By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Postcards from the revolt
In the mountains of Chiapas “friendly fire” has created a conflict that can only be seen as lamentable. The Civil Society Organización Las Abejas, founded in 1992, an expression of Liberationist Theology framed historically with the exodus of Tsotsil communities in Chenalhó and the Acteal Massacre in December 1997, has been a referent with a vocation of peace in the tumultuous river of insurrection, resistance and autonomy that overflowed in the mountains of Chiapas in January 1994. In October 2014, a group within the organization founded 28 years ago with the encouragement of Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, decided to separate, adopting the name of the Counsel of Pacifist Planters for Peace; the key difference was that the second group wanted to change the strategy with respect to the demands for justice and reparations that Las Abejas have maintained in relation to the terrible massacre that they suffered 18 years ago. “Since that date they have carried out violent actions against members of our Organization and especially against the Executive Board,” Las Abejas declared on April 20, 2016.
It’s not the first crisis of division in Las Abejas. In 2008 a group got close to negotiating with the Chiapas government of Juan Sabines under cover of the PRD, when that cover then was already not what it had meant a decade before. In the beginning, the group attempted to confuse the media and other organizations, but its own actions soon put them in their place. They kept the name of Las Abejas, but differentiated it.
A while later, towards 2011, in the United States, unidentified complainants, alleged victims of the massacre belonging to Las Abejas undertook a noisy demand against former president Ernesto Zedillo for his responsibility in the genocide that occurred in Chenalhó in 1997. They also demanded economic damages. The ambiguity of the process, from which Las Abejas opportunely set itself apart, culminated in something worse than a defeat: the confirmation of unrestricted impunity for former Mexican rulers at the international level.
The Pacifist Council’s split, with its particularities, has been less clear, and with daring supplanting elements (theft of seals, a dispute over the space called “Sacred Land” in the hollow of Acteal, Chenalhó, where the massacre occurred and where the victims are buried, headquarters of an independent and active organization, which has never yielded in its resistance, its pacifism, or in its demands for justice and reparations (in that order and not the reverse). They have never before put forward the negotiation of economic resources, indemnifications or “supports” as their central demands, for more that the mendacity and the State’s impunity it will continue ridiculing the Tsotsil Pedranos that a government as PRIísta as the current one massacred.
According to information in the weekly magazine Proceso, members of the current Pacifist Council could have been promoters of the complaint against Zedillo in the United States; they have denied it.
Also against the Frayba
Another component of this rupture is the animosity of the Pacifist Council against Las Abejas and against those who work with the organization since its origin lending legal support and diffusion. The Pacifist Council sued the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) and Bishop Raúl Vera López, its president, in the courts, and although the unheard of complaint had nothing with which to support it, it leaves a painful precedent. The Frayba considers it “risky,” in that it opens a new flank in the incessant siege that centers like the Frayba and organizations like Las Abejas suffer, like the targets that they are in the low-intensity war that it doesn’t stop delivering every day in the mountains of Chiapas.
It has continued a declarative offensive that seeks “to discredit” this labor. The Pacifist Council, maintains the Frayba, “undertakes a disparagement campaign that seeks to delegitimize the process of autonomy of Las Abejas of Acteal,” and the denial of information or any discriminatory treatment are not accredited.
On May 12, the Frayba Center, with offices in San Cristóbal de las Casas, expressed itself fully in that regard. “The Frayba faces daily campaigns of defamation and disparagement of its work in defense of human rights in Chiapas. An actor that was recently added to these disparaging acts of is the Pacifist Council.” The Frayba has accompanied the Civil Society Las Abejas of Acteal Organization since its foundation in 1992 and its process of seeking and constructing justice after the Acteal Massacre in December 1997. During these more than 23 years of accompaniment, the Frayba has respected and recognized the work of this organization, its representation bodies, its decision-making and its authorities like the Board of Directors. At the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, the Frayba attended as an observer a three dialogue meetings between members of Las Abejas of Acteal. Those present were: the Board of Directors of the organization, the only organ of authority and representation of Las Abejas of Acteal, representatives and coordinators of different work areas, and the members of Las Abejas de Acteal that afterwards would form the Pacifist Council.”
The meetings, the organism adds, “had as their purpose that the parties find a dialogued solution to the problems stirred up by part of the now members of the Pacifist Council.” The invitation to the Frayba was as an observer, not as a mediator.
The Board of Directors, together with representatives and coordinators of Las Abejas of Acteal, attended to the Pacifist Council members. When it was time for the Authorities of Las Abejas of Acteal to speak, Pacifist Council members refused to listen, then they proposed their withdrawal from the organization, and they terminated the dialogue.” Nevertheless, the Frayba “encouraged a both parties to continue the dialogue,” without success.
Accusations before a federal tribunal
“In January 2015, Pacifist Council members and their legal advisor, who previously worked at the Frayba, requested a copy of case record 12.790 Manuel Santiz Culebra and others (Acteal Massacre), a case presented on behalf of Las Abejas of Acteal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the Center as co-petitioner,” which consulted the petitioners, Las Abejas of Acteal, “who by means of its General Assembly agreed that the Pacifist Council would have to obtain the information requested via the IACHR, because the right of access to information was safeguarded there, it being the instance with jurisdiction for that.” Not in agreement, folks from the Pacifist Council asked to talk to Frayba’s Council of Directors, “a meeting that took place on May 15, 2015.” The position of Raúl Vera López and the Council of Directors was “to respect the decision of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas de Acteal as well as the survivors in their role of petitioners to the IACHR.”
The document emphasizes that: “the historic and legitimate interlocutor” that the organism accompanies in the Acteal Massacre Case before the IACHR is The Civil Society Organization Las Abejas of Acteal “through its only authority, the Board of Directors, the legitimate leadership organ for the organization’s communities, as well as for the survivors of the Acteal Massacre that continue recognizing the Board of Directors as their proper instance for representation and thus for establishing its own internal regulation.”
In June, Pacifist Council members and their legal representative Ricardo Arturo Lagunes Gasca filed a complaint with federal government bodies against Vera López, in his role as president of the Human Rights Center. They presented a complaint for a protective order (amparo) to the Second District Court in Chiapas, “pointing to Frayba as the responsible authority” insisting on delivery of the cited case record that, it reiterates, “is found in the IACHR”.
As they also alleged “discrimination and denial of the right to information,” Vera López, the Directive Council and Frayba’s director “were requited to answer by means of a justified report, equating us to a government agency.” On January 25, 2016, the Board of Directors of Las Abejas of Acteal was required (to answer) in the same way.
On April 20, Las Abejas issued a pronouncement with respect to that, and now the Frayba elaborates a characterization of such acts, which “turned out to be arbitrary on the part of the federal court because it wasn’t credited as a civilian human rights defense organization, nor was the Board of Directors of Las Abejas of Acteal; they were equated to a responsible private authority, with the risk of setting a precedent for human rights defense organizations in the country and creating one more mechanism for persecuting the Defenders.”
The Pacifist Council and its legal representative at the same time asked the IACHR for: “its incorporation as co-petitioners in the case and a copy of case record 12.790.” On December 10, 2015, the IACHR informed about its acceptance of the new co-petitioners. “They obtained the case record that they requested from Frayba in this way, as Las Abejas of Acteal pointed out at the time.”
On March 16, the Pacifist Council’s suit for amparo was thrown out, because the Frayba “is not a responsible authority.” Nor was it accredited that it denied the right the information or committed any discrimination.
The Center considers “contradictory” that the Pacifist Council would decide to go to the federal judge complaining against Frayba and the same organization that they renounced,” although during the trial “they said they belonged” to it. A “usurpation of functions of community authority,” to which is added “the undue use of logos, seals and the figure of the organization’s representatives.”
Hostility and threats
In April, Las Abejas denounced that the Pacifist Council has carried out actions “contrary to the pacifist, autonomous and non partisan spirit” that they profess, and “they maintain a double discourse: in their public word they talk about conciliation, peace and that they want to agree on a dialogue, but their word is false because they behave with threats and harassment” because “they want to appropriate our organization’s physical and symbolic spaces in Acteal, the House of Memory and Hope.”
To that, the Frayba points out that the Pacifist Council realizes “actions similar to those of the Mexican government against our work within a national context of criminalization and judgment of defenders.” Besides, with its actions, “it generates confusion, deepens division, fragments and weakens the process of construction of autonomy of Las Abejas of Acteal.”
The situation, Frayba concludes in its argument, “is an effect of the wear and tear of the Mexican State’s war,” and therefore “it’s lamentable” that the Pacifist Council confuses, deceives and twists the “dignified, historic and legitimate struggle” of the Civil Society Organization of Las Abejas of Acteal, who we continue to accompany in its radical demand for truth and construction of The Other Justice.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee