ricardo dominguez on Thu, 5 Sep 2002 21:56:30 +0200 (CEST)

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Four campesinos affiliated with the Zapatistas have been 
killed in the past several weeks, twenty wounded and 
hundreds displaced as paramilitary violence spins out of 
control.  Antonio Mejia, identified as a Zapatista leader, 
was the most recent victim.  Paramilitaries from with the 
PRI-affiliated "Los Aguilares" (the Eagles) are 
responsible for the death of Mejia.  While his wife was 
able to identify the killers, none have been arrested.

The most recent murder follows a worrisome pattern of 
escalating violence in the region. 

On July 31, forty armed men affiliated with the 
paramilitary group Organization for Defense of Indigenous 
and Campesino Rights (OPDIC) entered the Culebra Ejido in 
the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon and 
seriously wounded seven Zapatista supporters who were 
building a school.  While the wounded were able to 
identify their attackers, no official investigation has 
been opened.

On August 7, Jose Lopez Santis, an autonomous authority, 
was assassinated in front of his children.  The children 
identified the killers, but no official action has been 

On August 19, 200 people affiliated with OPDIC attacked a 
Zapatista checkpoint set up to intercept illegally felled 
trees and stolen vehicles.  Four Zapatista supporters 
suffered gunshots wounds and one was kidnapped.  No 
official investigation has been opened.

On August 25, Lorenzo Martinez Espinosa, a spokesman for 
the Ricardo Flores Magon autonomous community, and Jacinto 
Hernandez Gutierrez, an autonomous agrarian expert, were 
killed by paramilitaries.  Authorities have not arrested 

Tensions have been increasing in recent months as the 
state government offers financial assistance to 
individuals with land titles.  Much of the land in areas 
of Zapatista influence is communally held and governed by 
autonomous authorities, but paramilitary groups opposed to 
the Zapatistas are increasingly claiming the land for 
individual use.  Chiapas Governor Pablo Salazar was 
elected last year on a platform of peace and negotiation. 
 Zapatista communities largely refused to participate in 
the election, and Salazar appears to have abandoned his 
commitment to reconciliation in favor of playing to his 
constituency.  Salazar was elected under a multi-party 
banner led by the PAN, but he was a PRI official for most 
of his political career.

The federal government also has a hand in increasing 
tensions.  Autonomous communities report dramatic 
increases in troop movements in recent weeks and there 
appears to be support, if not outright cooperation, 
between the military and paramilitary groups.  Zapatista 
supporters report paramilitary groups are often armed with 
AR-15s, a military weapon whose use is strictly limited to 
the army.  In addition, at the encouragement of Grupo 
Pulsar and Conservation International, a US-based group 
funded mainly by international corporations, the federal 
government is threatening to displace a number of 
indigenous communities, including several Zapatista 
communities, from environmentally protected areas. 
 However, federal troops and state authorities turn a 
blind eye to extensive illegal logging in the area by 
paramilitary groups affiliated with the PRI.

Government peace commissioner Luis Alvarez added to the 
instability by repeating unfounded rumors that 
Subcomandante Marcos may by ill.

The Mexico Solidarity Network joins a broad coalition of 
Chiapas-based organizations and communities in calling for 
an emergency human rights delegation to Chiapas.  Travel 
dates are September 21-28.  Please contact the Mexico 
Solidarity Network at msn@mexicosolidarity.org or 
773-583-7728 if you can participate in the delegation or 
if you would like to provide funding.

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