Paramilitary Attack on Zapatistas in Bolón Ajaw
As we reported in our January 2010 Chiapas/Zapatista News Summary, 57 residents of Agua Azul ejido, belonging to the PRI (political party) and suspected of belonging to the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (Opddic, its initials in Spansh), entered Bolón Ajaw Zapatista community on January 21, smoking marijuana and displaying guns. The “Opddicas,” as they are referred to by the Zapatistas, constructed 3 cabins on Bolón Ajaw’s recuperated land.
There is a long-standing history of violence and provocation by the PRI members from Agua Azul ejido in this region. The conflict is about controlling the land. While the PRI members have no legal right to Bolón Ajaw’s land, the Mexican Army and the state government allow them to use any means they see fit to try to take the land away from the Zapatistas. What makes this land so desirable is the spectacular turquoise waterfall located on Bolón Ajaw’s land, located adjacent to the internationally famous tourist attraction, the Agua Azul Cascades (shown above). The PRI members know there is a lot of money to be made from tourism and want to expand their control of the tourist area into Bolón Ajaw. That coincides with the state and federal governments plans for a mega-tourism corridor between Agua Azul and the Palenque Ruins, a majestic Maya archaeological site. As the governments’ plans for developing the region have become known, entry fees collected from tourists have been the cause of numerous clashes between PRI members and Zapatista supporters in the region of the Agua Azul Cascades. The government has promised the PRI members a cut of the profits if they displace the Zapatistas who do not want to make the land part of a tourist project, but want to preserve the natural setting, including the virgin waterfall.
On February 6, armed conflict erupted in and around Bolón Ajaw. According to the government, the end result was 1 PRI member dead from a gunshot wound, some 20+ PRI members injured, many from gunshot wounds, and 7 PRI members detained by the Zapatistas. As if on cue, the PRI members went running to the Attorney General of Chiapas claiming that the Zapatistas mounted an armed attack on them. The Attorney General found it convenient to believe the PRI members and issued press statements accusing the Zapatistas and demanding immediate release of those “kidnapped” (detained).
The Zapatista Good Government Junta in the Caracol of Morelia issued a long state-ment describing and denouncing the incident. The Junta first reminded us that after the January incident in Bolon Ajaw it warned that the Zapatistas would defend the land and its riches. It went on to state that it was the armed Opddic members from Agua Azul ejido who ambushed unarmed Zapatistas and, therefore, it was the armed PRI members who shot wildly and killed one of their own members. 3 Zapatistas were injured by bullets, one gravely. The Junta reported that all those detained were released.
The Junta made a proposal as a basis for dialogue between the parties. The government, however, is insisting that the dialogue be held at the Government Palace in the capital city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez and that Governor Juan Sabines be present to preside over the dialogue. Moreover, the government insists on the presence of a Zapatista from Bolón Ajaw. And, what worries everyone is that government officials are insinuating that if the Zapatistas do not go to the Government Palace, the Army will enter to resolve the problem militarily. The implications of this are ominous.
A truce between the federal Army and the Zapatista Army has existed ever since the 1995 passage of the law promoting peace and dialogue in Chiapas. This has kept both the federal Army and the Zapatista Army from using their weapons. If that law and the truce were deemed broken, the Mexican Army could enter into Zapatista communities to detain people, destroy autonomous institutions (government headquarters, schools, clinics, economic projects) and occupy the communities. Because the state government set such ridiculous conditions for dialogue, the Morelia Junta believes that this is what President Felipe Calderón wants to happen.
The Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) acted as a “communications bridge” between the government and the Junta, delivering messages back and forth. Frayba issued a statement saying that dialogue was not possible now due to the intense military presence in the zone around Agua Azul and the conditions set by the government. As of February 16, a “large number” of intelligence agents are reportedly operating in the Agua Azul region, some in plain clothes; military helicopters are flying low over the communities; and security forces are stationed in the area, patrolling constantly.
Chiapas Support Committee
P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609
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