Last month, December 2003, hundreds of PRI supporters threatened to burn down the Zapatista centre of Morelia. This mob was headed and encouraged by a local mayor, and by a senator.
But 1,000 Zapatistas gathered to defend Morelia, one of the five new Zapatista Caracols, and base for the Zapatista regional “Committee of Good Government”. After a stand-off the PRI-istas (supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party) backed down and dispersed, though the threat to the Caracol remains. The Zapatistas have declared: “We are prepared to face up to anyone, whoever they might be, to defend our Caracol – to the death if necessary.”
The Zapatista Committee of Good Government ”Heart of the Rainbow of Hope” has denounced groups of PRI supporters who have threatened the imminent destruction of the Zapatista Caracol “Whirlwind of Our Words”, at Morelia, Chiapas. The PRI-istas,led by the Mayor of Altamirano, are being encouraged and urged on by Senator Arely Madrid Tovilla. The autonomous authorities have also denounced the fact that the PRI legislator is aiming to become the “temporary governor of Chiapas”.
On 7th December 2003 the Municipal President of the nearby town of Altamirano visited the Caracol of Morelia and stated that the next day PRI supporters would march from Altamirano to Morelia, that they would be joined by PRI supporters from several communities, and that, “if there were enough of them”, they would destroy the Caracol. The Mayor of Altamirano declared that he personally would lead the attack on the Caracol. With these threats he aimed to scare the grass-roots supporters of the EZLN into abandoning the Zapatista centre. The attack was planned for 8am on Monday 8th December.
La Jornada (Mexican daily newspaper) has been informed by the Committe of Good Government that on that Sunday night hundreds of grass-roots Zapatista supporters from the Tzotz Choj zone gathered in the Caracol of Morelia, “ready to defend it, even at the cost of their lives.”
On the Monday morning around 200 PRI-istas gathered in Altamirano, later re-inforced by a further 200 militants from the organisation Lucha Campesina (Peasants’ Struggle). The Committee of Good Government states that at this point 2 delegates from the state government presented themselves at the Caracol of Morelia “asking that the Zapatistas should receive the crowd who were going to march against the Caracol.”
The autonomous authorites denounced the fact that the Municipal President of Altamirano had clearly threatened the Caracol with destruction. The Zapatistas would not permit this, and were ready to face up to anyone, no matter who it may be. By now there were around 1,000 grass-roots Zapatista supporters at Morelia.
The government delegates withdrew. “During the course of Monday up to 18 Security Forces lorries full of officers, as well as an unknown number of Judical Police, arrived in Altamirano.” 2 military aeroplanes made reconnaissance flights over Altamirano, Morelia and the Patiwitz canyon.
The Committee of Good Government declared “On Sunday the Municipal President of Altamirano appeared at Morelia and threatened that on Monday the PRI-istas would mobilise and come and burn down the Caracol. We will not put up with threats from anyone. Everyone knows that. We are prepared to face up to anyone, whoever they might be, to defend our Caracol – to the death if necessary.”
“We are well aware that senora Arely Madrid Tovilla is behind the PRI-istas attacks on this and other Caracols. She wants to be governor of Chiapas, and thus is adopting a policy of distributing money to the PRI-istas so that they will attack the Caracols, saying to the PRI-istas that we, the Zapatistas, are very weak. Her plan is that there will be violent confrontations once again, and that she will be able to become temporary governor.
“We want the PRI-istas to know that we are not weak and that we are ready to die to defend our autonomy. We will defend ourselves by all means until the end.”…….
On Tuesday afternoon tension remained high in Morelia, “and the grass-roots Zapatista supporters are ready for the attack announced by the Municipal President of Altamirano and Arely Madrid Tovilla”, concluded the Committee of Good Government “Heart of the Rainbow of Hope”.
On Tuesday night (9th December 2003) it appeared that the PRI-istas had returned to their communities, however time will tell if this problem will continue in the coming days.
NOTE The PRI was the long-time traditional governing party in Mexico, until the current PAN government came to power, and is still the most powerful political party in Chiapas.
Translated and adapted from the original article by Hermann Bellinghausen in La Jornada (Mexican daily newspaper) , and on Indymedia Chiapas
by Mike, Edinburgh-Chiapas Solidarity Group