SPECIAL REPORT: Mexican troops suppress Indian town during President Bush visit
- SPECIAL REPORT: Mexican troops suppress Indian town
Two killed, others disappeared, during President Bush visit
Posted: January 20, 2004 - 3:46pm EST
by: Jim Adams / Associate Editor / Indian Country Today
TLALNEPANTLA, Mexico Hours after President Bush held a summit meeting
in Monterrey several hundred miles north, Mexican troops stormed this
indigenous village in the state of Morelos over the night of Jan. 14,
leaving at least two dead and scores missing, according to on-the-scene
reports reaching Indian Country Today.
This agricultural township of about 3000 people had just inaugurated an
autonomous municipal council Jan. 11, rejecting the results of a
state-sponsored election last year. According to the report reaching
Indian Country Today, the council was modeled on the autonomous local
governments of the Zapatista indigenous movement in Chiapas, which was
just celebrating its tenth anniversary.
According to an eyewitness from the United States, who filmed some of
the events, starting at 1 a.m. Jan. 14: "Riot police stormed the town,
killing at least two and sending hundreds of campesinos running for
cover. I saw helicopters hunting campesinos in the hillsides. It is a
The witness, whose identity is being withheld by this newspaper pending
further communication, said the attack followed warnings from the state
government against establishment of the autonomous council. After
repeated threats from the government to dismantle the autonomous
government in Tlalnepantla, Governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal ordered
nearly 1500 riot police at 1 a.m., armed with assault rifles, to evict
the autonomous government from Tlalnepantla.
"Snipers and police gunmen filled the air with bullets, beat women and
men over 80 years of age, and left two dead, many wounded and scores of
people disappeared and as of yet unaccounted for. Illegal searches were
conducted in dozens of houses in the town."
A spokesman for the federal government in Mexico City said that the
incident was in charge of the state government of Morelos and that he
would be unable to provide information. He did confirm, however, that
the police in the raid were state and not federal. Morelos State, the
smallest in the country, is currently controlled by the PAN, the
conservative party led by Mexican President Vicente Fox.
According to the dispatch, establishment of the council and its
suppression followed an electoral dispute last July. "Like thousands of
indigenous communities in Mexico, and according to ancient custom," said
the report, Tlalnepantla "has always elected its leaders in an open town
council consisting of the entire adult population." In last July's
elections, this way of selecting authorities was rejected by the Mexican
electoral commission. The candidate who officially won at the polls was
not selected by the full town assembly.
The winning candidate, with less than 10 percent of the electorate's
vote, is an unpopular political boss who has been accused of corruption
in other political offices he has held. A majority of the population of
Tlalnepantla subsequently called for an annulment of the electoral
results and legal recognition of its ancient form of selecting leaders,
but the Morelos state government ignored their plea.
After months of discussion within the town, and in full accordance with
the legal guarantees of the Mexican constitution, the people of
Tlalnepantla declared themselves "autonomous" in the same way that EZLN
[Zapatistia Army of National Liberation] affiliated indigenous
communities in Chiapas have done. Tlalnepantla's declaration of autonomy
came just as communities across Mexico and the world were celebrating
the ten year anniversary of the uprising in Chiapas.
The town is 17 miles away from the historic center of Cuernavaca, where
many foreign students attend language classes. It is said to be an
important producer of the edible nopal cactus, an important staple of
the Mexican diet, and also grows peaches and sugar cane.
But no further information about the situation was available over the
holiday weekend. A duty officer at the U.S. State Department said no one
was available on the Martin Luther King national holiday who would be
aware of the events, and it appears not to have been reported in any
major U. S. newspapers.
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