Raid in Chiapas

Revolutionary Worker #953, April 19, 1998

As we go to press--At 4:30 a.m. on April 11, about 500 Mexican soldiers, police and immigration agents encircled a peasant cooperative called Taniperlas in the northern canyons of Chiapas. They stopped anyone from going in and out and then raided specific houses, using a hit list. This village had just declared itself "autonomous" from the oppressive central government of Mexico and the state government of Chiapas. It renamed itself in honor of the early Mexican revolutionary hero Flores Magón.

The governor of the official Chiapas government, Roberto Albores Guillén, reported that 20 people were seized by the police during this raid. A human rights organization in Chiapas reports that the police carried out these arrests without legal warrants.

This attack represents an escalation in the government's attempts to stop villagers who support the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) from setting up their own autonomous local governments. Over 30 towns and villages in Chiapas have set up such local governments independent of the official Mexican state. These new authorities keep their own birth and death records and have increasingly organized people to prevent state and federal officials from entering their towns.

The central government serves and supports the oppressive land-owning classes of rural Mexico and also plays a key role in the massive exploitation of Mexico carried out by the U.S. and other imperialist powers. Agents of the ruling PRI party have carried out death-squad campaigns in Chiapas and many other Mexican states, seeking to terrorize the masses of people and keep their hold on power.

At the press conference announcing the raid on Flores Magón, Guillén threatened new attacks on the people. He said the raid represented a new policy and that he would no longer allow the people of Chiapas to set up local governments that did not recognize the central Mexican government.

The raid on Flores Magón also represents an intensification of the government's campaign to drive out people who have come to Chiapas from around the world. Eleven of the people arrested in this raid were foreigners associated with a local human rights organization. They had reportedly come from the United States, Germany, Spain, Canada and Belgium to document mistreatment of people in this area. These observers had been in Flores Magón to observe the ceremonies installing the town's new autonomous government.

Such observers have exposed counter-insurgency atrocities by the Mexican army and the ruling PRI party. The fact that the Mexican ruling class wants to force them out of the area is an ominous sign of new attacks the government and military may be planning. The EZLN emerged as an armed peasant force in southern Mexico in January 1994. Talks between the EZLN and the Mexican government collapsed in 1996 and there have been troop buildups, new government atrocities and repeated clashes since then--including the massacre of 45 peasants by pro-government paramilitary gunmen last December in the village of Acteal. The U.S. government has been providing many forms of military support for the Mexican government's sinister counterinsurgency operations.

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