Renewed Paramilitary Belligerence

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translated by irlandesa

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.

San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

November 4, 2000

The paramilitary waters are stirring dangerously in the state, just a few weeks prior to the government change that will turn the PRI into an opposition minority. In Chenalho', Yajalo'n, Tila, Venustiano Carranza and Ocosingo the messages speak for themselves. The surprising, and perhaps "agreed upon," apprehension of a group of Peace and Justice leaders - who had apparently fallen into disgrace - has heated things up in the Northern region and in Los Altos. There is renewed belligerence on the part of different armed groups with ties to the official party.

Fears have increased this weekend of a possible police operation in the municipality of Chenalho' and eventually in the Autonomous Municipality of Polho'. Las Abejas organization, as well as the autonomias, have been reporting a threatening and vengeful attitude on the part of paramilitaries, who are invoking the apprehension of some Peace and Justice leaders as a justification for "revenge."

At the same time, and in a more direct manner, the displaced from Tierra y Libertad, in Yajalo'n, have been receiving threats from Peace and Justice. The apprehension of Samuel Sa'nchez, Marcos Albino Torres and other leaders of that group, which is tied to armed counterinsurgency, was based on the violent dislocation they backed earlier this year.

In the municipalities of Tila, Tumbala', Sabanilla and Salto de Agua, EZLN support bases and the A'buxu' organization (Arriera Nocturna) are living in terror because of threats from Peace and Justice. A few days after Governor-elect Pablo Salazar Mendiguchi'a made a trip to the Northern region, the indigenous in resistance do not dare to travel the roads. The current leadership of the PRI organization has distanced itself from those arrested and their followers, who were expelled from Peace and Justice last year, precisely because of their violent activities.

Even outside the conflict zone, the paramilitary organization San Bartolome' de los Llanos Alliance has unleashed an offensive against the Casa del Pueblo and the OCEZ. According to Frederico Sa'nchez Go'mez, spokesperson for the OCEZ, paramilitaries tied to the Orantes (traditional caciques of the area) participated, along with the state police, in operations of intimidation against OCEZ communities.

Human rights defense organization in indigenous lands have been celebrating the actions being taken against paramilitaries in the Northern region as a good sign. At the same time, however, they fear - as lawyer Miguel Angel de los Santos said - that Roberto Albores Guille'n's government is plotting a last-minute amnesty that will allow the paramilitaries who are currently charged to go free or unpunished.

And, whether these arrests are an indication that justice will be done and the armed groups will be dismantled, or whether it is merely a maneuver to avoid real punishment, the PGJE and the PGR could enforce dozens of arrest warrants in existence against the autonomias of Chenalho' and members of the Casa del Pueblo, in Venustiano Carranza. What might appear to be a Solomon-like decision would simply cancel out the apparent advances in matters of justice. This would greatly exacerbate the political climate in Chiapas at the moment of the change in government, which various PRI groups have said they were willing to sabotage.

Meanwhile, 10 members of Los Chinchulines who are presently in jail declared a hunger strike yesterday, demanding their release. They, as well as those paramilitaries imprisoned for the Acteal massacre, could be the beneficiaries of an eventual amnesty. Meanwhile, those Las Abejas displaced who are trying to return to their communities - and who left their camp at X'oyep in order to move a little closer to their communities - have not received sufficient guarantees. Paramilitaries from the lowlands, Los Chorros especially, are continuing their threat to not allow the displaced to return.

Nurses' Denial

Nurses from the IMSS-Solidarity clinic in Guadalupe Tepeyac denied, on October 28, that the rooms built on communal lands behind the hospital were being used as brothels, as representatives from the San Pedro de Michoaca'n Autonomous Municipality had denounced to representatives of La Jornada. Without denying the fact that land belonging to the communities (Guadalupe Tepeyac, El Carmen and La Esperanza) were being occupied without authorization, the nurses declared that the cabins were built for residential purposes, because of the increase in the hospital's work staff.

The nurses told 'La Foja Coleta' that the houses were not being used "to go with the soldiers." They added: "We had to build two log rooms for newly arrived people to take breaks."

They said that the number of employees in the hospital has increased the last few months, as well as those users going to the abandoned town in order to receive medical attention. Health workers called on the media to "clarify this situation, which damages their image as women and as professional persons."

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