NAFTA versus LIFE: U.S. Complicity with Mexico in Waging a Final Solution (Genocidal War) to the Indigenous “Problem”

July 1, 1997

Extracted from a report of the War Veterans Delegation to Southern Mexico
April 7-April 24, 1997, Finding U.S. Involvement Supporting the Repression in Southern Mexico

Prepared by S. Brian Willson, Delegation Member,
Judge Advocate of Bill Motto VFW Post 5888, Santa Cruz, CA

NOTE: The Bill Motto VFW Post 5888 adopted this
delegation report at its July 2, 1997 meeting.


"TNCs will now have the power to force national governments to defend corporate interests whenever such interests are in conflict with those of the people whose interest the governments have been elected to protect."

— Edward Goldsmith, 1996

"The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and security policy."

— Chase Bank memo, January 13, 1995




On January 1, 1997, the Bill Motto VFW Post 5888, Santa Cruz, California, alarmed about the increased U.S. involvement in the militarization and repression of Mexico’s poor and Indigenous, adopted a resolution calling for an end to all U.S. military and security assistance to Mexico. The resolution also supports genuine democratization and self-determination for all people of Mexico.

The Post is concerned about another Vietnam in the making, or, in the alternative, insidious intervention through U.S. support of "low-intensity" warfare / counter-insurgency operations. The Post sent a delegation comprised of four Vietnam veterans and one World War II veteran to the southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Oaxaca, from April 7 to April 24, 1997. The delegation members: Sean Daly, Vietnam Veteran, Colville, WA; Ruben Gomez, Vietnam Veteran, Santa Cruz, CA; John Isherwood, WWII Veteran, Santa Cruz, CA; Barry Riesch, Vietnam Veteran, St. Paul, MN; and S. Brian Willson, Vietnam Veteran, Santa Cruz, CA and Wendell, MA.

Traveling by automobile once arriving in southern Mexico, the delegation covered 1,750 ground miles, observing dozens of communities, various military and police units, in both lowlands and highland areas, in cleared as well as jungle regions, in rural and village locations. Twenty-three extensive interviews were conducted with Indigenous leaders, unarmed as well as armed, members of Indigenous communities, church and human rights workers, and teachers, in twenty locations.

A 45-minute video, War Veterans Report: U.S. Military Involvement Supporting Repression in Southern Mexico (April 1997), is available for $25.00 (postage included) from LB Johnson, P.O. Box 757, Aptos, CA 95001.

Also, The Slippery Slope: U.S. Military Moves into Mexico (updated 1998) by S. Brian Willson, is available on this website (see below).


Each of the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Oaxaca present different dynamics of Indigenous struggle. In Chiapas, the Zapatistas initially emerged in 1994 as an armed force, but have subsequently been striving to participate in a series of peace talks with the Mexican government since February 1994, maintaining a precarious cease fire. The Indigenous lands and culture are increasingly in jeopardy to the pressures of large landowners and resource exploiters. Tabasco is the scene of tenacious nonviolent organizing by the Indigenous and poor against the pollution of ejido community agricultural lands by the extensive and expanding PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos, the national petroleum monopoly) oil fields and facilities. Though this movement is separate from the Zapatistas, these people continue to seek negotiations with state and federal officials and agencies to assure an end to the pollution and reimbursement for the destruction of the arable land. Oaxaca is a state with many Indigenous desperately holding onto their land and communities in the face of increasing pressures from wealthy landowners and natural resource interests, a threat facing the Indigenous and poor throughout Mexico. The situation has intensified due to emergence of a new armed insurgent group, the EPR (Ejercito Popular Revolutionario/Popular Revolutionary Army), which is consciously not in negotiation with the government.

What is common to all three states, and perhaps to many of the people in other Mexican states as well, is what appears to be a systematic campaign of violent repression and terror via a "low-intensity" warfare. This policy is being applied to virtually any group of poor and Indigenous who are organizing to express demands for secure land, basic justice, and genuine democratization. More profoundly, the Indigenous demand an end to the historical discrimination and repression against them. This repression is exacted almost invariably against those critical of the PRI government.

Furthermore, this policy is being applied against nonviolent as well as armed groups. It is being applied against those who are negotiating as well as those who refuse to negotiate. It does not seem to matter. In effect, there is a systematic campaign to intimidate, bribe, terrorize, destroy and kill those people who seek some independence and autonomy from the increased pressures on resources driven by the neoliberal economics (NAFTA) that demand virtually everything be subject to the profits of the "free" market. Everything is for sale to the highest bidder. Holdouts are not acceptable.

From viewing various photographs, examining detailed Mexican news accounts, receiving elaborate descriptions from testimony, and personal observations on the roads and in the villages, it is obvious that the vast majority of equipment used by the Mexican military and the various security forces of police and paramilitary units, is made and supplied by the United States. One could argue that the only thing Mexican about the Mexican army and security forces is the soldier/policeman himself. Even most of the boots, uniforms, web gear, and helmets are from the U.S. military inventory. The army and police are operating in Chiapas, Tabasco, and Oaxaca in a manner consistent with counterinsurgency and low-intensity warfare philosophy against the Indigenous and poor rather than in a campaign to eradicate drug growing and trafficking. This philosophy is almost certainly being heavily influenced by U.S. military strategy being taught and conveyed to Mexico as part of a systematic effort to contain and/or eliminate any threats to neoliberal economics created by serious insurgency. The drug war is simply a pretext for escalating U.S. military and intelligence involvement in an attempt to assure Mexico’s success in thwarting any insurgent threat to Mexico’s future as a full-fledged participant in neoliberal economics.

Thus one can argue that Mexico has concluded, with the United States functioning as a full partner, that it has a serious Indigenous and poverty "problem" that requires a quick and terminal solution. A movement of people advocating genuine local power (democracy) and regional autonomy negate the basic tenets of neoliberalism and NAFTA. Security for the wealthy classes and foreign investment is threatened by genuine democracy and regional autonomy. A citizen’s movement that promotes an alternative way of life and local economics serves as an example to other marginalized groups elsewhere. And so, Mexico and the U.S. reason, such movements must be repressed and eliminated. Whatever interferes with the neoliberal, free market, open trade policies is simply not allowed. And whatever interferes with this economics in Mexico, by extension affects the economics in the United Stat



People and Organizations Visited

We met with representatives of CONPAZ (Coordinating Agency of Non-governmental Organizations for Peace), CONAI (National Mediation Commission composed of Mexican academics and intellectuals, presided over by Bishop Samuel Ruiz), the Fray Bartolome Center for Human Rights. Indigenous groups in Ocosingo, SIPAZ (Servicio International Para La Paz/International Service For Peace), the Catholic church in the northern region (Chilon), and Zapatista army commandantes in the mountains and officers in the jungle. We attended a large demonstration of 15,000 Indigenous in the community of Tila in the northern region protesting the widespread and violent activities of paramilitary groups in the area. We visited an Indigenous community recently violently evicted by 500 police with trucks and helicopters from their remote village 60 kilometers southeast of Palenque. After hearing their stories in a village where they were temporarily housed as refugees, we traveled the 10 kilometers to their destroyed nearby community to photograph the destruction. Within a short time we were surrounded by 30 blue uniformed state police with guns drawn. This surprisingly rapid response of the police to our presence at this remote site required a 20-minute diplomatic conversation prior to our being able to leave the site in our Suburban vehicle. The police followed us for a number of kilometers in their 3 pickup trucks as we headed back to Palenque. The police continued toward Palenque as we were stopped at a military checkpoint and the contents of our bags searched by soldiers prior to our being able to continue our journey back to Palenque.

We attempted to meet with Mexican General Renan Castillo, at his office in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas state. Castillo is in charge of the Mexican armed forces in Chiapas. Even though we had a meeting with him confirmed both by phone and fax messages, and were affirmingly greeted upon our arrival, after waiting 50 minutes we were informed by an aide to Castillo that the General was not present nor were we on his schedule. Hm!?!?


One of the most telling reflections we heard was articulated by a Zapatista commandante. Describing the intense escalation of militarization and repression of their Indigenous communities with presence of ever more army camps, convoys and patrols, activities of various levels of police force, and from paramilitary groups operating with absolute impunity, this commandante reiterated that the Indigenous would not surrender. Further, he stressed, they were facing a policy of the Mexican government steadily leading to the "annihilation" of their population and culture. Clearly everyone we talked to was describing a noticeably dramatic increase of militarization and repression throughout most of Chiapas, especially since the peace talks broke down at the end of 1996. This includes stepped up day-and-night low-level aerial surveillance with both fixed-wing aircraft as well as helicopters.

An attack against Zapatista supporters in the community of San Pedro Nixtalucum in the municipality of El Bosque in the central/northern mountainous area on March 14-15, 1997, included the use of a state police and two Mexican army helicopters, believed to be U.S. supplied Vietnam-style Hueys. Four unarmed Indigenous were killed, many others were wounded, 27 Indigenous were arrested and imprisoned, and 300 local residents were forced into refugee status after their homes were destroyed by the police and army forces. We interviewed one of the men wounded in that attack recovering in a clandestine medical clinic who described the rain of bullets coming from both the low-flying helicopters above and from police and army units on the ground.

Our various interviews, examination of local newspaper accounts, and road observations of military and police units disclosed that the vast majority of all the Mexican police and military equipment is U.S. made and supplied, from the boots and uniforms, web gear and helmets, M-16s, M-60s and Hotchkiss machine guns, to the armored personnel carriers, Hummer jeeps, troop transport trucks, and the helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. In fact, it increasingly appears that the only aspect of the Mexican army that remains Mexican is the soldier himself.

More insidious is the apparent deep U.S. ideological influence in Mexican counterinsurgency strategy and the use of "low-intensity" warfare. Representatives from the church, from CONPAZ, from the Fray Bartolome Center, and the Indigenous all openly discuss the systematic campaign to terrorize and wear down the Indigenous resistance to the PRI authoritarian government and the neoliberal NAFTA economics. The increased use of the BOM (Base de Operaciones Mixtas / Combined Base of Operations) where various police units and the army respond in increasingly coordinated fashion to Indigenous demonstrations or resistance has become more self evident. The increased operations of paramilitary groups, especially the large Paz Y Justicia group in northern areas, in coordination with various police units and the army, has produced more repression with no accountability whatsoever. And it seems that the Mexican army has significantly aided in the formation of Paz Y Justicia, and has regularly trained and armed this rural terrorist force of 500 to 1,000 mostly Indigenous PRI supporters. Observers among the church and human rights groups have established these direct connections between the army and Paz Y Justicia. Furthermore, as we sat in the waiting area in Tuxtla Gutierrez waiting for our expected but ill-fated meeting with General Castillo, we noticed two wall posters promoting the Paz Y Justicia group.

The Fray Bartolome Center has learned that General Castillo, a man who comes from a wealthy and religious family in the Yucatan, is a specialist in psychological war and counterinsurgency operations.

Low-intensity warfare strategies involve sectors beyond the army and police. It was reported to us that personnel from different civilian social service and educational agencies are being utilized to gather information about activities and discussions of Indigenous in various communities and report to police units and army forces. Divisions seem to be increasingly provoked by outsiders and "spies" within Indigenous groups with no efforts by any local or state government resources to facilitate resolutions short of violent altercations. And of course the government is always willing to offer educational, food, health and other services to those Indigenous who agree to affiliate with the PRI.

We asked about the presence of U.S. civilian or military personnel in the region. We received accounts of U.S. military witnessed in the border area with Guatemala where Guatemalan and Mexican troops apparently are coordinating efforts to block crossings. Certainly a number of the Indigenous believe that they have occasionally seen personnel who appear to be from the United States. And a European who has lived in San Cristobal for a number of years had conversations with two U.S. officials in early 1994 whose job it was to train Mexican officers. This source identified his two acquaintances as Ross Rogers and Rod Propps who had been dispatched by the U.S. Embassy.

One factor that drives this repression is the elevated expectation encouraged by NAFTA that the large landowners can upscale their agribusiness operations and corresponding profits. However, this expectation requires acquisition of more land and a suppression of ancient or Constitutionally promised land claims being pursued by the Indigenous. These strong economic motives encouraged by the PRI government preempt any other values such as preservation of Indigenous cultures and local economics.

Gonzalo Ituarte, technical secretary of CONAI, and the Diocese Vicar for Peace and Justice, a long-time participant in efforts to honor the needs of the Indigenous and poor, feels that the attitude of the Mex
ican government makes peace talks fruitless. The support given the Zedillo government by the U.S. government, especially since NAFTA became law, gives an underlying confidence to the PRI government which contributes to increased repression with impunity, according to Ituarte. In effect, Ituarte believes that the United States is virtually in charge of Mexican political and economic policy. This is a gloomy forecast. When combined with the declaration of a Zapatista military officer that they, the Indigenous, absolutely prefer to risk death fighting with dignity rather than to die from increased likelihood of starvation and disease, the prospects for a just and peaceful future seem bleak indeed.

Regarding the allegations of Zapatista involvement with drug trafficking, there are occasional reports of Indigenous being coerced into growing marijuana by Mexican army and police officers. Though this provides a pretext for military operations into these Indigenous areas, there is a uniform position of the Indigenous opposed to any participation with drug or alcohol production, sale, or use.

An experienced church official wondered how the Mexican government was able to finance the increased costs of the militarization. More convoys with more vehicles, more aircraft more often, etc., costs money. There is a suspicion that the Mexican army and the various police forces are financing their operations from the drug trade. With all the corruption that has been identified in the Mexican drug-fighting bureaucracy, including the participation of military officers, it is not much of a stretch to believe that drugs are financing the repression. Fighting drugs is the political pretext for genocide.



People and Organizations Visited

We met with a number of people and organizations, the itinerary coordinated by liberation theologian and nonviolent strategist Rafael Landerreche, a leader of SERPAJ (Service for Peace and Justice). We met with the human rights committee of Tabasco at length. We visited the Barrenderos (street sweepers), the lowest of the low in Mexican society who have chosen to undergo several lengthy and life-threatening hunger strikes in order to achieve some respect and a better wage. Many have been imprisoned for their organizing. We spoke at Popular University in the city of Cardenas to a crowd of 150 students and were impressed with the extent and nature of their questions and comments. We visited people in the communities of Comalcalco, Tecolutilla, and Guatacalca to hear about the damage to their agricultural lands and products from pollution caused by PEMEX operations. At Lazaro Cardenas ejido, comprised of 15,000 acres, we inspected the elaborate PEMEX facilities with the corresponding pollution that have made the majority of the land no longer arable. Conversations with the PEMEX plant manager about pollution and land use policy not surprisingly clashed dramatically with perspectives of the Indigenous ejido owners. We attempted to inspect the only oil port in Tabasco at Dos Bocas. Though the sign at the entrance to the port promised "bienvenidos" (welcome), we were immediately stopped by a private security guard with both army soldiers and state police looking on. The guard told us there was no way we could get closer to the water where we could observe oil tankers loading oil.

We met with an Indigenous leader, the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in Tabasco, who only one week earlier was released from prison where he had been held for 9 months for organizing activities. Finally we met with PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democratica / Democratic Revolutionary Party) national Senator Auldaricio Hernandez Geronimo, one of the leading Indigenous politicians in Mexico opposing PRI policies. He meets with Tabasco Indigenous leaders on a regular basis coordinating organizing efforts against the continued crimes of PEMEX committed against Indigenous ejido agricultural lands. It is worthy noting that membership in PRD continues to be dangerous in a PRI dominated politics. Many PRD leaders have been assassinated over the past few years.


The Indigenous and poor of Tabasco continue to organize consciously using nonviolence as their primary method. Nonetheless, numerous of them are beaten, jailed, and repressed during their numerous protests of PEMEX operations that are polluting their lands. There is the continuing issue of election fraud that seems connected to protecting PEMEX from any accountability for their damaging policies. It was here that BOM was formulated in 1995 as part of Mexico’s national security "low-intensity" warfare strategy used increasingly to control disgruntled populations within the Mexican society. BOM is a coordination of various police and army forces to respond to domestic protests: First there is a state police ring, then a federal police ring, then the Mexican army, with utilization of tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps, and helicopters, these operations coordinated by an army officer. In one case we were told that 1,000 police and army personnel were brought in against 80 unarmed protesters at a PEMEX blockade action. Senator Hernandez described how army units are creating a wedge in front of the rapidly invading companies and their equipment to assure that resources can be assuredly exploited, whether for more oil facilities, for the planting of Eucalyptus trees for commercial paper pulp, or other enterprises.

Virtually all of Tabasco is comprised of communally owned ejido land, farmed by Indigenous. Thus all the PEMEX oil facilities are on ejido land, generally without the consent of the ejido owners. In Mexico all subsurface resources are considered national resources confusing the legality of the "leases" and an accountability method for dealing with pollution of surface water, soils, and air. The United States has always been interested in preserving sanctity of Mexico’s oil resources. In 1914, the U.S. Marines were dispatched to southern Mexico to protect U.S. oil interests during the Mexican revolution. The U.S. imports 70% of Mexico’s crude oil.

The Mexican national human rights commission has publicly reported that PEMEX consistently violates the human rights of the Indigenous of Tabasco. In addition to pollution and disruption of agricultural production, there are apparently increasing reports of elevated incidences of several kinds of cancer and respiratory diseases.

As in Chiapas, the campaign of hard-line repression has escalated after the U.S. bailout in January 1995 and army invasion of the Zapatista areas in February 1995. The police presence has dramatically increased, as have surveillance aircraft. A new Mexican law against organized crime (drug trafficking, for example) gives the army more authority to participate in conventional law enforcement operations. Distinction between police and military has now become much more blurred. The drug war continues to be touted by state government officials as a pretext for the increased militarization even though the Indigenous here are focused in their organizing against PEMEX and the repression is in response to this organizing rather than drug trafficking.

Concern was expressed about an impending new Transisthmus railroad planned as a replacement for much of the Panama Canal traffic, the route going from Coatzacoalcos in neighboring Veracruz to Salina Cruz in Oaxaca. Concern was also expressed about the increasing numbers of transnational corporations involved in southern Mexico’s resource extraction, including those who will amost assuredly be backing the new transisthmus railroad.

Though the Indigenous remain steadfast in their commitment to nonviolent organizing, as the repression increases we heard doubts being raised as to how long this philosophy could prevail. It seems peaceful channels are being closed by an ever more repressive counterinsurgency response. We observed video footage of the February 2, 1996 demonstration of hundreds of residents of the Indigenous village of Guat
acalca, protesting PEMEX destruction of their agricultural lands, including their coconut and cacao crops. The BOM response was violent and graphic, beating women and children as well as men in their effort to keep the access to the PEMEX facilities clear for the workers and equipment. Helicopters were hovering overhead, believed to be U.S. supplied Hueys. National PRD leader Manuel Lopez Obrador was part of the community resistance as the PEMEX protest.

One final comment worth noting. Senator Hernandez reminded us that the Mexican military is comprised of mostly poor, many Indigenous, who have no formal education whatsoever, and who, once in the army, are not allowed to read or watch movies except what is explicitly authorized. Thus the army mentality is increasingly brainwashed.



People and Organizations Visited

Our original schedule in Oaxaca was radically changed due to the political conditions/climate present there. We had in-depth meetings with the General Coordinator of the Oaxaca Teacher’s Commission for Human Rights. The majority of the teachers here are Indigenous who are part of a long activist history of being concerned about social justice matters as an important component of progressive education. We also met Indigenous leaders of two large Indigenous organizations representing a large area of northern, central and southern Oaxaca. We had an extensive meeting with the lawyers of record for 57 EPR suspects imprisoned from the community of Loxicha.

There was advance negative publicity of our veterans’ delegation impending arrival in Oaxaca, including several radio and newspaper accounts condemning our presence in the country. This included a comment from the Governor of Oaxaca that we were not welcome there. Furthermore, three groups of internationalists had just been ordered out of Mexico for participating in human rights monitoring. We were warned that we would be intercepted at our first scheduled meeting and ordered out of Mexico by Immigration. We had to decide whether to face that prospect, and perhaps challenge it, or whether to change our schedule and location of meetings so as to be assured we could collect testimony more quietly. Another factor that became apparent was the heightened fear from the escalated levels of repression, the increased military roadblocks, the violent activities of paramilitary forces operating with total impunity, and the large numbers of police sweeps into Indigenous communities. This has created an atmosphere where danger is much more readily perceived, curtailing travels and public appearances. We were told that one of our planned visits to a beleaguered community was considered possibly dangerous for us, but even more dangerous for the community, especially after we departed the community making them vulnerable to persecution for having received our delegation.

We found ourselves mindfully not talking in public places of our mission, or our politics, or our plans. We were conscious of the prospects of being followed.



The emergence of the new insurgent group, the EPR, has intensified repression in Oaxaca for virtually all the Indigenous there. Oaxaca is the Mexican state with the highest percentage of Indigenous population in all Mexico, having well over 50%. Many people in Oaxaca have been involved in a peace and justice movement, broadly defined, for many years. The majority of them are Indigenous, and many are college and university educated. Virtually every person who is identified in some way as an activist or spokesperson for political and social change in Oaxaca, we were told, is under surveillance around the clock. We experienced this atmosphere of repression in our efforts to meet with various Indigenous leaders. Many of our meetings did not occur, and we were never able to discover just what interfered with the planned meetings, even as we changed dates and times to offer more security for such gatherings.

We gathered over 75 written testimonies from Indigenous leaders as well as campesinos, and from communities and organizations, about the frequency and nature of repression. This includes arbitrary arrests on a daily basis, disappearances, various kinds of physical and psychological torture of the most brutal kinds, beatings, imprisonment, and assassination. Lawyers who represent suspects on the "left" are also subject to torture and persecution. In one case the lawyers we interviewed were captured, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs, taken to a detention room in another city, and tortured for 24 hours, and then accused of having committed homicides.

The Mexican Secretary of Defense has identified 72 high-risk areas in Oaxaca alone as security zones requiring extra militarization. These are areas, we were told, where there are groups not in agreement with the policies of the PRI government. The army is involved in a number of social programs attempting to win approval for the PRI in these areas. The Defense Commission of the Mexican Congress (headed by a Senator who is also a General) has issued a report that the EZLN and the EPR are linked to drug trafficking which explains how these groups have been able to acquire "sophisticated" weapons. We were not made aware that these groups have sophisticated weapons. They are rarely seen, and when they have appeared have only possessed conventional small arms. We received a number of reports of the presence of FBI agents involved in the training of police in interrogation (torture) techniques to extract confessions. Several torture victims now in prison have sworn testimony identifying two men believed to be FBI agents who participated directly in the torture sessions. The Mexican government has not denied the involvement of FBI agents in the training of police units. Lawyers told us that presence of FBI agents violated Mexican law. The increased presence of military convoys, police-led evictions of Indigenous from their lands, the use of helicopters on a regular basis in terrorizing villagers, and the increased use of military roadblocks all reveal the obvious intensification of the militarization process. We were told that a new elite force has been created by the state department of justice, trained by Spanish, French, and U.S. (FBI) officials. Lawyers believe that this elite force is being developed at the national level as well. There is an increased blurring of distinction between state and federal police jurisdiction.

Indigenous are increasingly not willing to walk or ride on the roads for fear of being arrested, searched and detained, and imprisoned. We received several reports of Indigenous leaders being kidnapped and forcibly taken in helicopters where torture sessions occurred. The suspects were threatened with being thrown out of the choppers unless they signed confessions of involvement with insurgent groups or identified other community members as participants with insurgent organizing. These helicopters are almost certainly U.S. made and supplied. As in the other states, most of the equipment used by the police and the army are from the U.S.

Hearing accounts of army and police sweeps into entire villages is chilling. The convergence of hundreds of uniformed police and army on foot and vehicles, with helicopters hovering overhead, terrorizes all the residents. Normally the people are rounded up in a cleared area where the men are usually beaten if they don’t immediately confess to some activity perceived as threatening to the PRI government. We heard accounts of sweeps and evictions occurring in many Indigenous communities in northern, central, and southern Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is also a resource rich area. Gold, silver, manganese, timber, and land are being sought by various landowners, mining companies, and other transnational corporations. The transisthmus railroad, destined to travel through Oaxaca, will require acquisition of thousands of acres of Indigenous land. As with the rest of Mexico, NAFTA driven economics makes all resources, includi
ng land, at the mercy of the "free" market, and any interferences to accessing those resources must be eliminated.

Paramilitary forces are also active in Oaxaca. On March 21, 1997, a group of 80 men dressed in dark clothing with faces covered with ski masks attacked 40 Mexican nationalists setting up a protective peace camp in San Agustin, Loxicha. All 40 were injured, 5 seriously requiring hospitalization, including bullet wounds. One professor was kidnapped. Police and army units stood by allowing the attack to occur. Thus the complicity and cooperation with all security forces continues to wage repression with complete impunity.


Appendix: Chronology of Events in Mexico, 1992-1997

Note that while there is rhetoric that discusses a peace process, there is a corresponding reality of steadily increasing repression and control coinciding with development of the new economy.


1992 Mexican President Salinas amends Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, legalizing the private sale of communal ejido lands in preparation for the increased export crops envisioned by NAFTA.
Jan. 1, 1994 NAFTA becomes operative. The Zapatista uprising begins.
Jan. 12, 1994-
Feb. 9, 1995
Tentative cease fire between the EZLN (Zapatistas) and the Mexican government; sporadic efforts at negotiations.
Spring 1994 Mexico admitted to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 25-member club of industrialized nations, bringing applause from the World Bank and the IMF for Mexico’s economic program.
June 16, 1994 The government appointed negotiator with the Zapatistas resigns, accusing PRI’s new Presidential candidate Ernesto Zedillo of sabotaging negotiations with the EZLN.
Dec. 1, 1994 Zedillo takes office as the new President of Mexico.
Dec. 19, 1994 Thirty-eight municipalities of Chiapas are temporarily occupied by the EZLN.
Dec. 1994-
Jan. 1995
Collapse of the Mexican peso, creating historic economic crisis and threatening Mexico’s new economic aspirations to be a serious neoliberal participant.
Jan. 13, 1995 Chase Bank memo leaked to the public: "The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and security policy." Note: The Chase Bank has a long history of investments in Latin America, and allegedly laundered money for members of the Salinas family.
Jan. 1995 The Mexican army begins training and arming a new paramilitary group, Paz Y Justicia / Peace and Justice, in northern Chiapas, comprised of as many as 1,000 PRI-affiliated Indigenous.
Jan. 29, 1995 U.S. President Clinton orchestrates a $50 billion bailout of the depressed Mexican economy over the objections of the U.S. Congress.
Feb. 9, 1995 Mexican army launches a full-scale invasion of the Zapatista communities in the Lacandon jungle and has occupied the territory ever since with ever increasing numbers of military camps, patrols and convoys.
March 1995 Mexico government launches a new counterinsurgency program called BOM (Base Operaciones Mixtas / Combined Base of Operations), coordinating army with a variety of different police and security forces in response to the various Indigenous communities which are organizing themselves in southern Mexico.
March 1995 First military actions of the newly formed paramilitary group, Paz Y Justicia, in northern Chiapas.
March 11, 1995 Mexican Congress approves and President Zedillo signs the Law for Dialogue, Reconciliation and a Just Peace in Chiapas, calling for reinitiation of peace talks and a suspension of military operations against the EZLN. A legislative commission, the Commission on Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) will facilitate the new dialogue.
April 20, 1995 EZLN and Mexican government meet for the first time at the site for the peace talks in San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas.
June 1995 Edward Krobacker, International Paper CEO, wrote Zedillo government about "high political risk" in Chiapas unless there is a "more secure legal framework" for International Paper’s investment. (SOURCE: Ron Nigh, Dana Assoc., Mexico;
Oct. 18-22, 1995 First phase of formal talks are conducted between the EZLN and the Mexican government with regards to the first of six themes, Indigenous Rights and Culture.
Oct. 23, 1995 U.S. Defense Secretary, William Perry, visits the Mexican military high command in Mexico City. Perry is quoted as saying: "When it comes to stability and security our destinies are inextricably linked."
By the end of 1995 Widespread expulsions of Indigenous from their northern Chiapas communities provoked by paramilitary group, Paz Y Justicia.
Feb. 16, 1996 EZLN and Mexican government sign first set of Peace Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture, 40 pages of national reforms and Constitutional changes to be implemented. The safeguarding of communal forms of production from transnational agribusiness is a critical part of EZLN autonomy proposals.
March 21, 1996 EZLN and Mexican government begin formal talks at San Andres Larrainzar on the second theme of Democracy and Justice.
April 23, 1996 Mexico’s Defense Chief, General Enrique Cervantes Aquirre, visits U.S. Defense Secretary in Washington, D.C., to sign a major military agreement that includes transfers of military helicopters, armored personnel carriers, surveillance aircraft, increased U.S. military training of Mexican military, etc.
May-June 1996 Mexican army initiates coordinated military operations with paramilitary group Paz Y Justicia in northern Chiapas.
June 28, 1996 Emergence of a new armed insurgent group, the EPR, in seven southern Mexican states.
Aug. 29, 1996 EZLN suspends its participation in peace talks with the Mexican government citing, among other reasons, the following: the government negotiating team is not seriously participating in the talks, the need for creation of a commission to begin implementing the Feb.
16, 1996 signed Accords
on Indigenous Rights and Culture, an end to the increased militarization and repression being waged against the Indigenous communities in Chiapas, and the disarming of paramilitary groups operating in Chiapas.
Sept. 9, 1996 U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, James Jones, offers Mexico "whatever they need" to combat "terrorists."
Nov. 7, 1996 The Commission of Follow-up and Verification (COSEVE), responsible for overseeing the implementation of the San Andres Peace Accords, opens its office in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Nov. 1996-
Dramatic increases in police, army, paramilitary repression, using BOM, helicopters, stepped-up daily patrols, convoys and low-altitude serial surveillance, use of torture, disappearances, assassinations, and general intimidation.
Nov. 29, 1996 COCOPA presents final version for legal and Constitutional reforms necessary to implement the Feb. 16, 1996 signed Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture to the EZLN. The EZLN, with some reservations, accepts this version.
Dec. 7, 1996 COCOPA presents final version to President Zedillo. Zedillo asks for 15 days to consider the language.
Between Dec. 7 &
Dec. 19, 1996
President Zedillo flies to New York (not Washington) to meet with Henry Kissinger and other financial/business representatives. (SOURCE: Ron Nigh, Dana Assoc., Mexico;
Dec. 19, 1996 President Zedillo counterproposes a version that in effect rejects the COCOPA implementation plan of the signed Accords.
Jan. 11, 1997 The EZLN rejects President Zedillo’s counterproposal as totally unacceptable.
Jan. 1997 Mexican Environmental Minister, Julia Carabias, announces a large World Bank loan for "forestry," i.e., commercial plantations of mostly fast-growing eucalyptus trees on 1.75 million acres in Chiapas, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Campache, to produce paper pulp. (SOURCE: John Ross, journalist; Ron Nigh, Dana Assoc., Mexico.)
Feb. 15, 1997 A delegation of twelve human rights observers is attacked by two paramilitary groups in northern Chiapas, threatened with guns and machetes, one of the observers wounded with a gunshot, and others with the machetes as official police units stand by watching.
March 14-15, 1997 Unarmed Zapatista supporters are attacked in San Pedro Nixtalucum, municipality of El Bosque in central-northern Chiapas, including the use of 2 army helicopters and 1 police helicopter, all believed to be U.S. made and supplied, with the result that 4 were killed, many others wounded, 27 arrested and imprisoned, and 300 residents forced into refugee status. State and federal judicial police and army troops were involved.
March 21, 1997 Forty Mexican nationalists setting up a peace camp in San Agustin, Loxicha, Oaxaca, are attacked by 80 darkly clothed paramilitary wearing ski masks and bandannas, carrying rifles, machetes, rocks, and billy clubs. All 40 are injured, 5 with serious wounds requiring hospitalization. Elements of various police units and the Mexican army do not respond from their nearby location.
April 1, 1997 Morningstar, Inc., the Chicago mutual fund tracking company, reports that Momentum mutual funds (those with rapidly accelerating earnings and stock prices) experienced severe losses for the first quarter of 1997, except for Latin American funds which boomed, attributed primarily to the economies of Brazil and Mexico, both of which have stabilized their currencies and renegotiated their debt repayments. (SOURCE: "Latin Funds Hot But Others Not in First Quarter," San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 1997.)
April 19, 1997 A spokesperson for Mexico’s Commerce Secretary reports results of a study concerning advances in democracy and human rights in Mexico which the European Union applauds on the eve of a free trade agreement between Mexico and the EU. (SOURCE: "Trade Talks," The News, Mexico City, April 20, 1997.)
April 19, 1997 The Farmers Association for Northern Chiapas reports the beginning of a recovery in production levels, but to secure continued recovery, the Association declared it is necessary to improve safety levels for the farming families, roads and the countryside, and this involves "improving the standards of policing in the area as well." (SOUCE: "Farming Recovery," The News, April 20, 1997.)
April 19, 1997 Income from Mexican flower exports has grown by more than 100% in 3 years, according to Mexico’s Foreign Trade Bank (Bancomext), with 90% sold to the U.S., proving Mexico’s large potential for the export of fresh flowers. (SOURCE: "Flower Exports," The News, April 20, 1997.)
April 27, 1997 The New York Times reported in a news story that the Clinton Administration is quietly debating proposals to impose economic sanctions on U.S. assets of Mexico’s drug traffickers, but that the U.S. Treasury Department strongly opposes the idea, warning that sanctions might "undermine investor confidence in the Mexican economy." (SOURCE: "U.S. Weighs Freezing Assets of Traffickers," New York Times story published in Santa Cruz County Sentinel, April 27, 1997.)
April 30, 1997 Human Rights Watch Americas issued their latest survey of human rights conditions in rural Mexico, reporting their findings based on investigations of dozens of incidents in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Sinaloa. The report concludes that armed local supporters of the ruling PRI government, sometimes assisted by the police, have waged low-intensity war against PRI opponents across much of the Mexican countryside using violence to retain or win political or economic power, and doing so with impunity.
May 5-6, 1997 U.S. President Clinton visits Mexico, completing 10 agreements relating to fighting drugs, controlling immigration, and supporting environmental protection. There is no public mention of the severe human rights situation, of the fact that the Mexican government has reneged on the Peace Accords it signed, or of the need to resume a peace process.


Commentary to Chronology

Note especially that the chronology reveals two tracks occurring at the same time, only one of which is enforced and taken seriously by the state and federal governments. The peace track is given only lip service by the governments, though taken very seriously by the Indigenous and poor. The track of increased militarization and repression serves the function required by NAFTA and neoliberal economics for "security." Regional autonomy and local self-determination (democracy) are absolutely a threat to the needs of an
obsessive free market and the unfettered profitability that is neoliberalism’s only value. The January 13, 1995 Chase Bank memo that calls for the elimination of the Zapatistas articulates the honest policy of both Mexico and the United States in their partnership to seek expanding investor confidence without threats of "instability" that occur when justice and democracy become genuinely valued. By a preponderance of the cumulative evidence, the authoritarian Mexican government with the full cooperation and encouragement of the U.S. government, is carrying out a clear policy of genocide/elimination of Indigenous peoples, not unlike Hitler’s "final solution" to the Jewish "problem."

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