From the Committee of Indigenous Solidarity's Mexico Week in Review:
State Publishes Article Condemning Foreign Human Rights Observers
In a worrying escalation of government and paramilitary activities in the Agua Azul region, the State published a paid article in La Jornada, one of Mexico's leading daily newspapers, condemning foreign human rights observers for participating in the kidnapping of local police. "News articles" paid for by government agencies are common in Mexican newspapers, and they are easily identified in La Jornada because the headlines appear in italics. The article in question, published on Friday under the headline "Zapatistas Commanded by Foreigners Detain Journalist and Police," is particularly troublesome because it appears to be part of an orchestrated effort to lay the groundwork for the expulsion of foreign human rights observers. The article claims "a journalist and four state police were illegally detained by Zapatista base communities - under the command of five foreigners - in Agua Azul." The article continued, "The foreigners, who gave orders to 20 masked Zapatistas, detained the journalist and police - making a routine trip along the road to Agua Azul - who were relieved of their weapons and the photographer's camera equipment. It's important to note that the police, who offered no resistance, were tied up and beaten. During the course of events, the foreigners incited violence against the reporter and the police." Later press reports citing government sources clarified that the police entered the Zapatista community Bolom Ajaw heavily armed, and the "journalist" was a member of the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen), the army's [sic] intelligence unit, taking photos of disputed lands. Anyone who has visited a Zapatista community would quickly appreciate the absurdity of foreigners "commanding" Zapatistas.
The article appears only a week after a group of foreign human rights observers filed a formal complaint against paramilitary groups in Agua Azul who threatened them with a pistol and detained their vehicle. The entire confrontation was documented on video.
Source: Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News Summary: 02/18-24
It turns out that not only was the "reporter" actually an intelligence agent, but he was also in charge of the operation, according to Mirada Sur, a San Cristobal-based online news outlet. This means that the armed incursion into a highly volatile and hotly contested area within Zapatista territory was directed by the federal government. The Cisen is part of the Secretaria de Gobernacion, which is like the US State Department or other countries' Ministry of the Interior. The Secretaria de Gobernacion made international headlines with its shoddy attempts to act as mediator between the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in 2006. The Cisen is actually civilian intelligence, like the CIA, not military intelligence as reported by MSN in the above article.
State-federal government collaboration is written all over this incident. La Jornada's Hermann Bellinghausen reported that it was the Chiapas state government that paid for the fake article. Alarmingly, Palenque police say they might carry out an operation to retrieve the officers' weapons from the Zapatistas. So while the first armed incursion was federally initiated, possibly without the state government's permission, the potential second armed incursion would be decidedly sanctioned and directed by the state government.
While the claim that foreigners directed Zapatistas to disarm and brutalize the police and intelligence agent sounds absurd, it's important to understand that it fits perfectly with racist Mexican narratives about indigenous people and the Zapatistas. A lot of mestizos think indigenous people are child-like, unintelligent, and incapable of doing anything of their own volition. This means that they were incapable of organizing themselves and staging the 1994 uprising, and they're certainly incapable of running their own government in the autonomous territory. But the uprising and autonomous government are undeniable, so according to the narrative, someone must be pulling the strings. Get a coleto drunk and chances are they'll tell you some pretty hilarious stories about who it is that's pulling the strings. I've heard the French government, French mining companies, the CIA, US hippie backpackers, Guatemalan drug traffickers... So this absurd, obviously fake news article that claims that foreigners directed Zapatistas to brutalize some harmless cops and a reporter is very believable for many Mexican people. They would much rather believe that foreigners exert mind control over the Zapatistas than accept that indigenous people are highly intelligent and run their own government better than the colonial Mexican government. Because that would mean that indigenous people aren't just extinct civilizations that built huge jungle temples; rather, they're alive and fighting hard to take back what's rightfully theirs.