Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

We head back to the office and I say goodbye to Alfonso. Because Senor Lopez doesn't show up, I end up chatting with his assistant.

Sometimes the police stop you even if you have not broken a law. They ask you for your license, especially if you driving a luxury car. They say please open your trunk. Federal police search the car. They say "everything is OK, but it is too cold here. Do you have some money for coffee? We have to work all night."

Alfonso says, "It is best to give it. If you don't give the money, then next time we pass, they stop us even if we have tourists and ask for everyone's passport and visas." They don't have the right to ask for tourist's passport and visas, although they can do this with Mexicans. They are not members of the immigration police, who are the only ones with this right. The army also asks tourists their passports and they also don't have the right.

Lots of people cross from Guatemala to Mexico try to go through to the US illegally. So that's why police can ask for the passport of a Mexican-looking guy. But here in Chiapas, because of the uprising, they think they have the right to ask papers from everybody. They're trying to find out which people are really tourists, and which people are "political tourists", who are posing as tourists just to be able to contact the Zapatistas. People from the USA & Europe trying to be in touch with Marcos.

There are army checkpoints on the way to the ELZN in the jungle. They take pictures of you at the checkpoint. The ELZN is in the Reserva Integral de la Biosfera. 'Montes Azules' in East Chiapas. The intelligence army corps is "cuerpo de inteligencia militar". They are at the checkpoints, too.

The intelligence police are dressed similarly to the regular police, so you can't tell them apart. But if you look, you can tell that they are not simple soldiers. They are really officers (i.e. superiors of the regular police) even if they have simple uniforms. How do you notice this? Well, their face is different. They don't smile, and they speak very hard & aggressively. They're not lazy.

The intelligence officers don't give orders in front of people, so you can't tell from that. But if the simple army guy says "OK, you can keep going", maybe the other guy says "No! Stop! I want to know where you are from and what you are doing here." So you can tell that the other guy is an intelligence officer.

Yaxchilan is an archaeologic site on the way through the forest. Because it's close to the Zapatistas, a lot of tour guides & tourists get scrutinized when they go there. There are three military checkpoints on the way to Yaxchilan (see the map). Rioc Chocamas. Basically everywhere east of San Cristobal is a Zapatista area. If you draw a north/south line through San Cristobal, everywhere east of that.

The government has been saying that the Zapatistas are about to take over the Reserva de Zona Arbolada la Frailes Cana & Reserva de la Bioserfa el Trivafo & Reserva de la Biosfera La Sepultura which is the jungle in the southwest of Chiapas. I get this image in my head of standing at the edge of a cliff. This is as far as government control stretches. It's scary.

Of course, the government has some control even in the Zapatista areas. The only area the government has no control is in the jungles. I ask, how is this power shared? Well, there's a big army base east of Ocosingo and some government authorities there, but there are also the traditional Indian authorities.

Basically, the real power is in the hands of the Indians, because if criminals get caught they go to Indian jail under Indian law, not a Mexican government jail. No constitution, no trial, no lawyers. Also the people pay taxes to the indigenous authorities.

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