State elections in Mexico Oct. 3 saw more violence in the conflicted
southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, with several reported dead. Both
states–the poorest and most heavily indigenous in Mexico–have seen the
emergence of guerilla movements and anti-guerilla paramilitary groups over
the past decade, leaving many rural communities bitterly divided. In a sign
of returning normality, the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas announced that they
would allow polling in territories under their control. (La Jornada, Sept.
30) Ironically, the electoral violence in Chiapas took place outside the
Zapatista-controlled zones.

The elections for 40 Chiapas state legislature seats and 118 municipal
leaders were closely watched by some 1,500 observers, with nearly twice as
many state police deployed to patrol conflicted villages. (Proceso, Oct. 1)

The overarching issue in Chiapas was the ongoing challenge to the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a corrupt and entrenched machine
which held a power monopoly until recent years and still has a network of
rural political bosses who rule villages through violence and intimidation,
and are often linked to paramilitary groups.

Opposition to the PRI made for some strange bedfellows. Gov. Pablo Salazar
(the state’s first non-PRI governor in generations) represents the Alliance
for Chiapas, which brings the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution
(PRD) and Workers Party (PT) together with the right-wing National Action
Party (PAN). The PRI, meanwhile, picked up an unlikely coalition partner in
the Mexican Green Ecologist Party (PVEM).

In the prelude to the vote, violence between PRI and Alliance for Chiapas
supporters broke out at several locations around the state. At Ixcamut in
Yajalon municipality, four members of a Chol Maya family were slain with
machetes Sept. 29. Ixcamut lies just outside the Zapatista zone, in a
region long terrorized by a PRI-linked paramilitary, the Chinchulines. (El
Universal, Sept. 30)

That same day, 12 were hurt as a meeting of the Alliance for Chiapas was
attacked by a PRI mob with rocks and sticks in the Tzotzil Maya village of
Chamula. (La Jornada, Sept. 30) Chamula is among the most divided of
Chiapas’ villages, and was the scene of an uprising in August, when PRI
Mayor Juan Gomez was seized from his office and jailed by hundreds of local
residents, who charged him with pocketing the money for "phantom"
construction projects in the village. He was released after two days,
following the mediation of state authorities. (AP, Aug. 10)

Oct. 2, one man was shot in the back and killed in Tapilula village, as PRI
and Alliance for Chiapas supporters again faced off. More violent
confrontations were also reported that day in the state capital, Tuxtla
Gutierrez, apparently without casualties. (AP, Oct. 2)

Conflicts continued on election day. At Saclum, a village in Chenalho
municipality, electoral officials were forcibly held for several hours by a
group of local Tzotzil men. They were released after negotiators from the
state office of indigenous issues arrived at the scene. (Cuarto Poder, Oct.
4) Election-day clashes were also reported in poor neighborhoods in the
highland city of San Cristobal de Las Casas (El Universal, Oct. 4)

When the results came in, they were decidedly mixed. The PRI regained
control of the major cities. PRI-PVEM candidate Juan Sabines Guerrero won
the mayoral race in Tuxtla, previously in hands of the PAN. The PRI’s
Sergio Lobato Garcia won in San Cristobal, which had been in hands of a new
populist Social Alliance Party, with a base of support in the poor barrios.
(La Jornada, Oct. 4)

But the PRI suffered loses in rural areas. It lost its absolute majority in
the state legislature, and the number of municipalities it controlled
statewide dropped from 72 to 52. (La Jornada, Oct. 5)

Citing the Zapatistas’ display of good faith in allowing elections in its
zones of control, the federal congressional body charged with resolving the
Chiapas conflict, the Concord and Pacification Commission (COCOPA), called
for the army to pull back from rebel-loyal communities where it still
maintains a presence. (Proceso, Oct. 7)


Oaxaca saw mayoral races in 152 of its 570 municipalities–the rest reject
party politics in favor of the system of traditional indigenous councils
known as "usos y costumbres" (uses and customs), as permitted under Oaxaca

On the eve of the election, Guadalupe Avila, PRD mayoral candidate in the
village of San Jose Estancia Grande, was assassinated. Her candidacy was
assumed by her husband, Israel Reyes. Local PRD followers blamed the
village’s sitting PRI Mayor Candido Palacios for ordering the murder.

In the remote Zapotec village of San Agustin Loxicha, local human rights
activist Lino Antonio Almaraz was shot dead on the eve of the elections,
causing polling to be indefinitely postponed. He was brother of Donaciana
Antonio Almaraz, president of the local People’s Union Against Repression
and Militarization. Loxicha has been violently divided since 1997, when
several members of the municipal government were arrested on charges of
supporting a local guerilla group, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR).

Estela Martinez, PRD candidate in Zimtlan municipality, was also shot on
the eve of the election, but survived. (EFE, Oct. 2)

The coastal Zapotec town of Juchitan also saw an electoral dispute, with
citizens staging an occupation of the city hall and holding members of the
town council under citizen’s arrest. (El Universal, Oct. 4)

As in Chiapas, the PRI won the state capital, Oaxaca City, but suffered
reversals in rural areas. (EFE, Oct. 4)

(Bill Weinberg)

Compiled by WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 6, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution