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Paras Attack Zapatistas in Zinacantan; Maya Muslim Movement Splits; "Rebel Governor" Avendano Dead at 65

The Red Cross announced in early April that it is closing down its operations in southern Mexico's conflicted state of Chiapas, established over the past ten years to deal with a local refugee crisis. The organization cited pressing needs in Iraq, Colombia and other global hotspots. (La Jornada, April 8)

But within days of the announcement, a new outburst of violence in the Chiapas highlands demonstrated all too clearly the persisting crisis in the state.


On April 10, anniversary of the 1919 slaying of Emiliano Zapata, some 3,000 members and supporters of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) marched on the Tzoztil Maya town of Zinacantan, arriving in a caravan from their base in the nearby village of Oventic. Many wearing ski masks but carrying no firearms, the procession was delivering tanks full of potable water as a solidarity gesture to small pro-Zapatista hamlets in Zinacantan municipality which have been denied access to water services by corrupt local political bosses. As the marchers were returning to their vehicles after a rally and ceremony at the pro-Zapatista hamlet of Jechvo, they found their way barred by some 150 anti-Zapatista militants from the neighboring hamlet of Paste, many of them armed. After 40 minutes, some of the Zapatista marchers began to remove the rocks that had been strewn across the road and attempt to pass. At this, the anti-Zapatista forces began hurling rocks and M-80 firecrackers, and some opened fire. Up to 30 Zapatista supporters were wounded--two seriously, who were taken to the hospital in nearby San Cristobal de Las Casas. Early reports that two were shot dead appear not to have been accurate.

Wintesses reported that at least two Zinacantan municipal police officers accompanied the anti-Zapatista militants and did nothing to interfere as the violence broke out. The anti-Zapatistas were said to be adherents of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which has in the past frequently been in alliance with the EZLN. The PRD currently holds power in Zinacantan and, as leader of an electoral alliance, in Chiapas state. (La Jornada, April 11; Chiapas IMC, April 12)

Following the violence, at least 125 families--a total of some 700 people--fled their homes in Zinacantan's pro-Zapatista hamlets, taking refuge at camps in San Cristobal. They were first reported to have begun returning to their hamlets ten days later. (Milenio, April 21)

Most paramilitary groups in Chiapas are tied to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a long-entrenched machine which only lost its monopoly on power in Chiapas and Mexico in 2000. Last year, Zinacantan saw violence between local PRI and PRD militants. The new violence loans credence to those who argue the PRD is coming to resemble its longtime rival.

See also WW3 REPORT #77


A self-described "moderate" faction has broken from the Mission for Dawa in Mexico, an Islamic group which has won a following among Maya Indians in the poor barrios of San Cristobal de Las Casas. Led by Tzotzil Maya Muslim convert Juan Gomez Gomez--who now goes by the name of Yahya--the dissidents accuse Mission leaders of "deviating" from traditional Islamic teachings in favor of a "radical" ideology. Gomez said the Mission, led by a the Spaniard Aureliano Perez Orihuela, had "abandoned the true word of God."

Gomez also accused the Mission of exploiting Indian converts. He said one who left the movement had worked five years in a bakery run by the Mission but was never paid. Gomez charged that Mission leaders "do not practice what it says in the Koran." He said the Mission was not violent, but that there are "other Muslims who are more radical." It was not clear if he meant within Chiapas.

Gomez's wife Rahma (Josefina Jimenez Hernandez) and their two children are part of a group of 30 Muslims who live in the San Cristobal community of Molino de los Arcos and have now broken from the Mission for Dawa.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) recently issued an alert warning of the threat of imminent violence due to intolerance towards the Muslim movement by the region's Catholic political establishment. Gomez, a former evangelical convert who was evicted from the nearby village of Chamula by local political bosses in 1974, said his community seeks to avoid violence. "Here the people respect us, and we also respect those who are of different religions," he said. "We are at peace." (Proceso, April 11)

The Mission for Dawa in Mexico claims some 300 followers in San Cristobal. First arriving in Chiapas in 1997, the Mission is said to be linked to the Murabitun Worldwide Movement, a Morocco-based sect led by Abd al-Qadir al-Sufi. WW3 REPORT intelligence indicates Abd al-Qadir al-Sufi is a former British anarchist who wrote under the name Ian Dallas in the 1960s.

(Murabitun Worldwide Movement)

(Mission for Dawa in Mexico)

See " Islamic Sect Targets Chiapas Indians" by Bill Weinberg, from Native Americas journal, Summer 2003, reprinted on the WorldWide Religious News website

See also WW3 REPORT #42


Crusading newspaper editor and former "rebel governor" Amado Avendano, who documented years of struggle in Chiapas before finally becoming a political player himself, died in San Cristobal de Las Casas at the age of 65 on April 29, 72 hours after suffering a brain hemorrhage. An EZLN communique the next day stated: "With the death of Don Amado, Mexico has lost a conscientious fighter, Chiapas has lost one of its best sons, the Indian peoples a brother, and the Zapatistas a companero." (Proceso, EZLN communique, April 30)

Avendano's small San Cristobal newspaper El Tiempo was the first in Mexico to run communiques from the EZLN in the January 1994 uprising. In that year's election, he ran for state governor with the PRD. In between campaign stops in July, his car was hit head-on in a mysterious crash which killed two of his cousins and his campaign manager, leaving Avendano himself in a coma. Although wearing a patch over one wounded eye, he recovered in time to continue the campaign. When his victory was stolen by alleged fraud, the Zapatistas proclaimed for him and he became "rebel governor" of Chiapas--civilian leader of a parallel government whose armed force was the EZLN. He remained in this position until 2000, when new elections brought current governor Pablo Salazar and a PRD-led coalition to power. After that, he led the Chiapas branch of the Zapatista National Liberation Front, or FZLN, conceived as a civil political counterpart to the EZLN. His widow Concepcion Villafuerte pledges to carry on his work.

(Bill Weinberg)


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, June 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.