NEWS FLASH: LOPEZ OBRADOR ELECTED LEADER OF PRD BY A SWEEPING MARGIN:

On Sunday, members of the PRD went to the polls to participate in the first ever open ballot election in the history of the party, and predictions as of this morning are that Manuel Lopez Obradór, the firebrand leader of the party in Tabasco, where he personally led demonstrations blockading entrances to storage facilities belonging to PEMEX, the nation’s petroleum monopoly will finish with more than 75% of the vote. Lopez’ victory will be seen as a victory for party founder Cuáuhtemoc Cárdenas, over outgoing president Muñoz Ledo. It will also mean that the PRD will resume the more combative stance that it took previous to the stolen 1988 election for president of the Republic, and eschew Muñoz’ more conciliatory, “get along” brand of dealing with the PRI.

When the results become official on Wednesday, Lopez is expected to pay homage to Cárdenas, who endorsed him for the job.

HUGE GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN IN GUERRERO AIMED AT DESTROYING ORGANIZED NON-VIOLENT PEASANT RESISTANCE:

The Mexican army now has an estimated 8,000 troops billeted in the southern mountains of Guerrero. So far, two highly publicized arrests have been made in response to an appearance by the “Popular Revolutionary Army” (EPR) (see glossary) on June 28th.

In a series of moves remeniscent of the vicious government crackdown led by General Chapporo twenty years ago, the army, the motorized state police (the group responsible for the massacre of seventeen campesinos a year ago) and the federales are going after the leadership of the OCSS (see glossary), using “confessions” tortured and extorted from prisoners accused of being members of the EPR.

Here is the chronology, up to July 14, 1996:

Within a few days of the EPR’s appearance, Jose Nava Andrade was sitting on a bench in the park in front of the state assembly in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero. Accompanied by his two teenage sons, he was waiting to be summoned for an audience he had requested with a high government official. Nava, a farmer from the southern mountains, is one of the leaders of the OPCG (see glossary), an umbrella group of peasant organizations.

Two men approached, identified themselves as police, and asked him to accompany them. They assured his sons that he would be right back; that the man he had come to see had had to go somewhere else, and they were there to escort him to his meeting. Nava did not return.

Days later, Nava testified at a press conference held by his organization. His arm had been broken, the nerves in his hand had suffered permanent damage, and he was obviously humiliated and in shock from being tortured. He testified that his interrogators demanded to know the identities of the EPR. He is now in hiding, fearing for his life.

On the ninth of July, the army announced the confessions of four “presumed members” of the EPR, captured the day before. The men had confessed to being EPR, and said that they had been paid 2,000 new pesos (about $300 usd) to pretend to be guerrillas. They said they had been told where to go to find the EPR encampment, and trained for a couple of days in how to fire an AK47. They said that the leadership of their peasant organization, the OCSS, was behind the EPR phenomenon. Among those leaders they named as participating in the EPR was Ismael Selgado Mena, an OCSS leader who had been assassinated a year ago.

The four men were “interviewed” in Acapulco’s Cereso prison by Jorge Torres, known to Guerrenses as the prison’s official public relations spokesman. Torres is a “reporter” for the official government tv station. No other reporters have been allowed in.

Families of the detainees, allowed to visit them after the dog and pony show, reported that all had been tortured, and that none had been members of the EPR . Furthermore, they all affirmed that when arrested, all had been wearing civilian blue or black clothing, although they were paraded out in green. The army claimed that they had become suspicious BECAUSE the suspects were wearing green at the time of arrest.

One of the four named Hilario Mesino Acosta, an OCSS leader, as his paymaster. This individual had in fact been captured on June 3, not June 8. His family had, up until the ninth, been told repeatedly that he had not been arrested and that his whereabouts was unknown. He is active in the PRD.

Mesino, the man he accuses of leading the EPR, was by the accounts of scores of witnesses, 200 miles away in Zihuatenejo when the EPR did its dance on June 28.

Last week, four more peasants were arrested. Like the others, they are prominent peasant leaders in their communities, and affilitated either with the OCSS or the PRD. Yesterday, the government announced that nine more peasants were being sought.

MEXICAN GOVERNMENT NO LONGER ABLE TO COVER UP NEWS OF SPREADING PEASANT RESISTANCE:

In the last two weeks, there have been peasant uprisings and “guerrilla sightings” in the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Hidalgo, Baja California Norte and (earlier) in Coahuila. Added to the confrontations in Chiapas and Guerrero, these new body blows to the Mexican ruling party have resulted in mild increases in the price of a US dollar, the withdrawal of some proposed

investments, and confusion in the ruling PRI. The appearance on June 28, 1996, of scores of green-uniformed, well armed self-proclaimed guerrillas, in the canyon of Aguas Blancas, Guerrero, seemed to send sparks of rebellion to other areas of the country.

The army has set up new encampments in the mountains of northern Oaxaca near the Veracruz border, and in the west near Guerrero.

In the Huasteca mountains on the border of VeraCruz and Hidalgo, the village of Huautla has been taken over by the army. According to local leaders, the army moved in after the state judicial police claimed that they had discovered two “large caches” of guns and ammo. In the few days that they have been there, the army has arrested and interrogated several peasants, and confiscated their (legal) small caliber weapons, machetes, and –in some cases — water. So far, no encampments have been discovered and no gurerrillas have been captured. Some speculate that there are no guerrillas in that area, but that there is lots of marijuana which the army would like to control for their own profit. Others are saying that the army prefers to look good without risk, and that it is safer to attack shadow guerrillas than real ones. Everyone is waiting for the army to trot out some “confessed” dissidents, who will name opposition peasant leaders as seditious.

In Baja California, near Ensenada, workers at a giant canning facility who were tired of waiting for the managers to pay them overdue back wages, took over the factory, injuring some guards in the process. They were later disprersed by army forces. When last reported, the company security people had fired the ringleaders and confiscated their company-owned houses. San Quinton, population 40,000, is one of the largest company towns in Mexico.

In Coahuila state, 300 starving peasants attacked a train carrying grain, and sacked it. They live in one of the worst droughts in the last 100 years, and according to relief workers in the area they grew restive when promised relief shipments were diverted to profiteers.

EZLN & GOVERNMENT AGREE NOT TO UNILATERALLY WITHDRAW FROM FUTURE NEGOTIATIONS:

After a marathon three day session under the auspices of COCOPA (see glossary), El Sub emerged at 4 am a couple of days ago to announced that the upcoming round of talks in August would go ahead as scheduled, the parties having agreed to six principles, among which is that neither the government nor the EZLN can withdraw from the talks without the agreement of the convenors. While this weakens the EZLN’s ability to intervene in future cases, as it did regarding journalist Javier Elloriaga, by boycotting the talks (where their refusal to continue unless he was released worked), it strengthens the hand of COCOPA, a congressional commisision to promote peace in Chiapas who are generally believed to be more sympathetic to the rebels than to the government.

(when Elloriaga’s sentence was announced, the head of the commission resigned in protest, calling the government’s handling of the case dishonorable).

EZLN DECISION TO SIGN NON-WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT MAY ADVERSELY AFFECT ITS’ RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER REGIONAL STRUGGLES OF RESISTANCE AND WEAKEN ITS EFFORT TO BUILD A NATIONAL POLITICAL PARTY:

I have noted in the past that the true leadership of the EZLN, the Central Command made up of indigenous leaders from various tribal groupings in Chiapas, are seen by many to be rather insular when it comes to alliances with forces outside their geographical area. This was first called to my attention in April of 1996. A visitor, passing through Oaxaca on the way to the States from Chiapas, was relating some things he had observed during the first Gathering For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, held in March in Realidad.

He reported that, while the foreign and Mexican representatives of other organizations were doing extensive “networking” with each other, the Zapatista leadership seemed to be holding itself aloof; that he had heard complaints from participants about the unavailablility of the Central Command. Not that all guests weren’t treated with all due formal respect, merely that some were disappointed over what they had hoped would be a forging of closer links with the Zapatista leadership. This was later confirmed by another friend, close to one of the US tribal leaders who attended.

Except for the fact that the EZLN has been making noises about forming a national political party, this background might not be very important: the problems in Chiapas are, in the last instance, only solvable by Chiapanecos. However, the negotiating treaty could tie their hands in cases where a walkout to show solidarity with other oppressed segments of the population (and assuring that no troops stationed in Chiapas would be moved elsewhere) might drive the “bad government” to settle without calling out more troops.

MORE GLOSSARY TERMS: Cut and paste to glossary file:

EPR: The Ejército Populár Revolucionario (Popular Revolutionary Army). A group estimated to have been about one hundred strong, which showed up unexpectedly during a memorial service for 17 peasants slain the previous year by government forces. The well-dressed and well-armed self-proclaimed guerrillas had apparently not been seen before, and have not been active since. Some suspect that they were an invention of the government, to be used as an excusse to crush non violent peasant resistance in Gurrero.

OPCG: Organización de Pueblos y Colonias de Guerrero (League of Villages and Neighborhoods of Guerrero), a peasant self-help organization that agitates, among other things, for delivery of much needed infrastructure services to the small towns and shanty-town suburbs where the poorest of Guerrero’s citizens live.

OCSS: Organización Campesino del Sierra de Sur (Farmer’s Organization for the Southern Sierra), a rural self-help alliance that first came to prominence when seventeen of its’ members were massacred on their way to a rally to protest planned clear cutting of old growth timber by a US timber giant, on June 28, 1995. Allied strongly with the opposition PRD.

COCOPA: The Federal Commission to secure Peace Accords. A multiparty organization created by Congress to push the reconciliation process between the indigenous campesinos and their EZLN enforcement wing, and the national government. A successor to a similar commission set up in early 1994 by Archbishop Samu‚l Ru¡z which ran afoul of credibility problems in terms of the big landowners, who call Ru¡z “the Red bishop”.