Over the last few weeks the federal government has continued positioning its pieces on its macabre game board of total war against the zapatista indigenous communities. All of their actions having to do with the state of Chiapas, whether they be political, military, economic or social, are being channeled in this direction, that of open war.
It has reached such a point that it would appear that the government has decided, owing to the combination of factors being presented by the current political, economic and social climate, that this is the moment for doing away with the indigenous insurgence, whether in order to encourage the fear vote in the coming elections, or to smooth the future government's path regarding the Chiapas conflict.
We shall see, then, what these different scenarios are which the Mexican government is putting into place so that they will have a pretext for openly attacking the EZLN:
The Federal Army's February offensive of 1995 set the pattern for the militarization of the State (see Map 2), not just through the positions taken after February 9 of that year, but also because it opened a period of expansion of positions by the army itself and by other security forces, such as the federal and state police and paramilitary groups.
The processes of paramilitarization began during the period from 1995 to 1998, as did the establishment of the first broad circles around the conflict zone, through the establishment of new military installations around the State of Chiapas, the first positions around the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, the establishment of advance lines in the Selva and police expansion in Los Altos.
1999 marked the beginning of a new stage in the military offensive. The Federal Army entered directly in to the Northern region of the Montes Azules Reserve and the areas surrounding it. Police presence was simultaneously expanded and intensified, covering a broad area of Los Altos, the Coast, all of the Soconusco region and the Zoque Area.
We are not including in the maps 39 positions sited in 33 communities which were not able to be located in any cartographic source: : Ejido Zaragoza, Ri'o Euseba and Rancho La Soledad, municipality of Las Margaritas, El Jolochero, El Parai'so, Monte Alegre, San Pedro Buenavista, Yolomax, Ucuxil, Rancho El Banco, Monte Alegre, Cruz Grande, Chajulicho, Rancho Mosil, Ri'o Euseba, Rancho Nuevo, El Corozal, Amatitla'n y Monteflor, municipality of Ocosingo, Tijera Cafe', municipality of Bochil, Aurora Chica, Quextic, X'oyep and Takiukum, municipality of Chenalho', San Juan La Libertad, municipality of Jitotol, Tera'n, municipality of San Cristo'bal de las Casas, Masano', municipality of Tapalapa, El Forti'n, municipality of Venustiano Carranza, Zaquila', municipality of Chilo'n, Copalar y Chicoase'n, municipality of Tuxtla Gutie'rrez, Crucero Oninajab, municipality of Tzimol, and Tonala', municipality of Tapachula.
In 1998 CIEPAC reported the presence of 300 positions of various types of repressive forces in the State of Chiapas. This year, 2000, however, there are at least 681 positions, of which 291 are police positions, 39 immigration police ones, 313 Federal Army, Air Force and Navy (of which, 39 correspond to 33 locations which we have not been able to identify in various regional maps). Locating the physical positions of these control points is not sufficient, since all of these forces are continuously moving along corridors of influence, such as those of the Mixed Operations Bases and the Army's strategic routes, as noted by Jorge Luis Sierra. The forces of the 15 paramilitary groups should also be noted, active in at least 26 municipalities in the State.
The strategy of military, police and paramilitary saturation of a region of such dimensions carries an excessive cost for our country. The social and economic costs of these hundreds of repressive positions make no sense in the long term. They only make sense from the perspective of a brutal attack against indigenous communities in the area.
Increase in Number of Positions of Repressive Forces By Year
(This tables a mess because of formatting loss during its emailing)
Year PoliceImmigrationArmy, Air Force
Note: Not included in the table because the date is missing in which the repressive forces were positioned in a particular location 32 police positions, 10 immigration positions y 102 positions for the Mexican Federal Army, Air Force and Navy. It is worth emphasizing that the two most significant military increases - apart from the military offensive of February 9, 1995 - took place beginning in 1997, along with provocations, massacres and attempts to end all possibility of dialogue. It should be emphasized that the greatest military increases took place in 1999. And, in just the first four months of 2000, the number of police positions has almost tripled. Finally, the increases of 1998, 1999 and 2000 have occurred during the periods of drought and fires in those years.
It is well known that an important part of the strategy followed by the federal Army against the EZLN has been the acquisition of numerous methods of air transport, as well as the construction of roads which allow an ever greater and better access to zapatista areas. As part of that, the Army has proposed the closing of various highway circuits, establishing a series of progressive concentric circles, as well as the encirclement of various parts of the Selva.
It can be confirmed, in this regard, that the development of highway construction policies by the federal Army following the zapatista uprising, has gone through at least four different stages:
1. - The definitive closing of the border highway (or external circle);
2. - The closing of a great interior circuit;
3. - The closing of a circuit which surrounds the RIBMA and
4. - The closing of an internal micro-circuit.
The border highway is the highway circuit that allows the broadest possible means of surrounding the entire Selva Lacandona. Connecting the city of Palenque to the south with the village of Flor de Cacao, in Marque's de Comillas, and this village with Lagos de Montebello and Comita'n to the west. Comita'n connects directly with Palenque through the highway to Ocosingo, which passes by Margaritas and Altamirano. One must remember, in addition, that this highway - the portion of it that is parallel to the Usumacinta River - also serves military logistics, allowing the introduction of the Navy by water.
The next key step was the closing of a second circuit, an interior one this time, which was achieved through the improvement and inter-connection of two stretches of highway going from Ocosingo to San Quinti'n, crossing the canadas of Patihuitz and Betania, and from Las Margaritas to San Quinti'n, passing through the towns of Nuevo Momo'n, Vicente Guerrero, Guadalupe Tepeyac, La Realidad and Guadalupe los Altos. The circle was only able to be truly closed when the bridge crossing the Jatate' River in San Quinti'n was built.
It would appear that two new highway projects exist, which could improve this interior circuit. One connecting Guadalupe Los Altos with El Eden, which - in addition to surrounding La Realidad from the south - would also allow more rapid access from Las Margaritas to San Quinti'n. Another improvement which was attempted last year was the opening of a new road from San Quinti'n to Monte Libano, passing through Amador Herna'ndez. It was a route that was attempting to skirt the Montes Azules by way of the Agua Azul canada.
The rumor has also circulated of the opening of a new highway that would link the town of Vicente Guerrero with Francisco Go'mez (La Garrucha). If the existence of this project were to be confirmed, an internal micro-triangle would be opened, which would link Francisco Go'mez with San Quinti'n and with Vicente Guerrero (passing through La Realidad).
What is striking in the above mentioned program of highway circuits is the intention of strengthening the strategic character of the town of San Quinti'n, as the physical center of a great geographic depression made up of the confluence of numerous canadas, large and small, and of the rivers which run through them: Santo Domingo, La Revancha, Dolores, Caliente, Euseba, Tzaconeja', Colorado, Jatate' and Perlas. All of these rivers end up converging in the heart of this depression in the Lacantu'n River.
The above described road development turns San Quinti'n into a central point, from which six routes radiate (towards El Ede'n and towards La Realidad, both to the west; another towards Francisco Go'mez and towards Monte Libano, in the north; another towards Lago Miramar in the east and, finally, towards Maravilla Tenejapa, in the south). Control of the successive concentric circuits corresponds to the enormous strengthening of this radial center of military power.
Although this great depression in the south of the Canadas is a region relatively poor in oil, it is, nonetheless, the most central point for achieving rapid access to the main oil regions of the entire Selva: in Marque's de Comillas and on the border with Guatemala, the Lacantu'n deposits and two, both named Mena, the great deposits denounced by the EZLN in Valle Amador. In the Agua Azul canada, in the Sierra Cruz de Plata, in the Patihuitz canada and in the Corralche'n canada, various reserves correspond to what Pemex has called the Ocosingo Region. The same thing is true of hydroelectric resources in the region, in that San Quinti'n will facilitate access to the 20 prospects proposed by the CFE.
Regarding biodiversity, San Quinti'n is the main point of entry to the biosphere reserve, because of the way in which it connects with Lago Miramar and the entire relatively colonized and deforested region of Montes Azules. San Quinti'n is also the best intermediate point between the bio-prospecting bases of Chajul and El Ocote. Insofar as the southern depression of the canadas is made up by the confluence of numerous rivers, it has the best agricultural and demographic capacity.
In addition to the fact that San Quinti'n offers rapid access to any of the nuclei of strategic wealth, it also offers the best center for general military control of the basin, due to its easy access to the south and to the border region of Amparo Agua Tinta, and to the north, for the way in which it complements the dense barrier of the Agua Azul Canada.
Contrary to all its statements and propaganda acts, the federal Government, far from carrying out the signed Accords and building a negotiating policy with the EZLN, has, in fact, implemented an extraordinarily costly military deployment, systematically and continuously, which demonstrates its true warlike vocation. Up to now, the only solution to the chiapaneco conflict which the government has promoted has been military.
1. - An inter-institutional commission (made up of the SRA, Profepa and the Chiapas government), an International Committee for Forestry Safeguarding (including, curiously, in addition to Profepa and SEMARNAP, the SEDENA, the PGR, the PFC, the PJE, the State Council of Public Security and the Department of Government), the SEMARNAP itself, Profepa, the Department of Government, a group of 8 ecological organizations, the WWF (World Wildlife Federation) and the PFP itself - in addition to some journalists on the payroll - have all been spending their time over the last few months orchestrating a campaign of vague, ambiguous, contradictory and - on not a few occasions, scandalously false - statements concerning a purported crisis regarding the fires in the Selva region of Montes Azules, in the very heart of the chiapaneco region of the conflict.
These bodies have seen the current national wave of fires as a great opportunity for presenting the residents of the Selva Lacandona as persons who clear, set fire to and devastate forests when they prepare their lands for cultivation.
One important fact, however, does not fit this alibi. Anyone who consults one of the web pages of the observation satellite (GOES) (http://www.cira.colostate.edu/RAMM/Rmsdsol/MXFIRE.html) will be able to observe daily images which show how the current fires in the Mexican southeast are taking place outside the area of conflict this year, including the Comprehensive Reserve of the Montes Azules Biosphere (RIBMA). This renders the published statements of the WWF - as well as the response to them by Wilfrido Robles (La Jornada, April 30, 2000), justifying the entrance of the PFP into Montes Azules - absolutely false.
Beyond the lies are the ambiguous statements by the Secretary of the Environment, Julia Carabias. She may have contradicted Wilfrido Robles regarding SEMARNAP's having never requested the PFP's entrance into Montes Azules. She has, however, been following the WWF's steps in considering the indigenous families residing in the area to be the main destructive factor of the forest wealth of the region, even going so far as to say that "if [the communities] do not accept a negotiated settlement, the law will be enforced." (La Jornada, May 4, 2000, p. 16)
One strange aspect of this line of reasoning is that, even as the Secretary of the Environment complains about the SEMARNAP's few human forces and meager monetary resources for putting out these invisible fires (300 brigade members, 15 brigade chiefs from the Sedena and two helicopters), she gives no thought to these campesino families as being the first persons interested in these fires not occurring. It is hard to imagine the existence of any better fire-fighting force when such disasters take place.
It is strange, then, that the Department of the Environment is not concerned about the defense of these communities (among other things, creators and guardians of biodiversity, of the genetic banks as well as of their traditional knowledge), while transnational companies and international research centers smack their lips when they go in to the area to investigate and to patent genomes and the indigenous knowledge concerning them.
2. - But those who are today wrapping themselves in the green flag of saving the Montes Azules biosphere reserve are also strangely forgetting about the irresponsible and incoherent manner in which the reserve has been being administered over the last thirty years.
In the first place, there is the manner in which the protection decree of the Lacandona Forest Reserve in 1972, and of the RIBMA in 1978, had to do at that time with the policies of land grants, which were, above all, concerned with preventing access by large indigenous migratory flows into the areas most rich in precious woods, which were, at that time, considered to be the loot of the powerful. Owing to that concern, an immense grant of 600,000 hectares was made to just 66 Lacandon family heads, which allowed the real activities of lumber companies - who were involved in the extraction of much illegal wood - to be covered up for some time. This is a problem, incidentally, which is still going on, with local PRIs and other illegal businesses, in collusion with security forces, in full view of the federal army itself, continuing to take out high quality wood in abundance from various areas of the Selva.
It is important to remember, in addition, that the RIBMA's borders - so angrily defended today by innumerable officials and purported ecologists - have to do with a rather doubtful "protection" policy, in that they have always been subordinate to oil exploration. The entire world is aware that this kind of activity [oil exploration] is one of the primary destructive agents of the environment in this and in other rich bio-regions of the Mexican southeast. (Cf. Alejandro Toledo, How To Destroy Paradise)
If one were to reconstruct the history of what has been chosen, what has been left to the side and what has been returned as a natural protected area in the Lacandona, one can observe how, over the last quarter of a century, all natural protection has been sacrificed to the interests which oil companies (Mexican and foreign) have had for exploration, exploitation and speculation in the area. As evidence of this, we have:
1.- The halving of the original contours of the Lacandona reserve (from 600,000 hectares to 331,000), exactly in all those areas in which they had thought they could detect possible important oil reserves. The first version of Montes Azules, in 1978, left PEMEX free access in the large oil exploration areas of Ocosingo, Lacantu'n and Prospecto San Fernando.
2. - The brutal deforestation which has taken place over the last fifteen years in Marque's de Comillas, where one can see an amazing coincidence between all of Pemex's drilling areas, or where the Canadian oil company, Seine River Resources, has publicly and precisely recognized the existence of important oil reserves.
3. - The development of the most important oil region in the entire Selva in part of the RIBMA's so-called Buffer Area, between the Corralche'n and Livingston sierras, when the entire Canadas region - as Victor Manuel Toledo observed (Cf. Zapata Ecolo'gico), had initially been considered to be a region of great biodiversity, greater, even, than that of RIBMA.
4. - The suspiciously belated decree of the Lacantu'n Biosphere Reserve and of the Flora and Fauna Reserve of Chan Kin, as well as the Natural Monuments of Yaxchila'n and Bonampak in 1992, just when oil exploration had clearly revealed that the possibilities in the area were low. (It should be remembered, in this regard, that 1992 was the year Pemex ended its long exploration work, began in the mid-seventies, generously paying off the majority of their personnel who had been witnesses to the large finds of great oil reserves in the Ocosingo and Marque's de Comillas regions).
5. - The strange conflict between the different versions of RIBMA offered by INEGI and by the SCT and the Chiapas state government, in its far north, very close to the extremely important bio-region located between the lakes of El Ocotal and El Suspiro. The worrisome differences between the official cartographic versions, according to which the ultimate global surface of Montes Azules varies, precisely in a problematic area reported by confidential biological studies as an area rich in oil. It is also RIBMA's most important micro-region owing to its having the most abundant biodiversity anywhere in the reserve.
6. - The deforestation caused by the opening of new oil roads throughout the entire Selva region (which continues advancing to this day).
2. - On the other hand, Alejandro Nadal (La Jornada, August 20, 1999) denounced the dangerous reforestation carried out by the military during the previous year, because of the extraordinarily complex nature of the kind of reforestation an area like that requires. Environmental attacks which are added to the destructive effects of military camps built in the heart of the Selva, attacks which are especially intense in the new housing centers or military mini-cities, which naturally include commercial centers, dumps for urban waste and brothels. This is to say nothing of the military opening of roads, which are being added to the new oil routes being developed continuously, and which automatically turn into an exit route for more lumber.
Nonetheless, the use of biological war materials (the abundant bombardment of rats and snakes, which has even caused imbalance and unease in Guatemala; the copious application of defoliants and other chemical substances in all areas of the Selva; and the introduction of transgenetic maize in an area whose biodiversity is considered as one of the most important in the world because of its domestic species) and, above all, the fact that Montes Azules is being considered as the scenario for the final denouement of warlike confrontations. These are factors which put the conservation of the Selva in jeopardy, not fifteen years hence, but over the next few months.
As if all the foregoing were not enough, Montes Azules has been considered to be a privileged area for the irregular activities of bio-prospecting and bio-piracy by pharmaceutical and transnational environmental companies. An example of this is the current scandal concerning the connection between the College of the Southern Border (Ecosur) and bio-prospecting activities by the University of Georgia and the Gales company, which deals in nano-technology, Molecular Nature Limited, as well as the eco-tourism centers and bio-prospecting of the Savia (formerly Pulsar) company, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). [They are located in] the rich area of the Ocotal and Suspiro lakes, which is, curiously, the most heavily militarized place in the entire reserve.
Rounding off this panorama, also participating in Montes Azules are North American conservation organizations (which exchange the country's international financial debt for the right to participate in management of the environment), such as TNC and CI, who are participating in its management and financing. It is, however, publicly known in the international media that CI - an international administrator of more than 60 protected natural areas in Latin America and Africa - is pushing - along with genetic engineering firms from California such as Hyseq - for the privatization of our main protected natural areas. Meanwhile, TNC, in the United States alone, already owned two and a half million hectares of land in the early nineties. It is one of the most powerful land owners in that country. All transnational NGOs who are not asking anything of research centers such as Ecosur, who are also going to a lot of trouble to promote the country's participation in North American privatization programs for bi-national water basins, such as the Usumacinta River, when they are not entering into pacts with North American universities and transnational companies to facilitate the isolation and patent registration of thousands of active rudiments.
It is not surprising, then, that on April 28 of this year it was the World Wildlife Foundation which raised its voice the most loudly demanding the expulsion of indigenous communities settled or displaced towards Montes Azules. This gave Wilfrido Robles an international guideline for justifying the beginning a serious conflict in Montes Azules. All of this was going on while a group of eight environmental organizations - most certainly headed by the CI - were threatening the Secretary of the Environment with withdrawing their administrative funds for Montes Azules if the Department of the Environment did not immediately join in the campaign for expulsion of the chiapaneco campesinos.
It is odd that many national ecologists and intellectuals - instead of complaining about the flagrant intervention in an issue and region that are of great strategic importance for sovereignty and national peace - have joined in the lynching campaign against the indigenous communities of Montes Azules.
It is equally odd that those who say they are concerned about the future of the Selva Lacandona have not come out against the whole web of irregularities that the management of this biodiversity reserve has woven. That, even without taking into account the fact that ecologists should naturally be the automatic enemies of warlike solutions, if not because of the persons that the federal government plans to assassinate, but then at least for the butterflies which are going to be lost.
Is it truly an error to politicize the ecological question? When the SEMARNAP lends itself to opening doors for those who are promoting the privatization of national genetic banks, to the irrational management of protected natural areas, as well as to playing into the hands of the worst forces in the country and to the danger of an imminent war, brandishing "ecological" arguments like a club. Is it not globalization which is forcing us to choose between private conservation of nature and being against humanity, or, rather, in favor of human life as the vitalizing heart of the entire biosphere?
Given the fact that the Selva Lacandona has never been a virgin natural space, in that the Mayan civilization has inhabited it and cultivated it for thousands of years: is it necessary to remember that people are also biodiversity? Issues as recent as the world privatization of freshwater (with the consequences of wars and the deaths of thousands of millions of human beings being forecast within two decades), or also the privatization of the human genetic code. Do they not present a dilemma, both in and outside our country, between radically human ecology and neo-nazi ecology?
No to the PFP's entering into Montes Azules. No to the destruction the army is wreaking on the reserve. No to the false reforestation. No to the political manipulation of fires. No to the opening of roads. No to delivering this strategic resource to Conservation International and to Pulsar. But, above all, no to using the conflict in Chiapas as the means by which the PRI thinks it will overcome the irreversible political crisis being created by the current election process. No to the war. Instead of that, yes to conservation of biodiversity, which begins with the conservation of our indigenous culture, old and new. Yes to designing intelligent strategies of conservation which will allow the gradual enriching of the soil, in a planned manner, doing without the risks of clearing/planting/burning. But, above all, yes to the participatory and inclusive management of everyone in our biodiversity and our country. In the same way, yes to the carrying out of the San Andre's Accords and the building of a peace with justice and dignity.
One of the most central elements of counterinsurgency in Chiapas has been the establishment and development of paramilitary groups in various areas of the state. The term paramilitary notes the existence of a direct relationship between armed civilian groups and the armed forces of the State. This relationship can range from tolerance of their existence, to the training and direction of these groups by the military and police. These paramilitary groups carry out a series of repressive tasks, assassination and terrorism in service to the State. They seek to clear the military and police institutions of responsibility for these acts, placing a smokescreen around the Army in order to prevent their indictment and denunciation for human rights violations. The existence of these groups has been noted by various social and human rights organizations, as well as having been publicized in the national press. A Department of Defense document, published by Proceso, noted: "(^Å)Military operations include the training of local self defense forces, so that they can participate in security and development programs." "In cases where such self defense forces do not exist, it is necessary to create them." The Sedena forecast: "That the friendly population defends what is theirs, and it is especially valid for cattle ranchers and small owners." The strategic-operational objective: "To destroy the EZLN's will to fight, isolating it from the civilian population and to secure their support for the operations." The tactical objective is: "To destroy and/or disrupt the EZLN's political-military structure." (Chiapas Campaign Plan 1994, Proceso, 1105, January 4, 1998, p. 7)
The relationship between these groups and the armed forces has been documented in various testimonies from communities in the areas where they are operating, as well as by persons who once were members of those groups. In several cases government financing of these paramilitary bodies has been documented. Their modus operandi include various massacres, including the one carried out in Acteal. One of their central objectives, as noted by their actions as well as by counterinsurgency manuals, is to provoke terror and to force the displacement of residents who have not demonstrated their support for the government.
The first denunciation of the existence of these groups was made by the EZLN, in a communique' signed by Subcomandante Marcos on August 29, 1994. Their presence gathered greater force following the failure of the February 19, 1995 military offensive.
The existence of at least 15 armed groups in the State has been reported, of which at least 10 are clearly acting as paramilitaries, operating in the following areas in Chiapas:
a) The corridor which runs from the municipalities of Salto de Agua, Tila, Sabanilla, Tumbala', Yajalo'n, Chilo'n, Oxchuc, San Cristo'bal to Venustiano Carranza and the border region.
b) The areas of Palenque, Ocosingo, Altamirano and Las Margaritas in the Selva.
c) The Center of the State, the Central Valleys, the Fraylesca and a part of the Isthmus-Coastal region.
All these areas are, oddly, regions which are heavily militarized and which have large numbers of Public Security police present.
The main paramilitary groups, as reported by the communities, human rights groups, social organizations and various political forces in the state, are:
Development Peace and Justice: Began organizing in 1995. Operates in Tumbala', Sabanilla, Tila, Salto de Agua, Yajalo'n and Palenque. It is headed by PRI Deputy Samuel Sa'nchez Sa'nchez. Its members are PRI activists, the majority belonging to Teachers Campesino Solidarity (SOCAMA).
Los Chinchulines: Appeared in May of 1996 in Bachajo'n, although they were known of before, under the name "Luis Donaldo Colosio" Revolutionary Youth Front, which had the firm support of former Governor Elmar Setzer. Their training center is in the Joibe' predio, in Chilo'n. It is estimated to be made up of about 250 young PRIs, equipped with weapons for the exclusive use of the Army. They have influence in Chilo'n, Yajalo'n and Ocosingo. Former PRI Deputy Rafael Ceballos Cancino has been pointed out as their founder and leader.
Anti-Zapatista Indigenous Revolutionary Movement (MIRA): Its existence was learned of in October of 1997. Its main center of operations is in Oxchuc. Federal PRI Deputy Norberto Santi's Lo'pez has been held responsible for its creation. Its members belong to the PRI and to the National Coordinadora for Indian Peoples (CNPI). It has influence in Las Margaritas, Oxchuc, San Juan Cancuc, Sitala', Ocosingo, Altamirano and Huixta'n.
MIRA is currently involved in the entire government campaign to dislocate communities from the Montes Azules region, under the pretext that the area must be "ecologically protected."
Red Mask: They have been known about since 1994, but they began to act publicly following the suspension of the San Andre's Dialogues, in September of 1996. Their members come from the communities of Tivo', Santiago el Pinar, San Andre's and Callejo'n, in San Juan Chamula. Their bases are members of the PRI. Human rights groups as well as the EZLN have identified them as being responsible for the Acteal massacre.
San Bartolome' de los Llanos Alliance: Founded in early 1995 by PRI affiliated activists, it has a presence in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza. Federal PRI Deputy Eucario Orantes was present during its creation.
Los Quintos: Operates in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza. Their activities have been reported since April of 1998. They have rifles and wear black uniforms, with boots, backpacks, radio communication equipment, and they are masked. Their methods of behavior and movement indicate that they have had military training.
Los Punales: This armed group began organizing prior to June of 1997, under the command of Fausto Go'mez Di'az, a shopkeeper and businessperson from La Floresta, municipality of Comita'n, with the support of the federal Army and the Public Security police. It has some 30 members who operate in the municipalities of Comita'n and Amatenango del Valle. They receive training, financing and weaponry from Public Security and the Army. They have been linked with local drug trafficking.
Los Aguilares: They have been known about since 1994 in the Chilo'n area. Partly a group of criminals, partly white guards and paramilitaries, they maintain relations with Peace and Justice and with the Chinchulines.
OCOPECH: The Popular Campesino Workers Organization of the State of Chiapas, affiliated with the PT, it acts more as a shock group than as paramilitaries. Operates in the region of Huitiupa'n and in Simojovel and El Bosque, with high powered weapons.
Los Tomates: They have been known to be operating in the Bochil region since 1998.
Los Pla'tanos: Operate in El Bosque. It is a group made up of 80 young PRI Tzotziles, trained by the Federal Army and by the police. Their ties to Deputies Norberto Santi's Lo'pez and Alonso Lo'pez Go'mez, both from the PRI, have been noted.
Los Chentes: With headquarters in the irregular settlement of 'La Libertad,' ten kilometers from Tuxtla Gutie'rrez, this armed group has been denounced various times by the chiapaneco press. They have been held responsible for various crimes and have been tied to Mario Landeros, Mario Arturo Coutino, Jack Demo'stenes and Uriel Jarqui'n.
Los Carrancistas: Little is known of them, except that they have their base of operations in the municipality of Suchiate.
Frente Civil: Their creation was announced in the local newspaper, Cuarto Poder, on April 12, 1998, "in order to counteract the actions of the Tierra y Libertad Rebel Municipality." They operate in 17 communities in the official municipality of La Independencia.
Clandestine Revolutionary Organization: Has been acting in the municipality of Sitala', in the Selva-Northern region, since 1997. They have been noted to carry rifles and have the support of the governor. They are made up of members of the PRI.
Two weeks ago some news media broadcast statements by a captured drug trafficker in Brazil, who said he was an admirer of the EZLN and that he had even had contacts with the zapatista comandancia during a trip he had made to Chiapas. Despite the fact that a few days later some Government officials said there was no evidence linking the EZLN with drug trafficking, either Brazilian or national, it was also announced in the press that the PGR would be sending some of its agents to Brazil in order to interrogate the detained drug trafficker concerning his purported ties to the EZLN.
Once more the double language and the maintaining of this channel of propaganda constantly open, in order to try to link the zapatistas with drug trafficking and thus seek to discredit them, and, at a given moment, justify a "legal" action against them.
Between February 1995 and December of 1997, there were more than 200 international visitors expelled. . Between February of 1998 until December of 1998, the Mexican government expelled 162 internationals. . From January of 1999 until March of 1999, there were 7 international visitors expelled. . In the first months of 2000, January and February, there were 49 internationals expelled.
One of the last expulsions was directed against Ted Lewis, Director of the Mexico Program of the North American organization Global Exchange. This is an organization which has not only helped the indigenous communities of our country in economic and social projects, but has also played a very important role in disseminating, at a national and international level, the Mexican government's human rights violations against the indigenous and against the people in general. Similarly, the previous year Tom Hansen and Peter Brown, among others, were expelled. They are both North Americans who have done much solidarity work and who have supported educational, social and cultural projects in the indigenous communities.
Over the last few days, the National Immigration Institute (INM), an agency in the Department of Government, has "unleashed a persecution campaign against foreigners visiting the indigenous communities of Chiapas, through a massive campaign of citations" (La Jornada, 5/5/2000). The campaign is being tightened, thus, against foreign observers, uncomfortable witnesses to the warlike actions of the Mexican government.
During the month of April, dozens of Mexican citizens participated in the civil society brigades which were travelling through the indigenous communities in resistance in Chiapas, in order to live side by side with them, to bring them material solidarity and to participate in their educational and health projects. We are presenting below testimonies from two of the many caravans which went to the indigenous communities, that of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation (FZLN), and that of the Committee of Support for the Northern Region, the Jose' Tila Caravan.
The activities in preparation for war which the government and the federal army have put in place could be verified by members of the FZLN in all the communities they visited, in the North, as well as in Los Altos and in the Selva. Aggressive checkpoints, paramilitaries on the roads and around the communities, low overflights, the proliferation of military control points, threatening convoy runs, etcetera, all allowed us to conclude that what is going on in Chiapas today is not just the same attempts to wear down the communities which the federal and state governments have been maintaining over the last few years. It is, instead, the prelude to something greater: the imposition of a new open war in the Mexican southeast against the zapatista communities and the entire country.
We want to warn the Mexican population and international public opinion about this situation, knowing that only social mobilization will be able once again to halt the war. In order to accomplish this, we have gathered below excerpts from the reports which different compa~eros and compa~eras from the FZLN have written, concerning what they saw and experienced over recent days in the different communities and regions.
Community of San Jose' del Rio. Selva Region. Militarization has reached unprecedented proportions, troop movements are dramatic, military material seen in this area represent the latest acquisitions by the Mexican government, very sophisticated and in very large quantities. The trip from San Cristo'bal de Las Casas to this community was literally strewn with military camps in a clear fighting stance, tremendously rigid, with rifles drawn, very tense. Residents informed us that government soldiers are positioned not only in the villages and communities, but also in the mountain, that is, not just on zapatista support base land, but on EZLN lands.
The paramilitaries are acting with an impunity never before seen. They are seen along the highways, collecting taxes from those who pass by. They are extremely belligerent and are present in large numbers, increasingly better armed and better organized.
We were able to directly observe how, after spraying a liquid from a plane onto the community's coffee plantations, they were left completely dried out and the land totally damaged. There was a plague of rats in the community unlike anything they had ever known before. As the soldiers passed by the community in their vans, they spat at us and sprayed a liquid at us with syringes. Perhaps it was only water, but the purpose was to terrify and to sow permanent fear among the residents.
Community of Oventic. On April 7, in a clear act of provocation by the federal army, a helicopter threatened to land on the highway which is on one side of the Aguascalientes II. This provoked great tension and nervousness in the people in the community.
Despite the fact that the federal and state governments are saying that everything is normal in Chiapas, there are more and more members of the army and public and judicial police in this region of Los Altos. They are sowing fear and harassing the women, children, men and old ones of this community. The people are afraid to leave their houses out of fear that they might do something to them, causing many of them to stop planting, and, consequently, hunger and poverty are growing.
During our talks with people in the community, they mentioned to us that they feared an action was going to be taken against them, given that a few weeks ago interim governor Roberto Albores Guille'n equipped the paramilitary group Peace and Justice with more weapons, in order to follow his counterinsurgency plan against the zapatista communities.
Community of Roberto Barrios. The harassment being experienced in this community by the soldiers and, above all, by paramilitaries, is daily and increasingly worse, even being extended to the compa~eros and compa~eras in solidarity who are visiting the town.
This is confirmed by the sexual attack experienced by an FZLN compa~era during her stay in Roberto Barrios. One day the compa~era went down to bathe in the river which is next to the peace camp. On her return she was stopped by a boy who was later able to be identified as Sebastia'n Me'ndez Herna'ndez, 16 or 17 years old, a PRI and alleged paramilitary. He wanted to embrace and kiss her, and he did not allow her to pass by. The compa~era finally managed to push him away, to leave that part of the village and to return to a secure site in order to denounce the aggression. Fortunately this situation was not any worse, but it is the situation being experienced there every day: provocations, especially against the women, who are not able to go by themselves to the river, nor take food to the fields, etcetera.
Community of Nicola's Ruiz. Compa~eros who visited this community were able to verify the denuncias previously made by the community itself, that on April 25 of this year the government of Roberto Albores Guille'n attempted to repeat an aggressive operation against this community, similar to that of June 3, 1998. On that day a helicopter landed on the football field, and there were low overflights in the municipal seat, as well as the presence of 12 convoys of Public Security forces barely 6 kilometers from the village.
The 600 comuneros, legally recognized in the National Agrarian Registry, are devoted only to working the lands which legally belong to them in order to support their families. Nonetheless, a small group of individuals, who are members of the official party, are provoking violence. They are headed by Fe'lix Moreno Gonza'lez, Abel Lo'pez Zu~iga, Jorge Di'az Jime'nez and Mario Moreno Gonza'lez. When these persons provide any false argument whatsoever against the comuneros, the state government immediately sets in motion all necessary force for any action against peace in this municipality, in order to intimidate and threaten the population, enjoying complete impunity.
San Andres Sacamch'en. More than a year after zapatista communities recovered from PRI hands the place where the government and the EZLN and their communities signed the San Andre's Accords, it is still possible to observe the rotation of children, women and men who come, from distant communities, some several days journey by foot, in order to carry out their guard duties at the agreed sit-in.
Their mission is to preserve indigenous sovereignty in that place, the space of encuentro and word, symbol of hope, of the possibility of dialogue as a means for resolving controversies between Mexicans. Despite rain, cold, the rugged terrain, the cost such displacement involves, the military checkpoints and their interrogations, their threats, their risks, despite the rapes of women by soldiers and paramilitaries, despite the detention, torture and jailing of some men, the people continue to arrive.
One can see the winding human column descending down the mountain. Maintaining this sacred place represents the demand for carrying out what was agreed to here. It demonstrates the will to remain firm in the fight to guarantee a dignified place in our patria for the Indian peoples and the willingness for dialogue.
For their part, the government responds by delivering more weapons to paramilitary groups, allowing them to search vehicles, interrogating passengers about their religion, political party, their community, their leaders and the organizations to which they belong. Photographs in hand, they check whether or not any community representatives or indigenous authorities might be found among them.
The caravaneros were in the Tila region for one week, carrying out health, education, recreation and civil guard duties in six communities in this region, which is being ravaged by paramilitary groups.
One caravanero noted that it was initially difficult to make contact with the minors, because, given "the conditions of war in which they exist, they are very introverted, withdrawn, silent and sad. It took a lot of effort to get them to start playing games, but, after two days, they would go to the caravaneros from eight in the morning in order to play marbles, and with the balls and the games which we had brought them, or in order to color with crayons. They drew themselves with the crayons, their houses, planes and even soldiers, and they also collaborated in creating a mural which they painted in the Jolnishtie' clinic."
Another member of the caravan added that the conditions in which the indigenous from the six communities were living were extremely precarious, since they are almost completely lacking in health and educational services, potable water, drainage, electricity and transportation, as well as adequate housing, since they are living in shacks made of laminate or wood, with earth floors.
In a talk they had with women from Patazpal, they explained to them that they did not understand why "the bad government is treating us like animals," and that they were anguished over the lack of work and food and because the children were ill with "fevers," and because they were practically being held as hostages, since the paramilitaries would not allow them to move in certain areas.
Regarding the lack of food, the women reiterated that the children were going hungry. This was owing to the fact that their diet consists of tortillas, beans, rice, maize and pozol (a beverage made with water and tortilla meal which they give to the children like milk).
Regarding the continuous violation of freedom of movement and the intimidation and hostility they are experiencing from the Peace and Justice paramilitary group, they said they were living in a state of anxiety. They said the group's members are within the communities, and some elements were harassing them a lot, displaying their weapons, as well as preventing them from going to certain areas under threat of poisoning them. They pointed out that those men, who dress in civilian clothes and who belong to their ethnic group, are constantly threatening their husbands, causing them to fear for their lives when they go to work in the fields or the bean plantings, since there have been instances where they have been beaten up or killed.
Another complaint in the region is the dislocation they suffered when, in July of 1996, this paramilitary group - with the protection of state security - entered the region, seizing their lands, burning their huts and stealing their cattle. Because of this they had to live in the mountain for two years, eating wild fruits, a period during which many children and old ones died because they were not able to tolerate those living conditions. They also mentioned the government's refusal to take responsibility for the incidents and to compensate them for their belongings.
Another concern is the proliferation of infectious diseases, especially gastrointestinal ones, mycoses and various skin infections, which are rumored to be caused by the Army detachments dumping their sewage into the rivers from which the communities get their drinking water (taken from La Jornada, 5/2/2000)
May 3, 2000 - The community of Roberto Barrios denounces sexual and death threats experienced by promoters in that community on May 2 while they were bathing. A group of ten PRIs were harassing and threatening them. They also warned they would kill all the zapatistas who went to bathe in the river on the following day.
May 3, 2000 - In Rio Jordan, municipality of Salto de Agua, on April 20, a meeting was held, called by the responsable of Rio Jordan, along with the responsable of the S. Felipe ranch, in order to denounce a sham turning in of weapons, hoods and bags by 86 persons, passing themselves off as repentant zapatistas who had left the ranks of the EZLN. The authorities of Rio Jordan and S. Felipe ranch make note of these incidents because of the consequences which may result from the threats they are experiencing.
The game board for war is set there, in the Mexican southeast, although its scope is, without any doubt, national. The pieces for war have been put in place by the government. The offensive could be in a matter of months, weeks or simply days. It depends on us, organized civil society: What pieces can we put in place in order to prevent war once again and to impose peace with justice and dignity?
Interdisciplinary Group Against the War in Chiapas Mexico, May of 2000
Second Final Report of the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation From November 15 to November 25, 1999. http://cciodh.pangea.org/indice2.htm
"Fray Bartolome' de las Casas" Human Rights Center http://www.laneta.apc.org/cdhbcasas/index.htm
Miguel Agusti'n Pro Jua'rez Human Rights Center - PRODH http://www.sjsocial.org/PRODH/
The "All Rights for All" National Network of Non-Governmental Human Rights Organizations http://www.redtdt.org.mx/
Enlace Civil http://www.enlacecivil.org.mx On this page can be found all the denuncias from the indigenous communities against the intimidation, attacks, harassment and human rights violaitons by paramilitary groups, the federal army and local government officials.
*********************************************** Translated by irlandesa