The Migration Offensive

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Posted by rdom on February 20, 1998 at 09:50:11:


Over the past few weeks the overall situation has grown much more tense.
The prevailing atmosphere of tension has been exacerbated by an increased
level of militarization and control. The number of check points and
roadblocks has been steadily creeping upward. This heightened
militarization is accompanied by a new major offensive against the
international community in Chiapas.

Since the massacre in December, the number of troops in Chiapas has grown
to over 73,000 soldiers (CDHFBLC). The military is much more actively
harassing the communities and in recent days began to implement a much
larger number of roadblocks. The roadblocks are almost completely random
We were given the most serious search of my entire stay in Chiapas
recently. The army searched our vehicle and bags and illegally took
photographs of us. Oddly enough, for a search that was supposedly for
weapons they didn't even check the glove compartment. In Chenalho, the
military is frequently accompanied by a small number of local men from the
community who also have cameras. These men have been identified as members
of one of the paramilitary groups in the area. As if it wasn't bad enough
to have the cops and the military armed with cameras now their
paramilitary buddies have them too.

The Migration Offensive

The anti-foreigner rhetoric started flying about a month ago when the
Secretary of Health was asked not to enter into Polho and Acteal by
international observers who were acting on community members'
instructions. This confrontation directly led to the installation of a
permanent migration checkpoint between Polho and Acteal. Laws were
changed to give the migration authorities the right to check on peoples'
migratory status anywhere in the country, legalizing the numerous posts
around Chiapas' conflict zone. The result has been a dramatic increase in
the number of people stopped and given appointments to be interrogated in
the San Cristobal Migration office.
I can think of at least 15 people who have been given citatorios and a
much larger number of people who have been stopped, had their information
written down and/or been photographed. For the next few weeks the
anti-foreigner rhetoric continued to become more and more vehement on the
local radio stations.

On Tuesday the 10th, Maria Darlington, from the USA, was deported from
Mexico. She had been stopped by migration authorities along the road to
La Realidad.

In the past week, the military was given the power to detain foreigners
who, in the eyes of the army, were participating in "suspicious
activities." They can then take the foreign nationals to the nearest
migration checkpoint, or detain them till the migra can show up there. To
my knowledge this has so far only happened once to two people who were in
Pol'ho. While this was going on the Migration authorities announced that
they are investigating 15 people who have been identified as participating
in the internal political affairs of Mexico. They also said that they
have"yet to find any foreigners who are actively training armed groups"
but that they are out there looking for them. The migration police
stepped up the pressure by making spot-checks in the downtown plaza,
asking hotels for their registries, staking out places that are frequented
by lefty foreigners, etc. If people do not have their papers on their
person then they are threatened with expulsion if they don't present
themselves with their documents the following day in the migration

Then on Friday, February 13th, a TV Azteca, accompanied by a man who was
later identified as a Migration officer, paid a surprise visit to the
community of La Realidad, dropping out of the sky in a federally owned
helicopter. The community members were rightfully terrified, since a pair
of army helicopters had been circling over the community for a long period
shortly before the arrival of the TV Azteca crew. The helicopter was
approached by a group of international observers from the peace camp in
the community. The observers, following a procedure now familiar to most
reporters in the zone, took the credentials of the TV reporters to the
community representatives. The observers informed them that landing
without warning or permission in the middle of La Realidad was a very
unwise thing to do, due to the extremely tense political situation. When
all this finally came out on the TV show Hablemos Claro, the story was
very different. Saying that the foreigners were there, leading the EZLN.
That they had seen barely any indigenous people. That they had been
surprised to find so many foreigners telling Mexicans what they can and
cannot do in Mexico.

The TV program has only fanned the flames. At 5:00 am on Sunday morning,
Migration authorities knocked on the door of a house in San Cristobal,
demanding to see a European woman. They were not allowed in, but this
definitely signifies a stepped up level of control and investigation.
Migra has also been seen following groups of foreigners through the
streets and the general climate of tension and distrust has increased

Finally, yesterday evening Robert Schweitzer was deported from Mexico.
Radio and TV reports say that by his own confession, "he was in violation
of his migratory status" due to activities as an independent journalist.
We have yet to receive any other info about this case.

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