Contact: Cecilia Rodriguez, U.S. Representative of the Zapatistas
The possibility of open combat in southeastern Mexico grows more ominous. President Zedillo recently rejected the agreements on indigenous rights and culture, which his negotiators signed with the Zapatista rebels last February in Chiapas. His refusal to accept the proposal of the Congressional negotiating commission, which had been accepted by the Zapatistas, has dealt a death blow to the peace process. President Zedillo appears to be preparing to go to war at the behest of U.S. financial and military interests.
Zedillo's recent visit with US financial, corporate and media leaders, and the Mexican government's early pay-off of the $25 billion loan from the US, appear to be part of a strategy to insulate financial investments from any fall out caused by a possible surgical strike against the Zapatistas. The Zedillo government also has been warned by economic advisors that a new peso devaluation will be necessary. Therefore a military strike against the Zapatistas would serve as a diversionary explanation for a possible financial upheaval.
Zedillo's strategy of portraying the country as financially stable masks widespread social unrest and growing political repression. His predecessor and mentor, ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari who is now in exile because of his corruption, used similar tactics to deceive the US public about Mexico's stability during the debate and vote on NAFTA.
To help maintain the facade, Zedillo has militarized Mexico, using millions of dollars in armaments, training, intelligence and equipment provided by the United States through agreements made with former Secretary of Defense William Perry and under the guise of combating drug trafficking. The army has established checkpoints, replaced police with military staff, and conducted patrols, fly-overs and military maneuvers in indigenous communities.
This US involvement in Mexico's military has been de facto condoned and encouraged because as Perry said during a visit to Mexico last year, the US wants to make the military the "third tie" that binds the two countries together-along with the political and economic union established through NAFTA. It is clear that the Zedillo government can not carry out its military plans against the indigenous Zapatista community base without its access to the US aid, thus making the US an accomplice to any Mexican government action against the indigenous communities or the civil society.
Part of this complicity has been documented in a 1996 Government Accounting Office report on the use of US-supplied helicopters in the armed conflict against the Zapatistas in 1994. Additional news reports this week highlighted finding US made supplies in camps established for Mexican troops training in ambush manuevers in the Chiapas jungle.
As a result there is growing apprehension that US military equipment and technology provided to upgrade the Mexican army and to combat drug trafficking could again be used against the indigenous communities supporting the Zapatistas.
These concerns are particularly acute given Mexico's history of human rights violations. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a recent letter to Senator Paul Wellstone, admitted that there have been many death threats against human rights advocates who criticize the government, and stated that the State Department views this situation as "one of concern" and has raised the theme various times "as a priority issue" in discussions with the Mexican government.
Despite these concerns and repeated requests from highly respected human rights organizations, there has been no full public investigation or disclosure of the amounts, types, and costs of US military aid to Mexico or a debate on its use. In fact military aid from the US, which is Mexico's largest arms supplier, is allocated with virtually no reviews or questions by either the mass media or public officials, except for a half hearted effort by the US to monitor new shipments of helicopters. This lack of accountability and free flow of aid have created the conditions in which the Mexican government believes that it can indiscriminately use its armed forces with impunity against the civil society and indigenous communities.
Yet, despite growing US military and financial influence on the Mexican government's strategies regarding Chiapas and the indigenous communities, the American general public has been led to believe that it is strictly a matter of internal Mexican politics, and of virtually no consequence to the US. However, Zedillo's plan to conduct a surgical strike using US military equipment and technology will only trigger a larger conflict throughout Mexico, create widespread destabilizing economic and social unrest and exacerbate migration pressures on the US-Mexico border.
For these reasons, the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico is organizing nationally coordinated protests at the Mexican embassy and all of the 42 Mexican consulates in the United States on Friday January 31. These protests are part of an effort to inform the US public about the worsening conditions in Mexico and their implications for the US, and to demonstrate to the Mexican and US governments that we will not be complicit in the destruction of indigenous communities. The protests also demonstrate our commitment and respect for the sovereignty and rights of the Mexican people in their struggle for a transition to democracy.
***************************************************************************** Established in July 1994 the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico, a US network of 30 community-based groups throughout the country, is a support group which works closely with Cecilia Rodriguez, the official representative of the Zapatistas in the United States.