Posted by rdom on December 02, 1997 at 13:21:19:
"The War which Does not Spell Out its Name"
by the Zapatista Network
Nothing of what is currently happening in Chiapas in relation to the
military or to politics is the product of chance. There is a war there,
and no activity is more planned than war. The formation of the
autonomous municipalities by the EZLN, the expansion of the paramilitary
action in Chenalho and the attempt of "Paz y Justicia" ("Peace and
Justice") upon the life of the bishops of the diocese of San Cristobal de
las Casas, are far from being spontaneous acts. They are part of the
combatants strategy, the expression of a new phase in the war being
waged in the region.
The outlines of that new phase began to be delineated a year ago, in
December, 1996, when the Federal Government canceled, at least
temporarily, political negotiations as a means to solve the conflict.
Its refusal to accept the constitutional reforms initiative drawn up by
the COCOPA, "justified" by the mask of the objections on judicial
grounds, was aimed as much at leaving the EZLN outside of the July 1977
electoral juncture as at avoiding the implementation of the San Andres
This decision was based upon the assumption that the Zapatistas were
socially isolated and militarily contained, and that the Federal
elections would remove them from the limelight of national politics.
>From their logic, the army's presence, and the assistance programs were
sufficient to stop the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. But it
did not take into consideration the rebels capacity to fill the regional
spaces, advance in the organization of de facto autonomous areas, grow
into new regions, encourage the formation of new political subjects in
the National arena like the Indigenous National Congress (CNI), and
strengthen its international links.
The march of the one thousand 111 Zapatistas to Mexico City last
September made obvious the existence of a new phase in the Chiapanecan
war. It showed the growth of the Zapatista army, its constitution-in
spite of the army's presence-into an autonomous power in various regions
of the state, the permanence of a significant wave of opinion favorable
to its cause, and the government's incapacity to solve the conflict in
the frame of the new electoral context born after July 6. It made
obvious the rupture in the balance of forces which existed until
The government's response to this expansion has been to generalize the
"para-militarization" of the war.
The paramilitary groups which operate in the state of Chiapas are
different from the white guards and the death squads. The white guards
are groups of gunmen working for the landowners; they answer to them.
The death squads are clandestine groups which operate mainly in urban
settings, threatening and attacking popular activists and human rights
advocates, they are usually united under "anticommunist" ideologies and
made up of members of the public forces.
The paramilitary groups, on the other hand, are a network of small
irregular armies which can count on leadership cadres made up of
Indians, poor farmers and teachers recruited in the communities which
have benefited from the clientele networks of the traditional PRI,
trained and financed through a kind of joint venture by the public
security forces and the local power groups, whose main objective is to
try to stop the expansion of the independent organization.
Its emergency, beyond endogenous factors, comes from a strategic
decision from those in power. In contrast with the army and the police
forces, the paramilitary do not have to render any accounts to anyone,
they escape all public scrutiny. They may act with complete impunity
and, even, present themselves as "victims."
They are the instrument to wage a war that the army may not wage
directly, to try and stop the expansion of the insurgency. It is not by
chance that they have emerged in key regions of the Chiapanecan
'Paz y Justicia"'s theatre of operations, in the lowlands of Tila, is
looking to put a check onto the natural corridor of Zapatista expansion
The action of the Chinchulines in Bachajon tried to establish a wall of
contention in the southern front of the North Zone. And, now, the group
"Primera Fuerza" ("First Force") in Chenalho, aspires to break one of
the "vertebrae" of the Zapatista autonomic expansion in the Highlands
Other paramilitary groups have already appeared in the state of Chiapas,
several others will appear in the coming months. They are the new phase
of an old war. They are the other face of a war we do not dare to call
by its name.
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