Mexican state “responsible” for Acteal massacre —and ongoing terror

A statement by Las Abejas, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center and other civil organizations in conflicted Chiapas state finds that the Mexican national state “is responsible for the Acteal massacre” of Dec. 22, 1997. The statement says the terror campaign in the highland municipality of Chenalhó really began Aug. 19, 1996, with the assassination of six youths who were part of the support base of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The statement says “the massacre was the product of a deliberate and directed State policy to exterminate the EZLN, its support base and any organization of civil society whose demands were uncomfortable for the government.” (La Jornada, Nov. 4)

Las Abejas, the group targeted in the massacre, is a Toztzil Maya indigenous organization of Catholic pacifist principles, which is sympathetic to the EZLN but not a part of its support base. The president of Las Abejas’ steering committee, Diego Pérez Jiménez, charged that the guilty party “is the Mexican state, because it did not intervene to stop the paramilitaries.” Speaking at a Día de Todos Santos commemoration of the victims, he added: “We will not rest until we get justice, and all of the material and intellectual authors are detained.” Up to 100 local Tzotzils were at the ceremony in the mountain hamlet of Acteal, despite cold, wet weather. (La Jornada, Nov. 1)

Also attending was Miguel Chanteau, who was parish priest of Chenalhó at the time of the massacre, and was expelled to his native France two months later. In a new interview in the central Chiapas Highlands town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, he too charged: “The Acteal massacre was planned by the government to wipe out the Zapatista support bases… As we approach ten years since the events, I don’t see much possibility for a solution on the part of the government. It seems their strategy is to let time pass, and it will be forgotten. But it will not be forgotten.”

Chanteau said that among the 87 Tzotzils detained by Mexican federal authorities after the massacre, and now still held at El Amate prison, “there are some guilty and some innocent, because it was a round-up.” (La Jornada, Nov. 7)

Low-level terror continues in Chiapas, as the state is once again militarized in response to a supposed guerilla threat. Mexican and international activists have established a civil observation camp at El Relleno, Venustiano Carranza municipality, where the inhabitants have been repeatedly harassed by army and police forces ostensibly hunting down the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). (Mirada Sur, Chiapas, Oct. 29, via IMC Chiapas)

Activists protested that the state’s ruling Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has named Rafael Cevallos Cancino coordinator of its bloc in the state legislature. State PRD director Carlos Esquinca hailed him as “a man with broad experience.” Onésimo Hidalgo, director of the Chiapas Investigative Center for Communitarian Action (CIEPAC), charged that investigations by the federal Prosecutor General had named Cevallos as a funder of Los Chinchulines, a notorious paramilitary group in the north of the state. Hidalgo also warned that in the Oct. 7 elections, persons linked to the paramilitaries had won the municipal presidencies of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Sabanilla, Zinacantán, San Andrés Larráinzar and Chilón. (La Jornada, Oct. 25, via Chiapas IMC)

Hidalgo accused the new municipal president (mayor) of San Cristóbal of an overt threat. President Mariano Díaz—who occupied the same office in the ’90s, when he represented the “auténticos coletos,” a conservative body of the traditional town elite—said he would “impose order” in Cerro Huitepec, a hill outside town where the EZLN have declared a rebel ecological reserve, and the barrios of 5 de Marzo and Molino de los Arcos, said to be zones of Zapatista sympathy. (Meridiano90, Oct. 25)

See our last posts on Mexico, Chiapas, the Zapatistas and the Acteal massacre.