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PBI alert re Chiapas
8 September, 1998
ERN Alert - SIPAZ
We have received an urgent action from SIPAZ regarding recent military movements in Chiapas.
The situation seems to represent an increase in military pressure in the region which could lead to serious consequences for those living and working in Chiapas. It could also have effects on SIPAZ's work and other foreign groups working there.
With this in mind we would like to encourage PBI country groups to activate their ERN in order to respond to the alert sent out by SIPAZ.
We recognize that some days have already passed since the incidents mentioned have occured and we apologize for not having requesting the alert earlier but it arrived at a moment when there was no one in the office to open the e-mail. But considering that the actions appear to represent a new direction of activity that seems to be continuing, we think that it would still be useful and supportive of SIPAZ to activate at this time.
Also considering the delicateness of the present situation in relation to the situation of groups working in Mexico, we should like to remind you that it would be better to sign these letters of support as individuals and not in the name of PBI.
Many thanks for your support. And if you have any questions in regard to this matter, you can send them to our e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From: "SIPAZ, Servicio Internacional para la Paz"
URGENT ACTION, August 22, 1999
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, August 22, 1999
New Military Incursion in La Selva
We hereby wish to call the attention of the international community on the tense situation in the Amador Hernández community in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas. This area is being occupied by hundreds of soldiers from the Mexican Federal Army. Since August 12, 1999 the soldiers have been harassing and intimidating the indigenous population and members of the Mexican civil society who had gone there in solidarity.
The facts and context:
On August 12, 1999, there was a military incursion in the Lacandon Jungle, in Amador Hernández community, in the municipality of Ocosingo, at the edge of the Montes Azules reserve biosphere. Around 500 soldiers of the Mexican Federal Army entered this community by land and air with the use of paratroopers. They arrived 19 kilometers from La Realidad, where Subcommander Marcos and commanders of the Zapatista army (the EZLN) were staying. Subsequently, two military helicopters transporting another 50 soldiers arrived. Up to the date of this Urgent Action, the helicopters are continuing to fly over this area, some of them are transporting equipment and food supplies for the army.
The army has installed military bases and surrounded the community with barbed wire. On Sunday August 15, they fired tear gas at the population and at students and teachers from the Anthropology and History School and the National Autonomous Mexican University (UNAM), leaving 4 people injured. The students and teachers were there participating in a national encounter on "Defense of the Cultural Heritage, taking place in La Realidad. This encounter was convened by the EZLN to discuss government proposal of the Cultural Heritage General Law, that seeks the privatization of the historical heritage. After finding out about the military incursion, the students and teachers walked 12 hours to Amador Hernández to observe and witness the events.
The authorities are about to release arrest orders against the Mexican students who formed part of the observation civil camp in Amador Hernández for the following offenses: instigating violence, obstructing public roads, kidnapping and attacking the army. Anti-riot squads and various federal and state security corps already installed checkpoints at the entrance of the state capital and on the roads leading to the Highlands and the Jungle region in order to stop caravan members that are now coming from various regions of Mexico to observe the events in the aforementioned community, in order to stop them.
Furthermore, the federal and state governments are carrying out a strong campaign to discredit and slander the students through a wide range of regional and national mass media. They are portraying them as "ultras" or extremists of the striking student movement at UNAM and accusing them of "manipulating" the indigenous. Those who returned to San Cristóbal de las Casas were intimidated at the checkpoints on their return. It is obvious that this participation of other sectors of the Mexican civil society from other areas of the country who are taking part in activities or encounters with the EZLN or the formation of an observation civil camp in indigenous community in Chiapas is not acceptable the federal government.
In the meantime, the State Governor, Roberto Albores Guillén, issued a warning that he would not accept the presence of anymore national or international observers, since he considers them "destabilizing" actors. In an official statement, he stated, "We, the people of Chiapas, are losing our patience... Enough of the blackmail and manipulation... [on the part of the]... agitators [who] take advantage of the political conflicts and who infect the society."
The arguments that the governmental and military sources use to sustain the military presence in Amador Hernández are: The protection of the topographers who will be doing the measurements for the construction of the road from San Quintín to Amador Hernández. Yet, according to media and observer sources that visited the community, the people of this community do not want this road, since it would facilitate the entry of the Army. There is an important military base next to the San Quintín community.
Earlier, 6000 militaries arrived to the zone to carry out a reforestation campaign in the Jungle (La Selva). This campaign was strongly criticized by development, environmental, human rights and non-governmental organizations who stated that this activity should be carried out by civilians.
The Mexican Army has succeeded again, now under the guise of reforestation and the construction of new roads, to successfully transfer their military troops, to implement numerous military camps, put up roadblocks and other military constructions in the conflict zone of Chiapas.
On the one hand, the government employs an abundant variety of discourse in different forms of the media. They state that they are seeking a dialogue with the EZLN. However, on the other hand, they accuses the EZLN of turning down any possibility of talking with the government. This latest military-police incursion questions the government's true intentions and its willingness to really solve the conflict through dialogue.
Call for action:
We consider these latest actions of the Mexican Federal Army and the police of adding to and not improving the tense climate in Chiapas, nor do these actions promote the possibility of a true dialogue. If these kind of operations continue, they might cause violent eruptions between the security forces and Zapatista solidarity bases. We therefore, call upon you to write to the different actors involved. Express your concern about the actual situation and ask them in a brief and polite way the following:
To the Chief of the Armed Forces, President Ernesto Zedillo: · to promptly assure the end of the military-police operations in the Selva Lacandona as a clear message to promote dialogue in order to resolve the conflict in Chiapas
To the general of the VII Military Region, General José Gómez Salazar: · to order the immediate return of the soldiers to their barracks and that the army respect the rights and liberties of Mexican citizens
To the State Governor, Roberto Albores Guillén: · to ensure the respect of the national observers' constitutional rights of free transit, free association and free expression · to ensure the respect of journalists' constitutional rights of free transit and free expression · to ensure the respect of the international observers, in accordance with the recent United Nation's Declaration (December 1998) which affirms the right and duty of any person to watch over the fulfillment of human rights
We furthermore ask you to disseminate this information as broadly as possible and send a copy of your message to the Chiapas State Congress, members of the federal Deputy Chamber, and to the members of the Commission of Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA)
Presidente de la República
Peace Brigades International