Ranchers' hired guns raise Chiapas tension

Mexico City - "Wanted for treason: Commander Samuel Ruiz," says the poster in the offices of the cattle ranchers' organisation in the south-eastern state of Chiapas. The picture shows Bishop Samuel Ruiz, long-time defender of Mexico's native MayanIndian population, writes Phil Davison. "Promoter of violence using Indians as cannon-fodder," the poster goes on. "Often disguises hismelf as a priest, even a bishop. Do not attempt to detain him unless you are armed with a crucifix and holy water."

The poster demonstrates how Chiapas, rocked a year ago by a Zapatista guerrilla rebellion, remains on the edge of civil unrest between landowners and the ruling elite backing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on one side, and poverty-stricken Indians supported by Catholic liberation theologists on the other.

With weapons said to be pouring into the state from the US and through the jungle from Guatemala, ranchers, peasants and churchmen alike refer more often to the probability rather than the possibility of civil war in Chiapas. Troops have moved into villages along the Guatemalan border, to box in the guerrillas and to cut off arms smugglers.

Both ranchers and peasants talk of "ingovernability" in the state. The ranchers say Governor Eduardo Robledo, elected in December, is not doing enough to protect their land or get back more than 2,000 ranches taken over during the past year by peasants either supporting or emboldened by the Zapatista guerrillas. Many of the peasants back the "rebel transition government" of Amado Avendano, who ran for governor and says Mr Robledo won only through fraud.

Leaders of the state's 72,000 ranchers met last week in the town of Chicomuselo, where six people died in clashes on 10 January and warned that they were well-armed and ready to take their land back by force.

Peasant groups and leaders of Mr Avendano's left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) responded by calling on the state and federal government to disarm what they call guardias blancas (white guards) or "mercenary pistoleros" hired by the cattlemen and who intimidate peasants by patrolling in powerful pick-up trucks with tinted windows.

While December's devaluation of the peso and the ensuing row over loan guarantees are the immediate reason for the collapse of the peso and stock-market slide, uncertainty in Chiapas continues to influence domestic and foreign investors.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week