The offensives continue against the people, the growing militarization and the appearance of paramilitaries backed by the police and the army, have made life difficult, if not impossible, for the people of Chiapas. Will the governor be able to finish off the zapatista rebels in this manner? The capacity for resistance by the indigenous, subjected to exploitation for more than 500 years, "is something the government is not counting on," assured Concepcion Villafuerte, editor of the newspaper, Time, of San Cristobal de Las Casas. "They are going to have to kill off all of us, and, even so, the trees will continue to be zapatistas, as will the rocks...," says a campesino from Guadalupe Tepeyac, village in exile for more than 3 years, a living example of rebel resistance. "They can get rid of our houses, but the dogs will still be zapatistas," he said with a smile on his lips that had little to do with anguish.
In another place in the Lacandona Selva, a journalist asks a scarved indigenous:
- Are you going to survive?
- There's nothing else to do, of course we're going to survive.
This is how they have responded, the municipalities, the communities, the refugees, the prisoners, the women, the children, at the expense of their hunger, of their fields, of their deaths, of their homes....at the expense of an immense pain that tears into the lives of so many people. The pain of the 19,000 war refugees, of the hundred families of the political prisoners, of so many widows, orphans, survivors, fathers of families who now have nowhere to plant because their fields and their pastures are being used as military bases, the fear in the nights and the fear along the roads, the PRI members now emboldened and the paramilitaries lurking, threatening and looting....And, in spite of everything, the flame of hope is kept. It is truly the indigenous essence of this struggle, that ancestral wisdom of patience, that one must wait, endure, let go, continue. In the main rebel municipal seats they have organized guards and shifts to protect the autonomous councils. Campesinos from the most remote communities arrive for a day or two, and then leave when they are relieved by others. In Polho, surounding the entire community, even on the days of the fiesta for the patron Saint Pedro, the human cordon remains, which protects the autonomous authorities, the refugees, and the fiesta, a joyful fiesta, without alcohol, not strident, a fiesta of resistance in which basketball tournaments substitute for alcohol, to the relief of the women.
The most entertaining, the names of the contending teams: "The Rebels," "The Civil Family," "The Super CocaColas," "The Rabbits of Yabteclum," "The Autonomies"....
The offensive against the resistance uses all the instruments within their reach, especially the communications media, which the PRI culture has often turned into henchmen for their interests. According to some radio stations and local media, the zapatistas from Cruz del Rosario and Carrillo Puerto, in Las Margaritas, had abandoned the struggle. A few hours later, on June 15, the response of those communities arrived in the form of two documents. The communique from Cruz del Rosario says: "We the zapatistas of Cruz del Rosario denounce the government's latest obsession with discouraging, dividing and isolating the EZLN. The bad government and the PRI have put their energy into recruiting indigenous and campesinos who are willing to lie for a few thousand pesos and to say what they tell them to say. The bad government uses and manipulates poor campesinos and indigenous persons in order to deceive the Mexican people, making them pass for zapatistas, so that they can say that they have given up the struggle.
"The people of the community of Cruz del Rosario say that we are here, that we continue resisting, and that we will not tire even though they threaten us with their false lies, because we are clear now that we are fighting for the people of Mexico."
From Carrillo Puerto, also in the municipality of Las Margaritas - the autonomy of San Pedro de Michoacan - they denied the same news stories. A letter signed by 69 heads of zapatista families stated:
"While the bad government and their false reporters publish that we have left the struggle, we are not even thinking about it. And instead of our being discouraged, the bad government's obsessions fill us with courage because of so many lies and it makes the seed of rebellion grow even more in our hearts and in our consciences."
Before renunciation, when life has been made impossible, in order to avoid worse damage, the zapatistas displace. 19,000 men, women, children and old persons live, wandering in exile. 70,000 soldiers - according to figures from the CONAI - along with Public Security and paramilitary forces, occupy their lands and sieze their belongings.
Resistance is to leave your houses and take refuge in the mountains and, at the same time, without crying, without asking for anything. Waiting. Waiting for the moment to arrive in which the struggle takes on meaning through the carrying out of the accords and the dialogue. Comandante Tacho said it, when the army refused to abandon Guadalupe Tepeyac, considered a rebel bastion in 1995: " Let the town remain as a monument to the government's treason and as a demonstration of zapatista dignity." The Guadalupanos never returned to their community. On July 25, 850 indigenous persons from the civil organization Las Abejas, who had been in refuge in Acteal, municipality of Chenalho, decided to return to their communities. They were not able to do so: they discovered that the night before, the paramilitaries had agreed to levy taxes against them, to make them join the PRI and to make their lives impossible. It was also known that they were going to kidnap Bishops Samuel Ruiz and Raul Vera, in order to hold them hostage and demand the release of all the assassins in jail for the Acteal massacre.
The governor of the state, with his habitual boorishness, dared to state: "The government has no knowledge or precise information concerning the existence of paramilitary groups, nor much less that they have threatened the displaced." Would this illegitimate governor be capable of even denying the massacre of the 45 indigenous persons at the hands of paramilitaries on December 22, 1997 in Acteal? And, furious at the response of the media, Albores Guillen accused the "displaced's lack of political will and seriousness to return to their places of origin." I believe, he added, that these are "the final death rattles of grandstanding in Chiapas, where they try to blow up scandals that don't exist for the media, but each day it will be more and more difficult for these kinds of irresponsible actions to prosper."
Worse - for their fury - were President Ernesto Zedillo's statements on July 1 during his visit to Simojovel, Chiapas: "The government only wants Mexico's triumph, of the law, of justice and of democracy. In order to achieve it, we can no longer accept grandstanding, messianic leaders nor apostles of hypocrisy."
Could that be the country's problem, the messianic leaders - clearly alluding to subcomandante Marcos - and apostles of hypocrisy - referring to Bishop Samuel Ruiz?
Albores and Zedillo demonstrate, with their irate words, the government's vision of the conflict, that absolute simplification, that feudal and conspiratory mentality, that makes the possibility of an understanding more distant every day, or of even a rational thought about what is happening.
The 19,000 war refugees are there because they like it?
Albores Guillen does not hesitate to demonstrate his exclusion of and his hatred towards the Indians, towards the bishop, towards the media and towards foreigners: "I don't want to give any specific names; I wish there were only a few; I would tell you, but there are many who want to make Chiapas a stage and a great political set. That is why I have told them, with all due respect, that the conditions in Chiapas are not right for exhibitionism, that we are starting to regain our self-esteem, and strengthening the self-worth of the chiapanecos, very clearly and concretely - that is to say, based on assassinations - That's why I have dared to say that they should look for another state to find their eight columns of newsprint from here on out."
Zedillo is not to be left behind: "We know the consequences brought by foreigners intervening in the country's political affairs, the government will continue rejecting, through the means given to it by the law, the interference of foreigners in issues that are only the Mexicans' to resolve." For those two, or, rather, for the Executive, the problem is that the problem knows.
What bothers the Power is that Chiapas lives in the hearts of all Mexicans and in the world, that they can no longer kill and sell people and towns on a whim, and without silence hiding their impunity. It bothers the government that Mexico's indigenous are on the front pages and in the 8 columns of the newspapers of countries around the world, it bothers them that because, of a few "uppity Indians" - a typical chiapaneco insult - international humanitarian organizations, governments, intellectuals, criticize them and order them to change.
The Power in Mexico has not realized that, with the indigenous cause that arose one January first in Chiapas, a process was begun that can no longer be controlled, that has gone further than Chiapas, further than the Indian, further even than the entire country.
Out of the zaptista uprising has emerged a a world cause for democracy in the 21st century. And, although the PRI-Government regrets it - the democratization of Mexico passes through Chiapas, through the lives of all and every one of the indigenous who suffer so deeply for having demanded better conditions of existence and a political change in the country, for the existence of all the indigenous peoples.
The problem in Chiapas is not about bandits or delinquents, as Albores Guillen pretends - elevated to be the executor's terrible henchman - it is now universal. In Chiapas a question will be resolved which will affect liberty, justice and democracy in the entire world: the right of diversity. Javier de Lucas, Spanish philosophy professor, analyzes: "Perhaps we have not insisted enough on the fact that what is at stake here is not just putting an end to the individual human rights violations of those who live in that area, although, of course, that is indisputable.
Nor are we talking only about the fact that the situation in Chiapas is, in fact, a violent conflict, an undeclared war, whose first victims are the indigenous of that State...
"The problem has, in effect, another deeper dimension, which dates back much further than the EZLN's appearance in 1994....The touchstone has been, and still is, the absence of political will to put an end to the regime of oligarchy and local political bosses in those States, which has served to maintain a situation of illegitimate and reckless domination, which has involved the plundering of land from those who, not only in keeping with their own tradition, but also by constitutional mandates, were - are - their legitimate owners, the indigenous communities."
Javier de Lucas arrives at an assertion which is the great challenge presented by Chiapas: "The inability of liberal speech to be used to understand that today we cannot talk of equality, except from difference, that the great challenge today is to reconcile equality with pluralism." What is at stake is the right of the indigenous to be members of the sovereignty and to be individuals with rights, from their cultural identity, "for that it will be necessary to break with the monodist logic that wants homogeneous societies as a condition for the existence of political bodies, defined as closed systems revolving around the unity of the homeland and sovereignty." That is the contribution of zapatismo, and what happens with this movement is that people from the most diverse cultures, origins and social backgrounds feel pulled: the vindication of diversity, of pluralism as the only scale for measuring the legitimacy of a democracy, and not as obstacle to citizenship.
De Lucas concludes: "As in so many other multicultural conflicts, the difficulty is not in a few differences that are incompatible with our conception (universal?) of rights and of the rules of the game of democracy. Nor do the problems arise from an absence of instruments in which to fit the collective rights reclaimed by those communities. The question is much more elemental: to recognize the rights of those individuals and those groups to participate in decision-making and in the distribution of wealth from their identity, and not in renouncing it in order to be uprooted and to join the swelling ranks of the excluded who form the great bands of misery circling the megalopolis."
That is why Chiapas is so dangerous for the Mexican government, in the hands of a State party for almost 70 years. Because its very existence implies its extinction. The Executive's reasons for not carrying out the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture are the same which keep Mexico from democratizing, and they appeal to "the incompatability of equality with the unity of the State" in order to avoid them and to solve "the conflict" through the path of force. The government tries to do the impossible by presenting what is happening, or what Chiapas involves, as an intra or inter-community armed confrontation, or as a traditional guerrilla war.
Only the logic of war can defeat the just calls for the right to public participation through diversity, the right to a full, inclusive and plural democracy.
In Chiapas, human rights as a universal responsibility are at stake. From its point of view, all the government has to do is to expel foreigners and to criticize the calls from world civil society as interfering. Chiapas has been a laboratory where, for the first time, it has been proven that information, and the small power of thousands of persons the world over, are capable of influencing a supposedly local conflict. The cybernetic communications networks, their horizontality, difficult to control by the Power, have demonstrated their power of multiplication, immediacy, reaction. Chiapas as a great laboratory for democratic struggles at the end of the century has allowed many people to express their capacity for indignation, their small power to influence, their right to not remain passive, the "ya basta" multiplied a thousandfold.
On the day of June 10, brutality and war arrived in the form of thousands of police and soldiers to the autonomous municipality San Juan de la Libertad. The strategy of government terror, whose starting signal was the massacre in Acteal, in that remote December past of martyrs and impunity, was making great strides.
In a "crescendo," the same way 1998 has advanced, the militarization and the harassment have been the only "direct dialogue," the only way in which the Power has related to the rebel communities, to hit them where it hurts most - in the civil population - in order to drive the EZLN to a supposed capitulation by undermining their capacity for resistance, my making the daily life impossible for the people in their towns.
The illegitimate governor of Chiapas, Roberto Albores Guillen, architect of the worst demagoguery in the media and of a crude, unbridled propaganda campaign, was prepared to finish off the autonomous municipalities created in the zones of zapatista influence as an alternative form of civil organization. Albores was able to exaggerate the issue of the autonomous municipalities and give them a relevance that not even the EZLN could imagine. He made them into the guerrilla's "worst and greatest crime." On April 11 it was Taniperla's turn, one day after the festivities in the municipality Ricardo Flores Magon. Twelve foreigners expelled from the country and more than a dozen campesinos incarcerated for the great crime of "threatening the state of law," by trying to solve local and minor problems in the communities based on self-management. On May 1 there followed the police and military offensive against another municipality in the Selva Lacandona, Tierra y Libertad. Dozens of campesinos were arrested, beaten, jailed. The imposition of "the state of law" by the fierce path of arms and jail continued its course. On June 3 it was the PRD municipality of Nicolas Ruiz. The enormous operation was to supposedly "protect" a PRI minority to whom, acording to the governor, the opposition had denied vote and voice in community decisions. Gas, woundings, jailings, terror and fear were the consequence of the new government war machine at full tilt. But events erupted to their most terrible consequences on June 10, a few days after Bishop Samuel Ruiz had resigned from his post as mediator in the conflict, and the Natonal Commission of Intermediation had disappeared, with the consequent feeling of abandonment and fear which this position provoked in the rebel communities, threatened militarily as they were.
Emboldened and with all the power of force, thousands of military and police entered the autonomous municipality of San Juan de la Libertad, up to the mountains, up to the most remote communities. The excuse: the death of a PRI member the day before in the colony Los Platanos, the only place where everyone is a PRI member, a place where the few zapatista families, threatened by the incipient paramilitaries, had taken refuge in the mountains since last March.
But on June 10 the police and military did not limit themselves to destroying, looting and arresting. They looked for aggression, the confrontation that would assure them that the "re-establishment of the state of law" would be forged in blood. The images on television were horrific: the mortars, grenade launchers, tanks, bazookas, helicopters, guns firing, machine-gun bursts into the surrounding mountains. All against a poverty-stricken town like Union Progreso, where barely 26 families live, and against Chavajeval, a community sited at the edge of the mountain. Thousands of soldiers, as the residents' denunciations said "surrounded the community, they entered destroying everything and grabbing and hitting and interrogating."
The images from June 10 in Chiapas did not go to waste: An extremely dangerous zapatista tied up like an animal with a rope around his body and his eyes covered, in the bottom of a cattle truck. An indigenous man, tzotzil, in white cotton pants down to his knees, sandals, his face bruised, a lost look in his eyes, is shoved by two police officers much taller than him, much more heavily armed - he, barely with his teeth and with the rage of centuries and with his hunger - around him, about ten soldiers guarding his "dangerousness." That is the peace, that is the "dialogue without intermediaries" which the Mexican government wants, between the Army's bazooka and the people's skin, the cynicism and the lie, and along the way their houses, their few belongings, their lives. On the night of June 12, a communique signed by the 32 autonomous municipalities appeared in Oventic, which consisted of one sentence written in large letters: "To Senor Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon: You are an assassin!"
Nothing more. This is the eloquuent silence of the zapatistas. A silence that speaks for itself, which is dignity opposed to the verbosity that hides the Power's lie, the breaking of their word by a government that not only breaks their word, but also kills.
Even the Chiapas District Attorney admitted that the police shot at unarmed women and children, and that there were "groups of women who were not armed, followed by another group of officers who were also unarmed, and in a third block there were groups of public security with firearms." After the slaughter at El Bosque, the Department of Government repeated that the Government maintains "the decision to implement a policy which will permit the resolution of conflicts in a peaceful manner." The governor of Chiapas, Roberto Albores, was more crude and characterized the zapatistas as "delinquents" and "bandits," justifying the massacre.
Roberto Albores considers Chiapas his personal domain, and, as such, he has no problem in saying, after the Secretary of Government's statements to the Cocopa that he was prepared to agree to a detente package, that he would not allow any other body to discuss "the problem of the chiapanecos." And he stated, taking the club passed to him by the federal authorities: "Let it be well understood, we are the chiapanecos, here in Chiapas, who are going to decide our destiny, there will be no impasse for the enforcement of the state of law, nor any truce for impunity." One might assume that for the governor, imposed by the center, "los chiapanecos" are he and his caste, the indigenous are not chiapanecos, nor the communities, nor the refugees, nor the poor campesinos, nor those who hunger for justice.
With the disappearance of the CONAI, the dialogue of San Andres and the possibilities for its renewal became more distant, as they had with the military offensives and with the failure to comply with the accords in matters of Indigenous Rights and Culture. The diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the victim of a campaign of moral lynching and defamation by the government and the media at their service, decided to dissolve the CONAI "in order to open new paths" in the search for peace.
The indigenous peoples, subjected to tension and to an increasingly intense dirty war, viewed this step with great unease. Even Father Samuel had left them alone, some felt. And, in a few days, as a triumphant response to the zapatistas and to all signs of peace, the El Bosque offensive and the massacre of 8 campesinos was unleashed.
The corpses, decomposed and riddled with holes, unrecognizable, were delivered to their families as an insult and a lesson, the National Commission of Human Rights had no problem in being in charge of taking them like that to Union Progreso, with their intestines exposed, their eye cavities stuffed with cotton, their lips cut off, their skin burned by acid. Thje children vomited from the smell, the macabre scene of the opening of the coffins was repeated an infinity of times, but no one could find their dead ones, the pain was shared as never before, and, as the magnificent journalist and writer, Hermann Bellinghausen said, "The people remained with their dead, who are like one. By being unrecognizable, all are all. All are Aaron."
The mockery, the profound affront to the dignity of the relatives of these dead, and with them to all Indian peoples, was made apparent on that sunny June day when the collective fury led the CNDH representative to fear for his life. "Don't worry, the zapatistas are not assassins, nothing is going to happen to you," an observer, with an indignant voice and tears in his eyes, told the frightened CNDH members. Because they took 6 of their 7 dead away alive, there are photographs which prove it. And four days later the government returns 8 mutilated and tortured human remains. The general outcry was: "they executed them," "they came to kill just youngsters," "the government killed them!"
Who is going to believe that 7 zapatistas confronted more than a thousand police officers and soldiers in a village with barely 26 families? "El Bosque was worse than Acteal, because there the soldiers and police deliberately came to kill," said some analysts and human rights defenders. The day of the crime, while the press was in Chavajebal and the police were firing at the mountains, breaking the first line of women and children who were trying to prevent their entrance, in Union Progreso they were killing without anyone knowing about it yet. To top it off, the international press and agencies were held at a military checkpoint outside of Chavajeval, and could not witness the supposed "confrontation" which the local media and Mexican television showed in such abundance.
But the news instantly became international, and in a few hours thousands of people in Europe, the United States and America went out to demonstrate their repudiation of the Mexican government, to send letters and faxes to Ernesto Zedillo, condemning the war policies, displaying placards in the Alhambra in Granada, inventing a 2 meter red card for the Mexican government in Brussels, taking their clothes off for Chiapas in Zaragoza, blocking the official web sites, they demonstrated in Nicaragua, they shouted in front of Mexican consulates in more than 30 United States cities and so many others in the world...
In France, Green Party deputies urged the French government and the European Union to redouble their pressure on Mexico in order to avoid new "assaults" on other zapatista municipalities, and in the United States the government expressed their "concern" for the growing tension in Chiapas "which even more greatly hinders the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict."
The Mexican government reacted one more time with their habitual stubborness, and they were "very irritated," especially by the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who strongly condemned the assassination of nine persons and urged the federal government to seek effective means for restoring dialogue in the region, and, in addition, proposed a reduction in the military presence in Chiapas. Robinson, representing the UN, affirmed that the nine deaths in El Bosque were reported as having been perpetrated by government forces "in an area characterized by displacement and poverty."
Amnesty International also joined the harsh criticisms of the Mexican Army's behavior in Chiapas and Guerrero, and warned that the increase in violence in those two states could degenrate into "a human rights catastrophe." They denounced that "those who carried out these massacres seem to go unpunished for their crimes, while the Mexican authorities arbitrarily arrest campesinos in areas considered to be opposed to the government."
In a letter published in La Jornada, hundreds of Mexicans asked Zedillo: "Is it possible that, in dealing with the Indian peoples, you cannot use methods other than assasination, repression and forgetting?" Because it is not only in Chiapas that death advances at the hand of a bloody state. In Guerrero, in the indigenous community of El Charco, municipality of Ayutla de los Libres, the army shot 11 ERPI guerrillas down in cold blood in "a crime planned and perpetrated under cover of night, in which explosive missiles, rifles, armored vehicles, 50-caliber machine guns and artillery helicopters were used to blast the people and the rebels," recites a communique from the Popular Revolutionary Army.
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