Chiapas: political violence grows in Las Cañadas

Internecine violence in the militant campesino movement escalates in Las Cañadas, the canyonlands on the edge of the Lacandon Selva, the Chiapas rainforest which is the primary support base of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). From the Mexican news agency APRO, June 13, via Chiapas95 (our translation):

A new conflict between the Zapatista support bases and campesino organizations is growing in Las Cañadas of the Lacandon Selva.

In the community of El Carrizal, munipality of Ocosingo, a confrontation between indigenous Zapatistas and followers of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization-Casa del Pueblo (OCEZ-CdP), accused of having relations with the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), has reached the point of residents being threatened with firearms and having their crops destroyed.

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) announced a petition by the Zapatistas of the zone to bring the situation to public attention.

According to Frayba, Zapatista supporters of El Carrizal arrived at their offices to denounce aggressions by members of OCEZ-Casa del Pueblo, who, in turn, accused EZLN sympathizers of paramilitary activities.

“The researchers of this Center can verify the destruction of cornfields and attacks on the cattle of the Zapatista bases. According to the information obtained June 5, four members of the OCEZ-CdP, with 16- and 410-caliber weapons in hand and firing in the air, threatened Zapatista bases and damaged their crops,” denounced the Frayba.

The statement said the Zapatistas have suffered aggressions from followers of OCEZ-CdP since 1997, when the houses of residents who do not follow the organization were burned.

The Zapatistas explained to the Frayba activists that on various occassions they had sought dialogue with the OCEZ followers in El Carrizal; including “on three occassions the Good Government Junta of Caracol de Morelia has invited the representative of the organization, Ramiro Santiz Lopez, to arrive at an agreement to avoid more aggressions, but he didn’t respond to any of the invitations. The last was in February of the present year, and the aggressions persist.”

The Zapatistas of El Carrizal told Frayba that the OCEZ-CdP has publicly accused members of the Zapatista base of being paramilitaries, “signifying that they are completely out of touch with reality…”

Frayba is greatly concerned by the aggressions between campesino organizations in the context of pre-electoral tensions… It has issued a call to the leaders of OCEZ-CdP to intervene with the members of their organization in El Carrizal, to put an end to the aggressions and find channels of dialogue to arrive at a means of coexistence between members of different organizations in the community.

See our last post on Chiapas and on Mexico.

  1. OCEZ counter-charges
    OCEZ responded to the charges in a press conference, denying any attacks against Zapatista followers, and claiming that the victims were really OCEZ followers who had been expelled from their homes at El Carrizal. The National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS), the OCEZ parent organization, called for an “impatrial investigation,” implying the Frayba is a tool of Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar. The OCEZ-FNLS statement read: “We declare that it has been us, of OCEZ, and not the autonomous Zapatista authorities or their local Good Government Junta, who have sought dialogue to resolve this problem. On more than four occassions, we have approached the authorities of Autonomous Municipality Che Guevara, in the community of Moises Gandhi, seeking their intervention, because the supposed Zapatista support bases participate, together with the paramilitary group ‘Los Petules’, which is hidden within the Coffee-Growers Association of Ocosingo (Orcao), in the systematic aggressions which our compañeros have suffered in the zone.” (APRO, June 18)

    See our last post on the OCEZ conflict.

  2. OCEZ calls for dialogue
    In a sign of hope, OCEZ sent a letter to the EZLN leadership June 27, calling ofr a dialogue to “arrive at an accord so that we can struggle against injustice and the evil rulers, sincwe it is not practical for the poor to fight amongst each other.”

    > Nuestra Organización Campesina Emiliano Zapata
    > (OCEZ), los saluda con el respeto que se merecen, al
    > mismo tiempo, les damos nuestra opinión con respecto
    > a la problemática que el Centro de Derechos Humanos
    > Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (FRAYBA) denuncia en un
    > comunicado fechado el 10 de junio de 2006 enviado
    > por internet, con respecto a la comunidad de El
    > Carrizal.
    > Primeramente queremos decirles que como seres
    > humanos cualquiera se equivoca al opinar, más aun
    > cuando las informaciones están basadas en premisas
    > falsas para su análisis concreto. Recordando la
    > historia, a finales de los 90s, surge el grupo
    > paramilitar Alianza San Bartolomé de los Llanos
    > (ASBL) en Venustiano Carranza que declararon ser
    > zapatistas, SIN INVESTIGAR, los compañeros del
    > FRAYBA tomaron partido apoyando a este grupo como si
    > fueran verdaderos zapatistas al mismo tiempo el
    > FRAYBA acusaba a la Casa del pueblo de
    > paramilitares; pero fue la historia que puso en su
    > lugar a cada quien.
    > Ahora el FRAYBA hace una denuncia a nivel
    > internacional, en defensa de supuestas “bases
    > zapatistas