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The Spanish-language version of this article was the cover story of the December 28, 2003, edition of Mexico's Proceso magazine.

Rebellion in Chiapas and the Mexican Military

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 109

Edited by Kate Doyle

January 20, 2004

This new Electronic Briefing Book is based on a collaboration between Proceso magazine and the National Security Archive and launched on March 2, 2003.

The collaboration grew out of a shared desire to publish and disseminate to a wide audience newly-declassified documents about the United States and Mexico. Each month, Proceso magazine will publish an article by the Archive's Mexico Project director, Kate Doyle, examining new documentary evidence on a chosen topic. The series - called Archivos Abiertos (or, Open Archive), will draw from U.S. and Mexican declassified records on a range of issues that could include, for example: drug trafficking and counternarcotics policy, Mexican presidential elections, human rights cases, immigration, U.S. training of the Mexican military, NAFTA negotiations, the role of the press, peso devaluations, and state repression during Mexico's "dirty war." On the same day that Proceso's article appears in Mexico, the National Security Archive will post an Electronic Briefing Book on its web site, containing an English-language version of the article, a link to Proceso's web site, and all of the declassified documents used for the piece, reproduced in their entirety.

 
Contents
Article
Documents
Link - Proceso Magazine
El artículo en español (PDF - 1.8 MB)

Rebellion in Chiapas and the Mexican Military

by Kate Doyle

When the United States government considered the rebellion in Chiapas, it did so through the twin lenses of its primary national interests: money and power.

The Zapatista uprising - which exploded on January 1, 1994, the eve of the inauguration of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - challenged an image of Mexico that had been peddled for months in the halls of the U.S. Congress in an effort to gain approval for the historic trade pact. According to the NAFTA lobby, Mexico was a modern, youthful nation, eager for change, and unencumbered by the chains of its own history, the centuries of rural poverty and oppression.

But if the events of 1994 were a shock to the inflated expectations of American investors, for U.S. military and intelligence planners they offered the advantage of a window in to an institution known for its supreme secrecy, silence and resistance to public scrutiny: the Mexican armed forces.

It was an institution that was (and remains) resolutely closed to American engagement. The history of post-war security relations between the United States and Mexico is a tale of frustration on the part of U.S. military officials at their inability to penetrate the Mexican army as they had other allied militaries in the western hemisphere. Unlike many of its Central and South American neighbors, Mexico's Defense Secretariat (Secretaría de la Defensa-SEDENA) consistently rejected the swollen grant aid packages of weapons and equipment that the United States offered throughout the Cold War, thereby enabling it to preserve its sense of independence and distance from the colossus to the north.

Reading through hundreds of declassified cables, reports and intelligence analyses produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency during the first twelve months of the rebellion (and obtained by the National Security Archive Mexico Project through the Freedom of Information Act), one learns very little about the social, political or economic factors that lay behind the Zapatista uprising. But the documents are replete with new and interesting details about the Mexican military.

As Mexico marks the tenth anniversary of the rebellion, the country finds itself poised to challenge for the first time in modern memory the army's refusal to open itself to civilian scrutiny and influence. Archivos Abiertos offers these notes on the tale of the military's role in the uprising as a contribution to a new era of transparency in Mexico.

Know Thy Enemy

Washington's professed surprise at the Zapatista uprising is belied by two years of reports by Pentagon officials on suspicious and clearly subversive activities in Chiapas.

Although the Mexican government publicly portrayed early encounters with rebels in 1992 and 1993 as counternarcotics operations or contacts with Guatemalan guerrillas who had crossed the border to foment unrest, declassified DIA documents paint another picture.

In April 1992, for example, U.S. defense attachés reported on a secret directive circulated by the Defense Secretariat's Intelligence Section placing military units on alert due to what it called "a national series of crimes." The directive dubbed common criminals and narcotraffickers as the perpetrators, but noted that "some of them may have been executed by clandestine organizations or militants to fulfill their ideological ends." Among the evidence of subversive activities mentioned in the document were "training camps discovered in the state of Chiapas…"

The first reference to the Zapatista army in U.S. defense documents occurred shortly after the clash between military and rebel forces in late May 1993, when SEDENA sent more than 3,000 soldiers into Chiapas on what it characterized as a civic action mission. The embassy's Defense Attaché Office (DAO) described massive maneuvers in the Ocosingo valley using "light armored vehicles, helicopter bombing support, and infiltration of parachute troops into hard to access areas."

Discussing Chiapas Senator Antonio Melgar's unusual request to the government for an increased military presence in his state to curb "Guatemalan guerrilla activities," the DIA named a Mexican rebel group as the real guerrillas, "tentatively identified as the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN)" in a cable dated June 14, 1993.

The DAO wrote, "The Defense Secretariat maintains a curious, yet predictable, silence on military operations conducted over the past two weeks against possible guerrillas in Chiapas. To date, the military has only publicly admitted to light casualties and the completion of civic action projects in the region." When a public bulletin was issued by SEDENA claiming to have conducted civic action and counternarcotics activities in the area, the DIA quoted an Excelsior newspaper article that referred to the "great hermetic secrecy" maintained by senior military officials about what was happening in Chiapas.

A secret intelligence assessment from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) written on January 3 helped explain the regime's refusal to acknowledge a rebel presence before January 1. For some time before uprising, wrote an INR analyst, the activities of radical indigenous groups in Chiapas had triggered anxiety "at the highest level of the Mexican government." The government maintained a strict silence on the matter, however: "Concern over the impact of political unrest on NAFTA led Salinas to downplay reports last spring of an incipient insurgency in the conflict-ridden state of Chiapas following the murders of several soldiers."

On January 10, the Pentagon referred to the Mexican military's anger at official silence about the Zapatistas, observing that "Though the armed forces have been aware of the guerrillas' existence in Chiapas, they feel that they have been prevented from eradicating them. Eradication efforts would have entailed military operations that may have proven politically suicidal for the government."

Military Incompetence

After several confused early assessments of the uprising, the DIA issued a secret intelligence forecast on January 5, containing a relatively accurate portrayal of what was happening:

(C/NF) Further insurrectionist violence is likely to occur in southern Mexico in the coming months.

-- The 1 January incident demonstrated highly professional planning, leadership, and operational competence of the rebel Zapata Army of National Liberation (EZLN) that took control of four towns in Chiapas.
-- The rebels are probably operating from sanctuaries along the Guatemala-Mexico border. Their sources of funding and equipment are not known.
-- The pervasive poverty in the region will probably provide the rebel cadre ample opportunity for inciting the local peasantry to further acts of violence.

(C/NF) While the insurgents are not strong enough to face the Mexican army, neither is the army capable of eradicating the rebels in hiding. The government will seek to restrain the army to avoid local complaints of army human rights abuse. A stand-off with recurring violence could frighten foreign investors and embarrass the government, affecting presidential elections in August. The government will beef up security in the region, and could be tempted into repressive tactics.

The incompetence and unpreparedness of the Mexican armed forces in facing the rebels was a recurring theme in the American documents. U.S. defense experts observed that the military had no real counterinsurgency capabilities, did a poor job gathering intelligence and failed to comprehend the crucial role of public relations in "selling" their operations to the Mexican people.

The army also misrepresented its capabilities to combat the Zapatistas, even to its allies in other military institutions. During a briefing given in January 1994 by senior Mexican army officers for foreign military attachés, the Mexicans claimed to have been monitoring the situation in Chiapas since 1983 and said they had compiled a complete list of names of individuals suspected of ties to the insurgents. The DAO's political section commented skeptically on the information in a cable written January 27:

Judging by our information from other sources, the Mexican military's claims either to having had such extensive knowledge of the EZLN and its membership prior to the outbreak of hostilities or to having reliably obtained additional names for that list since January 1 should be heavily discounted. We know, for example, that the military asked through many channels - including non-governmental sources - for contributions of names of suspected or possible members, supporters or contacts of the EZLN, and that among the lists given them was the entire list of Dominican priests in Chiapas; the names of all Mexican priests regardless of location in the country who attended the 1968 church meeting in Medellín, Colombia, which was the beginning of the Liberation Theology movement; and all of the foreign-born Catholic priests, friars, and nuns who have worked in Chiapas since the beginning of Bishop Samuel Ruiz' incumbency as Bishop of San Cristobal (he has been Bishop there for more than three decades). We have learned reliably that all of these names are now on the Mexican military's list of known EZLN members. […] We have been told that the military has no way of knowing whether or not most of the people on its list are, in fact, in any way involved or connected.

Faced with the mounting realization that its troops were ill-equipped to combat the rebels, SEDENA began to introduce critical changes into doctrine, training and operations in an effort to improve both its public image and its fighting capability in the field. On the publicity front, for example, the DAO reported on April 21 that the army recognized that the Zapatistas had trounced its own feeble efforts to win Mexicans' hearts and minds: "The military is in the process of addressing this rather severe shortcoming by sending public relations exchange teams abroad in an effort to develop a more meaningful, positive relationship with the media."

"Talking to the press goes against the institutional nature of the Mexican army," wrote the DAO one week later, but "for the first time the Army is attempting to put a human face on the institution."

Reflecting what U.S. defense planners called in August 1994 "the military's determination to remedy the deficiencies revealed by the Zapatista rebellion in January," the Mexican army created new counterinsurgency units, conducted anti-guerrilla exercises in other areas of potential conflict around the country (such a 1,500-man training exercise in Guerrero in June), and bought expensive new equipment designed for low-intensity conflicts such as the rebellion in Chiapas.

Among the purchases were four stealth aircraft - the Schweizer "Condor" plane, a motorized glider designed to provide covert surveillance capability - and Israeli-made "Aravas," used for intelligence collection.

In a cable sent to Washington on June 20, 1994, the DAO offered an extensive analysis of the prospects for violence as national elections neared. It also observed some of the changes that had been made by the military institution since the uprising began:

1. The Mexican military has developed, and is prepared to execute on order, an offensive contingency plan for Chiapas. It has existing strategic plans for mobilization throughout the national territory.
2. The Mexican military is updating doctrine to better prepare, strategically and tactically, to fight a protracted guerrilla war.
3. The Mexican military is rebuilding elements of its force structure to better fight the same type of internal enemy.
4. The Mexican military is upgrading its equipment to support the above mentioned doctrinal and organizational changes.

Foreigners to the Rescue

Throughout the conflict, the Mexican government claimed to have evidence of "external support" for the Zapatistas - including ties to Guatemalan rebel groups, Nicaragua's Sandinistas, the FMLN of El Salvador, and even remnants of Argentina's former guerrilla fighters - but was never able to prove its case convincingly.

Despite the government's insistence that the guerrillas were receiving extensive foreign aid, U.S. defense officials repeatedly discounted such contacts, pointing out that it was in the regime's interest to make the Zapatista army appear a more formidable threat than it actually was.

A DIA cable of January 27, 1994, for example, included a Mexican report on having intercepted the radio communications of Guatemalan guerrillas fighting alongside Zapatista rebels. In a comment by the political section of the Defense Attaché Office, the embassy told Washington that the report should be disregarded.

Intelligence collected on communications between Guatemalan guerrillas operating near the border with Mexico, explained the cable, indicated that they were almost always conducted in Mam or other Indian dialects, "yet Mexican army signals intelligence units, like their civilian Mexican intelligence agency counterparts, have no personnel who speak or understand any of these languages. […] The Mexican military is trying through a variety of means to show that the EZLN force it now combats is a bigger than life underground group of vast international connections. A good portion of the Defensa claims to substantiate that image have been patently incorrect…"

What the Salinas government did not publicize was the extent of foreign support received during the protracted conflict by the Mexican Army. It began with the American weapons and military equipment provided under U.S.-Mexican drug enforcement programs, but included critical assistance from the armed forces of Britain, Chile, Argentina and Guatemala, among other countries.

Neighboring Guatemala was a special case. Three days after the Zapatistas burst onto the scene, Salinas called his counterpart in Guatemala directly to discuss his concerns of URNG (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity-Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca) involvement in the rebellion. President Ramiro de León Carpio offered to help with intelligence about rebel movements, and Salinas sent a team of civilians and military personnel to Guatemala that night for security briefings - led, according to a January 4 U.S. defense cable, by Lt. Col. Edgar Ricardo Bustamante Figueroa, head of Presidential Security and a known expert on the URNG.

The talks were followed on January 6 by a meeting at the headquarters of Guatemalan Military Zone 22 in Playa Grande between Gen. Miguel Godínez (then chief of Mexico's VII Military Region) and a group of Guatemalan commanders, including Army Chief of Staff José Luis Quilo Ayuso, the head of the notoriously brutal intelligence section of the Guatemalan army (D-2), and Guatemala's chief of operations.

These meetings and others led to extensive cooperation and communication between the two militaries, as they exchanged intelligence information about their respective insurgencies, reciprocated with visits between border military detachments, and carried out coordinated counterinsurgency operations. Beginning in early 1994, the Mexican army even sent officers to attend the infamous Kaibil jungle operations course in the Petén (a class so demanding, wrote one U.S. defense officer on April 27, 1995, that one group of Mexican officers "was not physically able" to complete it).

According to U.S. documents, in addition to the ongoing assistance from the Guatemalan armed forces, the Mexicans received extensive help from other foreign militaries:

-- According to a DIA document dated May 11, 1994, soldiers from the British Army provided Mexico's First Military Police Brigade with training on their base at Military Camp One in Mexico City, designed to address Mexican military shortcomings in mine warfare.

-- Israel and Spain were among other countries that sent security personnel to Mexico to provide training to army and police forces, according to the same document.

-- The DIA reported on November 28, 1994, that in preparation for the inauguration of the new PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Paty-Partido Institucional Revolucionario) governor of Chiapas in December, the Mexican military stepped up aerial surveillance over rebel-held territory, resupplied its units, and enlisted the assistance of the Chilean military to train Mexican soldiers in counter-guerrilla operations.

-- In late 1994, retired Argentine military officers were reported to be advising the Mexicans in urban guerrilla warfare, to which the DIA commented on December 5, "The Argentine military has kept a watchful eye on the developments of the Mexican uprising in Chiapas. […] They feel that [the] failure of the Zapatistas would act as a deterrent for any potential Argentine internal political violence and would be in the best interests of Argentina."

The Zapatista rebellion did not completely change the way the Mexican armed forces operated, but - as one lengthy State Department report observed in May 1995 on what it called "the Chiapas effect" - the military had decided in the course of the uprising that it needed to create a true combat capabilities.

"In many ways, the Mexican Army in modern times has functioned more as a highly disciplined police and rescue squad, combating narcotics trafficking and providing medical assistance and emergency rescue facilities, than as a combat force."

With new doctrine, operations and public relations, the armed forces might, at least, be ready for the next insurgency to come.


Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Documents

Document 1
April 28, 1992
Mexican Defense Headquarters. Concern over Insurgents
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence information report

In a directive circulated internally by Mexico's Defense Secretariat regarding an increase in recent "subversive" actions carried out by the radical group Partido Revolucionario Obrero Clandestino Unión del Pueblo y el Partido de los Pobres (PROCUP-PDLP), an early reference is made to insurgent training camps in the state of Chiapas. Although the document portrays recent developments as part of "a national series of crimes," the military is clearly concerned with what appear to be mounting insurgent activities around the country.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 2
June 4, 1993
Mexican Military Officer Killed, Two Soldiers Wounded in Confrontation with Guatemalan-Related Insurgency
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Two recent confrontations between the Mexican military and "Tzetzal Indians and Guatemalan guerrillas" near Ocosingo result in several casualties and reveal for the first time the presence of an armed, organized insurgent force in Chiapas. The document reports that eight Mexicans and two Guatemalans were apprehended in the clash, along with weapons, ammunition, radio transceivers and subversive propaganda. In addition, "the army discovered a complete city, constructed of wood, which the guerrillas utilized for conducting simulated attacks."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 3
June 14, 1993
A Chiapas Senator Requests More Military Presence to Curb Guerrilla Activity in his State
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

The first DIA document to identify the Zapatistas by name, it reports that Chiapas senator Antonio Melgar has requested increased military presence in his state - a request that might have seemed unusual several months prior, but reflects the growing militarization of the southern states. Although Melgar explains his call for additional troops as an attempt to prevent Guatemalan guerrilla activities from spreading across the border, the report cites the existence of a Mexican rebel group, "tentatively identified as the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN)."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 4
June 14, 1993
Mexican Defense Secretariat Quiet on Chiapas Operations
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Despite the growing turmoil in Chiapas, the Mexican military continues to downplay the extent of the unrest, maintaining a "curious, yet predictable silence" on recent events. The U.S. defense attaché sorts through various conflicting reports to provide Washington with a timeline of encounters between the army and suspected guerrillas during May and June, including a government offensive in the region using over two thousand troops, light armored vehicles and helicopters, and the "infiltration of parachute troops into hard to access areas."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 5
October 15, 1993
Mexican Armed Forces Involved in Highest Volume Capture of Cocaine in Several Years
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

A military action in Chiapas, described by the government as a drug bust, reveals the escalation of violence in the area. For seven hours on October 3 and 4 "helicopters bombed and searched the area around Ocosingo," supposedly after military aircraft had been fired upon.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 6
Circa January 1, 1994
Guerillas Capture Key Towns in Chiapas, Mexico. Corrected Report
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Dated January 26, this is a corrected cable was originally transmitted on or immediately after January 1st when the Zapatistas launched their rebellion. In the heavily censored document, the DIA reports that guerrillas have captured four towns in Chiapas in a "coordinated, well-planned and executed" action, and have called for a general Indian uprising. The DIA suggests the group may be led by Central American guerrillas and notes that local officials have been "overwhelmed" by the uprising.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 7
January 4, 1994
Mexican and Guatemalan Presidents Discuss the Indigenous Uprising in Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

A heavily excised account of a telephone conversation held on January 3rd between Mexican President Carlos Salinas and Guatemalan President Ramiro de León following the uprising of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN). Referring to the Guatemala guerrilla coalition Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG), Salinas states that there are "signs of URNG involvement with the EZLN." In response, De León pledges to send a group of "URNG experts" - civilian and military personnel - in support of Salinas and to hasten a planned visit to the Mexican capital so the two heads of state might more promptly discuss these "issues of mutual interest." The document was likely written by the Defense Attaché Office (DAO) in Guatemala City.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
Request Number 13817 (Can't find this request number in the info sent by NSA)

Document 8
January 5, 1994
DIA Weekly Intelligence Forecast
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret report

An analysis by the DIA and Defense Intelligence Warning System (DIWS) predicts that the rebellion in southern Mexico will spread, aided by the "pervasive poverty of the region" and the "highly professional" organization of the EZLN. The DIA notes that neither the insurgents nor the army are powerful enough to fully defeat the other, but that continued violence "could frighten foreign investors and embarrass the government, affecting the presidential elections in August."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 9
January 7, 1994
Mexican and Guatemalan Military Liaison
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence information report

Army chiefs from Mexico and Guatemala meet to "exchange information about their respective insurgencies" and to discuss the possibility of the EZLN retreating across the Guatemalan border, where Mexican government authorities fear they will find "sanctuary" among the rebel groups and civilian communities of northern Guatemala. The meeting takes place at the headquarters of Guatemalan Military Zone 22 in Playa Grande between Gen. Miguel Godínez, chief of Mexico's VII Military Region, and a group of Guatemalan commanders, including Army Chief of Staff José Luis Quilo Ayuso.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 10
January 10, 1994
Mexican Navy Perspective on Chiapas Guerrilla Activities
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

This document makes clear that the government knew of the existence of a rebel force in Chiapas, yet publicly denied that knowledge despite repeated press reports on guerrilla activity over the past year and a half. The document also describes the Mexican government's conflicted response to the emergence of the EZLN. The government is unwilling to negotiate with the guerrillas because "to publicly acknowledge the guerrillas' existence would in some way legitimize the guerrillas' organization." At the same time, the government is concerned with the public image of the army, still tainted by memory of the student massacre of 1968, and has consequently urged the army to show restraint in dealing with the EZLN. The armed forces, meanwhile, chafe at being prevented from simply "eradicating" the rebels.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 11
January 12, 1994
INR Intelligence Assessment: Mexico 01/03/94
State Department, secret cable

A retransmission of an intelligence assessment by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research on the Zapatista uprising, originally written on January 3. According to the report, the rebellion triggered concerns at the "highest level" of the Mexican government about the activities of indigenous groups in the country. The analyst notes that the uprising was preceded by repeated clashes during 1993, yet "concern over the impact of political unrest on NAFTA led Salinas to downplay reports last spring of an incipient insurgency in the conflict-ridden state of Chiapas."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
June 2002, Request Number 24104

Document 12
January 24, 1994
Mexican Defense Secretariat Briefs Military Attachés on Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

A summary of a briefing given by the Mexican Defense Secretariat to foreign defense attachés. The Mexican army claims it has followed the situation in Chiapas since 1983, and has compiled a list of those suspected of having connections with the insurgents. In an ominous sign of the possibility of protracted low-intensity warfare, an army general acknowledges the difficulty in "ferret[ing] out small pockets of resistance," yet notes the army is reluctant to pull out of towns it currently controls.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 13
January 27, 1994
Mexican Army Claims Detailed Knowledge of Zapatista Liberation Movement (EZLN) Before 1 January, 1994
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

In a heavily censored document, the DAO doubts the reliability of Mexican military intelligence on the Zapatistas. Although the army claims to have compiled a list of suspected members of the EZLN, the report notes that the military has indiscriminately included dozens of irrelevant names, such as lists of priests who attended the 1968 church meeting in Medellín, foreign-born members of the clergy, and prominent members of any rural organizations in Chiapas that have the word "Zapata" in their titles.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 14
January 27, 1994
Mexican Army Discovers Guatemalan Guerrillas Fighting with Emilio Zapata Liberation Movement (EZLN)
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Reacting to Mexican army claims to have intercepted a radio signal that proves the involvement of Guatemalan guerrilla groups with the EZLN, a DIA analyst notes that these reports are "unsubstantiated" and should be seen within an overall pattern of military attempts to exaggerate the threat presented by the Zapatistas. "The Mexican military is trying through a variety of means to show that the EZLN force it now combats is a bigger than life underground group of vast international connections. A good portion of Defensa claims to substantiate that image have been patently incorrect, and this might be one of them."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 15
February 1, 1994
The Liberationists, 57 Priests and 27 Nuns Listed as Involved in Chiapas Uprising
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

A translation of an article that appeared in the Mexican newspaper El Heraldo de México that provides a list of names of Catholic clergy members said to be involved in the Chiapas insurgency. A DIA analyst comments that the article reveals the Mexican government's attempts to implicate the Catholic leadership, yet notes that these allegations are unsupported and that it is furthermore "logical" that priests should show concern for their impoverished indigenous congregations.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 16
February 17, 1994
Uprising in Chiapas Forces Mexican Government to Redirect Military and Police Resources
Army Intelligence and Security Command, secret intelligence analysis (extract)

The Mexico section of this threat analysis by the Army Intelligence Threat Analysis Center reveals ongoing structural changes in the Mexican military. In response to the uprising the government has "diverted many police and military units from their regular missions and assigned them to counterinsurgency duty in Chiapas." The analyst predicts that, should the rebels continue to successfully defend themselves, the changes may prove permanent. And there may be further change: according to the report, the army and the Mexican intelligence agency CISEN (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional) had only limited intelligence of the rebels prior to January 1, and were taken by surprise by the uprising.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 28, 1996, Request Number 16809

Document 17
April 21, 1994
The Army, Authentic Product of the Mexican Revolution
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

A translation of an article on the Mexican army published in the newspaper Excélsior. The article provides the historical roots for the hermetic nature of the military in order to explain current tensions between the military and the government - visible, for example, in disagreements over how to deal with the EZLN uprising. The DIA analyst pronounces the article "excellent" and hopes the army leadership will take the author's advice, which includes establishing better relationships with the media and civil society.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 18
April 22, 1994
Military Reaction to the Mexican Government's Handling of the Zapatista Movement
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence information report

According to U.S. defense sources, Mexican military leaders are angry over how the Salinas government has handled the situation in Chiapas. While the government has repeatedly blamed the military for not adequately predicting the EZLN uprising, senior army officers charge that they did provide information, yet the government failed to act accordingly.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 19
April 29, 1994
Chiapas: The Mexican Army Takes its First Step in Public Relations; Logistics/Supply Deficiencies
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Stung by widespread public support for the EZLN, press reports of human rights abuses, and government insinuations of inadequacy, the Mexican army makes its first attempts at improving public relations by inviting reporters to visit a military base in Chiapas. A DIA analyst comments that these outreach efforts are significant and reflect the military's new awareness of the importance of public opinion. "[T]he army belatedly realized that whether or not they were succeeding in their efforts in Chiapas was irrelevant when the EZLN appeared to be winning the political battle at home and abroad."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 20
May 5, 1994
Mexico: [Deleted]
CIA Directorate of Intelligence, secret intelligence memorandum

Tensions continue to rise in Chiapas as the government and rebels fail to reach a conclusive settlement. The CIA observes that ranchers and "other vested interests" in the region consider Salinas administration tactics "appeasement of the rebels," and suggests that renewed fighting will exacerbate pressures on the government and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13414

Document 21
May 11, 1994
British Military Provides Mine and EOD Training
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

This heavily excised document reveals that several countries, including Britain, Israel and Spain, are providing counter-insurgency training to the Mexican army and police. The British army, for example, are giving the military's First Military Police Brigade mining and countermine training at their base at Military Camp One in Mexico City.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 22
May 31, 1994
The Mexican Secretariat of Defense (SEDNA) Purchased "Stealth" Aircraft
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

Despite the cease-fire, which prohibits flights over EZLN-held territory, the Mexican government beefs up its military capacity by purchasing four "stealth" aircraft designed for covert surveillance. "The Mexican government took delivery of this aircraft after the Chiapas uprising. This uprising may have influenced the GOM [government of Mexico] to provide additional funding for military purchases."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 23
June 1, 1994
Mexican Reconnaissance Aircraft Fired on by Apparent SA-7 Anti-Aircraft Weapons
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

An incident reveals that the Mexican military has apparently used Israeli-made aircraft for surveillance in Chiapas. "The Mexican air force has been using two of their Israeli procured 'Arava' aircraft for [intelligence] collection in the state of Chiapas," and report that their planes have been fired on with anti-aircraft missiles. A DIA analyst notes that the true extent of the EZLN's weapons is still unknown.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 24
June 20, 1994
Analytical Study, Potential for Violence in Mexico Prior to 941231
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence information report

As the presidential elections of August 21 near, an analyst discusses various scenarios for the eruption of political violence, especially in Chiapas. Until now the government has proceeded cautiously, fearing a voter backlash, but might seek to wipe out the EZLN by force after the elections, "believing it will have six years to recover from any adverse publicity." The army, the analyst notes, "would willingly initiate the campaign [in Chiapas] given the opportunity." The document offers insight into the country's delicate balance of forces, including the growing deployment of the military in Chiapas as it prepares for a protracted guerrilla war, the extension of counterinsurgency training to units not usually deployed for this purpose, the growing strength of Mexico's political opposition, and tensions following the March assassination of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 25
August 1994
Security Issues
CIA Directorate of Intelligence, secret report [extract]

As rural violence spreads to the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, President Salinas and presidential candidate Ernesto Zedillo suggest several legal and security initiatives, such as increasing the penalty for possession of arms and coordinating the actions of various branches of the police. Meanwhile the EZLN has called a national convention to discuss issues such as the use of civil disobedience and a transition to democracy.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13414

Document 26
October 28, 1994
[Increasing Tensions in Chiapas may Result in Further Violence]
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence report

Further indication of military upgrades in response to the EZLN. As the contested results of the gubernatorial elections in Chiapas raise tensions in the state, the military increases its activities, including more military overflights and the purchase of over 60 French-made armored personnel carriers. "This acquisition highlights the military's determination to remedy the deficiencies revealed by the Zapatista rebellion."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 27
November 28, 1994
[Military Takes Increased Measures in Preparation of Further Hostilities in Chiapas]
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence report

The Mexican army receives counterinsurgency training from the Chilean military in preparation for further violence in Chiapas. The army also carries out aerial surveillance flights, conducts more thorough searches at military checkpoints, and has been placed on full alert.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 28
December 5, 1994
Argentine Military Advisors in Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

According to news reports, the Mexican government reportedly sent a delegation to Buenos Aires in March to request information about counterinsurgency methods used during Argentina's Dirty War. Now the Argentine minister of defense publicly states that no "active" members of the Argentine military are working as advisors to the Mexican military, thus suggesting by implication that retired officers - precisely those implicated in the terror of the 1970s and '80s - are advising the Mexican army.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 29
December 23, 1994
Chiapas, Military Rotation Does Little to Aid Exposed Unit at Altamirano
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential intelligence information report

An update on military movements in Chiapas mentions that non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives who had previously been stationed at all military checkpoints in Altamirano have now left. "They were not a welcome addition to these points, from the military point of view."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 30
December 24, 1994
Guatemalan Posture on the Problem in Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret intelligence information report

In an indication of continuing cooperation between the two militaries, the U.S. defense attaché in Guatemala reports that the Mexican army has requested that the Guatemalans provide information and assistance in dealing with the EZLN insurgents. The attaché notes that, "without a doubt, the Guatemalan will dedicate major resources to keeping track of the problem, and will not hesitate…to beef up their forces along the frontier if it appears that the conflict in Chiapas will drift over into Guatemala."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 31
December 23, 1994
A Respected Mexican Naval Zone Commander Discusses the Unrest in Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

A naval officer claims the situation in Chiapas might be resolved the same way guerrilla groups were pacified in Guerrero in the 1970s: through increased communications to make local inhabitants "feel like part of the country." In response, a DIA analyst flatly discards the idea that the situation in Guerrero was resolved in such a peaceful fashion: "rather, it was a harsh military campaign conducted by the Mexican military which reintegrated the region. Some believe that the only thing holding the lid on Guerrero is the memory of the Mexican army's bloody, albeit small, counter-guerrilla campaign."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 32
December 30, 1994
EZLN Strength
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret information intelligence report

A report that appears to come from the DAO in Guatemala provides further evidence of the increased cooperation between the Mexican and Guatemalan armies. Guatemalan units have been assigned to reinforce the border in case fighting resumes between the Mexican army and the EZLN. "If any armed EZLN forces do cross into GT [Guatemala], they will be combated by the GT army."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 33
January 12, 1995
Chiapas, Army Begins Huge Chiapas Deployment, Forms New Task Force
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret information intelligence report

Even as it increases its presence in the area north of Chiapas, the military fears it will be difficult to defeat the EZLN through force. Yet some sectors, suspecting that unrest in Chiapas has contributed to the country's severe economic crisis, have begun to lean toward a military solution. "That perception - that the military offers an easy, short-term, quick solution to Chiapas's woes - is misguided and unrealistic."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 34
February 10, 1995
Chiapas, Presidential Announcement that the Federal Attorney General's Office, Supported by the Army, Will Pursue and Capture EZLN Rebel Leaders
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

After a nationally televised presidential address in which President Ernesto Zedillo announces the government will pursue and capture EZLN leaders, the army begins increased deployments in Chiapas. A DIA analyst notes the army has long been frustrated with the cease-fire and speculates that the government's change in tactic may reflect an effort by Zedillo to reward his new Secretary of Defense, Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre, who - in a speech yesterday - "pledged [the military's] unswerving loyalty to the President."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 35
February 11, 1995
Chiapas Update One: Activities of the Mexican Government 950210 in their Pursuit of EZLN Rebel Leaders
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

As part of the government's attempt to capture EZLN leaders, the army begins to step up operations. Defense attachés visit and comment on troop movements within Mexico City, preparing for deployment to "unknown locations."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 36
February 13, 1995
Activity along the GT/MX Frontier
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret information intelligence report

The Guatemalan air force is patrolling the frontier area to search for EZLN members who have crossed the border, and Mexico and Guatemala have coordinated plans to bolster each side of the border with increased troops.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 37
February 24, 1995
Chiapas Update Eight (8). Secretariat of National Defense Sponsored Attaché Visit to Chiapas
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

A description of a Defensa-led visit by foreign army and air force attachés to various sites in Chiapas, including the abandoned rebel headquarters at Guadalupe Tepeyac and a refugee camp. The visit reveals the Mexican military's increased attention to public relations, largely in response to the EZLN's effective public denunciation of army abuses.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 38
March 21, 1995
Mexican Military Presence along the GT/MX Border
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

A heavily excised document that provides further evidence of the close cooperation of the Mexican and Guatemalan militaries. "The Guatemalan army units stationed along the Mexican frontier in the Petén enjoy an excellent relationship with reciprocal visits being carried out on a regular basis between the various border detachments."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 39
April 28, 1995
Mexican Defense Forces Receive Guatemalan Jungle Operations Training
Defense Intelligence Agency, confidential information intelligence report

Another heavily censored document, this one reporting the participation of Mexican officers in a Kaibil (special operations) training program inside Guatemala in response to the EZLN uprising. Some of the Mexican officers "are not physically able to complete training."

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

Document 40
May 11, 1995
The Mexican Army - Still Passive, Isolated, and Above the Fray?
Department of State, confidential cable (extract)

This extract of a long analysis of the Mexican armed forces looks at how the emergence of the EZLN has affected changes in the military. While the army proved woefully unprepared for the uprising, its members nevertheless resented and felt humiliated by the cease-fire declared by Salinas. In the months that followed, the army's long distrust of the media proved a hindrance, as the army could count on "few or no friends in the media" to counter widespread reports of human rights abuses. Its poor performance in the face of the Zapatista uprising has prompted the army to cultivate better relations with the press, to investigate human rights abuses committed by troops, and to create new counterinsurgency units.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
June 2002, Request Number 24114

Document 41
May 30, 1995
Mexican Military Intelligence Conclusions Regarding Foreign Aid to Insurgent Operations in Chiapas, Mexico
Defense Intelligence Agency, secret information intelligence report

Mexican and Guatemalan officials meet in Comitán, Chiapas to discuss further collaboration between their two militaries on counterinsurgency efforts in both countries.

Source: Released to National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act
August 1996, Request Number 13413

 

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