From Wounded Knee to Chiapas

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From Wounded Knee to Chiapas

By Darrin Wood

According to the Mexican secretary of foreign relations, US President Bill Clinton has "interfered in Mexican internal affairs" by demanding an investigation into the massacre which occurred in Chenalho, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, in December.

Since Clinton wants an investigation and the government of Ernesto Zedillo doesn't want anyone on the outside looking into how Mexico murders its Indians, we at Nuevo Amanecer Press have come up with a solution for both of them. Why doesn't someone order an investigation into US military "interference" in Mexico ?

Last year, the US Army Special Forces began a massive training program of Mexican Special Forces (GAFE — Airborne Special Forces Groups). Around 3200 Mexican soldiers will receive training in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, by the Green Berets' 7th Special Forces Group (the same ones who brought you all those "democratic freedom fighting" human rights abuses in Honduras and El Salvador in the 1980s). The program allegedly forms part of the "war on drugs".

The Mexican news agency Apro reported on December 25: "An important detachment, composed of members of the [Mexican Army] Airborne Special Forces Groups, was sent to the community of Acteal, in the municipality of Chenalho, where this past Monday 'a paramilitary group linked to the PRI' carried out the biggest massacre in recent years in Chiapas, leaving a total of 46 dead and 25 wounded, the majority being women and children.

"The soldiers of the GAFE, experts in counterinsurgency and specialised in operating in rough terrain as can be found in Chiapas, immediately set up three roadblocks on the highway that leads from Chenalho to Acteal in order to meticulously search all vehicles which passed through the troubled area."

Oddly enough, on December 26, the Mexican daily La Jornada published an article on a recent operation by GAFE in the state of Jalisco, where more than a dozen young men were kidnapped and tortured. One of the youths, Salvador Lopez Jimenez, died as a result of this action.

La Jornada states, "The judge of this jurisdiction has ordered that charges be brought against Lieutenant Colonel Julian Guerrero Barrios and Captain Rogelio Solis Aguilar, who are accused of the crime of violence against the people, as authors of homicide". The article states that 15 other soldiers will be charged in the cover-up, but no names were given.

Nuevo Amanecer Press has been able to confirm that Barrios is a graduate of the US Army's School of the Americas, which he attended in 1981 in a course titled "Commando Operations". We do not know yet how many others of those charged have received training recently at Fort Bragg.

The mastermind behind Mexico's counterinsurgency strategy in Chiapas, General Mario Renan Castillo Fernandez, has also received instruction at Fort Bragg.

The general, now the ex-commander of the Mexican Army's 7th Military Region in Chiapas, has recently been pointed out as having served as an "honorary witness" at a ceremony where the state government of Chiapas handed over $500,000 to the paramilitary group Paz y Justicia.

We find it odd that the two biggest recipients of US military aid in Latin America, Colombia and Mexico, are also the two Latin American countries with the greatest number of massacres carried out by paramilitary organisations connected to their respective armed forces.

We demand an investigation to find out if the use of paramilitary organisations forms an active part of US counterinsurgency doctrine. Several questions need to be answered:

1. Is the financing and training of paramilitary terrorist groups in Latin America currently being taught at the School of the Americas or at Fort Bragg? If not, has it been done in the past?

2. According to a September 1997 report on Mexico from drug czar Barry McCaffrey, the recent "gifts" of Huey helicopters to that country are supposed to be used by GAFE for fighting the war on drugs. Are any of those helicopters now being used in counterinsurgency operations in Chiapas?

3. According to the Mexican press, on December 9 two FBI agents were in the state of Oaxaca giving instruction in the "management of crises and kidnappings" to police from Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca (as well as other troubled states). One article on the course quoted a US embassy official as saying that police forces "have the right to use necessary force" to protect society. This person also defined "crisis management" as being confrontations between police and military forces with groups that "disagree with society", further stating that guerilla organisations fall into that definition. Does the action of the Chiapas police in Chenalho, just two weeks after their FBI course, fall into the US idea of "crisis management"?

It is impossible to take the Zedillo government's protests of "interference in Mexican internal affairs" seriously while he blindly obeys economic policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Wall Street which kill thousands of indigenous and poor Mexican citizens every year through hunger, malnutrition and curable illnesses.

In fact, Zedillo is more than happy to obey foreign economic interference. He only becomes angry when people protest because the killing is being done by bullets and not banks.

Clinton's protests concerning the massacre in Chenalho are also hard to swallow given that the US is supplying all the weapons and training for the bloody counterinsurgency campaign being waged in Chiapas, as well as other states.

The same atrocities have been carried out recently in Colombia, and the US government has just responded by approving an even bigger military aid package for counterinsurgency in Colombia. The message seems to be that if Mexico keeps killing its Indians, it too can expect more aid.

[Abridged from Nuevo Amanecer Press, a non-profit organisation distributing information in defence of human rights. Visit NAP at .]