Latin American Report


Army and Rebels at Stand Off Over Chiapas Road

Army Tightens Noose Around EZLN

Propaganda War Fuels Tension in Chiapas

Millions Vote in Rebel Referendum

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31 August 1999

Chiapas War for Oil?

EZLN spokesperson Marcos told supporters on Aug. 14 that under the Amador Valley lies "the largest [oil reserve] in the world, and although the Mexican government hasn't made it public, the North American government knows it." "The war that the Mexican government is waging against us has as its objective this oil-bearing stratum, along with the oil deposits that lie in the Corralchen mountain range, in the Montes Azules preserve and in the Santa Cruz mountain range," Marcos said. [LJ 8/15/99]

US experts and the US trade publication Oil & Gas Journal confirm that the state-owned Mexican oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), has stepped up exploration in Ocosingo municipality in Chiapas and in the southern area bordering Guatemala. There may be substantial deposits in a zone PEMEX calls "Sierra de Chiapas" or "Peten," including the Nazareth oil field near the city of Ocosingo and various drilling operations nearer the Guatemala border and known as the Lacantun wells. ["Lacantun" is the indigenous form of "Lacandon"; "Peten" is the name of the region in Guatemala east of Chiapas.] In 1996 oil experts George Baker and James Lee Wilson wrote that although "difficult terrain" is a problem in developing Chiapas oil production, "[p]olitical unrest overshadows any geological factors that might indicate suitable roles for private developers." [LJ 8/21/99; Oil & Gas Journal 11/18/96]

The price of the oil mixture that Mexico uses for export reached $18.60 a barrel on Aug. 13, its highest level in two years and well beyond the government's projections earlier this year. The increase is expected to mean a $1.8 billion increase in government revenues for 1999. The world oil market has recovered dramatically over the past six months, following an equally dramatic slump in early 1998. The prices of some types of crude have more than doubled over the last six months. [LJ 8/14/99, some from news services] Mexico joined with Venezuela and Saudi Arabia in March 1998 to form a "petroleum troika" to lower production and thus force up the price of oil on international markets [see Update #426].

Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY