EZLN hands over ex-governor Absalón Castellanos in 1994.
By: Isaín Mandujano
The former Chiapas governor, Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, who the Zapatista National Liberation Army put on trial in 1994, died this afternoon at the age of 93.
His grandson with the same name, Absalón Castellanos Rodríguez, announced the death of the general, born in Comitán de Domínguez, in social networks: “May you rest, Grandfather! You are now with God… October 2, 1923 – March 10m 2017 (93 years) A great man in every sense and a proud Mexican, descendent of Belisario Domínguez, Proudly Chiapaneco!”
After graduating from the Heroic Military College in June 1942, the-ex governor served as the commander of the body of cadets of the First Mixed Weapons Support Group of the Corps of Presidential Guards.
He was the director of the Military School of “Mariano Escobedo” Classes, commander of the 18th. Military Zone and the 2nd Infantry Zone, as well as of Military Camp No. 1, and also director of the Heroic Military College, inspector general of the Army and commander of the 31st and 13th Military Zones.
He governed the state of Chiapas (1982-1988) with a heavy hand, which was also distinguished by land invasion and the constant repression of the protests of campesino and indigenous groups.
In response, on January 1, 1994, behind the EZLN’s armed uprising, the masked ones surprised him at his Momón ranch in the municipio of Las Margaritas. A group with the now Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés in command took him prisoner and led him to the heart of the Lacandón Jungle to be tried. 
He was delivered to Bishop Samuel Ruiz García with whom he always had political friction.
After the gestures of peace negotiator Manuel Camacho Solís and then Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, the EZLN’s Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command (CCRI-CG) ordered the retired general’s release.
“For the purpose of favouring the prompt start of the dialogue for peace with dignity that all Mexicans desire and as a signal of our EZLN’s sincere disposition, we communicate to you that on Wednesday, February 16, 1994 division general Absalón Castellanos Domínguez will be set free,” the Zapatistas said at that time.
Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was delivered to Peace and Mediation commissioners Manuel Camacho Solís and Samuel Ruiz García, in Guadalupe Tepeyac, municipio of Las Margaritas. After his liberation, medical personnel from the International Committee of the Red Cross checked his health condition.
The Zapatistas argued that they had decided to set him free “for the purpose of favouring the easing of tension in the conflict zone during the realization of the dialogue for peace with dignity; ”During that delivery, the EZLN announced the general was a “prisoner of war,” accused of different crimes against the indigenous population of Chiapas and a “popular trial” for what happened.
Castellanos Domínguez was accused of edging the indigenous population of Chiapas towards rising up in arms against injustices because he closed off every legal and peaceful path for their just demands during the time in which he was governor of Chiapas.
“Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was found guilty of, in complicity with the federal government during the time of his state mandate, having obliged indigenous Chiapanecos to rise up in arms by closing off every possibility to them of a peaceful solution to their problems. Patrocinio González Blanco Garrido and Elmar Setzer Marseille, who succeeded him as governors of Chiapas and who continued edging our peoples towards this path, with the complicity of the respective federal governments, are accomplices of division general Absalón Castellanos Domínguez in the commission of this crime,” the Zapatistas pointed out.
Before, during and after the time in which he discharged his duties as governor of Chiapas, he was accused of repressing, kidnapping, incarcerating and torturing, and raping and murdering members of the Chiapas indigenous populations who fought legally and peacefully for their just rights.
He was also accused of dispossessing indigenous Chiapas campesinos of their lands, in complicity with the federal government, “and in this way having become one of the most powerful landholders in the state of Chiapas,” the Zapatista Justice Tribunal emphasized at that time.
After deliberating and analyzing all the accusations against the ex governor and his guilt having been demonstrated, his verdict was issued and his sentence decided:
“Division General Absalón Castellanos Domínguez was condemned to life sentence doing manual labour in an indigenous community of Chiapas and in this way earning the bread and means necessary for his subsistence.”
Afterwards it resolved: “As a message to the people of Mexico and to the peoples and governments of the world, the Zapatista Justice Tribunal of the EZLN commutes the life sentence of division general Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, it sets him physically free and, instead, condemns him to living the rest of his days with the sentence and shame of having received forgiveness and kindness from those who he humiliated, kidnapped, dispossessed, robbed and murdered for so long.”
The Zapatista Justice Tribunal turned that resolution over to the EZLN’s Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command, so that they would take the necessary and pertinent measures for the fulfilment of the resolution.
At the same time, it recommended that the federal government should propose the exchange of division general Absalón Castellanos Domínguez for all the Zapatista combatants and civilians that federal troops unjustly took as prisoners during the 12 days that the fighting lasted in 1994.
It was also suggested exchanging the military man for food supplies and other means that would alleviate the grave situation of the civilian population in the territories under control of the EZLN.
After his release, the general lived for 23 years on a ranch near Tuxtla Gutiérrez. He never accepted talking to the media and journalists to give his version of that trial.
 In 2001, when the Zapatistas arrived in Mexico City at the end of the March of the Colour of the Earth, journalists noticed Comandante Tacho wearing a Cartier watch, and speculated that it was the watch the former governor said was taken from him while he was held as a prisoner of war. The Zapatistas have never commented about this!
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Friday, March 10, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committe