Army Has Patrolled Las Limas, Unio'n Progreso and Los Angeles
Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent
La Jornada, June 18, 2000, Translated by irlandesa

Residents Say Militarization is Overwhelming in Area; Rumors That They Will be Attacked at Night
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San Juan El Bosque, Chiapas. June 17.

The militarization which has swept over this municipality is overwhelming, following the killing of police officers on the outskirts of Las Limas on June 12. Today, the municipal seat, it is worth saying, appears headless. Only troops and Public Security are carrying out government duties.

Along with the proliferation of troops and PFP and PGR detachments, the tension and the atmosphere of risk have increased in the communities in resistance, which are in the majority in this municipality, constitutionally known as El Bosque, and San Juan de la Libertad by the autonomists.

Unio'n Progreso has been patrolled since yesterday by members of Public Security, guided by paramilitaries from the neighboring town of Los Pla'tanos. "They are going around frightening us. We've heard rumors that they're going to attack us at nighttime. They are rumors."

This afternoon, during the celebration of the Trinidad, patron saint of Unio'n Progreso, a group of community representatives stated to La Jornada: "They're looking for a way - the PRIs and the police - to accuse us and to have an excuse."

The situation is much worse in Las Limas, since the federal Army is occupying it completely. The people - PRIs as well as autonomists - have taken refuge in their homes, while troops and federal police are scouring the community. The community of Los Angeles was patrolled by the federal Army today for several hours, while in other parts of the municipality campesinos blocked the troops' passage, as in the Yuquil and Isidro ejidos.

The municipal seat of San Juan was violently occupied by Public Security police more than two years ago, in order to "re-establish" the PRI councilman on the council, which the autonomists were governing in 1998. After that "dismantling," the federal Army set up a camp here. This week, it has been the rotation point for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of troops who have been coming here, unceasingly, from Tuxtla Gutie'rrez.

The movement of large vehicles has been so intensive - especially for the transfer of troops - that a pipe which crosses the highway was broken at the entrance to the village. And, so, the passageway is closed.

A few hundred meters away, three trucks, with some 130 soldiers, armed and pointing their weapons towards the sides of the highway, began patrolling between San Juan and Las Limas.

There is no sign of authority in the Municipal President's facilities, other than a town fair set up in the central plaza. A few blocks away, in what had been the PRI mayor's office until the "dismantling," there is a Public Security barracks. At its access points, large mounds of sand are hiding a few nervous police officers, with their weapons pointed at the barricades.

Election announcements are popping up over all the streets for Francisco Labastida, and the town is entirely painted in PRI colors. It is hard to find a Pablo [Pablo Salazar Mendiguchi'a, opposition candidate for governor of Chiapas] among so many Sami's [PRI candidate for governor of Chiapas] already posted.

Nonetheless, the majority of those who can vote here are supporting the San Juan de la Libertad Autonomous Municipality. But that is not what one sees on the scene right now.

The Hour to Brush Up on Threats of Repression

The people of Unio'n Progreso, in the low lands of this Tzotzil municipality, are celebrating their patron saint this weekend, with cumbia music, the new church and constant anxiety. Since June 10, prior to the killings in Las Limas, they have been being patrolled by the Judicial Police. While the community was commemorating the second anniversary of the killing of indigenous right here, opening their new Catholic chapel, several campesinos were intercepted and detained at the highway bypass, where they were threatened by judicial and Public Security police for being zapatistas.

Two days later, in the distant town of Las Limas, an apparent paramilitary group methodically massacred police officers and civilians. Since then, shots can be heard being fired into the air from the highway, which are being attributed to paramilitaries from Los Pla'tanos and Public Security.

At the same time, accusations against three Unio'n Progreso indigenous are being reactivated in Tuxtla, related to an ambush in Los Pla'tanos, which took place in the framework of a dispute between PRIs, which is all there is in that community.

They have threatened them with a police incursion in order to execute the arrest warrants, which everyone has known for two years are without foundation, but which could prove useful now in order to pull a fast one at a quarter to twelve, election time.

A few meters away from the beautiful Guadalupe altarpiece which painter Carmen Parra gave them, in a corner of the chapel, the representatives from Unio'n Progreso raise their voices above the din of the falling downpour.

"The police say there are more leaders here and they're going to come looking for them. Leaders of what? We don't have leaders here, we are our own leaders."

"They say they are going to come in to disarm the people. Of what? We don't have weapons here, let them look for the paramilitaries."

"They want to grab us when we're off guard. Come in during the night so they can find all of us."

"There are three PRI families here who are always trying to start something. They're always with Public Security, they are their friends. Se~or Guadalupe Go'mez Me'ndez is the 'leader' of those families."

"A few days ago another of the PRIs, Vicente Lo'pez Pe'rez, went up to some compa~eros in the road with a machete, telling them to fight. He was with his son, Je'sus. But the compa~eros didn't let themselves be provoked."
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