Counterinsurgency in Chiapas

Counterinsurgency in Chiapas

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By Onesimo Hidalgo

The federal and state governments have begun a diagnosis of the community conflicts where the Zapatista support bases are involved, with the aim of limiting "the activism of the EZLN" and avoiding acts of violence as in December 1997. Starting from the diagnosis, both governments carry out counterinsurgency.

Documents that have been leaked to some non-governmental organizations reveal that the federal and state governments of Chiapas have developed a counterinsurgency strategy. A document held by CIEPAC at no time mentions the word counterinsurgency, but that is what it is about. The document does not have a cover or signatories, but there are other characteristics that seem official.

The proposal in the document is an entire counterinsurgency process in Chiapas, coordinated and operated by various federal and state entities. It also coincides with a series of events that are currently taking place in various communities in the EZLN's area of ​​presence and that are being denounced by the autonomous municipalities. Said document makes us suppose that the federal government, headed by Vicente Fox, has definitely ruled out any possibility of resuming the dialogue with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). Together with the government of the state of Chiapas and its various institutions, they have chosen to develop such a strategy that delegitimizes, discredits, destroys the bases of support and attrition to the EZLN. The logic is for Zapatismo to rot and die by itself, not listening to it, provoking it, resuming some of its demands and giving part of that support to non-Zapatista communities.

The federal and state governments have begun a diagnosis of the community conflicts where the Zapatista support bases are involved, with the aim of limiting "the activism of the EZLN" and avoiding acts of violence as in December 1997. Starting from the diagnosis, both Governments carry out counterinsurgency, under four main lines of action:

1.- Political Side

With this aspect, the government seeks to dismantle and delegitimize the complaints of the Zapatista communities regarding the community conflicts that arise in the EZLN's area of ​​influence and intends to remove itself from all responsibility, arguing intra-community conflicts.

In this regard, the state government led by Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia has contributed, together with CISEN and other federal intelligence agencies, to prepare a diagnosis of the various community conflicts, to be clear about the obstacles faced by the plans and government programs and thus be able to implement various actions coordinated with the three levels of government (federal, state and municipal). The government seeks that these measures have the endorsement of various sectors and with that support to constantly pressure the EZLN to an unconditional dialogue. In reality, the government does not have nor has it shown a real willingness to dialogue and has been reluctant to comply with the conditions set forth by the EZLN, especially the one that refers to compliance with the San Andrés Accords on Indigenous Rights and Culture.

This political aspect is operated by the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA), the Secretary of the Interior (SEGOB) and the Chiapas Group (made up of the Commissioner for Peace in Chiapas, SEGOB, Secretary of Foreign Relations -SRE-). These entities, together with the National Security Research Center (CISEN) and with the support of the local government, have prepared a diagnosis of community conflicts. On the other hand, the different government ministries have presented the progress of their programs and the obstacles they have had for their implementation in those places where Zapatista support bases have been involved. To expedite their actions, they have formed working subgroups that in social matters are coordinated by the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Social Development, Secretary of Public Education, Secretary of Health and Assistance, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources, Agrarian Reform, Secretary of Communications and Transportation, Secretary of Finance and Public Credit, Office of the Commissioner for Peace and State Government. In the field of social communication, the SEGOB, SRE, the Presidency of the Republic, the Office of the Commissioner and the State Government are coordinated. In the legal and security field, the Army, the Attorney General's Office, the Secretary of Public Security, SEGOB, SEMAR and the State Government are coordinated.

The three levels of government have formed the Chiapas Coordination Group on security matters and the Environmental Agrarian Table for the Montes Azules Case. Said group is coordinated by the state government to match the state's work with those of the federal government. The state government functions as a liaison with the municipal authorities in those municipalities where the EZLN is present, to verify the development of activities and the planning of future activities. The activities that are the responsibility of the federal government and that have problems to be carried out, are sent to the Chiapas Group at the federal level to determine what is conducive and what the state is responsible for.

On the other hand, SEGOB, the State Government and the Commissioner's Office headed by Luis H. Álvarez hold constant meetings with the Business Coordinating Council, Labor Congress, with the media (television, radio and newspapers not related to the EZLN ), with the Permanent Agrarian Congress and with the Parliamentary Fractions of the PAN and PRI, of the Congress of the Union; the state government with key members of the national and state PRD, to get support in their actions.

The Commissioner for Peace in Chiapas makes a series of visits to Chiapas and especially to the Zapatista area, reiterating to the press a constant call for dialogue with the EZLN, without the government really having a desire for dialogue, it simply spreads a speech to appear to be open and put the EZLN as the reluctant to dialogue. When a dialogue is to agree, sign and comply, in this case the government does not comply.
The Secretary of Foreign Relations, Santiago Creel, meets with foreign diplomats accredited in Mexico, to carry out information campaigns on what the federal government does in social matters and the apparent search for a solution to the problems, seeking to delegitimize the demands of the EZLN and counteracting its reason for being.

2.- Social Side

With this aspect, the government seeks that its programs and projects have permanence and continuity in communities and with organizations that request it, but even more, they seek that the Zapatista communities confront each other, offering them support and projects. The government also seeks to strengthen its relations and legitimize itself in communities in the zone of Zapatista influence. This through programs such as Procampo, Oportunidades, Procede, Coescafe, delivery of chickens, pigs, tree planting, productive projects, opening of gaps and dirt roads, etc. In these projects, he seeks that there are no "diversions" of resources to guarantee their legitimacy and not to give arguments for complaints to the Zapatista communities. The government provides support to the communities, making them sign non-aggression pacts, in support of the government and at the same time, the government forces the communities to fulfill their promised support.

This branch is operated mainly by the Government of the State of Chiapas, SAGARPA, SEMARNAT, SEDESOL, SEP, Secretary of Economy and SSA. These are coordinated with the Chiapas Group in the installation of four tables to attend to Agrarian-Environmental problems, productive projects, communications and transportation and social care. The agreement with the federal government was that no later than October 4 of last year these tables should be fully integrated and they have been. These tables have tried to develop in communities where the government assures that there is not a strong Zapatista presence, but only sympathy towards the EZLN. These would be San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Huitiupan, Simojovel, Salto de Agua, Tumbala, Sitala, Chenalho, Pantelho, Chanal, San Andres Larrainzar, Santiago El Pinar and Aldama. These are the municipalities where the counterinsurgency programs and projects of the federal and state governments are put to the test. Depending on the reactions of the Zapatista sympathizers, they intend to develop a second phase of counterinsurgency with greater Zapatista presence and control in the municipalities of Altamirano, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Palenque, El Bosque, Chilon, Yajalon and Tila. There where the government assures that the EZLN pressures its bases and its nearby communities not to receive support from the government.

Both governments assure that in the case of Las Margaritas where Aguascalientes I is located, they have been able to identify the places where communities of Zapatista influence can penetrate, such as: El Carmen Villaflores, La Esperanza, Poza Rica, Rizo de Oro, San José del Río and even Guadalupe Tepeyac.
Both governments set the deadline for November last year to hold a series of meetings with various social organizations in Chiapas, to analyze the government diagnosis and the action plans to follow, to build alternatives and get social support. .

To operationalize the delivery of official social programs and projects, the government is seeking coverage with the media to denounce and demonstrate "the EZLN's harassment tactics." At the same time, it suggests that federal government projects should be applied simultaneously and in parallel to have good coordination; with the aim of "organizing the beneficiary population so that they become a counterweight to the radical activism of the EZLN's rank and file."

In order to reach the communities, the government develops "caravans" of official institutions that carry materials and personnel for the start of works. They are accompanied by journalists who can give evidence and testimony of "possible harassment of the Zapatistas." If the "Caravans" cannot arrive because of the opposition of the EZLN, the first step is to disseminate what happened to the press, and in a second moment to ensure that the caravans become "Convoys" accompanied by the Federal Preventive Police, the Police of Public Security (which is the same as the Sector Police) and the Municipal Police of each municipal seat. For the government, the "Caravans" have the advantages of widely disseminating the EZLN's harassment, it emphasizes that the government's objective is social development, it avoids the dispersion of public policies; the EZLN support bases are weakened; in addition to removing the flag of denunciation from those organizations and organizations related to the EZLN.

In the event that the delivery of the projects and programs are obstructed by the EZLN, the beneficiary communities may resort to the support of the state or federal government to request the presence of the security forces. The Attorney General's Offices must then initiate the pertinent inquiries in the event of attacks on persons or damage to property and infrastructure.

To avoid the delegitimization of government projects, time has been set for compliance with the programs, verification, monitoring and evaluation of them; If there are problems in their application, they must be corrected in the Local Committees, then in the Local Subgroup and later in the Central Subgroup.

If this model of counterinsurgency works, it can be pushed to be applied to other regions, after a diagnosis of the regions in question, even the possibility of developing it in other entities of the country is valued.

3.- Social Communication Side

In this regard, the government reiterates that the EZLN is not an army, but rather a social organization that seeks to satisfy its legitimate demands and that it must be emphasized before the national and international media.

4.- Legal and Security Side

The government seeks with this aspect "to restore the rule of law" in the EZLN's zone of influence and "to avoid community conflicts." Impart justice to prevent the communities themselves from taking justice into their own hands. Remove the EZLN checkpoints in the cañadas region and stop the "illegal" actions carried out by the "so-called" autonomous municipalities. Control the presence of foreigners in the zones of Zapatista influence and suspend immigration permits for people who carry out activities not specified in their immigration form. And, reduce crime levels, in order to advance in the restoration of the rule of law and community reconciliation. Avoid acts of vandalism that generate impunity and rejection of the authorities. Deactivate groups of armed civilians to remove arguments from NGOs about the existence of "paramilitary groups."

In the development of this aspect, instances such as the State Attorney General's Office, Public Security (today Sector Police) and the Attorney General's Office of the Republic (PGR) are involved.

The instances involved in this strategy plan to initiate a series of preliminary inquiries against the Zapatista support bases in those regions where conflicts arise. To better ensure, the government is considering the strengthening of the Municipal Public Safety Councils, to reduce crime.

The government is also considering the withdrawal of the Zapatista checkpoints established in some parts of its territory under control. To this end, it is proposed that the Bases of Mixed Operations, Public Security, the State Attorney's Office, the Interior Ministry, the PGR and the Secretary of National Defense, design operations to remove the Zapatista checkpoints that are located at highway crossings and prevent free transit, dissuasive patrols are also programmed on federal and state highways, to inhibit new facilities of Zapatista control. All this is proposed to be carried out with the accompaniment of Public Ministries of the common and federal jurisdiction, of organizations such as the CND, ECHR and the media to prevent NGOs and the armed group from misrepresenting government action. At the same time, the government considers the roadblocks carried out by women, children and the elderly to be a provocation, and considers that to deactivate them, it is necessary to carry out an assessment of the blockages.

Reinforce the presence of the sectoral and municipal police in the municipal capitals, when there is knowledge of a radical cut, they will carry out mobilizations, and in case of illegal acts against the city council or private property, initiate the corresponding preliminary investigations and disseminate the facts before public opinion.

The government says it is considering the deactivation of groups of armed civilians, using the PGR, the Secretary of the Interior (CISEN), the Attorney General's Office, Public Security and the PFP; to accelerate the lines of investigation on arms trafficking in the border area with Guatemala and its possible links with members of the EZLN. These institutions are also entrusted with promoting the completion of delayed arrest warrants, and promoting a disarmament campaign and the application of the Federal Law on Firearms and Explosives.

The government immediately plans to expedite the investigations and the initiation of preliminary investigations into criminal acts of the group "Los Aguilar", which maintains a presence in Chilon and was involved in the murder of an EZLN sympathizer in Reforma Canaquil. Likewise, the federal government supports actions of the state government to improve the equipment and professionalize the police forces.

The Facts of the Counterinsurgency and its Effects

As I said at the beginning, what coincides with what was raised in the development of the counterinsurgency and the events we see in the current confrontations that have been taking place in various places in the zone of Zapatista presence, for example, there is the conflict in Santa Rosalía ( Comitan), San Gregorio, Frontera Mexiquito and La Tejonera. Since last year, various confrontations have arisen between militants of the PRI, OCEZ and EZLN support bases over the construction of a highway, something that has not ended to this day. All these communities are within the jurisdiction of the Autonomous Municipality "Miguel Hidalgo". Although the municipal presidency of Comitan is governed by a member of the PRD, he has already requested the presence of the police forces to intervene in the area and demands the departure of foreigners who are inside the Civil Peace Camps.

In other places there are similar conflicts such as in the Autonomous Municipalities of "Olga Isabel", "Primero de Enero", "Ernesto Che Guevara", "November 17", "La Paz", "San Andrés Sachamchen de los Pobres", " Vicente Guerrero ", in all of them there are conflicts for the construction of highway sections.

Likewise, the construction of the paved highway that goes from the municipal seat of Las Margaritas to San Quintín and passes through La Realidad is progressing very quickly, which we assume will bring serious conflicts as it enters Zapatista territory.

Parallel to the schools of the Autonomous Municipalities, the federal and state governments build primary and secondary schools, as is the case in Bayalemo and the municipal seat of San Andrés.

At the same time, the eviction of the Montes Azules communities and the military patrols in the Chimalapas are located in this logic of counterinsurgency. The intention is to provoke clashes between the Lancandones and the Zapatista support bases, and the government and the army intend to establish themselves as the peacekeepers, when they are the true ones responsible for what happens there. Nor do they present a viable alternative and given their illegitimacy, the government intends to use non-governmental organizations as their mediators, which is erroneous and absurd. Until when will the government continue to grant permits to the logging companies to destroy the forests of Chiapas, located in the Altamirano, Comitán, Cintalapa, Palenque, Teopisca, etc. sawmills? When will it give a just and dignified solution to the indigenous people of the Montes Azules?

With this counterinsurgency logic, the number of militant prisoners from the Zapatista support bases has increased, in the prisons of Ocosingo, Cerro Hueco and San Cristobal, the most recent case is that of an indigenous person from the Constitutional Municipality of Tenejapa, but who belongs to the Rebel municipality of "Lucio Cabañas", who is accused of dispossession of land. But it is a political problem, where the Constitutional municipal presidency is involved.

On the other hand, the paramilitaries have reappeared destroying the water storage tank in the Rebel Municipality of "Olga Isabel", located within the constitutional territories of Chilon. The paramilitaries of Paz y Justicia have begun to harass Lote Ocho communities in Salto de Agua with weapons. There is also the resurgence of the group "Los Puñales", now known as "Los Cholos" in the territories of the Rebel Municipality of "Miguel Hidalgo". If that were not enough, in Chenalho the PRI members and evangelicals from the Canolal community last week began to intimidate the members of Las Abejas with firearms. Las Abejas denounced that on April 2, the PRI and evangelical paramilitaries of Yaxgemel acquired a batch of weapons, and that same day at night they fired shots with firearms.

To this must be added the increase in militarization, with greater checkpoints, harassment, overflights, and harassment of indigenous communities; But this phenomenon has also spread to the center of the state, to the extent that from Tuxtla Gutiérrez to Tapachula, one has to go through five permanent checkpoints of the Mexican army and the Federal Preventive Police (La Jornada 05/27/2003)

Added to all of this are the five visits to Chiapas by the Federal Government Commissioner for Dialogue Luis H. Álvarez, who has spread speeches on government programs and called on the EZLN to dialogue; When in reality he speaks alone, without anyone listening, because the federal government has not listened to the EZLN and the indigenous peoples, until when will the government have the political will to solve the demands of the indigenous peoples?

Nobody, nor any community would oppose the construction of highway projects, schools, productive projects, etc., if these had been part of the fulfillment of the San Andrés Agreements, the Welfare and Development Board, Women and that of Democracy and Justice, where the government, the EZLN, and civil society, would have continued with the dialogue that would bring democracy, dignity, justice and peace for all. As has been the case, today it is about the war of cheap coups from the government to try to defeat the enemy, an indigenous who has dignity, is poor, is a rebel, and also many of them are Zapatistas.


* Onesimo Hidalgo
May 29, 2003

Video: A Conversation on Counterinsurgency as a Strategy with George Friedman and Robert D. Kaplan (May 2022).