Tens of thousands of Chiapanecans have lost all they had, including lives, as a result of the floods. Other tens of thousands suffer the political violence and persecution of a silent war against the indigenous peoples. The torrential rains were the worst disaster the country has sufered in recent years, reaching devastating proportions in Soconusco, the Pacific Coast and Frontera regions, the Sierra Madre mountains and La Frailesca, where more than one and half million people live. The rise in river water levels has left hundreds of dead and disappeared, thousands of houses and dozens of communities flattened. Two weeks later, over half a million people are still cut off, without safe drinking water and food, at the mercy of hunger and disease. The tragedy has laid bare the ingovernability and the political crisis which the state has been falling into over the last five years, accelerated by the misgovernment of Roberto Albores (the state Governor), whose administration has been marked by violent repression of dissidence.
The Mexican Army took absolute control of everything, as occurs with all major problems in Chiapas. The militarisation of the state has now reached the zone affected by the rains. Nevertheless, it appears that the federal army prefers to guard the Zapatista zones rather than do something for the people affected. According to the Ministry of Defence, 8000 soldiers are working on the emergency - 2000 removed from the conflict zone - while there are 63 000 in the indigenous regions, the Selva Lacandona, the North and the Highlands. Only two regions - out of the nine which make up the state of Chiapas - are not under military control: the Central Valleys and the zoque zone. After general irregularities and allegations of political use of aid, the soldiers have taken over the distribution of aid in many places. The consequences of the calamity are still not completely clear and will take years to get over.
Roberto Albores - supported by the federal government and the national apparatus of the PRI - wants to go ahead at all costs with the local elections this October The partisan interests of the government are more important than attending to the human emergency which has swept thousands of people into a tragedy. Gabriel GutiÈrrez, state president of the left-wing opposition party, the PRD, denounced the official statistics, claiming they were manipulated by those producing them. Gutierrez said that the numbers are inflated to obtain international aid, while other figures are used at national level, to show tha the government is doing its job, and at local level for electoral reasons: everything is under control and nothing is happening, we can go ahead with the election. the PRD is demanding the government produce a detailed account giving a real evaluation of the situation in terms of damage caused, communities affected and number of deaths.
In Tapachula, a coastal city close to the Guatemalan border which has been badly hit by the floods, nothing has been done to stop speculators from capitalising on the people's desperation. The price of the two staple foodstuffs have shot up to 80 pesos for a kilo of beans (about IR£4) and 14 pesos for a kilo of tortillas.
The Zapatista community of Diez de Abril, where an Irish-run peace camp is based, escaped the devastating floods of recent days. Diez is situated in the Highlands region (Los Altos), some distance from the Costa and Sierra Madre regions which have been worst affected. Other good news from the village is that the harvest looks like being up to normal standards, despite the drought we reported on early this year, and as a result the men who had left to work on building sites in Cancún have been able to return. And the military base which had been set up in San Miguel Chiptic, a few kilometres down the dirt road from Diez, has been dismantled. It is still unclear if the federal army has gone for good, but the pressure is off for the moment.