CIEPAC Bulletin No. 121, July 31, 1998

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Chiapas Al Dia 121 I Date: Sun, 09 Aug 1998 19:17:14-0500

From: CIEPAC (Center of Economic and Political Investigations of Community Action) <ciepac@laneta.apc.org>
ENGLISH VERSION OF "CHIAPAS AL DIA," CIEPAC Bulletin No. 121
CHIAPAS, MEXICO, July 31, 1998

THE PEACE AGENDA

After several months, the EZLN and Subcomandante Marcos broke the silence. Between Thursday, the 16th and Monday, the 21st of July, 4 communiques were released. But first let us look at some events in the state, national and international context, which have heightened and strained the political situation for President Zedillo's administration over the last few months:

1) The massacre of Zapatistas in Chavajeval and Union Progreso, municipality of El Bosque, with the subsequent delivery of the bodies, which had strong repercussions on a national and international level;

2) The failure of the return of the "Las Abejas" displaced in Chenalho, which dashed the government's hopes of capitalizing on the propaganda they had prepared for the event;

3) The discussion concerning the advisability, or not, of international mediation in the conflict in Chiapas;

4) The visit by the Secretary General of the UN, who backed the official position and statements;

5) The threat by opposition political parties to abandon dialogue with the Executive;

6) Three budget cuts in the country, due to the lowering of oil prices, and the subsequent reduction in supports for programs to reduce poverty;

7) Six presidential visits to Chiapas during three very critical months, including President Zedillo's speech in Simojovel, in which he again attacks the CONAI, the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas and the EZLN;

8) Amnesty International's report concerning rapes, torture, and participation by the military and paramilitaries in Chiapas;

9) The ICHR's Report on torture in Mexico (ICHR is the OAS's Inter American Commission on Human Rights);

10) Governor Albores' refusal to accept the recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) concerning the Taniperla case, calling for the release of prisoners because of human rights violations and irregularities in the administration of justice;

11) Military actions against the guerrillas in Guerrero and the massacre in El Charco;

12) Elections in at least 10 states in the Republic, the triumph of the PRD in Zacatecas and the official party's recovery of Chihuahua;

13) The failure of COCOPA's attempt to contact the EZLN in La Realidad;

14) The negotiations of the European Union with Mexico concerning the clause on democracy and human rights;

15) Visits by new international solidarity caravans to Zapatista zones and the expulsion of foreigners;

16) The various campesino organizations which call for the resignation of, and political justice for, the Governor of Chiapas;

17) The creation of more paramilitary groups in the state;

18) The rejection by the government and the Mexican Army of the existence of the MIRA paramilitary group and division in the official party (PRI) again;

19) The visits by North American and European congresspersons to Chiapas;

20) The revelations concerning military participation by the US, the FBI and the CIA in Chiapas, as well as Mexican military personnel training in counterinsurgency in the US, and their participation in the state;

21) The reactions by the Mexican government to Madeleine Albright's statements, concerning the US' "pressuring" the Mexican government for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Chiapas;

22) Pressures on the Mexican government to accept the ICHR's court regarding human rights;

23) The failure of the dismantling of Zapatista autonomous municipalities, the reactions of solidarity and the reinstallation of the Autonomous Municipality Tierra y Libertad in the ejido Rizo de Oro;

24) The scandal of the Bank Fund for Savings Protection - FOBAPROA - whose 552,000 million peso debt is be charged to the Mexican people in order to rescue the bank again, and the protest by the opposition;

25) The pressures on the government to withdraw the Mexican Army as a condition for dialogue;

26) In San Cristobal de Las Casas, death threats against NGO workers, such as K'inal Antzetik, threats against investigator Andres Aubry and his wife, Angelica Inda, the robbery at their house and the attempt to break in to the Diocesan Historical Archive, threats against Manuel Hidalgo from the urban organization BACOSAN, as well as other investigators from CIHMECH, CIESAS and Na Bolom;

27) Trips by the Governor of Chiapas in support of PRI candidates for next October's elections in the state, while at the same time promoting clean elections, and the suit filed by the opposition party (PAN) against Governor Albores for using public funds to support PRI campaigns;

28) The surfacing of scandals again, such as the million dollar frauds at CONASUPO;

29) The case of the former Attorney General, Ruiz Massieu, arrested in the US for money laundering and considerable fraud, and his possible extradition;

30) New lines of investigation concerning the assassination of Cardinal Posadas;

31) New accusations directed against former President Salinas de Gortari's family for involvement in money laundering, and the arrest warrant for his personal secretary;

32) Pressures for the EZLN to break the silence, the rumors that they are preparing armed actions for July 19, the systematic and continuous derogatory remarks by the federal, as well as the state, governments against the guerrilla group;

33) The requests by the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de las Casas to the ICHR for preventative measures for the safety of members of the Diocese as well as of NGOs;

34) Operation White House, involving United States espionage concerning money laundering in Mexico;

35) The arrival of the new United States Ambassador, Jeffrey Davidow, after this position had been vacant for a year;

36) Pressures to open the archives concerning the student massacre in Tlatelolco in 1968;

37) The visit by Amnesty International to Chiapas;

38) Pressures for Mexico to accept the creation of an International Penal Tribunal in order to judge genocide and war crimes.

Before the massacre in Acteal in December of 1997, in the context of deadlocked peace talks and an escalation of violence that generated thousands of internally displaced war refugees, society observed with astonishment the consequences of impunity. The only ones who had not stopped speaking since that date were the indigenous communities, whose "clamor reached to the sky, more tumultuous every day," as Bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said in El Salvador, shortly before his assassination.

After the Acteal massacre, President Ernesto Zedillo's government changed the cabinet, with a new Secretary of State, and he dismissed interim Governor Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro, imposing the new interim Governor, Roberto Albores Guillen, in order to execute his new strategy under the shadow of a new body of advisors, who had been active on the left and who were now operating under the presidential wing. The "war strategy," as the CONAI would define it, led to disaster after disaster, and to the worsening of the situation in Chiapas, with serious consequences for the country and which spread beyond the borders.

Along general lines, we can state that the war strategy spans three periods during the first six months:

1) The Acteal massacre of December 22 marks the beginning of the strategy;

2) At least 5 spectacular strikes are carried out: police-military operations in Taniperla, the one perpetrated in San Cristobal de Las Casas, in Tierra y Libertad, in Nicolas Ruiz and in the municipality of Tenejapa, and

3) The massacre at El Bosque in the month of June.

The silence of Subcomandante Marcos was blamed by the federal government for the situation prevailing in the state. However, this silence revealed the intent of the government's war strategy. Nonetheless, various sectors of society revived proposals and alternatives for peace and dialogue during this period, clamors which were not heard either. The government strategy for dialogue consisted of striking, not only at mediation and its principle interlocutor, in taking away the EZLN's political influence, and in doing away with the stage of dialogue where the government had lost control of the negotiations, but also at civil society, who had joined the strategy at the dialogues of San Andres.

In this way, the federal government intended to move the stage for discussion of the Chiapas problem to the only stage that was left: the national Congress. By doing this, President Zedillo and his advisors assured themselves of a medium where the political parties were the principal actors in the dialogue, rather than indigenous and civil society, whom it would not allow the satisfaction of being the vanguard in the democratic transformation of the country. Zedillo sent to Congress his unilateral initiative on Indigenous Rights and Culture, arguing the legitimacy of his actions in a thousand ways. The federal government knows that, as a last resort, it would have control over its initiative in the Senate, with the PRI majority, its last bulwark of power.

In the midst of all this, three events are fast approaching: the IV Presidential Report on September 1, and on October 4, the Chiapas congressional elections and its 111 municipal presidents, and then the next session of the national Congress.

Within this entire context, the EZLN's Fifth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona gives the stage once again to civil society, it delivers into their hands the decision concerning the road to dialogue and peace, and not just in Chiapas. And in addition to civil society, it also involves the Congress and the COCOPA itself. While the government closes all doors that would facilitate the transition to democracy, the EZLN puts it on the table again. In Chiapas, as well, the federal and state governments bloody the peaceful paths of civil society: the prisoners, the displaced, the political assassinations, militarization, paramilitarization and the many other elements already mentioned are but examples; as are the prohibitions against civil society peacefully mobilizing, suppressing, with supposed "legality" and "legitimacy," all marches, meetings or placards, under the "Reconciliation Accords," supposedly signed by 98% of the Chiapanecos, according to Governor Albores Guillen.

The EZLN's proposal is very simple: President Zedillo's advisors do not decide; the military doesn't decide; the EZLN itself doesn't decide; nor do the political parties in the Congress decide, where the San Andres Accords could be one more hostage to special interests, paying for old debts to the official party, or used to insure clean elections in other states, or to vote in favor of or against FOBAPROA, etc.; rather, civil society decides if it does or does not accept the proposal for the Indigenous Rights and Culture Law, referring to Table 1 of the peace talks, and formulated by the Commission of Concordance and Peace (COCOPA), made up of the parties represented in the Congress of the Union (PRI, PAN, PRD, PT and PVEM). That is the reason the EZLN proposes to send a representative to all 2403 municipalities in the country, explaining the proposal and carrying out the consultation. Although they will choose the moment to set up the exact mechanisms and dates to begin this initiative, it is certain that the government now has the challenge of not blocking this new peace and citizens' initiative. A new agenda is begun in this way, and it allays the suspicions and fear that only a military solution had remained.

However, official party (PRI) voices, as well as those from the federal government itself, rejected it out of hand. Secretary of Government, Francisco Labastida, refers to Subcomandante Marcos as "a gentleman who sends a few communiques." In the end, they cannot tolerate the EZLN either silent or speaking. PRI leaders, for their part, referred to the EZLN's proposal for a consultation as a "delaying mechanism," while others deny that the COCOPA's proposal for a law actually exists as such.

The EZLN has known how to extricate itself from the military, physical, geographical, political and public opinion siege. They extricate themselves once more from the war strategy, and hand the possibility of participation to civil society and to all its sectors and actors. They again snatch a "hijacked dialogue," in order to put it in the hands of the Mexican people. A new agenda for peace is opened. This, perhaps, is what the government considers unpardonable.

This is a new political moment. The breaking of the silence is accompanied by the retaking of the political initiative for dialogue, by means of the Consultation, and thus recovering control of the stage that, up to this moment, the government has felt it controlled. In response, the government refuses to give up this control: after the visit by the UN Secretary General, President Zedillo will travel to Chiapas for his sixth visit, and the Secretary of Government, Francisco Labastida, announces his first visit to the state for next week. The talk is the same: "direct dialogue."

The peace agenda does not begin here. It has been being built throughout this year, in the middle of the war strategy. Thousands of persons visited the state, concerned for Chiapas; hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid arrived in the communities; much ink and many throats were irritated from exhaustion demanding justice, asking for peace and denouncing the human rights outrages; thousands marched in Chiapas, and in other parts of the country and in the world, demanding a halt to the violence in the state; thousands of meetings were held to analyze what was happening, and proposing alternatives for peace; thousands of signatures appeared in ads in state and national newspapers demonstrating their solidarity; various forums were carried out by campesino and indigenous organizations in Chiapas in order to seek convergence, unity and reconciliation; thousands of faxes for peace circulated throughout the world; thousands of visits in solidarity were made on the Internet; thousands of indigenous resisted the strategy of war.

THE CRIES FOR PEACE NOT HEARD

At least 8 formal proposals were made by civil society and by some opposition parties in the search for peace, proposals that were not heard nor considered by the government:

1) January 11, 1998: The CONAI announces a proposal called "For a Strategy of Peace with Democracy."

2) January 22, 1998: The CONAI and the COCOPA launch a "Joint Proposal" which identifies 10 conditions necessary for the renewal of dialogue.

3) April 18, 1998: The Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) launches the "Accord for Governability and Dialogue for Peace and Political Stability for the Republic."

4) April 21, 1998: The Coalition of Autonomous Organizations of Ocosingo (COAO) launches the proposal "For Detente and a Dignified Peace in Chiapas."

5) April 22, 1998: The former Commissioner for peace, Manuel Camacho Solis, launches the proposal "Chiapas: Plan for Peace."

6) April 24, 1998: Creators, Academics and Intellectuals (CAI) launches the "Proposal of Guadalupe."

7) June 10, 1998: The National Indigenous Congress (CNI) launches a "Declaration" to the People of Mexico in which they propose joint actions for peace.

8) August of 1998: Various civil organizations launch the "Campaign against War and Poverty, and for Peace and Justice," calling on Mexican civil society and world organizations with an agenda of actions through October.

This collection of proposals touches on at least 14 themes:

1) General analyses of the conflict;

2) Process of Peace, Dialogue and Negotiation;

3) Table 1: Constitutional Reforms on Indigenous Rights and Culture;

4) Table 2: Proposals on the issue of Justice and Democracy;

5) Militarization and paramilitarization;

6) Elections;

7) Political participation of the EZLN;

8) Prisoners;

9) Role of the Commission of Monitoring and Verification (COSEVER);

10) Displaced and victims of the conflict;

11) Human rights;

12) Administration of justice;

13) Reconciliation process and

14) Investment and social programs for Chiapas.

At the same time, the state as well as the federal governments proposed several initiatives, which we will discuss at a later time, but now is the moment for peace.

In the middle of this context, after 4 months of silence, the EZLN launches 4 communiques between July 16 and 21:

1) Directed to the Mexican Army, the Guatemalan Army, Interpol in Paris and the Cisen in Polanco (Center of Information for National Security in Mexico City), whose text recites: "¡Yepa, yepa, yepa! ¡Andale, andale! ¡Arriba, arriba! ¡Yepa, yepa!", signed by Subcomandante Marcos, alias "El Sup Speddy {speedy} Gonzalez' or, what is the same: "the stone in the shoe." The communique is in the context of rumors concerning Subcomandante Marcos' terminal illness, or his disappearance, and the presidential allusion to the "stone in the shoe." The text alludes to the old cartoon character of a Mexican mouse, "Speedy Gonzalez," quick, agile, slippery, whom nobody catches and who safeguards justice for the weakest against the most powerful.

2) Directed to the People of Mexico, to the People and Governments of the World, whose text in indigenous Nahuatl language reads: "¡Nemi Zapata! ¡Nemi Zapata! ¡Nican ca namotata, ayemo miqui! ¡Nemi Zapata!", signed by Subcomandante Marcos, and which means: "Zapata lives! Zapata lives! Your father is still here, he is not dead yet! Zapata lives!"

3) Titled "Mexico 1998, Above and Below: Masks and Silences," signed by Subcomandante Marcos. Contains 7 chapters:

I) Mexico, mid-1998 (where he tells a tale of violence and of the true face which the government tries to conceal);

II) The Masks and the Silences from Above (where he reflects on the role of the government and the consequences of neo-liberal policies);

III) 1998: The Mexican Federal Army: between Angeles and Huertas (where he alludes to the losses occasioned by the Mexican Army);

IV) The Masks and Silences for Those from Below (where he speaks of the resistance of the Mexican peoples);

V) The Seven Victims of the Government's New Strategy for Chiapas (where he notes the sectors attacked by Comandante Zedillo's strategy: peace, dialogue, the indigenous, national and international civil society, national sovereignty, the transition to democracy, the COCOPA and the CONAI, whose role he restores);

VI) Old Antonio Against Outdated Maoism (where he tells a tale of a lion who dies by devouring his own strategy);

VII) The Seventh Mask and the Seventh Silence (where the long silence of the indigenous ends, calling all sectors of society to board a ship which announces the next communique).

4) "Fifth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona," signed by Subcomandante Marcos, and which is divided into 5 chapters:

I) Resistance and Silence (where he discusses indigenous participation in dialogue and the government's failure to comply);

II) Against the war, not another war, rather the same dignified and silent resistance (where, against government violence, the indigenous have responded with silence, dignity and resistance, as their best weapons);

III) San Andres: a national law for all indigenous and a law for peace (which defends the proposed "COCOPA law" as the result of dialogue);

IV) Dialogue and negotiation, possible if they are real (where he lists the three enemies of dialogue and negotiation: lack of mediation, the war, and the government's failure to keep its word);

V) We are resisting, we are continuing (where he again reiterates the causes that gave rise to the conflict);

VI) It is the hour of the Indian peoples, of civil society and the Congress of the Union (where he proposes the Fifth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona, inviting all honest men and women to fight for the Recognition of the Rights of the Indian peoples and an End to the War of Extermination; and the National Consultation concerning the COCOPA's Proposal for the Indigenous Law and for an End to the War of Extermination);

VII) Time for the word of peace: "It is now the time to speak of peace, which we all deserve and need, the peace with justice and dignity."

"THE INSUPPORTABLE LIGHTNESS OF THE LAW: IMPUNITY" (Excerpt, Part XIII, section (h), from the document "The Insupportable Lightness of the Law: Impunity; Three Months from Acteal," by the "Popular Alternative Communication, Working Group", from 4/11/98)

(h) the threats of carrying out the above-mentioned acts

According to the representatives of the autonomous council of Polho, PRI militants have circulated a rumor that they are going to "attack" the Zapatistas of Naranjatic and Yivelho "in order to kill those bastards." Even, they said, the official party militants, who "carry high-caliber weapons and fire into the air around Yivelho in order to terrorize our compan~eros." (Henriquez, E., La Jornada, 9/20/97, p. 10)

"On November 25, a helicopter landed in Canolal (Chenalho), threatening that they were going to finish off the Zapatista seed and Las Abejas very soon," said Manuel Gomez, a resident of that community, who witnessed the events. (Ramirez, Cuevas, J., La Jornada, 1/3/98, p. 11)

A representative of the displaced in Canolal (municipality of Chenalho) remembers that the PRI's made them paint the outside of their houses in the PRI logo (they also made them erase those they had painted "civil society, neutral zone") as a shield against violence, an antidote in order to avoid violent death or as a sign to differentiate them from those who "are with the Zapatistas." (...)"the PRI's made us give them a contribution of 300 pesos for every head of family, "to be safe from attacks;" afterwards it was 100, 50, 20, until it reached a total of 600 pesos, an amount that would make them "immune", according to the PRI's themselves, from attacks. (Balboa, J., La Jornada, 1/30/98, p.3)

On December 23, members of Peace and Justice once again began a campaign of harassment, threats and intimidation against the indigenous Chol communities: "Various Peace and Justice commands were concentrated in the community of Nuevo Limar, under the pretext that one of their members had been assassinated. They carried this action out dressed in blue uniforms and carrying R-15, AK-47 weapons and 22-caliber rifles, and also making threats like "you all have to die like they did at Chenalho, because we have orders from the government." (Mariscal, A., La Jornada, 1/3/98, p.3)

"What the government is looking for are pretexts so that we will be in confrontations with our indigenous brothers. They are using PRI's for provocation in the communities. We are worried because there are rumors that PRI paramilitaries are going to attack the Zapatista communities in Altamirano. We are afraid that it could be true, since we have seen armed PRI people outside the towns." (Ramirez Cuevas, J., La Jornada, 3/14/98, p. 11)

"The Army actually carries out activities of social work for the benefit of the communities, which, among other things, include the distribution of more than five thousand food rations daily; they volunteer hundreds of medical consultations, they deliver medicines and we are also enforcing the Federal Firearms and Explosives Law in an indiscriminate manner." (General Enrique Cervantes, Secretary of National Defense, 1/21/98)

The Gustavo Castro Soto Center of Economic and Political Investigations of Community Action (CIEPAC)

TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY irlandesa FOR CIEPAC AND NUEVO AMANECER PRESS

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