(en) FZLN news update (extracts)

Platformist Anarchism (platform@geocities.com)
Sat, 25 Oct 1997 13:10:27 +0000

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

Selections from *ZAPATISMO NEWS UPDATE*--October 21, 1997

A service of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation.

All of this update can be found at http://www.peak.org/~joshua/fzln/news.html

Please send comments to: joshua@peak.org



The Third National Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) was held in Mexico City from October 9-12, exactly one year after the first CNI Congress took place in the capital, and concluded with indigenous marches held across the country to mark the 505th anniversary of the European invasion of the Americas.

482 individual delegates were accredited to participate in the Congress, representing indigenous communities and organizations from across Mexico. Also in attendance were 46 "special guests", 167 observers, 140 supporting volunteers, 113 organizers, and 75 reporters.

Once more, the CNI Assembly called on the government to honor the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, and to quickly approve the proposal for constitutional reforms drafted by the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) eleven months ago.

The CNI said in a press statement issued at the conclusion of the Assembly that it is now also studying the possibility of taking President Ernesto Zedillo to court, at both the national and international level, for his failure to abide by the agreements signed at the negotiating table of San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres in February of 1996.

On October 12th, the CNI Assembly concluded with a march to the Zocalo of Mexico City, in which more than 3,000 indigenous people took part. Marches and demonstrations were held simultaneously in other parts of the country as well: Otomies and Purepechas demonstrated in Queretaro and Michoacan, respectively; and in Chiapas, indigenous demonstrations were reported in San Cristobal, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Oxchuc, Chilon, Altamirano, Ixtapa, Jitotol, Chiapa de Corzo, and the new "Ernesto Che Guevara" autonomous rebel municipality.

In Ocosingo, representatives of 40 campesino and urban social organizations (most already grouped into six independent coordinating bodies) took advantage of the occasion to form a new, united front called the "Coordination of Autonomous Organizations of the State of Chiapas" (COAECh), in order to struggle together for the fulfillment of the San Andres Accords, the demilitarization of Chiapas, and an end to the activities of paramilitary groups across the region.



On October 4th, elements of the Mexican Army constructed what they said was to be a small, short-term military encampment (made up of about 80 soldiers) seven kilometers away from the Zapatista community of La Realidad, in the rebel municipality San Pedro de Michoacan.

The encampment was initially set up on the banks of the Euseba river, supposedly for the "protection" of a construction company working on a road to connect Las Margaritas with the massive military base in San Quintin.

Four days after its installation, on October 8th, 500 unarmed Zapatistas left the village of La Realidad--where 1,500 people had just attended the ceremonies commemorating the 30th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara--and walked several hours to the site of the new army encampment in order to deliver an ultimatum: dismantle the encampment, or the construction company will be expelled from the road.

"We have come to tell you to withdraw from this land which belongs to us", said one of the Zapatistas, reading a document addressed to the soldiers. "Think about it", he said--after telling the army it is ridiculous to take orders from a construction company--"many people here are sick, just like people in your own families, dying of curable illnesses, for the fault of those who are buying you--the rich and the bad government. This is happening all across the country....These people are not poor because they don't work, but rather because they do work, and because the wealth being generated remains in the hands of a very few."

"Your Commander-in-Chief does not want to do anything good", continued the speaker. "The only thing he wants is to make us disappear, because we get in the way of his plan and because his mission is to make us disappear. Will you follow his orders? Your supreme commander signed some agreements and now he doesn't honor them. We will continue struggling for the interests of the people, and if the price for resolving the interests of the people is the sacrifice of our lives, then it is welcome for those of us who struggle. And you? Do you think you are fighting for the people? Understand it now, because you are human beings and most of you are young, and very young to be learning to defend the interests of the exploiters".

Some of the soldiers listened to the speech, but without saying a word, and responded only by taking photographs of the unarmed rebels for their files. Before leaving, the Zapatistas handed out copies of the statement to all the soldiers present; and on their way back to La Realidad, they made sure the construction company packed up and left--at least for the time being.

Shortly thereafter, however, the nature of the military encampment changed drastically, and it took on less of a "protective" nature for the construction company, and more of an "offensive" nature with respect to the community of La Realidad.

By October 14th, the encampment had moved closer to La Realidad (it is now located only 5 kilometers away), and currently holds more than 500 soldiers, as well as small tanks and artillery batteries; and those who pass by the encampment are told that the soldiers are there "to take La Realidad".

Meanwhile, a new troop unit has moved from San Quintin into Nueva Providencia, in order to replace those who joined elements from the army base at Guadalupe Tepeyac in setting up the new encampment on the Euseba river. As of this writing, the situation in La Realidad remains very tense, and the population there is "on alert", still waiting to see what the army will do next.



On September 28th, Tzeltal bases of support of the EZLN took another step forward to prove that indigenous autonomy "is already a reality", by creating a new rebel municipality in an area near the cities of Ocosingo and Altamirano, incorporating territory previously designated as part of the municipalities of Oxchuc and Ocosingo.

The new autonomous municipality "Ernesto Che Guevara" is centered in the town of Moises Gandhi, a village founded by civilian Zapatistas in 1994 on the old Okenchai hacienda and named for an EZLN combatant who died fighting in Ocosingo during the first days of 1994.

The new municipality also forms part of the Tzotz Choj Autonomous Region, composed of nine rebel municipalities in the surrounding jungles ("Tzotz Choj" was the name of the last Mayan leader of Tonina, who ruled the canyonlands of what is now the Ocosingo valley more than one thousand years ago).

In the "Declaration of Autonomy of the Rebel Municipality Ernesto Che Guevara", the Tzeltal inhabitants of the region declared that their authorities were named "in total compliance with the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture", and that the creation of the muncipality was "based on national and international treaties regarding indigenous autonomy, as well as Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization".

During the inauguration ceremonies for the new municipality, four women and four men were sworn into office as the "rebel authorities" for the surrounding Zapatista towns and villages, and pledged "to always be rebels against the laws and injustices which disrupt the peace and harmony among our people", adding that they would continue to promote the concept and practice of autonomy "until our oppressed peoples are truly free, and the owners of their history".

The creation of the new municipality was quickly criticized and condemned by the usual government critics, who called it a "farse" and a "provocation". Goverment peace negotiator Pedro Joaquin Coldwell added that the autonomous zones have "no legal recognition", and that their creation will "lead to an increase in inconformity and discord in the region".

The Zapatista bases of support have not been influenced by such criticisms in the past, however, and now have nearly 40 operating rebel municipalities in the state of Chiapas, as well as various integrated autonomous zones, many of which were created with the support of outside social and campesino organizations not directly affiliated with the EZLN.


Resurgence of Violence Takes Toll on the Highlands and Northern Zone of Chiapas

Paramilitary activity has once again taken a toll on the Chiapas municipalities of Chenalho, Pantelho, and Tila, leaving at least 10 people dead and hundreds more expelled from their homes in a number of separate incidents over the course of the last few weeks.

The most recent wave of violence began in the Chenalho community of Los Chorros on September 18th, when militants of the ruling PRI party nearly beat to death a 16-year-old Tzotzil Zapatista supporter, Armando Perez Perez, and burned down the homes of 60 other families. Approximately 150 civilian Zapatistas were then forced to abandon their community and take refuge in the nearby town of Naranjatic Alto.

Public Security police arrived shortly after the events had transpired, and issued a declaration stating that everything in Los Chorros was "under control", that only five houses had been burned (they later said fourteen), and that Perez Perez was "alive and well" in his home community of El Guayabal. [It is still unclear to this author what Perez Perez's condition actually is, since his death and burial was reported and "confirmed" by human rights groups on September 18th, and yet reports of his "confirmed" appearance and good health later circulated in national newspapers on September 23rd.]

A few days later, on September 21st, a shootout was reported on the dirt road connecting Los Chorros with Majomut (also in Chenalho) between presumed Zapatista sympathizers and PRI militants, apparently in reaction to the events of September 18th. Two of the priistas--Joaquin Vazquez Perez and Mariano Vazquez Hernandez--were killed during the fighting, which was said to last more than an hour.

The following day, on September 22nd, the official PRI government of Chenalho began taking reprisals, first by arresting, beating, and jailing a man "for not carrying a credential of the PRI", and then by spreading rumors of an "imminent attack" on Polho, the town where the parallel Zapatista-PRD autonomous municipal government is headquartered.

On September 23rd, representatives of 12 autonomous municipalities from across the highlands and north of Chiapas sent a letter to the press announcing a large indigenous march being planned in protest of the recent paramilitary violence in the municipality and the government's "application of its counterinsurgency program, intensifying the low-intensity war against the indigenous Zapatista peoples and their sympathizers".

The representatives of the rebel autonomous municipalities of San Andres, San Juan de la Libertad, Simojovel, Jitotol, Bochil, Ixtapa, Zinacantan, Tenejapa, Cancuc, Sitala, Pantelho, and Chenalho, also said that the recent wave of paramilitary violence was "the response of the government" to the recent peaceful march of 1,111 Zapatistas to the Mexican capital.

"Every time the Zapatistas undertake political and peaceful actions in support of the just demands of the indigenous peoples and in favor of a peace with justice and dignity, the government always responds with violence, repression, murder, persecution, and provocations of war", they said.

The communique announced that the Zapatistas and PRD supporters of the 12 highland and northern municipalities were "closing ranks" behind their companeros in Chenalho, and would hold a "great mobilization" in Chenalho on September 25th: "Those of us in the Zapatista villages see ourselves obligated to not remain silent", they said; "we can no longer continue to permit more provocations, aggressions, and mockery from the government and the priistas".

"Our Zapatista companeros have the right to defend themselves from the agressions", continued the document, "becuase we are not animals waiting for them to kill our companeros and our children and to burn down the homes of our brothers and sisters".

As the peaceful Zapatista-PRD march was being planned, however, Polho--the center of the autonomous government of Chenalho--became a ghost town, as hundreds of priistas and members of paramilitary squads gathered in the neighboring PRI villages, such as Yabteclum, where they held all- day meetings on September 24th alongside squadrons of army soldiers, judicial police, and public security forces.

The rumor--which seemed to be well-substantiated, given the concentration of paramilitary groups, as well as the sudden roadblocks set up by police and PRI militants in the area--was that Polho would soon be destroyed; and the local residents decided to leave rather than risk an all-out confrontation. Meanwhile, the organizers of the Zapatista- Perredista march decided they would not march only to the municipal center recognized by the priistas, San Pedro Chenalho, but also to Yabteclum, in order to peacefully (but directly) confront those threatening to attack Polho.

The march began on the morning of September 25th, with the participation of approximately 5,000 ski- masked, civilian Zapatistas from Pantelho, Mitontic, San Juan Chamula, San Andres, Zinacantan, San Juan de la Libertad, Bochil, Simojovel, Sitala, Ixtapa, Tenejapa, San Juan Cancuc, and San Pedro Chenalho.

The Zapatistas arrived in the center of Chenalho at noon, and began a peaceful rally in support of the hundreds of families in the municipal center who had been displaced from their homes in recent months:

"We are from the same body, the same blood, the same people", said one man with a megaphone, leading the marchers. "We did not come to hurt anybody. We do not want to kill between brothers. Our priista brothers burned down the homes of our companeros. Our priista brothers do not understand what is happening. We have come to explain", he said.

"We have come to show our Zapatista companeros in this municipality that they are not alone", he continued. "We do not want to take vengance. That is why we come to speak to you, in good faith, so that you understand. We do not carry weapons. We are going to return the Zapatistas and perredistas whom you expelled back to their communities".

"What the government wants is for us to kill each other, among brothers. Do not be tricked! But if you do, then we will have no other path but to defend ourselves", he added. "We cannot humilliate ourselves before the government and its repressive forces. They are very wrong, if they think they can stop the Zapatistas".

After leaving San Pedro Chenalho, the marchers headed toward Yabteclum, arriving just after 5:00 in the afternoon. They brought with them 200 people who had been expelled from that community four months ago, for sympathizing with the EZLN, and who would now return to what was left of their homes.

Meanwhile, the disinformation was already spreading on the radio news services, reporting (falsely) that groups of Zapatistas from several municipalities had armed themselves with sticks and machetes and threatened the municipal center of Chenalho, and that they were now on their way to Polho and Yabteclum, lead by none other than the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center and Alianza Civica.

When the march entered Yabteclum, the leader of the march said, through the megaphone, "we know you are pointing weapons at us. Go ahead, shoot; here we are, unarmed". As it turned out, there indeed were weapons pointed at them, as the Zapatistas discovered an hour later just before the scheduled close of the rally.

Having seen movement in the second-story tower of a schoolhouse, a group of Zapatistas ran inside to see what was happening; they emerged minutes later, with three men, a rifle, and a box of Remington=20 bullets. One of the men appeared to have been beaten.

The three detained men were promptly taken to the rally platform and interrogated publicly in front of the microphone, in a mix of Spanish and Tzotzil. Apparently, having heard the false radio reports (obviously adding to the already high tension in the community), the priistas in Yabteclum had taken up "defensive positions" around the village in order to defend themselves:

-"It was an agreement of the community", said the man with the gun.

-"In order to kill Zapatistas?", asked his captors.

-"No, no, we thought that it was you who were going to come to kill us! So we were up there, prepared."

The Zapatistas finally let the three men go, so they could "inform their friends"; and the march left Yabteclum for Polho, where the final rally of the day transpired without incident.

One week later, on October 2nd, the killing returned, as four members of a Tzotzil family were killed in an attack by an unknown group of assailants which left six other people seriously wounded in the neighboring municipality of Pantelho. The violence took place in the community of Las Limas Chitanucum, which is the site of the autonomous Zapatista-PRD government of Pantelho. The victims in this case were PRI militants, although it is not clear whether or not the killings had political motives, since the pri=EDstas and the Zapatistas of Las Limas had been living under a mutual cohabitation agreement, signed last summer, that had not been recently threatened.

The next day, however, Mateo Mayo Arcos--a member of the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia--was assassinated outside the community of La Mesura, in Tila; and another PRI militant, Sebastian Lopez Lopez, was wounded in what he described as "an ambush" outside of Los Chorros, Chenalho.

A man travelling with Mayo Arcos, who was not wounded in the attack, claimed that he could "clearly identify" the attackers by name, and that they were from the organization known as "Abu Xu".

Meanwhile, on the same day, nearly 2,000 indigenous members of the "Las Abejas" organization--a "neutral" group which has formed in response to the situation of civil war in northern Chiapas--marched once again through the center of San Pedro Chenalho with white flags, in order to demand "an end to the violence between brothers". The participants of the "March for Peace and Reconciliation" expressed their "pain for this great disgrace of battles between brothers, with high-caliber weapons used by paramilitary groups and militants of the ruling party".

The message of the "Abejas", however, was evidently not taken to heart: on October 14th, another PRI militant was killed in the municipality of Sintala; and on the very next day, two Zapatistas were murdered by paramilitary squads in the community of San Embolon, Chenalho.



Antonio del Valle Ruiz, the right-wing president of the Mexican Bankers Association, declared on October 16th that neoliberalism is a "myth", created by dogmatic Communists and Socialists in order to attack the economic policies of the "free market".

"Neoliberalism in Mexico is a myth", said Del Valle during an address to a convention of public accountants. "When the traditional communist and socialist doctrines ostentatiously failed, the followers of these doctrines were left without banners; they didn't know what to say or who to attack; their mortal enemy, the free market, had demonstrated itself as the only option for growth".

"So they created a monster", he said, "which they called neoliberalism, in order to blame it for all the economic problems and the poverty in developing nations".



According to information published in the Mexico City daily La Jornada, the Mexican Army incorporated 1,800 elite soldiers trained by the Pentagon into its ranks between 1996 and 1997.

The soldiers had been given instruction on "rapid assault" operations, communications, intelligence, and piloting of UH-1H helicopters, all under the guise of the "fight against drug trafficking".

The Pentagon training for the Special Forces teams- -known by their Spanish acronym GAFE (Special Forces Mobile Air Groups)--is expected to continue at least until 1999, and 1,500 more soldiers are reported to be currently undergoing training for incorporation into the specialized army units next year.

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