, defying his party to demand, in Heberto's memory, "respect and support for the indigenous peoples, who have been exploited and passed over for centuries, faced with the indifference and the complicity of those who, creating phantoms, speak now of a rupture of constitutional order in the indigenous communities, as if constitutional order had ever been respected there in the first place."

In San Cristobal de las Casas, Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, president of the CONAI, described Castillo's passing as a "grave loss for the nation". And the center-left PRD party, of which Castillo was a member, declared that since Castillo's last political project was that of working toward the implementation of the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, "the nation, the political parties, and the government should pay homage to him with the immediate [constitutional] approval of those accords."

Meanwhile, the death of Senator Castillo forced a temporary postponement of the long-awaited visit by the Cocopa to the northern region of Chiapas, where more than a dozen indigenous campesinos have been killed in recent weeks--and many more wounded, taken prisoner, or driven out of their communities--due to confrontations with state police forces or guardias blancas. _____________________________________________

GOVERNMENT BEGINS NEW MEDIA OFFENSIVE

On April 10th--anniversary of the death of Emiliano Zapata--the federal government began a new media campaign designed to convince the Mexican populace that it is the EZLN, and not the government, which is placing obstacles in the path of a peaceful settlement to the three-year old armed conflict in the state of Chiapas.

In a five-point public communique issued by the Interior Ministry, the government called upon the EZLN to "return to an open dialogue", but also warned that the federal executive's "unbreakable will" for dialogue "cannot be placed above the Constitution".

The communique further insists that it is the EZLN--and not the federal government--which has "unilaterally suspended the negotiations on various occasions", and that the government has shown "reiterated proof of flexibility" each time in order to keep the peace talks going. "It is the will of the government to remove all obstacles and to undertake consequent decisions and actions which will lead to a political solution", it says.

The government's statement also points out that the federal and state governments have given "vast economic resources" to the indigenous communities of Chiapas for their "social wellbeing and the promotion of regional and community development", and that the government has carried out 82 concrete actions toward the implementation of the San Andres Accords, including numerous actions having a positive effect on the "reconciliation" process in the North of Chiapas.

However, the statement of the government contrasts sharply with declarations made only the previous day by members of the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (Cocopa), who documented blatant human rights violations in the northern Chiapas municipalities of Tila, Sabanilla, Tumbala, and Salto de Agua: violations including dozens of murders, political disappearances, and the destruction of numerous homes. "All of this was carried out by the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia, with the support of the Public Security forces", they said, adding that none of the aggressors have been either apprehended or punished.

The Cocopa further stated that the dialogue process is confronting its worst crisis to date: "Not only are we facing the absence of any real possibility that the dialogue be reinitiated in the near future, but, once again, on the periphery of the conflict there are new provocations, acts of bloodshed, and armed confrontations which affect the social climate in Chiapas."

"All of this", they concluded, "complicates any possible peaceful solution to the conflict by way of dialogue and negotiation".

Cocopa member Juan Guerra also directly criticized the communique of the Interior Ministry, saying that the government should first work to carry out those agreements it has already signed, and only then call for a resumption of negotiations. The purpose of dialogue and negotiations, said Guerra, "is to construct agreements; but they are only worth constructing if they will be respected later". ___________________________________ Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, El Financiero, and La Cronica.

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. __________________________________________ Comments: joshua@peak.org

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