Chiapas: paramilitaries threaten journalists

The leader of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC), Pedro Chulin Jimenez, and at least 25 of his militants were arrested by state authorities in Chiapas, Mexico, March 8 following reports of attacks on three journalists, including Hermann Bellinghausen of the national daily La Jornada. However, Bellinghausen denied having been attacked or deprived of his freedom. Reports that the journalists were attacked and illegally detained by OPDDIC militants came following a march by the OPDDIC in Ocosingo demanding state recognition of their land claims.

Francisco Vazquez, legal representative of the NGO Promedios stated that his cameraman Carlos Vazquez Guzman was beaten and robbed of his camera and a mobile phone during the march. He also claimed that the human rights promoter Alonso Luna Giron Moon had been attacked while filming the march. (La Jornada, March 8; El Universal, March 9)

The OPDDIC is in a fast-escalating land conflict with communities loyal to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), with OPDDIC adherents claiming rights to lands occupied by the Zapatistas in their 1994 uprising. The Zapatistas say the lands were taken by force and fraud before the uprising, and that the claimants have been compensated by the government for the lands in any case. “They are not the owners,” said Zapatista Good Government Junta (JBG) Hacia la Esperanza in a communique regarding the claims of OPDDIC adherants in San Pedro de Michoacan. (La Jornada, March 12)

Zapatista communities report a wave of land invasions and armed threats by OPDDIC militants in recent weeks. The EZLN General Command issued a statement protesting that they had been unable to send a delegation to the meeting of the National Indigenous Congress in Tuxpan, Jalisco, due to the “paramilitary offensive” in their Chiapas stronghold. (La Jornada, March 11)

Zapatista JBG Corazon del Arcoiris charged that the federal government “supports and commands” the OPDDIC. (La Jornada, March 17) Hermann Bellinghausen reported that Zapatista communities in San Miguel Agua Azul and San José en Rebeldía claimed the OPDDIC has integrated former gunmen of the Chinchulines, a notorious paramilitary group which terrorized pro-Zapatista peasants in the ’90s. (La Jornada, March 11) They also charged that the the OPDDIC is being directly armed by the Chiapas state police. (La Jornada March 9)

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center says the OPDDIC is linked to the former paramilitary group known as the Anti-Zapatista Revolutionary Indigenous Movement (MIRA), while and the allied Regional Campesino and Indigenous Union (URCI) is a splinter of the supposedly demobilized Peace and Justice paramilitary group, which carried out forced displacements in collaboration with units of the Mexican federal army. (Frayba, March 5)

Zapatista communities continue to protest the militarization of their lands by the federal army as well. The community of El Momon issued a statement protesting that a recently-established army camp was blocking access to a local spring. (La Jornada, March 14)

President Felipe Calderon, who has aggressively sent army troops after drug trafficking and illegal migrants, on March 10 observed his 100th day in office with a small celebration in Chiapas hosted by the state’s governor. “Chiapas has faith in our president and we are all with you,” Gov. Juan Sabines said. “Regardless of party membership or creed, across the entire state, you can count on us.” (El Universal, March 11)

All sources archived at Chiapas95.

See our last posts on Mexico, and Chiapas and the Zapatista struggle.