In another sign that the administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox is seeking to capitalize on the Zapatista rebels' new political direction to finally resolve the ongoing Chiapas headache, his government announced yesterday that it will release some 800 indigenous prisoners, finding that they were either innocent or had been manipulated into committing a federal crime, the daily El Universal reports July 7.
The recent "red alert" and new political declaration by the rebel Zapatista army brought the impoverished and harshly divided southern Mexican state of Chiapas briefly into the news. Then, just as quickly, it disappeared. In the flurry of coverage, Chris Kraul of the LA Times July 2 gloated that many peasants are leaving the Zapatista zones, "to escape the rebels' puritanical ideology, communal land policy, militarism and prohibition of government services." He claimed peasants' children receive no education or healthcare in the rebel zones because of the bar on government aid, apparently ignorant of the fact that the Zapatistas run their own schools and clinics with aid from NGOs. Kraul quotes Pablo Romo of Chiapas' Fray Bartolome Center for Human Rights: "Since 2002 there has been a huge increase of people from Chiapas who have left for the United States. There is a tension created by unfulfilled promises." But Kraul nearly explicitly blames the rebels for these unfulfilled promises, rather than the government which has failed to follow through on its committment to peace accords—a perspective Romo would certainly disagree with.
When Alejandro Dominguez was sworn in as police chief of violence-torn Nuevo Laredo June 8, reporters asked him if he was afraid of dying. "I believe the corrupt officials are the ones who are scared," replied Dominguez, 52, former head of Nuevo Laredo's Chamber of Commerce and a veteran of the federal Attorney General's office. "The only people I work for are the public." Six hours later, Dominguez lay dead, felled by a fusillade of bullets as he left his office in the center of town. He was the seventh--and most senior--police officer killed since January in this city of 500,000 people across the border from Laredo, TX.
A dozen men armed with assault rifles killed two children of a man who belongs to a peasant ecologist group in Mexico's Pacific coast state of Guerrero May 19, and soldiers arrested three members of the same group on weapons charges the following day. The shooting attack, which also wounded the boys' father, Alberto Peñaloza, and two older sons, occurred in the Sierra Petatlan, the scene of a decade-long struggle between loggers and campesinos. Peñaloza is a founder of the local Organization of Campesino Ecologists, which has blockaded logging trucks on the mountain roads.
The Independent Task Force on the Future of North America, a New York-based body coordinated by the Council on Foreign Relations, has released a detailed set of proposals that build on the recommendations adopted by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mexican President Vicente Fox, and U.S. President Bush at their March trilateral summit in Waco, TX. The recommendations concern how to pursue and strengthen the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which was adopted at that summit, to coordinate border security and anti-terrorist cooperation among the three NAFTA members.
This year's North American winner of the Goldman Prize, awarded annually to the most courageous environmental activists on five contients, is Isidro Baldenegro of Chihuahua, Mexico, a Tarahumara Indian who has long defended the forests of the Sierra Tarahumara against the chain-saws of the timber mafia. As reported in WW4 Report 90, Baldenegro was imprisoned in 2003 on trumped-up terrorism charges, and released following an international campaign.
On Feb. 5, the eve of Guerrero gubernatorial elections, suspected guerillas of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) attacked police posts in Acapulco, leaving four dead, including a 15-year-old boy who was making a call at a payphone. (AP, Feb. 5) In the election, former Acapulco Mayor Zeferino Torreblanca of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was elected governor, ending the long-entrenched rule of the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Guerrero. (AP, Feb. 8)
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