(en) ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE - June 11

Joshua Paulson (joshua@breogan.iimas.unam.mx)
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 09:44:58 -0500


A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--June 11, 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 JUNE 3-10, 1997: =20 1. Mexican Army occupies new positions in the Lacandon jungle 2. More violence in Chenalho; Paramilitary "offensive" in northern Chiapas 3. Elections may not be held in some parts of Chiapas 4. CONAI warns of the dangers in ignoring the San Andres Accords =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 Mexican Army Occupies New Positions in the Lacandon Jungle =20 The Mexican Army has stepped up military maneuvers and installed new troop encampments across the so-called "conflict zone" of Chiapas in the past 10 days. =20 The new troop movements have been most numerous in the large jungle municipality of Ocosingo, where the army has been reported installing new military encampments in or near the communities of Dolores Las Palmas, Romulo Calzada, Prado Pacayal, and in the region of Las Tasas (Las Tacitas and Nuevo Tacitas). A new military base was also set up in recent days near the ejido of El Eden (municipality of Las Margaritas), and frequent gunfire has been reported in the already militarized communities of Nuevo Momon (Las Margaritas) and San Cayetano (in San Andres). The military has also affirmed plans to install new encampments in communities along the highway which runs 209 kilometers between Palenque and Comit=E1n. =20 The inhabitants of Romulo Calzada denounced the military presence in their community to the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, insisting that the army arrived at the end of last month to take possession of part of their ejido, without asking permission from the community. "We are not in agreement with the arrival of the army", they said, "because it will only cause conflicts and bring more problems, such as prostitution and drug use; there are many examples of this in other [militarized] communities and, furthermore, we don't want them to come to take care of us." =20 Meanwhile, Nicol=E1s Lopez Gomez and Belisario Hern=E1ndez, leaders of= the Coalition of Autonomous Organizations of Ocosingo (COAO), denounced the arrival of the army in the region of Las Tasas, beginning on May 25th. Regardless of the fact that the community has so far refused to sell or give its land to the army for the installation of a new encampment, the military has nevertheless proceeded with its operation. The COAO says that these actions "put the pacification process at risk, and question the viability of the upcoming federal elections." The coalition further demands the immediate withdrawal of the army from its new positions, and insists it will hold the military responsible for any new acts of violence that may surge in the so-called "conflict zone". =20 The establishment of these bases and encampments comes amid a new wave of rumors about a possible military offensive being planned against the Zapatista communities. Air reconnaissance patrols have become more frequent in the past week over Zapatista communities, regardless of the presence of a tropical storm, which under normal circumstances would be cause for a decreasing number of military flights; and the combined presence of artillery-laden helicopters, planes, and ground patrols has caused a new dynamic of "tension and fear" within the communities. =20 In the municipality of San Andres (in the Tzotzil highlands north of San Cristobal), community representatives have reported that in the last two weeks the number of army ground patrols through Oventic and surrounding villages has increased substantially. "There is a lot of movement in the [army's] encampments", they said, and insisted that the troops seem "nervous" as they pass through San Cayetano, Jolnacho, Santiago el Pinar, and the municipal seat of San Andres. "The airplanes pass over every day", they added, "in both the morning and afternoon; and now they are flying very close to the ground". =20 Meanwhile, in the region of Las Tasas--located in the middle of one of the most important jungle canyons of Ocosingo--rumors abound of an imminent military offensive. On June 9th, an inhabitant of Las Tacitas informed La Jornada correspondent Hermann Bellinghausen that he had overheard a meeting between army officers regarding orders for such an operation: =20 "High-ranking officers came and took the barracks officers out of their quarters, and called them over to the field. They read to them from papers they were carrying; they said that they had to obey the orders to attack the enemy, even if the enemy didn't attack first, that they were an army, they had their ranks, and they had to obey, and that the enemy was the Zapatistas....It was if they had to come to convince them, or that they wanted to prepare them for an order that perhaps they didn't think would come". =20 Other inhabitants of Las Tacitas report that at the beginning of June, a squadron of soldiers entered the community to fire their guns--although with no specific target--on the Manuel Ranch. On June 6th, a new squadron of 25 soldiers entered Nuevo Tacitas, only to be taken out a short time later by three military cargo vehicles. Days before, soldiers had reportedly made comments to the inhabitants of the community that they were ready "to shoot lead into those guerrillas"; when asked by one of the campesinos about the civilians in the area, a soldier replied, "Let's see if we'll be able to make the distinction". =20 ___________________________________ =20 MORE VIOLENCE IN CHENALHO; PARAMILITARY ACTIVITY ON THE RISE ACROSS NORTHERN CHIAPAS =20 CHENALHO =20 Less than one week after the conflicting parts in Yashemel, Chenalho finally held their first meeting to reestablish conditions of mutual respect and peace in their community following a violent confrontation between PRI militants and Zapatista civilians there on May 24th, more violence has broken out in the municipality, this time leaving two police officers wounded. =20 As the events occurred shortly before this writing, versions of what happened remain sketchy and contradictory. According to Pablo Perez Arias, a PRI militant and community official in the town of Pechiquil (100 km from the municipal seat of Chenalh=F3), a 10-ton truck belonging to the state Public Security Forces was "attacked by Zapatistas" while on patrol four kilometers from Pechiquil and just outside of Acteal. A gunfight broke out following the "Zapatista ambush", he said, with about 70 to 100 shots being fired. =20 State officials confirmed that two police officers were wounded by gunfire during the supposed battle; they later retracted their statement, however, saying the officers were cut by glass when they "threw themselves to the ground" during the ambush, and mentioned nothing about shots being fired. =20 For its part, the Autonomous Municipal Council of Chenalho--made up of civilian Zapatistas and backers of the center-left PRD opposition party--affirmed that the events began when the police were entering the paved highway outside of Pechiquil, and began to "shoot and throw bombs" without there being any kind of provocation. "When the police arrived at the highway", the Council's statement reads, "they found about ten of our compa=F1eros, and without any motive began to beat them, and when two youths who were scared tried to run into the hills, the police shot at them." The two youths--Salvador Ruiz Hern=E1ndez and Samuel Perez Ruiz--where initially reported as "disappeared" following the incident, but later returned to their community, without injury, on June 10th. =20 The version of the Autonomous Municipal Council has been backed up by inhabitants of surrounding communities, such as Acteal and Polho, who affirm that the action of the police "was premeditated, so as to provoke more conflicts and justify the militarization of our lands". =20 PARAMILITARY "OFFENSIVE" IN NORTHERN CHIAPAS =20 As Chenalho continues to deal with problems of political violence, paramilitary activity against Zapatistas and PRD supporters is on the rise across other northern Chiapas municipalities as well. On May 28th, in the community of Masoj=E1 Shuj=E1--a town in Tila where most of the inhabitants are members of Paz y Justicia--Macario Garcia Torres was assassinated, supposedly for his refusal to join the paramilitary organization. =20 Four days later, 200 militants of Paz y Justicia arrived at the municipal center of Tila in order to carry out a demonstration against the community's priest, Fr. Heriberto Cruz Vera. The demonstrators left only after Fr. Cruz Vera closed the parish. On the same day, in the community of Huanal (also in Tila), various homes of PRD supporters were burned to the ground by Paz y Justicia; and while the army encampment located just a few kilometers away was informed of the violence, the military refused to intervene. =20 On June 2nd, in the community of Paraiso (in Sabanilla), four indigenous campesinos were ambushed by a paramilitary squad, although without any deaths reported. As in previous cases, the state police forces refused to investigate, falsely blaming the ambush on "church catequists" from the diocese of San Cristobal. =20 Meanwhile, in the municipality of Chilon where the paramilitary group Los Chinchulines is apparently regrouping, the municipal mayor, Manuel Gomez Moreno--a militant of the opposition PRD party--was stopped and physically threatened by a group of Chinchulines while passing through the community of Bachajon. Two days earlier in the same municipality, in the community of Bethel, the Chinchulines burned down the homes of a family which had refused to join the paramilitary group. =20 And in the northwestern municipality of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuac=E1n, between four and six people were killed during a battle between PRD militants and guardias blancas, as the latter attempted to drive 84 families of the Democratic Campesino Popular Front of Chiapas (FDCPCh) off of land they had been living on since 1994. The events were provoked by the landowner of the plot of land known as "El Porvenir", Pacifico Rojas Lopez, who at midday on June 8th entered El Porvenir accompanied by a dozen hired gunmen in order to expel the PRD militants, with violence if necessary. The families resisted the attack, and in the gunfight three campesinos of the FDCPCh were killed, as were two members of the guardias blancas and the landowner Rojas Lopez himself. =20 With the exception of the recent violence in Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuac=E1n, these incidents were all denounced by a group of displaced representatives from the northern zone who arrived in Tuxtla Gutierrez on June 3rd, in order to join the permanent demonstration there outside the governor's palace. The demonstration has been in place for more than a month now, with no direct response from the government to the group's demands (which include, among other things, an end to paramilitary violence and the right to return to their communities). =20 One of the coordinators of the demonstration in Tuxtla, Sebasti=E1n V=E1zquez Jimenez, who just returned from a visit to the northern zone, informed the press that "in the communities, the restlessness that was present before the elections in 1995 has returned; once again there are threats and provocations. We feel that they are again preparing for more agressions; members of Paz y Justicia themselves have told us that they are preparing a new offensive". =20 However, V=E1zquez Jimenez added that the civilian Zapatistas and PRD supporters in the northern zone do not intend to respond to provocations. "Our posture", he said, "is that we do not want the return of violence; we do not want to attack people; we are struggling for a peaceful solution, and therefore we will not respond. Nevertheless, we are worried about the double-talk used by those of Paz y Justicia and the government". =20 _________________ =20 ELECTIONS MAY NOT BE HELD IN SOME PARTS OF CHIAPAS =20 As the countdown toward the Mexican federal elections on July 6th grows ever smaller, confusion reigns within the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) as to whether or not the elections will even take place in some districts of Chiapas. =20 While interim governor Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro insists that the elections will be carried out normally across the state, both the IFE and the legislative Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) are concerned that as many as 50,000 people in Chiapas may not be able to vote, either for reasons of a boycott of the polls, or because of military and/or paramilitary intimidation on election day. =20 COCOPA members Hector S=E1nchez, Cesar Ch=E1vez, and Luis H. Alvarez, after a meeting with electoral councillors of the IFE last week, signalled their concern that an important part of the Chiapas electorate will not be able to vote on July 6th, due to the continuing violence in the north of the state, and the silence of the EZLN itself as to whether or not it will permit polling stations to be installed in or near its communities in the Lacandon jungle. =20 There is also growing concern about the "special polling sites" being set up within the so-called conflict zone of southeastern Chiapas, in order to enable nearly 20,000 soldiers of the Mexican Army to vote within the electoral districts made up primarily of Zapatistas. This could seriously alter the results of the polls in the third electoral district of the state (which includes six municipalities within the "conflict zone"), even if the Zapatista communities decide to take part. =20 While the COCOPA has made repeated calls to both the government and the EZLN to take formal positions regarding the upcoming elections, the government has simply maintained that there is no problem--refusing to take action to insure the tranquility of the electoral process, especially in the north; whereas the EZLN has continued to maintain silence, not taking a public position either in favor or in opposition to the elections. =20 The Councillors of the IFE seem most concerned with the continuing problems in northern Chiapas; thousands of supporters of the opposition (primarily of the PRD and the EZLN) have been expelled from their communities by paramilitary squads of PRI supporters. In order to vote, they would have to return to their communities--an action which may not be permitted by the remaining PRI supporters, and which could lead to overt violence on election day. =20 Meanwhile, Juan Lopez Gomez, president of the popular autonomous government of San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres (Larrainzar), informed the press on June 6th that the 5,000 EZLN sympathizers and PRD militants from 35 communities in that municipality will not take part in the July elections, due to the massive army presence in the zone and the failure of the federal government to accept the Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture signed in San Andres sixteen months ago between the EZLN and the government. =20 "During the second half of May", said Lopez Gomez, "the municipal officials consulted with their bases in order to know the opinion of the people. The consultations were completed at the beginning of June, and by unanimous decision it was agreed to not participate in the elections". =20 With this action, the Zapatistas and perredistas in San Andres join those of Chenalho and Pantelho (in the north of the State), as well as the PRI militants of San Juan Chamula and Mitontic (in the highlands), in announcing that they will not participate in the elections, nor will they allow the installation of polling sites in their respective municipalities. =20 _________________ =20 THE CONAI WARNS OF THE DANGERS IN IGNORING THE SAN ANDRES ACCORDS =20 In a communique dated June 8th, the National Intermediation Commission (CONAI) made an urgent call to "to recover and reestablish, with concrete deeds, the conditions of trust and credibility such that the path of dialogue and negotiation remains that which will lead to a solution to the real causes of conflict". Otherwise, insists the CONAI, it will be impossible to reinitiate the dialogue of San Andres. =20 The CONAI further called for the action of civil society to demand the liberation of all political prisoners in the country, as well as the immediate fulfillment of the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, acknowledging that the failure to implement the agreements already signed has put in crisis not only the possibility for future agreements between the EZLN and the federal government, but also the path of political negotiation itself as a viable method of resolving social conflict. =20 The CONAI also mentioned the political violence and militarization in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca (in the context of combating the actions of the Popular Revolutionary Army), affirming that "the responses based on force not only fail to resolve the problems at their roots, but they also deteriorate community life, increase the risk of an escalation of armed clashes, and negate the reasons for dialogue and negotiation as privileged resources toward the diminishing of differences". =20 Speaking individually, Oscar Oliva--a well-known Chiapas poet and member of the CONAI--pointed out to the press that the best way for the government to "distance itself from the spectre of war" is to carry out the constitutional reforms required by the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture. However, he said that Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, the chief government negotiator in Chiapas, "has not given a single sign, nor much less spoken in the language of concrete actions, to send a positive message to the Zapatistas". =20 When asked about the meaning of a statement in the CONAI's communique which seemed to intone support for the electoral process, Oliva responded: =20 "One of the legal and peaceful paths for Mexico to embark on a democratic transition is that of electoral struggle; but it is not the only one. There can be other equally legal and peaceful paths as well. For example, if some indigenous communities in Chiapas or in other states decide to exercise their own autonomy, their own liberty and their own democracy, I believe they are within their rights and that we should respect those decisions. =20 "The CONAI", he added, "has made a call to civil society to support not only the elections, but also those other forms of democratic transition which are found within legal boundaries. One of those is to deepen the popular demand for the Mexican Army to limit itself to those functions established for it in the Constitution; another one is to demand that the government investigate, disarm, and put on trial the guardias blancas and the paramilitary organizations; another, that the government put an end to torture and impunity, in recognition of the legitimacy of the civilian organizations which defend human rights. =20 "Even if the upcoming elections favor the opposition", Oliva concluded, "we will not be able to speak of a transition to democracy as long as the poor in Chiapas and other regions of the country continue to live as if in Numancia. The problem of Chiapas is national; we cannot forget that". =20 Meanwhile--in related news--the president of the Indigenous Affairs Commission of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, PRI representative Baruc Alvarez, announced on June 6th that the Mexican Congress will stake out a position on Indigenous Rights and Culture sometime in August, before the conclusion of the current legislative session. Alvarez did not mention, however, if the PRI would be willing to approve the COCOPA's proposal for constitutional reforms on Indigenous Rights and Culture in partial fulfillment of the San Andres Accords, or if the position taken by the PRI majority in Congress would be the approval of a separate reform package. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20

Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, El Financiero, and Siglo 21. =20 The primary responsibility for the content of this news page lies with its author, Joshua Paulson, and not necessarily with a commission, civil committee, or other dependency of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation. =20 _________________________________________________________________ =20 Comments: joshua@peak.org

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