An estimated 5,000 Tzotzil Maya peasants have been forced to flee their homes in the municipality of Chalchihuitán, in Mexico's southern Chiapas state, facing threats by armed men in a land dispute with the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó. The displaced, living in improvised camps since their homes were attacked in October, only started to receieve aid this week, as Chenalhó residents blocked all three roads to the community. Army vehicles started delivering aid Dec. 12 after one blockade was relaxed, but on condition that only humanitarian aid be allowed through. The army and state and federal police have established a Mixed Operations Base in the area. The local Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas said that an "atmosphere of terror" prevails in the area, and warned of a repeat of the 1997 Acteal massacre, when 45 were killed by paramilitary gunmen in a hamlet of Chenalhó.
Mayor Rosa Pérez Pérez of Chenalhó, Chiapas, stepped down May 26—after days of violence in the indigenous Maya municipality that even turned deadly. Pérez finally resigned after two state lawmakers from her Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM) were taken captive by opponents at a meeting called to negotiate an end to the dispute at the offices of the Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The lawmakers were forcibly removed from the premises by masked men who invaded the meeting and drove them to Chenalhó, where they were held to demand Pérez's resignation. By then, some 250 residents of outlying hamlets had fled inter-factional violence and taken refuge in government offices in Chenalhó's municipal center. A 56-year-old man was killed in fighting at the hamlet of Puebla. Violence has continued even after the resignation, with a 14-year-old girl shot in Puebla, where several homes were put to the torch. Opponents charged Pérez with diverting funds for development projects to her personal account, and say she represents the traditional ruling families of Chenalhó, who for the past generation have terrorized opposition with paramilitary groups to maintain power. The PVEM, now the ruling party in Chiapas, is assailed by critics as a "satellite party" of Mexico's ruling machine, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
State police arrested six indigenous Mexicans on May 17 in connection with the killing on May 2 of an activist in La Realidad, a village in the official municipality of Las Margaritas in the southeastern state of Chiapas. La Realidad is one of a number of indigenous communities that supporters of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) have considered autonomous municipalities since December 1994. The victim, José Luis Solís López ("Galeano"), taught at a "little school" (escuelita) that since last year has provided international activists with an introduction to the Zapatistas' experiment with autonomous communities. Another 15 EZLN supporters were wounded in the May 2 violence, and a school and a clinic were destroyed.
One supporter of Mexico's rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was killed and several were wounded on May 2 in violence involving rival indigenous groups in La Realidad, Las Margaritas municipality,* in the southeastern state of Chiapas. EZLN sources say La Realidad resident José Luis Solís López died after being shot three times; he also suffered machete wounds. The mostly indigenous Chiapas highlands and Lacandón forest, where La Realidad is located, have experienced several fights between rival groups recently.
Israel's embassy in Mexico City denied reports in the Mexican media that Israeli military advisors are training police in the southern state of Chiapas. Early last month, Chiapas' Secretary of Security and Civil Protection, Jorge Luís Abarca, announced that he had met with Yaron Yugman of the Israeli Defense Ministry to discuss the program. This supposed meeting was widely reported in respected newspapers such as El Universal and Excelsior, but Israeli officials in Mexico City contacted by Fox News Latino denied knowledge of the meeting, calling the news reports "nonsense" and "completely wrong." Said Yael Hashaviet, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy: "I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This never happened and this will never happen."
On Dec. 22, followers of the indigenous pacifist group Las Abejas (the Bees) held a ceremony at the hamlet of Acteal, in the highlands of Mexico's southern Chiapas state, to remember the massacre there in 1997, and demand justice in the case. The group accused then-president Ernesto Zedillo and his Government secretary Emilio Chuayffet—today Secretary of Education—of being responsible for the attack, in which 45 unarmed Abejas were killed by a paramilitary group. The Abejas gathered at the "Pillar of Infamy," a monument erected at the massacre site, joined by supporters and those displaced by the violence of the 1990s from throughout the Chiapas Highlands.
The US State Department issued a finding Sept. 7 that former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, now teaching at Yale University in Connecticut, should be immune from a civil lawsuit brought against him in the US in connection with the 1997 massacre at Acteal hamlet in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Chiapas. "The complaint is predicated on former President Zedillo's actions as president, not private conduct," said Harold Hongju Koh, a State Department legal adviser and a professor at Yale Law School, also citing the complaint's "generalized allegations." The US Justice Department submitted the letter to federal District Court in Hartford, where a judge is to make the final determination. "We are extremely disappointed by the decision of the Department of State to grant immunity to the ex-president, which will prevent us from proceeding with the case against him," attorneys Roger Kobert and Marc Plugiese of the firm Rafferty, Kobert, Tenneholtz & Hess told Notmex news agency.