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4 March 1999 Edition

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ETA to maintain ceasefire

The Basque armed organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) issued a statement last week stating the organisation's intention of maintaining the ceasefire called last September. The reasons argued for this decision are ``the steps taken towards a process of national reconstruction, the feeling of hope and the advance in the reconstruction process expected in the months ahead''.

The ``preparation tasks for national reconstruction'' outlined by ETA in their statement are the Lizarra-Garazi agreement, the new political map created by the Basque general election last October in the three Basque provinces that form the Basque Autonomous Community, and the campaign in support of the Basque language ``Bai euskarari''. It also refers to the common initiatives of the nationalist political parties in support of the Basque political prisoners, the petition to the French government to create a Basque Department for the North Basque Country -under French domain-, and the first meeting held by the Assembly of Basque local representatives -which included majors and councillors from all the Basque provinces.

In the statement, ETA evaluates the political parties' position since the organisation called the cessation five month ago. PNV, EA, AB and HB, the nationalist parties, are said to be ``bravely work towards the reconstruction of Euskal Herria'', while other pro-Spanish Basque parties and the Spanish parties are still keeping themselves ``away from the conflict''.

ETA pointed out in their statement that ``Euskal Herria is in the same situation of oppression that it was five month ago'' but highlighting that now ``in the Basque Society there is a majority those who accept the political roots of the conflict and support a negotiated solution''.

ETA does not hide that the links with the Spanish and French states are still there and the message in relation to these links is that ``There is a lot to be done, a lot of links to break with Spain and France and a lot is left to be put together in Euskal Herria.'' The organisation then encourages Basque people to preserve their resistance to ``the oppression suffered for centuries, to the point that even the military occupation has become invisible for many Basque citizens. ETA upheld their right to defend themselves, ``because it took us a long time to start our fight and it would be a terrible error to forget that we have arrived to this point through fight and dignity.

ETA also clarifies in its statement that the Basque process is not a peace process, because the organisation does not want an ``Aseptic peace, a supposed peace that will keep its axis on the old status quo, the roman peace, the peace of the cemeteries''.

Mexican authorities try to keep international observers out of Chiapas

Around 75,000 soldiers are patrolling the Southern State of Chiapas, while the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) will be holding a national referendum on Indigenous Rights and the end of the genocide war on 21 March 1999.

More than 1,200 brigades will take part in the referendum, which is trying to open new democratic spaces for the Mexican population. More than 5,000 Zapatista delegates will leave the area of Chiapas on the 12 March, on their way to other Mexican states, to publish the consultation. The referendum will be organised and overviewed by the Fundacion Arturo Rosenblueth.

However, the Mexican federal government and the authorities in Chiapas are trying to stop the celebration of the consult, or at least, the repercussion that such procedure could have in the international community.

The government of Chiapas is investigating the activities of all the foreigners in the area, members of NGOs and catechises from the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas as the authorities consider their presence in the area is disturbing the communities, although the indigenous communities do not share this view. The main worry of the Mexican authorities is that those ``foreigners'' could become witnesses and voices to what is happening in Chiapas and this is a reality the governments in Chiapas and Mexico are trying to hide.

The Justice Procurator of the State, Eduardo Montoya Lievano, claimed that the catechises of the diocese of Chiapas have created a security belt around the village of Acteal, where 45 peasants were killed in December 1997 by the right wing paramilitaries who are closed to the party in the government (PRI). Montoya thinks that this situation has increased the tension in the area. ``We do not want another Acteal, he said referring to the massacre. However, it is not clear if this statement was referred to the paramilitaries that fight against the Zapatistas and indigenous people with the government's approval and the support of the landowners and military, or it is a threat to the indigenous communities.

Eduardo Montoya claimed that the government is sending ``peace messages'' to the Zapatista guerrilla and that in an effort to keep the peace in the area they have not carried out the 193 arrests pending for offences committed before the Acteal massacre. But Montoya also recognised that the authorities have not taken any action against former civil servants on the Chiapas government who were involved in the killings in the Acteal killings.

Sources in the Mexican government pointed out last week that they will deport any foreign observer to the civil referendum organised by the EZLN. This would not be the first time that the Mexican authorities chose to close the Chiapas border. The Zapatista National Liberation Front, the political organisation associated with the aims of the EZLN has called to the NGOs and the members of the Commission for Peace and Concorde (COCOPA) to observe the security of the 5,000 Zapatista delegates that will promote the consultation on indigenous rights all around Mexico.

200,000 killed in Guatemalan conflict

The Commission for the Historical Enlightening (CEH) presented a document last week called ``Guatemala, the silence memory'' which include frightful revelations of the massacres that took place during the period of the Guatemalan civil war.

For several decades -from 1960 to 1996- Guatemala suffered an internal conflict, which has been documented and investigated for 18 months by this Commission. Its president, the German Christian Tomuschat offered the conclusions of its work: The Guatemalan war left more than 200,000 dead people; young children, women, men and elderly were tortured and killed; 626 indigenous communities were exterminated by the military, while the rebel guerrilla Guatemalan Revolutionary National Unity (URNG) carried out 32 massacres. The commission's report estimates that 93%of the killings were the responsibility of the army, or state security forces, 3% by the URNG and the other 4% by other unidentified groups.

The document points to the US' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as one of the agents in the conflict, supporting some of the illegal operations of the Guatemalan government.

The indigenous population suffered the most, with the Mayan communities subjected to slaughter as they were accused of supporting the guerillas.

Tomuschat highlighted the suffering inflicted on young children and women, especially Mayan women, who were tortured, raped and murdered. The genocide, points out the report, took place during the counter-insurgency operative against indigenous Mayan communities between 1978 and 1983.

Tomuschat asked the Guatemalan president Alvaro Arza to establish a commission that after his authority and supervision to examine the implication of army officials and the different state bodies and security forces that were active during the conflict.

The indigenous leader and Noble Peace Prize winner of 1992, Rigoberta Menchu, said she felt her mission was accomplished, but also pointed out that she will not forgive those responsible for the killing until the military recognises that the massacres were part of a strategy and not the spontaneous actions of individuals.

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