By: Editor, Yessica Morales
Photo: Maya Tseltal people in Chilón municipality have undertaken a legal battle against the militarization of their territory.
The Tseltal people asked for protection from federal justice against the construction of the National Guard barracks and also that the Attorney General of the State of Chiapas desist from taking criminal action against José Luis Gutiérrez Hernández and César Hernández Feliciano, repressed and criminalized for demonstrating against said project.
Juana Hernández, Gilberto Moreno, Juan Jiménez and Jerónimo Jiménez, representatives of the Tseltal Maya people in Chilón municipality, together with the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) and the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Centro Prodh) announced the admission of a demand for an amparo (suspension) filed over the construction of a National Guard General Barracks in their territory, without having been consulted in a prior, free and adequate way to grant or not their consent.
Jerónimo Jiménez emphasized that it’s not the first time Chilón experiences the impacts of the militarization of their territories. During the epoch of the armed conflict in the state of Chiapas, in 1995, an army barracks was installed in their territory, which was not withdrawn until 2007, after years of an organized resistance on the part of the community.
There had been a military camp in the San Sebastián Bachajón Ejido since 1995. Upon its surprise arrival with violence, they took possession of the ejido house and didn’t allow the ejido owners to hold their ejido assemblies. There was a house on land near the ejido house that belonged to Pedro Perez (…), the owner. When they no longer permitted him to enter (…), they spoke to the Army and the response was that his house was now in the federal area and, therefore, it no longer belonged to him, Jiménez explained.
They emphasized that thirteen years later, in October 2020, residents of Chilón municipality entered into the agreement between municipal, state and federal authorities, including the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), to cede land within their territory for the construction of the barracks that will shelter the National Guard. Consequently, on October 15, 2020, they exercised their right to demonstrate. In response, there was a deployment of more than 300 members of different security corporations for the purpose of stopping the mobilization. They used excessive force against the demonstrators.
They added that private vehicles were damaged and several people were injured in the eviction, in addition to the solitary confinement and subsequent deprivation of freedom of community social defenders José Luis Gutiérrez Hernández and César Hernández Feliciano, who still face unjust criminal proceedings in from the Indigenous Justice Prosecutor’s Office for the crime of rioting.
Knowing the impacts that military projects can have on their community life, they organized to initiate a legal process by means of a commission named in their traditional assembly. Said strategy consisted of filing a lawsuit demanding a suspension (amparo), which was admitted by the Fourth District Court in matters of Amparo and Federal Trial based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez last December 9, 2020, file number 717/2020.
The lawsuit denounces that the license and construction of the Barracks is about se about an imposition of a militarization project that violates the rights of the people of Chilón municipality to prior, adequate, free and informed consultation, to self-determination, to territory, access to information, among other rights protected by the Mexican Constitution, as well as international treaties, including the American Convention on Human Rights and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The foregoing is due to the fact that it’s clear to the inhabitants that the National Guard is a de facto military security force, rather than a civilian body. Therefore, the project should not have been conceived without consultation because it will have direct effects on their right to self-determination, the protection of territory that constitutes a fundamental part of their community harmony and respect for their identity.
They added that, with the presence of militarized security forces in the zone, they fear that sex work will be promoted, that alcoholism will be accentuated as a control measure and that community division will occur, as happened in the past.
They explained different and forceful arguments to avoid causing irreparable damage to the territory of the Tseltal Maya peoples for which the Fourth District Court should have ordered the suspension ex officio and flatly, however, the Judge denied it.
This Friday, January 29, the Fourth District Court has a new opportunity to declare the origin of the definitive suspension, allowing the Tseltal Maya peoples to have the assurance that their territory and their collective rights will not be permanently affected until the aforementioned amparo lawsuit is resolved, they ended.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee