ricardo dominguez on 3 Jul 2000 16:23:25 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Elections in Conflict Zone Under State of Exception (Chiapas, Mex)

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa

La Jornada
Sunday, July 2, 2000.

Elections in Conflict Zone Under State of Exception

        Four Chiapaneco Districts Completely Militarized

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

The elections in Chiapas, at least in the indigenous municipalities of the
so-called "conflict zone," will be held under a state of exception,
despite attempts by the election propaganda to conceal the fact. Of the 12
electoral districts in the state, four are totally militarized and
subjected to State patronage and the low intensity war.  Districts 1, 3, 5
and 8 (Palenque, Ocosingo, San Cristo'bal de las Casas and Comita'n,
respectively) take in dozens of existing indigenous municipalities,
constitutional as well as autonomias, in addition to those imposed by
Governor Roberto Albores.  Los Altos, the Northern region, the Selva
Lacandona in its entirety, and the Border region, areas inhabited
primarily by Tzotziles, Tzeltales, Tojolabales and Choles, take in a third
of the chiapaneco population. 

In the unfortunate municipality of Ocosingo alone there are 38 federal
Army operations bases, which determine the daily existence of 25 of the
electoral district's sections.  There are another 10 army bases and camps
in Las Margaritas, directly affecting other electoral sections, according
to reports by District 3 opposition parties. 

The Northern region, which includes Simojovel, Tila, Tumbala', Sabanilla,
Salto de Agua, Palenque, El Bosque, Huitiupa'n, Chilo'n and Yajalo'n, has
been subjected of late to diverse pressures which are seriously affecting
the so-called social peace.  Curiously, all the conflicts have been
provoked by PRI bases, in confrontation with each other over government
assistance money, over each group's responsibilities with the civilian
armed groups being investigated by the PGR now, and over participation in
the cultivation and trafficking in drugs. 

The entire Northern region, like Los Altos, is practically occupied by the
Federal Army, which has important operations bases in San Andre's,
Chenalho', Pantelho', Chalchihuita'n and San Cristo'bal de Las Casas, in
addition to the municipalities already noted.  A large number of the
polling booths are located in barracks.  Several thousand voters will be
coming out of San Quinti'n, Guadalupe Tepeyac, Tonina', Montes Azules, San
Andre's, Majomut and Rancho Nuevo.  Various observers and journalists have
calculated that there are around 200 military settlements in the conflict
zone, which would have from 35 to 60,000 troops.  Parsimonious official
estimates do not go above 15,000, including the troops in Tabasco. 

The armed forces will remain in their barracks until Monday, when they
will once again control and patrol the highways and roads of the
indigenous lands.  Meanwhile, state police will be taking over "strategic
points,"  announced state Attorney General Eduardo Montoya Lie'vano. 
Except for Chiapas, he stated, the Army will be in charge of election day
security.  In this state "it will be the state police, because of the
delicacy of the situation, so that they cannot go and interpret that the
military's presence is in order to inhibit voting, especially in the
indigenous areas." The situation is so exceptional that the troops will
remain in their barracks here.  Because, in Chiapas, above all (but not
only in Chiapas), the troops are usually outside their barracks (in
addition to the fact that many barracks and camps are located inside the
communities, or on their ejidal lands, making the border between "inside"
and "outside" the barracks rather vague). 

PRI Turmoil

At the last moment, official party organizations involved with armed
groups and violent activities have entered into crisis, escaping from the
control of the state government.  The most serious case was El Bosque,
where - in a still unclarified ambush - seven police officers were
assassinated by a paramilitary commando group.  Investigations by the PGR
have pointed out PRI activists as being responsible.  They, in turn, have
accused their accusers, also pro-government, with ties to the municipal

Another PRI attempt at rebellion occurred this week when a group that had
been expelled from Peace and Justice, in the Northern region, occupied
several mayor's offices and raised demands, primarily economic.  Peace and
Justice separated itself from these actions yesterday, in which the
dissidents "refused to recognize" interim governor Roberto Albores for 24
hours.  Taking advantage of the moment, the organization - noted as
paramilitary on repeated occasions, and, which, in fact, controls by force
access to the Chol area - appealed to the Federation Comptroller's office. 
They stated that the Peace and Justice bases "have not received any kind
of programs.  For that reason we are demanding that appropriate
investigations be made in order to separate our organization from the
alleged aid." 

The president of Peace and Justice, Cristo'bal Go'mez Torres, stated
yesterday that the 4,600,000 pesos which the state government authorized
in 1997 through an economic development program in benefit of its bases,
never reached the communities.  Professing institutional loyalty, the
organization declared:  "We have not planned any violent actions or
confrontations with those who were expelled by the decision of our bases." 
They announced they would not be interfering with the election. 

A few hours before the election, PRI organizations associated with
paramilitarization are continuing the fight to reap profit from their
corporate vote. 

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