Urgent Action
Urgent Action - Chiapas, Mexico

From Global Exchange, San Cristobal de las Casas, 4 January 1998  

Five military camps were visible from the road

The Mexican Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights, Global Exchange, Enlace Civil and CIUSPAZ-EPA carried out an observation mission today in the communities of Acteal and Polho, municipality of Chenalho, and in Oventic, municipality of San Andres, where they established the following:

1. The community of Oventic is semi-deserted. The few remaining families and civil peace campers that remain said that the majority of Oventicís population had evacuated due to the fear of occupation by units of the Federal Army. They also reported that a military aeroplane had flown very low over the community on the 3rd and 4th of January, increasing the fear of its inhabitants. The mission also noted that approximately 30 soldiers from the Federal Army were patrolling paths less than one kilometre from Oventic.

2. The approximately 6,000 refugees that have taken refuge in Polho continue to lack many of their basic necessities. Lack of food, medicines and adequate living space continues to cost lives. This morning a two-month-old baby, Cecilia Jimenez, died of pneumonia. Soldiers and state police maintain the road-block that they set up at the entrance to the community. One kilometre away, in the community of Majomut, a military camp displayed a banner with the words  ìSocial Workî  written on it in big letters. Its installations complete with military hardware, however, stretched for over 200 metres along the road-side.

3. The inhabitants of Acteal, where the 45 indigenous people were massacred, are scared by the constant visits of military personnel and civilians claiming to be from the Attorney Generalís Office. The intruders bring cameras and video equipment into the community without first asking their permission on the pretext that they are carrying out investigations related to the events of 22 December. They also tried to intimidate members of the Civil Peace Camp when they questioned their incursion into the community.

The members of the mission also noted the enormous increase in military presence in Los Altos. As many as five military camps were visible from the road between Chenalho and the community of Acteal, a distance of approximately 25 kilometres. This number excludes the military check-point at the entrance to Polho and the one that has been recently set up at the community of Xoyeb. Army units are in constant movement along the road and on cross country paths, thus increasing tension and the fear of an imminent attack on EZLN communities.

As for Acteal, the mission demands that the Attorney General's Office respect the inhabitants of the community, that its officials identify themselves to its authorities, and that they declare the purpose of their visits. They also demand that they abandon their arrogant and intimidatory attitude when dealing with the community and that they cease to be accompanied by the army. Our interviews with peace campers and members of the community have shown that their frequent visits and incursions into the community have only served to generate an increased level of fear in its inhabitants.

It also urgently calls for the International Red Cross to bring humanitarian assistance to the thousands of displaced people that are suffering from cold and hunger.

Convinced that the heavy military presence that they have witnessed is not helping to bring about an end to the conflict, the mission supports the proposals that have been put forward by well known academics and intellectuals for a peaceful solution. It also calls on the federal government to respect the law on Dialogue and Pacification in Chiapas and to fulfill the San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and Autonomy.

by Global Exchange
member of the SIPAZ Coalition

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Subject: "Mexico Forward" Urgent Action
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