The Chiapas Support Committee sends its most heartfelt thanks to everyone who expressed their solidarity regarding the paramilitary violence in Chiapas by signing our protest letter to the Mexican Consulate. We also wish to thank those who contributed to our fundraising campaign for Las Abejas. These expressions of solidarity come from around the world and the collective sum of all solidarity actions matter.
On October 13, members of the Chiapas Support Committee went to the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco to deliver the letter demanding a stop to the paramilitary violence in Chiapas. (The letter with signatures is posted below.) A few others joined them and we brought posters. To our great surprise, the deputy consul general, Guillermo Reyes, actually met with us and listened to our concerns (he is the person in the black suit in the pictures below). He didn’t know anything about the violence in Chiapas, but had heard of FRAYBA, which was probably helpful when we mentioned their active denunciations. I looked him up and he has a special focus on humanitarian situations. He promised to convey the letter and the message and get back to us in a week.
Remedios Gómez Arnau, Consul General
Mexican Consulate in San Francisco
532 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
Dear Consul General Gómez Arnau,
We write to express our alarm over the growing violence in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico; specifically, in the municipalities of Aldama, Chenalhó and Chalchihuitan, where paramilitaries have violently attacked and forcibly displaced thousands of indigenous people from their homes, fields and communities. We are demanding that the Mexican government stop the paramilitary violence, stop any support being given to the paramilitaries and dismantle them.
According to the internationally respected Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), paramilitary-style civilian armed groups in Chenalhó municipality perpetrate the violence, shooting indiscriminately into the civilian communities where displaced persons are sheltered, often causing them to flee for safety in the mountains, thus leaving them outdoors without shelter and food. In Aldama, for example, bullets fired from Chenalhó injured13-year-old María Luciana Lunes Pérez in the face and shoulder while she was working on her loom inside her home in Koko’, Aldama.
These paramilitary groups also patrol roads and block access to fields so that those displaced cannot grow or harvest their food, creating hunger and the threat of famine in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as preventing the harvesting and sale of cash crops that provide the only income these subsistence farmers have. Meanwhile, deaths and injuries are claimed on both sides.
A troubling photo apparently taken from a video in the local press shows heavily armed men in Chenalhó, dressed in camouflage uniforms, wearing ski masks and sporting high-powered rifles. The video’s release, in which the paramilitaries introduce themselves to society, would seem to assert: “We have impunity!” Further evidence of impunity appeared on social media with the news that 80 residents of Santa Martha (Chenalhó) took weapons and munitions away from a detachment of police in that town and continued to retain the weapons.
Another report from those displaced in Aldama indicated that there have been 30 armed attacks in three days against the people of Aldama, with the gunfire coming from Chenalhó. This shocked readers in Mexico and abroad. These egregious human rights violations must be stopped now to avoid further loss of life and serious bodily injury. Human rights defenders and those displaced are seeking such intervention.
This is a crisis situation that requires the Mexican government’s immediate intervention to dismantle these paramilitaries and repair the damage done to all victims. Mexico’s federal and state governments failed to do this before and after the December 22, 1997 Acteal Massacre in which paramilitaries attacked and murdered 45 women, men and children. Paramilitary violence forcibly displaced thousands in the months before that massacre, as is happening now. Additionally, there is evidence that the current paramilitary group is related to the one involved in that massacre.
The growing paramilitary attacks on Aldama feel eerily reminiscent of the conditions that preceded the Acteal Massacre. And the present reminds us all too painfully of the past. The Mexican government can prevent a greater calamity from taking place by stopping and dismantling the paramilitary violence now.
We, therefore, urge Mexico’s federal and state governments to stop the paramilitary attacks, dismantle the paramilitary group(s) in Chenalhó and begin repairing the damage done to all the victims.
The Chiapas Support Committee and Friends
Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez
Charlotte Saenz, Core Faculty, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco
Todd Davies, Initiative for Equality
Anya Briy, PhD student in Sociology, Binghamton, NY
Meredith Tax, Writer, New York
Carla Green, Missoula, Montana
Katherine E. Keller, Missoula, Montana
John Wolverton, Missoula, Montana
Hermina Jean Harold
Adam Fix, PhD, Columbus, Ohio
Diana Block, San Francisco, California
Norma J F Harrison, for the Peace and Freedom Party
Julie Harris, El Sobrante USA
Jane Welford, Berkeley, California
Jason Bechtel, San Diego, California
Kristin Walter, Partner, Crew. Partner, Enlight Collaborative
Michael Bass, Activist, Oakland, California
Charlene Woodcock, Berkeley, California
Joanne Shansky, St. Francis, Wisconsin
Targol Mesbah, PhD, Assistant Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies
Joseph E. Bender II
Ingrid Perry-Houts, Oakland, California
Andrew Claycomb, Registered Nurse, Los Angeles, California
Marilyn Naparst, Berkeley, California
Julie Webb-Pullman, Nueva Zelanda
Dra. Linda Quiquivix, California
Roger Knoren, U.S. Engagement and Community Development, Pachamama Alliance
Mark E. Smith
Joe Liesner, Oakland, California
Helen Finkelstein, Berkeley, California
Elise Youssoufian, Artist, singer, poet
Julibeth Saez Negron, DVM
Sexta Grietas del Norte Network
Mariana Rivera, Sacramento, California
Rosa Maria Barajas
José Hernández, Napa, California
Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, New Zealand
Terri Freedman, California resident
Sue Stuart, Director, East Bay Community Space
Annie Heuscher, Missoula, Montana
David Early, Berkeley
Joanna Burgess Integrated Health & Wellness, Berkeley, California
Jose Sánchez, Bonn, Germany
Chiapas Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a Chiapas
P.O. Box 3421, Oakland, CA 94609
Tel: (510) 817-4280