New Army Will Make Millions of Enemies
The irruption of the Zapatistas into Mexican reality has brought about an unprecedented restructuring of the army and a redefinition of what “enemies” need to be combated. Almost any one of the millions of Mexicans excluded from the economic model can be turned into an enemy.
Human Rights Center Miguel Agustín Pro
Indications of a political hardening and authoritarianism in the government appeared increasingly clearly throughout September. Repression and the danger of institutional violence against citizen's rights are the most serious signs of this tendency.
Immobilize the EZLN Politically and MilitarilyA masked war, termed "low intensity" by the media, is developing in different Chiapas regions and causing more victims than those provoked by the military conflict in January 1994. More peasants and indigenous have been killed by armed civilians during this latent Chiapas conflict than during the first 12 days of January 1994, when the hostilities between the Zapatista National Liberation Army and the Federal Army began.
On the eve of the October 15 elections in Chiapas, the government decided to promote a "political recovery" process based on repression and militarization in regions with significant EZLN sympathizers and a broad presence of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Northern Chiapas and southern Tabasco are being turned into military conflict zones by the incursion of military soldiers. At the same time, PRI conflict groups and state Public Security forces have launched a dirty war against PRD militants. The political military offensive in Tila, Tumbalá, Sabanilla and Salto del Agua at the edge of the Tabasco state has sown terror among the indigenous population. The installed military base and resulting troop movement has also had intimidating effects in the Tenosique municipality in Tabasco.
The official aim of politically and militarily immobilizing the EZLN is the cornerstone of the counterinsurgency scheme being implemented in Chiapas. During September, this strategy was expressed through a direct attack against those the government considers to be the Zapatistas' social and political base. All of this should be taken into account as the real backdrop of the current round of government EZLN dialogue.
Pacify or Impose Conditions? The suspension of hostilities between the Zapatistas and the army, within the strict limits of this dialogue, does not signify either peace or a deactivation of the war. On the contrary, military presence in the communities is causing critical damage to the social, economic, political and cultural life of ethnic groups. It favors confrontations between brothers it has been denounced that the army distributes arms to peasants "so they can defend themselves from the Zapatistas." It is also generating social decomposition there are testimonies of soldiers traveling with prostitutes and at times raping women from the communities, and alcoholism rates have increased.
This military presence isolates the people, making it risky to leave home each day and work in the fields. It keeps the indigenous from being able to get social attention, while the appropriate civil authorities do nothing. Illnesses such as cholera and mountain leprosy are present in various zones, and it is calculated that 60% of children are not vaccinated against any preventable disease; a measles epidemic is advancing from Guatemala.
In this context, how can one justify the expulsion from the country of foreign priests and religious workers who have taken a clear option to serve the most impoverished communities? The government is trying to dismantle the pastoral work of the San Cristóbal de las Casas diocese and erode even more the fragile basis of the government EZLN dialogue. Apprehension and deportation orders against these religious workers are intended to weaken Bishop Samuel Ruiz's mediating role in the armed conflict.
This combination of realities speaks more of provocation and hardening positions than of relieving tensions. With these actions, the Mexican government appears to be preparing not for peace in Chiapas, but for a political and military imposition of its conditions.
Millions of "Enemies"According to confidential National Defense Secretary documents, the Mexican government has created a special body in Chiapas called the Rainbow Task Force, composed of approximately 10,000 men, on alert and prepared for immediate and decisive action.
The facts are demonstrating that the Zapatista eruption into the Mexican reality led to a profound and unprecedented restructuring of the Mexican army. The goal of the changes is "never again" an episode like the night of December 31, 1993, when the army was surprised by the Zapatista uprising, neither in Chiapas nor in any other corner of the country.
The "new" Mexican army has already said it "bases its force in the green hats, commanders, elite forces and assault troops." With them, it hopes to anticipate, prevent and be prepared to respond to any new guerrilla uprisings. The broadest objective is to abort any possible protests and rebellions before they become public knowledge.
This is the key to understanding what is happening in Guerrero, where the growing militarization is justified as the way to confront organized crime and possible guerrillas, and where there has been total impunity before the continuous violence and assassinations.
There have been constant troop mobilizations in the Guerrero mountains in the last six months. It has officially been said that these are routine tasks or are part of a campaign to eradicate drug crops. Although some journalist versions speak of presumed armed groups, nothing has been confirmed. The only thing certain is that part of the program the army is developing in Guerrero is to establish a Special Forces Air Transport Group.
The current Mexican process is inverting the traditional logic of national security doctrines. The process is not to preserve sovereignty against any real or imagined dangerous foreign enemy. Now the enemy is within, hidden in each citizen. The greatest perversity of this conception is that the virtual "enemy" is defined on behalf of official political and economic interests. Thus, the "enemies" are the millions excluded from those interests, who live in structural poverty generated by the current economic model.
The governmental strategy in Guerrero does not seek to resolve the serious problems found there: human rights violations, poverty, drug trafficking, local bosses, corruption, land conflicts and electoral conflicts. It rather seeks to apply the above mentioned version of "national security."
Reinforcing AuthoritarianismThe current bill to create a National Public Security System is another example. It proposes to centralize control of state security and citizen control.
The National Public Security Council will be the National Public Security System's coordinating instrument. It will include as members the Secretary of Governance as president, the National Defense Secretary, the Navy Secretary, the General Prosecutor of the Republic, state governors and the Chief of the Federal District.
This project proposes valid things, for example, a national registry of police personnel and equipment and a police information and statistics system. But two points of the project are of concern: the all embracing power conceded to the executive secretary who will head the new Public Security Council, and the assigning of police and social control tasks to the army and the navy.
Almost unlimited power is given to the executive secretary, yet who will name this person, under what criteria he or she will be chosen or what the term of office will be are not clearly defined.
The presence of the Defense and Navy Secretaries in this new public security body is also inexplicable, if in fact there is no intention to militarize police activity. Why are the armed forces wanted on the Council, to combat drug trafficking? Article 129 of the Constitution prevents the armed forces from involvement in civil issues of public and police security in "times of peace." Is Mexico at war? Against whom?
Citizens aspire to greater daily security, the real prevention of crimes, and the transparent and opportune administration of justice. There is even a desire for police professionalization and efficacy, but there is also a demand for respect of individual guarantees and human rights, as well as a hope for peace.