Military Control Continuing in Chiapas

Assistant State Prosecutor Said Yesterday They Would Be Suspended Key Points in Area Being Guarded by Public Security and Judicial Police

La Jornada, Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
Polho', Chiapas.
June 30.

Even though it had been announced that, starting today, military movements in the conflict zone would be suspended, this morning the federal Army - along with Public Security and the Judicial Police - were patrolling this community, the municipal seat of the Autonomous Municipality of Polho'. This was in contradiction to statements by Assistant Prosecutor, Sabino Aguilar, who stated yesterday that the Army would be returning today "to their military positions, as established by the head of the country's armed forces, Ernesto Zedillo, prior to the federal elections."

The Tzotziles who guard the access to the overpopulated community - a place of refuge for thousands displaced by paramilitary violence, confirmed - separately and spontaneously - that a convoy left the Majomut camp headed towards Chenalho', loaded with dozens of armed soldiers, as usual, aiming at the motley hamlet.

The Chiapas Assistant Prosecutor had said yesterday that "no soldiers will be carrying out any patrols, even in Tuxtla Gutie'rrez," and that, first thing on Friday the "48-hour countdown" would start "that was set in order to avoid patrols outside their barracks." Even though he did not fail to go on: "This confinement to barracks does not mean a withdrawal by the soldiers."

The official went further: "In Chiapas, we are resolved that the mixed operational bases, made up of various police forces, also take part in this same process, that is, avoiding patrols in order to guarantee the citizens' freedom to go and vote this Sunday." La Jornada has verified that this afternoon there are still Public Security detachments in key points in the area. They are, notably, posted in places such as Macuilo (crossroads of San Andre's, Chenalho' and Chamula) and La Ventana (between San Cristo'bal, Chamula and Zinacantan).

The mobilization by Public Security today in Chalchihuita'n, Chenalho', Pantelho', San Andre's, El Bosque and Chamula was, to say the least, routine.
And the outskirts of the Polho' Autonomous Municipality received repeated visits by state Public Security, as if the Assistant Prosecutor had not said anything. What did happen today in Yabteclum, Chenalho', were the Diconsa and Sedeso provisions for government supporter families. Three ten-ton trucks made the delivery.

Military Apparitions

The last few days the Army has been carrying out intensive operations in Chenalho' and Chalchihuita'n, allegedly in search of marijuana plants. Residents of Emiliano Zapata, Chalchihuita'n, denounced that, since Monday, the 26th, the soldiers had 'taken over' the community school. "Eleven military trucks arrived, with about 500 soldiers, and, occupying the primary school, the commander told the teachers to clear out of the classrooms immediately, so they could stay in them. The children and the teachers had to leave."

They added: "They also went and surrounded the house of our compa~ero, pointing their weapons in the direction of his house. Everyone, men, women, boys, girls and old ones were frightened by the Army's arrival. It is not the first time they have arrived, they have entered on many occasions, leaving the school filthy, with toilet paper strewn about."

In response to the argument that the soldiers were looking for marijuana, the residents of Emiliano Zapata noted: "We do not support the planting of marijuana. The ones growing it are the PRIs themselves, and through the government people themselves." Today the federal Army announced the destruction of 39 plants in other communities in Chalchihuita'n and Chenalho', all PRIs. Having come from Majomut, the soldiers incinerated, according to the Sedena [Department of National Defense} "29,000 square meters in which various narcotics plants were planted" in Caminik and Saclum. There was no mention of arrests.

This afternoon, on the outskirts of the military facilities in Los Altos, dozens of soldiers could be seen in civilian clothing. The usual checkpoints in Chenalho', San Andres, Jolnacho' and San Cayetano were not functioning. In Las Limas, however, at the Chalchihuita'n-Chenalho' crossroads, military troops - not in uniform - were trying to stop those passing through, in order to determine their destination.

El Bosque and the Ambushes

Where things are not calming down - again contradicting Assistant Prosecutor Sabino Aguilar - is in the Tzotzil municipality of El Bosque, called San Juan de la Libertad by the autonomias which were "dismantled" in 1998, and which are still beset by militarization and paramilitarization.

Yesterday, a thousand PRI indigenous from El Bosque, Bochil, Jitotol and Simojovel mobilized, demanding the release of Roberto Patishta'n Gomez, arrested by the PGR for his alleged participation in the killing of police officers in Las Limas (not to be confused with the community of the same name in Chenalho', mentioned a few lines above). They also demanded the suspension of close to 60 arrest warrants filed against their compa~eros.

In addition to separating themselves from paramilitary groups operating in the area, the dissidents blamed the PRI mayor, Manuel Go'mez Ruiz, for the accusations, which they consider to be false, and for the planting of, and trafficking in, drugs.

The comuneros, headed by ejidal commissioner Emilio Lo'pez Go'mez, unexpectedly cast doubt on statements being made by the Assistant Prosecutor at the same time in Tuxtla Gutie'rrez, that "there is calm inside the state, after political conflicts had been defused" between PRIs in Ixtapa, Salto de Agua, Yajalo'n, Tila and Tumbala'.

Quickly, and with the El Bosque mess being far from resolved, the Go'mez Ruiz people were denying to the state Secretary General of the PRI, Aquiles Mendoza Garci'a, that PRIs in the municipality were in disarray. Official party activists are blaming each other for the ambush and other crimes, and they are not denying that there are paramilitaries, but alleging that the "armed civilians" are the other ones.

Conflict in Chiapas: Understanding the Modern Mayan World
by Worth H. Weller, Ben Weller (Photographer), Julia Weller (Photographer)
$16.95, Paperback, March 1, 2000
Rebellion in Chiapas : An Historical Reader
by John Womack (Editor)
$14.36, Paperback , March 1999
Voices from Exile : Violence and Survival in Modern Maya History
by Victor Montejo
$18.17, Hardcover, October 1999
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