Above Photo: Simón Pedro Pérez López and his family.
CRIMINAL GROUPS HARASS INDIGENOUS AREAS OF THE CHIAPAS HIGHLANDS (LOS ALTOS)
By: Angeles Mariscal
Simón Pedro Pérez López had been the channel for denouncing criminal groups linked to drug trafficking and other illicit acts. In recent years these criminal groups have taken control of indigenous Tsotsil regions in Chiapas. Nine days after residents of Pantelhó sent a formal denunciation to the state’s Secretary of Government asking for her intervention, Simón Pedro was executed with a shot to the head.
Simón Pedro Pérez López was an activist and a defender of human rights, a member of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas de Acteal -where he occupied the presidency in 2020-, a member of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), a catechist of the Santa Catarina Parish in Pantelhó municipality, and the region’s moral leader, the priest Marcelo Pérez explained in an interview.
Marcelo Pérez explained that given Simón Pedro’s leadership, Pantelhó residents had asked him for help in the middle of June to call on aid state authorities for aid, so that they would intervene to stop the harassment that they experience from the criminal groups that have obliged the forced displacement of the inhabitants of a dozen communities.
In a letter that they prepared on June 26 to send the denunciation (complaint) to the Secretary of Government, Victoria Cecilia Flores Pérez, residents, communal authorities and rural agents of Pantelhó, explain in detail the links that in their view, municipal authorities of that municipality -current and elected- have with armed groups that distribute drugs and sell arms, among other activities, in this region.
In the letter they refer, for example, to the fact that in the last electoral process on June 6, through threats of death and dispossession of their property, entire towns were forced to vote according to the interests of the criminal groups.
“We have knowledge that gunmen come from other states of the Mexican Republic like Campeche and Sinaloa. Fearing their threats, since they have complied on past occasions, there are many families displaced from the communities of San Francisco de Asís, Roblar, Dolores Petaquil, Guadalupe Victoria, Santiago los Sabinos, Porvenir, San Clemente, San José Tercero, San Luis, Barrio San Ramón, Barrio Guadalupe, all in the municipality of Pantelhó, Chiapas,” they explain in the letter.
They also refer to the recent murder of 11 people; they ask for the intervention of state authorities and mention that they make the persons indicated in the letter responsible for any act of repression against them derived from the denunciation. “The people of Pantelhó want peace and tranquility” they say in their call for aid.
Nine days after this letter, Simón Pedro Pérez López was assassinated with a gunshot to the head from people who were riding a motorcycle, when the Tsotsil indigenous man was shopping in the market of Simojovel municipality, in the company of one of his four sons.
During the funeral ceremony for the body, the priest Marcelo Pérez specifically pointed out that the origin of Simón Pedro’s murder would be linked to the previous complaint.
YouTube video of the religious ceremony (in Spanish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQw_Ky8C0DM&t=1s
“The death of Simón Pedro is a consequence of injustice, of the narco-city hall, of drug trafficking, of organized crime in Pantelhó (…) may the blood of Simón Pedro be the seed for peace and for the liberation of Pantelhó, and be the seed to awaken the conscience of struggling for peace. But I ask that you not fall into the temptation of revenge; revenge is not the path,” the priest told the grieving people, after recognizing the moral leadership of the murdered indigenous man.
Pantelhó is part of a corridor that divides San Juan Chamula municipality, extends through Chenalhó, where the headquarters of the Las Abejas of Acteal organization is located and where there have also been complaints about the presence of civilian armed groups. 15 minutes from Acteal is Pantelhó, also adjacent to the municipality of Simojovel, where the murder occurred.
In this whole region, in recent years, according to the denunciations and los testimonies of the area’s residents, the presence of criminal groups linked to drug trafficking, human trafficking and the sale of weapons, among other activities, has expanded.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Tuesday, July 6, 2021,
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee