Officials: Incident has No Political Overtones
Elio Henri'quez, correspondent.
San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, Chiapas. May 7.
Three indigenous from the municipality of Chenalho' were killed and two others received gunshot wounds - among them a six year old girl - when they were ambushed this morning by four heavily armed men, reported Assistant Prosecutor for Indigenous Justice, Mariano Lo'pez Pe'rez.
These are the first violent actions to have taken place in Chenalho' since the massacre in Acteal on December 22, 1997.
The official stated that, according to preliminary investigations, the events "had no political overtones," and the motive could be revenge or robbery, since the assailants made off with 48,000 pesos one of the wounded had been carrying.
The events of this morning claimed more attention and provoked comment owing to the fact that the new Bishop of San Cristo'bal, Felipe Arizmendi - who made his first pastoral visit to that municipality yesterday - was sleeping in the community of Acteal - located in the area of the attack - when the ambush occurred.
Some witnesses said that at about 6 in the morning today some 12 persons from the community of Tzanembolom, from Chenalho', left in a van heading towards Yabteclum, in the same area.
Travelling in the vehicle were PRI and zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) sympathizers, as well as members of the civil society Las Abejas, as were the 45 tzotziles massacred in Acteal.
Thirty minutes after the vehicle had departed, and it was crossing by the predio of El Progreso, municipality of Pantelho', four men appeared, dressed in black, with firearms and wearing hoods. They began firing, directing their attack primarily toward the side of the driver - Jose' Luis Go'mez Go'mez, who died instantly. The left door displayed the majority of the almost 40 bullets fired at the van.
Also traveling in the front of the motor vehicle were the driver's parents, Carmen Go'mez Guille'n, who died, and Mariano Go'mez Pe'rez, as well as his sister Magdalena Go'mez Go'mez, six years of age. The latter two received gunshot wounds and are being treated in the regional hospital in this city. They are all identified as being PRI activists. The other victim was Antonio Lo'pez Jime'nez, 18, who was a member of Las Abejas and who was traveling in the rear of the bus. He was apparently hit by shots that were fired from both sides of the road.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Lo'pez Pe'rez, officials already know the identities of the assailants, whose faces were not covered with ski-masks. It is also known that only two of the four men who slept in the place of the attack were carrying firearms, and the other two were carrying machetes.
The Assistant Prosecutor said that, according to first indications, the incident had to do with the dispute over land and coffee plantations of a very large family, whose members had been having problems since 1997. In October and December of that year, two brothers of Carmen Go'mez Guille'n were killed, who was one of the persons who died today for the same reasons, he said.
He also noted that for several months the husband of the woman who was killed today, Mariano Go'mez Pe'rez, one of the wounded, had been receiving death threats regarding his leaving the community of Tzanembolom, where the lands and coffee plantations are located.
Nonetheless, relatives of the dead expressed their belief that the bloody incidents between the two conflicting groups went beyond family issues, since the conflict was between PRIs and zapatistas of Chenalho'.
It was exactly incidents such as these which preceded the Acteal massacre in 1997, when, in May of that year, Professor Cristo'bal Pe'rez Medio, a zapatista sympathizer, was murdered. From there, a series of attacks were triggered between both groups, resulting in 26 deaths and numerous injuries, as well as thousands of displaced.
The Assistant Prosecutor for Indigenous Justice announced that more than 200 state Public Security police had begun a far-reaching operation in the region this morning, in order to try to detain those responsible for the triple homicide. As of last night, however, there had been no results.
The PRI mayor of Chenalho', Antonio Pe'rez Arias, who was Municipal Secretary when the Acteal massacre took place, said that there was much tension in the municipality because of today's ambush. He added that PRI militants in that municipality "want peace and reconciliation," and he demanded that legal authorities investigate the incidents and punish those responsible.
Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada ________________________ Translated by irlandesa