Monday, November 30, 2009

OCEZ Political Prisoners' First Day of Freedom After Nearly Two Months: A Photo and Video Essay

by Luis Abarca (photos and video) and Kristin Bricker (text)
originally published in Narco News on November 24

The Chiapas government arrested Jose Manuel "Don Chema" Hernandez Martinez on September 30, 2009. It sent him to federal maximum security prison in Nayarit.

On October 24, the Chiapas state government detained and allegedly tortured Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles and José Manuel de la Torre Hernández.

All three men are leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ).

On November 24, the three men enjoyed their first day of freedom since their controversial arrests. They celebrated their freedom as any community organizer would: they got back to work. The political prisoners held a press conference and then joined their compañeros in a protest encampment.

The three men are currently out on bail, which was paid for by the Chiapas state government.

Don Chema speaks to reporters in San Cristobal de las Casas following his release.

In the following video, Don Chema tells reporters that he was released thanks to political pressure exerted by various organizations that joined together to demand his release. He explains that the government dropped the charge of "criminal association" (a crime where prisoners must be held without bail), making him eligible for bail. The state government paid his bail, he says, but he does not know how much bail was. At one point, a reporter asks if representatives from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, the party that controls Chiapas) informed Chema that it was due to the PRD's efforts that he was released. Don Chema responds that political pressure from the movement freed him. He says that he is committed to remain in the struggle.

José Manuel de la Torre Hernández speaks to reporters following his release.

Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles following his release from prison in Chiapas.

The three political prisoners attend a rally and celebration of their release in San Cristobal de las Casas' central plaza, in front of the Cathedral.

The three political prisoners joined their compañeros outside the offices of the United Nations Development Program in San Cristobal de las Casas. The OCEZ occupied the UN offices on October 30 as internally displaced persons to demand freedom for their political prisoners, cancelation of the remaining eleven arrest warrants against their members, and an end to the police occupation of their communities. The arrest warrants remain, the political prisoners must still defend themselves against two minor charges, and the police continue to occupy their community. Therefore, the political prisoners joined the protest encampment at the UN offices. The following video shows the political prisoners at the protest encampment at the UN offices:

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OCEZ Leaders Released from Jail

Criminal Association Charges Dropped; Chiapas Government Paid Bail on Remaining Minor Charges

Jose Manuel "Don Chema" Hernandez Martinez, Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles, and José Manuel de la Torre Hernández, all leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organzation (OCEZ) have been released from prison, according to a source close to the case. The men were reportedly released last night and transported to their community in Venustiano Carranza county, Chiapas.

The men were originally charged with criminal association, damages (similar to destruction of property), and plundering (stripping someone else of their possessions), all related to the 2003 occupation of an estate that belonged to a local political boss. The OCEZ occupied the land in order to distribute it amongst its peasant members.

The Chiapas government spread rumors in the media that the OCEZ was a front group for both drug trafficking organizations and insurgent groups. However, the government never presented any formal accusations in that regard. Nonetheless, the accusations served as a pretext to militarize a large swath of Chiapas. Many communities remain under military and/or police occupation as a result of the unsubstantiated rumors.

The three OCEZ leaders have reportedly been released on bail. According to a source close to the case, the government dropped the criminal association charge against them. This made them eligible for bail, because the other two charges, damages and plundering, are relatively minor charges. According to the source, the state government paid the men's bail.

Even though the OCEZ's legal problems are not over--the men must still defend themselves against the remaining charges, and there are still outstanding arrest warrants against other OCEZ members--the mood seems to be one of happiness, at least for now. The OCEZ's political prisoners are out of jail, even if it is only on bail. This will make communication with their lawyer much easier, allowing for a more coordinated defense. Before his release, the OCEZ's principal leader, Don Chema, was being held in a maximum security prison where prisoners are regularly held incommunicado for weeks at a time.

More information will become available throughout the day, so check back to this post for updates and photos.

Originally published in Narco News on November 24, 2009.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Leaked" Intelligence Report Justifies Repression, Militarization In Chiapas

Document Arguing Narco-Peasant Link Reportedly Leads to Arrests, House Searches, Spying, Harassment, and Military Occupation

On November 10, Reforma's Martin Morita published an article claiming that a leaked government report linked the Chiapas-based Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ) to criminal organizations that move drugs, weapons, and migrants through the state. His article claims that the intelligence report establishes a "relationship" between Los Zetas (the Gulf cartel's armed wing) and the OCEZ. Likewise, Morita writes that the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), the People's Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARP), and the Insurgent People's Revolutionary Army (ERPI) are "connected" to "subversive armed cells" in Chiapas that are "receiving support from organized crime groups such as Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel's armed wing, and the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, in order to obtain firearms."

Similar news articles based on leaked information that supposedly came from the Chiapas state government claim that two OCEZ leaders are members of Los Pelones, which is a gang that reportedly works for the Sinaloa cartel in Chiapas. These same reports claim that the government accuses OCEZ leader Jose Manuel "Don Chema" Hernandez Martinez of being the EPR's leader in Chiapas.

The leaked report also accuses the National Front for Socialist Struggle (FNLS), the Chiapas-based Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, and Chiapan clergy of using human rights and civil disobedience campaigns to cover up and protect the OCEZ's alleged criminal and/or subversive activity. Similar news articles accuse the OCEZ of using international human rights observers to keep police and soldiers out of OCEZ communities so that weapons and drugs can be safely stored there. Interestingly, state police went door-to-door in those very communities looking for drugs, weapons, and migrants. They searched homes, interrogated and threatened women and children, beat residents, and scanned their properties with ion scanners... and they found absolutely nothing.

La Jornada reporter Hermann Bellinghausen obtained a copy of the intelligence report he says is the source of all of these seemingly unfounded claims in the media. He says that the Chiapas State Attorney General's Office (PGJE) issued the report, which is dated July 27, 2009. According to Bellinghausen, the intelligence report and news articles "have justified recent police and military actions, arrests, house searches, and checkpoints in communities in Carranza county and nearby counties (Comitan, Nicolas Ruiz, [and] San Cristobal de las Casas)... On the basis of the document's 'proof,' Hernandez Martinez and other OCEZ-Carranza leaders were later imprisoned."

Bellinghausen is completely unconvinced by the "proof" contained in the document: "The document mentions the OCEZ's agrarian actions, above all the occupation of estates owned by the area's powerful political bosses, such as the Orantes family, and mixes it with the capture of Los Pelones, without proving the link between them and the OCEZ. It slips in references to 'the trafficking of drugs and undocumented [migrants],' because Chiapas' central zone, says the PGJE, 'is perceived to be a region where favorable conditions for illicit trafficking of all types of merchandise exist.'"

Interestingly, no government official wants to be linked to the report in the media. The only reporter who managed to get a state official to comment on the report was--not surprisingly--Morita. Even then, the official spoke on condition of anonymity and did not identify the agency in which he or she works.

In fact, the only government official to officially comment on the wild claims circulating in the media--but not on the report itself--said that there was no evidence to back them up. Articles based on the intelligence report and other "leaked" information claim that OCEZ leaders are both EPR leaders and Los Pelones members, and that they maintain working relationships with Los Zetas. However, Chiapas' Attorney General Raciel Lopez Salazar claims that there aren't any armed groups in Chiapas, be they narcos or subversives. In fact, an unsigned Reforma article reports that Attorney General Lopez Salazar specifically ruled out EPR (as well as ERPI) presence in Chiapas. This is a puzzling contradiction considering that Lopez Salazar's office allegedly issued the intelligence report that claims exactly the opposite.

However, Chiapas and federal security forces apparently haven't received the Attorney General's "clarification" regarding the existence of armed groups in Chiapas. As Bellinghausen notes, the report seems to have been the basis for the severe and nearly constant repression the OCEZ has suffered. Moreover, the following recent incidents appear to be linked to the report:

  • FNLS member Luis Abarca says that on November 13, his roommate overheard two or three men outside their home. According to an FNLS communique, the men "were talking in loud voices that they had monitored the times our compañero Luis Abarca entered and left the house. Even more alarmingly, [the roommate] overheard that they were waiting for him that night 'so that we can kick the shit out of him.'"
  • On November 18, police reportedly arrived at the workplace of FNLS member Yolanda Castro Apreza. They "insistently" asked her co-workers where she was and took pictures of the office despite repeated requests that they stop.
  • The Miguel Augustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) reports "persistent" house searches and military incursions in the following Chiapan communities and counties: Las Margaritas, Comitán, Socoltenango, Venustiano Carranza, Frontera Comalapa, La Trinitaria, Amatenango del Valle, and Nicolás Ruiz. Some of these communities are living under permanent military occupation, according to Centro Prodh.
  • According to Reforma's Morita, "Over two thousand armed soldiers and police guard the region [near Mexico's southern border in Chiapas] as part of a plan to beef up security because it is alleged that a powerful cell of Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel's armed wing, as well as guerrilla groups operate in that zone." The soldiers and police reportedly began the operation in early November as a result of the intelligence report and the resulting arrests. The militarized zone, which reportedly stretches from Comitan to Motozintla, includes La Trinitaria county. La Trinitaria county is where Chiapas state police massacred six indigenous peasants and left 17 wounded just over a year ago in order to suppress a peaceful protest. It is also home to Zapatista supporters who recently received orders from the State Attorney General's Office to leave the area.
  • The community of Cruzton, located in Carranza county, has voiced concern that increased militarization in the area may be used to evict them from their land (which is exactly what 500 police tried to do in April 2008) or re-occupy their community. Cruzton residents are also Zapatista supporters.

Originally published in Narco News
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Government Negotiations with OCEZ Cast Further Doubt on Rumored Narco Connection

Chiapas Government Commits Over a Million Pesos, Land to OCEZ Despite Claims that the Peasant Organization is a Drug Trafficking Front Group

On September 30, the Chiapas state government kidnapped peasant leader José Manuel "Don Chema" Hernández Martínez from his community, 28 de junio, which is located in Carranza county, Chiapas. Even though the government was acting on arrest warrants that date back as far as 1999, police disguised themselves as government electricians and threw Don Chema into a truck without showing the warrants. The incident lead to the death of two members of Don Chema's organization, the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ).

The Chiapas state government has officially charged Don Chema with crimes related to a 2003 land occupation. The OCEZ peacefully occupies Chiapas estates that legally belong to massive local landowners and pressures the government to deed the land to its peasant members. The government has charged Don Chema with: criminal association, aggravated plundering, and damages. They are all state-level crimes. Two other OCEZ leaders have also been arrested. Their lawyer says that in addition to the three detainees, there are still eleven outstanding warrants for other OCEZ members, all related to the same case.

Despite the official record on the three men's arrests (that is, that all charges against them relate to land occupations), rumors have circulated in the media that the OCEZ is a front group for cartels who traffic migrants, guns, and drugs through Chiapas. The media reports accuse the detainees of being members of or collaborating with the armed wings of two different transnational drug trafficking organizations.

Narco News called the news reports into question, noting that they were based on documents that were leaked to the media, rather than being published by official government sources. Later, La Jornada's Hermann Bellinghausen obtained a copy of a intelligence report prepared by the Chiapas state attorney general's office entitled "The Current Situation in Venustiano Carranza." Bellinghausen writes, "The lengthy document, dated July 27, 2009... is the source of the numerous 'versions' and 'leaks' [that have appeared in] local and national media outlets."

New Contradictions Arise

When the government first arrested Don Chema (that is, before the drug trafficking rumors surfaced in the media), the National Front for Socialist Liberation (FNLS) immediately decried the hypocrisy that prevailed in the case. Proceso, quoting an FNLS press release, wrote:

"How is it possible that if 'Don Chema' has arrest warrants and criminal investigations from 1999 to 2005, the authorities had not acted against him when he was within their reach, in public view, and the government was still signing agreements with him?" [Narco News note: since 1999, the Chiapas government has signed numerous agreements with the OCEZ, namely deeding land to the organization and its members as a result of political pressure. These are the agreements to which the FNLS refers.] ... According to the FNLS, the "absolutely illegal and deceptive manner in which [Hernández Martínez] was detained/kidnapped is yet another example of the arbitrary nature in which [President] Felipe Calderon's fascist government is repressing social organizations, whom it criminalizes and accuses of fabricated crimes in order to incarcerate them."

The FNLS has a point. The government has signed multiple agreements with the OCEZ since 1999. In an agreement signed in July 2009, for example, the government promised to purchase 215 hectares of land from two Carranza county brothers and turn it over to the OCEZ. On August 31--just one month before Don Chema was arrested--the government reaffirmed its commitment to hand the land over to the OCEZ during a public ceremony in which both state officials and Don Chema participated.

The most recent agreement the Chiapas government signed with the OCEZ is dated November 14, 2009--five days after the state government leaked the "Current Situation in Venustiano Carranza" report to the press, which accused the OCEZ of being a front group for violent drug trafficking organizations. Narco News obtained a copy of the November 14 agreement (PDF file). In the agreement, the government agrees to pay MX$5,000 or USD$381.88 (seemingly per month, although the document is not clear on that point) indexed yearly for inflation to the families of the two OCEZ members who died during Don Chema's arrest. The government will pay this quantity until the youngest children in the family are adults. In addition to this money, the government also agrees to arrange scholarships for the children. The Chiapas government also promises to pay an unspecified amount of money to the families of the three detained OCEZ leaders every month for the duration of their incarceration. The agreement also states that the government will pay the medical bills for Jose Santos, who was seriously injured during Don Chema's arrest and remains hospitalized. It will also pay either a monthly sum to his wife or will help her and the family start a business because Santos' injuries have left him disabled. The government says that it will begin to hand over the previously mentioned 215 hectares to OCEZ members as soon as the OCEZ provides the state government with a list of names to put on the deeds. The agreement also states that it will provide economic development financing to OCEZ communities: MX$1,650,000 (USD$126,018.75) and two tractors.

Even more interesting than the impressive sum of money is the person designated in the agreement as the OCEZ member the government will contact regarding the distribution of resources: none other than Fernando Hernandez Martinez, a civil engineer and Don Chema's brother.

The official agreement does not necessarily mean that the government will honor its commitments. However, the November 14 agreement begs the question: if the OCEZ is a front organization for drug trafficking organizations to move contraband through Chiapas as the state government intelligence report claims, and if Don Chema is the leader of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR, an armed peasant organization) in Chiapas as the government has informally claimed over the years, then why would the state government sign this agreement with the OCEZ? The agreement promises well over a million pesos in money and resources to the OCEZ, and it names Don Chema's brother as the contact for distributing the resources--not the sort of agreement the government typically makes with alleged drug trafficking organizations and brothers of rebel leaders.

International Support Grows

Meanwhile, the demand to free the OCEZ political prisoners is growing increasingly louder. During the Second Encounter for the Self-Development of Indigenous Peoples and the Effective Enforcement of Their Rights held in Guatemala at the end of October, indigenous representatives from Basque Country, Mexico, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru signed a resolution (PDF file) condemning governments' actions "to criminalize, defame, persecute, incarcerate, and assassinate leaders of indigenous organizations." They cited the example of the OCEZ:

In Mexico, ever since the signing of the free trade agreement fifteen years ago with the United States and Canada, the people have experienced the impoverishment of over 50 million people, immigration, and repression against social movements. A concrete case is the illegal detention on September 30, 2009, of the leader of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ-RVC) and defender of indigenous rights, Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, as well as other detentions and legal persecution due to the tireless struggle in defense of peoples' rights.

November 29 Update: Sources close to the OCEZ clarify that the government co-opted Don Chema's brother, Fernando Hernandez Martinez, and that these negotiations, carried out in the name of the OCEZ, did not actually include current OCEZ members and do not represent the OCEZ's demands. The criticism that the government would not negotiate (or in this case, pretend to negotiate) with suspected narcos remains valid.

However, El Universal reports that now that Don Chema and the other two detained OCEZ leaders are out of jail, the real OCEZ-RC has sat down with Chiapas human rights organizations and the state government to negotiate dropping the rest of the charges against OCEZ members and the demilitarization of their communities.


Originally published in Narco News

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mexican Soldiers Accused of Killing US Citizen in Matamoros

Innocent Bystander Lizbeth Marin Garcia Was Shot While Sitting in a Friend's Living Room

By Julio Manuel L. Guzman, El Universal
Translated for Narco News by Kristin Bricker

Matamoros, Tamaulipas. A bullet allegedly shot by members of the Mexican military took the life of a US citizen as she rested in the living room of a house located in a downtown neighborhood in Matamoros.

The incident occurred after 11pm this past Friday in the Roberto F. Garcia neighborhood, and the victim was identified as 36-year-old Lizbeth Marin Garcia. She resided in Brownsville and worked for Penske in Harlingen, Texas.

According to witnesses, the Mexican military was carrying out an operation and had closed several sections of Primera, JS del Cano, and Solernau streets.

Mrs. Samira Gonzalez Escandon, friend of the deceased, stated that her mother, Guillermina Escandon de Gonzalez, was in her home watching the military action that ended in the arrest of several people. "The soldiers were already leaving, and one of them, as he was getting into a Hummer, let loose a stray shot that hit the window of my house. At the same time, a cry of pain was heard, and a soldier yelled, 'Fucking hell, let's get out of here.'"

She said that when she entered her house she saw Lizbeth lying on the floor crying for help. They sent her to Pumarejo Hospital, but she was pronounced dead on arrival. The bullet hit her in the right humerus, and there was no exit wound.

"They've got to put a stop to this already. The soldiers are killing innocent people and aren't held accountable for their actions. We need something to be done. My friend is dead, and they just wash their hands of the whole thing, just like what happens with other murders of innocent people," she said.

With sadness on her face, Samira remembered the murder of two innocent people, allegedly killed by Mexican authorities' bullets. One of them is the death of a young woman from the India neighborhood, and more recently, a middle school student who died from a gunshot to the head while he was exercising in front of Televisa.

It turns out that the two people detained in the operation [that resulted in Marin Garcia's death] were freed hours later. They were severely beaten.

One of them says that his name is Aurelio Peña Perez. He is 42 years old and words in construction. He says that he was going with his friends to buy beer when they saw that several vehicles full of soldiers were pursuing them.

"We got frightened and we sped up, but at the intersection of Primera and Solernau streets we hit a fence. I lost consciousness and I woke up handcuffed in a military truck. They kicked us, and after driving us around and interrogating us, they left us in different parts of the city."

The victim's family says that they will file a formal complaint with the District Attorney's Office against the soldiers who participated in the operation.

The State Ministerial Police's Chief of the Homicide Division, Guadalupe Zavala, confirmed that an official from the United States Consulate met with him to request all information about the case and to begin pertinent actions.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Media Campaign Seeks to Link Chiapan Social Organizations to Narcos

Government Allows Misleading and False Information to Spread in the Corporate Media

reposted from Narco News

On October 24, Chiapan state police arrested Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzalez and Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez, both leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ). Narco News' Fernando Leon reports that the men say police tortured them during interrogation. De la Torre Hernandez said in a statement: "Multiple times they put a nylon bag over my head, suffocating me, so that I would answer affirmatively to a list of questions. [The questions included] if our organization OCEZ has weapons and a relationship with the church and with former and current Carranza mayors. They also shot mineral water up my nose until I passed out." De la Torre told his lawyer that police made him sign papers without reading them during the torture session. Police tortured him until he passed out, then they woke him up to sign papers while he was still groggy.

On October 25, a contact sent this reporter an email with the subject "Official Communique." The email was written in the style of a government press release, but it contained no media contact information nor was it signed by a government agency. The contact believed the email was the government's official press release regarding the de la Torre Hernandez and de la Cruz Gonzalez arrests. The contact had received the email from a local reporter who also seemed to believe the email was the government's official press release. However, this "Official Communique" did not appear on the Chiapas state government's "Public Relations Institute" website, where all official state government press releases are posted, nor did it appear on the Chiapas State Attorney General's Office website, where press releases regarding arrests are posted.

The "Official Communique's" absence from the websites where all official government communiques are posted is particularly noteworthy due to the wild claims made in the "communique."

First, the "communique" claims that de la Cruz Gonzalez and de la Torre Hernandez belong to "Los Pelones," which the communique reports is a gang that is "known for its strong activity in trafficking weapons and drugs and is responsible for multiple homicides, including the 2007 murder of state police...in Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan."

The "communique" also claims that de la Cruz Gonzalez and de la Torre Hernandez paid the Carranza mayor MX$300,000 in order to purchase weapons. The Carranza mayor, Amín Coutiño Villanueva, is from the President's National Action Party (PAN). The Chiapas governor is from the opposition Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).

The "communique" claims that de la Cruz Gonzalez and de la Torre Hernandez, acting as members of Los Pelones, "also bought and distributed 9mm pistols, for which they paid MX$8,000 per gun, and the social organization [OCEZ] supported them in this." The "communique" also claims that the detained men engaged in "human trafficking as well as migrant extortion. Their lands have served as a collection site for hiding weapons and drugs. The social organization mask has impeded civilian and military authorities' access to the area surrounding the 28 de Junio community [where OCEZ operates]. That is why they had so-called 'international observers': to cover up their criminal activity."

Normally, Narco News wouldn't classify an email of this sort as "news" without verifying the source: it makes wild claims, and no government agency has verified its authenticity. This reporter thought the email was a hoax.

However, local and national corporate media seem to have also received the "Official Communique" email, and they don't seem to think it is a hoax. Articles have appeared in papers across Mexico that quote lines that appear word-for-word in the "Official Communique" email this reporter received. Mexico's national daily El Universal, for example, ran a wire article by the Spanish news agency EFE that credited the quotes from the "Official Communique" to a statement by the Chiapas State Attorney General's Office (the State Attorney General's Office is prominently mentioned in the "communique"). The EFE article's quotes only come from the "Official Communique," the defendants' lawyer, and the OCEZ. No government official confirms or denies the statements. As previously mentioned, the State Attorney General's Office has not posted any information on its website about the arrests of de la Cruz Gonzalez and de la Torre Hernandez.

The "Official Communique's" unorthodox distribution method (unsigned and not posted to a government website) aside, the email contains other inconsistencies and red flags. Narco News spoke with Marcos López Pérez, the lawyer who represents de la Cruz Gonzalez, de la Torre Hernandez, and Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, a third OCEZ leader who was arrested one month before the other two men.

Lopez Perez informed Narco News that the arrest warrants for the three OCEZ leaders are all part of the same case: a 2003 land occupation in Chiapas that successfully pressured the Chiapas government to legally turn the land over to peasants who are OCEZ members. That case dossier only covers the 2003 land occupation and alleged crimes related to that takeover; arms trafficking, migrant extortion, human trafficking, and other crimes are mentioned nowhere in the dossier.

Lopez Perez says that he is not aware of any other official investigation against the men that involves those crimes. He assured Narco News that the government has not charged the men with any sort of trafficking; they have only been charged with crimes related to the 2003 land occupation, which are all state-level crimes.

The crimes the "Official Communique" and the corporate media accuse the men of committing are federal crimes. The federal government has made no comment on the arrests, nor do the men have any federal investigations or charges pending, says their lawyer.

However, Lopez Perez does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could initiate an investigation. He says that he has reviewed every paper in the dossier against his clients, and he can't find the papers de la Torre claims he signed under torture. Neither de la Torre nor his lawyer know what the papers say because de la Torre wasn't able to read them before signing. Lopez Perez says it's possible that the papers could appear in a future investigation as part of a case file.

The "Official Communique" smelled like a whisper campaign even before this reporter spoke to the men's lawyer. The "communique" accuses de la Cruz Gonzalez and de la Torre Hernandez of belonging to "Los Pelones," which is a criminal group associated with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera's Sinaloa-based drug trafficking organization. However, when the government reportedly seized a massive weapons stockpile in October, the Chiapas government claimed the weapons belonged to the OCEZ, and the federal government claimed the weapons belong to Loz Zetas. Los Zetas are the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, and are also reported to work for the Beltran Leyva criminal organization. Both the Gulf cartel and the Beltran Leyvas are reportedly enemies of El Chapo. It is highly unlikely that a small peasant organization would be working for or with the armed factions of opposing drug trafficking organizations.

When the Chiapas government arrested de la Cruz and de la Torre, between 20 and 40 trucks full of state police carried out house-to-house searches of two Carranza County communities that belong to the OCEZ: 28 de Junio and Laguna Verde. Two helicopters participated in the operation. The police ransacked dozens of homes in those communities, terrorizing residents and reportedly beating some. The police were looking for suspects, and they reportedly threatened bodily harm to residents if they didn't tell them "where they were hiding the guns." The police did not find a single piece of contraband in either community. For all of the claims the government makes about the OCEZ's alleged use of the communities to hide drugs and weapons, the government didn't find a single weapon. Its Merida Initiative-style ion scanners and drug dogs didn't find a trace of illegal substances.

Casting further doubt on the "Official Communique's" claims, the Carranza mayor that allegedly received MX$300,000 from the detainees in order to illegally purchase weapons has not been arrested, nor has the government brought any formal charges against him. Of course, the mayor adamantly denies the accusations and reportedly told press that "it's about time the authorities did something about Roselio de la Cruz and Jose Manuel de la Torre."

Reforma Steps In


On November 9, Reforma, a Mexico City-based daily and one of Mexico's largest newspapers, ran an article by Martin Morita that claimed the reporter obtained an "intelligence report" about arms trafficking in Chiapas. The article does not disclose if the report is from the state or federal government. The only person the article quotes is a "high-ranking state government official" who is "participating in the team that's carrying out the investigation" that is outlined in the report.

In the article, the high-ranking state government official mentions a case in which two fragmentation grenades were found wrapped in cloth in a plastic bag in the government agency parking lot in Tuxtla, the Chiapas state capital. The grenades did not explode. In an interview, the state official accuses leaders of the OCEZ and the National Front for Socialist Struggle (FNLS, an unarmed civil society organization with a strong presence in Chiapas) of having "orchestrated that terrorist act." No charges have been filed; currently this baseless anonymous statement is the only accusation linking the two organizations with the grenades.

The Reforma article doesn't limit its accusations to the OCEZ. It says that the intelligence report claims that the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), the People's Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARP), and the Insurgent People's Revolutionary Army (ERPI) are "connected" to "subversive armed cells" that are "receiving support from organized crime groups such as Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel's armed wing, and the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, in order to obtain firearms." The report claims, "It is confirmed that organizations that call themselves civilian have strong ties to these subversive groups [who are gathering arms] and are trying to carry out violent acts, particularly during the 2010 Bicentennial celebrations."

The Reforma article reprints the following quote from the report:

"It is noted that, based on the detention of people involved in said groups and through testimonies obtained by intelligence networks, there is evidence that establishes a relationship between those groups and people and criminal organizations that are dedicated to drug trafficking, such as the so-called Zetas and the organization led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo. This complicity stems from the distribution of weapons to subversive groups."

The Reforma article mentions de la Cruz, de la Torre, and Hernandez Martinez: "The three are accused of using the [OCEZ] organization to distribute weapons and drugs." Reforma fails to mention that it is only the press, not the government, that is officially accusing the OCEZ of trafficking arms and drugs.

Reporter Martin Morita filed a similar article on TabascoHOY.com. In that article, he says that Hernandez Martinez "is linked to the seizure of an arms arsenal on October 11." It also claims that "the official investigation points to Hernandez Martinez as the leader of the EPR in Chiapas and of having links to Los Zetas." Again, no charges have been filed against Hernandez Martinez that link him to arms trafficking, Los Zetas, or the EPR. Morita does not specify which "official investigation" he is referring to in the article. However, Hernandez Martinez's lawyer only knows of one official investigation--the one related to the 2003 land takeover--and it does not mention any trafficking allegations.

War on Social Movements

In a letter to Tabasco HOY's editor, the OCEZ writes, "This type of stigmatization in the corporate media doesn't only have negative political consequences for those who suffer [the stigmatization]. Rather, frequently they are orchestrated by government agencies in order to sway public opinion to help justify arbitrary judicial actions."

As the government intelligence report mentions, authorities are growing increasingly concerned about the possibility that armed groups will take action in 2010 to commemorate the bicentennial and centennial of two Mexican revolutions. According the Reforma, the report states that "the groups are trying to carry out actions aimed at destabilizing, through armed struggle, the PRD member Juan Sabines' administration in 2010, in particular during the Bicentennial celebrations."

The government may be trying to preemptively smear social organizations in the media by alleging links to drug trafficking organizations. This may prevent insurgent organizations from enjoying the sort of national and international support that protected the Zapatistas when they staged an uprising in Chiapas in 1994. It may also serve to justify judicial or military actions against civil society, which always seems to get caught in any war's crossfire. The smear campaign even includes a preemptive strike against international human rights observers, who have played a key role in human rights defense in Chiapas since 1994. In accusing human rights observers of preventing the military and police from carrying out their anti-trafficking work, the corporate media places them directly in the drug war's line of fire.

Thanks to the war on drugs, in 2010 Mexico will be more militarized than it was in 1994. The military will be better prepared and better armed than it was in 1994 during the Zapatista uprising. And now, thanks to the media smear campaign against social organizations, it may have more public approval to use its drug war military might against non-drug war targets.

Narco News has warned that the increasing militarization under the guise of the drug war could have negative consequences for insurgent and social organizations. The Merida Initiative's counterpart in Colombia, Plan Colombia, targeted insurgent organizations as a matter of official policy. In Mexico, both the US and the Mexican governments have predicted "links" between insurgent and drug trafficking organizations. In December 2008, Narco News reported:

In an official DEA PowerPoint presentation recently leaked to Narco News correspondent Bill Conroy, the DEA argued that the possibility exists that drug cartels will seek allies in insurgent organizations: “DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] will further reach out to the Mexican military and foreign paramilitary and possible insurgent organizations in order to acquire much needed human and material support to fend off advances by competing Cartels.” Similarly, in a report obtained by the Mexican daily Milenio entitled “The National Defense Department in Combat Against Drug Trafficking,” Mexico's National Defense Department says "a symbiosis between [drug cartels and] armed groups who are hostile to the government is forseeable."

The OCEZ may be a test case, to see how far civil society will allow the government to go in its war on social movements. As Jaime Ramírez Yáñez writes in an editorial in Milenio,"The detention of these two indigenous men [de la Cruz and de la Torre], who are visibly opposed to the government, was carried out with only the alleged testimony of a 'protected witness,' and without the bother of a formal criminal investigation." A protected witness is often a suspect himself, and the government offers leniency or immunity in exchange for testimony against other people.

Using that one protected witness and the media, the government has linked the OCEZ, an unarmed organization, to the armed EPR and nearly every major drug trafficking organization in the country. The media has accused the OCEZ of human trafficking, arms trafficking, migrant extortion, and drug trafficking. It also stigmatized human rights observers who are in OCEZ communities to assure that human rights are respected. In turn, the government has been able to stage one of the largest raids in recent memory on two peasant communities, and no one seemed concerned that the raids produced no contraband. State police continue to occupy the area around Laguna Verde. The state government has been able to hunt down and allegedly torture the OCEZ's leadership. The government has executed three of fourteen warrants stemming from the 2003 OCEZ land takeover, leaving the communities terrified that police will carry out another violent raid at any moment.

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Electricians Take Over Luz y Fuerza Buildings

Ex-Workers from Luz y Fuerza del Centro Tried to Enter the Pachuca Station and Hung Red and Black Banners in the Nuevo Necaxa, Puebla, Hydroelectric Plant

Wire Reports
El Universal

Ex-workers from defunct Luz y Fuerza del Centro power company intensified their actions in simultantaneous protests outside the company's buildings in two states.

In Hidalgo, the protesters created a protest encampment (plantón) outside the Juandho division in the Tetepango municipality, where the majority of the residents are ex-Luz y Fuerza workers. Meanwhile, in Tula and Pachuca, they burned banners, flags, and sticks. The situation remains tense, and they are expected to be forcibly removed.

At about six o'clock Thursday morning, electricians protested in Pachuca, Tula, Tulancingo, and Juandho, where they yelled chants against the federal government and burned flags, sticks, and some banners that announced the shutdown of Luz y Fuerza. In Juandho they closed off access to the buildings with pick-up trucks and cars in order to keep out police. The authorities have announced that the ex-workers could be forcibly removed.

In Pachuca, in the Santa Julia substation, about 100 electricians forced open the substation doors. However, they were only able to advance a few meters into the building because Federal Police were on guard inside with billy clubs. [Translator's note: The Federal Police have occupied Luz y Fuerza since thousands of federal troops first entered the power company's buildings in order to fire all of the workers.]

The electricians, led by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) secretary Luis Espinoza*, hung red and black strike banners as part of the general strike that has been called for November 11.

Municipal police arrived on the scene, and they remain on alert near the substation. According to Luis Espinosa, the ex-workers will remain at the site indefinitely because he insists that looting has begun in the Luz y Fuerza buildings.

"We don't want them to start blaming us. Equipment such as conductors have been stolen, and we aren't going to allow that to continue," he said.

Meanwhile, in Puebla the electricians hung red and black flags in the Nuevo Necaxa hydroelectric plant, where they will hold an assembly to call for a national general strike that is tentatively scheduled for November 11.

Union organizations that support the SME will participate in the assembly. Miguel Angel Montiel, the SME's Undersecretary of the Exterior for the Necaxa division, said that the electricians will "stop at nothing" to reverse the shutdown of Luz y Fuerza.

Regarding the workers who have picked up their severance package in Huauchinango, Miguel Angel Montiel says he doesn't know how many have accepted the government's offer.

"I wouldn't know how many have begun the paperwork to receive their severance package because we know that the SME has filed over 30,000 individual injunctions against the president's executive order to shut down Luz y Fuerza," he explained.

El Universal correspondent Dinorath Mota and Notimex contributed to this report.

Translator's note:
* This may have been an error in the original Spanish article. SME's secretary general is Martin Esparza. Luis Espinosa (alternatively spelled Espinoza in the press) is a former SME secretary general.

Translated for Narco News by Kristin Bricker

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Chiapas Government Tries to Pin Narco Arsenal on Peasant Leader

Conflicting Press Releases Cast Doubt on Government Claims

This past October 16, the Mexican Federal Police transferred Chiapan peasant leader Jose Manuel “Don Chema” Hernandez Martinez to a maximum-security federal prison located in Nayarit, 26 hours from his home. Don Chema is a leader of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ). The government claims that it transferred him “for his own safety.”

On October 9, the government claims to have uncovered a massive weapons stockpile—reportedly the largest weapons seizure in the history of Chiapas, and the biggest weapons seizure in the entire country so far this year. The Chiapas state government says in a press release that “according to statements made by the men detained in this operation, the arsenal would be linked to José Manuel Hernández Martínez.”

The press release, dated October 18, is meant to justify Don Chema’s transfer to a maximum-security federal prison “for his own protection.” The press release continues: “It was detected that people, members of the organization in which Jose Manuel Martinez participates, wanted to cause him physical harm so that he wouldn’t testify to the authorities about this arsenal.” Don Chema’s family was unaware of these threats; they protested his transfer as a government move to isolate him from his family, lawyer, and political support base.

On October 12, the Chiapas government issued a press release regarding the arms seizure. The press release explains how the government arrested three men who then led them to the weapons. The three men are: Juan Rocha Flores from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and Joel Díaz González and Silverio Osorio López from Huimanguillo, Tabasco. According to the press release, all of the men say they belong to a “criminal organization in the region;” one of the men “said he belongs to an organization called OCEZ or OPEZ that uses ‘social struggle’ as a front.” The press release does not specifically mention Don Chema; the press release mentioned above that justified Don Chema’s transfer to Nayarit makes the explicit link between the weapons stockpile and Don Chema.

On October 13, the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) issued a press release stating that the Chiapan government had transferred the three men to the federal government’s custody for detention, processing, and prosecution. The PGR press release states that the three men admitted to being hitmen and “halcones” (elite fighters) for Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel’s private army that occasionally also works with the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization. The PGR press release does not mention the OCEZ nor the OPEZ nor Don Chema. Likewise, the previously issued Chiapas state government press releases to not mention Los Zetas.

Contradictions Outweigh Consistencies

The three press releases (two from the Chiapan government and one from the PGR) include a number of inconsistencies that cast a shadow of doubt over their claims, particularly the so-called evidence that incriminates Don Chema and the OCEZ.

The press releases’ inconsistencies begin with the moment the men are detained. The PGR press release reports that Chiapan State Preventive Police (PEP) stopped the men at a checkpoint. According to the PGR, the men tried to evade the checkpoint. The Chiapan press release states that the men were stopped for a routine inspection (which could be the checkpoint the PGR mentions, but the wording is too vague to be sure) on the highway that connects the cities of Frontera Comalapa and Comitan. Here’s the problem: the Frontera Comalapa-Comitan highway is a federal highway. State police don’t have jurisdiction on federal highways; only federal police and soldiers do. State police can’t make arrests on federal highways unless they’re taking part in a joint federal-state operation (none of the three press releases alludes to a joint operation on that highway at the time). And State police certainly can’t set up checkpoints on federal highways. So why do the government press releases say that state police stopped the men at a checkpoint on a federal highway?

The press releases also give conflicting reasons for why the men were arrested. The Chiapas press release states: “During a routine inspection carried out while they traveled along the highway that runs from Frontera Compalapa to Comitan de Dominguez in a gray Chrysler Ram double-cab pick-up truck, the men responded in a nervous manner and tried to bribe the police officers.” The PGR press release states that the men tried to avoid the highway checkpoint all together.

Even more interestingly, none of the press releases claim that the men had any contraband on them at all at the time of their detention. So aside from the attempted bribe that may or may not have actually occurred, it seems as though the arresting police officers had no evidence against the men. This begs the question: why would the men have tried to bribe the police officers if they had no contraband in their vehicle?

The Organizations

One of the most striking contradictions in the three press releases is the very information that directly incriminates Don Chema and the OCEZ: the three detained men’s testimony regarding who they work for. The Chiapas press release states that the three suspects told police that they are members of the “OCEZ or OPEZ.” It’s odd that the detained men aren’t exactly sure which organization they belong to. What’s even more odd are the two organizations they say they might belong to: the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization (OPEZ) split off from the OCEZ years ago, and the two organizations and their members don’t get along at all. Overlapping membership in the two organizations is highly unlikely.

The men’s OCEZ membership is even more questionable when one considers where the men are from. According to the Chiapas government, the men hail from Tabasco and Tamaulipas, not Chiapas. The complete name of Don Chema’s OCEZ is the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ-RC). “Carranza Region” was added to the name in order to distinguish it from other Chiapan organizations that also call themselves OCEZ. “Carranza Region” refers to the Chiapan county in which the organization is located. In other words, not only does the name “OCEZ” refer to Chiapan organizations, Don Chema’s OCEZ-RC is an organization that exists in a particular Chiapan county. It is unlikely that the OCEZ-RC has Tabascan members, and it is even more unlikely that the OCEZ-RC has members from Tamaulipas, which is located at the other end of the country. Members of Don Chema’s OCEZ are from communities in Carranza county, Chiapas.

Two of the three men also reportedly told police that they spent one month in Guatemala receiving kaibil training. Kaibiles are elite Guatemalan soldiers, holdovers from the dirty war there. They have a reputation for being inhuman monsters; their training reportedly includes biting off the heads of live chickens. Kaibiles have a history of repressing insurgent peasant organizations, not training them. The Mexican government claims that many kaibiles have now allied themselves with Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and train DTO hitmen and private armies.

According to the government, the two men testified that the San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, diocese put them in contact with the kaibiles. Since Don Samuel Ruiz, an indigenous rights supporter and president of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), was bishop of the San Cristobal diocese during the Zapatista uprising in 1994, the diocese has been very oriented towards liberation theology. As such, both Frayba and the San Cristobal diocese have been frequent targets of government harassment and smear campaigns. Furthermore, during the Guatemalan dirty wars, the kaibiles and other Guatemalan security forces were known for repressing and killing liberation theologists and catechists, not training them.

But why would the three men incriminate local peasant and religious organizations, some of which they don’t seem to even be vaguely familiar with? The answer could lie in Mexico’s protected witness program: Mexican officials offer detained suspects “protected witness status” which would result in their charges being reduced or dropped if they agree to testify against more important targets, in this case, that could be Don Chema, the OCEZ, and the San Cristobal diocese. This could have been the case with these three men: in a highly unusual move, the Chiapan government press release regarding the men’s arrest and their alleged arsenal only includes pictures of the weapons; the three detainees’ pictures are not included in the press release. The government generally prefers to parade detainees around in front of their alleged arsenals for the press. With this arms seizure being the largest in Chiapan history and the largest in the country this year to date, one would think the government would want to give the press a picture of the men who allegedly lead them to the historic stockpile.

In contrast to the Chiapan government press release, the PGR press release regarding the same men and the same arsenal says that the three men admitted to being Zetas. Oddly, the PGR press release does not mention anything about any “criminal organization that uses ‘social struggle’ as a front,” nor the OCEZ, nor the OPEZ. However, the PGR press release does state that the men testified to the Chiapas State Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime that they worked as hitmen and halcones for Los Zetas. If the PGR is to be believed, this seems like important information that the Chiapan government should have taken credit for in its own press release. So why did the Chiapan government neglect this important piece of information, and choose to instead focus on linking the OCEZ and Don Chema to the historic arsenal seizure?

The Arsenal

According to the Chiapas government, during questioning the detained men tipped off authorities to the location of a safe house where arms were stored. There, the Chiapas government found the largest weapons stockpile in Chiapan history. However, the arsenal itself raises questions about the veracity of the government’s claims.

The Chiapas government reports no arrests in the ranch where the arms stockpile was discovered—it found weapons and animals there, but no people. In other words, the Chiapas government wants us to believe that the largest arms cache in Chiapan history was left unguarded.

The arsenal was discovered in Frontera Comalapa, which is located about five hours from Carranza county, where the OCEZ-RC is based. It is imaginable that major drug trafficking organizations, which due to their immense financial resources are arguably better armed than the Mexican government itself, would have an excess weapons stockpile of this size stashed away in a house. However, a poor peasant organization whose members live in tiny cinderblock houses is not likely to hide a weapons arsenal of this size so far from its base of operations—after all, the weapons are useless if they are located a five-hour drive away from home. Furthermore, guns require routine cleaning and maintenance: this is something an insurgent peasant organization could do if their weapons were dispersed and hidden amongst their members, but regular weapon maintenance would be much more difficult if all or most of their weapons were stored in an abandoned ranch five hours from their community.

Peasant organizations are, by definition, too poor to have an excess of armament that they would store hours away from their home base. Case in point: during the Zapatista uprising in 1994, many indigenous members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) were armed with sticks instead of guns. This is because many indigenous peasants, the poorest of Mexico’s poor, couldn’t afford to buy a gun, even if it meant the difference between life and death. For example, in the below video of the 1994 uprising, at 1:28, 2:09, and 2:32 minutes one can see EZLN soldiers who are armed with sticks or who are completely unarmed. Those who are armed carry obsolete weapons. On EZLN soldier can be seen holding a tear gas launcher as his only weapon.

The typical peasant army arsenal is a far cry from the stockpile allegedly found at the Frontera Comalapa ranch. In addition to 306 mortar rounds, 22 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and eight landmines, Chiapan police allegedly found nine vehicles and two racing horses. Peasants whose leaders live in two-bedroom cinderblock houses (as is Don Chema’s case) would keep their vehicles close to home for daily use rather than leaving a fleet of them parked at an abandoned ranch. Likewise, most peasants don’t own expensive racing horses; they own beasts of burden.

The Chiapas government also reports that it recovered a jewel-encrusted pistol from the ranch. While it doesn’t show said pistol in the photos it released to the press, a different pistol with what appears to be a gold-and-ivory handle is visible. Jewel- and gold-encrusted pistols are not available off-the-shelf. They must be special ordered and are very expensive. The style is popular amongst rich, high-ranking drug traffickers, which led to jewel- and gold-encrusted pistols being nicknamed “narco-bling.” This historic Chiapas arms seizure is the first time the government has attempted to convince the public that poor peasant guerrilla organizations also possess “narco-bling.” The presence of narco-bling calls the veracity of the government’s claims into question because, again, unlike drug trafficking organizations, insurgent peasant organizations struggle just to arm all of their members with any weapon at all. If by some stroke of luck a peasant guerrilla organization were to obtain a jewel- or gold-encrusted pistol (for example, in a confrontation with drug traffickers), they’d be more likely to strip the weapon of its jewels and gold and sell them in order to purchase more weapons.

Likewise, police report that one of the vehicles recovered at the ranch was armored. Drug traffickers are frequently seen traveling in armored vehicles; peasants rarely have enough money for cheap cars, let alone an armored vehicle.

Police also report that they recovered a trailer at the ranch in Frontera Comalapa. The OCEZ community of 28 de Junio, where Don Chema lives, is located 3 km from the nearest paved road. What would they do with a trailer? It would tip over if they tried to bring it to their community.

Even though police say they recovered mortars and RPGs from the ranch, no grenade launchers appear in the government photos nor in the government’s list of recovered arms. Who owns RPGs and mortars but no weapons with which to shoot them?

Furthermore, the Chiapas government’s photos of the arsenal include eight CB radios. Three of the radios appear to be brand-new; they still have plastic film over their screens. All of the cables that appear with the radios are brand-new: some appear in their original factory zip-ties, while others lack the dirt and grime that would appear on a radio that was installed in a vehicle. Much of Carranza county doesn’t have cell phone reception. Rather than leaving brand-new CB radios stored in an abandoned ranch five hours from home, wouldn’t OCEZ members use them for day-to-day communications?

The Location

The arsenal’s location also raises questions about the Chiapan government’s claim that the weapons belong to the OCEZ. Frontera Comalapa, as previously mentioned, lies about five hours from Carranza county, where Don Chema’s OCEZ faction is based.

Frontera Comalapa is not known for insurgent activity. This arms bust, if it is to be believed, would be the first time the Mexican government has publicly stated that it has detected insurgent activity in the area. However, this is not the first arms bust in Frontera Comalapa.

Frontera Comalapa, as its name suggests, is located along the Chiapas-Guatemala border. This border region is the primary land route for drug traffickers wishing to bring drugs into Mexico. This area is reportedly dominated by Los Zetas.

The Mexican government and press have repeatedly reported Zetas and drug trafficking activity in Frontera Comalapa and the surrounding area.

On October 15, just three days after the Chiapan government issued its press release attributing the arsenal to the OCEZ, the Mexican military seized 40.66 kilos of cocaine in Fronteral Comalapa.

This past July, the Chiapas government reported that alleged Zetas attacked state police with firearms and grenades in Frontera Comalapa in retaliation for the apprehension of a Zetas leader in Chiapas.

And just last year, the Chiapas government reported that it seized another historic arsenal in Frontera Comalapa. This arsenal contained the most grenades seized at one time. The Chiapas state government attributed that arsenal to organized crime, not local insurgents.

Weak Accusations Lead to Useful Results

Frontera Comalapa is drug trafficking territory, not insurgent territory. The arsenal contains items that a peasant guerrilla army would most likely not own or would not stockpile. The massive arsenal and two racing horses (which require food and water) were left unguarded. The federal and state governments cannot agree on the circumstances of the men’s arrest, nor their alleged organizational affiliations. The PGR, which is responsible for prosecuting the men, claims the detainees are Zetas, not insurgents. Something stinks.

But why would the Chiapas state government go to such lengths to link Don Chema and the OCEZ to this arsenal if its story contains so many holes and inconsistencies?

The Chiapan government has unleashed an unprecedented campaign of legal repression against the OCEZ, and as flimsy as the accusations might be, they serve their purpose. The arsenal provided the government with justification to transfer Don Chema, a state prisoner and the OCEZ’s principal leader, to a federal maximum-security prison located at the other end of the country. And just this morning, unidentified police officers broke into the homes of Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles and José Manuel de la Torre Hernández, two other OCEZ leaders, and kidnapped those two men. Because the police officers did not present an arrest warrant when they carried off the men, it is unknown what how the government will charge them.

One thing is certain: with the year 2010—the centennial and bicentennial of two Mexican revolutions—just around the corner, the Mexican government is just getting started with its pre-emptive strikes against the opposition.

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