Chiapas Ready to Explode: Paramilitary violence spins out of control

Four campesinos affiliated with the Zapatistas have been
killed in the past several weeks, twenty wounded and
hundreds displaced as paramilitary violence spins out of
control. Autonomous communities report dramatic
increases in troop movements and there
appears to be support, if not outright cooperation,
between the military and paramilitary groups.

2002.09.01

Four campesinos affiliated with the Zapatistas have been
killed in the past several weeks, twenty wounded and
hundreds displaced as paramilitary violence spins out of
control.

Antonio Mejia, identified as a Zapatista leader,
was the most recent victim. Paramilitaries from with the
PRI-affiliated “Los Aguilares” (the Eagles) are
responsible for the death of Mejia.

While his wife was
able to identify the killers, none have been arrested.

The most recent murder follows a worrisome pattern of
escalating violence in the region.

On July 31, forty armed men affiliated with the
paramilitary group Organization for Defense of Indigenous
and Campesino Rights (OPDIC) entered the Culebra Ejido in
the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon and
seriously wounded seven Zapatista supporters who were
building a school.

While the wounded were able to
identify their attackers, no official investigation has
been opened.

On August 7, Jose Lopez Santis, an autonomous authority,
was assassinated in front of his children.

The children
identified the killers, but no official action has been
taken.

On August 19, 200 people affiliated with OPDIC attacked a
Zapatista checkpoint set up to intercept illegally felled
trees and stolen vehicles. Four Zapatista supporters
suffered gunshots wounds and one was kidnapped.

No
official investigation has been opened.

On August 25, Lorenzo Martinez Espinosa, a spokesman for
the Ricardo Flores Magon autonomous community, and Jacinto
Hernandez Gutierrez, an autonomous agrarian expert, were
killed by paramilitaries.

Authorities have not arrested
anyone.

Tensions have been increasing in recent months as the
state government offers financial assistance to
individuals with land titles.

Much of the land in areas
of Zapatista influence is communally held and governed by
autonomous authorities, but paramilitary groups opposed to
the Zapatistas are increasingly claiming the land for
individual use.

Federal government has a hand in increasing
tensions

Autonomous communities report dramatic
increases in troop movements in recent weeks and there
appears to be support, if not outright cooperation,
between the military and paramilitary groups. Zapatista
supporters report paramilitary groups are often armed with
AR-15s, a military weapon whose use is strictly limited to
the army.

In addition, at the encouragement of Grupo
Pulsar and Conservation International, a US-based group
funded mainly by international corporations, the federal
government is threatening to displace a number of
indigenous communities, including several Zapatista
communities, from environmentally protected areas.

However, federal troops and state authorities turn a
blind eye to extensive illegal logging in the area by
paramilitary groups affiliated with the PRI.

Please contact the Mexico
Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org
or 773-583-7728.

Author: MEXICO SOLIDARITY NETWORK

News Service: [S26-global] Digest Number 746

URL: http://www.egroups.com/group/antiimf2000