Reality in Mexico--Our government is financing human rights violations.
Thursday, July 9, 1998
A reason for extreme concern about the "low intensity" war in Mexico is that our government is financing it.
I knew this when I joined a human rights observers'' delegation to the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in April of this year. Since my taxes are supporting the military occupation of 23 states in Mexico, which the government there says is necessary for "national security," I wanted to hear directly from ordinary people in two of the states with the worst and largest number of human rights violations exactly what they think is going on.
While the state of Chiapas has become a focus of international attention, similar conditions exist in other states, but are not publicized. Since 1996, when three successful attacks against military and police installations in Guerrero, the state of Mexico, and at Huatulco in Oaxaca were carried out by a well-armed and organized guerrilla force, the government has been reacting with extreme repression against any social or political movements. We chose to visit areas where ongoing campaigns of intimidation, assassinations, arrests, torture, rapes by soldiers, and various other human rights abuses were common.
The raid in Chiapas on June 3, when 1,000 soldiers entered a small town in the early morning hours and arrested 141 people, was quite similar to what we found has been the norm in the region of Los Loxichas, Oaxaca, between June 1996 and April 1998. There have been 27 cases of disappearances in Oaxaca, with the "disappeared" being held in "security houses" or clandestine jails. Seventy-eight men are in prison, accused without evidence of participating in the Huatulco raid. Those detained include journalists, students, representatives of indigenous organizations, lawyers and teachers. In theory, the Mexican army, federal and state police, and the paramilitary groups supported and supplied by the ruling party, the PRI, are fighting guerrillas in Oaxaca, but in reality, they can''t find them and instead are accusing hundreds of ordinary, usually very poor people of being guerrillas. The people regard the search for guerrillas, whom they have never seen, as a government excuse to attack communities which have been organizing and demanding democratic reforms.
In the state of Guerrero, where 75 percent of the electoral districts are now governed by the PRD, supporters have been assassinated or kidnapped in public by masked men. We spoke with a woman in a small village whose husband had been killed a few steps outside of the opposition PRD party office in the city of Coyuca de Benitez, and another similar killing occurred two days before we left Mexico. Also in Guerrero, we visited a young man in the mountains above Acapulco who is a survivor of the June 1995 massacre by state police of 17 campesinos at Aguas Blancas on their way to an organization meeting. Many of the other survivors have fled because they are in danger. Felipe told us that one of his brothers is in prison and another brother had been kidnapped by masked men, flown to a military camp in Mexico City blindfolded, and there questioned and tortured by men who wanted him to confess he was a guerilla. He couldn''t because he wasn''t. The questioners spoke English among themselves.
Amid news reports of increasing democracy in Mexico, Congress recently certified that Mexico is cooperating in the war against drugs and therefore will continue to receive economic and military aid. There was no discussion of human rights or of legitimate political activity repressed by the Mexican government.
Press Congress and the president to require verifiable compliance with international human rights standards before providing more assistance which enables Mexico''s government to continue a war against its own people.
June Malament is a bilingual social worker, member of the Monterey Chapter of the Women''s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Green Party.