Chiapas, Mexico: Another Acteal? The Plight of Union Progreso
December 19, 1998
Chiapas, Mexico: Another Acteal? The Plight of Union Progreso.
Tuesday evening, December 15, just before 50 state public security police and
a dozen local paramilitary members raided their community, nearly the entire
population of the tiny village of Union Progreso fled into the hills with
nothing but their children and the clothes on their back.
They avoided, for the moment, what they still fear may be 'another Acteal',
but they and their children are now spending their fourth day in the hills
without shelter from the frigid rainy weather.
This is not the first government raid on Union Progreso, a village of 150
Tzotzil Indians in the Municipality of El Bosque. Last June, a joint
military-police- paramilitary raid left eight indigenous and two security
police dead. Most of the indigenous died while under police custody.
Why was Union Progreso targeted? The community formed 15 years ago, when
workers bought out one of the plantations on which their parents had worked as
virtual serfs, and founded a model farm with diversified production.
Thus long before they joined the Zapatista-identified autonomous movement
(see Nov. 16 release: Autonomous Polho as Model), the community had developed
a strategy of economic autonomy. But the government is threatened by
development it doesn't control. Through the summer and fall the military,
paramilitaries, and various police forces have jointly raided
several autonomous communities.
The pretext for Tuesday's raid in Union Progreso was an ambush in neighboring
Los Platanos Sunday, December 13, in which masked raiders injured seven and
killed an 11-year-old boy.
The Mexican government's declarations blaming the Zapatistas are both
unsupported and implausible. Would the Zapatistas have chosen to carry out an
ambush on the very day they announced the March 21, 1999 date of their
initiative to reach out to Mexican society with a nationwide consultation?
Could Zapatista supporters have carried out such an attack unobserved, in an
area under the tight control of the state public security forces?
Meanwhile, Zapatistas have pointed to evidence implicating public security
police themselves. The ambush, they add,
related to infighting among competing paramilitary factions.
With the December 22 anniversary of the Acteal massacre (in which 45 unarmed
men, women and children died) only days away, the Union Progreso raid comes
in a season of heightened tensions. Last year, the paramilitaries harvested
the coffee of the displaced, robbing them of their major income source. In
recent weeks a new wave of threats has unfolded. Paramilitaries have made
allusions to 'another
Acteal.' Police and army forces have practiced maneuvers seemingly designed
to create and maintain displacement, and to allow paramilitaries once again to
steal their neighbors' coffee crops.
In both Chenalho and Union Progreso, CPT is exploring what role it, along with
Mexican nationals, may play in accompanying the victims of government terror
in returning to their homes, fields, and livelihoods.