paz libertad on Tue, 14 Mar 2000 17:53:18 +0100 (CET)

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Movement 2000, independent media collective, reports:

-military and paramilitary activity against indigenous
communities increases 

Despite intensified military mobilization and hostility in recent weeks,
thousands of Zapatista women celebrated International Women's Day by
marching into the city of San Cristo'bal de las Casas and taking over a
government radio station in order to broadcast their call for an end to
the militarization of their communities. The women, who traveled from the
Lacandon Jungle, the highlands, the north of Chiapas and the border with
Guatemala, braved long journeys through zones which are heavily patrolled
by military and paramilitary groups in order to participate in the march.
The women marched carrying their young children, as well as banners of
protest with drawings of the military airplanes, tanks, and helicopters
that constantly harass their communities. 

A group of 200 of the marchers peacefully occupied the government radio
station Radio Uno and broadcast for one hour during the march. Maria
Angelica, a tzeltal woman from the Lacandon jungle explained to listeners
throughout the state, "Many of us do not know how to read or write, and
for this reason we come so you all can listen to us. We want you all to
know that we will not get accustomed to the militarization." The
broadcast, conducted in both Spanish and indigenous languages, denounced
military and paramilitary violence against indigenous communities and
called for respect for the rights of women and fulfillment of the Accords
of San Andre's. The Zapatista support bases declared, "The militarization
and paramilitarization of our communities is now one of the principal
causes of the misery, poverty, sickness and the death of many indigenous
people. The military blockade, the daily harassment, by land and by air,
and the persecution of us by the bad government, has been a grave obstacle
for the completion of our daily work, which is the only way we indigenous
people can survive." 

In the last two weeks, as the women prepared to leave their communities to
march, military presence in all three regions of resistance, the jungle,
the highlands, and the north, has increased drastically in number and
intensity. Community authorities have declared extreme alert and have
advised the population to prepare for military attack.  The bold military
advance into the communities in resistance in all the indigenous territory
of the state is marked by an increase in army patrols, checkpoints, troop
mobilization and the reinitiation of paramilitary group activities. As the
military occupies more and more communal lands, they arrive with heavy
machinery to build highways and army bases, thus destroying acres of
forest and jungle and contaminating rivers and lakes.

A representative of the tzotzil highlands warns "the situation is grave.
When there is military movement like there is now, it means that at any
moment something could happen." Airplanes and helicopters have been flying
over the communities so low that they scrape the roofs of the houses. A
teacher reports that in La Realidad, a helicopter hovered so low that is
seemed like it were going to land in the patio of the elementary school.
>From within the helicopter, a soldier videotaped inside the classroom.
Similar actions have occurred in other communities in recent days.  In
Oventic, soldiers shoot into the air in the afternoon and the paramilitary
groups surround the communities in the night.  A community authority
explains, "This means that want to provoke us, threaten us for wanting to
struggle peacefully. What the government wants is an armed confrontation.
We will make sure that there is no response to the government provocation. 
But nor will we accept being humiliated by them, because the cause of our
struggle is fair and true." 

The marchers held a meeting in the public plaza of San Cristo'bal de las
Casas in which they declared, "We have not given up in our protest against
the dirty war of [President] Zedillo and [Governor] Albores. The
government continues to promote, protect and finance paramilitary
groups…with the clear objective of dividing the communities, provoking
confrontation, persecuting Zapatista support bases and assassinating the
leaders of the people. The militarization and the paramilitarization has
promoted and increased the violence, the division, the murder,
prostitution, drug addiction, and alcoholism. All this has gravely damaged
our towns and communities."

The women also called for the liberation of the political prisoners of the
UNAM, echoing the voices of the jailed UNAM students who once marched the
streets of San Cristo'bal with the Zapatistas.  Meanwhile, in Mexico City,
the women of the UNAM declared that they could not celebrate Di'a de la
Mujer when 44 women students are incarcerated for the crime of defending
the university.  Parents of the 180 students still in jail continue to
protest in front of the Rector' s Office, symbolically crucifying
themselves, sustaining a hunger strike and extracting blood to paint the
words "Freedom for Political Prisoners," on the doors of the
administration building. The parents demand that the Rector withdraw
charges against the students, explaining "we are here, peacefully
protesting with the only weapons we have, with all that we have left: our
blood, our sacrifice and our hunger." They are learning the lesson that
the Zapatista woman announced during the pirate broadcast:  "The more they
persecute and jail us, the stronger we become." 

There is a great need for videocameras, cameras, tape recorders, and other
equipment that can be used for human rights documentation in indigenous
communities throughout Mexico. If you or someone you know would like to
donate equipment, please contact


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