(en) E;Zapatismo News Update: August 22

Chiapas95 (owner-chiapas95@mundo.eco.utexas.edu)
Sat, 23 Aug 1997 12:01:52 -0500 (CDT)


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This posting has been forwarded to you as a service of Accion Zapatista de Austin.

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 23:16:54 -0400 (EDT) From: Joshua Paulson <joshua@peak.org> Reply-To: mexico2000@mep-d.org To: Multiple Recipients of List Mexico2000 <mexico2000@mep-d.org> Subject: Zapatismo News Update: August 22

*ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--August 22, 1997

A service of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation. Please redistribute.

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 AUGUST 12-21, 1997: 1. Large, unexplained troop movements in Chiapas 2. Electoral tribunal validates election results in Ocosingo 3. Preparations underway for Zapatista march to Mexico City 4. News Briefs _____________________________________________________________________ Large, Unexplained Troop Movements Registered Across Chiapas

New troop movements beginning on August 14th in the central highlands of Chiapas, and since spreading somewhat to the jungle and northern regions, have managed to produce a great deal of confusion in recent days, with contradictory statements coming from government and military officials about the reasons for what some are describing as a withdrawal, and others as a relocation and fortification of army positions. The first indications of new army activity came from the rebel municipality of San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres, north of San Cristobal de las Casas. Inhabitants of the municipality reported that when they awoke on the morning of August 14th, the military encampments located in San Cayetano, Jolnachoj, and Santiago El Pinar, had simply disappeared. All buildings and installations were burned, the trenchs were filled in, and "it was as if they had never been there in the first place", said one of the campesinos of San Andres. The military encampment of San Cayetano--with close to 1,000 soldiers, heavy artillery, and at least 12 tanks--had long been regarded as the most important in the highlands of Chiapas, and served as the base for one of the units of the army's specialized Rainbow Task Force. The encampment of Santiago El Pinar was also known to be a training ground for paramilitary forces operating in San Andres. The movements in San Andres came just days after a visit to the municipality by representatives of the National Defense Secretary (SEDENA), and other troop movements earlier in the week toward the municipality of Bochil (just to the northwest of San Andres). Over the course of the next several days, at least four more military encampments were vacated and destroyed by the army, in the highlands and the north of Chiapas. These include El Chanal (where another unit of the Rainbow Task Force was located), Navehchuac (Zinacantan), a camp in Venustiano Carranza, and the encampment of Temo, located in the northern municipality of Chilon. Two encampments located in the jungle community of Patihuitz were also vacated, although it appears the camps themselves have not been destroyed, and are said to have already been reoccupied by fresh troops. These movements came parallel to announcements by the SEDENA that 5,000 troops in Altamirano, Ocosingo, and Las Margaritas would be relieved or relocated. But the army never mentioned that it would be destroying some of its encampments altogether, leading to serious confusion in the press about the meaning of these latest actions. In just the highlands region, it appears that at least 1,500 soldiers have completely abandoned their previous strongholds in and around San Andres. But while some are talking of a pullout, the military itself has indicated that these actions are just "relocations"--a possibility which has been corroborated by witnesses in the zone, who have identified heavy increases in the number of troops entering the remaining encampments. According to the Coalition of Autonomous Organizations of Ocosingo (COAO) and the Coordinating Commission of Non-Governmental Organizations for Peace (CONPAZ), many of the most important military encampments--especially those located in the jungle regions of Chiapas--have actually been heavily fortified in recent days, rather than dismantled or abandoned. In the highlands, it appears that many of the troops who left the encampments of San Cayetano, Jolnachoj, Santiago el Pinar, Chanal, and Navehchauc have simply moved into the encampment of Puerto Cate, between Bochil and El Bosque. In Chilon, meanwhile, local press reports indicate that the troops leaving the encampment of Temo were seen heading toward the municipalities of Yajalon, Tila, Sabanilla, and Tumbala, all municipalities in the north of the state where there is a strong Zapatista presence. Reactions to the recent troop movements have been mixed, expressing surprise and confusion more than anything else. Representatives of the rebel autonomous municipality of San Andres, for their part, expressed a surprised satisfaction at the army's withdrawal from their community. "Does this mean they are trying to tell us that the government wants to return to the peace talks?", they asked. Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations, the National Indigenous Congress, the COCOPA, and ex-advisors to the EZLN have all demanded some sort of official explanation for the events, not knowing whether the troop movements were meant to indicate the beginning of an army withdrawal from the conflict zone, an act of goodwill toward a reinitiation of the peace talks, a simple readjustment of army presence in Chiapas, a political move of no real significance scheduled to coincide with the President's upcoming State of the Union address, or just another tactic in the army's counterinsurgency campaign. When the army and the Interior Ministry finally made public statements about the troop movements on August 18th and 19th, they managed to completely contradict each other, leading to even more confusion. Ausencio Chavez Hernandez, a representative of the Interior Ministry, told the press that the "withdrawal" of troops from some areas of the conflict zone in Chiapas "is a sign of the goodwill of the government of the Republic, for which there is now a foundation for the resumption of negotiations" with the EZLN. The president of the Senate's Defense Commission, meanwhile, rejected any notion that the military is "withdrawing" from its positions in the conflict zone, saying instead that "normally, every six months, there is a change of troops there, and this year it was done later, after the elections, so as not to cause alarm". Spokespersons for the National Defense Secretary (SEDENA) insisted that, contrary to all press and eyewitness reports this last week, and even the statements of their own officials, "there has been no change" in army activity in the Chiapas highlands around San Andres, and that the observed troop movements have to do strictly with "logistics" and "rotation". For his part, the commander in charge of the Seventh Military Region, Gen. Mario Renan Castillo, gave a version of events slightly different than that of his superiors in the SEDENA, affirming the withdrawal from some encampments, but insisting that it is strictly a "readjustment" aimed at fighting drug traffickers, rather than a political move aimed toward appeasing the EZLN. "The readjustment is so that we can have a better control and better movement for the troops, and so as to reinforce the campaign against drug trafficking", he said. He added that in some cases, the encampments have just been moved--such as those originally in San Cayetano and Santiago El Pinar--and in other cases they have been joined with other camps nearby. In the municipalities of Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, and Altamirano, meanwhile, there have been no reports of any kind of reduction of army units in the more than 40 major encampments and five bases which have maintained the indigenous communities of the region under a state of siege since February of 1995. The army did report, however, that four of the smaller encampments in Ocosingo and Las Margaritas have been combined into two (Santa Elena with Ibarra, and Nuevo Chiapas with Yalcoc), although no troop reduction took place. Across all of Chiapas, there are estimated to be around 40,000 soldiers of the Mexican army distributed throughout more than 70% of the state's 111 municipalities (and 80% of the communities identified as Zapatista), many with encampments located no more than 500 meters away from the inhabitants' homes. _________________________________________________________________ ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL VALIDATES OCOSINGO ELECTION RESULTS On August 19th, in a surprise move overturning a previous decision of the court, the Superior Court of the Federal Electoral Tribunal (Trife) validated the results of the July 6th elections in the third electoral district of Chiapas (corresponding primarily to the municipality of Ocosingo), handing the election victory to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The results in Ocosingo had been nullified by a regional court of the Trife on August 3rd, citing "grave irregularities"--including the fact that 35% of the ballot boxes corresponding to the district were never installed on election day (a fact which, legally, should lead to immediate nullification of the results). On the same day, the Trife also reversed the electoral results in the 10th district of Guanajuato--where the PAN had initially been awarded victory--in order to declare the PRI the winner. This brings the PRI's number of victories in the country's 300 electoral districts to 165, against just 70 for the PRD and 64 for the PAN. With respect to the elections in Ocosingo, Trife president Jose Luis de la Peza Munoz Cano said that "the first impression one has upon hearing that 100 ballot boxes did not function, is to put the validity of the election in doubt. Nevertheless, it was not demonstrated that there were irregularities or substantial violations, as required by the law [for nullification], in a generalized form on election day, nor that they were determining factors for the result of the election". "I believe that the vote of 37,500 people was worthy of protection, of backing", he added, "and obviously it is a shame that an undetermined number of people were not able to express their vote, but suffrage is an expression of the vote, and thus, after a broad discussion, we came to the conclusion that we had to validate the election in Ocosingo". Another magistrate of the Trife, Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez, added--in clear ignorance of the geopolitical makeup of Chiapas--that "there was no clear evidence" to demonstrate that if the remaining 102 ballot boxes had been installed, and if the people registered to vote in those ballot boxes had done so, that the electoral result might be changed. In a case of bad statistical analysis which limits itself to simple mathematics in a static situation and not to real circumstances, Orozco said: "If you take into account the average citizen participation in the 188 ballot boxes [installed in Ocosingo], which was approximately 38 percent, higher than the average citizen participation in the state of Chiapas as a whole, which was 35.89 percent, then it can be assumed that the number of votes which would have been received in the 102 ballot boxes [those which were not installed] is 20,340". He added that by then taking into account the highest percentage of votes received by the PRD in the other electoral districts of Chiapas, 46.56%, and the lowest percent received by the PRI, 33.22%, "it can be inferred that the votes in the 102 ballot boxes would have been 6,757 for the PRI and 9,470 for the PRD, which would give us a total of 30,165 votes for the PRI and 18,239 for the PRD. The result of this exercise, supposing that we would have received the votes for the ballot boxes under examination, shows that the winner would still be the PRI, thus bringing us to the conclusion that the irregularities in the electoral district were not determining factors for the result of the election". The decision of the Trife is now final, and cannot be appealed. In response, the state PRD party and the Coalition of Autonomous Organizations of Ocosingo (COAO) met in San Cristobal de las Casas, and announced they would refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the PRI's victory, and would begin mobilizations and demonstrations in protest of the Trife's decision. _________________________________________________________________ PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY FOR ZAPATISTA MARCH TO MEXICO CITY The preparations for the Zapatista march to Mexico City began this week, with meetings held in the Zapatista community of La Realidad between the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee-General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN and a number of representatives of national political and social organizations, as well as distinguished intellectuals. The National Indigenous Congress, the organizing committee for the Founding Congress of the FZLN, the Asamblea de Barrios (urban community associations), the Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFV), the Emiliano Zapata Popular Revolutionary Union (UPREZ), and the Unitary Workers' Central-Revolutionary Party of the People (CUT-PRP) are all participating in the organization of the events, and have signalled that many more organizations may also participate. The National Indigenous Congress (CNI) had already announced its members would march to Mexico City with 1,111 representatives of the EZLN's base communities next month, in order to demand constitutional recognition of indigenous rights, and to take part in the Founding Congress of the Zapatista Front in the nation's capital. The CNI has been working extensively in Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla, Michoacan, Chiapas, and Mexico City in order to organize the march, and was in La Realidad last week in order to further coordinate its actions with those of the EZLN. Adelfo Regino, a Mixe lawyer and one of the coordinators of the CNI, told the press that the CNI-EZLN march was not only for the founding congress of the FZLN--as the government has tried to indicate--but also "an act of dignity" to demand the demilitarization of indigenous regions of the country, and to insist on congressional approval of the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture. "This will be, without a doubt, a great national indigenous mobilization", said Regino. "It is vital that the Zapatistas pass through our communities", he added. "We are going to insist that the transition [to democracy in Mexico] take into account an alternative participation, that of the indigenous peoples. This is a joint action of the CNI and the EZLN". _________________________________________________________________ NEWS BRIEFS: FRAY BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER PRESENTS TORTURE CASES TO U.N. REPRESENTATIVE The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, based in San Cristobal and headed by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, presented a special report on the use of torture by the Mexican Armed Forces and police in Chiapas to the U.N. Special Secretary on Torture, Nigel S. Rodley, during the latter's recent visit to Mexico. In the report, the independent human rights organization focused on the negative consequences of army activity in Chiapas since the Zapatista uprising in 1994, and singled out 12 documented cases of torture--six in 1995, and six in 1997--for Rodley's office to take action on. The report also pointed out that the day-to-day actions of the security forces in Chiapas--threatening public security, making false or arbitrary accusations, and forcefully interrogating civilians--violate articles 14, 16, and 17 of the Mexican Constitution, as well as articles 7 and 8 of the American Convention, in addition to several other international agreements. Rodley, for his part, said before concluding his 10-day visit that the United Nations now "has more knowledge about the human rights violations committed on the part of the [Mexican] Army than do the Non-Governmental Organizations here". Meanwhile, Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Angel Gurria announced on August 18th that the Mexican government will accept any future recommendations made by Rodley regarding torture in Mexico, "with the spirit of improving our capacity to identify and and punish those who commit this crime".

_________________________________________________________________ Primary sources for all news articles: La Jornada, Proceso, La Cronica, and Siglo 21. 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. In addition to this page, please refer to the Ya Basta! News Page and the Spanish-language news page of the FZLN. _________________________________________________________________ Comments: joshua@peak.org

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