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<nettime> Siege in the Selva

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by irlandesa

La Jornada
Saturday, April 15, 2000.

Razing Trees, Overflights, Siege...

        New Military Blockade in Amador Herna'ndez

Hermann Bellinghausen, correspondent.
Amador Herna'ndez, Chiapas.
April 14.

Yesterday the federal Army blocked, for the entire morning, the road that
joins this community with San Quinti'n.  It is the first time this has
happened in the exactly eight months since this military camp was set up
here.  Since then, the stain of destruction brought by the military
facilities has not stopped spreading.  "They keep shooting and destroying
the trees," Roberto reports, while we go around the camp in question,
between the barbed wire fences that surround the heliport and the federal
Army position. 

"They've brought in more troops.  And there are some who speak English and
look like gringos," Roberto adds. 

At the entrances to the coveted Montes Azules biosphere reserve, the
soldiers have penetrated "by a road they made, some 600 meters inside the
Selva," it is said. 

Threats of Dislocation

One of Roberto's four companions, also wearing a ski-mask, tells how "they
prevented a compa~ero from passing by, who had his load on a mule, and he
had to go back around the mountain in order to reach the community" a few
hours ago. 

When La Jornada visited the site of the blockade, it had already been
lifted.  Nonetheless, one could observe the increase in the area of ejidal
land being occupied de facto by the federal troops. 

While these "occupations" - swift, easily accomplished and so threatening
to campesinos living in the reserve - in Montes Azules do not seem to
bother the Semarnap, helicopters have begun continuous overflights above
the communities. 

Since April 10, several times a day the roofs of Pichucalco, Nuevo
Pichucalco, Guanal, Amador Herna'ndez, Plan de Guadalupe and other Tzeltal
villages, are shuddering from extremely low flights by the aircraft. 

Threats of dislocation against those communities have increased.  They
have even been visited by judicial police and members of the Federal
Preventive Police, informing them personally as to what might happen to
them.  EZLN support bases, as well as members of ARIC-Independent - who
together represent all the Indians in this region - have, over the last
few days, denounced the uncertain conditions they are being subjected to. 

"They are just frightening the children with their helicopters," Roberto

"We're Looking For the EZLN" 

The protest sit-in by EZLN support bases - in order to contain the
soldiers' advance - has now completed eight months.  Every day, since
August 12, 1999, two hundred indigenous, men and women, children, adults
and old ones, stand guard and demonstrate against the military camp.  They
march, shout slogans, send messages, sing, display banners.  In response,
as is known, opera is turned up to full volume.  Roberto doesn't call this
music now, but, simply, "interference." 

In the same precarious conditions, accompanied at times by civil society,
the indigenous stay up all night, exposed to the elements, in rotation.
They come from innumerable communities and ranches in the Emiliano Zapata
Autonomous Municipality and from the surrounding autonomous

According to Roberto's story, the federal Army penetrates further every
day into the biosphere reserve and onto ejidal lands.  They are
interfering with the farmworkers' roads and bridges.  A few days ago the
farmworkers took down a pedestrian bridge over the Perla River, since the
soldiers were trying to occupy it. 

In addition, the pond that belongs to a "ranchito"  a kilometer from the
camp is "taken over" daily by a squad, that goes there to "take baths." 

Two days ago campesinos ran into a detachment of armed soldiers on a
mountain road.  "One of them, I didn't see his rank," Roberto says, "told
us they were looking for the EZLN.  That they wanted to find them." 

And he adds:  "They had gone out to provoke a confrontation." 

The Selva, Under Siege

Following the appearance of military de'tente around chiapaneco cities,
the military harassment in the interior of the Selva and the mountains is
more tense and serious now.  The agitation and anxiety of zapatista
civilians on guard in the Selva is obvious.  While out there in
civilization it would seem that nothing is going on, here the situation is

Seen from the air, the Ca~adas demonstrate the rapid proliferation of
highways in all directions, like an advance guard for military positions. 
In a few months the military roads around the communities in resistance
constitute a network of overwhelming "peripheral rings."  In a few months
the Army has advanced more than the indigenous did in 30 years of

In the military camp of Amador Herna'ndez, this correspondent could see
numerous soldiers with hatchets and machetes (some with one in each hand),
"working" the wood they have brought from the forests. 

A high tower, bulwarked by sand bags, rises up alongside the trees,
controlling the space between the Montes Azules and the fields.  One of
the two heliports is very active, Roberto notes, "bringing down more
troops" from the aircraft.  The other has had a change of role.  The
circle of about 150 meters in diameter, which was cut down to serve as a
landing strip, today has two cement latrines planted right in the center,
with seats and lids for toilets, and without any walls.  In this way the
users can have panoramic excretory sessions, which, in addition to being
original, is also symbolic. 

The streams look cloudy and contaminated, and the fecal odor extends
around them, in spite of the eloquent sanitary facility.  "They are
contaminating everything," Roberto comments. 

The federal Army's control of access to the Selva now also includes
commercial air routes.  This morning a soldier, in civilian dress, who
said he was an envoy of the Military Region, tried to prevent the light
aircraft in which this correspondent was travelling to Amador Herna'ndez
from taking off in Comita'n.  He said we were not able to l eave without
his superiors being notified. 

The flight was watched over by the military bases in Guadalupe Tepeyac,
San Quinti'n and, for the first time, in Amador Herna'ndez, whose air
controllers demanded, the same as they had in Comita'n, that this
journalist identify himself. 

The Other Robert

Masked by Governor Roberto Albores' good will trips (who the day before
yesterday distributed 1,000,600 Procampo pesos in the communities of Las
Margaritas and Ocosingo, and who even dressed up in Tojolabal clothing in
the Gonza'lez de Leo'n ejido), the military occupation of the Selva
Lacandona seems to be heading towards a critical point. Perhaps taking
advantage of the fact that, given the heat of election fever, no one is
looking in that direction. 

Saying goodbye to La Jornada, Roberto (not Albores) and his companions,
surrounded by the very alert families of the zapatista sit-in who were
drinking posol and eating stale tostadas, insisted that I write two words
in my notebook.  After eight months of resistance, it said "we will
continue to resist." 

"Write it like that," he insisted.  "That is what we are saying." 

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