May 2 Action Alert (fwd)

Thu, 24 Apr 1997 17:21:24 -0700 (MST)

This message has been sent to me by colleagues in Chiapas.
It's urgency obviously is related to recent events in Peru.
I trust that you will find it useful regardless of your
political position.

On May 5th, the anniversary of Mexico's victory that ended
France's reign of the country, President Clinton will arrive
for his first state visit in Mexico. His two day trip has been
billed as an effort to expand bilateral economic ties under
NAFTA as well as strengthen collaboration against drug
trafficking and immigration. But these appear to be the 21st
century versions of the age-old process of the economic and
military domination of Mexico by foreign interests and the
ruling Mexican elite.

It is against this new Manifest Destiny plan, which has been
couched in terms of NAFTA and the war on drugs, that the
Zapatistas rose up and have resisted since January 1994. They
declared NAFTA a death sentence for the indigenous communities
of Mexico, and as a result they have been the target of a
low-intensity war, waged by the Mexican government and supplied
and advised by the U.S, under the guise of combating drug

Now this low-intensity war threatens to become a full-scale
civil war in southern Mexico. In northern Chiapas during the
past two months more than 20 men, women and children from four
villages have been killed, and dozens more have been injured,
imprisoned, tortured or disappeared. Thousands have been
dislocated during armed confrontations between Zapatista
communities, paramilitary groups, police and the military. The
victims include two girls 13 and 15 years old, both of whom
were kidnapped for 10 days, tortured and raped before being
killed. In addition the state attorney general allegedly was
present and issued the orders for the helicopter gunfire attack
against unarmed Zapatista community members. A caravan by
20,000 people and various high-level delegations including the
Mexican Catholic Conference, COCOPA, CONAI, and human rights
observers have sounded alarms about the tinder-box nature of
Chiapas, as the army encroaches upon, occupies and blockades
more and more communities. This blockade is so tight that
Zapatista leadership was unable to meet recently with the
delegation of bishops from the National Mexican Catholic
Conference because of the risk to the Zapatista commandantes.
As a result, the Zapatistas have issued several interviews and
communiques warning that they will resist, not retreat, if
provoked by the Mexican military.

Out of profound concern about the implications of Clinton's
plans, the Ad-hoc Committee for Peace with Dignity in Chiapas
met with various White House, State Department and
Congressional officials on March 18th and 27th. They denounced
U.S. economic and military policies that are promoting the war
in Chiapas, and requested a full public investigation,
disclosure and debate of the amounts, types, costs and uses of
US military aid to Mexico. They specifically called for the
suspension of the aid, particularly the provision of the
remaining 53 Huey helicopters to Mexico and the $34 million
proposed for Mexican aid in the 1998 budget until there is
significant progress in the peace process in Chiapas. They also
pushed for the inclusion of indigenous and human rights and the
peace process in Chiapas as parameters for the discussions
between the two presidents regarding US-Mexico relations.

To date there has been no response from officials regarding the
Committee's requests. Instead the use of U.S. military aid to
militarize indigenous communities and repress the democratic
movements of the Mexican civil society, rather than combat
drugs, is still virtually invisible, especially in the
mainstream national media. Despite Mexico's critical
importance to the US as a neighboring country and a principal
trading partner, the growing threat of civil war in southern
Mexico and its profound implications for the US receives far
less coverage in the English language mass media than
developments in Europe and the Middle East. Broader coverage of
Mexico and the low-intensity war in Chiapas is left to the
Spanish-language media, a policy which leaves a large segment
of the U.S., primarily white, society with an incomplete and
biased view of the importance of events in Mexico.

To denounce this apparent cover-up and collusion by political
leaders of both countries as well as the national media, the
National Commission for Democracy in Mexico calls for a day of
action on May 2nd. On the eve of the celebrations of Mexico's
independence from France as well as the arrival of Clinton and
the rest of the Manifest Destiny entourage, we ask all people
of conscience to join us in: 1) conducting protests at the
Mexican consulates to denounce the two governments'
collaboration in the death and devastation of indigenous
communities in Chiapas and throughout Mexico 2) faxing, phoning
or emailing President Clinton to demand a response to and
action on the Ad-hoc Committee's requests for a full
investigation and suspension of US military aid to Mexico and
the inclusion of progress in the peace process in Chiapas as a
parameter for bilateral agreements. 3) sending faxes, email and
letters to CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, and Washington
Post to call for them to broaden their coverage of US-Mexico
relations and Clinton's state visit to Mexico to include
investigations and reports on the uses of US military aid to
Mexico and possible U.S. involvement in the low-intensity war
against the indigenous communities of Chiapas. 4) contacting
your Congressional representative and encouraging him or her to
sign onto the letter to President Clinton that is being
circulated by Congressman Sam Farr of California

Given the ongoing support received from the US, the Mexican
government believes that it can use its armed forces with
impunity against the civil society and indigenous communities,
especially the Zapatistas. If the questions of human and
indigenous rights and the peace process in Chiapas are not
addressed, Clinton's visit basically will serve to sanction
Zedillo's policies which have promoted political repression and
the militarization of Mexico, and are leading the country
towards a genocidal war.