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Latin American Briefs

A Tale of One Standard?:

US Protects Itself from Mexican Historians...


On April 1 agents of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detained noted Mexican historian Adolfo Gilly for one hour in Chicago's O'Hare Internat'l Airport as he was attempting to transfer to a flight to Boston. Gilly, who is also evaluation and diagnostic coordinator for the PRD (left opposition party) government of Mexico City, was to give two talks at Harvard University. The delay caused Gilly to miss his connecting flight.

Gilly has a B-1/B-2 US visa allowing multiple reentry to the US through 2002, but the visa has a waiver required for people the State Department considers "a threat to the peace and security of the United States." The historian, who has never been convicted of any crime, says he has been delayed by the INS about one out of every two times he has entered the US, just long enough to make him miss his connections or to otherwise upset his plans. On this occasion, Gilly decided that he had had enough "humiliation" from the US government, and flew back to Mexico. (La Jornada 4/3/98)

. . .While Salvadoran War Criminals Are Welcome to Reside in US

According to a front-page article in the NYTimes, four imprisoned soldiers of the Salvadoran National Guard now say they received "orders from above" to carry out the 1980 rape and murder of four US women religious workers. The soldiers, who are serving 30-year sentences after their convictions in 1984, made the admissions in interviews with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, a New York-based organization that represents the families of the four murder victims.

Human rights activists have always maintained that the killings were carried out under the direction of military authorities, while the US and Salvadoran governments have insisted that the soldiers carried out the killings on their own initiative. In 1993 a report by a Truth Commission set up by the United Nations concluded that Col. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, director of the National Guard in 1980, and Gen. José Guillermo García, then Salvadoran defense minister, were responsible for covering up the crime. Both are now living in Florida.

Asked about the soldiers' statement, US State Dept. spokesperson James Rubin said: "These apparent confessions come some 17 years after the murders were committed. We are unclear about the veracity or the possible motivations behind them." A State Dept. official who refused to be identified said he was unable to explain why Col. Vides Casanova and Gen. García were allowed to settle in the US, adding: "This is not really in our hands anymore." Robert White, who was US ambassador to El Salvador at the time of the killings, said it is "totally outrageous for the US government to have singled out four guys who were following orders and to insist they get punished at the same time it is practically conniving to get the people who were the intellectual authors of this terrible incident off scot free." (NYTimes 4/3/98)

Briefs taken from Weekly News Update (April 5), 339 Lafayette St., NY, NY 10012. $25/year; free one-month trial sub.

Bishop Samuel Ruiz Speaks on Chiapas Peace Process

In a recent address to representatives from several global peace organizations, Don Samuel Ruiz, Bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas and President of the National Intermediation Commission (CONAI) discussed the current problems in the peace process in Chiapas. Although the Zapatista Army and the federal government continue to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, Ruiz warned that the government's army has "disconnected itself" from the peace process and have begun to enact its own policy toward the Zapatistas: "Intead of killing the fish, take the water from the fish." This policy explains the army's increased presence in dividing up the Zapatista communities. Ruiz also blamed the federal government for breakdown of the peace dialogues. Because the Zapatistas refuse to discuss issues that have already been agreed upon and signed, the government has manipulated this refusal into a complete denial, on the part of the Zapatistas, of the peace dialogues. The effect of this refusal is that the government "can begin a persecution against the Zapatistas," and according to Ruiz, "a very strong wave of violence will follow." But what can be done? He said hope can come from two areas: growth in awareness by Mexican civil society and positive support by international solidarity.

In response to the Bishop's call for international support, Global Exchange is requesting a letter-writing campaign to the Mexican government. If you wish to help protest the escalating violence in Chiapas, fax or write a letter with the following points:

1. That you support the CONAI's mediation in the conflict and that you are concerned at the breakdown in the dialogue process.

2. That the government's attempt to by-pass the dialogue by presenting its own initiatives on indigenous culture and rights to the Mexican congress will only prolong the conflict and intensify violence and mistrust.

3. That violence will only come to an end in Chiapas by addressing root causes. The peace process reflected in the San Andrés Accords was designed to address these causes; abandonment guarantees continuing conflict.

Please address letters, faxes or e-mails to:

1. Your representative or senator.

2. Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Poncé de Léon, Presidente de la Republica, Palacio Nacional Mexico, DF 06067 Fax: 011-52-5-271-1764.
Email: webadmon@op.presidencia.gob.mx

3. Lic. Francisco Labastida Ochoa Secretario de Gobernacion Bucareli 99, 1. piso Col. Juarez Mexico, D.F. 06699 Mexico. Fax: 011-52-5-546-5350


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