Chiapas: paramilitary resurgence seen

The General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) and the rebels' local civil authorities, the Good Government Juntas (JBG), report a resurgence of paramilitary groups in their jungle stronghold in Mexico's southern Chiapas state, the Lacandon Selva. Local human rights groups also warn of the ascent of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC), an armed group with links to the official military and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). (La Jornada, Feb. 20)

JBG Corazón del Arcoiris, based at the settlement of Morelia, reports that on Feb. 23 three members of the Zapatista support base, including a council member from the autonomous municipality of Olga Isabel, were illegally detained by OPDDIC in what began as a dispute over access to a local spring. The group of some 20 OPDDIC militants beat the three Zapatistas and threatened to set them on fire before taking them to the settlement of San José Tenojib. They were held in the settlement's makeshift jail for over ten hours before being released. (Morelia JBG communique, Feb. 23)

JBG El Camino del Futuro, with its seat at the settlement of La Garrucha, issued a communque stating that armed men from Jerusalén settlement invaded several autonomous municipalities Feb. 20, including Francisco Gomez, Ricardo Flores Magón and Francisco Villa, felling several trees and coffee plants. The statement asserted the invaders were members of OPDDIC and the allied Rural Collective Interest Association (ARIC). (La Garrucha JBG communique, Feb. 23)

JBG Hacia la Esperanza, with its seat at the settlement of La Realidad, also issued a statement warning of threats from the Union of Ejidos of the Selva (UES) to expel some 30 Zapatista families from lands the rebels had recuperated in the uprising of 1994, now the autonomous municipality of San Pedro de Michoacan. The families had been forced from these lands by settlers from Ejido Nuevo Momon before the rebellion. (La Jornada, Feb. 23)

The Chiapas government of Juan Sabines Guerrero has been officially questioned by Amnesty International in relation to the deadly November attack on the jungle settlement of Viejo Velasco, in which OPDDIC has been implicated. Amnesty also cited the questionable prosecution and "disappearance" of indigenous leaders in recent months. (La Lornada, Feb. 22)

The state government formally apologized Feb. 20 for the 1995 slaying of campesino leader Reyes Penagos, admitting an investigation had concluded he was killed by the Chiapas police. No police have been arrested in the case. (AP