Chiapan demons

Women’s resistance to militarization after Acteal Massacre. Art from the Zapatista communities.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

The lifeless body of Ignacio Pérez Girón appeared on the side of the Tuxtla Gutiérrez-San Cristóbal free highway (in other words, not the toll road). It had signs of torture. Two days earlier, on May 4 of this year, his family had reported his disappearance.

Pérez Girón was the trustee for the indigenous municipality of Aldama, in the Highlands (los Altos) of Chiapas. He was 45 years old. Months ago, in January 2019, he had denounced the armed paramilitary attack on the community.

Since February 2018, residents of Aldama have experienced an authentic humanitarian crisis. Several communities in the municipality are constant victims of attacks with firearms from paramilitary groups. Some 25 people have been murdered and several dozen injured. Additionally, more than 2,000 have been violently displaced from their homes and villages. Those who go out to work their fields run the danger of being murdered. The aggressors come from the villages of Santa Martha and Saklum, in the neighbor municipality of Chenalhó.

On five different occasions, Pérez Girón had asked the state government to install tables for dialogue to de-activate the conflict. Before the murder, the journalist of Rompeviento TV, Ernesto Ledesma, asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on three occasions about the attacks in this region. After the Pérez Girón murder, he asked him again. From the location of the acts, he produced four reports with multiple first-hand witnesses ( Neither the police nor the military presence has stopped the attacks. Those who carry firearms for the exclusive use of the Army move about at their leisure – freely.

This problem has been around since 1977. It emerged because the government gave Santa Martha 60 hectares of Aldama property. According to the Good Government Junta in the Caracol of Oventik, “the three levels of past and present government are responsible for the division, confrontation, fear and rupture of community life.” Because, “agreements appeared that were not fulfilled, putting more fuel on the fire,” in order to “divide the communities.”

The violence in Aldama and in Chalchihuitán is the consequence of the release of the material Acteal killers. On December 22, 1997, in Acteal, Chenalhó, 45 men, women and children who were praying for peace in a chapel were savagely executed by paramilitaries ( Despite the fact that they were fully identified by the relatives of the victims, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation liberated the murderers at the beginning of 2009, arguing that due process had not been followed. The criminals never gave up the weapons with which they perpetrated the massacre.

The main promoter of the campaign to liberate the Acteal murderers was Hugo Eric Flores, tied to the theology of neo-Pentecostal prosperity, associated in the beginning of his political career with Ernesto Zedillo, president of Mexico when the massacre was committed. Leader of the Social Encounter Party, he is currently the super-delegate of the Fourth Transformation in the state of Morelos. The Chenalhó paramilitaries that have attacked Aldama residents throughout the past year are the same ones that murdered members of Las Abejas in Acteal almost 22 years ago, or they are relatives of the killers. Rosa Pérez, the ex municipal president of Chenalhó, a key figure in the reactivation of the armed civilian groups, is a relative of those who perpetrated the massacre. Abraham Cruz, the municipal treasurer until recently, is the son of the pastor who blessed the murderers’ weapons.

According to what those displaced from Aldama stated, Rosa Pérez and Abraham Cruz, the current mayor of Chenalhó, reorganized the paramilitary group that has existed in that municipality for years, originally created by the Army, “although this time we were the ones attacked” (

What happened in Chenalhó, Chalchiuitán and Aldama is not an isolated act. In practically all corners of the Chiapan geography old and new groups of political and economic bosses (indigenous and mestizo) dispute territorial control by means of violence. Members of the Chol people of San José El Bascán, in Salto de Agua municipality, are at risk of an armed attack and forced displacement.

Instead of serving to insert order into the demons of para-militarism, the Army’s presence in the state seems to have focused on encircling and harassing Zapatista territories. The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center reported that since the end of 2018 the number of Mexican Army incursions into the headquarters of the Good Government Junta in the Caracol of La Realidad has doubled.

Far from confronting the local power groups, the state government, headed by the Rutilio Escandón of Morena, protects them. The sons and grandsons of the old finquero [1] oligarchy now occupy key positions in the administration of the Chiapan Fourth Transformation. The state’s governor and his government officials are part of the problem, not the solution.

The ghost of Acteal runs through Chiapan territory. The demons are free. Those above opened the door for them.


[1] Finqueros were the estate owners from whom the Zapatistas took land away in the January 1, 1994 Zapatista Uprising.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




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