(en) English version LA OPINION 77, Chiapas

Lyn Gerry (linjin@tao.ca)
Sat, 25 Oct 1997 11:40:00 pst

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Sat, 25 Oct 1997 00:38:07 -0600 To: (Recipient list suppressed) From: CIACH <ciach@laneta.apc.org> Subject: English version LA OPINION 77, Chiapas

BULLETIN LA OPINION No. 77 published by CIACH, A.C. Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas 22 October 1997


After an upsurge in the social and political movement, unleashed by the armed conflict of 1994, the military offensive of February 1995 and the San Andres dialogue that lasted until September 1996 when negotiations broke down, Chiapas has become a mine field.

This past week in Chenalho', political murders took place, homes were set ablaze, people were displaced from their communities, with similar problems reported in Pantelho' and San Andres municipalities, among others. These seemingly isolated and intermittent conflicts may give the impression of a relative calm, given that there is no "hot war", but more people have perished in these virtually unreported incidents over the past year than all the casualties in January 1994, when the EZLN and the army did battle. Amidst a gray and nebulous political and social stage, the indigenous organizations are determined to build and strengthen their autonomous ways of life, in spite of the government's offensive against them.

The Mexican army is hardly at ease. It maintains an ever-closer and intimidating presence in La Realidad (EZLN base). The army will benefit greatly from the thousands of kilometers of payment being laid down in the conflictive and strategic municipalities of San Lucas, Totolapa, Pantelho' Tumbala' Siltepec, La Grandeza, Chanal, Sabanilla, Coapilla, Cancuc, Tila, Bejucal, Bellavista, Rayon, Angel Albino Corzo, Ocozocoautla, Simojovel, and others.

There have been changes at the top of the State Public Security and in the Department of Political and Social Investigations of the State Judicial Police. Further, special investigators of the Secretary of National Defense, and the National Security office of the Attorney General's office (PGR), arrived in Chiapas to scrutinize the social and political situation, particularly in the municipality of Chenalho', in order to map out the Zapatista communities and the social base of support for the EZLN.

Last week there were elections in the states of Veracruz, where opposition parties won 70% of the municipalities, and in Tabasco, where the state party, the PRI, took a commanding but contested lead. These states, bordering on Chiapas, have set the stage for next year's elections to renew the state Congress and mayors (or presidents) of the 111 municipalities that make up the state. Upcoming battles can be foreseen among the state's political parties over proposed modifications of the electoral and penal code that will guide the 1998 elections.

Meanwhile the state government continues its propaganda campaign, through the Planning and Development Committee (COPLADE) regarding the 200 million pesos (US$25.6 million) to be disbursed throughout 1997 in the Selva, Altos and Fronteriza areas, part of the 600 million pesos (US$76.9 million) already disbursed for the benefit of the 111 municipalities. On the surface though, the socio-economic conditions in Chiapas don't seem much better off.


In September 1996 the EZLN stipulated six conditions for renewing the San Andres peace talks.

1. Release of the supposed Zapatistas now detained . Although some prisoners have been freed, the number of indigenous in the Cerro Hueco state prison has increased. Procedural irregularities in the justice system are as plentiful as ever, as the Human Rights Watch/Americas report ("Implausible Deniability: State Responsibility for Rural Violence in Mexico)" makes plain.

2. A show of political will on the part of the governmental delegation. The government substituted Marco Antonio Bernal for Pedro Joaquin Coldwell as chief negotiator, but the latter has shown no real signs that the government might be interested in restarting talks, or even in setting conditions for a rapprochement between the two sides.

3. An end to the violence in the Northern area of Chiapas. Not only has the Chol area (predominant ethnic group in the Northern zone) been affected by wanton violence, but now disorders have spread to the Altos area, where similar reports of political murders, disappeared, confrontations, paramilitary groups, displaced people are heard daily. The increased presence of drug addiction, alcoholism and prostitution on the part of the police force and Mexican army have also been documented.

4. Formation of the Commission of Follow-up and Verification (COSEVER), which will continue to be defunct while the San Andres accords remain dormant.

5. Demilitarization of the indigenous areas. Far from diminishing, this problem has increased and the military's presence has had a detrimental impact within indigenous communities in terms of education, health, agricultural production, and respect for local culture.

6. Fulfillment of the San Andres accords. Specifically the EZLN seeks acceptance by President Zedillo of a bill, drawn up by the COCOPA (Commission of Concordance and Pacification), that would give indigenous people greater autonomy, as agreed to at Table 1 "Indigenous Rights and Culture", in February 1996, but totally ignored by the national government.

The EZLN has centered its demands on the last two conditions: demilitarization of the indigenous areas and the implementation of the agreements. These two demands have been the focus of activities at the state and national level on the part of social organizations, NGOs, political fronts and diverse sectors of society.

For its part, the federal government continues its efforts to wear down the consensus and credibility of the Mexican people in the EZLN's demands. The government's insistence that it is the EZLN which is not keeping its word, does not want dialogue, is intransigent, that its recourse to arms is unnecessary, etc., may be able to win over some sectors of the country.


As mentioned in previous bulletins, social, indigenous, urban and peasant organizations continue to regroup and reorganize. Although too early to see what the immediate future may hold, the new COAECH (Coalition of Autonomous Organizations of Chiapas), bonding five fronts in the state, as well as other regional organizations in Chiapas, has the task before it of building new civil and political links with national entities in a common struggle for democracy, implementation of the San Andres accords and demilitarization.

Within the social movement, certain organizations maintain negotiations and receive benefits from the state government, distancing themselves from other entities that have chosen not to go this route, given the danger of being co-opted by government funds. Recently, AEDPECH (State Democratic Assembly of the Chiapaneco People), received 4.5 million pesos (US$576,900) from the government, bringing the total to 23.75 million pesos (US$3.04 million) over the past three years, a fact that will continue to polarize its relations with organizations in Chiapas.

Slowly but surely we are seeing in Chiapas another social group arise as a consequence of the reigning violence and impunity, i.e., the displaced people, now numbering perhaps 5,000 in the Northern and Altos areas of Chiapas. Many people, particularly indigenous campesinos, have been displaced from their homes due to the violence from the paramilitary groups operating in the state. Still others have been evicted from land they had claimed via takeovers. These land disputes are certain to become more serious as the Guatemalan refugees decide their future. Of the estimated 28,000 refugees still in Mexico, informed sources say that fully half have elected to remain here. In Chiapas alone there are 16,000 Guatemalan refugees in 119 camps, many of them in the "area of conflict". Those that remain will surely be seeking a piece of land for their livelihood.


Note: We sincerely appreciate our readers' suggestions regarding this Bulletin. If you would like to have a map of Chiapas with its municipal and electoral districts, please e-mail a request to CIACH and we will send it to you as "attached mail" in Word for Windows.

INFORMATION: CIACH is a non-governmental organization, created in 1985 with the goal of being an alternative source of training, analysis and investigation for social, campesino and indigenous organizations, NGOs, students and researchers. CIACH also has a newspaper data bank that dates from 1985 to the present, classified by topics pertinent to Chiapas. The Center also undertakes research and analysis regarding current topics in the state, it edits publications and carries out workshops on analysis and on mental health with social organizations. *********************************************************************** Dear Friends: Putting out this Bulletin on a weekly basis generates costs for CIACH. Help us ensure it will continue to reach you by sending your donation to CIACH, checking account no. 1000790-7, branch 437 of BANCOMER in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico. If you make a deposit, please let us know the date and the amount. Thank you very much! ************************************************************************ NOTICE ON REPRODUCING THIS BULLETIN This La Opinion Bulletin may be reproduced by other means such as in Internet web pages or in printed matter, as long as the source and our e-mail address are cited. __________________________________________________________ Centro de Información y Análisis de Chiapas, A.C. (CIACH) Flavio A. Paniagua 107 Barrio de Guadalupe 29230 San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, MEXICO

Tel/Fax: en México 01 967 86581 fuera de México +52 967 86581 Correo-e: ciach@laneta.apc.org ___________________________________________________________

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