Page 18


A Mexican Army Patrol Vehicle in Chiapas PATRICIA MOORE LAS AMERICAS War Crimes in Mexico American Activist Promises that She Will Return to Chiapas BY JOHN ROSS LOS ANGELES ON THURSDAY, October 26, in what was a simple excursion in broad daylight, I was raped and sodomized by three armed men in the state of Chiapas, Mexico,” began Cecilia Rodriguez, fighting off tears at the second of back-to-back press conferences held in Mexico City and Los Angeles on November 2 and 3. Rodriguez was hand-picked last year by the Zapatista leader known as Subcomandante Marcos, to represent the largely Mayan Zapatista Army of National She also serves as director of the El Pasobased National Commission for Democracy widely publicized in Mexico, but universally ignored by the U.S. mainstream press. On October 4, Rodriguez, who travels frequently to and from Chiapas, delivered a letter from Marcos, addressed to the American public, in which the Zapatista leader urged the U.S. government to halt all arms transfers to the Mexican military. The United States has sold Mexico about a quarter-of-a-billion-dollars worth of war machinery in the past four years. Only The Los Angeles Times published portions of the letter. In late October, Rodriguez returned to San Cristobal de las Casas, in the highlands of Chiapas, to scout a site for an NCDM “International Solidarity Center.” She also attended peace negotiations between the EZLN and the Mexican government, and was awaiting a meeting with Marcos when she and a companion were attacked during a day trip to Lagos de Montebello, a popular tourist center near the Guatemala border. On the day of the assault, Rodriguez had issued a statement to U.S. supporters, decrying the Mexican government’s imprisonment of an alleged EZLN founder. The capture of Fernando Yariez Murioz by unidentified security forces in Mexico City on October 21, nearly derailed the ongoing negotiations between the Zapatistas Peripatetic freelance writer John Ross divides his time between various Mexico locations and San Francisco. and the Zedillo government. The arrest was thought to have been ordered by hardliners in the military while President Ernesto Zedillo was out of the country. “It is very humiliating to make this public statement,” Rodriguez told reporters representing a handful of alternative and Spanish-language reporters at the Los Angeles press conference. “My pain and stigma will be material for public speculation and mockery…the pain of my husband, my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my three children, will be a part of the public domain. If my public humiliation can serve no other purpose than to expose the horror being endured in Chiapas, then it will be worth it…” By transforming her personal trauma into political action, Rodriguez joins other U.S. women who have chosen, despite the risks and the pain, to challenge repressive regimes in Latin America: notably Jennifer Harbury, the wife of a slain Guatemalan guerrilla leader, and Sister Diana Ortiz, who was raped and tortured by the Guatemalan military. After she was warned by human rights workers in San Cristobal to leave Chiapas immediately, Rodriguez filed formal charges at the U.S. embassy in Mexico Cityafter first visiting a private clinic to provide medical corroboration of the attack. Although Rodriguez says that American Vice Consul Nicholas Manring expressed doubts about the Mexican justice system, the State Department requested that the government of Chiapas investigate the incident. “It’s not clear that we have any legal force. The charge should have been lodged by Rodriguez in Chiapas. We offered to escort her back there to file the complaint, but she refused,” a U.S. State Department official, who requested anonymity, told this reporter. The Mexican government has yet to issue a formal response to Rodriguez’ charges, and probably will not make one soon. “We consider this to be a local Chia 16 DECEMBER 8, 1995