The suffering of our peoples because of the silent war

June 18, 2000

To national and international solidarity.

Sisters and brothers:

Today, the Tzeltal and Chol children, women, old ones and men, of the Ricardo Flores Mago'n Autonomous Municipality, wish to share with you the suffering of our peoples because of the silent war to which the bad government has condemned us, only for saying our word, only for being dignified and fighting for the rights of all, for struggling to build a dignified life for our peoples within the autonomi'a to which we have the right.

The bad government has filled our lands with the shadows of war and evil death, with the shadows of the federal army which has invaded our lands in order to persecute us, to harass us, to beat us, to divide us, and in order to prepare the war of extermination against our indigenous communities in resistance. The federal army is spreading like a stain of death and destruction across our communities and villages. They have established more than ten military barracks on our lands, in Calvario, San Caralampio, Taniperlas, Monte Li'bano, Ocotalito, San Jero'nimo Tulija', Cintalapa, Laguna Ojos Azules, Cruceros Lacanja', with the federal army, and in Yaxchila'n, where the navy is patrolling the Usumacinta border river every day, harassing the campesino indigenous of those communities, who use the river for food and as a means of transportation. It is difficult to determine the exact number of military troops in each barracks, because of the security they maintain and the constant turnovers. Nonetheless, we can say that each one has 150 to 300 of regular troops, and they are reinforced when there is an operation or political tension.

They are also blocking the entrances to the Municipality in Chocolja and Marque's de Comillas. All the barracks have set up fixed checkpoints along nearby roads. Since the indigenous of these lands are a threat to their neoliberal exclusionary program, they also need the Public Security barracks they have established in Taniperla and Palestina, with 50 to 100 troops. They need the mobile checkpoints which they regularly set up in Siria, Ubilio Garcia, Crucero Lacanja' and Crucero Palestina, Puente Taniperla, Crucero Sival, Tumbo and Crucero Frontera Corozal. The federal army also fills the villages with fear with their low overflights by helicopters and planes, with their patrols and paramilitaries.

The soldiers set up nighttime, temporary checkpoints, They obstruct the roads, harassing our people. They insult them there, they search their things. They take what we are carrying in our knapsacks, they even ruin our bolas of pozol. The soldiers leave behind them the bad example: they have brought with them alcohol, prostitutes, drugs and bad life. Where the soldiers have invaded the lands that give life, they have turned them into death. Where we had fields or coffee plantations, there are now mines and military posts. Where we had schools and teachers, today there are brothels, bars and prostitutes. The soldiers bathe in our springs, and they contaminate the place where we find good water. The soldiers harass and deceive our children. Venereal diseases have come with them. One of the most dangerous situations is the constant low overflights by helicopters and planes, which they do day and night, especially over Sierra Cruz de Plata and the mountains of Montes Azules, and, today, also above the towns they want to dislocate from the reserve. Sometimes they fly so low that they tear off our laminate or zacate roofs, and they make six or seven circles over the villages. These kinds of flights have intensified over the last two months throughout all these ca~adas. Everyday, bomber planes or artillery helicopters can be seen threading the sierras, slowly crossing them and almost shearing the tops off the trees, or attempting to land on fields close to the villages.

Along with the soldiers, paramilitary groups have also been formed, under the shadows of their barracks they receive weapons, training and protection, in order to persecute us, in order to divide the communities. They want to cause confrontations between our very own campesino indigenous brothers, so that the government can cover up its operations against insurgents, so that the police and judicial forces can justify their presence and step up its low intensity war. Along with the paramilitaries and their collaboration, they fabricate arrest warrants against us. The main paramilitary groups are in the communities of Palestina, Taniperla, Censo, Santo Domingo, Lacandon, San Jero'nimo Tulija' and Busilja'. They have destroyed and looted our belongings, they have persecuted and threatened us. They have even made attempts on our lives, in many cases shooting at us. The burn the mountain and blame us. They rape our women and detain our young persons. They plant marijuana and, along with the soldiers, they control the trafficking in alcohol.

Also, in the case of the paramilitaries, they put up the prostitutes, and the soldiers come to hire them and to drink, along with the PRIs of the community. In Santo Domingo there is already an open bar in which prostitution also goes on. The soldiers are buying the precious woods and animals of the mountain, which the PRIs and the paramilitaries are selling them, and they take them out of the area with absolute impunity in their military vehicles. And it is they who the federal and state governments are supporting. For us, there is only persecution and death.

These paramilitaries are growing, because of the protection of the military and Public Security barracks. Those from Censo and Taniperla were trained from the beginning by soldiers from the Taniperla barracks, and today the leader has taken over Public Security, which entered in during the operation of '98, destroying the Municipal seat. The leader in Censo is Jose' Cruz Di'az, and in Taniperla, Sebastia'n Chuli'n Aguilar. These groups say they belong to the Anti-Zapatista Indigenous Revolutionary Group (MIRA). They are training during the night in individual fields. It is known that at least 40 of them have high powered weapons, and that they arrive in a DICONSA truck. In Santo Domingo, Busilja' and the surrounding area, they are controlled by the Cintalapa barracks, and they have 9 mm. pistols and Ruger automatic rifles, commanded by Javier Jime'nez Encino of Arroyo Granizo. In Palestina, they are being trained by the Public Security encamped in that community, and we know that the ones in Lacandon are receiving training and support from the Ocotalito barracks. These groups now have short wave and 2-meter communication equipment.

In San Jero'nimo Tulija', a paramilitary group called Los Chinchulines are operating openly. In May, 16 persons received military-type uniforms, along with bandoliers and holsters, and they are patrolling and harassing the community during the night. They are receiving training from the Judicial police in Palenque, and from soldiers from the barracks in that community. They are openly saying that they are going to be receiving R-15 rifles in the next few days. Our autonomi'a authorities discovered their training camp in Acahuales, between that community and the nearby ranch of Parai'so. This group is commanded by Pedro Herna'ndez Sa'nchez.

The paramilitaries are receiving support and direct coordination from the municipal governments. It is known that Pedro Chuli'n, Ocosingo councilor, maintains permanent contact with the paramilitaries in Censo and Taniperla. Omero Herna'ndez, also an Ocosingo councilor, meets continuously with the groups from Santo Domingo and Busilja', and the paramilitaries of San Jero'nimo Tulija' with the municipal president of Chilo'n, Vicente Mene'ndez Gutie'rrez and councilor Jero'nimo Gutie'rrez Pe'rez. All of them under the mandate of the imposed governor, Albores Guille'n.

The government is thinking of using the mixed operations for the dislocation of the war refugees in the Montes Azules reserve and of the old ejidos and lands recovered from the Lacandon region. But they are primarily attempting to use the paramilitaries, a situation which they have been putting in place for some time. For the dislocation of Monte Azul and San Francisco, they have the paramilitaries from Censo. For Laguna Ocotal and Suspiro, they have the Taniperla paramilitaries. For the communities of the Lacandon region, they have the ones from Santo Domingo, Palestina and Busilja'.

These groups have been useful in the counterinsurgency fight, but also for creating problems among the indigenous population. They have burned the mountain and blamed the communities settled in the reserve, so that they will be seen as irrational predators. They have created violence in order to justify the police and military operations, and, along with the reserve laws, they are ordering an ambitious mixed operation against the above-mentioned communities. According to information we have received, the entrance of troops belonging to the new paramilitary police force, the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), who came in to the state in early May, was in order to dislocate the communities from the Lacandon region. However, because of the violent incidents in Chenalho', they were diverted to that area. Nonetheless, over the following months, these specialized soldiers, disguised as police, will be the new actors in the repression and silent war in our lands.

That, sisters and brothers, is how we have been doing. We cannot go out to work in peace. The children and women are frightened to leave their houses. Our men go out with the anxiety and danger of being in jail the next day, or beaten up, or that, when they return to their communities, they could be dislocated, or who knows what. Our means of support and few belongings are in constant danger. Our lands, where we make our lives, they want to take away from us, one way or another. In sum, our hearts are sad. Our times are dark because of the lie, because of the soldiers and because of the paramilitaries, and, above all, because we are dignified and are struggling for our rights, for dignity for all.

But the bad government is deaf and blind. It did not understand in '94, nor in San Andre's, and it continues to not understand that we, the men and women of maize, the smallest and most forgotten, the Choles and Tzeltales of Flores Mago'n, also have dignity, and that we know how to struggle and to build. And we shall not sell ourselves, nor give in, nor fall into their lies and provocation. They did not understand this, and they want to destroy us, but they cannot. We shall continue fighting and building a new world, our autonomi'a, for the dignified life of our indigenous people.

Autonomous Council (signed and sealed)

Ricardo Flores Mago'n Autonomous Municipality in Rebellion

Originally published in Spanish by Enlace Civil A.C. <> __________________________ Translated by irlandesa Date: Monday, June 19, 2000 18:46:18 -0500

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