Update to MEX37620.E of 12 September 2001 on the treatment of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) by the Mexican government [MEX40054.E]

Sources indicate that the paramilitary group Peace and Justice continues to kill or threaten supporters of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) (AP 16 Feb. 2002; La Jornada 11 Feb. 2003). Global Exchange reports that old paramilitary formations have remerged, while new ones such as [Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights] OPDIC have begun operating more recently (30 Aug. 2002). Such formations have coincided with the deployment of additional Mexican army troops throughout the conflict zone in Chiapas that have erected new military check points, thus facilitating the movement of the paramilitaries (Global Exchange 30 Aug. 2002). Some Zapatistas have been forced to abandon their communities because of the paramilitary violence, while others have their communities occupied by the Mexican army (ibid.). The Associated Press reported on 27 April 2003 that, according to military officials, there are still hundreds of Mexican army troops throughout Chiapas to primarily control violent clashes between the Zapatistas and the paramilitaries, and to facilitate government implementation of social programmes.

Human rights organizations have accused paramilitary groups, such as the OPDIC, of having links to local politicians and the military (Weekly News Update on the Americas 1 Sept. 2002) and of killing four Zapatista supporters in August 2002 (ibid.; Mexico Barbaro 15-21 Sept. 2002). In one of the incidents on 25 August 2002, observers stated that two EZLN supporters from the Ricardo Flores Magon community, Lorenzo Martinez Espinosa and Jacinto Hernandez Gutierrez, were killed by members of the OPDIC, which is led by a local Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) legislative politician named Pedro Chulin Jimenez (Weekly News Update on the Americas 1 Sept. 2002). In another incident on 26 August 2002, Antonio Mejia Vazquez of the Chilon community, Olga Isabel municipality, was allegedly killed by members belonging to another paramilitary group with links to the military and the police called Los Aguilares (ibid.).

While the governor of Chiapas, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia, states that paramilitary groups have been dismantled and that the killings mentioned above were the work of "disgruntled PRIistas" who sought to undermine him, Enlace Civil, a non-governmental organization, has registered 92 incidents of "intimidation" by paramilitary groups or PRI members against members of the Zapatista autonomous municipalities from January to July 2002 (Mexico Barbaro 15-21 Sept. 2002).

Since May 2001, when the EZLN broke off negotiations with the Mexican government, there have reportedly been 288 military and police incursions into Zapatista-controlled municipalities, according to one San Cristobal de las Casas non-governmental organization (ibid. 4-10 Aug. 2002). Roughly one-third of the incursions have taken place in the autonomous municipality of Ricardo Flores Magon, which is located next to the Montes Azules biosphere reserve in the Lacandon jungle (ibid.). The 39 communities within the municipality "are threatened with eviction by state and federal authorities" (ibid.). Global Exchange states that the Zapatista-supporting communities near Montes Azules have been accused by the authorities of committing "environmental crimes" and as a result are threatened with eviction (30 Aug. 2002). In February 2003, the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN) reported that 35 communities in the Montes Azules area were planning to resist their scheduled "forced dislocations" by federal authorities (10-16 Feb. 2003). The MSN report added that one community had been displaced and that it was been residing in an auditorium located in the town of Comitan, Chiapas, temporarily until some land became available (MSN 10-16 Feb. 2003). In April 2003, human rights groups reported that the army had set up an observation post close to a Zapatista community in Montes Azules (AP 27 Apr. 2003), while at the same time, the Community Human Rights Defenders Network reported that officials of the navy and the state environmental secretariat had accompanied Indian groups who had threatened to expel Zapatistas from their communities in the Montes Azules area (MSN 28 Apr.-4 May 2003).

In February 2003, La Jornada reported that Zapatista supporters were threatened by PRI local authorities and members of Peace and Justice with dislocation from communally owned land in La Aurora, Palenque, for refusing to accept resources from the certification program of solar and land tenure rights (Programa de Certificación de Derechos Ejidales y Titulación de Solares, PROCEDE) (11 Feb. 2003). Refusal to accept the funding implied that the families would not be paying the high taxes associated with it (La Jornada 11 Feb. 2003). Another La Jornada report states that Zapatistas residing in the Potobtic community were fearing an incursion by the army in the upcoming days because of arrest warrants lodged against them for crimes for which the Zapatistas deny having had committed (1 Mar. 2003). On 12 February 2003, soldiers and police officers had entered the community of Potobtic to search for a particular youth, for firearms and marijuana (La Jornada 1 Mar. 2003). During the military incursion, female community members were insulted and officials threatened to enter some homes (ibid.). A Zapatista spokesperson of the community accused the PRI supporters of fabricating the accusations as a means to attack the Zapatistas and to provide the pretext to expulse them (ibid.).

With regard to government attempts to deal with the violence against Zapatista members or supporters, AP reported in February 2002 that the state police in Chiapas had arrested a leader of Peace and Justice (16 Feb. 2002). Since the EZLN uprising in 1994, there have been few direct confrontations between the rebel group and the government (ibid.). EFE reported that with the release of two or three EZLN prisoners in Chiapas in May 2002, only five other Zapatista supporters remained imprisoned in Tabasco and Queretaro out of the total of 100 jailed in 2000 (23 May 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press (AP). 27 April 2003. Manuel de la Cruz. "Human Rights Group: Mexican Soldiers Established Base Near Zapatista Community." (NEXIS)

_____. 16 February 2002. Alejandro Ruiz. "Mexican Police Arrest Leader of Alleged Paramilitary Group." (NEXIS)

EFE. 23 May 2002. "Mexico-EZLN: Jailed Guerrillas Released in Mexico's Chiapas State." (NEXIS)

Global Exchange. 30 August 2002. "Background to the Current Hostilities." http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/mexico/chiapas/20020912_333.html [Accessed 14 May 2003]

La Jornada [México]. 1 March 2003. Hermann Bellinghausen. "Indígenas autónomos denuncian intimidación militar." http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/mar03/030301/014n2pol.php?origen=politica.html [Accessed 14 May 2003]

_____. 11 February 2003. "Priístas amagan a bases zapatistas que no aceptaron fondos del Procede." http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/feb03/030211/008n2pol.php?origen=politica.html [Accessed 14 May 2003]

Mexico Barbaro [New York]. 15-21 September 2002. John Ross. "Who Is Killing the Zapatistas of Chiapas? Some Say Paramilitaries, Some Say the Same Old PRI." (NEXIS)

_____. 4-10 August 2002. John Ross. "No Peace! No War--A Report for the Extraordinary National Encounter for Peace with Justice and Dignity in Chiapas." (NEXIS)

México Solidarity Network (MSN). 28 April-4 May 2003. "Threats Increasing in Montes Azules." http://www.mexicosolidarity.org/news_current.html [Accessed 15 May 2003]

_____. 10-16 February 2003. "Communities in Montes Azules Resist Dislocation." http://www.mexicosolidarity.org/news_feb10_03.html [Accessed 15 May 2003]

Weekly News Update on the Americas [New York]. 1 September 2002. "Mexico: Killings in Chiapas." (NEXIS)