Zapatista Supporters Ambushed

By GERRY FOLEY

Murderous attacks and threats against supporters of the Zapatista National Liberation Movement in the state of Chiapas have been reported in the Mexico City daily La Jornada.

In its Aug. 27 issue, Herman Bellinghausen, the paper’s correspondent in Chiapas, reported that paramilitaries organized by the PRI, the former ruling party in Mexico, killed two Zapatista supporters and wounded another seven, one seriously, at the Rancheria Amaytik, not far from a major Mexican army camp.

The local Zapatista self-government council characterized the incident as an ambush. The self-government bodies declared: “The bad government, together with its paramilitaries, is carrying out its death threats against our people-who are putting up a dignified resistance.”

The local civil rights organizations issued a joint statement demanding, among other things, “that the government take its distance from the PRI armed and/or paramilitary groups operating in the region.” The human rights organization Fray Pedro Lorezno de la Nada, based in Ocosingo, reported extensive army movements in the region. About half of the Mexican army has been stationed in Chiapas since the 1994 Zapatista-led uprising.

In its Aug. 22 issue, La Jornada reported a mobilization of about 200 PRI paramilitaries aiming to terrorize Zapatista self-governing villages and break a Zapatista blockade against traffic in cheap alcohol. Forewarned, the Zapatistas were able to withdraw and limit the number of casualties, although one man was seriously wounded.

On Aug. 6, La Jornada reported an accusation by the leader of the survivors of the massacre of Acteal (in which five years ago PRI paramilitaries slaughtered 45 women and children belonging to the pacifist group Las Abejas) that the Mexican government had dropped any pretense of pursuing persons charged with involvement in the outrage.

The survivors’ leader, Jose Vasquez Gutierrez, said that many of those implicated in the massacre remained free in their homes and had rearmed themselves. He warned that if the state or federal police do not act, there could be a new attack at any moment on an independent organization like Las Abejas. The latter group is not linked to the Zapatistas, but has sought to remain neutral.

The old conservative opposition party, the National Action Party (PAN), managed to capture the federal government from the PRI, which had held it for more than half a century, largely by promising more democracy. This obviously had to include offering a political solution to the dispute in Chiapas, where rebellious Indian communities have kept the government repressive forces at bay since their insurrection in 1994.

The rebellion led by the Zapatista National Liberation Army became the banner of opposition to the pro-imperialist bourgeois “neoliberal” offensive in Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican working people mobilized to defend insurgents against military and police repression. They prevented the PRI government from moving directly to reoccupy the rebel areas and crush the rebellion.

But both openly through the army and surreptitiously through its paramilitaries, the PRI and the reactionary landlords it represents kept up the pressure on the Zapatista-controlled area. It is clear now that the change of government at the federal level has not changed this situation. It is essential that national and international solidarity be maintained with the deprived and hard-pressed Indian people of Chiapas.