Massacre in Chiapas Mexico

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Communique from the Indigenous Revolutionary
January 3, 1998, 4:35 p.m
International Day of Action - 1/12/98, STOP U.S. military aid to Mexico!

(NEXT)National Congress of Indigenous Peoples on Chiapas
a letter to the Pres. of Mexico

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Urgent Actions in Response to Massacre


Shortly before noon on Monday, December 22, a group of 60-70 members of a PRI-backed (ruling party) paramilitary group descended upon the Tzotzil village of Acteal, in the highland Chiapas municipality of Chenalhó, where hundreds of displaced Zapatista supporters and members of the peaceful civilian organization known as "Las Abejas" had taken refuge.

The attackers were armed with AK-47 rifles and expanding hollow-tip bullets--weapons which they could only have obtained from military or police sources. They opened fire on the village as many of its inhabitants where attending church services and praying for peace and reconciliation in the municipality. The slaughter continued as hundreds of people ran toward a nearby river in a vain effort to escape.

As of this writing, 45 people are confirmed dead (21 women, 14 children, one infant, and 9 men), and at least 25 others have been wounded. The bloodbath lasted five hours, during which time the Public Security police stood by--some no more than 200 meters away--and refused to intervene.

Since the massacre, President Zedillo de Leon has said the security of Chiapas, as well as the "investigation" into the "incident" will be the responsibility of the federal government. Perhaps as a sign of this new responsibility, the federal army has declared itself on "maximum alert", and troop units from the states of Yucatan and Campeche have been moved into the southeastern jungle zone of Chiapas.

For its part, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has issued a communique directed to civil society, indicating that the rebel organization will need a short period of time with which to evaluate the situation and decide on a response.



The importance and urgency of this situation cannot be underestimated.
Send letters, phone calls, and faxes of protest to:

Lic. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Presidente de la Republica
Palacio Nacional:
C.P. 06067, Mexico, D.F.
Fax: int-52-5-516-5762 / 515-4783
printable letter

Emilio Chuayffet Chemor
Secretario de Gobernacion
Bucareli 99, 1er piso
Col. Juarez
C.P. 06699 Mexico, D.F.
Fax: int-52-5- 546-5350

Jorge Madrazo Cuellar
Procuradurma General de la Republica
Paseo de la Reforma No. 75
Col. Guerrero
C.P. 06300 Mexico, D.F.
Fax: int-52-5-626-4419

Zapatista Front of National Liberation
National Commission for Democracy in Mexico
CNN News



Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)
December 22, 1997.
To National and International Civil Society:

Brothers and Sisters;
Why? How many more? Until when?

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Communique from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Mexico, December 23, 1997

          To the people of Mexico,
          To the peoples and governments of the world,
          To the national and international press:

In relation to the massacre of indigenous people in the community of Acteal, municipality of San Pedro de Chenalhó, Chiapas, realized yesterday, December 22 of 1997, the EZLN points out:

FIRST - According to information compiled until today, about 60 paramilitaries of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (sponsored by the federal and state governments) were the ones who attacked the indigenous with high caliber weapons, among them were refugees of Acteal.

SECOND - As a result of this attack which lasted up to four hours, at least 45 indigenous people were assassinated, among them 9 men, 21 women and 15 children (one of them an infant less than a year old). In addition to the dead the wounded counted among them 7 men (4 children) and 10 women (4 of them are little girls).

THIRD - According to radio transmissions of the government of Chiapas (intercepted by the EZLN) in the immediate surrounding of Acteal at the time at which the massacre was being carried out, public security police of the state of Chiapas backed up the attack and during the afternoon and evening dedicated themselves to picking up cadavers in order to hide the magnitude of the massacre. Messrs. Homero Tovilla Cristinani and Uriel Jarquin (Secretary and Subsecretary of the government of Chiapas respectively) commissioned the police to back up this crime. Mister Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro was constantly informed of the development of the "operation" (at least since noon of the 22nd day of December, when the massacre was an hour old). Approved by the federal and state government, the attack was fine-tuned on the 21st of December in a meeting of paramilitaries (led by Mister Jacinto Arias, PRI municipal president) of the communities of Los Chorros, Puebla, Esperanza and Quextic, all of them municipalities of Chenalhó.

FOURTH - The direct responsibility for these bloody events fall upon Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon and the Justice Ministry, who, two days ago, gave a green light to the counterinsurgency project presented by the Federal Army. The aim of this project is to displace the Zapatista war and make it appear to be a war among the indigenous, motivated by religious, political and ethnic differences. In order to carry this out, they have dedicated themselves to financing equipment and weaponry (through funds of the Social Development Ministry) and giving military training (led by officials of the federal army) to the indigenous recruited by the Revolutionary Institutional Party [PRI]. In order to allow time for these death squads to get ready, the Mexican Federal Government designed a parallel strategy of simulated dialogue, which consists of carrying out negotiations without any intention of carrying out what had already been agreed to, and by increasing military presence in Zapatista zones. The government of the state of Chiapas was put in charge of guaranteeing the impunity of paramilitary groups and facilitating their operation in the principal rebel zones of the North, the jungle and the highlands of Chiapas.

FIFTH -In this way the federal and state governments, the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the Federal Army joined forces. Their objective is synthesized by the "war cry" of the paramilitaries called the "Red Mask". "We are going to put an end to the Zapatista seed", in other words "We are going to wipe out the indigenous communities."

SIXTH - As part of the style of government and demonstration of his "will for peace" through diverse channels, Mister Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon has sent threats to the general command of the EZLN with the following message "I prefer to go into history as a repressor before implementing the agreements with the EZLN". He has carried out his word. Zedillo has gone into history as an assassin of the indigenous and has the blood of Acteal on his hands.

SEVENTH - The prompt attention of the media in Chiapas and the just indignation of national and international public opinion in response to these events, has made the mastermind of the crime scramble to the forefront in order to wash their hands of it and promise "in-depth" investigations. They will not punish those who are responsible, impunity is guaranteed because those who investigate the crime are the same ones who planned it. For these reasons, the declarations of Mister Zedillo and his subordinates are nothing more than demagogy.

EIGHTH - Using the motive of the massacre of Acteal, the government and its spokespeople call once again to dialogue without mentioning the fact they have no intention of fulfilling any agreements but rather advancing their counterinsurgency strategy. In this sense, the recent and ridiculous declaration of the COCOPA (which decided to go on vacation instead of working for peace) in regards to Acteal. The legislators forget that it is the government which is assassinating children, women and men, that it is the government which is using weapons, that it is the government which refuses a serious dialogue. It is to the government that they should direct themselves when they talk about not resorting to violence, and about the necessity of dialogue.

NINTH - Once again the EZLN calls upon national and international civil society and upon independent organizations to not be deceived, to demand true justice and not pretensions.

TENTH - The Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee, General Command of the EZLN is at these moments completing its investigation and analyzing what has occurred in order to make the pertinent necessary decisions.

Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee -
General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)
Mexico, December of 1997

Translated by : Cecilia Rodriguez, NCDLJ
To Comfort the Disturbed, and to Disturb the Comfortable



3 January 1998
4:35 p.m.

Companeras and companeros from Mexico and around the world:

A few minutes ago, we confirmed the most recent news with respect to the situation in Chiapas and, disgracefully, it is bad news:

The federal army has occupied the town of La Realidad, in Chiapas, by way of an operation supported by airplanes and helicopters. At this time, we do not have any more information regarding the current situation there.

The other news is that 40 indigenous companeros who were carrying humanitarian aid from Oventic to Polho were detained by a priista paramilitary group, who have said they will keep the companeros as hostages until those detained for participation in the Acteal massacre are released.

These events appear as the first measures adopted by the government since the changes in the presidential cabinet, of which the most important is the change in Government Secretary (Interior Minister), following the resignation of Emilio Chuayfett and his replacement by Francisco Labastida Ochoa. The first declarations of Labastida Ochoa about Chiapas were that the solution would be found by concluding the accords and disarming all groups; however, it seems that the order chosen by the government is the contrary.


The urgency of the tasks of solidarity now cannot be overemphasized.

We must stop the war!! Punishment to those responsible for the massacre of Acteal! Immediate compliance with the Accords of San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres! Demilitarization of the indigenous communities! Disarmament and dismantling of all the paramilitary groups!

We will keep you informed.

Javier Elorriaga
For the Provisional International Commission of the FZLN



- JANUARY 12, 1998 -

Key Objective: To destroy the relationship of support which exists between the population and the transgressors of the law... military intelligence services should secretly organize certain sectors of the civilian population...ranchers...small businessmen...individuals...train and support self-defense forces or other paramilitary cases where self-defense forces do not exist, it is necessary to create them.2 Seventh Military Region Mexican Federal Army Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas

Aided by a graduate of the School of Americas in the United States, General Jose Ruben Ribas Peqa, 1980 graduate, the Mexican Army has been implementing a counterinsurgency strategy which would reveal itself upon the massacre of 45 Indian men, women and children on December 22 of 1997.

The massacre served to advance their military objectives. On January3 of 1998 the Mexican military carried out illegal incursions into Zapatista communities, thus violating the national Law For Dialogue, under the guise of searching for any weapons possibly used in the massacre. The government response to the massacre:

1) Has created terror, demoralization and disruption of the indigenous communities who are the support bases of the Zapatistas. More than 11,000 community members in northern Chiapas are now refugees as the result of the reign of terror by paramilitary groups.

2) Provoked and attempted to humiliate the Zapatistas militarily by intruding into strategic bases such as La Realidad and Oventic.

3) Attempted to isolate the Zapatistas from the social sectors supportive of the indigenous communities. Most blatant is the direct attack on the Diocese of San Cristobal with accusations that the CONAI 3provoked violent acts by distributing false reports against the military.2

4) Created a rationale for an attempt to forcibly disarm the Zapatistas under the guise of 3ending inter-community violence.2

5) Created a rationale for significantly increasing the military presence in Chiapas through 6,000 additional troops, 20 new military checkpoints, several new military camps around the Zapatista Aguascalientes.

The spin doctors have already begun their work in response to the massacre. 3Government on all levels is to blame [for the massacre] as are the Zapatistas for rebelling without the means to win or defend themselves2 writes the government mouthpiece Jorge G. Castaneda. The Los Angeles Times claims the replacement of the Interior Minister signals a new approach which will 3alleviate2 the problems in Chiapas. Both the LA Times and most mainstream media have little or nothing to say about the incursions which occurred on Saturday. The silent war will become a deafening silence as most of us are forced to comb through the war of words designed to confuse and demoralize us.

The war in Mexico now takes the ominous turn which has been expected for a long time. The decision is clear; the powerful machine which the Zapatistas challenged by daring to think that as Indian people they had the right to live with dignity will now proceed to rip the land, its peoples, and their hopes to pieces. The outcome however has not been decided. That outcome depends upon people like ourselves. Will we stand by and allow another slaughter to occur? Will we be able to see beyond the emotion of outrage and grasp that military solutions occur when a system has exhausted political options? This war is being conducted because the Mexican system is weak, and the United States will once again throw its support behind a rotting system if we allow it to count on our passivity. We must acknowledge the strength of reason which is on our side and continue to work to stop this war. Four years to the day that the first phase of this war began, the need to demand a new cease-fire is even more pressing.