Mexico: A Time to Kill

September 25, 2007

Between June 8 and 10, 1998, members of the Mexican army and the police killed 11 campesinos in the state of Guerrero and eight in Chiapas. In neither case was there resistance or armed confrontation. In both cases, there were over 1,000 military and police operatives armed with tanks, bazookas and automatic weapons. In both cases, the locals fled into the surrounding hills.

Eyewitnesses attest that the campesinos in Guerrero were executed in cold blood. In the case of Chiapas, the Mexican government claims that soldiers were responding to gun fire coming from a nearby hillside. A contingent of 1,000 heavily armed soldiers does not massacre a defenseless population in response to scattered sniper fire or in self-defense. They do so when they are ordered to.

The army responsible for these atrocities has a Commander in Chief. His name is Ernesto Zedillo and he is the president of Mexico. The Commander in Chief must now explain this long-foretold bloodbath to the country and to the world. The fact that he was silent for over 24 hours after his troops ransacked Unión del Progresso and massacred its residents is an offense to his office and to the country which he claims to govern.

The lies and insults of Ernesto Zedillo and his cronies left Bishop Samuel Ruiz and the National Mediating Commission (CONAI) only one option: to denounce the government's war, to warn about the imminent attacks and to resign from their futile task of mediation. Their warnings materialized faster than even the government's harshest critics could have ever imagined.

Recent events, moreover, prove that the Zapatistas were right to maintain their prolonged silence. It is the old silence of combatants, of prisoners, of those who resist the everyday insults, lies and cynicism of those who use words as if they were excrement.

Words should be sacred. Why use them, and with whom, if there are no interlocutors? How does one respond to those who demand dialogue while they spout insults and their troops kill indigenous people, ransack houses, destroy crops and terrorize children?

On at least three different occasions, President Zedillo has gone back on his word. The first time was on February 9, 1995, when Zapa-tista leaders were ambushed by his troops on their way to negotiations to which they had agreed in good faith. The second time was when, after signing the 1996 San Andrés Accords, he refused to abide by them. The third is now, when after repeating week after week that he would not use military force to resolve the conflict in Chiapas, his troops enter into villages to kill, arrest and ransack.

Where there is no faith that agreements will be respected, dialogue is not possible. There is only a lie with which honest people cannot become complicitous. This explains the dissolution of the CONAI, the paralysis of the Mediation and Pacification Commission (COCOPA) and the silence of the EZLN.

Now it is time for others to speak. The National Congress could step in to stop this madness. It has the power to demand an explanation from Dr. Zedillo for the killings, the torture and the countless human rights violations committed by his troops in the state of Chiapas.

On the eve of the World Cup, 19 people have been killed by the gunfire of the Mexican army. Meanwhile, the entire world wonders whether the government has been deporting international observers and denying them visas so they could not witness what was to come. Foreign Relations Minister Rosario Green must explain to the world, to the NAFTA countries, to the European Union and to Latin America what those massacred Indians and those blindfolded prisoners tied like sacks of potatoes on the floor of military trucks mean. We must not allow the World Cup to become the curtain that hides these atrocities and allows them to continue. Let it not become a cover for this time to kill.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adolfo Gilly teaches history at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He is the author of Chiapas: La razón ardiente (ERA, 1997) and is a regular contributor to La Jornada.

Reprinted with permission from the June 12, 1998 issue of La Jornada.

Translated from the Spanish by NACLA.

Tags: Mexico, army, violence, Ernesto Zedillo

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