New Government Means Increased Militarization in Chiapas

MEXICO CITY – Human rights organizations on Thursday charged the military had not diminished its presence in Chiapas since President Vicente Fox assumed office, saying the Army was continuing a campaign of low-intensity warfare against Zapatista rebels and the state’s indigenous population.

MEXICO CITY – Human rights organizations on Thursday charged the military had not diminished its presence in Chiapas since President Vicente Fox assumed office, saying the Army was continuing a campaign of low-intensity warfare against Zapatista rebels and the state’s indigenous population.

"Far from creating conditions for peace, the federal government continues waging war against indigenous communities," said Ernesto Ledesma, head of the San Francisco-based Global Exchange Chiapas office, at press conference here.

Fox removed troops from seven Army bases in the state since taking office, fulfilling one of three conditions made by the Zapatista Army of National
Liberation (EZLN) in order to resume peace talks with the government.

But according to Ledesma, the Army merely relocated, opening 12 new bases in the state over the last several months.

For example, troops withdrew from La Garrucha, one of the seven locations designated by the Zapatistas for evacuation, only to establish a new base three kilometers away in Patihuitz, even closer to EZLN-controlled territory, said Ledesma.

Despite his criticism, Ledesma credited Fox with granting greater freedom to foreign observers and Zapatista sympathizers working in indigenous
communities, who were frequently deported under former President Ernesto Zedillo’s administration.

But Ruben Moreno, a member of a Chiapas-based organization that tracks the Army’s movement in the region, said the military had actually intensified its pressure on indigenous communities near Zapatista positions over the last four months, including daily patrols and flybys as well as harassment, threats and interrogations.

In addition, Moreno said troops, notorious for committing human rights abuses, had entered towns controlled by paramilitaries on the pretext of
offering free haircuts and medical exams in order to establish a base from which to monitor indigenous communities.

Reports of continued militarization in the state come just one day after a controversial indigenous reform bill officially became law. Indian groups
and the EZLN have assailed the new legislation for being an emasculated version of the amendment demanded by the Zapatistas.

The law’s approval marks a low point in the standoff between the government and EZLN since Fox became president last December.

Ending more than seven decades of authoritarian rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Fox’s electoral victory raised hopes the
government finally would reach an agreement with the Zapatistas. Fox vowed to make bringing peace to the state a priority in his administration, boasting during his campaign he would resolve the seven-year conflict "in 15 minutes."

Now, eight months later, and just two weeks before his first State of the Union Address, peace in Chiapas is as elusive as ever.

"There is an atmosphere of greater polarization and confrontation," said
Deputy Emilio Ulloa, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and president of the congressional Chiapas Peace Commission (Cocopa). "The government doesn’t appear interested in the indigenous problem."

Ulloa said Interior Secretary Santiago Creel assured him in a Wednesday meeting the military had not increased its presence in Chiapas, but Cocopa is nonetheless planning a trip to the state to investigate the accusations.

[ also see related items:

Mexico’s “Two Very Different Views of Democracy” – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1417

Mexican Indians March Against Revised Rights Bill – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1349

EZLN Rejects Mexican Indigenous Reform Law – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1304

Fox Moves Closer to San Andr̩s Accord Implementation Рhttp://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1004

Mexico: Opposition Wins Chiapas Governorship – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=729

EZLN 101: Subcomandante Marcos Speaks to the Cybernauts – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1131

Zapatistas In Cyberspace, A Guide To Analyses and Resources – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=517 ]

Author: Reed Lindsay

News Service: The News – August 17, 2001

URL: www.thenewsmexico.com