Virtual Truth Commission

Telling the Truth for a Better America


A. Background on Human Rights in Mexico

"According to the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, Mexico has the second largest army in Latin America, and the third highest defence budget after Brazil and Argentina....Ten years ago the Mexican army was rarely in the spotlight, where it frequently finds itself today due to its counterinsurgency and anti-drugs efforts." Diego Cevallos, "Troops Schooled on Human Rights," InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS), August 12, 1998. For more information, send a message to Peacenet, a non-profit progressive networking service.

There are 570 municipal districts in Oaxaca, 410 of them governed according to the traditional popular assembly , or "uses and customs". In the 1950s, grants of indigenous land were given by the government to 70 Mixtec, non-indigenous, families and the caciques were formed. The caciques are relatively large tracts of land controlled by families sympathetic to and supportive of the PRI since the '60s and '70s. They employ nearby indigenous and control markets and transport for all goods produced in their areas of influence. This means the indigenous do not have control of prices paid for their own crops, which gives the cacique owners the power to keep them impoverished and, even, in debt- again, a source of cheap labor. They don't need everybody's labor, so they are driving the indigenous from their lands, their villages, in order to take them over. To do so, they employ paramilitaries, protected by the Federal, State, Municipal police and trained by the Army. The indigenous report that the cacique owners are using their lands to grow marijuana and opium poppies. Wilson M. Powell "Veterans for Peace tour Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and Bring back a Story of National Shame: Ours"; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__A watershed of Mexico's tragedy was the Tlatelolco massacre which unfolded on the night of October 2, 1968, when a student demonstration ended in a storm of bullets in La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco, Mexico City. The extent of the violence stunned the country. When the shooting stopped, hundreds of people lay dead or wounded, as Army and police forces seized surviving protesters and dragged them away. Although months of nation-wide student strikes had prompted an increasingly hard-line response from the Diaz Ordaz regime, no one was prepared for the bloodbath that Tlatelolco became. Eye-witnesses to the killings pointed to the President's "security" forces, who entered the plaza bristling with weapons, backed by armored vehicles. But the government...claimed that extremists and Communist agitators had initiated the violence...It is Mexico's Tiananmen Square, Mexico's Kent State: when the pact between the government and the people began to come apart and Mexico's extended political crisis began." Kate Doyle, Director, Mexico Documentation Project, TLATELOLCO MASSACRE: DECLASSIFIED U.S. DOCUMENTS ON MEXICO AND THE EVENTS OF 1968 National Security Archive, George Washington University.


B. Human Rights Violations of the Mexican Government __B1. Murder

Emilio Alvarez-Icaza, Director of the National center of Social Communication, describing the PRI's reaction to its steadily diminisghing status, commented that , "Six hundred PRD members and sixty independent journalists have been killed since 1988." Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace

The Mexican Constitution states that the Army is allowed out of its barracks only to defend the nation's borders and to respond to natural disasters. However, now "the army is out of its barracks," complained Deputy Benito Miron Linze, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Mexican Senate. "Since the popular uprising of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, in 1994, the Mexican army has built a presence in the area of over 75,000 men under arms, 45,000 since December, 1997." (On December 22, the Acteal massacre occurred, during which 45 people, mostly women and children, were murdered in a raid carried out by paramilitaries armed and directed by the Mexican army. ).... "The elimination of social leaders by arrest and murder is alarming. In Oaxaca, there has been a wave of repressions -- ever since the People's Revolutionary Army (EPR), made its appearance in three coordinated attacks on local military bases in Guerrero and Oaxaca on the 28th of August, 1996." Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__B2. Expropriation of the Poor

We heard stories of mass arrests, disappearances, disingenuous deceptions by state governors. "Why is this happening?", asked Benito Linze, rhetorically. "Land tenancy. Prior to 1992, ejido land (communal land held under constitutional guarantees by indigenous communities) could not be sold. Then, Article 27 was passed. The government, for the first time, authorized the sale of previously exempt ejido lands. Under pressure from NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), large landowners, who wanted to expand and convert subsistence farmland to high-productivity agribusiness, pressured the indigenous communities to sell or move out. They exerted pressure by controlling the costs of transport and marketing of ejido products, offered cash bribes, threatened bankruptcy and, even death. Some of the lands were desired for timber and mineral resources. Of course, there was no provision for those who sold to make a living other than as cheap labor for the large land holders. "What's happened," he said, "Is that accelerated privatization has made the government incapable of meeting its constitutional obligation of supporting and preserving indigenous communities." Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__Disappearance of communal lands activist in Tabasco. December, 1998.__B3. Clandestine Prisons __Israel Ochoa, attorney for the oppressed: "There are clandestine prisons in the country, used for illegal detention and torture. One powerful evidence of a rising consciousness, is the encampment of the women of the imprisoned indigenous on the steps of the governor's palace in Oaxaca. They have been there nine months, eating, sleeping in full view of the world, their signs of protest posted around them, telling their stories to all who will hear. "The pattern of arrests and releases is to take a few and release a few, keeping a pretty constant number behind bars. Recently, 10 cases were dropped for lack of evidence. The law is manipulated shamelessly. The same charges that don't hold up in one jurisdiction are levied in another." The government charges the detainees are guerrillas, Ochoa disproves it. The government links Ochoa with the EPR, it links the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH) with the EPR They move prisoners to prisons 1000 miles away (to Mexico City) so that families cannot visit, favorable witnesses cannot afford to travel there to testify. Ochoa himself is shunned by people because the government has them believing he is associated with the EPR and they are afraid, because the EPR is so "dark" and unknown. Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__B4. GAFE--a trail of pain, death and terror. _

The Special Forces of the Air Transportation Group, better known as GAFE.Their fame transcends Mexico's borders. United States veterans speak of them, as do European military specialists. In inner circles, their direct and indirect participation is known in operations which have left a trail of pain, death and terror in civil society. They are Mexican Army troops, highly prepared and trained in 17 of the major academies, schools and specialized bases of the United States armed forces. In these centers, Mexican officals are prepared and trained in various military disciplines. In "low intensity warfare" strategies at the School of the Americas, located in the state of Georgia; in counterinsurgency in the countryside, at the Special Forces School in North Carolina; on intelligence, at Bolling Air Force Base In Washington DC; on techniques of night helicopter flights, at Fort Tucker in Alabama; helicopter repair in San Antonio, Texas and various preparations in 12 other military bases in the United States. Triunfo Elizalde, "The Special Groups": Yankee Collaborators, La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 15, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address __B5. Attempts to improve military human rights record

Military personnel in Mexico, accused by rights groups of violating human rights and enjoying impunity in the shelter of military courts, have begun attending courses aimed at fostering respect for constitutional guarantees.

* The Secretariat of Foreign Relations announced this week that it had instructed the Secretariat of Defence to expand coverage of the courses, which got underway a few months ago. It also asked the army to make it obligatory for military personnel to carry a card with information on the promotion and observance of human rights.

* Activists described the measures as positive Wednesday, saying impunity was ingrained on many members of the military, who moreover were frequently forced to act in clear violation of human rights, such as in the conflict in the southern state of Chiapas. United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Nigel Rodley, said earlier this year that Mexican troops seemed immune to civilian justice and were generally protected by the military courts. Rodley, who visited the country last year, said police and members of the army continued using torture and other forms of abuse.

* The armed forces staunchly refute such accusations, claiming that they simply do their duty....But rights groups disagree, asserting that never before have there been so many reports of violations as under the Zedillo administration.

* Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the U.S. State Department have all expressed concern in the past few years over the deterioration of Mexico's human rights record. Several organisations have objected to restrictions and regulations set on visits by foreign observers, most of whom are interested in visiting the state of Chiapas, where the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) is based. Alleged guerrillas or drug traffickers detained by soldiers this year have denounced that they were forced by physical or psychological torture into signing a declaration.

* Activists say there can be little doubt as to the veracity of such reports, because many members of the armed forces have received training in line with the theories of the School of the Americas, a ...U.S. military training centre. Close to 400 Mexican officers have attended courses on counter- insurgency tactics, intelligence work and psychological operations at the School in the past two years. The School of the Americas "is a school of murderers," where officers are taught how to torture, according to the U.S.-based non-governmental School of the Americas Watch, headed by Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois. According to official documents circulated by the press, at least 20 officers trained at the School of the Americas are in charge of fighting the EZLN and the smaller Popular Revolutionary Army. But the Secretariat of Defence insists that the army's counter- insurgency work is only aimed at restoring law and order, and does not breach civil guarantees.

Source: Diego Cevallos, "Troops Schooled on Human Rights," InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS), August 12, 1998. For more information, send a message to Peacenet, a non-profit progressive networking service.


C. United States Involvement and Support Leading to Human Rights Violations

History of U. S. Military Interventions: MEXICO/1913/Naval/Americans evacuated during revolution. MEXICO/1914-18/Naval, troops/Series of interventions against nationalists. S. Brian Willson, "Who are the Real Terrorists?", citing several sources including William Blum, Killing Hope: U. S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Monroe, Maine: common Courage Press, 1995 __C1. American-provided Arms, Equipment, and Training _

A delegation of Veterans for Peace recently returned from Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, with observations and testimonies establishing that U.S.-supplied arms, equipment and training is being used by Mexican military and police forces and para-military groups to displace, kill, and terrorize Mexican civilians. Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace

Between 1996 and 1999, 3200 members of Air Transportation groups of the Special Forces (GAFE) of the Mexican Army "will take two-week courses with the 7th Group of the Special Forces of the United States," in order to then return to Mexico to train "rapid response" units," noted Darrin Wood, European expert on Latin American military affairs. Citing information from the US newspaper, The Washington Post, he said Mexican officials will be accompanied in these courses by the same Green Berets who were in El Salvador in the 80's, during the confrontations with the insurgent guerrillas. Triunfo Elizalde II, "Mexico is Now the Country Which Sends the Greatest Number of Forces to United States Military Schools", La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 16, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address __C2. Mexicans trained to accomplish American objectives.

"The first step in developing the study plan at the school "is identifying the kind of instruction necessary for meeting the political objectrives of the United States in Latin America and the Caribbean," since, "given the high cost of direct intervention in nations" in the zone, the SOA "trains officials in those countries to meet their {US} objectives." In this way, he emphasizes, "the Mexican government has the dubious honor (sic) of being the primary collaborator on issues of United States security on the continent." Triunfo Elizalde, "The Special Groups": Yankee Collaborators, La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 15, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Email address __C3. Mexican Coursework at the School of the Americas includes Counter-insurgency.

Darrin Wood, European journalist specializing in Latin American military subjects, analyed the the courses taken over the last 36 years by Mexican military personnel, with a minimum rank of lieutenant, in the SOA. Triunfo Elizalde, "The Special Groups": Yankee Collaborators, La Jornada (Spanish Language original), August 15, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address

* He notes that between 1961 and 1970, a total of 75 officials were prepared: 11 in counterrevolution, one in counterinsurgency, six in military intelligence, six in guerrilla warfare, four in jungle operations and 47 in other disciplines.

*Between 1971 and 1970 there was a marked increase in the number of trainees. 197 military personnel took courses: three in counter- revolution, two in urban counterinsurgency, three in domestic defense, four in military intelligence, six in guerrilla warfare, 60 in training, three in command, 26 in jungle operations and 90 in other techniques.

* While between 1981 and 1990, 539 Mexican officers attended the SOA, who were instructed in: 19 in military intelligence, three in psychological operations, 27 in commando work, 210 in courses related to training, 12 in anti-drug operations and 268 in other specialties.

* Regarding the first seven years of this decade, the journalist reveals 623 Mexican military personnel attended courses at the SOA, of which 121 received military intelligence instruction, 29 in psychological operations, 163 in "training;" 32 in educational administration; 56 in special Mexican training; 30 in commando work; 20 in civil-military operations; 70 in anti-drug operations, and 102 in other areas.

* This means that during the last 37 years, in the School of the Americas alone, 1327 Mexican Army officers have taken the following courses: counterrevolution, 14; urban counter- intelligence, three; military intelligence, 150; guerrilla warfare, 12; jungle operations, 30; various disciplines, 460; courses related to training, 433; domestic defense, three; psychological operations, 32; educational administration, 32; special Mexican training, 56; civil-military operations, 20, and, in anti-drug areas, 82.

* C4. School of the Americas Graduates conduct summary executions.

Lopez Ortiz, Juan. One of the most notable of the first 90 officials and military soldiers who arrived at the School of the Americas (SOA) between 1953 and 1960. Then a lieutenant, he studied weapons and infantry tactics. Years later, now a general, "he was in charge of fighting the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Ocosingo, in January 1994, where there was a summary execution of zapatista prisoners in the public market, according to Darrin Wood. Triunfo Elizalde II, "Mexico is Now the Country Which Sends the Greatest Number of Forces to United States Military Schools", La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 16, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address

In 1971 there were four Mexican military persons in the SOA, and two of them were in Chiapas during the EZLN uprising. Triunfo Elizalde II, "Mexico is Now the Country Which Sends the Greatest Number of Forces to United States Military Schools", La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 16, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address

* Gaston Menchaca Arias attended the course on guerrilla warfare operations, from March 29 to June 4, 1971. Menchaca Arias was designated as Commander of the 31st Military Zone in Rancho Nuevo, Chiapas

* Miguel Leyva Garcia, attended the course in commando and General Staff operations, from March 15 to December 13 of the same year. Leyva Garcia commanded the 83rd Infantry Battalion in the same 31st Military Zone, Rancho Nuevo, Chiapas.

* In 1972, Harold H. Rambling studied guerrilla warfare operations, from February 28 to May 5, and Carmelo Teran Montero, military intelligence, from January 10 to April 28. "In the 90's they were concentrated in Chiapas to confront the zapatistas," Darrin Wood notes.

Notorious SOA Graduates from Mexico -- detail provided by School of the Americas Watch___C5. School of the Americas and the Attack on Religion.

Rivas Pena, Jose Ruben. Received instruction in the United States, then years later carried out operations against the EZLN in Chiapas. After his participation in Chiapas, sent to Oaxaca as the new Commander of the 28th Military Zone....Journalist Carlos Marin, stated in the journal, Proceso, on January 3, 1998, about the Army's plan for Chiapas since 1994: create paramilitary bands, displace the population, destroy the EZLN support bases...In addition to mentioning General Jose Ruben Rivas Pena as author of an "historical, sociological, economics, political and religious analysis of the conflict" in Chiapas. In that document the former Commander of the 31st Military Zone states that "it has been since the arrival of the Bishop of the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, that the traditional values had begun to be disturbed, for the purpose, at first, of dignifying them, taking them out of their ignorance, povery and margination (sic). Regrettably, this change in indigenous values was seen to be directly influenced by the theologians of liberation..." For Rivas Pena, "The Vatican is the primary indirect cause of the conflict in Chiapas, directly sponsoring the corrupt trend of liberation theology in Mexico, supported by their counterparts in Latin America, and by the majority of the national Catholic clergy, using socialist and political organizations, gangsters and groups against the government to carry it out...As one can see, it is not surprising that an SOA graduate would have such reactionary ideas concerning liberation theology," the specialist concludes. Triunfo Elizalde II, "Mexico is Now the Country Which Sends the Greatest Number of Forces to United States Military Schools", La Jornada ( Spanish Language original), August 16, 1998. Translated from the Spanish by Nuevo Amenecer Press Email address __D. What can I do? __1. Become informed.

* "Wholesale killing, the suspension of justice, the tinder-dry makings of a full-scale revolution are piling up in a country we vacation in, buy goods and services from, invest in and exploit for cheap labor. It's on our southern border and we hardly, as a society, know it exists. Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace_

* See excellent analysis of U. S. Policy on Mexico: Reconfiguring Mexico Policy. In Focus: Volume 4, Number 7, February 1999. Written by Eric L. Olson, Washington Office on Latin America. Editors: Martha Honey (Institute for Policy Studies) and Tom Barry (Interhemispheric Resource Center)

* Write our newspapers and ask them why they don't print the stories of Chiapas and Oaxaca and Guerrero. Why aren't they sounding the alarms, the way they do when a president dandles an intern? Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__3. Write and ask your congressman what he thinks of military arms and equipment and training that we supply for "drug interdiction" being diverted to such base, "un-American" uses. For, don't they believe it is un-American to abrogate justice by wholesale false arrests, imprisonment without charge or conviction? Isn't it against our guarantees of free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, to support, however unwittingly, the use of military force to promote a political view, force into being an economic principle not acceptable to the people of the land? Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace__4. Above all else, GO THERE -and be seen by the oppressors.

* We heard time and again from the Abejas who lost so many at Acteal, from their brothers and sisters all over those mountains and in those valleys, that the human rights observers were saving lives. They bring the light of informed public opinion to bear upon acts that would be secret. And by doing so, they hamper and restrict those who would commit them. Wilson M. Powell ; 5/7/98. Email Veterans for Peace

* See account of trip to Chiapas by delegation from Howard County Friends of Latin America.

* CONTACT: Global Exchange, 2017 Mission Street, Room 303, San Francisco, California 94110

* Call: Ted Lewis, Director of the Mexico section, at (415)255-7296, ext. 230 Email

* Or Wilson Powell, 902 Imperial Point, Ballwin, MO 63021 (314) 225-1151. Email

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