After the Chiapas Massacre: Murder and Resistance at the Roadblocks

Revolutionary Worker #941, January 25, 1998

In the wake of the December 22 massacre of 45 Indian peasants in Chiapas, Mexico by pro-government paramilitary gunmen, tensions continue to run high in the area. Mexico's Zedillo government has sent additional federal troops into the mountains of Chiapas--to beef up the huge military force already deployed there. The troops are surrounding the strongholds of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the Lacandón forest and occupying indigenous towns and villages. The government claims that the federal army is being sent to "pacify" Chiapas and "disarm all armed groups." In reality, the troops are clearly targeting the EZLN and their supporters--while the reactionary paramilitary forces are allowed to carry on with their activities. A number of paramilitary men and a local official of the PRI, the ruling bourgeois party in Mexico, were arrested after the massacre. But the pro-government paramilitaries still terrorize the people, and sometimes openly move around with the government troops.

In many pro-Zapatista areas, the troops are going house-to-house--searching for weapons, demanding information about the EZLN and looting what little possessions people have. In some communities, people are being driven out of their homes altogether--either by direct actions of the troops or by fear of new attacks by the paramilitaries. Even before the December 22 massacre, many people had been forced to flee from the troops and paramilitaries. The massacre has touched off an even greater exodus of refugees. Crowded into a few concentrated areas, the refugees live in miserable conditions--cut off from their means of livelihood and vulnerable to new attacks from the reactionary armed forces.

A series of reported incidents on January 9 gave a glimpse of what is happening in the area--the repression by the government's armed forces, as well as the people's resistance. Federal troops entered the village of Galena, in the municipality of Ocosingo, in their third attempt to occupy it since January 1. They were forced to retreat when confronted by villagers with rocks and sticks. Troops were also blocked from entering the village of La Laguna in Altamirano. In nearby Octal, 100 troops interrogated the residents and ransacked some of the homes. In the village of 10 de Mayo, also in Altamirano, federal troops and police arrived in ten transport vehicles. Acting as their guide were well-known paramilitaries associated with the PRI, Mexico's ruling bourgeois party. The soldiers brutally attacked a group of women and children who tried to block the convoy.

On January 12, a confrontation between the troops and the people turned deadly. More than 6,000 people marched through the municipal center of Ocosingo in protest of the Acteal massacre and the increased militarization of the indigenous communities by the federal army. The people hurled rocks in order to drive the police away from an outpost at a road. News footage on Mexican TV showed the Chiapas state police shooting tear-gas canisters at the people and their guns into the air. Then, as they retreated in trucks, the police aimed their weapons directly at the people and fired.

Guadalupe Méndez López, a 38-year-old Tzeltal Indian, was killed instantly when a police bullet struck her in the heart. Her two-year-old daughter, who was straddled across her chest, and a young man also suffered bullet wounds.

The news of this shooting reached Mexico City as more than 100,000 people were rallying at the main square to protest against the December 22 massacre.

The governor of the state of Chiapas tried to distance himself and the PRI from the shooting in Ocosingo by ordering the arrest of the entire police battalion involved in the incident. At the same time, the Zedillo government continues to direct the federal army's incursions into the Indian peasant communities of Chiapas.

The day after Guadalupe Méndez was killed, several thousand Indian peasants gathered again in Ocosingo to demand that the government withdraw all troops and police from their communities. They marched to the main highway and formed a human blockade to stop traffic for several hours.

One protester said, "These police are no better than us, but they try to lord it over us with their weapons. They don't bring us safety or help. They just come to attack."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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