Chenalhó asks for 50 million pesos to end the conflict with Aldama

A view of the mountains that form the natural border between Aldama and Chenalhó municipalities, in the Chiapas Highlands Photo: Carlos Ogaz.

By: Isaín Mandujano

Indigenous Tsotsils in Santa Martha community, Chenalhó, asked for 50 million pesos to cede 32.5 hectares of land to their adversaries in Aldama, as well as 200,000 pesos for each one of their dead and 100,000 pesos to repair the damage to the 16 who were injured.

Communal authorities of Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha made public a copy of their official record through the Digna Ochoa Grass Roots Human Rights Committee of Chiapas (“Digna Ochoa Committee”) [1], wherein they respond to a government proposal to resolve the agrarian conflict that exists between residents of Aldama and Santa Martha, Chenalhó.

The official record was delivered last October 9 to the Secretary General of Government, the Commissioner for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples in the Interior Ministry (Secretaría de Gobernación) and the Undersecretary for Human Rights and Population in the Interior Ministry. Members of the Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha Communal Wealth (the commons) Assembly responded to the proposal that the el Secretary General of Gobierno, Ismael Brito Mazariegos, sent.

The document signed by all the authorities of the Manuel Utrilla Santa Martha Commons and the 20 municipal rural agents from the communities that group together the communal wealth and represent the 3,336 comuneros put forward a proposal regarding the solution to the conflict over the 59.5 (147 acres) hectares of land in dispute with Aldama.

State authorities mentioned that they would cede 32.5 hectares (80 acres) and retain 27 hectares (67 acres), with an economic contribution of 3 million pesos, plus 100,000 pesos for each of the families who lost a family member as a result of the conflict.

However, the indigenous Tsotsils said that they accept retaining 27.5 hectares and ceding 32.5 to Aldama, but that it’s for the amount of 50 million pesos and that in the process of attention to the solution of the agrarian conflict, the Municipality of Aldama will cease attacks with firearms.

With respect to the offer of 100,000 pesos, as economic support for each family of those who dies due to the agrarian conflict, they asked for 200,000 pesos; without forgetting that there 16 injured, and for them they asked as indemnification the amount of 100,000 pesos for each one.

Additionally, they demanded the immediate freedom of their imprisoned compañeros, Enrique López Pérez and Efraín Ruiz Alvares, as well as cancellation of the arrest warrants in effect against inhabitants of communities in the Santa Martha Sector.

Likewise, they asked for Infrastructure works for the benefit of 20 communities in the Santa Martha Sector, such as the expansion and paving of the highway stretch from Central Santa Martha to Saclum and from Saclum to the municipal seat of Chenalhó and the opening of the road from the town of Yoc Ventana on time.

The Digna Ochoa Committee said that once this document was delivered unfortunately armed attacks and shooting started coming from the Aldama side, the communal authorities acknowledging that there was “crossfire” in accordance with what they have investigated, and that Sunday they were in Saclum to see the situation and that they heard the rain of shots coming from Tabak, Coco and Xuxhen on the Aldama side attacking Saclum community and Pajaltoj on the Santa Martha side.

However, the “Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center, denounced that the attacks are constant from Chenalhó towards the residents of Aldama. And the Permanent Commission of 115 Displaced Comuneros of Aldama denounced that members of the National Guard and the State Police who are in Santa Martha, Chenalhó and in Aldama don’t act efficiently to stop the armed attacks and to protect the population.

Counting Hugo Alfredo Pérez Hernández, 29 people have been injured and six murdered during attacks with high-caliber weapons on the communities of Maya Tsotsil People in Aldama, coming from de civilian armed groups of a paramilitary nature in Santa Martha, Chenalhó, since March 2018, the Frayba said.

They also pointed to the disappearance and subsequent execution of the then municipal president of Aldama Ignacio Pérez Girón [2], whose body was found on May 05, 2019, at the entrance to Yalebtay, in the municipality of Zinacatán.

The persistent omission and complicity of the Chiapas government and the federal government causes the escalation of violence in the Highlands region and increases the risk to life of the population within 13 communities in the municipality of Aldama, mostly women, children, adolescents and the elderly, the human rights body indicated.

What’s the conflict between Chenalhó and Aldama about?

The Undersecretary of Human Rights, Population and Migration in the Interior Ministry described that the conflict that exists in the Chiapas Highlands is a dispute over 59 hectares (approximately 47 acres) between the “Manuel Utrilla” Commons in Chenalhó and 115 community members in Aldama.

He detailed that in 2009, the Chiapas government signed an agrarian settlement between the two parties, in which it gives possession of the lands to the Aldama community members and an indemnification of 1 million, 300 thousand pesos to Chenalhó.

Nevertheless, in 2014 the conflict re-emerged due to the fact that the Aldama community members did not want to provide water from the Chayomté spring to Santa Martha, so the latter declared the 2009 settlement broken, as well as the 59-hectares solution.

Encinas stated that the conflict has cost the life of 26 people: 5 from Aldama and 20 from Chenalhó, as well as 24 injured: 13 in Aldama and 11 in Chenalhó.

[1] According to an article by Hermann Bellinghausen, the “Digna Ochoa Committee” was started by several people from the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS) and denounced by those in Aldama as always supportin g and backing up the para,military groups.

[2] Ignacio Pérez Girón was a member of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI).


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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