9. U.S. Tax Dollars Support Death Squads in Chiapas

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Sources: SLINGSHOT, Title: “Mexico’s Military: Made in the USA,” Date: Summer 1998, Authors: Slingshot collective; DARK NIGHT FIELD NOTES, Title: “Bury My Heart At Acteal,” Author: Darrin Wood

SSU Censored Researchers: Travis Duncan and Jason Gunnarson
SSU Faculty Evaluators: Carol Tremmel and Francisco Vasquez

On December 22, 1997, in the village of Acteal, in the highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas, 45 indigenous men, women and children were shot as they were praying, their bodies dumped into a ravine. Elsewhere throughout the state of Chiapas, unarmed indigenous women face down armies “with fists held high in rebellion and babies slung from their shoulder.” In Jalisco, more than a dozen young men were kidnapped and tortured. One of them, Salvador Jimenez Lopez, died, drowning in his own blood when his tongue was cut out. The group responsible for these and other atrocities are allegedly members of the Mexican Army Airborne Special Forces Groups (GAFE)—a paramili-tary unit trained by U.S. Army Special Forces.

Mexican soldiers are being trained with U.S. tax dollars to fight an “alleged” War on Drugs. The real motive driving the U.S.-supported war, say peasant activists, is the protection of foreign investment rights in Mexico. “In Chiapas, U.S. tax money pays for weapons and military…to destroy a movement for social justice … because it stands in direct opposition to the right of international economic interests to maintain control of our lives. Any such movement for greater economic justice and political democracy means cutting into Wall Street’s profits. The call for democracy, liberty, and justice isn’t good for business,” says the Zapatismo.

The United States transfers aid to the Mexican military in cash, weapons, and counterinsurgency training. The 1998 Clinton Administration budget earmarked more than $21 million dollars for the Mexican Drug War, including $12 million for Pentagon training in “procedures for fighting drug traffic.” Anti-drug effort seems to continue to focus on the Chiapas region where 80 percent of the communities are in conflict zones.

According to the Zapatismo Papers (Wood), acts of inhumanity by GAFE were led by Lt. Col. Julian Guerrero Barrios, a 1981 graduate of the U.S.-sponsored School of Americas (SOA). Although it remains unknown how many of :the 15 soldiers charged in the Acteal incident were trained at U.S. bases, the Pentagon has admitted that some of the soldiers arrested were U.S. trained.

The number of Mexican military officers and personnel receiving U.S. specialized training has been increasing signifi-cantly since 1996. According to a February 26 Washington Post report, the United States is now training Mexican officers at a rate of 1,067 a year at 17 bases. An estimated 3,200 Mexican soldiers will have received training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina from the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces (aka Green Berets) from 1996 through 1999. In the past 18 months, 252 Mexican officers have taken a 12-week course at Fort Bragg, also known as the “School of Assassins.” The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is now training an elite 90-member intelligence unit, says Wood.

According to an article published by Slingshot in the summer of 1998, Mexico’s military purchases from the United States have increased sharply since 1997. The Mexican government also wants the people of Chiapas to become accustomed to, and even dependent on, having the armed soldiers in their midst. The government has been providing and withholding health care based on political affiliation, and even resorting to involuntary sterilization. Armed soldiers have blockaded clinics, preventing residents of Zapatista communities from getting care. Harassment of foreign visitors has increased, forcing human rights observers to keep a low profile to avoid deportation. The war in Chiapas is not an ethnic or religious conflict, says the Zapatismo Papers (Wood), but rather “a conflict over the control of resources.”

UPDATE BY AUTHORS, SLINGSHOT COLLECTIVE: “Since the article ‘Mexico’s Military: Made in the USA’ appeared in Slingshot #61 during the summer of 1998, the U.S. military has trained hundreds of thousands more Mexican officers in counterinsurgency tactics, which these officers then use against Mexicans struggling for self-determination, all under the guise of U.S. efforts against drugs.

“The U.S. government is so anxious to fight the War on Drugs that they have waived any right to oversee how U.S. military training is used back in Mexico. As a result, training that these officers receive, supposedly to conduct anti-drug activities, is being used to fight democracy advocates in Mexico. U.S. officials admit that the ‘counter-narco’ training offered on U.S. bases, like the School of the Americas in Georgia, and at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the 1990s, is highly similar to training in ‘counterinsurgency’ tactics, used in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1980s to fight communism during the Cold War.

“In testimony before the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on July 29, Joel Solomon of Human Rights Watch recounted the results of this reckless policy. The Mexican army, fighting the Zapatista resistance (EZLN) in Chiapas, as well as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) in Guerrero and Oaxaca, is increasingly guilty of gross human rights violations. According to Solomon, there have been hundreds of arbitrary arrests, forced confessions, temporary disappearances, torture, and even extrajudicial executions as the Mexican military has increased efforts against the EZLN and the EPR. Officers trained by the U.S. military have been implicated in these violations, including three senior officers listed in a letter by Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D-MA).

“Reports from Americans living in Chiapas and observing the conflict zones describe how Mexican counter-drug agents accompany patrols engaged in counter Zapatista raids against pro-rebel communities.

“Resistance to U.S. military training of Mexican officers is increasing. On November 22 of this year, 2,319 nonviolent protesters trespassed at Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the School of the Americas (SOA), which is located there. Although the SOA is now primarily training Mexicans, in the past the SOA has trained military officers from all over the Americas, including the officers who killed six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador in 1989, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, Nicaraguan General Anastasio Somoza, and El Salvadoran death squad leader Robert D’Aubuisson.

“Most Americans don’t support the use of U.S. tax dollars for the kind of training found at the School of the Americas. Only increased publicity about this issue, together with citizen action, can stop U.S. training programs for Mexican armies.”

Slingshot is an independent, quarterly, radical newspaper published in the East Bay (California) since 1988. Sample copies are $2 from 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705.

Because of Slingshot’s unique collective structure, Slingshot was not able to determine the author of the article “Mexico’s Military: Made in the USA.” It may have been compiled from information off the Internet, from a flyer, or even reprinted from some other source.