Page 4


LAS AMERICAS The Pope’s Divisions In Mexico, the Vatican fosters unity by savaging dissenters BY JOHN ROSS Yajalon, Chiapas, Mexico THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT is not famous for confessing its errors. On June 28, Father Loran, a U.S. citizen who has spent 17 years at the helm of Santiago Apostol parish, was lured to a roadblock on the pretext of a vehicular problem, handcuffed and blindfolded by federal immigration agents and state judicial police, thrown face down in the back of a pickup truck, and driven to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. From there, he and two other non-Mexican priests who serve the embattled diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas and its bishop, Samuel Ruiz, were flown to Mexico City’s international airport in preparation for summary deportation. Just 20 hours after their capture, Riebe, Father Jorge Baron \(an Argentinian who had served the town of Venustiano CarRodolfo Izol \(the Pamplona were escorted onto a Miami-bound American Airlines flight and expelled from Mexico, charged with violations of Constitutional Article 33 that strictly prohibits participation by foreigners in Mexican politics. The Secretary of the Interior alleges the priests incited indigenous farmers to occupy large land-holdings in their communities. The expulsions of the three priests would “restore order and stability to the region,” an Interior Secretariat bulletin explained, following the deportations. “This was a meticulously planned kidnapping,” responded outraged assistant San CristObal vicar, Felipe Toussaint. The deportations were carried out while Bishop Ruiz was traveling in Europe and upon his return, Don Samuel’s tone was grave: “We have returned to the first days of the war when the foreigners were being blamed” for inciting the January 1994 rebellion of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation serious government strike against Ruiz’ s Peripatetic journalist John Ross covers Mexico for a number of publications and receives his mail in San Francisco. San Cristobal diocese in 35 years of his stewardship. “I’ve known Padre Loren ever since I ment’s done to him,” declares Samuel Aguilar, a parish activist. “Loren Riebe built sanctuaries for the students here many are now professional people. Loren did more for this town than all of our municipal presidents…” Yajalon counts two student dormitories, housing 70 students, that Riebe built with U.S. donations. Even Yajalon’s municipal president shares Aguilar’ s indignation. Jorge Utzilla, a member of the long-ruling PRI, has writ of Riebe, Baron and Izol. The expulsions have ratcheted up tensions in Yajalon. Public security platoons patrol the narrow streets in fast-moving pickups and police with long guns stand sentry at the intersections. “They are trying to push us where we don’t want to go,” says Aguilar, who is reminded of trouble that flared 15 years ago, when, after an Army massacre of Indians at nearby Wolonchen, troops invaded Father Riebe’ s church. As rural priests in a conflictive area of the state, Riebe, Baron and Izol made the military intelligence roster of 2,000 sus pected Zapatistas and supporters, published last September. The Mexican government claims to have tape record ings and videos that establish the priests’ guilt but, as yet, has failed to name a single source implicating them. In an interview with the right wing Spanish newspaper, “The government is weak and coming apart and they only make us stronger by these kinds of actions.” ABC, President Zedillo acRiebe of the crimes attributed to him and human rights” and claimed the conduct of applauding the priest’s civic virtues. the three priests “justified their imprison Without Father Riebe’s presence, cele ment,” but said he could not “go into de brating the feast day of the Patron has be tails”. come a problem, explains the seminarian In a document thought to have been Garcia”We do not have a priest to say leaked by the U.S. embassy to the San Mass yet.” Priests are in short supply in the Cristobal diocese, the Mexican government regionall three of the expelled clerics accuses Loren Riebe of participation in the worked in this Tzeltal Chol Maya section kidnapping and extortion of a local of Chiapas where long-standing land conlandowner, refusing sacraments to parishflicts have heated up since the Zapatista upioners who did not embrace the EZLN, atrising began 19 months ago. “They have tending a Zapatista support meeting in expelled the priests to hurt our diocese and Ocosingo, and meeting with members of wound our bishop where he will be hurt the the left-center opposition Party of the Cano Alvarez, who directs a Yajalon mants’ names appear on the charges, which women’s artisan cooperative. “The governare thought to have been generated by milment is weak and coming apart and they itary intelligence and the YajalOn Civic only make us stronger by these kinds of acFront, a group of non-Indian small farmers On the Sunday after Riebe’ s deportation, have been aligned against Bishop Ruiz 9,000 parishioners, mostly indigenous since the initiation of the Zapatista conflict. ,marched through Yajalon, the largest gathOn Armed Forces Day last February 19, ering here in memory. On the second Sunwhile a mob sought to burn down Bishop day in July, mobilizations occurred in 41 Ruiz’s cathedral in San Cristobal, the Civic San CristObal parishes. All over the dio Front held a meeting in the Yajalon town cese, priests led indigenous faithful from plaza, demanding Father Riebe’s expul hamlet to hamlet, behind the banner of the sion. Virgin of Guadalupe, praying for the return Property owners all over the state were 16 AUGUST 11, 1995