By: Luis Hernández Navarro
State police arrested Marco Antonio Suástegui Muñoz with excessive violence. They took him to a hill close to the community of La Concepción, in Cacahuatepec, with his head covered with a T-shirt, and they beat him up. As if he had been sentenced to receive a medieval punishment, they beat him with the shaft of a moringa tree (drumstick tree) and warned him: “Now you are going to get fucked, we are going to paper you.” They demanded that he shoot a firearm, until he was unconscious.
Marco Antonio Suástegui is the spokesperson for the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to the La Parota Dam (Cecop, its initials in Spanish). Just a few days before the police apprehended and tortured him, the community discovered two pistoleros contracted to assassinate him. Community Police from the Regional Council of Community Authorities (CRAC) that operates in the region, protected in Law 701, discovered them and took them prisoner.
One of the hired guns had multiple names and identities, all false. The community police found credentials on him with the names of Alejandro Liborio, Guillermo Marin and Ivan Soriano, which accredited him as a soldier, as president of the Vigilance Council of the Communal Wealth of Cacahuatepec and as a lawyer. He was also carrying a weapon.
Mauro Gallegos Salgado, commissioner of Parotilla village, and Antonio Morales Marcos (second commissioner of La Concepción) contracted the killers to commit the crime. The latter showed Alejandro/Guillermo/Ivan several places for ambushing Marco Antonio. The gunmen had no luck because Suástegui always went accompanied by the community police.
The community police discovered the hired killer and arrested him. His associate Alejandro Moctezuma Trujillo suffered the same fate. Three other accomplices fled. However, they did not spend much time as prisoners. In a disproportionately lethal operation, more than 200 state police, federal police and soldiers, supported by a helicopter, liberated them last January 7, while they captured, beat and tortured Marco Antonio and another 38 campesinos and extra-judicially executed three community police. Enraged, the security forces attacked journalists. They mistreated them, took away their equipment, damaged a car, prevented them from taking photos and blocked their access outside of the conflict zone. The photographer Bernardino Hernández took a beating.
Ever since the resistance to the La Parota Dam began in 2003, governmental authorities organized and financed groups in favor of the project linked to the PRI, some armed. They used them to legitimize the aggression of public forces in Cacahuatepec. Just hours before the arrival of soldiers and police in La Concepción, PRI members, headed by Commissioner Alejandro Melchor, had ambushed various community police that pursued a young man who had urinated in front of their police station. The two Cacahuatepec attacks left eleven dead.
The Mexico office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the acts and established that there are elements to affirm that state security forces wounded the fundamental rights of the residents.
Although the Federal Electricity Commission planned construction of the La Parota Dam in 1976, it’s not until the presidential term of Vicente Fox (2000-06) that the hydroelectric project begins to land. But it isn’t lucky. In 2003, comuneros, ejido owners and residents that get their water supply from the Papagayo River reject it. The dam –the opponents found– was only going to function at 19 percent of its capacity four hours a day, and, the concessioner of the work was going to have control of the water. In exchange, 25,000 people would be displaced due to the flooding of their lands, and another 70,000 affected. Marco Antonio Suástegui summed up the reasons for his opposition to the dam: “We never asked for this project. We didn’t ask for money. It’s not economically viable, it’s not environmentally sustainable and it’s not socially acceptable.”
La Concepción, a village in the rural area of Acapulco is one of the principle bastions of those opposed to the construction of La Parota. Government authorities have legally pursued their leader, Marco Antonio Suástegui, all the time. He was incarcerated in 2004 and 2014, accused of kidnapping, attempted homicide, robbery, breaking and entering, dispossession, rioting, sabotage and more. In 2014, he led a struggle against the gravel company that was exploiting the Papagayo River, extracting sand and gravel from its bed. The latest attempt to assassinate him, his most recent incarceration and the police violence against La Concepción are not gratuitous. It’s about “cleansing the land” of resistances in order to re-launch the hydroelectric project.
Those opposed to La Parota are not alone. In February 2006, in a meeting between the Cecop and the EZLN in the context of the Other Campaign, held in Agua Caliente, Guerrero, then Subcomandante Marcos (now Galeano) said to the dam’s opponents: “According to our way of thinking as indigenous Mayas, the Papagayo River also runs through the mountains of the Mexican southeast. So we want to warn Vicente Fox and his yellow and black (a reference to the PRD) arm, Zeferino Torreblanca, that if the Army attacks these lands, it will also have to attack the mountains of the Mexican southeast” (https://goo.gl/6wBSXX). Last January 9, almost 12 years after those words, María de Jesús Patricio, spokesperson of the Indigenous Government Council and the National Indigenous Congress sent in the name of these organizations, their support and solidarity faced with the cowardly aggression the Cecop suffered.
Today it would seem that, just like it did in 2006 with Atenco, the government wants to take advantage of the electoral campaign to lay siege to the Cecop, criminalize its leaders and start a war to impose, by blood and fire, the hydroelectric project. It must not be permitted.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee