By: Hermann Bellinghausen
This past weekend grave armed attacks began against residents of various communities in the Maya Tzotzil municipality of Aldama, in the Chiapas Highlands. The attacks come from Santa Martha and other towns in Chenalhó municipality, also Maya Tzotzil, with which there is a territorial dispute over 60 hectares of land on their common border. According to reports received by La Jornada, the shooting continued until 5 pm yesterday. During a phone call from Aldama, around midnight on Sunday, this reporter could hear the detonations and received brief videos of the flashes and shots in total darkness. Before six o’clock in the morning yesterday (Monday) he received new videos with large detonations and shots towards the cell phone with which he was filming, at a point where the displaced families of Aldama are located.
La Jornada receives constant reports from the commission of 115 community members displaced from Aldama, detailing the places and times of the shooting, coming from different places in Santa Martha, and even from the land in dispute, where according to the agreements no one should enter. In Tabac, one of the communities attacked, there is a detachment of state police that has not intervened. At the close of this edition the attacks totaled more than 30 in three days.
Although it has never been proven that the displaced Tzotzils (who are in a state of grave poverty, hunger, terror and forced displacement) are armed, federal and state officials operate under the theory that both groups are shooting. According to the indigenous commission, Santa Martha paramilitaries shoot at their own community, to make people believe they are under attack. It’s not a new practice, the same thing occurred in 1997, in the weeks and months prior to the Acteal Massacre.
Agreements exist between Aldama and Chenalhó, allegedly reached by the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación), but in fact the acts of hostility and danger are greater than ever. Institutional inaction in the face of recent violence, in particular that initiated this Friday, presumably obeys the intention not to aggravate the situation.
It’s not about one more dispute between campesino communities. The attackers possess high-caliber weapons and explosives, and are the direct heirs of the paramilitaries that perpetrated the Acteal Massacre in 1997; many paid with prison, but were never disarmed, and throughout all these years they have attacked members of Las Abejas de Acteal, Zapatista support bases and other political or religious groups in Aldama, Chalchihuitán and Chenalhó itself on different occasions. It is known that new and powerful weapons have been added to those weapons.
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) sent the Mexican government an urgent action wherein it recapitulates the same log book received by La Jornada. The attacks began the night of Saturday, August 14. On Saturday the 15th, residents reported that the armed group had crossed limits of Aldama, the communities of San Pedro Cotzilnam and Yeton being in danger. They reported that they were able to observe three armed groups in different positions. There were also shots against Yeton, and strong detonations. The families attacked had to displace to another community.
On Sunday, August 16, the armed group continued attacking Yeton and two other Aldama communities. The attacks are coming from a number of Chenlhó communities, at least some of which are inside the 60 hectares in dispute. Attacks continued against San Pedro Cotzilnam (Aldama). The armed actions armadas follow “a pattern,” Frayba points out.
Armed attacks also continued against Coco’ (Aldama) and another community is under fire from high-caliber weapons. “Despite requests for intervention,” says the Frayba, “the response is indifference charged with racism and discrimination from the federal and state governments.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee