Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexican Army Presents Its Case on Chiapas General's Unusually Bold Public Comments Reveal Disagreements with Government Policy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexican Army Presents Its Case on Chiapas General's Unusually Bold Public Comments Reveal Disagreements with Government Policy

Article excerpt

HAMMERED by charges of human rights abuses during its handling of the Chiapas uprising, the Mexican Army has launched an unusual public relations offensive.

But the openness is exposing apparent divisions between the military and civil authorities about the peacemaking effort.

In rare interviews with the Mexican and foreign news media over the last few days, Gen. Miguel Angel Godinez Bravo has made comments that indicate some disagreement with the government's soft line with the guerrillas.

But General Godinez's first objective in speaking out is to defend the human rights record of his troops.

When asked about accusations that the Army has tortured, beaten, and summarily executed suspected guerrillas, the three-star general replies, "Absolutely none of that is true.

"We stopped torturing people years ago," says Godinez, who is in charge of quelling the Indian insurrection that began Jan. 1. The press conference was held in a room dominated by a map of Chiapas. Red dots mark towns once occupied by "transgressors."

"The Army is a professional institution dedicated to winning the support of the people." But, he allows, "some people were possibly beaten by townspeople before they were delivered to us."

Then Godinez makes an unprecedented offer, for an institution known to reject outside interference, even from the executive branch, in its internal affairs. "We are open to any investigation that the government or nongovernmental organizations want to make....We have nothing to hide."

He also claims that allegations and reporting have been one-sided.

"I've heard nothing from the nongovernmental organizations about the assassinations, the robberies, the ranches burned, or the military personnel killed by the `transgressors.' We have 14 widows whose husbands died defending the Mexican people from transgressors."

Godinez says that he is "100 percent" behind a political solution to the conflict. And he promises to keep aircraft and soldiers away from the as-yet-to-be-chosen site for peace talks.

But there are indications that the Mexican military is not completely in accord with the path that is being taken by civilian officials.

Godinez, for example, uses the term "transgressor" to refer to the rebels.

But the government's chief peace negotiator, Manuel Camacho Solis, has conceded to the rebel demand that they be recognized as a political and military force. He uses the rebels' own term: "Zapatista National Liberation Front."

"You can't call them an army because there's only one army in this country," Godinez says. "I've never heard that Zapata or Pancho Villa or any others {in the Mexican Revolution} went around with their faces hidden. If you hide your face, you're not in an army, you're a delinquent."

Roderic Camp, a Mexico expert who has written about the military, is surprised by Godinez. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.