Mexico: guerillas attack Chiapas prison

In the early morning of July 28 people thought to be members of the rebel Revolutionary Popular Army (EPR) assaulted a site in Chiapa de Corzo, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, where a federal prison is being built. No injuries were reported in the incident, during which an unknown number of attackers captured the three guards at the site and locked them in a guard booth. The attackers then shot up the site and painted slogans on the walls. Municipal police arrived when they heard the shooting; they found about 40 used cartridges on the scene.

The action was apparently meant to dramatize the EPR’s demand for the release of EPR leaders Alberto Cruz Sanchez and Edmundo Reyes Amaya, who were allegedly captured in the southern state of Oaxaca on May 24; the federal and the Oaxaca governments both deny that they are holding the two men. The incident follows attacks on Mexican gas pipelines on July 5 and 10 which the EPR reportedly carried out to demand the release of Cruz Sanchez and Reyes Amaya. The slogans painted on the walls at Chiapa de Corzo were: “They were taken alive, we want them back alive,” “EPR will win,” “Long live the EPR” and “Freedom for political prisoners.” (La Jornada, July 29)

This was the second attack on a Mexican prison in two days. On the evening of July 26, about 20 men armed with AK-47 assault rifles attacked a prison in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca. Authorities said one police agent was wounded. Official sources suggested that people involved in drug trafficking were attempting to free a prisoner. Some local people claimed that the attack was by an elite army unit, the Airborne Special Forces Group (GAFE), which they said was raiding a nearby residence and attacked the prison by mistake. Oaxaca state citizen protection secretary Sergio Segreste denied the army was involved, noting that the army doesn’t use AK-47s. He also denied that the EPR carried out the assault. (LJ, July 27, 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 29

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

  1. Mexico: more guerilla attacks?
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 5:

    A July 29 communique claiming to be from Mexico’s rebel Revolutionary Popular Army (EPR) announced the group’s responsibility for an attack early on July 28 at a construction site for a prison in Chiapa de Corzo in the southeastern state of Chiapas. The communique said that the attack, in which no one was injured, was intended to pressure authorities for the release of EPR leaders Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sanchez, “detained-disappeared more than two months ago by the government of [Mexican president] Felipe Calderon [Hinojosa].” The Chiapas state government had dismissed the attack as “acts of vandalism,” probably by local campesinos; the attackers had shot up the site and painted EPR slogans on the walls. (La Jornada, July 30)

    On the morning of Aug. 1 a homemade bomb exploded at a Sears department store at the Plaza del Valle commercial center in Oaxaca city, in the southern state of Oaxaca. The bomb destroyed the main door and damaged the metal security grating but caused no injuries. About two hours later, police found a similar bomb at a branch of the Banamex bank in the Reforma residential neighborhood; the bomb had failed to explode.

    In the afternoon a communique was issued claiming that EPR “urban commandos” had carried out these “acts of harassment against transnational economic interests.” “As long as authoritarianism persists as a governmental norm, we will not let up on carrying out political and military acts,” the communique warned, adding that the goal was not to “intimidate the population or inhibit the participation of the citizenry in the upcoming electoral process.” State legislative elections are being held on Aug. 5 in which the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz risks losing seats. One spokesperson for the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO)—which has led militant actions against Gov. Ruiz for more than a year—suggested that Ruiz’s government carried out the bombings itself in order to create a “fear vote” in favor of the PRI.

    The afternoon before the bombings, a hotel facing the Plaza del Valle had been the scene of a meeting between Ruiz and Irene Khan, general secretary of Amnesty International (AI), who was on a July 30-Aug. 5 visit to Mexico. After the meeting, Khan told the media that Ruiz “doesn’t have the political will to confront the serious violations of human rights recorded in this state, many of which we have documented.” She said that he had dismissed an AI report, “Oaxaca: Clamor for Justice,” as “partial” and “just representing the APPO.” (LJ, Aug. 2)

    While the federal government has tended to play down the threat of EPR activity, some government sources said that a search for EPR members was behind a series of early-morning raids on about 20 homes in the Mexico City area on Aug. 2. In what seems to be the largest raid, some 150 masked soldiers from the army’s Airborne Special Forces Group (GAFE) searched four houses and a 10-unit apartment house in El Sol neighborhood of Nezahualcoyotl, a working-class suburb east of Mexico City in Mexico state.

    The federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) insisted that the raids were connected to investigations of a kidnapping, organized crime and drug trafficking. Authorities said they arrested a woman in Mexico City’s Pedregal area and seized drugs and firearms. But in Nezahualcoyotl witnesses said the soldiers didn’t look for arms or drugs but reviewed documents, took photographs and confiscated some cell phones and voter ID cards, as if they were “looking for people.” Elementary school teacher Jose Luis Castillo Garcia said the soldiers took papers, credit cards and cash from his apartment and never showed him a search warrant. (LJ, Aug. 3)