Above: Vigil for Simón Pedro
Defenders of the people of Pantelhó protect their families faced with attacks from Organized Crime
- We demand justice for Simón Pedro Pérez López
We, the individuals, collectives and organizations of national and international civil society that adhere to this statement, deeply mourn the assassination of Simón Pedro Pérez López (Simón Pedro), a Tsotsil Maya, community defender of human rights, catechist and former president that of the Board of Directors of the Civil Society Organization of Las Abejas of Acteal, who are members of the National Indigenous Congress. Simón Pedro was murdered on July 5, 2021 in the municipal seat of Simojovel, Chiapas. This appalling event is the result of the negligence, permissiveness and tolerance among the three levels of government of criminal groups that operate in different municipalities of Chiapas. We join together in the demand for justice and hold the Mexican state responsible for the generalized violence in the different municipalities of the state, like in Simojovel, Chenalho, Chalchihuitán, Aldama, Venustiano Carranza, Chilón and particularly in Pantelhó.
The reason for the murder of Simón Pedro is his being a community defender of human rights, his struggle for peace, denouncing the violence that exists within the communities and his fight for justice. Members of Las Abejas de Acteal have received constant threats, suffered attacks, intimidation and displacement from their places of origin for their non-violent struggle and construction of the “Other Justice” Lekil Chapanel. In June 2015, Manuel López Pérez, who held a religious post in his community in the municipality of Pantelhó, was murdered. The Chiapas Attorney General’s Office knew about this act, but there was no progress made in the investigation and, to this day, the act remains in total impunity.
According to different sources, so far this year, in the municipality of Pantelhó, a criminal group associated with the municipal presidency has perpetrated the murders of 12 people, among them a child, a disappeared person and a woman and child wounded, this on March 12, 2021 to date. This is exactly how countless people have been forcibly displaced, whether it be permanently or intermittently due to the fear and risk of losing one’s life. At the beginning of May 2021, the criminal group arrived in the community of San José Buenavista Tercero, in the municipality of Pantelhó, killed one male, and displaced the community’s inhabitants.
Checkpoints, blockades and incursions by the criminal group, accompanied by units of municipal and state police are a daily occurrence. Similarly, on the 6th of June, during the elections, testimonies reported that by members of said group were driving National Guard vehicles. We know that inhabitants of at least 19 communities in the municipalities of Pantelhó, Simojovel and Chenalhó are at maximum risk. Men, women, girls, boys, adolescents and elderly people live in fear and terror due to the threats that they have received from the people linked to crime. The lives of those who denounce them are at risk.
The documentation that we have, indicates the presence of a criminal group in the municipality of Pantelhó, who acts in complicity with City Hall, and who make up part of the structure of municipal power and currently are linked to the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) that governs the municipality.
The state government of Chiapas has clear knowledge of the situation that prevails in the municipality, and yet, as of this moment it has not acted to protect the life, integrity and personal safety of the population. In various municipalities, there is a power vacuum in which violence and impunity reign, and the government reduces the grave situation to inter-community conflicts that only denotes the racism of the State. In this way the criminal activity of these groups, increasingly and clearly linked to political parties and public officials of all three levels of government, has allowed the power of these groups to be that which prevails and has territorial control over the population, by means of terror, assassination, disappearances, theft, dispossession and forced displacement, and the use of weapons and explosives that are for the exclusive use of the Mexican army.
The State Attorney General’s Office (FGE) has knowledge of the situation, since several inhabitants of the municipality of Pantelhó have issued denunciations for acts of violence perpetrated by criminal groups and their link to the municipal authorities. The Office has been remiss and not very diligent in carrying out investigations and bringing justice to the victims of this violence.
In addition, the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in its prophetic work has denounced, “We again see in Chiapas the reactivation of the forces that mutated from paramilitaries to organized crime allied with the narco government that have invaded our state to control the resistance of the organized peoples who defend their autonomy.”
We have information about acts of intimidation, surveillance and threats from the criminal group against individuals that have not remained silent in the face of this situation, such as the members of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas de Acteal, as well as the servants of the Parish of Santa Catarina Pantelhó, that includes the communities of Pantelhó, Simojovel, and Chenalhó for which we fear for their life, integrity and personal safety. We hold the Mexican state responsible for any aggression against them.
Faced with a vacuum of the rule of law, as well as the inaction of the federal and state governments that do not fulfill their constitutional mandate to guarantee and protect human rights (as such, life, safety and personal integrity of the population), groups of individuals are defending the children, women, and the population. These groups referred to as Defenders of the People, known in the press as the “Ciriles,” are those who have made the decision to defend life, confronting the criminal group, such as happened the 7th and 8th of July in the municipal seat of Pantelhó. For approximately 6 years, the power of the criminal group has grown, due to the institutional pacts of impunity from the governments, along with complicity and omission, which constitutes acquiescence of the State in perpetrating systematic violations of human rights. It is worth pointing out that on Tuesday, July 6th, two home-made artifacts belonging to the criminal group were found in the community of Nuevo Israelita, which to date have not been deactivated.
The undersigned individuals collectives and organizations make an an assertive call to demand of the governments of Rutilio Escandón Cadenas and Andrés Manuel López Obrador to stop this violence in the zone of Los Altos of Chiapas and prevent further assassinations, disappearances, wounded and forcibly displaced people.
We demand that the Mexican state guarantee the life, integrity and personal safety of the population in the municipalities of Pantelhó, Simojovel, and Chenalhó; in addition, we insist that the Mexican government carry out an exhaustive, quick and diligent investigation to find those materially and intellectually responsible for the murder of Simón Pedro Pérez López, as well as an investigation of the links between the criminal group and the Pantelhó municipal government.
Signatory Individuals, Collectives and Organizations (Local, National and International) can be read here.
Originally Published in Spanish by the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center Thursday, July 8, 2021
English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas, light editing by the Chiapas Support Committee
Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee