Dear Friends and Supporters,
There is a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Highlands of Chiapas; it involves 3,304 members of Las Abejas of Acteal. We are asking you to join the Chiapas Support Committee in supporting the indigenous people under attack.
For several years, “armed civilian groups” (read: paramilitary groups) have mounted armed attacks against Tsotsil Maya people in the Highlands. These attacks have forcibly displaced members of Las Abejas. They live in crowded conditions in borrowed houses and have been subjected to relentless violence from these paramilitaries.
When armed violence occurs these displaced families flee for safety in the mountains, living outdoors or in caves. Paramilitaries have burned, destroyed and/or shot-up the homes of several families. Living in desolation, the Tsotsil are now facing starvation.
The displaced Tsotsiles are without access to their lands. As a result they cannot plant and harvest their corn, beans, fruits and vegetables. As of today, they have no ability to go out to work anywhere and cannot harvest their coffee, which is one of their main sources of income during the year. And thus, according to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), in the midst of a global pandemic, these displaced persons are on the verge of a famine. These indigenous families belong to Las Abejas in Chenalhó, Chalchihuitán and Aldama municipalities.
The Frayba is asking those of us in international civil society to make a donation to purchase food for the women, children and men of Las Abejas (The Bees, in English) who are displaced from their homes and fields and risk famine.
About Las Abejas | The Bees
Las Abejas of Acteal is an indigenous and Catholic campesino organization in the Highlands of Chiapas belonging to the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council (CNI-CIG).
In an incident so horrific that it shocked the conscience of the world, a paramilitary group called Red Mask (Máscara Roja) attacked Las Abejas members on December 22, 1997 in the community of Acteal while they were praying for peace in a chapel. The Red Mask paramilitaries massacred 45 women, children and men in a murderous episode so depraved that it reminded many of the prolonged civil war in Guatemala, right across the border from Chiapas. The alleged motive for the massacre was retaliation for the refusal of Las Abejas to contribute money for the purchase of weapons to use in an attack against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN).
Survivors of the Acteal Massacre were able to identify the killers and, consequently, 81 members of the paramilitary group were sentenced to long prison terms. The evangelical churches to which many of the killers belonged were determined to obtain their release in order to clear the names of their church members and, one supposes, the names of the churches involved. These churches were ultimately successful and the killers were released after serving approximately 10 years of their sentences.
End the famine: dismantle the paramilitaries
Members of the “civilian armed group” currently shooting at La Abejas are thought to be some former members of Máscara Roja who were not identified and sentenced to prison, their children, the children of those who were sentenced and, perhaps, even some of those released. Human rights organizations are demanding that the Mexican government dismantle the current armed group. To date, both the Chiapas state government and the Mexican federal government have failed to take action.
Meanwhile, Frayba says that the current situation of forced displacement poses a grave risk to both the life and health of the displaced, who are struggling to survive with a constant lack of food, no medical attention and the emotional damage caused by the permanent fear and despair of being under attack. Children, women and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
For more information, please see the article by Chiapas journalist Isaín Mandujano on our blog.
Join us in supporting Las Abejas of Acteal!
Please join the Chiapas Support Committee in making a generous donation to purchase food and address the health needs of displaced members of Las Abejas. To make a donation via PayPal, just click on the donate button on our website. (Monthly PayPal donations are also appreciated.) Venmo: @Enapoyo1994. You can also send a check or money order payable to the Chiapas Support Committee to:
Chiapas Support Committee
PO Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
Las Abejas of Acteal is a critical organization in the struggle for Indigenous Rights in Chiapas and in the CNI-CIG nationally. Chiapas Support Committee members and the folks we work with in Chiapas will thank each donor from the bottom of our hearts.
In solidarity, peace and justice,
Chiapas Support Committee
Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez