[News] OCEZ Leader Disappeared in Chiapas

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 30 17:22:38 EDT 2009

OCEZ Leader Disappeared in Chiapas

Posted by 
Bricker - September 30, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Neighbors Suspect Police Kidnapped "El Chema" and Will Kill Him

September 30 -- Early this morning, people 
dressed as members of the Mexican Federal 
Electricity Commission (CFE) kidnapped Jose 
Manuel Hernandez Martinez, aka "El Chema."  El 
Chema is one of the leaders of the Emiliano 
Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ).  His 
whereabouts remain unknown, and fellow OCEZ 
members fear that he will be killed.  Members of 
the organization believe that police kidnapped El 
Chema, although the kidnappers never identified 
themselves other than as CFE employees.

According to information that OCEZ member Jose 
Manuel de la Torre provided to Narco News, the 
OCEZ believes that El Chema's kidnapping is in 
retaliation for a 
land occupation and hunger strike that 13 OCEZ 
members held this past July.  As a result of the 
hunger strike, the Chiapan government agreed to 
legalize 215 hectares of the occupied lands.  The 
government handed the legalized lands over to OCEZ members two weeks ago.

Details of the Kidnapping

According to de la Torre, men dressed in CFE 
uniforms arrived in the 28 de Julio community, 
where El Chema lives, to ask residents if they 
had any problems with their electricity, or if 
the CFE could help them in any way.

Today at midnight, ten men in CFE uniforms 
arrived in 28 de Julio in a CFE pickup 
truck.  Community residents recognized some of 
the men as the same ones who had arrived 15 days 
ago.  The men in CFE uniforms asked for El Chema, 
saying that they wanted to know if there was any 
problem with the community's electricity.

When the men dressed in CFE uniforms located El 
Chema, he was with ejido leader Maximino Perez 
Rodriguez.  The men in CFE uniforms kidnapped 
both El Chema and Perez Rodriguez.  The 
kidnappers drove the CFE truck to the Laguna 
Verde ranch, located about five minutes from 28 
de Julio.  In Laguna Verde they transferred El 
Chema to a gray pickup truck that was waiting in 
that community.  The gray pickup truck was filled 
with eight men dressed completely in black who 
had covered their faces with balaclavas.  Before 
driving off, the kidnappers dumped Perez 
Rodriguez by the side of the road, only taking El Chema with them.

Laguna Verde residents, aware of the kidnapping 
in progress, jumped into a pickup truck and 
attempted to stop the kidnappers.  The residents' 
truck reportedly crashed under unknown 
circumstances, killing one resident and injuring 
several others.  The kidnappers managed to escape with El Chema.

El Chema's whereabouts are currently unknown, 
meaning that he has been "disappeared."  OCEZ 
members suspect that the kidnappers are police 
because they had access to a federal government 
truck and uniforms.  They fear that the kidnappers will kill El Chema.

Government Persecution of El Chema

El Chema's effectiveness as a community organizer 
in the Venustiano Carranza region of Chiapas has 
made him the frequent target of government repression.

The government falsely accused El Chema of murder 
and detained him in 1984.  Amnesty International 
adopted him as a "prisoner of conscience," and he was freed in 1985.

The government has also informally accused El 
Chema of being the Popular Revolutionary Army's 
(EPR's) contact in Chiapas.  In February 2008, 
federal agents 
and tortured Chiapan math teacher Felipe 
Hernández Yuena and his 5-year-old son.  During 
the interrogation, the torturers asked him, "Do 
you belong to the EPR?  Do you know EPR 
leaders?  Do you know José Manuel Hernández Martínez, aka El Chema?"

The government has never presented any formal 
accusations, nor any proof, that El Chema belongs 
to the EPR.  As Narco News has documented, the 
government has been known to 
effective community organizers of belonging to 
the EPR, which is a clandestine insurgent 
organization. By accusing community organizers or 
community leaders of belonging to the EPR, the 
government justifies repression, kidnapping, 
torture, and judicial railroading of these important community figures.

El Chema insists that he does not belong to the 
EPR. However, there's plenty of proof that he is 
a dangerous man to the government, even though he 
hasn't taken up arms.  His organization has 
defended single mothers who wish to sell 
vegetables in roadside stands, and it has 
successfully pressured the government to legalize 
lands for peasant communities that had never 
before legally owned the land they worked.  The 
OCEZ's primary tactic for land recuperation is to 
occupy lands and then pressure the government to 
legalize them (that is, give titles to the 
peasants occupying the lands).  Since the 
Zapatista uprising in 1994, Chiapas has been the 
site of constant low-intensity warfare, and 
<http://www.leftturn.org/?q=node/1184>control of 
land and territory is at the center of the 
battle.  Even though El Chema and the OCEZ have 
never used firearms to occupy land, the mere fact 
that they are successfully taking control of 
territory in Chiapas and putting it in the hands 
of peasants places them squarely in the middle of a war.

As a result of its work, OCEZ has suffered 
and government aggression.  In 2008, when 
military and police entered Zapatista territory 
under the cover of anti-drug operations, it also 
entered OCEZ 
<http://chiapasaldia.com/web/?p=334>In a July 
interview, El Chema reported that his 
organization has suffered 37 assassinations since 
its founding and currently has over a dozen 
outstanding arrest warrants, all poltically motivated.

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