Residents denounce uncontrolled paramilitary violence in Chenalhó

A community in the autonomous Zapatista municipality of Magdalena de la Paz (the official municipality of Aldama).

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

At least 25 deaths, dozens of injured and thousands of displaced is the recent result of a conflict caused by the civilian armed groups in Santa Martha, municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, against families of Zapatista support bases as well as “partidistas” (members of a political party) in Aldama and Magdalena.

What began as an agrarian dispute has evolved into a real “social problem” because of the impunity of the aggressors and the cooptation policies of the authorities. The Zapatista Good Government Junta (Junta de Buen Gobierno, JBG or Junta) of the Caracol of Oventik, in Los Altos (the Highlands of Chiapas), placed responsibility on the federal, state and municipal governments for the uncontrolled upsurge of paramilitary violence that causes anguish in the region. Between September 2017 and the end of 2018 there were 22 deaths. Between December and January 2019 there were another three. In a report that the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) released, the JBG pointed out after “the strongest confrontations,” now in the time of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Governor Rutilio Escandón, on January 21 and 22 (“the bursts were heard across the entire river strip that serves as the division between the towns”). As a “solution,” the government sent trucks of soldiers and police to install a base of operations in the community of Cocó (Aldama).”

“That’s how they justify militarization after they themselves insert problems in Zapatista territory,” the JBG adds. “Of course we tell them: they are provoking us and they are obliging us to defend ourselves.” The JBG denounces that: “the bad government told the partidistas that if they did not accept their Guardia Nacional they would take the economic supports away from them.”

The problem is not new. It dates from at least 1977. The source of the dispute is 60 hectares of Aldama property that the government delivered to Santa Martha. “The three levels of government, past and present, are responsible for the division, confrontation, fear and breaking up oif community life.” According to the Junta, “agreements appeared that were not fulfilled, adding more fuel to the fire, because the real objective is to divide the communities,” to facilitate “the entry of the big entrepreneurs into Native territories and the plunder of our wealth.”

In what is the first public statement in five years from a Junta, the Oventik Junta says: “We have always said that the solution is not the militarization of the peoples.” Placing responsibility on the current government for this violence, it points out: “Its policy is to distribute money and crumbs, create conflicts and to militarize the indigenous communities. They (the bad governments) are accustomed to giving money to calm the people. Is that not corruption?”

For its part, the Frayba announced that: “since the beginning of 2018, at least 13 Aldama communities, among them the municipal capital, have been the target of attacks with firearms coming from members of Santa Martha community, Chenalhó. There are currently thousands of victims of forced displacement, besides various persons injured and extra-judicially executed.”

Articles in English describing the origins of this conflict:

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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