See our Photo of the Week (and archive of more) Buy the eBook of "and the echo follows"

Opinion Advertize Permission
To be notified of new articles Survey Store About Us
The Army sets up another camp
in San Pedro Nixtalucum-Zapatista territory

Parallel PRI and PRD governments

Human rights delegation visits Chiapas 

by Beto Del Sereno
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Urgent situation in San Juan de la Libertad,
"El Bosque," and throughout Zapatista zones

On March 14 a Seguridad Publica helicopter shot at unarmed villagers from San Pedro part of the El Bosque Municipality in the Highlands of Chiapas who were blocking the road to prevent the passage of an Army truck which was intending to transport six Zapatista Sympathizers. Two minutes after the shooting started four unarmed Zapatista sympathizers were dead and five were injured.

Several witnesses of the incident have testified that the person ordering the murder of the four Zapatistas was the State Attorney General, Jorge Enrique Hernandez. El Bosque, the seat of the municipality has been a strong Zapatista Community, however San Pedro Nichtalucum, one of the communities, was known as a majority PRI community.

Several days before the murders, members from the PRD of San Pedro demanded to know where and how federal proceeds directed to the community were being spent. This is one of many communities that has parallel PRI and PRD governments where the government only recognizes the PRI governments. The PRD-Zapatista sympathetic forces proceeded to arrest several PRI officials and took over the municipality offices. The PRI forces then came in with the intentions of taking back the offices and in turn arrested 12 PRD members.

This is all the authorities needed for the State Security forces to intervene. The State Security forces came in and arrested Zapatista sympathizers. It is now thought that the State Attorney General was heard shouting from a helicopter the orders to shoot several PRD forces that were blocking the road. One of the persons shot was 80 year old Miguel Gomez Hernandez, who was still alive when he was intentionally run over by one of the State Security Trucks. Immediately after that shooting the helicopter maneuvered up and down the road, shooting randomly at anyone on it.

74 Zapatista Families Numbering 346 Men, Women and Children
Thrown Out of Their Homes

Emboldened by the support from the State Security forces, the PRI members of San Pedro proceeded to attack and ransack all of the homes of the 74 families. The Zapatista sympathizer families were forced to leave their homes and are now camping in a nearby location. Our human rights delegation visited several of these homes and witnessed a state inspection commission call out the hundreds of missing items which had been stolen. The terrorized representatives were very happy to see outside people who could get the truth to the outside world.

24 Zapatista Sympathizers Accused of the Murder of Their Friends
and Family Members and Ambushing State Police Forces

Simultaneously 24 Zapatista sympathizer leaders were arrested for the murder of their friends and relatives and transported to Cerro Hueco, where they are presently held without bail.

On March 31, I and a delegation of three Chicano students from Cal State Northridge visited the prisoners to get their testimonies. The 24 prisoners from El Bosque have now been added to the more than sixty political prisoners from la Zona Norte of Chiapas, where PRD-Zapatista sympathizer leaders have been systematically arrested during the last two years. The prisoners told us of beatings and torture that they had been subjected to, which included the use of plastic bags to bring the prisoner near suffocation, the "tehuacanazo," which is the use of agitated carbonated water infused through the nose, and the "caña," which is the insertion of sugar cane splinters underneath the finger nails. "At the moment that they arrest us they beat us profusely and then we are applied one, two or sometimes all three methods of torture so that we can sign a blank confession," said Artemio, leader of the Voz de Cerro Hueco, an organization of political prisoners, some of them held for over 27 months.

On Tuesday April 2, I traveled to the area with a delegation from the U.S., headed by Lydia Brazon, Director of the Humanitarian Law Project, which included Chicana-Mexicana actress, Marisol Padilla, a film crew headed by Director Ben Eichert and San Diego Teacher and Teacher Union leader Peter Brown, who is also heading up a project to construct a High School in Oventic. This delegation was part of a major delegation which included the press and representatives of Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas and members of the CONAI which is the mediation organization headed up by Bishop Samuel Ruiz. .

When we arrived at San Pedro for first hand observation of the ransacked homes and to talk and visit with the displaced families whose members numbered 346, the first thing we literally bumped into was the 57th Battalion of the Mexican Army, which had already established a base in the community.

A Definite Pattern Emerges

The northern area, Roberto Barrios and now El Bosque all show definite patterns and tendency of a dirty war carried out against the indigenous people of Chiapas in General and the Zapatista Communities in particular. First of all, the government militarized the general area. Typically, foreign priests and nuns are singled out as Zapatista sympathizers and are expelled from the country.

With the means of communicating to the outside world unplugged, the terrain is now ready for the next step; the organizing of the local caciques and the training of their forces into Chinchulines (PRI Shock Troops) or their recruitment to the notorious Paz y Justicia . Indigenous youths unemployed or working for indigenous wages are offered relatively lucrative bribes to participate in vigilante groups and are trained by the closest Army base. The main job of the Chinchulines and Paz y Justicia is to be a Commando Counterrevolutionary force to terrorize the Zapatista families until the families are forced to leave. The Chinchulines and Paz y Justicia typically join forces where ever Guardias Blancas exits. Guardias Blancas, which were formed in the 1920 for the purposes of repelling any effort to execute agrarian reform are mainly troops of the White Cattle Ranchers and land owners of Chiapas.

The Seguridad Publica works in conjunction with the Army and then defends, protects and absolves the terrorists' troops of any crime they might commit. On the other hand, any controversy which may result from any of these provocatory forces become excuses to kill or jail, beat and torture the community leadership and hold them without bail and without a fair trail.

When and where elections are held, they become useful tools of contention, division and provocation. Most of the community follows the indigenous tradition of convening a township assembly and elect their leadership openly, but their elections are not recognized. The PRI hold elections in which many times only a PRI minority participate, but it is these elections that the State Government recognizes. Both Governments are set up, but money from the State Government are sent to the PRI local government.

During the last three years, any one of these structures of division and oppression can cause a defensive reaction from the pro-Zapatista-PRD forces. Any sign of resistance is then quickly squelched by the Seguridad Publica and the violent incident that normally ensues is used as the excuse for the Army to bring an encampment next to or into the community. In this systematic manner, the Army together with State and local authority and anti-zapatista forces divide the Zapatista community base and move their way into the jungle to surround the solid campamentos which hold the Zapatista Army.

The most insidious part of this whole plan is that the effectiveness of all of these crimes and gross human rights violations depends largely on the amount of racism that still exists on a global scale and on the slanted media coverage. This critical mass of racism allows for this "Stealth War" to fly under the global human rights screen undetected. The government media creation of a "war between indigenous people" is essential not to alert investors and carry out an invisible slaughter of indigenous people. This long term hushed gradual dirty war strategy has been absolutely critical to not provoke the fear of investors and the destabilization of the economy..

Also see:

Published in In Motion Magazine, April 21, 1997