Mexico: EZLN supporter killed in Chiapas strife

One supporter of Mexico's rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was killed and several were wounded on May 2 in violence involving rival indigenous groups in La Realidad, Las Margaritas municipality,* in the southeastern state of Chiapas. EZLN sources say La Realidad resident José Luis Solís López died after being shot three times; he also suffered machete wounds. The mostly indigenous Chiapas highlands and Lacandón forest, where La Realidad is located, have experienced several fights between rival groups recently.

La Realidad is the site of an autonomous EZLN base community, but the village also includes supporters of other groups, principally the "Historic" faction of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC)—which is apparently separate from the CIOAC's "Democratic" faction. According to CIOAC member and La Realidad municipal agent Carmelino Rodríguez Jiménez, in March CIOAC members seized a van belonging to the local Zapatista Council of Good Government (JBG). EZLN supporters responded on May 1 by detaining a CIOAC representative and then a commission of 15 CIOAC members the next day, Rodríguez Jiménez said. CIOAC supporters retaliated by cutting off water from the Zapatistas and dismantling the JBG's school. Armed EZLN supporters then arrived, and Solís López was killed in the ensuing confrontation, according to Rodríguez Jiménez; 13 COIAC supporters were also wounded. Reporters saw four people being put on an ambulance headed to a government hospital in nearby Guadalupe Tepeyac.

EZLN supporters refused to speak to reporters on May 3, with the result that Mexican media initially carried the CIOAC version. But on May 5 the Zapatista JBG issued a statement supported by the Chiapas-based Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), which had two observers in La Realidad during the incident. The JBG denied that the EZLN supporters had detained the CIOAC representatives, who were meeting with the Zapatistas to negotiate over the seized van. According to the JBG and Frayba, some 140 La Realidad residents—mostly CIOAC members but also supporters of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM)—attacked the JBG's school without provocation the evening of May 2 and used rocks, machetes and guns against a group of unarmed EZLN supporters arriving in three vehicles. Frayba called on the state government to carry out a prompt and impartial investigation and to punish Solís López's killers and the people responsible for the attack. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 5, May 6)

Mexican and international activists and groups have issued statements in solidarity with La Realidad's EZLN supporters. English writer John Berger, Mexican sociologist Pablo González Casanova, Pervuvian leftist Hugo Blanco Galdós and Mexican leftist Carlos González sent a brief message expressing their "most profound indignation at the aggressions suffered by our compañeras and compañeros." They charged that the CIOAC "Historic" faction "is being used by the state and federal governments as a paramilitary arm to attack our compañeras and compañeros, trying to make it appear that what's at issue is an intra-community confrontation. This is what they did in Acteal [where 45 EZLN supporters were massacred in December 1997]; this is what they're doing now." (LJ, May 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 11.

* La Realidad is its own "autonomous municipality" within the Zapatistas' system of parallel power, and does not recognize itself as a part of the "official" municipality of Las Margaritas. —WW4R