LAS ABEJAS: THE PRINCIPAL OBJECTIVE of FRANCISCO HERE IS “TO DEFEND THE PEOPLE of MEXICO”
By: Hermann Bellinghausen
The indigenous of Las Abejas of Acteal are convinced that Pope Francisco, on his visit to Chiapan lands, “brings a most key word: his principal objective is defending the people of Mexico,” expresses Sebastián Pérez Vázquez, president of the board of directors of the Tzotzil organization. He comes “to give his word of peace in order that peace will be established here in Chiapas and in Mexico.” But not just that, also “about how we can take care of our Mother Earth.”
Without removing a finger from the matter in their demand for justice for the massacre that occurred here 18 years ago, the civil society organization Las Abejas de Acteal does not hesitate in greeting Pope Francisco, who their organization will receive in San Cristóbal de Las Casas next Monday. He made it clear that: “as an organization we are always demanding justice, because if there is no justice peace cannot be established. The Church talks about forgiveness. There are forms where yes one can forgive. Not all things can be forgiven. But as a crime was committed, one must apply justice.”
This is the place of the largest and most paradigmatic collective wound in the process of liberation and resistance of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas: the senseless massacre of more than 45 peaceful people (Pérez Vázquez insists on this) perpetrated on December 22, 1997 by a group of paramilitaries encouraged by the federal government. That was also an attack on believing Catholic and, at that time, on the Church that Bishop Samuel Ruiz García represented. That was also about the irregular war the State unleashed against the Zapatista movement, which was crude and brutal in Chenalhó during all of 1997. The unarmed allies of Zapatismo were also targets of this war, which was the case with Las Abejas.
Although there were investigations and eventually more than 70 paramilitaries were condemned to prison for the acts, “the government never disarmed them, they were their hucksters,” the president of the organization says. Now most of the los killers are free, and walk around here.
In statements issued at the Las Abejas headquarters in the camp of Acteal, which its residents call “sacred land,” in the municipio of Chenalhó, in Los Altos of Chiapas, Pérez Vázquez emphasizes: “They only punished the material authors a little bit, but not the intellectual authors, the then president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, and the three levels of government.”
Always in crisis always in a loud voice, always in resistance, the Las Abejas organization has resisted for almost two decades the pressures, promises and betrayals of the state and federal governments, as well as those of the courts of justice. It is an adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle Sexta and it belongs, since its founding in 1992, to Pueblo Creyente (Believing People), the most numerous and representative popular Catholic congregation of Chiapas, with a presence in all the indigenous regions of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas Diocese.
Throughout the night and this morning, the organizations and communities that maintained a collective occupation in the atrium of the San Cristóbal de Las Casas Cathedral withdrew, including the conglomerate of dissident groups united in the Popular Assembly of Los Altos of Chiapas.
Thus, the OCEZ of Venustiano Carranza, the residents of Chanal, the Proletarian and Popular Communist Coordinator, and the families displaced from Shulvó (aka Xul Vó), Zinacantán,  set free the space also called Peace Plaza. With that the rumors dissipate, widely spread in San Cristóbal yesterday, that the Pope “would suspend” his visit to the country’s most important indigenous cathedral.
 Shulvó or Xul Vó is a community in the official municipality of Zinacantán or, alternatively, the autonomous Zapatista municipio of Vicente Guerrero, in the Highlands of Chiapas. Last December 9, paramilitaries violently expelled 47 people from that community. Those expelled are adherents to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee