By GERRY FOLEY
Four and a half years after the uprising of the Indian communities in the lowlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas, the Mexican and national local authorities, despite promises of reform, have not abandoned their campaign to beat the rebel communities back into submission.
On June 4, more than a thousand federal police and soldiers raided the rebel town of Nazareth in the county of Ocosingo, forcing 300 local people to flee into the mountains. The pretext was that the Zapatistas had set up a barricade on a nearby road.
Jose Ramirez Cuevo reported in the June 5 issue of the Mexico City daily La Jornada that he and other reporters had found no sign of a roadblock. Nonetheless, the invaders told the reporters that they intended to stay in the town until they were ordered to leave. In the meantime, they searched the homes of the people who fled.
On June 6, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas human rights center reported that the military and police had occupied six communities and driven thousands of local indigenous people into the mountains. Moreover, government armed forces were massing around three other communities, including La Garrucha, the seat of an independent county government.
The Chiapas state attorney general, Eduardo Montoya Lievano, claimed that the military-police operations were intended solely to stamp out criminal gangs and not to repress any political organization. He said that his office had not received any complaints from local residents.
In fact, the government party, the PRI, has been using its local organizations as “counter gangs,” according to the prescription of low-intensity warfare theoreticians, to attack the Zapatistas and their supporters.
Representatives of the occupied Santa Lucia community said that on June 4, 400 army and public security police troops also entered their town, where “they provoked a confrontation between us and the PRIs.”
A source of conflict are attempts to build roads through the region, which the local people think are designed to facilitate invasion by the army.
In the June 7 La Jornada, Jose Ramirez Cuevas reported seeing at the entrance to the Taniperlas area a sign saying, “the selva [jungle] belongs to us: Mendoza Group of the Mexican Army.” Next to it was a picture of a tiger wearing an army helmet. He went on to note:
“A military helicopter set down in the Nueva Esperanza community a few days ago. The soldiers warned the indigenous people who live there: ‘Get out of the selva, look for another place to live, because the army is going to go into the Montes Azules reserve.'”
In the town of Tila, on June 7, residents protested against the death of a local man in the hands of the police. They said that he had been mistreated “to the degree that his testicles were ripped off.” The police authority claimed that he had suffered a fall “due to a fainting spell.”
On June 15, the organization Kinal Anzetik reported the kidnapping of Jose Hidalgo Perez on June 10 in the capital of the main city of the Chiapas highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas. The group’s statement said:
“In the state of Chiapas, we are living within a ‘low intensity war,’ whose primary objective is to destroy the social fabric, to strengthen internal divisions, to intimidate, and to create an atmosphere of tension that would wear us out, emotionally and physically. This exists in the urban context, as well as the rural.
“There is a long list of people pointed out to the police, torture, illegal detentions, police-military operations, harassment of different civil organizations, among other incidents, that demonstrate the repressive political strategies that the federal and state governments are trying to establish, calling it the ‘rule of law.'”