The Mexican Government's Paramilitary Strategy

Revolutionary Worker #949, March 22, 1998

The magazine Proceso (1/4/98) recently disclosed a Mexican Defense Department document known as "Chiapas '94." The document makes clear that the paramilitary groups in Chiapas--such as the one that murdered 45 peasants in Acteal--are the direct creation of the government and the military. The Mexican army has not denied the authenticity of the document.

In an article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (March/April 1998), Alejandro Nadal reports on some key sections of "Chiapas '94": "The document discusses, as one line of action, the `secret organization of certain sectors of the population, among which ranchers, small private landowners, and individuals characterized by their high sense of patriotism...will be employed under army orders in support of army operations.' It outlined plans for training `self-defense groups' and paramilitary organizations, describing them as the backbone of military and `development' operations. It also included instructions on how to create self-defense groups where they do not exist."

The reference to "high sense of patriotism" obviously refers to those with close ties to the PRI. These paramilitaries are led by landowners and caciques--the local PRI bosses. But as the Mexican newspaper La Jornada pointed out, the paramilitary squads find recruits mainly among backward sections of the rural youth who have no jobs or land to farm. They are lured with promises of "prestige" of belonging to an officially backed armed group and regular income.

According to Nadal: "[The paramilitary groups'] methods included outright theft, the levying of `special taxes' to purchase weapons, and the firing of their weapons just over the rooftops of the houses of those who failed to comply with their demands. If families fled, their frail wooden houses were looted and then burned to the ground. If people remained but refused to `cooperate,' they were often kidnapped or killed. In many cases, the paramilitaries used the proceeds from the sale of looted goods to buy more weapons."

The paramilitaries carry high-powered rifles that come from sources in the regular military and police. Last December, news reports revealed that the ex-governor of Chiapas had authorized $650,000 in "social development" funds to the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia.

PRI's use of the paramilitaries is similar to the way the U.S.-backed government in Peru has formed "rondas" in the countryside and cities as a counter-insurgency tool against the Maoist people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru.

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