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Date: Fri, 5 May 2000 18:25:02 -0400
From: irlandesa <irlandesa@compuserve.com>
Subject: Bellinghausen: More to do with war than fires
Sender: irlandesa <irlandesa@compuserve.com>
To: chiapas-n <chiapas-n@burn.ucsd.edu>

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa

La Jornada
Friday, May 5, 2000.

Problem in Montes Azules is More About War Than Fires

        Incursions by PGR and Army Continue in Selva
        Persecution of Zapatistas Behind Threat of Dislocation

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
San Quinti'n, Chiapas.
May 4.

The smoke - which dissipates a little some days, but which generally fills
the atmosphere with its thickness - does not prevent one from seeing that
the Montes Azules problem is more than the burning of forests and the
"irregular" settlement of communities.  More than a "fight" between
Lacandones and Tzeltales for the Selva, or demographic pressure in the
Ca~adas in what was once the largest municipality in the Republic: 

It is a problem of militarization and of war.  Not all the communities
settled there have done so out of pleasure.  Some have been displaced by
war.  As happened previously in Chenalho', the paramilitary group (which
once again stated yesterday in Ocosingo that they do not exist) expelled
from their homes and legitimate lands EZLN support bases who had been
participating in the Ricardo Flores Mago'n Autonomous Municipality.  The
threat of dislocation against those who have taken refuge in Laguna Ocotal
and in other settlements within the reserve is a new stage in the
persecution against the zapatistas of Taniperla and Zapotal.

The Montes Azules biosphere reserve is today the primary theater of
operations of the federal Army in the conflict zone.  From this military
citadel, at the edge of the reserve, troops have expanded throughout the
perimeter and interior of the Montes Azules.  And, even though they are
performing fire control duties in the Selva now, the two largest fires, the
only ones which are truly serious - according to information from Semarnap
and Sernyp [its local equivalent] - have occurred here in San Quinti'n,
alongside the Miramar, and in Santa Elena, in the extreme west of the
reserve.  In both places there are large Army operations bases.

In Tierra y Libertad, along the shore of Lake Miramar, there was a fire of
unknown origin last week which residents of the river community were able
to control.  They then saw another fire starting a great distance away,
they ran there, and, upon arriving, found soldiers controlling the fire.

"They aren't burnings, it's not land for planting, it's not us," says
Mati'as, who is from the lake and a member of the Emiliano Zapata Autonomous
Municipality.  "The soldiers told us that then they were going to go to
Benito Jua'rez, that there was another fire there."  And another community
in resistance.

The situation is more serious, however, in the other extreme of the
reserve, in the Flores Mago'n Autonomous Municipality, where the Monte
Libano and Santa Elena bases are located, and where members of the
paramilitary group MIRA are operating.  There the "fires" could be of
another kind.

True Intentions

A longstanding problem over land between the edge of the San Felipe sierra
and the Rio Negro, within the Montes Azules, has served as a smokescreen in
order to encircle the communities who are not colonizing or burning the
Selva in the extreme west of the San Felipe sierra.  The settlements
mentioned as being "the problem" - and which the government says it is
negotiating with (at least 12 have already accepted relocation) - are PRI,
or members of the ARIC.  Practically no zapatistas are there, because they
were expelled in 1993, a little before the EZLN uprising.

On the other hand, they do not talk about the communities which are
cornered from the depths of the Taniperla ca~ada to the juncture of the San
Felipe and Jalapa sierras, encircled by the federal Army, the State
Judicial Police and the MIRA (whose members still have their lands).  These
communities are:  Laguna Ocotal, Montes Azules, Viejo Velasco Sua'rez, Flor
de Cacao, Mariscal, Ojo de Agua Tzotzil, Laguna Suspiro, San Jacinto
Lacanja', San Jacinto Tzeltal, Nuevo Tila, Progreso, Ampliacio'n Cintalapa,
Lacanja' Tzeltal, San Antonio Escobar, Plan de Ayutla and Jardi'n. 
Zapatistas and members of the ARIC-Independent are experiencing the anxiety
of resistance.  But they do not exist, not even as a problem, in official

Substitute governor Roberto Albores Guille'n stated yesterday in Tuxtla
Gutie'rrez:  "It is not the state government's legal responsibility, and we
have had no information concerning the existence of paramilitary groups." 
In what was a new response to former Bishop of San Cristo'bal Samuel Ruiz
Garci'a, the governor nonetheless said:  "There are already PGR units in
Chiapas (in order to investigate in this regard), and we join in that call,
and, where there is confirmation, we will take action to preserve the law."

Campesinos from the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and
Campesino Rights (OPDDIC, AC) denied the existence of MIRA.  These
indigenous, from the ARIC-Official and the PRI - who have already been
pointed out as members of the paramilitary group - said in Ocosingo: 
"There is no armed group in the conflict zone other than the one the
government tolerates, the EZLN."  In a letter to the governor, this group,
which was formed in 1996 in order to oppose the autonomias in Flores Mago'n
and which participated in the "dismantling" in Taniperla - denied being
paramilitary.  "Those groups have never existed in the Selva Lacandona,
only the EZLN," whom they are accusing of threatening them and stealing
cattle and lands.  The fact is that, like in Chenalho', they are not the
ones who have been expelled and dispossessed, and they are aggressively
controlling the roads and the "legal" lands in the region.

It is curious that Albores directed his denials only to Ruiz Garci'a. 
Perhaps out of habit.  The one who made more explicit and numerous
references to the existence of paramilitaries was Felipe Arizmendi, during
his investiture ceremony as the new bishop of San Cristo'bal.

In the confusion of statements generated by the heads of Semarnap, the
Department of Government and the Federal Preventive Police - as to whether
or not there would be dislocations by force - what is really happening has
been side-stepped.  The PGR and the Federal Army are making continuous
incursions into the communities in the Selva.  They are looking for drugs,
fires and, now, paramilitaries.  Or they are protecting roads under

Amador Herna'ndez must not be forgotten, where a large military camp was
established more than 8 months ago.  The Amador Valley is located,
geographically, between the two extremes of San Quinti'n and Santa Elena,
and it is also at the edge of the biosphere reserve.  Since then, in
addition to Amador Herna'ndez, there are continuous patrols in the villages
of Guanal, Plan de Guadalupe, Pichucalco and in other villages and ranches
within and outside the Montes Azules.

Inside the reserve is the town of San Salvador, established by ejiditarios
from Amador Herna'ndez, members of the ARIC-Independent.  They tried to
settle there prior to the 1994 uprising.  Now they want to return to their
lands, abandoned 7 years ago.  The government has wanted to send them to
lands which they did not accept.  It would appear that they have reached an
agreement with the ARIC members and zapatistas from their original village.
 Which demonstrates that the communities are better able to sort things out
among themselves.

The PFP, Going or Not Going

A matter of apples and oranges, 4000 soldiers stationed in Chiapas will be
preparing to transfer to the PFP, according to reports which the soldiers
themselves have going around the ca~adas.  This Monday a Lieutenant Colonel
at the Vicente Guerrero control point said:

"It looks like we're going to the PFP.  On higher orders."

"And it's not just a change of uniforms?"

"We're going to be carrying out other duties."

In other positions, soldiers have spoken about 5000 "transfers," and it is
not known if it is just a rumor.  On the other hand, the same thing would
happen whether it were these soldiers or others.  They are all new in the
area, they only arrived a short time ago.  What is clear is the
"willingness" of the PFP to operate in these areas.  When presumed
paramilitaries from Taniperla, El Censo, Monte Libano and Santa Elena were
threatening the autonomias with dislocation, they said they had the support
of the PGR, the federal Army, Public Security policeand the PFP. 

Close to San Quinti'n, within the Montes Azules, other communities
threatened with dislocation are Ojo de Agua, San Francisco, Primero de
Enero and 7 de Julio, which belong to the Emiliano Zapata Autonomous
Municipality.  All the other towns are PRI and ARIC, except for Santa Cruz,
where, in addition to a PRI majority, there are families in resistance.

So far this year, fires in the biosphere reserve have been more minor than
in other years, and, according to Semarnap, they have consisted primarily
of burnings on previously cleared lands.

Nonetheless, in order to "put them out," federal troops have been
mobilized, who have continuously been going in to the reserve, and they
have sown the possibility of dislocations in the atmosphere, under a logic
which seems a carbon copy of the "recovery" of the UNAM.  That is why it is
'comforting' that the government coordinator for dialogue, Emilio Rabasa
Gamboa - who is always so 'well-informed' - states:  "I don't see it as
necessary, nor do I believe, in an operation" in the Montes Azules.

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