Pages: Updates, 2000, 1999, 1998, Chiapas Media Project

Rebels in the Rain Forest

Mexico's peace talks with Zapatistas
complicated by fate of fragile environment


December 17, 2000 (SF Chronicle)
Ross Wehner

San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico -- Seven years ago, the Zapatista rebellion was born when armed, ski-masked peasants stormed the cobblestone streets of this colonial city and battled with the Mexican military before disappearing into the Lacandon rain forest.

In February, many of the Zapatista leaders will leave their jungle hideout to meet with the new government of President Vicente Fox in Mexico City. After seven years of stymied negotiations, there is hope that peace may finally arrive to this war-torn corner of Mexico.

Yet there is considerably less hope for the battlefield itself -- the remaining sections of the Lacandon jungle, North America's last tropical rain forest. It is home not only to thousands of indigenous peasants whose hopes lie in the Zapatista uprising, but also to a staggering abundance of plant and animal life that is surpassed only by certain areas of Indonesia and Brazil.

The conflict between achieving social justice for the impoverished peasants and preserving the rain forest could be a major obstacle for the upcoming talks between the Zapatistas and the government. At the center of the controversy are 22 illegal communities that have sprung up since the Zapatista uprising in fragile areas of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, which forms the core of the rapidly shrinking Lacandon forest and is generally considered to be Mexico's most important national park.

The peasants in those communities had exhausted available farmland in communal lands, called ejidos, bordering the park. Some are also refugees fleeing military repression and right-wing paramilitary squads targeting the Zapatista conflict, which continues directly west of the reserve.

Montes Azules was established as Mexico's first UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1978. It contains more than half of Mexico's bird species, 25 percent of its mammals, and countless endangered species such as the tapir, jaguar, ocelot, white tortoise and harpy eagle.

As recently as 1970, the Lacandon forest was nearly uncut and covered more than 3.5 million acres. After waves of immigration and government exploitation of lumber and oil, the remaining forested areas have shrunk to 1.6 million acres. The Montes Azules Reserve contains more than half of the forested land that remains.

The conflict over land invasion in Montes Azules has split not only the Zapatistas and the government but also the U.S. organizations that operate in Chiapas.

On one side are environmental groups based in Washington, D.C.,such as the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International that support the government's push to move the illegal settlers out of the reserve.

"If we tolerate these invasions, there will be many more," says Jose Ignacio March, Conservation International's director in Chiapas. "This is the most important reserve in Mexico. We need to stop this right now."

On the other side are social activist groups who say that the government must first meet the rebels' demands for economic and social justice.

"We cannot place the blame on these poor people who have nowhere to go," says Peter Rosset, co-director of Food First in Oakland. "We need to look at the larger picture, where large landowners control a majority of the land in Chiapas. Until you resolve the land issue in a larger sense, there will be no way to keep the reserves inviolate."

The problem of landless peasants invading parks is a recurring problem in many third-world countries, including Tanzania and Costa Rica. The only solution, Rosset says, is to ease the pressure by making other lands available.

Reserve officials have offered the invaders 12 acres outside the boundaries of the reserve, plus new homes and agricultural consulting services, but only seven communities have left. The remaining 22 contain at least 1,000 peasants, who refuse government support of any kind.

"We do not accept coordination, we are not going to permit relocation, and we do not accept the lie of the bad government," responded the town of Ricardo Flores Magon in a public letter posted on the Internet, the only means this remote town in a militarized zone has of communicating with the outside world. "We have had 70 years of (the government's) economic programs, of seeing that they do not work, that they do not meet our needs, that others benefit from them, that they do not see our cultures, that after a while the support is withdrawn, in a few words, that they always fail. Our communities and our people are in resistance against the bad government."

For now, Montes Azules director Alejandro Portillo has no choice but to stand by and watch as new waves of settlers continue to enter the park. It is too dangerous to send park guards into the area, he says, and the army cannot enter under terms of the cease-fire. He keeps track of the damage by flying over the area and counting new roofs and cornfields.

The invaders clear the rain forest by cutting trees and burning the debris, and Portillo is worried about the possibility of large-scale forest fires during the dry months of June through September. "We cannot afford to allow them to remain," he says. "If another fire comes and we lose the jungle, we will be remembered forever for not having acted."

The Zapatistas contend that park officials have greatly exaggerated the fire danger in order to have an excuse to remove the peasants and, at the same time, allow the army to encircle the nearby Zapatista army. "But those who are today wrapping themselves in the green flag of saving the Montes Azules Biosphere are also strangely forgetting about the irresponsible and incoherent manner in which the reserve has been administered over the last thirty years," reads an official communique from the Zapatista army.

Montes Azules has become such a heated issue because it is deeply rooted in one of the Zapatistas' chief complaints -- that the agrarian reform, the most important achievement of the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1917, skipped over Chiapas. Instead of breaking up large landholdings and redistributing the fields to peasants, as in other parts of Mexico, the government in this state simply moved landless peasants from the arable highlands into the jungle, where they struggled in oblivion for decades.

In 1972, the government caused more resentment by relocating 6,000 of these settlers, mostly Tzeltal and Chol Indians, out of the area in order to grant 1. 6 million acres of forest to 66 Lacandon Indian families. Shortly thereafter, the government convinced the small Lacandon tribe to receive cash in exchange for the right to begin large-scale exploitation of lumber, oil and hydroelectric energy throughout the area.

The breaking point for the indigenous settlers came in 1991, when then- President Carlos Salinas made key changes to the agrarian reform laws in order to allow the country to enter the North American Free Trade Agreement. As a result, the peasants lost hope of ever receiving land distributions from the government -- a revered tenet of the constitution since the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1917. It was no surprise, then, that the Zapatista uprising began on Jan. 1, 1994, the day Mexico officially joined NAFTA. Victor Hugo Hernandez, director of the nearby Lacantun Reserve, says the principal obstacle for future progress is overcoming the distrust that Indians feel toward the government. "We must solve these peoples' financial problems first," he said.

He lists a series of programs that the government, along with Conservation International, has operating in communities that allow people to live in the forest without destroying it. They include organic coffee that grows in the shade of the forest, the cultivation of ornamental palm fronds and vanilla, sustainable forestry, indigenous handicrafts and a plant called pita that produces a fiber useful in sewing.

But the industry that offers most hope for halting the destruction of the rain forest is ecotourism. "The Lacandon forest has more tourism potential than all of Costa Rica," says Portillo. "We have dozens of important Mayan ruins, indigenous cultures and, of course, the beauty of the rain forest itself."

USAID has given Conservation International approximately $100,000 this year to develop a management strategy for the entire 3.5 million acres of the Lacandon region, which has seen its population explode from 60,000 in 1960 to more than 400,000 today.

Conservation International plans to continue with programs to promote tourism as well as new ways of farming that protect the jungle, such as the use of organic compost and crop rotation that eliminates the need to burn fields.

"The number of people is not as relevant as the systems they use," says March. "We can deforest the whole forest with the current productive systems, and everyone will still be in poverty."

But little progress can be made on transforming the economy of the Lacandon forest until the Zapatista conflict ends.

Luis Alvarez, the Fox government's appointed negotiator with the Zapatistas, has agreed to include the relocation of the Montes Azules invaders in the coming talks with the Zapatistas. But Subcommander Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista Army, has avoided the topic and a spokesperson for the FZLN, the political movement inspired by the Zapatistas, also declined to comment on the matter.

Portillo understands that the peasants are desperate for land and rely on subsistence farming for survival. "But we cannot legally give these lands to them, nor will it ever be possible for the government to build roads, hospitals or schools in these remote areas," he says. "Every negotiation has its limits."

Copyright 2000 SF Chronicle


Mexico Submits Indian-Rights Law

Associated Press Writer
December 5, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) - President Vicente Fox submitted a long-delayed Indian rights bill to Congress on Tuesday, fulfilling one of his first campaign promises to seek peace in the troubled southern state of Chiapas.

Luis H. Alvarez, the man Fox appointed to lead talks with leftist Zapatista rebels aimed at ending their six-year-old uprising, announced the submission of the bill and urged Congress to consider it quickly.

"The Indian peoples have already waited many years, many decades, many centuries" for recognition of their rights, Alvarez said.

Fox, who ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party when he took office Dec. 1, has made peace in Chiapas one of his first priorities.

However, legislators say that final approval of the bill - based on an accord negotiated between rebels and the government in 1996, but stalled since then by changes requested by the previous administration - may not occur until March.

Chiapas' Governor-elect Pablo Salazar, who takes office Friday, also said Tuesday that nobody should expect immediate peace, although he described the recent developments as "good news."

"We shouldn't be too optimistic that there will be a solution by the end of the year," he said. "We have to go forward with sure, firm steps. First we have to meet again for a dialogue and then, once the wheels are churning, it hardly matters whether it's a matter of weeks or months."

There will probably be lively debate in Congress over concerns that the bill would allow Mexico's Indians too much legal separation from the rest of the country.

Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos has pledged to travel to Mexico City in February to lobby for it.

The bill would modify Mexico's constitution to give Indian communities local autonomy, including local laws, elections using traditional practices, bilingual schools and access to the news media. It also guarantees Indians an "equitable" share of Mexico's wealth.

The largely Indian Zapatistas rose up in arms in January 1994, demanding greater democracy and Indian rights. On Saturday, Marcos agreed to restart peace talks stalled since 1996. His decision came a day after Fox ordered some army troops to pull back to their barracks in Chiapas.



Zapatista resources online at Revolt
The Zapatista index

The Zapatista index is a complete up to date listing of English language Chiapas resources on the web. It is part of the Irish Mexico Group archive on Revolt which now has over 800 pages including all the English translations of Zapatista communiques, observer reports and articles analysing the situation.

The archive is organised into over twenty different categories (eg Low Intensity War, Autonomous Municipalities, women) and also includes a month by month chronology with links to the three or four most important new documents that month stretching back to the 1st of January 1994.

The archive is housed on Revolt which now has its own dedicated search engine which indexes all 800 documents. This is very useful if you want information about a particular topic or community.

Finally because some people can't handle the mail volumes on the various Chiapas lists but still want a general idea of what is going on we run IMG_news. This list normally only has the two or three of the most important posts each week from the various Chiapas lists (although when a lot is happening this may increase to 5 posts).

The Irish Mexico Group archive is at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico.html
The Zapatists index is at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/zapatista.html
The search engine is at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/search.html

You can join img_news by sending a mail to img_news-subscribe@egroups.com
Irish Mexico Group http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico.html
The IMG should be contacted at lasc@iol.ie
Zapatista Index http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/zapatista.html
Our peace camp at Diez de Abril http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico/diez.html
Search the Zapatista index http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/search.html


Zapatistas, Fox to hold Mexico City peace talks

From: "Al Giordano"
News Flash
December 2, 2000

Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos announced just two hours ago from the jungle base community of La Realidad that:

A. The Zapatistas agree to reopen peace talks with the newly installed Mexican federal government
B. The Zapatistas accept new federal Chiapas Envoy Luis H. Alvarez, 85, as a "legitimate negotiator" for the government of Vicente Fox
C. Subcomandante Marcos will travel to Mexico City in February accompanied by 24 members of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee - General Command of the Zapatista Army. The delegation will also include Comandante Tacho and Mayor Moises.
D. Mexico's new President Vicente Fox has ordered the Armed Forces to withdraw from all roadblocks and checkpoints in the Zapatista zones of Chiapas.
E. In Mexico City, in February, Marcos and the Zapatista Command will personally lobby the federal Congress for passage of the San Andres Accords.


Translations of this week's Zapatista communiques, links, and other related materials are now posted to our front page: http://www.narconews.com/

Mexico's Zapatistas agree to new peace talks-report

MEXICO CITY, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Mexico's Zapatista Indian rebels decided Saturday to return to peace talks following the inauguration of Mexico's first president in 71 years not a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the government news agency Notimex reported.

Notimex said Zapatista leader Subcommander Marcos said in his jungle hide-out of La Realidad in the highlands of Chiapas state that he had agreed to negotiations after new President Vicente Fox ordered troops to pull back into their barracks.

The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) took up arms on New Year's Day 1994, demanding improved rights for Mexico's 10 million Indians. Peace talks broke down in 1996 after the government declined to ratify the San Andres peace accords, brokered after months of tough negotiations.

Fox, on being sworn in on Friday, said the first project he would send Congress would be a law implementing the San Andres accords, which would grant indigenous communities more autonomy, and the right to their own customs, languages and traditions.

Mexican rebel leader agrees to meet new president


Army roadblocks disappear in Chiapas, Mexico
Open-border plan of Mexico's leader seen as unlikely
Mexico's new leader seeks talks with rebels

Associated Press
December 2, 2000

The leader of Mexico's Zapatista rebels said Saturday that he would come out of hiding in the southern jungle and travel to Mexico City to restart peace talks that have been stalled since 1996.

The ski-masked Subcomandante Marcos made the statement a day after Mexico's new president ordered a push for peace, pulling back some troops from Zapatista strongholds and sending a rebel-backed Indian-rights bill to Congress.

In a news conference deep in the southern Lacandon Jungle, Marcos said he was encouraged by the actions of President Vicente Fox, whose inauguration Friday ended a 71-year string of presidents from the same party.

Marcos said he would travel in February to the capital with his top commanders - in what he said would be his first trip out of the jungle in 15 years - in an effort to ensure that Congress approves the Indian-rights bill.

"We will go and we will see what happens," he said. "We are leaving to do the work our companions are counting on us to do: to bring this war to an end."

The Zapatistas walked out of talks with the government of outgoing President Ernesto Zedillo four years ago when he balked at the language of the Indian-rights bill proposed by a Congressional committee.

The bill was supposed to implement the only substantive agreement so far between the two sides, which have maintained a wary cease-fire since January 1994.

The Zapatistas also have repeatedly demanded a pullback of the tens of thousands of troops in the areas where the rebels are influential.

Fox, in his first action as president, sent the rejected Indian-rights bill to Congress for approval, and ordered troops to withdraw from sensitive spots in Chiapas and to dismantle roadblocks.

"The new dialogue begins with deeds, not words. The new dialogue speaks with the sincerity of actions," said a communique signed by Fox's interior secretary, Santiago Creel, and Chiapas peace negotiator Luis H. Alvarez.

In La Realidad, Marcos said he approved of Alvarez as a negotiator. As a federal senator in 1996, Alvarez had helped negotiate the Indian rights bill.

Marcos also said Fox's actions showed good will, though he complained that the troops were being pulled back from positions - but not all the way out of Chiapas.

The Interior Secretariat said troops had been ordered back from their camps as well as from checkpoints. But reporters on Saturday found many soldiers were still stationed in roadside camps beside the now-closed checkpoints.

Creel, traveling with Fox in the neighboring state of Oaxaca on Saturday, told The Associated Press that the soldiers would withdraw in due time.

"There's no deadline," he said. "But there is an order for this to happen progressively."

According to the statement, the withdrawal was intended to signal "the full readiness of the federal government to meet with representatives of the EZLN as soon as possible."

It said the pullback would "generate a climate favorable to renewing negotiations" to end the almost 7-year-old rebellion by the Zapatista National Liberation Army, known as the EZLN. The leftist, predominantly Indian guerrilla group is represented by the charismatic Marcos.

Marcos' statement seemed to prove that prediction.

Military and immigration officials had used the checkpoints to prevent movement of weapons in a region where clashes between pro- and anti-Zapatista factions are common.

They also restricted support for the rebels. Foreign backers of the rebels were sometimes deported on grounds of interfering in local politics after being stopped at the checkpoints.

On Saturday, a bare patch of dirt remained at the entry to the village of Chenalho where two wooden sheds had housed a military and immigration post.

The closure worried Arturo Guillen Ruiz, a farmer who favors the former government ousted by Fox.

"I don't know who is going to protect us," he said. "What the president did is bad because he has left us alone here at the mercy of the rebels."

But about 100 yards away, smoke still rose from cooking fires amid some 20 army tents posted on an elementary school grounds, and there was no obvious sign of movement. Some soldiers were washing clothes.

Gen. Enrique Canovas, interviewed at a checkpoint in Mahomut, said the army was "complying with the orders of President Vicente Fox. All our activities have changed in the sense that all of the checkpoints have been withdrawn."

But he said there had been no orders to withdraw the encampments - at least not yet.


Key Events in Mexican Rebellions

  • Jan. 1: Zapatista National Liberation Army emerges from jungles in Chiapas state, seizing several towns to demanding improved conditions and rights for Mexican Indians. Rebels retreat to jungle within days.
  • Jan. 12: President Carlos Salinas declares cease-fire, ending open fighting after at least 145 deaths.
  • Feb. 21: Peace talks start in San Cristobal de las Casas. Government makes peace offer after 10 days of talks. Zapatistas reject it in June.
  • Aug. 21: Pro-Zapatista candidate loses Chiapas governor's race to the government's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Zapatistas claim fraud.
  • Oct. 8: Zapatistas suspend communication with government.
  • Dec. 1: President Ernesto Zedillo enters office vowing to end the Zapatista revolt. Within weeks, accepts rebel demand for church-led mediation commission.

  • Jan. 15: Rebel Subcomandante Marcos and Interior Secretary Esteban Moctezuma meet in Chiapas. Two days later, government orders army pullback.
  • < Feb. 8: Peace drive sours. Federal police find rebel arms in Mexico City and Veracruz and identify Marcos and other Zapatista leaders. Marcos is said to be Rafael Sebastian Guillen, a former university professor. Government orders his arrest.
  • Feb. 9: Thousands of soldiers enter rebel territory for first time since uprising. Tens of thousands of rebel supporters flee.
  • March 9: Law grants amnesty to Zapatistas to encourage peace talks.
  • April 10: Negotiators in Chiapas jungle agree to resume peace talks.
  • April 22: First round of talks begins in Chiapas town of San Andres Larrainzar.

  • Feb. 16: Two sides sign ``San Andres agreement'' to expand Indian rights nationwide as a first step in peace pact.
  • June 28: New Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, appears in Guerrero state. Group unrelated to Zapatistas.
  • Aug. 28: At least 19 people die in EPR raids in four states.
  • Sept. 2: Rebels announce withdrawal from peace talks; claim government reneging on San Andres agreement.
  • Oct. 11: A Zapatista leader openly visits Mexico City for first time: Comandante Ramona, seriously ill, comes for medical treatment.
  • Dec. 6: Bill drafted by congressmen to enact San Andres agreement is accepted by rebels. Zedillo later says it must be modified to protect national sovereignty. Zapatistas reject government counterproposal.

  • Dec. 22: Pro-government group kills 45 rebel sympathizers in Chiapas village of Acteal, the most dramatic of many continuing clashes linked the rebellion.

  • July 2: Vicente Fox defeats PRI in presidential election.
  • Aug. 20: Coalition candidate Pablo Salazar defeats PRI for Chiapas governorship, vowing to eliminate anti-rebel paramilitary groups and work for peace.
  • Dec. 1: Fox inaugurated. Promises to put San Andres rights bill to Congress and orders army pullback in Zapatista regions.
  • Dec. 2: Zapatistas conditionally accept resumption of peace talks, announce plan to visit Mexico City.

    Copyright � 2000 Associated Press Information Services, all rights reserved.



Demand that Vicente Fox End the War in Chiapas
Friday, December 1, 2000


To National and International Civil Society
To Human Rights Organizations
To Grass Roots Organizations
To the Men and Women of New York

President-Elect of Mexico, Vicente Fox, proclaimed that he could resolve the war in Chiapas in fifteen minutes. We, the men and women of Amanecer Zapatista Unidos en la Lucha (AZUL), reject a quick-fix solution to a centuries old problem of injustice and violence against the indigenous communities of Chiapas! We, as Mexicanos, immigrants, students, and workers, call to action our community in New York and communities in solidarity across the country and the world to demand an end to the violence in Chiapas on the first day Fox takes office on December 1!

President-elect of Mexico, Vicente Fox, has promised to quickly restart peace talks with the zapatistas and "negotiate" implementation of the San Andres accords after he takes office. Before that important step can take place, Fox must first move quickly to dismantle the immediate danger that is at the center of the conflict in Chiapas: the growing military and paramilitary presence in communities throughout indigenous regions, and, the rapidly increasing displacement of hundreds of families fleeing from the violence of army occupation and paramilitary attacks.

Across Chiapas, impoverished and isolated indigenous communities remain surrounded by an estimated 70,000 soldiers and by hundreds of additional paramilitary forces who harass and violate struggling families every single day in all indigenous regions. The daily reality is this: people are dying by direct military or paramilitary attacks and because of the inaccessibility of basic needs. More than 20,000 people have been displaced in the last few years due to the on-going low-intensity war being waged by the government of Mexico, a low-intensity war with long-term, high-intensity repercussions.

We the men and women of AZUL extend an invitation to all zapatista organizers and supporters to come together at Mexican consulates throughout the U.S. and the world on Friday, December 1, 2000 to keep Fox to his promise and demand in one voice:

  • The immediate withdrawal of the more than 70,000 Mexican soldiers surrounding indigenous regions in Chiapas
  • The immediate dismantlement of paramilitary groups
  • The release of all detained indigenous leaders
  • The immediate relocation of the more than 20,000 displaced indigenous men, women, and children of Chiapas
  • The final implementation of the San Andres Accords.
  • The agreement to all EZLN demands and conditions to enable a return to dialogue with the government
Join us in this open challenge to Mr. Fox because although it will take more than 15 minutes to bring real justice to Chiapas, it takes less than 15 minutes to decide to take action and demand the rights of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and less then fifteen seconds to pull on a mask, pick up a sign and yell YA BASTA!!

If your community is organizing a local action, please let us know. Contact us at ny_azul@hotmail.com.


Demand that Vicente Fox End the War in Chiapas
Friday, December 1, 2000 at 5:30 p.m.
Consul General of Mexico
27 East 39th Street
New York




Fox Will Ask For San Andre's Accords to Be Made Law

Announces He Will Send Proposal to Congress
Expresses Willingness For Direct Negotiation With EZLN

Juan Manuel Venegas, correspondent
Brussels. October 5, 2000

On the first of December, as soon as he assumes the Presidency of Mexico, "I will send Congress a legislative proposal accepting the San Andre's Larra'inzar Accords," announced Vicente Fox Quesada, the future head of Mexico, here today. Then "we will be ready to withdraw" the Army from the indigenous communities of Chiapas.

"Everything is ready for resolving the conflict," in the southeast state, he added: "We are only waiting for the Zapatista Army to react to our proposals and for a decision to be made to dialogue with us. I assure you that there will not be one single issue that we won't be willing to discuss, in order for the problem to be resolved to everyone's satisfaction."

He expressed his willingness "to negotiate directly, personally, with the Zapatista Army's I've already mentioned, we are willing to do everything that is necessary to resolve the problem."

The conflict in Chiapas has been a customary issue at all the meetings Fox has been holding with the chiefs of state and of government in the countries he has visited in Europe during his trip.

Journalists of this continent have wasted no opportunities in asking the acting president-elect about his proposals for resolving the problem and for dealing with the rebels' demands.

This time it was in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the seat of the European Commission, where the future head of the Mexican Executive branch had to express "his willingness" to resolve the conflict through dialogue and peaceful negotiation.

"We've been inviting the Zapatista Army to meet with us in order to renew dialogue and to find solutions for the reasons which led to the uprising. There is going to be a democratic government in Chiapas, and we've reiterated our fervent desire for resolving the problem," he said.

As the first steps, in order to make clear his position of wanting to resolve the conflict, "respecting" the EZLN's positions, he advised that he would be presenting the Congress a legislative proposal "accepting the San Andre's Accords," and he would be bringing about the withdrawal of military troops from the conflict zone so that they would "return to their original bases, while an honest and serious dialogue is carried out in order to deal with the demands of the indigenous population.

"We are going to wait for the EZLN to react to our proposals," but, regardless of their response, "We will, on our part, be initiating a program of support for the indigenous communities of Chiapas and of the entire country, in order to include them in development, with the commitment of respecting their roots, their history, their culture and their forms of governance."




Siege of Zapatista Communities Becoming Permanent

Translated by irlandesa
Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent
La Realidad, Chiapas
September 26

During the hours of the afternoon, twenty military vehicles cross the community, coming and going. It is the minimal daily dose of militarization for these tenacious Tojolabales in resistance. It is only because of the radio news reports that they know here that Zedillo's government lost the elections, that the country, as well as the state, will soon be getting new leaders, and that the ones that are coming in are saying they will pay attention to them. War is the only government activity that this, and hundreds of other autonomous communities and municipalities, know of, day after day. In La Realidad nothing has changed.

On the contrary. The siege is hardening, and it is showing every sign of becoming permanent. The closest federal Army camps-barracks - both less than 15 kilometers from this symbolic zapatista community - have been completely developed. Concrete and steel fortresses in the heart of the Selva Lacandona, in overwhelming contradiction to the plant and human landscape. Guadalupe Tepeyac and Rio Euseba, still under construction, are already a melange of stone and asphalt streets: great arsenals, trenches, towers, dozens of combat vehicles, light and heavy artillery, heliports, supermarkets, parking lots.

And there is more: the construction work picked up noticeably after the July 2 elections, as in a race against the clock. The same thing happened in an even more remote place, inside the Montes Azules biosphere reserve: Amador Herna'ndez, two military fortresses from here (Euseba and San Quinti'n) and less than 50 kilometers away. Over recent weeks there have been numerous air transfers of construction materials to that location.

What these new 'San Quinti'ns' have in common is that they are illegally sited on ejidal lands, against the wishes of the owners. The barracks which surrounds the bridge over the Euseba River, on both banks, occupies lands held jointly by La Realidad, San Cristo'bal Buenos Aires and Guadalupe Los Altos. The community of Miguel Hidalgo, close to the barracks, has seen its daily life irremediably disrupted. The federal Army gave money to a group of PRIs from Guadalupe Los Altos, which was most certainly not enough to cover the legal case (in case that was the intent). Agricultural lands occupied and destroyed today by thousands of soldiers who are pointing their weapons against the dispossessed communities.

But the most terrible sight is still old Guadalupe Tepeyac. The place where the zapatistas built their first Aguascalientes now has rock walls, streets, hangars, residential units of various levels. At the same time, the native population is not just still abandoned: it is destroyed. Covered with undergrowth, in a advanced state of deterioration, the houses of the expelled people are now the first Mayan archeological zone of the 21st century.

While the incoming governments have spoken, in a relaxed manner, of an eventual demilitarization, the armed forces are moving straight ahead and they are not stopping.

Community Destroyed in Montes Azules

Beneath the circular flight of a white helicopter, which seems to be the Judicial Police, under the eaves of the ejidal house of La Realidad, Roberto reports on the latest news from the Montes Azules, and he remembers the time a helicopter - "from Azteca Television and from Albores" - landed in the school patio, and he notes: "And they just knocked the school over."

"The compa~eros from San Francisco (another population inside the Montes Azules) reported that the coffee plantations and houses of San Lorenzo were fired on by people from Amatitla'n and Ri'o Azul, that the government sent them." He clarifies that the three communities are PRI, and they are "over there by Argentina and Pico de Oro," in the extreme southeast of the Reserve. One should add that there is a military camp with around 2000 soldiers in Amatitla'n.

"No one knows who sent them to plant some unknown plantations there and leave everything as if the people wouldn't be coming back. They planted the entire side of the road with that plant they call 'Nescafe,' no one is saying why."

"A government engineer arrived in the community of Sabanilla, under Benito Jua'rez Miramar, offering 90,000 pesos for collecting a mountain plant and being able to take it out," Roberto added. "They're PRIs, but they didn't accept it."

As far as what's going on in La Realidad, he refers to the helicopters, which "take turns" making overflights with their reconnaissance military airplanes, "almost every day."

Questio ned about how he sees the changes in government, Roberto declines to respond, as do representatives of the community as well as of the San Pedro de Michoaca'n Autonomous Municipality. As for the rest, this is what one gets when asking those kinds of questions in practically any of the rebel communities. Such is the way the "zapatista silence" is expressed in situ.

And, as in Los Altos, the Northern region and other parts of the Selva, in response to the questions one asks, the indigenous refer to the harassment they are experiencing, the dispossession of their lands, the looting of their resources.

Previous messages are available from http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html or gopher to Texas, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Economics, Mailing Lists.




From: irlandesa irlandesa@compuserve.com
Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa
Sunday, August 20, 2000.

The Zapatista Are Indeed Speaking

* Neil Harvey *

To the consternation of some observers of the conflict in Chiapas, Subcomandante Marcos has remained silent regarding the July 2 elections. He is criticized for his extensive communiques, postscripts and etceteras, and now he is being recriminated for his mute response to Vicente Fox's victory and the candidates for Alliance for Change. It appears that Marcos cannot win. If he speaks, he is a genial imposter. If he remains silent, he is a self-marginalized intransigent. But who has the right to ask Marcos to present himself in a manner which most suits one? What really disconcerts Marcos' critics is not that Marcos has remained silent, but rather that he has not agreed to speak in the terms of the Fox transition. The fifteen minute solution is not going to happen, not because Marcos is intransigent, but because the Fox team has still not grasped the magnitude of the conflict in Chiapas, nor does it understand that zapatismo is more than Marcos.

Reducing the solution to a problem of contact between Fox and Marcos is worrisome, because it is an attempt to ignore the history of the San Andre's dialogues, in which the EZLN consulted with its support bases in the communities and with broad sectors of civil society and was represented not by the person of Marcos, but rather by its indigenous comandantes and delegates. If the Fox team really wants to know what the zapatistas are thinking at this moment, it would be enough to visit Chiapas, to see the level of militarization and paramilitarization which exists. To learn the problems of the displaced in depth, to recognize the willingness to participate in the elections, if, that is, the forces of the old regime respect them. To speak with the indigenous women who suffer sexual harassment by the "forces of order." To help those who are building, from the communities, the defense of human rights. That would be the most important step in the building of democracy in Chiapas.

Ever since July 2, these grievances, demands and desires have been present in the actions and the words of many indigenous in Chiapas, and not just among the zapatistas. A few examples will suffice: the denuncias against the practice of vote buying on July 2. The dislocation of indigenous in El Parai'so, municipality of Yajalo'n, perpetrated by the Peace and Justice paramilitary group. The slow reaction by the police forces to that attack.

The threats of similar dislocations in various other places in the state, most notably in the Northern region. The slander against observers of the August 20 election. The denuncia (a year ago now) by the indigenous of the Amador Herna'ndez ejido that the military base established in their community is illegal and should be removed. The ongoing demand for liberty by the indigenous who are still imprisoned in Cerro Hueco jail for political reasons. The yearning that - with the change at the national level - a new opportunity is presenting itself to respond to these grievances and demands, but also the uncertainty as to whether or not the new leaders will have the capacity and the will to make these dreams a new reality for Chiapas and for the rest of the country.

Zapatismo is present, but not in the submissive, marginalized or exhausted way that some think or perhaps want. Nor is zapatismo reducible to the figure of Marcos. And so, if it is a question of building peace with dignity and justice (both fundamental elements for democracy), Fox's team will have to make a greater effort to listen to the zapatistas as and how they are, and not force them to speak in the terms which most suit the new political elite. Dialogue is the only path for achieving this end, which requires, as basic pre-conditions, demilitarization and the creation of new channels of mediation.

The zapatistas are speaking. Will they be heard?






CPTnet August 10, 2000

Bees to march, take demands to governor
on International Day of Indigenous Peoples

Today, August 10, 2000, over 1,000 members of the Bees-- the pacifist organization of indigenous Mayans--are expected to participate in a march through the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas. At the same time, representatives of the Bees will take the group's demands to the Governor's office in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez.
    The demands include the following:
  • disarmament of paramilitaries
  • demilitarization of the state of Chiapas
  • honoring of the San Andres accords
  • a justice that holds government officials accountable for the crimes that led to and culminated in the Acteal massacre
  • the immediate payment by the state of Chiapas to the Bees of damages for which the Mexican government was found responsible in court. The Mexican government has already remitted the payment of the these indemnities to the state government of Chiapas, but the state has not yet given the money to the victims.
Members of the Christian Peacemaker Team based in Chiapas will be present for the march. They have set up a web site dedicated to the day's activities that includes an English translation of the Bees' statement that will be read during the march, articles and stories from a recent CPT delegation and a sample letter to Chiapas Governor Roberto Albores Guillen. The site will be updated during the day with photographs and other items of interest.

To access the page, please go to: www.cpt.org/chiapas/beemarch/index.htm

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations and Friends Meetings that supports violence reduction efforts around the world. CPT has maintained a presence in Chiapas, Mexico, since June 1998. Contact CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680, TEL 312-455-1199 FAX 312-432-1213 / To receive news or discussion of CPT issues by e-mail, fill out the form found on our WEB page at http://www.prairienet.org/cpt/





Armed Group Attacks Pro-Rebel Villages in Mexico

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico (Reuters) - Armed civilians have attacked two villages aligned with the Zapatista rebels in Mexico"s Chiapas state, burning some 30 homes and expelling 60 families, a rights group said on Friday.

A member of the Human Rights Network identified the authors of the Thursday attack as members of the paramilitary group Peace and Justice, which is believed to be linked to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Police have still not arrived in Yajalon, the municipality where the attacks took place, 90 miles northeast of San Cristobal de las Casas, a source from the organization told Reuters by telephone from the community.

"According to reports, there were no injuries, but they burned 27 or 30 homes and 60 families were expelled," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Peace and Justice is one of several groups of armed civilians that surfaced after the Zapatista rebels declared war on the government in 1994 over the rights of poor and indigenous citizens.

The government has acknowledged the existence of at least 16 such groups and has stepped up efforts to disarm them amid a series of violent attacks.

The latest attack came little more than two weeks before an election for governor of the state. The balloting on Aug. 20 is seen as crucial to resolving the armed conflict.

In 1997, 45 Tzotzil Indians were massacred in Acteal, in the highlands near San Cristobal, and 44 indigenous members of a paramilitary group were sentenced to 35 years in prison for that attack. The attorney general"s office has said scores of other suspects in the Acteal massacre remain at large.

The attackers in Yajalon accused the Zapatista sympathizers of "invading" private land and fired on the communities with machine guns and other weapons, the source said.

In neighboring Ocosingo, 200 indigenous Zapatista sympathizers have been holding three farmers from an organization aligned with the PRI hostage since Tuesday in a dispute over land. They were negotiating on Friday with government officials, rights workers said.

Chiapas-L mailing list, Chiapas-L@burn.ucsd.edu, http://burn.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/chiapas-l. Previous messages are available from http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html or gopher to Texas, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Economics, Mailing Lists.



From: "Ricardo Ocampo" anahuak@webtelmex.net.mx

June 04, 2000
Global Web of Light
New Info Selection Services

Chiapas Poised for Genocide

A Time of Urgency

On the eve of the presidential elections in Mexico the situation in the State of Chiapas has grown to a critical juncture. Military and paramilitary forces are setting the stage for a final showdown with the rebellious Zapatista movement. The time is now and the result of any armed conflict will be genocidal for the indigenous people of Chiapas.

For this reason the members of "Zapatistas Online" are sending out this urgent call to unity with other activist communities throughout the world. Though our particular "issues" may differ, the idealism and values which we hold true are consistent. Chiapas is a mirror and a real time example of the misguided policies of free trade and globalization. Millions of indigenous people practicing a traditional lifestyle are threatened not only with change, but, with cultural extinction. The government of Mexico offers them a choice between global economic slavery or death.

Events in the conflict are escalating on a daily basis now. The analysts both in Mexico and in the USA fear the worst is about to happen. A Ruling party victory, whether legitimate or by the historical use of electoral fraud, in the presidential elections will be taken by the government as a rubber stamp for war against the indigenous of Chiapas.

We need your help and we need it now. Though there are many pressing issues throughout the world, Chiapas is now at the critical moment. We are asking for two things from the activist communities worldwide.

First: Letter writing campaigns to your local and national news media and governments condemning the actions of the Mexican government and asking for international pressure to remove the military from Chiapas.

Second: Preparations for a massive emergency protest in the event that open war does break out.

Again, the situation in Chiapas is critical. Murder, assassination, intimidation, torture and other violations of the human rights of a minority ethnic group taking are now taking place daily and escalating in seriousness and quantity as well.

Please join us in raising a gigantic wall of protest in support of the rights of the indigenous people of Chiapas Mexico.

Zapatistas Online

Zapatistas Online meets at zo-en@deliberate.com, an email list. The English language messages from the chiapas95@eco.utexas.edu edited news list come into our list. We discuss the news, look for ideas, encourage street action, and issue proclamations. We make our decisions by formal democracy, following the democratic ideals the Zapatistas defend.

Help us to be a Voice. Join us by sending the message "subscribe zo-en" to majordomo@deliberate.com.


Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000

Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor), $14.36, Paperback, March 1999

Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo, $18.17, Hardcover, October 1999


On December 22, 1997, 45 unarmed Maya people, mostly women and children, were gunned down with automatic weapons by a group of 50 to 60 "paramilitary" thugs in the village of Acteal. The situation in Chiapas is tragic and complex - do not be fooled by the Mexican government's attempts to confuse the issue by calling this a "family feud". This is not a conflict between various Maya villages. Since the massacre, the Mexican army has been building up troops in Chiapas. Their explanation is that they are there to protect the Indians. But after reading the reports listed here, you will know differently


    Maya Death in Chiapas, A Poem
    What Is Happening In Chiapas?
    6/1/00 Chiapas Poised for Genocide
    6/1/00 Call for Action re: Mexican Presidential Visit
    6/1/00 Montes Azules: Ethnic war wearing a green sheepskin
    6/1/00 Schools for Chiapas - Letter from Peter Brown
    4/1/00 Juanita's Chiapas Journal
    1/6/00 New Wave of Harrassment Against Foreigners
    12/30/99 Comunique of Pastoral Agents
    3/24/99 New Mexican appointee in Washington tied to paramilitary massacre
    1/31/98 More Deaths
    1/30/98 120 More Expelled From their Homes by Paramilitary
    1/29/98 Paramilitary Terrorism Continues
    1/21/98 Letter From an Observer
    1/16/98 Report on Chiapas by the Human Bean Company, by Kerry Appel, Director
    12/17/97 Report from the National Coalition for Democracy in Mexico
    What Is The Reason For This Situation?
    Some Personal Observations on the Reasons Behind the Events in Chiapas
    by Jeeni Criscenzo
    Analysis & History of Chiapas Situation
    Nuevo Amanecer Press
    Letter to the Economist
    by John Warnock
    The Financial Connection
    National Commission for Democracy in Mexico
    Global Outrage Against "The Globalizers of Misery"
    SOA - The "School of Assassins" - Your Taxes Pay For It!
    Support Senator Joseph Kennedy's Effort to Close the SOA
    1/15/98 Major Blair's Letter to Clinton concerning the SOA Protesters
    1/20/98 28 SOA Protesters Go Before Hangin' Judge
    If you want to know more details on the extent of US involvement in this horrible human rights atrocity, visit this web site: http://www.nonviolence.org/slipperyslope/slip-b.htm
    Other Relevant Information
    1/18/96 San Andres Accords: Joint Proposals which the Federal Government and the EZLN
    Support Links
    SPAN/--Strategic Pastoral Action: CIEPAC maps of Chiapas; Mapas por CIEPAC de Chiapas
    IFCO Background - Pastors for Peace
    Chiapas 95
    NetWarriors 1999
    SIPAZ: International Service for Peace - Fram...
    Food For Chiapas Online
    The Mayan Relief Fund
    Standoff In Chiapas
    Slippery Slope: U.S. Military Moves Into Mexico
    EZLN Communique in Response to the Massacre in Chenalho
    Complicity of Mexican Government
    Fifth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle
    Info on Chiapas and the EZLN
    Emergency Delegation to Chiapas

    JAGUAR SUN WebSite http://www.criscenzo.com/jaguar/
    E-Mail to: jeeni@criscenzo.com
    �Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo


    May 22nd is the Zapatista Solidarity Day

    May 21, 2000
    From: LeeAnn McNabb CZC1@excite.com

    Brothers and Sisters,

    May 22nd has been announced as the Zapatista Solidarity Day. If you have the time tomorrow , Monday, May 22nd (or anytime this week), why not do something for the Zapatistas. There are so many small and painless things one can do for the Zapatistas on their Solidarity Day.

    To Find out More about the Zapatistas please visit one of the following sites:

    Ways to help:
    1. Please Call your Congressman to Support the Resolution for Peace in Chiapas. We�re sending out another reminder for everyone to call their House Reps and Senators letting them know you support Senator Leahy�s Resolution. In the House it�s Resolution number 238, in the Senate it is Resolution number 76. This bill is very important, because it asks the Secretary of State to �take effective measures to ensure that US assistance and exports of equipment to Mexican security forces��. �are not provided to units of security forces that have been implicated in human rights violations��. �and to encourage the EZLN and Government to take steps to create conditions of good faith negotiations that address the social, economic, and political causes of the conflict in Chiapas��.and goes on to basically say that Mexico is violating it�s own laws by removing Americans and others from Chiapas. To find out the phone numbers of your Senators and House Reps call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. To find them on the web visit http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov. We also have a petition based on this bill, to obtain a copy of this either email us (if you have Microsoft Word) or visit http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1364/P2394.htm (this will require some formatting for you. Instructions on where to send it is on the main petitions page, a link is on the bottom of P2394.htm). To get a copy of the full resolution please call Senator Leahy's office at (202) 224-4242. We believe this bill is a good step in the right direction. Please help the Zapatistas say YA BASTA this year.

    2. Write a letter to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to let them know that you support Indigenous Rights and the San Andres Accords. You wish them to pressure the Mexican President to enact the San Andres Accords. There are several different things you could write about. Write to them by email at president@whitehouse.gov and Vice.President@whitehouse.gov. You can write them via snail mail at: President Bill Clinton, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington, DC 20500. Or, you can even call their comments line at (202) 456-1111 and verbally give an operator your message for the President.

    3. You can call, fax, or write your closest Mexican Embassy about your concerns for Indigenous, Human, Environmental, and Social Rights in Mexico. The closest Mexican Embassy to Cincinnati is in Detroit.

    4. You can contact US Government, Director Office of Mexican Affairs - John Dawson @ (202) 647-8113 (tele) or (202) 647-5752 (fax).

    5. You can write the Mexican President at: Presidente de la Republica - Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon at webadmon@op.presidencia.gob.mx

    6. You can write The Governor of Chiapas - Roberto Albores Guillen at comsocgo@correo.chiapas.com

    7. You can write The UNITED NATIONS OFFICE IN MEXICO at bruno.guandalini@un.org.mx

    8. You can educate yourself on this issue more. There are a few good books and reports out there. The Chiapas Rebellion by Philip L. Russell, Basta by George A. Collier, Camino a la masacreby Centro de Derechos Humanos/ Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, Terror in Chiapaswhich appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (March/April '98) by Alejandro Nadal, Militarization and Violence in Chiapas by CONPAZ, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, and Coalition of Civil Organizations for Democracy (Convergencia), We will not forget by Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, Rebellion from the Roots by John Ross, First World, HA HA HA! edited by Elaine Katzenberger, Chiapas: Challenging History by Akwe:kon Journal (Summer 1994), and Democracy in Mexico by Dan La Botz. There are many more if one searches for them. There are also some great videos : Lacandona : The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico by ACERCA, Todos Somos Marcos, 6th Sun, Communique, Chiapas : A shot heard around the world, Zapatista Women, Marcos : World History. Those are just a few of the one's that we know of. The webpages listed at the beginning of the message also give really good insight into the ideals, issues, and culture of the Zapatista Rebellion.

    9. And of course, another great contribution is funds or donations. There are always caravans going back and forth to Chiapas, and your monetary or food donations would be welcomed. Also donations are needed for the many organizations (the NCDM, the Mexico Solidarity Network, Pastors for Peace, Accion Zapatista, Chiapas School Construction Team, the Cincinnati Zapatista Coaltion, etc) that are working for justice in Chiapas, most of them are volunteer run and in great need of funds.

    "Everything for Everyone, Nothing for Us!" - EZLN slogan

    Thank You for reading this special Zapatista Solidarity Update. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or comments please feel free to contact us here at the CZC at miriamczc@yahoo.com or by phone at 513.232.0362.

    LeeAnn McNabb
    Cincinnati Zapatista Coalition
    PO Box 30401
    Cincinnati, Ohio 45230
    http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1364/ miriamczc@yahoo.com / CZC1@excite.com 513.232.0362/513.325-4179

    Viva Zapata y Vivan Los Zapatistas!
    Stop Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia!
    "We want a world where many worlds fit...."


    Escalation of conflict in Chiapas, Mexico

    May 14, 2000
    From The Milwaukee Pledge of Resistance

    Dear Friends,

    Again we ask you to contact your elected officials in Congress and the White House to express your concern over the Mexican government's, as yet, low intensity warfare against indigenous Mayans who wish their constitutional rights restored. Part of the government strategy has been to stage ambushes on some of their own people, then blame the Zapatistas. The people ask only to be left alone in their autonomous villages formed in accord with the San Andres agreement signed by the government. The build-up for a major offensive continues, as the following excerpt from a zapatista message details:

    "WE ARE EXCEEDINGLY CONCERNED about the current situation in the town of Polhó, Autonomous Municipality of San Pedro Chenalhó, with the enormous deployment of police-military forces which the State and Federal Governments have made in the region of Los Altos. In addition to this being a clear provocation of the ZAPATISTA ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION, it also risks - as, perhaps, the last card to be played by the Zedillo administration - closing the path of dialogue and of a JUST AND DIGNIFIED PEACE in our Nation. We would like to remind you that the town of Polhó is a place of refuge for more than 8000 displaced (who are already existing in conditions of extreme poverty, having lost everything, their land, shelter and freedom, because of constant threats from paramilitary groups), the very ones who had to be displaced as a consequence of the militarization and paramilitarization in the region of Los Altos and following the ACTEAL massacre. And now, today, because of the lack of security due to the LOW INTENSITY AND COUNTERINSURGENCY WAR being waged by the Federal and State governments, they are unable to return to their communities of origin. Along these same lines is the threat to the AUTONOM=CDA of the Chiapaneco Peoples, since the Autonomous Council of San Pedro Chenalhó is being accused by the Coordinator for Dialogue in Chiapas, Emilio Rabasa Gamboa, and by the State Attorney General, of protecting those purportedly responsible for the alleged ambushes.

    MORE WORRISOME STILL, yesterday, May 10, hundreds of FEDERAL PREVENTIVE POLICE (PFP) arrived in our State..."

    To reach senators and representatives see http://www.visi.com/juan/congress.
    The email address of the president is President@whitehouse.gov .
    His comment line is 1-202-456-1111 .


Bloodshed in Chiapas Once Again

By Pilar Franco
May 8, 2000

MEXICO CITY, May 8 (IPS) -- Three Mexican indigenous people were killed and three others injured, including a young girl, in a weekend ambush that has deepened tensions in the impoverished southeastern state of Chiapas.

Four masked civilians armed with rifles intercepted and fired on a vehicle carrying a group of Tzotzile Indians as they travelled through the Tzanembolom community of the Chenalho municipality Sunday.

The attack resulted in the deaths of Carmen Gomez, 33, Jos Luis Gomez, 20, and Antonio Lopez, 18. Mariano Gomez, Julio Lopez and six-year-old Magdalena Gomez suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to a medical centre in San Cristobal de las Casas for treatment.

The incident "shows that the dismantling of paramilitary organisations in Chiapas can no longer be delayed," Salvador Tinajero, attorney for the non-governmental Mexican Human Rights Defence Commission, told IPS Monday.

The Chiapas attorney-general's office gathered some 300 police officers to mount a search operation in the surrounding communities to track down the assassins.

Likewise, the army mobilised 200 troops in the area, considered a stronghold of the insurgent Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which took up arms Jan. 1, 1994 to fight for the rights of Mexico's indigenous peoples.

The Zapatista forces, which engaged in a battle against the Mexican army for just 12 days in 1994, after which a truce was declared, continue under siege, reportedly surrounded by as many as 40,000 government soldiers in the Chiapas mountains.

Subcommander Marcos, leader of the EZLN, has kept silent in response to the Mexican government's invitation to dialogue. The rebels accuse the government of failing to comply with the San Andrs Accords on indigenous rights and respect for native cultures, signed by both sides three and a half years ago.

The government claims the rebels are intransigent and have no interest in reaching a peace agreement, while the EZLN charges that the government continues to wage "low-intensity warfare" against it and the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.

Missions of foreign observers visiting Chiapas in the past few years have called on the Ernesto Zedillo administration to put an end to the activity of irregular armed groups and reduce the number of soldiers posted in the state, in order to pave the way for peace.

Just five km from the site of Sunday's attack, Roman Catholic bishop Felipe Arizmendi made his first pastoral visit to the region since he assumed his position, one week ago, as head of the San Cristobal de las Casas diocese, which administers to this region.

Arizmendi, considered a moderate, expressed his grief for the bloody incident, but affirmed that instability and lack of safety are worse in other parts of the country. "One can live more peacefully in Chiapas than in Mexico City," he said.

Arizmendi succeeded bishop Samuel Ruiz, who served the area for 40 years as a proponent of Liberation Theology, which emphasises compassion and the struggle by the poor against oppressors as they seek a better life in the here and now, as well as freedom and economic justice. Ruiz's teachings won him criticism from both the Mexican government and Pope John Paul II.

This latest tragic chapter in the lives of the Chiapas indigenous people occurred just three weeks after the attorney-general's office announced the creation of a special force to investigate the actions of paramilitary groups in Chiapas.

The new unit, comprised of 40 special agents, will make every effort to solve crimes, bring the perpetrators to justice, and prevent further criminal activity, according to assistant attorney- general Jos Luis Ramos.

Non-governmental human rights organisations, however, maintain that the official counterinsurgency policy is based on the activities of these paramilitary groups, who the activists blame for the deaths of hundreds of indigenous peoples over the last few years.

On Dec. 22, 1997, paramilitaries assassinated 45 indigenous people in Acteal, a municipality of Chenalho, where police at the time failed to take action on repeated reports that the armed civilian groups were active in the area.

Sunday's events at Tzanembolom "demonstrate the zero preventive capacity, not just of the new force created by the attorney- general's office, but also of the police when it comes to the power of crime" in Chiapas, maintained Tinajero.

After the incident at Acteal over two years ago, the army "invaded Chenalho in order to protect the security of the indigenous communities, according to government statements (...) but now this happens," said the human rights lawyer.

This recent attack against indigenous people -- who make up approximately 10 percent of the nation's population of 100 million -- "is especially worrisome because it adds another element of tension to the current political climate, already stressed by the change of bishop and the elections for governor" this year, said Tinajero.

"The situation in Chiapas is not showing signs of improvement," warned Tinajero. "On the contrary, incidents occur that are increasingly beyond the government's control."


Nizkor Int. Human Rights Team
Derechos Human Rights
Serpaj Europe
Information/Urgent Solidarity
March 16, 2000


The situation on the ground in Chiapas remained tense and often violent in recent months. Meanwhile political developments both within and outside the region diminished hopes that significant progress toward peace would be achieved before President Zedillo's term ends in December.

During a January trip to Europe, President Zedillo made a series of startlingly frank statements disparaging the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), discounting its importance in the resolution of the problems in Chiapas, and somewhat ominously asserting that the military offensive he unleashed in February 1995 "succeeded in getting them to sit down to talk."

On December 30, the Vatican announced the transfer of Coadjutor Bishop Raul Vera from San Cristobal de Las Casas to Saltillo in northern Mexico. Bishop Samuel Ruiz submitted his resignation in November, but it has not yet been accepted by the Vatican, and no successor has been named. The transfer of Bishop Vera, who had been in line to succeed Bishop Ruiz, and the resultant uncertainty raised fears about the effect on peace prospects and on the security of thousands of church workers, religious and lay, who have felt somewhat protected by the extensive influence of the diocese under Bishop Ruiz.

The claim of the Papal Nuncio that the decision was based on "purely ecclesiastical reasons" stretched credulity. It is true that for years the pastoral practice in the diocese has been cause for concern within some circles in the Vatican and that Bishop Vera gave every indication of continuing the existing pastoral plan. At the same time, the decision to remove Vera was highly unusual. It appears likely that it also rested on the Vatican's interest in improving relations with the Mexican government, for whom Bishop Ruiz has long been considered a political obstacle.

Meanwhile, several communities experienced outbreaks of violence between pro-government and pro-Zapatista groups. In the county of Chilon, 52 families were displaced from their homes by a paramilitary group. The constant military pressure on the indigenous communities was augmented by the arrival of hundreds of members of a new security force, the Federal Preventive Police (part of the Interior Ministry).

Criminal cases related to the 1997 Acteal massacre continued to wind their way through the judicial process. Two state government officials were sentenced to six years each for their roles, one of the accused intellectual authors of the crime was sentenced to 35 years, while 24 Indians who had previously been sentenced to 35 years had their sentences revoked, pending further review. In December, 2000 members of the Bees, the group that was the target of the massacre, staged a ilgrimage in the county of Chenalho, offering symbols of peace at military bases and checkpoints.

National elections are scheduled for July 2 while elections for governor of Chiapas will take place August 20. Regardless of their outcome, the elections represent an element of uncertainty and instability, especially in the explosive context of Chiapas.

With the opposition split between the center-right PAN (National Action Party) and the center-left opposition coalition led by the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) is well placed to win the presidential elections. In Chiapas, the

opposition has united behind the candidacy of PRI dissident, Senator Pablo Salazar. He would appear to have a strong chance of winning, but some analysts question whether such an opposition victory would be allowed to stand. The challenging electoral conditions in Chiapas underscore the importance of a strong election observation effort.

In an increasingly polarized and tense situation, where the space for negotiation has nearly disappeared, opting for a military solution remains a possibility. The government may decide to take advantage of the interregnum (between the July elections and the transfer of power in December) in order to launch a well-targeted offensive in Chiapas. On the other side, the EZLN, faced with the prolonged stalemate in the peace process, may elect to take up arms once again. While neither option appears reasonable or probable, neither can they be discounted.

The government's campaign against international observers continued. During the first five weeks of the year, 60 foreigners received citations accusing them of violating Mexican law.

In a broad swipe at non-governmental organizations, President Zedillo asserted, "We do not need the self-nominated representatives of civil society, now called non-governmental organizations, to speak in the name of the poor of the developing countries."

Meanwhile the drumbeat of international criticism of Mexico's human rights record continued. During her November visit to Mexico, Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed various concerns, including the excessive militarization in Chiapas. At the conclusion of her February visit to Mexico, the President of the UN Working Group on Indian Peoples, Erika Irene Daes, called on the Mexican government to comply with the San Andres Accords which it signed four years ago. Also in February, UN Special Rapporteur for Extra-Judicial Executions, Asma Jahangir, presented a report on her July 1999 visit. Among her conclusions: in Mexico, federal and local governments, the army, paramilitary groups, and armed opposition groups execute innocent people throughout the country, especially in Chiapas and Guerrero; in cases such as the killings in Acteal and El Bosque (Chiapas), all the intellectual and material authors have not been captured; human rights defenders receive little protection and work in a climate of violence.

On the economic front, in November representatives of Mexico and the European Union signed a far-reaching trade agreement. While the agreement must still be ratified by the Mexican Senate and the individual EU members, it represents a major step for the free trade policy of the Zedillo administration. Not much concrete information has been presented about its possible impact on Mexican workers and peasants nor has it benefited from significant public debate. The treaty includes a clause requiring respect for human rights and democracy. However it does not include a clear mechanism for evaluating compliance.


1. Urge the Zedillo administration to: - order a substantial reduction of the Army presence in the conflict areas in Chiapas and insure that the Army respects the rights and freedoms of citizens as an authentic and concrete sign of a will to dialogue; - recognize and respect the efforts of national and international human rights workers and international observers whose work offers substantial support to the peace process.

2. Urge Chiapas Governor Roberto Albores Guill�n to: - cease operations in already highly conflictive areas that harass indigenous communities and opposition organizations.

3. Urge the Mexican Senate to: - approve the COCOPA legislative proposal on Indigenous Rights and Culture, placing the interests of peace above partisan politics.

4. Circulate information, such as this Report, on the situation in Chiapas.


Lic. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Presidente de la Republica
Palacio Nacional
06067 Mexico, DF - M�xico
Fax: (+52) (5) 271 1764 / 515 4783

Roberto Albores Guillen
Gobernador de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno
Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas
Fax: (+52) (961) 20917

El Senado de la Republica
Paseo de la Reforma, 10
06030 Mexico, DF - Mexico
Fax: (+52) (5) 130 2292

Please send copies of letters to the Senate to:
Comision de Concordia y Pacificacion
Paseo de la Reforma, 10, piso 17
06030 Mexico, DF - Mexico
Fax: (+52) (5) 140 3288

[Source: SIPAZ Report - March 2000 - Vol. V, No. 1]
For furthur information: SIPAZ International Office - P.O. Box 2415 - Santa Cruz, CA 95063 USA - Tel. & Fax: 831 425 1257 - Mailto: sipaz@igc.org - http://www.sipaz.org


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