ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE- MAY 23

Joshua Paulson (joshua@peak.org)
Sat, 24 May 1997 22:27:41 -0500


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*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--May 23, 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

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NEWS SUMMARY FOR MAY 12-22, 1997: =20 =20 1. Violence continues amid attempts to open a dialogue in northern Chiapas 2. 85 displaced families of San Pedro Nixtalucum return home; future uncertain for 24 prisoners 3. More demands for recognition of autonomous muncipalities in Chiapas 4. COCOPA: No resumption of negotiations with the EZLN until after July elections =20 _________________________________________________________________

=20 Violence Continues Amid Attempts to Open a Dialogue in Northern Chiapas =20 =20 More Tzotzil sympathizers of the EZLN have been expelled from their homes in the north of Chiapas, following an attack by militants of the PRI in the community of Las Limas Chitanucum (municipality of Pantelho) which left nine houses burned to the ground and a ten-year old girl injured. =20 Two members of the parallel opposition government of Pantelho were also "detained" following the attack, carried out by 30 priistas armed with .22 calibre rifles and pistols. According to the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, some of the 85 people who were affected by the violence have taken refuge in the neighboring community of Chitanucum, while others have fled into the mountains, fearing more attacks by the PRI. =20 Meanwhile, in Tila (also in the north of Chiapas), militants of the paramilitary organization Paz y Justicia took over the municipal palace on May 16th, demanding the ouster of the current mayor of Tila, who apparently offended the pri=EDsta group by attempting to open a dialogue with groups of displaced families from Tila, primarily sympathizers with the EZLN or the PRD opposition party. =20 The takeover was led by Marcos Albino Torres, military leader of the most radical sector of Paz y Justicia, and by the ex-mayor Arturo Sanchez Sanchez, brother of local PRI deputy Samuel Sanchez Sanchez (also a leader of the paramilitary organization). =20 These acts of violence come amid attempts to open a permanent dialogue toward reconciliation between the conflicting parts in northern Chiapas. However, opinions vary on how those talks should get started. =20 =20 The Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) proposed several weeks ago to open up a single negotiating table between the various parts, with the additional participation of "neutral" representatives of the CONAI and the COCOPA, in order to attempt to resolve all the issues pertinent to each side in ongoing negotiations. =20 =20 This proposal was vetoed by the new chief government negotiator in Chiapas, Joaquin Coldwell, who has unilaterally moved forward with the creation of three separate negotiating tables to deal with the issues of justice, social wellbeing, and limited "political" themes, all three of which would be presided over by Chiapas interim governor Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro, without the participation of any national organism (such as the COCOPA) or external mediating body. =20 However, representatives of displaced Chol families, who for more than 30 days have maintained an ongoing demonstration outside of the government palace in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, insist that they will not participate in the government's "three table" negotiating scheme, arguing that the participation of Gov. Ruiz Ferro as "mediator" is nothing more than a trap, since his government is primarily responsible for the impunity of Paz y Justicia. The Chol representatives, who arrived in Tuxtla in order to demand the liberation of their compa=F1eros held prisoner in the Cerro Hueco state prison, the cancellation of arrest warrants against others, compensation for their homes and other goods robbed or destroyed by Paz y Justicia, and free transit throughout the zone allowing them to return to their communities, added that they will not take part in any talks as long as their companions remain in jail. =20 "We came to Tuxtla and we are demonstrating", they said, "so as to settle the problem of the political prisoners, not to enter into negotiations; either they will be released, or we will wait here as long as necessary." =20 "How are we going to take part in those three famous negotiating tables, if one of the parts wants to make itself the judge as well?", they added. =20 Meanwhile, the three Chol coordinators of the political prisoners in Cerro Hueco were released by the state government on May 15th. However, the three, Artemio Ramirez Torres, Alfredo Ramirez Torres, and Jacinto Salvador Garcia, insisted that their freedom "doesn't even resolve one-tenth of our demands", since more than 30 others remain imprisoned in the state penitentiary. Following their release, the three immediately joined the permanent demonstrations in the state capital, demanding the release of their companeros. =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 =20 85 DISPLACED FAMILIES OF SAN PEDRO NIXTALUCUM RETURN HOME; FUTURE UNCERTAIN FOR 24 PRISONERS =20 Following an agreement with the state government which included the immediate liberation of the 24 civilian Zapatistas arrested by public security forces on March 14th in San Pedro Nixtalucum, the 85 expelled families of that community in northern Chiapas finally returned home on May 17th. =20 Unlike a previous attempt to return a week earlier, when they were turned away by public security police and the remaining pri=EDsta members of the community, this time the 358 Tzotziles entered their community accompanied by more than 4,000 unarmed Zapatistas from seven municipalities, who came to provide temporary security for their companeros and to send a warning to the priistas and the government. =20 The presence of 4,000 Zapatistas in a community of 800 evidently frightened both the PRI militants, who took refuge in their homes and the evangelical churches, and the members of the public security forces, who quickly disappeared as the Zapatistas entered. =20 After the formerly displaced families once again took possession of their abandoned houses, the Zapatistas held a short assembly in the central plaza, warning the priistas that "we are not alone, and if you attack us again, then the people will respond." =20 Ramon, a representative of the EZLN who spoke at the assembly, said that "we have had the patience to withstand the aggressions and provocations of the government and the priistas, and we have not wanted to respond, not because we are afraid of the priistas, the caciques, or the government, but because we do not want to fight against our indigenous brothers and sisters, because we are not enemies and our just struggle is not against the poor, but against the injustices". =20 "However," he added, "the patience that we have is being worn down by the aggressions and the attacks of the pri=EDstas, and if they continue provoking us, then they will not leave us any other option than to respond as necessary. =20 "Today," said Ramon, "we have come to accompany our companeros, who many days ago had to abandon their homes due to the aggressions of the police, the federal soldiers, and the priistas of this community. Today they return to their houses for good, but they do not need to ask anyone's permission in order to do so, because these are their homes, this is their land, here they were born and here they must stay, and they do not have to ask for anyone's pardon." =20 While the 358 civilian Zapatistas returned to their community, the government was busy keeping with its tradition of not living up to its word. The state government had promised one day earlier to liberate the 24 Zapatistas of San Pedro Nixtalucum who were violently detained during the attack on the community on March 14th. However, as of this writing the 24 remain imprisoned. =20 On three separate occasions, the conflicting sides in San Pedro had negotiated a "non-agression pact" promoted by the state government as a prerequisite to obtaining freedom for the prisoners. The displaced families had signed the agreement on May 2nd and later on May 16th, but the pri=EDsta representatives of San Pedro have apparently not yet given their consent. Meanwhile, the government continues to hold the prisoners as objects of "political blackmail" in order to pact yet another non-agression agreement. =20 According to the defense attorney for the prisoners, Miguel Angel de los Santos, "the bargaining to which they are subjected permits us to see clearly that the 24 prisoners are, for the authorities, only political hostages; from the legal point of view, the defense has no doubt that they will eventually be freed, due to the obvious and diverse legal irregularities in their cases". =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 MORE DEMANDS FOR OFFICIAL RECOGNITION OF AUTONOMOUS MUNICIPALITIES =20 In a letter to the state congress of Chiapas made public on May 17th, representatives of the 32 indigenous communities grouped into the autonomous municipality "Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas" (Freedom for the Mayan Peoples), located within the confines of the official municipality of Ocosingo, demanded the immediate suspension of the official consultations on remunicipalization, as well as the recognition and respect for the decisions taken by the 32 communities by way of "traditional methods and customs". =20 The 32 communities, made up primarily of members of the ARIC-Independiente credit union and the EZLN, insisted that they have "the right to participate politically in making decisions regarding the creation of new municipalities, as is guaranteed by Article 39 of the Constitution", and that therefore they grouped themselves together under an autonomous, plural muncipal council as of January of 1995. =20 Several days later, on May 22nd, representatives of the legislative factions of the PRD and PT opposition parties in Chiapas added their voices to the calls for recognition of autonomous, functioning municipalities such as that of "Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas" and "Tierra y Libertad" (between Las Margaritas and La Trinitaria), insisting before a full session of Congress that "the free determination of indigenous peoples is a fact, and constitutes a right that should be recognized". In a statement read by PRD deputy Marcelino Gomez Nunez, speaking on behalf of both the PRD and the PT, the two opposition parties pronounced themselves "in favor of the recognition of the initiatives of the indigenous peoples toward the creation of autonomous regions and zones with a systemized structure, in accordance with their own traditions and cultures". The PRD and the PT also demanded an end to the work of the congressional Commission on Remunicipalization and Municipal Reform and Redistribution, whose unilateral actions violate the San Andr=E9s Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture. =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 =20 COCOPA: NO RESUMPTION OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE EZLN UNTIL AFTER ELECTIONS =20 Several members of the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA), speaking individually, suggested to the press this week that there is little hope for a resumption of negotiations between the EZLN and the Mexican government until after federal elections take place on July 6th. "For a long time," said PAN deputy Rodolfo Elizondo, "I have had the impression that the President, the Interior Minister, and the government representative, Joaquin Coldwell, have no interest in doing anything with respect to Chiapas until the elections are over". =20 For his part, PRD deputy Cesar Chavez, also a member of the COCOPA, mentioned that both the federal government and the EZLN seem to "tactically coincide" in postponing the dialogue until after the elections. The government, according to Chavez, is simply more interested right now in its electoral campaign than it is in peace in Chiapas, while the EZLN may be waiting to see what the new federal Congress will look like in July with a greater opposition block, in order to carry forward constitutional reforms in accordance with the San Andres Accords. =20 The opinions of Elizondo and Chavez were later echoed by Senators Hector Sanchez (of the PRD) and Luis H. Alvarez (of the PAN), who suggested that "unfortunately there are no existing conditions for a resumption of the dialogue between the parts before July 6th. The government's own delegate, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, has not raised the possibility of sitting down again to talk". Both senators also coincided in the hope that a greater number of opposition deputies in the Congress following the elections may help to untangle the peace process. But for now, said Alvarez, "all the COCOPA can do is wait". =20 =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, El Financiero, and La Cronica. =20 The primary responsibility for the content of this news page lies with its author, Joshua Paulson, and not necessarily with the Zapatista Front of National Liberation. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 Comments: joshua@peak.org

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