By: Hermann Bellinghausen and Gloria Muñoz
“The government wants to legalize our death,” says Guadalupe Vázquez Luna, who speaks from the back part of a farm truck facing those who walk in the procession, more than a thousand people that initiate at Majomut the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the massacre that occurred a few kilometers ahead. Lupita, a survivor of the massacre, refers to the recently promulgated Homeland Security Law as “a law that murders.”
The political and religious march and commemoration of the massacre of defenseless civilians on that December 22, 1997 who were very precariously sheltered in the hollow of lower Acteal, has the seal of Las Abejas. It is an act of remembering, and also a statement about current events with direct complaints to the government for imposing the cited law, which they consider the continuation of the State policy that led to the massacre.
The recap is succinct: “A day like today, paramilitary PRIístas and (Frente) Cardenistas of Chenalhó created, financed, trained, armed and protected by the Executive Power and the Federal Army within the framework of the Chiapas 94 Campaign Plan, massacred with viciousness, premeditation and treachery 45 of our brothers and sisters,” and also four that had not yet been born.
Later, during the solemn event framed within the campaign Acteal: Root, Memory and Hope, the 30-year old young woman, who lost nine members of her family at age 10, is in charge of reading the official comunicado the 20 years since the massacre and 25 years “of struggle and organization” of Las Abejas. And it says: “We find ourselves with the news that the bad government of Enrique Peña Nieto has made an unconstitutional law so that its Army can continue committing, now ‘legally,’ grave human rights violations. It wasn’t enough for this criminal government to legalize the dispossession of our lands and territories with its structural reforms; with the approval of this Homeland Security Law the bad government confirms its war of extermination against the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, as it was applied in Acteal.”
Lupita, the first woman to receive a staff of command so that she represents Las Abejas on the Indigenous Council of Government of the National Indigenous Congress, refers to one of the most sinister parts of that disgrace: “We will never forget the pregnant women whose wombs were opened, removing their babies as a message of wanting to finish off their seed.
This spot, sometimes called Los Naranjos, continues being the site of an unforgettable tragedy, of a scar that still hurts, and moreover, still bleeds. Upon bringing up “the Other Justice,” the message of the indigenous emphasizes that the treacherous attack was against a peaceful and organized Tzotzil people.
“Our experience of horror and desperation because of being literally hunted for almost seven hours, hurts us to tell all that, because it’s as if that hell had occurred yesterday,” Lupita expresses. “We want our young people to know well what happened, we have to share with them and train them so that they follow the example of our struggle and that way the memory of our people will be flourishing forever.” The system of Mexican justice “is now out of date,” the Tzotzil organization decides, “as peoples we have proposed constructing a dignified and lasting justice.”
The climactic moment of the message of Las Abejas adopts the character of a sentence by inviting the crowd “to symbolically condemn the intellectual authors of the massacre,” in order “to avoid that they continue committing more crimes against the Mexican people.” The audience stands up and utters the word “guilty,” when the communiqué names “the criminals.” It lists the nine officials that acted in the chain of command of the genocidal operation, starting with then president of the Republic, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León. By the way, he would be the only one of all those named that didn’t resign his position after the massacre. One after the other, all are declared “guilty” by the crowd.
The following also participated with the Indigenous in the commemoration: Raúl Vera, the Bishop of Saltillo (called Tatic in Chiapas), various former Catholic parish priests of Chenalhó, representatives of indigenous organizations and of national and international solidarity organizations, including an envoy from the United Nations Organization. Bishop Vera states that: “the stain of death that moves through Mexico” is illuminated thanks to the “fountain of hope that doesn’t turn off,” represented by the memorable struggle of Las Abejas.
Next, Pedro Faro, from the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), an organization that has accompanied the survivors for 20 years, insists that it is demonstrated before national and international bodies “the Mexican State’s responsibility in the creation, training and support of paramilitary groups” and in the counter-insurgency strategy elaborated by the Secretariat of National Defense. Now, indicates Faro, “the armed forces have their Homeland Security Law, which means that the Mexican government affirms its language of war.”
Once again today, like two decades ago, the Frayba denounces the population exodus, on this occasion in the neighbor municipality of Chalchihuitán, and the community destruction “as a result of the government’s contempt for the original peoples, and the lacerating impunity that for decades has created roots in these lands.”
Originally Published in Spanish La Jornada
Saturday, December 23, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee