PILGRIMAGE AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME IN CHIAPAS
Thousands of people wound their way on foot down and around the mountain roads of the Chiapas Highlands during the first two days of the Pueblo Creyente pilgrimage. On March 23, at least 15 thousand pilgrims (according to a local online media source ) left the town of Simojovel, Chiapas, on a pilgrimage to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The parish priest of San Antonio de Padua Parish in Simojovel and members of Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), both lay and religious, along with members of parishes in neighboring municipalities, went on a Lenten Way of the Cross, a walking pilgrimage to denounce the advance of organized crime in their municipalities, and also to denounce that the threats and attacks from local politicians against the priest, the parish council and members of Pueblo Creyente have increased. Complaints from this region, in the north central part of the state, include: Alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, armed robbery, murder, large groups of bad guys, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, cattle rustling, extortion, anonymous threats, kidnappings, corruption of authorities, insecurity and impunity. As the marchers walked down the winding mountain roads, people in the villages came out and joined the march because they are also experiencing the advance of organized crime.
Pueblo Creyente is a political-religious organization in the Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Its members have participated in demonstrations and marches, which they call pilgrimages, for years. For the past several months, however, members of Pueblo Creyente in Simojovel have been denouncing the increase of cantinas, drugs, prostitution and organized crime, as well as political corruption. They state that this has led to threats of violence against the parish priest, Marcelo Pérez, and the parish council. The local politicians they name as responsible for the threats, attacks and corruption are Ramiro Gómez Domínguez, a pre-candidate to the municipal presidency, and Juan Gómez Domínguez, a candidate for (local) deputy. Both are members of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI).
On November 4, the politician Ramiro Gómez Domingo filed a complaint with the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) against Father Marcelo Pérez, accusing the priest of destabilizing the region. Pueblo Creyente sees the charge as a reprisal for an October 8 pilgrimage. More than 12,000 people participated in that pilgrimage to denounce the proliferation of cantinas, the sale of drugs, prostitution and arms trafficking, motivated by the participation of local authorities. During the November 25 hearing on the charges filed against him, Father Marcelo Pérez denounced the advance of organized crime in the municipality and the corruption of the authorities.
The advance of organized crime, “a reflection of what is happening throughout the country”
The entry of organized crime into the northern part of the state is no secret. The cultivation, distribution and sale of drugs in the region are public knowledge, as is arms trafficking. In a February call for the pilgrimage, Pueblo Creyente stated: “Simojovel is a reflection of what is happening throughout the country. Institutionalized corruption is governing the country, therefore all peoples must rise up and organize to defend life; what is in danger is human life, the future of our children.”
On February 3, 2015, Pueblo Creyente issued a call for the pilgrimage with the following words:
“The town of Simojovel has no safe drinking water; the health center is in pitiful condition, but the cantinas, prostitution centers, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, sex trade, corruption etc. are increasing. The worst thing is that some PRI political leaders are the ones that are promoting these acts that keep the people kidnapped. Therefore, they want to kill or incarcerate the priest and members of the parish council and representatives of Pueblo Creyente of this town of Simojovel.
Therefore, the Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel make a call for a huge Lenten Way of the Cross CROSS Pilgrimage from Simojovel to Tuxtla to all the towns that suffer violence: like Acteal, Ayotzinapa, Banavil, Chicomuselo, the towns that suffer high electricity rates, foreign mega-projects, etc.; the consequence of the corruption, complicity, impunity and ambition of the system of government and of the legal reforms that are generating more poverty.” 
Part of the civilian resistance
Pueblo Creyente participates in marches/pilgrimages with other social organizations to protest the megaprojects, high electricity rates, land grabs, displacements and political prisoners. Pueblo Creyente also sends representatives to gatherings of other social organizations and they made the call to those all those social organizations to join them in the pilgrimage. Pueblo Creyente is part of the civilian resistance to the advance of capitalist accumulation, as well as the advance of organized crime.
Members of Catholic parishes from Simojovel, Bochil, Amatán, Pueblo Nuevo and El Bosque are accompanied on their pilgrimage by social and human rights organizations, including the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), which issued a press bulletin asking that the government guaranty the personal safety of the marchers. 
Frayba’s press bulletin went on to say that during the four days of the tour other Chiapas parishes, Ecclesiastic Base Communities and churches of other religious denominations were expected to join the pilgrimage, and that did, in fact occur. Members of the Frayba, representatives of civil society organizations, international observation organizations, members of the clergy from the Archdiocese of Tuxtla and from the San Cristóbal Diocese, as well as members of the free media accompanied the marchers.
The mobilization arrived in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez on Thursday, March 26. The Virgin of Guadalupe parish in Tuxtla received the marchers and they held a religious ceremony there. They read their demands in Tuxtla’s central plaza, in front of the government palace. Their demands reflected the broad spectrum of organizations supporting and accompanying the pilgrimage and their rejection of the advance of capitalist privatizations and megaprojects.
The indigenous and campesino participants in the pilgrimage summed up their demands in six categories: Stop the impunity and corruption of all the state’s authorities; no to the mega-projects, no to the Palenque-San Cristóbal Superhighway, no to hydro-electric dams, no to mining projects and to the dispossession of lands; no to the structural reforms, abolition of the neoliberal reforms, the property reforms, no to the high cost of electric energy, no to the privatization of water; adequate use of public resources for better services; no to forced displacement, true justice and return for Banavil in Tenejapa and Primero de Agosto in Las Margaritas; and a stop to the violence, drug trafficking, prostitution, murder and kidnapping, as well as the cancellation of arrest warrants and freedom for political prisoners. 
This was an important mobilization. Rather than shrinking in fear of the threats made, Pueblo Creyente of Simojovel and their neighbors in the north central part of Chiapas mobilized thousands to stand up and resist the corruption and impunity that accompanies the advance of organized crime.
By: Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez