Political Reprisals Against Union Progresso

La Jornada
Saturday, July 15, 2000.

PGR Accusing Them of Las Limas Killings
Community Residents Say They Planted Evidence

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
Unio'n Progreso, Chiapas.
July 14.

Two members of this community have been held since Monday on serious charges, even though ejidal and community authorities have proclaimed their innocence and stated that it is a political reprisal. It would appear that the Chiapas Department of Justice is carrying out its own "lines of investigation" into the case of the killing of police officers in Las Limas last month. Despite the fact that the PGR detained a suspect, a PRI from El Bosque, as having participated in the ambush - and he and his group in turn accused their accuser, the municipal president, also a PRI - Attorney General Eduardo Montoya Lie'vano has been insinuating from the very first day, and without any evidence, that the guilty ones "could" be zapatistas.

Now, turning to the police stationed in Los Pla'tanos, who are aware of the situation, the authorities have planted meager evidence of the crime on two indigenous from Unio'n Progreso, in order to finally get them in jail. After torturing Salvador Lo'pez Gonza'lez, and interrogating him without a translator - which is against the law - judicial authorities in Tuxtla Gutie'rrez have now officially charged him, since he "signed" an ad hoc incriminating statement.

A few days ago, PGR sources revealed to this reporter that they believe PRI Roberto Patishta'n Go'mez and his group were responsible for the killings. And they point out a particular circumstance: On the Thursday prior to the federal elections, Patishta'n Go'mez' cohorts were protesting at the state capital. After speaking with officials, they suspended their demonstration. As is well known, according to the same sources, when an indigenous group believes they are right, they do not suspend their protests after one day.

The police detachment which arrested the Unio'n Progreso zapatistas has had its eye for some time on the marijuana plantings in Los Pla'tanos. The internal violence in that PRI town, controlled by a known paramilitary group, has always served as an excuse to accuse and attack their zapatista neighbors. As the Unio'n Progreso representative said this afternoon: "They are accusing us of what they are doing." The federal Army itself has entered in to Los Pla'tanos in order to destroy these plants, the only ones found in the area. They have done so on at least two occasions, although they have not arrested anyone.

Everyone, Accused

"The compa~eros left on Monday, the 10th, to buy goods for our store, soft drink and other things. There were four persons in the community car, one was a child," recalls the campesino who speaks in the name of the community. He is surrounded by several older men, who intervene occasionally in the account their representative is relating to La Jornada.

"At about 12 or 1 in the afternoon, the compa~eros were seized by Public Security in Bochil. They didn't tell them what crimes they were detaining them for. The Public Security people beat them, took their shoes off and stripped them, and they also left compa~ero Salvador Lo'pez Gonza'lez unconscious and deprived of his liberty, along with Manuel Lo'pez Gonza'lez. The child was crying a lot, and they released him along with the other boy, who came and told us that they had taken the other compa~eros away, we don't know where."

The man making the statement, from the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan de la Libertad, reconstructed the events in a calm chronology: "On Tuesday, the human rights people from Fray Bartolome' went to Bochil, and at first they denied the information. The municipal president ordered that the state police commanders in Bochil be called, and a commander said he saw the detention, but it wasn't them, it was the agents who are in Los Pla'tanos and El Bosque."

"They were in the Bochil jail just for a little while, and they took them to the other side. We know that right now they're in Cerro Hueco, but at first the lawyers couldn't find them, until they went to look them for them at the state Department of Justice, accused of many things: of transporting drugs, of trafficking in ammunition, that they participated in the ambush at Las Limas, close to Simojovel there. What is happening is that the Department of Justice wants to pretend they're guilty," he relates.

"They themselves, the ones from Public Security, planted a little bit of marijuana and a little ammunition on them. We know they are not guilty of any crime. We are demanding that the government say what is going on or who is accusing them, and that they return the van that belongs to the cooperative society with 28 boxes of soft drinks."

Exactly one month ago, on June 10, Public Security officers in Los Pla'tanos detained the community van and lengthily interrogated its occupants. The driver was the same Salvador Lo'pez, since that is his job. The community was commemorating the second anniversary of the Unio'n Progreso killings that day, when Albores Guille'n's government had "dismantled" the Autonomous Municipality, resulting in several deaths in this community and in Chavajeval. And one month later they are brandishing a new threat: "The police interrogated those persons about a list of names they had. And now, ever since then, they have been trying to blame the compa~eros," he said. "We don't know how many people in the community are on the list. We could all be accused."

Then he recounted the recent movements of the only two PRI families in the community. This very Monday they left before the van did, and they returned before news arrived of the detainees. While this was going on, the PRIs were meeting together. "As if they knew something. In the afternoon they left fleeing, as if we were accusing them. We are not bothering them. Their fear makes us think that they turned in our compa~eros."

"That night they hid out in Sabinotic, they returned the next day, and now they're back. Their leader, Guadalupe Go'mez Me'ndez, stayed in Sabinotic a little longer. Now we don't know what's happening. They are threatening us. Yesterday they told us they are trying to get the soldiers into the community here, that they already went and asked them. We asked them what their justification was, but they didn't answer."

"They are telling their lies. The government continues buying people, that is the problem. So they can have more votes in the election that's coming up. They give them a little aid, and in order to pay for the aid, they say we are carrying weapons, they threaten us, they mock us and don't respect us. They accuse us of what they are doing."

The account by these EZLN support bases, continuously attacked and threatened - as if it were a government vengeance or exemplary punishment - ends with a demand to the government: "That they deliver a dignified justice and punish the truly guilty," and with an eloquent explanation: "Only because we are human beings, respectful, have we resisted their threats without responding."

Lastly, the spokesperson recounts that journalists have come to ask them if they are going to vote this August 20. "We cannot even say if we are going to vote or not, we do not have the right to vote. The police robbed us in the operation two years ago, they took all the papers away, we do not have any registrations."

Meanwhile, in the pro-government communities of El Bosque, such as the municipal seat and San Cayetano, the distribution of aid and boxes of handouts and food with the Progresa logo continues at full tilt. Could it be because in Chiapas the elections are not over? They have barely begun.

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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