(en) English version LA OPINION Bulletin 81, CHIAPAS

CIACH, A.C. (ciach@laneta.apc.org)
Sun, 23 Nov 1997 22:08:19 -0600

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

LA OPINION BULLETIN No. 81 published by CIACH, A.C. Centro de Informacion y Analisis de Chiapas CHIAPAS, MEXICO 19 November 1997


In spite of countless charges leveled by organizations, indigenous people, NGOs, peasants from the Northern Area of Chiapas, and echoed in the press, claiming that "Paz y Justicia" (PyJ) is a paramilitary group, the organization itself has consistently denied the accusations.

Yet recently members of the group appeared at a "going-away" party for General Renan Castillo, Commander of the 7th Military Region, headquartered in Chiapas=92 state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez. PyJ=92s delegation to the= event was headed by Samuel Sanchez, PRI** legislative deputy, who declared to the General, "we shall never forget you, sir. There are resources (sic) that remain ingrained in the conscience of men, and you represent one of them. Everything you did for us, motivates our gratitude=85". On display at the site of the event were banners from PyJ with the following slogans: "No more red guards, no more white guards among Choles=85enough of ambushes=85" (The Chol people are the main ethnic group in the Northern Area of Chiapas).

**See the summary of frequent initials at the end of this Bulletin.

General Renan Castillo headed up the 7th Military Region for the past three years, and during his command he created the Rainbow Task Force, whose principal mission is to surround and contain the EZLN. In addition he headed up the February 1995 offensive against the EZLN and witnessed the rise of the PyJ paramilitary force, now accused of receiving logistical support, protection, funding and training from the Army and the Public Security Police of Chiapas. The military also began "social activities" within rural communities during Castillo=92s reign, as part of the strategy= of low intensity warfare. General Castillo is widely considered to be the main strategist and operative of low-intensity warfare in Chiapas.

General Castillo has been replaced by Division General Jose Gomez Salazar, and changes are underway as well in two military regions in Chiapas (Tapachula and Rancho Nuevo), characterized by some journalist as Mexico=92s "most important and powerful". Interestingly, no reorganization was reported in the 39th military zone, headquartered in Ocosingo, whose main responsibilities include the two most strategic barracks against the EZLN at Guadalupe Tepeyac and San Quintin.


These changes in military command come in the light of the following events of the past few weeks:

a) The attempted murder of Bishops Ruiz and Vera in the Northern Area, and of Bishop Ruiz=92s sister, giving rise to debate as to how to interpret= these acts.

b) The imprisonment of Miguel Mendez Toporek for the attempted murder of Mrs. Maria de la Luz Ruiz Garcia, sister of the Bishop of San Cristobal de la Casas, and recently released from hospital.

c) The announcement of a libel suit, brought by the San Cristobal Diocese against some journalists and the suit filed by Conrado de la Cruz, editor-in-chief of the Cuarto Poder newspaper, for the alleged slander made by Bishop Ruiz against the newspaper. Both suits have created heated debate in Chiapas regarding the truth, or lack of same, in the suits filed.

d) As part of PyJ=92s rebuttal of charges that it is a paramilitary force= and responsible for the deaths, ambushes, displacement of civilians, etc., in the Northern Area, it has invited journalists to visit its area of influence and to verify the good works it is carrying out. Some media have accepted the invitation. At General Castillo=92s going-away party, PyJ claimed it= had never received support from the military. =20 e) The preparations underway for an upcoming visit to the Northern Area in December of Papal Nuncio Justo Mullor, who is sure to be accompanied by heavy security.

f) The ultimatum released by the OAS=92s Inter American Human Rights Commission whereby the Mexican government is urged to heed the recommendations made by the Commission, or face public release of a report on the murder of three Chiapas Indians by the military.

g) The criticism unleashed by international NGOs against the Zedillo government due to human rights violations within the country, followed by the recent declarations of Mrs. Rocatti, head of the governmental CNDH, that international NGOs are "interventionist".

h) The prize awarded by the Martin Ennals Foundations (made up by Amnesty International, International Council of Jurists, SERPAJ-Uruguay, etc.) to Bishop Samuel Ruiz for his work in support of human rights. The prize, coming in the midst of recent events in Chiapas, has also been motive of much commentary.

i) The statements by the head of the governmental delegation to the San Andres talks, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell (see previous La Opinion bulletins), regarding the resumption of negotiations with the EZLN, the signing of the San Andres accords and the invitation for both parties to start a new dialogue. These statements led to a hotly-worded response from the EZLN, which in essence said that it no longer believes in declarations. Diverse sectors within Mexico continue to urge a resumption of talks in order to help solve the war going on in Chiapas. Debate on this issue has centered on existing conditions for talks and the will of the parties to resume them.

j) New violence and bloodshed last week. There was an ambush of the Public Security Police in Bochil; six murders in Chenalho (totaling now 30 dead and 500 families displaced by the violence since March of this year); death threats to researchers from the CIHMECH (Center for Historic Research of Meso America and the State of Chiapas) in San Cristobal; revelations of armed vigilante groups in Chicomuselo, in the Sierra Area of Chiapas; escape of 32 prisoners from the jail at Playas de Catazaja; death threats to the parish priest at Chenalho, Miguel Chanteau, by the municipal president, intimidation that immediately brought a response by the CNDH, with offers of "precautionary measures" for the priest; the Justice Department threatened to issue 150 arrest warrants for members of the UCPFV (Francisco Villa Popular Peasant Union) in the municipality of Angel Albino Corzo, for allegedly forming an armed group.

These events have in turn lead to other initiatives, mobilization and activities:

1) Celebrations of the EZLN=92s 14th anniversary were held only in the "Aguascalientes" (EZLN meeting area) at Morelia, due to the militarization and violent mood present in the rest of the state.

2) Representatives of 4,112 displaced people in the Northern Area met to analyze recent events in the region.

3) A thousand peasants marched in Simojovel to demand the legalization of shifting land rights caused by the new hydroelectric dam at Itzantum.

4) During the inauguration of the World Week for Peace 1997 in Mexico City, the Peace Council, made up of 20 ecclesiastic delegations from around the world, in addition to Oscar Arias, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, among other figures, came out in favor of peace in Chiapas. =20 5) The EZLN=92s autonomous region, dubbed "Tierra y Libertad", stretching from the municipality of La Trinitaria to the coast, and along most of the border with Guatemala, announced the reopening of its offices in Paso Hondo.= =20

6) A new political organization emerged in the state=92s capital city of Tuxtla. Several civilian organizations joined to create the Front of Organizations in Chiapas, to fight against abuses in services and the public and private companies that handle electricity, telephones, banks and public transportation. A tactic of "civilian resistance" was adopted (generally meaning a refusal to pay debts and bills).

7) A meeting took place between the legislative COCOPA and Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, head of the governmental delegation to the peace talks.

8) Papal Nuncio Justo Mullor stated that plans for his visit to Chiapas in December were going ahead.

9) A visit by several world figures to Chiapas during the new few days has been announced.

In other news, while several governmental institutions stated that there are 540,000 illiterate people in Chiapas, among the highest in the nation, and that 150,000 Indians do not speak Spanish, and that of every 10 Indians, 5 are illiterate, it seems that the government is more concerned about lending support to the entrepreneurs who are investing in African Palm plantations along the Pacific coast. Investors=92 goals include having some 35,000 hectares planted with African Palm by the end of the decade, in order to supply the 4 oil-extraction mills located in Villa Comaltitlan and the municipality of Acapetahua. Only 2,478 hectares are now planted. While the Selva, Northern and Altos Regions of Chiapas are faced with internal war, on the coast governmental support for private investment in agro-export industries is stronger than ever.


Given the polarized situation prevailing in Chiapas, we present two possible future scenarios, one optimistic, the other pessimistic.

The Optimistic Scenario would interpret recent events and their social repercussions as an indication of the urgency of halting the increase in violence (and the government=92s will to bring this about). Thus the= changes in the military high command would be read as a replacement of the state governor (if we agree with the idea that it is the army who is really in control in Chiapas and has direct access to President Zedillo), which might lead us, in turn, to predict a shift in the army=92s behavior, i.e.,= reduction of some military posts, a halt to support for paramilitary groups, etc. For this to occur, other changes would be necessary in the military=92s high command. In addition, the recent and surprising declarations of Mr. Coldwell might foresee a shift in policy on the part of the federal government, including a possible acceptance of the legislative bill on Indigenous Rights and Culture, whose tenets have already been signed by the EZLN. These changes would be a response to the EZLN=92s demands, as well of those of civilian society, regarding basic conditions for resuming talks: demilitarization of the indigenous areas and fulfillment of the San Andres accords (at Table 1).

The Pessimistic Scenario would interpret changes within the army as merely routine and Mr. Coldwell=92s declarations as pure demagoguery, given that,= for a true change to occur, we would need to see concrete acts of military detente, as well as a political resolve to take peace negotiations a step further. This scenario foresees more violence in the Tzotzil region (Altos Area), particularly in the municipality of Chenalho, but also in Pantelho, Chamula, San Andres and other municipalities. Similarly, conflicts could heighten along the border with Guatemala and in the Sierra Area. Military patrols within the town of La Realidad, headquarters of the EZLN=92s high command, and the construction of a bridge to join the army bases at San Quintin and Guadalupe Tepeyac, with a recently upgraded road passing through the heart of La Realidad, could be interpreted as one more sign of the preparation of a military offensive against the EZLN command. At the same time, the military and the government would be awaiting for another requisite for an offensive: weakening of the base-level support for the Zapatistas, particularly in the Northern and Altos Areas. The wearing away of support is the responsibility of the paramilitary forces, Public Security Police, as well as of the heavily armed members of the PRI.


COCOPA Commission for Concordance and Pacification, a legislative commission= =20 PRI Party of the Institutional Revolution OAS Organization of American States CNDH National Human Rights Commission (governmental)


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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 REPODUCING 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 Informaci=F3n y An=E1lisis de Chiapas, A.C. (CIACH) Flavio A. Paniagua 107 Barrio de Guadalupe 29230 San Crist=F3bal de las Casas, Chiapas, MEXICO

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