South and Meso American Indian Rights Center

Government Military and Police Forces Raid Indigenous Community in Chiapas: 9 Mexican Nationals Remain Imprisoned


In the early morning hours of the 11th of April, 1998 Mexican authorities swept into the community, Taniperlas, of the autonomous municipality, Ricardo Flores Magon. Public Security forces, elements of the National Mexican Army and elements of the Federal Judicial Police raided the same community and illegally detained 9 Mexican nationals and 12 foreigners, according to the Fray Bartolome Center for Human Rights and other sources. At the time of the raid Taniperlas and members of neighboring communities were participating in a two day festival celebrating inauguration of the newly autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon, coinciding on the 10th of April with the anniversary of Zapata's death. At least one foreign woman and two Mexican detainees were reportedly beaten by police during or subsequent to the raid. There was also some destruction of property. The detainees -- including international human rights observers from 5 different countries -- were held illegally in incommunicado for several hours in San Cristobal de las Casas. On the 12th of April the foreign detainees were taken, against their will, to Mexico City for deportation on grounds of unconstitutionally intervening in "domestic affairs". The nine Mexican nationals, among them important community leaders, remain in custody in San Cristobal de las Casas on charges of, among other things, "undermining the "State of Law". As such they are being held as political prisoners.

The National Indigenous Congress issued the following statement subsequent to the raid: "With this act, the bad government ignores and breaches the San Andres Accords, the 169th Convention of the International Labor Organization, and the 4th, 39th, and 115th Articles of our Constitution, violating, and failing to recognize once more, our fundamental right to autonomy and free determination".

Recommended Action

We are urging people to send a strong and clear message to the Zedillo government that such acts of brutality and state terror will not be tolerated. We therefore strongly encourage people to send a copy or version of the following draft letter to President Zedillo and to the Governor of Chiapas, Roberto Albores, denouncing the latest act and calling for government accountability in upholding international and national law, as well as the San Andres Accords drawn up specifically to respect the right of indigenous communities to autonomy.

Sample Letter

Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
President of the Republic of Mexico
Palacio Nacional
Mexico City, Mexico 06067

Fax: (011525) 516-5762/515-4783

Mr. President:

I am writing to you to express my condemnation of the police raid in the community of Taniperlas in the Ocosingo Municipality of the state of Chiapas which occurred on the 11th of April, 1998. The subsequent police beating and illegal detention in incommunicado of 21 civilians constitutes a violation of human rights and of due legal process as set forth in national and international law. Moreover, the raid represents an attempt to undermine the indigenous autonomy movement. In so far as the movement is based on the fundamentally recognized right of indigenous communities to autonomy, the latest act constitutes a breach by the government of the San Andres Accords.

In this light I join with the numerous organizations and institutes in calling upon your government to:

Peace cannot be brought to the Chiapas region until all concerned parties enter into negotiation in good faith. This includes respecting the fundamental right of Indigenous people to autonomy and free determination. The government must hold itself accountable in the role it plays in working towards meaningful and lasting peace in Chiapas.


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