PPI-015-First-hand report: Atrocities in Chiapas


Richard Moore

 - a public service of CADRE (Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance) -

                           Report on Chiapas
                        January 6, 1998, 6:44 AM

                        by Kerry Appel, Director
                        The Human Bean Company
                        218 S. Broadway
                        Denver, CO 80209
                        phone/fax (303) 871-9464

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This report was filed in Jauary, but I believe it remains timely.

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998
From: •••@••.••• (Jan Slakov)
From: •••@••.••• (Aaron Koleszar)
Subject: Report on Chiapas Massacre, by the Human Bean Company

Report on Chiapas by the Human Bean Company

The Human Bean Company
218 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209
phone/fax (303) 871-9464


This report was prepared in order to elaborate on the attempt by the Human
Bean Company to engage in fair trade with the indigenous peoples of Chiapas
and the events and consequences of doing so.

by Kerry Appel, Director
Note: Kerry Appel was the videographer for Marcos' message to Freeing the
Media. I believe this footage is on-line at FSTV <http://www.freespeech.org>

January 6, 1998, 6:44 AM

The drive to Chiapas was more than difficult.  We had left Denver on
December 15th, stopped in Guadalajara to videotape a friends wedding, and
arrived at the state of Oaxaca on December 22, 1997.  We had experienced
many breakdowns in my 1971 Volkswagen bus nicknamed the "Relampago Rojo" or
"Red Lightning" and now we had to deal with the hurricane damaged roads in
Oaxaca.  Almost every bridge was destroyed and we had to take detours
around all of them as well as around the long stretches of highway that
were washed out.

**** December 22, 1997, Acteal, Chiapas, a Tzotzil Indian village where the
coffee for the Human Bean Company is grown, "...as women and children fled
down the steep mountain path towards the valley, armed men shot them from
behind...Some who reached the underbrush by the river below were discovered
by the assassins when the babies cries gave them away...The assassins cut
open the stomach of a young pregnant woman, tore her unborn baby out and
cut it up.  A baby less that one year old survived because her mother
covered her with her own body and received all the bullets.  One baby was
shot in the head at close range...It was not possible to identify the
bodies torn to pieces by machetes. The Red Cross found many of the bodies
hacked in pieces and thrown in the underbrush in an attempt to hide the
immensity of the crime..."

"...The massacre went on for almost five hours on that black December 22,
1997 while dozens of armed civil guards stood on the road above and did
nothing...there are still three people missing from the group of 300
refugees that were attacked by men in black, with red masks...A physician
in one hospital in San Cristobal de las Casas said he had never seen such
big bullet holes. "They looked as though something had exploded inside the
body".  "Anti-personnel" bullets were found at the scene that do explode on
impact.  The guns have been identified as M-16s, used exclusively by the
Mexican Army."  (The text in quotes above was written by Maria ---------.
Her last name is blacked out to protect her from the Mexican government)

Note:  Don t those M-16s come from the United States?  Aren t they supposed
to be used to fight drug trafficking?

We made it through Oaxaca in spite of the breakdowns and the damaged roads
and arrived in Chiapas on December 23rd where the motor on the Relampago
Rojo gave up the ghost.  It died in a little Tzotzil village only 15 miles
from our destination of San Cristobal de las Casas.  It was nighttime and
we had little choice but to make a deal with a Tzotzil mechanic to replace
the engine.  We left the bus there and continued the next day, Christmas
Eve, into San Cristobal where we heard the news. Forty five of our coffee
producers had been massacred and as many as 5,000 were refugees in the
Tzotzil community of Polho.

I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas sick in bed.  My symptoms were those of
a fever but I believe it was also due to grief and despair.

At this point I m going to say that I m going to skip most of the
statistical details of some reports.  There are plenty of reports filled
with statistics.  I m also not going to fill this report with references
and sources.  You can either believe me or not.  The governments and the
mainstream media try to control the flow of all information that you
receive.  I don t care about them nor do I care for them.  They are
involved in the process of this low-intensity war that is being waged
against the indigenous peoples in Chiapas for their own profit motives
(NAFTA, etc.)

**** December 25th, Christmas, Acteal.  "When the procession arrived at the
small hamlet of Acteal in the highlands of Chiapas at 8:00 in the morning,
Maya men were digging the first of two 50 foot long graves...The men dug as
other Mayas carried the coffins on their backs from the trucks on the road
down the steep, rough, mountain path , through coffee trees to the area
that was cleared and carefully smoothed to receive the dead with dignity.
They dug as 15 small, white coffins were carefully placed side by side
before Don Samuel (Bishop Samuel Ruiz who was there to bless the bodies).
They dug as 21 more coffins were carried down and placed beside those of
the children, and then 9 more coffins holding the men were placed beside
those of the women..."

"The men dug as the bishop left. They were digging at 12:30 when I climbed
the steep, mountain path to my truck and left with a truck full of Mexican
and foreign supporters of the Mayan struggle for Peace and Justice with
Dignity for all the poor of the world."

"We left the men digging.  We left the survivors to their grief.  We left
the "People of Corn" to bury their dead according to the ancient Mayan
traditions.  We left them to return their dead to the sacred ground, the
same ground that soaked up their blood three days earlier."  (Maria

I talked to the president of the indigenous coffee producers of Chenalho
which is the municipality where the massacre occurred.  I was told that
there was no coffee available for me to buy.  The same Mexican government
backed paramilitary groups that had committed the massacre with the
assistance of the Mexican government were now stealing the coffee of the
dead and the refugees to sell it and buy more guns to use against the
people.  The Mexican Public Security Police were protecting the murderers
and the thieves.

We went to Chenlho and were stopped by these same Public Security Police at
a roadblock.  When they came to the window of my bus (I had a new engine
now and the Relampago Rojo was alive again) they saw that I was videotaping
them and they hid their faces in shame and waved me on.  We continued to
Polho, the site where the refugees from the death squads were.  Since the
national and international press was there the Mexican Army and the
Judicial Police and the Public Security Police were using the opportunity
to act as if they were protecting the refugees but when the press wasn t
looking they roamed the refugee camps intimidating the survivors with guns
and dogs.  When a woman from the civil society questioned there actions
they struck her with the butt of a gun.

Though the Mexican government could afford the presence of thousands of
soldiers for the press in order to look as if they were trying to protect
the people, they couldn t afford to give the refugees potable water, food
of medicine.  Yesterday a baby died there of pneumonia without any medicine
while thousands of soldiers and police stood around with machine guns and
huge banners that claimed that they were doing "social labor".

We went on to Acteal where there was a mass going on for the dead.  On the
way to Acteal we passed the coffee processing plant where our coffee for
the Human Bean Company is processed.  It was occupied by the Mexican Army.

In Acteal we stood in solidarity with the survivors and we walked around
the site of the massacre.  There were still shoes on the ground that had
come of the feet of the people as they were being murdered.  There was a
small cave at the head of the ravine where the massacre took place.  This
opening to this cave was only about one and a half feet high.  I was told
that some women and children had crawled into this cave in terror to escape
the slaughter but that members of the  paramilitary group had crawled in
the cave after them and killed them.  We walked through a tiny, rough
church which was little more than a shack and counted 22 bullet holes in
the walls.

This is the "drug war".  This is what the arms and weapons that the United
States is supplying to allegedly "fight drugs" is being used for.  The only
crime of the dead and the refugees and indigenous people  who are being
occupied by 60,000 Mexican Federal Army troops is that they won t give up
their customs and their culture at the orders of the United States and
Mexican governments.

For nearly four years I have been traveling regularly to Chiapas.  I have
been in the sites where this dirty war is being carried out.  I have seen
the suffering of the indigenous people there.  I have learned from the
dignity and the hope and the determination of the members of the Zapatista
National Liberation Army as they struggle for indigenous rights and
culture, justice, democracy and dignity.  I have admired them as I have
watched this small group of poor Mayan people hold up the efforts of the US
and Mexican governments to exterminate them as indigenous peoples.  Tens of
thousands of members of international civil society have done what they can
to be in solidarity with the goals and objectives of this small group of
rebels with dignity.  I have watched and documented as the indigenous
peoples of Chiapas spoke the truth and always kept their word while the
Mexican and US governments have waged a campaign of lies and deceit and
murder.  And I have watched an read the mainstream media of the US and
Mexico as they play their roles in this destruction of indigenous peoples
with their omissions of the truth and their broadcasting and printing of
the lies of the governments and the corporations.

I recall now the statements that have been made to me by members of the
press and the United States government.

Rick Salazar, Channel 4 (at that time in 1994), Denver, Colorado, "I don t
think that our producers would be interested in your footage of Chiapas
Kerry.  We have a business relationship with a Mexican government TV
station and we wouldn t want to jeopardize our business relationship."

Kerry, "Are you telling me that the truth of what you show us is influenced
 by your business relationships?"

Rick, "I m afraid so."

Henry Solano, US District Attorney, State of Colorado, (When I asked him if
it was true that the US had required Mexico to change their Constitution to
end the indigenous land system so that US corporations could buy their
land),  "Yes, that s true Kerry.  We re going to take their land but
they re not making it productive and someone has to make it productive.
But they ll be better of in the long run because we ll build factories and
give them jobs."

What he is referring to is the "Mega-Project of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec"
for one thing.  The United States, Europe and Japan have devised a plan to
move the indigenous people and peasants off their land in the south of
Mexico in order to build ports and railroads across the isthmus, kind of
like a Panama Canal.  The US has already made deals with the Mexican
government for the oil, uranium, wood, fishing, railroads, ports,
hydro-electricity and the other resources that are currently on Indian land
and had Mexico change their laws to allow these deals to be "legal".  In
order for international public opinion to not be negative toward the
corporations they decided to make the Indians "partners".  The Indians
would give up their land and rights to the resources and the corporations
would give them jobs in return.

He doesn t understand that indigenous people don t necessarily want to
trade their land and culture for a job in a factory.  Besides, nobody asked
them their opinion.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell, American Indian US Senator from Colorado, "As you
know Kerry, I am indigenous myself and I m doing all that I can for the
indigenous peoples of Chiapas."

When I tried to find out what he was doing his aide told me that Ben was
testifying on committees and panels that dealt with the issue.  When I
pressed him for a list of these committees and panels he admitted that
there were none and that Ben wasn t actually doing anything that he knew of
for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.

Later, Ben s assistant, Rita, asked me why I was picking on Ben.  "He
hasn t done anything worse that the rest of the elected officials." (This
in regard to the US exploitation of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and
the rest of Mexico)

Finally Ben Campbell sent me a letter telling me to stay out of Chiapas and
leave it to the "proper authorities to fix the problem of Mexico s impunity
in regard to human rights violations at the proper time and in the proper

I wonder when it will be the "proper time and manner" for Ben Nighthorse
Campbell.  The truth is it will never be the proper time and manner for the
governments or the multi-national corporations to be interested in justice.
 It s not their job any more if it ever was.  Maximum profit is the only
thing that has validity to them. The blood of the 45 Tzotziles massacred on
December 22, 1998 is on their hands as well as on ours.  It is the price
they have to pay for our greed.

This is the racist and arrogant philosophy of "Manifest Destiny".

Holger Jensen, International editor for the Rocky Mountain News told my
friend Jeff that, "Kerry is crazy.  He can t make a difference.  Not one US
citizen would pay a dime more for a hamburger to save a million Indians".

Now is the time for us to tell them and to show them that they are wrong.
I don t believe that they are right that people don t care about justice
for indigenous people . I don t believe that people would  knowingly accept
the extermination of indigenous peoples. But we are going to find out very

The US government and the corporations are getting impatient to end this
rebellion of indigenous peoples.  They feel that they ve been successful in
undermining international support for the Mayan people and they ve been
working hard for the last two years to make it appear that the rebellion is
just a local conflict.  The Mexican army commanders have been traveling to
Ft. Benning, Georgia since 1994 to learn counter-insurgency tactics at the
"School of the Americas" also know as the "School of Assassins".

The tactics learned there are now being used against the people of Chiapas.
 The massacre of these 45 unarmed men, women and children is just the
beginning a new level of violence against the civil population.

It is critical for us to make a stand now.  This is the end of the second
millennium.  This is the beginning of "the next 500 years" for the
indigenous peoples in the Americas.  We have all been made to be
participants in "the new Indian wars" by what we buy, or by what we watch
on TV, or by what we say or don t say in regard to these massacres and
other human rights violations.  Everything about our current social and
economic and political systems makes us participants in the dirty wars that
the US and other governments wage either by active participation based on
the distorted information presented to us or merely by ignorance of what is
going on and the consequent silence as a result of that ignorance.

I have received a lot of communications from people who are clients of the
Human Bean Company or from people who have seen my documentaries.  A lot of
people have said that they agree with my work toward fair trade or human
rights.  A lot of people have said that they wish they could do something
to help the indigenous peoples of Chiapas.  All of the communications that
I ve received have been extremely critical of the US and Mexican
governments actions against the Zapatistas and the indigenous peoples of
Chiapas and Mexico.

You who read this know who you are and how you feel about these issues.  I
am addressing myself to you right now.  By reading this message to this
point you have been presented with a choice.  That is unavoidable now.
Sorry.  You an I can either struggle for justice or be part of the

I know that this affects a lot of people deeply and the recent slaughter of
the 45 Mayan peoples by the Mexican government s proxy forces has made you
even more aware of the urgency of this situation.  I imagine that some of
you might use that extra dime that Holger Jensen says you won t spend on a
hamburger to make a phone call to the local Mexican Consulate or to the US
government to strongly protest the continued violence with impunity in
Mexico.  I imagine that some of you might get together with others and talk
about the issues and then talk to others and still others.  I wouldn t be
surprised if some of you organized demonstrations and marches in the
streets.  Personally, I wouldn t blame you if you committed acts of civil
disobedience or took over and occupied the offices of elected officials or
of newspapers or television stations.  Or maybe someone will call Senator
Ben Nighthorse Campbell and ask him what he is doing or what he is going to

As for me, I m going to keep doing what I have been doing and that is to
keep buying the coffee and weavings from the indigenous people who are
under siege by soldiers with tanks and guns that originate from my country
and I m going to continue making documentaries that show what it is that I
see and experience while I m here in Chiapas.

Right now I m going to send this message to you and leave the Cyber Cafe
and then I m going to pick up a few bags of coffee that we were able to
find from some Tzotzil-Tzeltal indigenous producers and then the Reampago
Rojo will start the long trip through the militarized country of Mexico to
bring the coffee back.

That reminds me of an incident that occurred two days ago on the way to
visit friends in Oventic, Chiapas.  This is a Tzotzil community in
resistance, as they say here, and the Mexican Army was creeping closer and
closer to Oventic with their roadblocks and their machine guns and their
tanks.  We drove up in my bus and the army stopped us.

"Get out of the vehicle", they said, "We re going to search it for guns or

"First let me ask you if that is constitutional." I said, "Do you have
probable cause to think that we re violating the law?"

"Constitutional?" he responded looking irritated, "You re in Mexico now you

Kerry Appel
Chiapas, Mexico.  January 6, 1998

Word count:  3,000

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