Popular self-defense group emerges in Pantelhó against organized crime


Above photo: El Machete Self-Defense group in Pantelhó


By: Elio Henríquez

San Cristóbal de Las Casas Chiapas

A group called “Autodefensas del pueblo El Machete” (El Machete Peoples’ Self-Defense Forces, hereafter El Machete Autodefensas) [1] claimed responsibility this Saturday for the incursion carried out in the municipal seat of Pantelhó last Wednesday, and warned that its objective is: “to expel the hitmen (sicarios), drug traffickers and organized crime,” because “we don’t want more deaths for poor Tseltal and Tsotsil campesinos.”

First in a communiqué and later in a video recording in which five armed men appeared, the organization stated: “Our patience is exhausted, because we don’t see any hope in the federal and state governments; given the pain due to so much blood spilled, we take the direction of our history.”

The grouping clarified that: “once Pantelhó is free of organized crime headed by Raquel Trujillo Morales (sic), the PRD member and mayor-elect, and the drug traffickers, we will withdraw as self-defense forces of the people, because we do not seek power or money.”

They reiterated: “Once the people of Pantelhó are free, we’ll leave it in the hands of the agents and commissioners of each community to elect their authorities based on our uses and customs, not based on the political parties that have divided and confronted the people and brought many deaths.”

On July 7, armed men irrupted in the headquarters of the indigenous municipality located in the Chiapas Highlands (los Altos de Chiapas), after a shootout with members of the opposing group, Los Herrera, allegedly linked to the PRD municipal authorities.

That day (July 7) in the afternoon, dozens of soldiers and Nacional Guard and state police agents entered the municipality, who were ambushed a day later four kilometers from the center when they tried to unblock Pantelhó-San Cristóbal highway; four soldiers and five state police agents were shot and wounded; two state police cars were burned. Authorities have not announced who attacked them.

The El Machete Autodefensas explained that: “our suffering began 20 tears ago and little by little those who oppress the people were taking (power), but it was in 2002 when Austreberto Herrera Abarca wanted to appoint himself municipal judge of Pantelhó. “He opened the doors to organized crime, to drug traffickers and thus began to kill those who were opposed to those activities; we see that he has killed approximately 200 people.”

They assured that: “at first we denounced him, but the agent of the Public Ministry never took our denunciations into account and some of our compañeros were murdered for denouncing the violence that we were experiencing.

“Austreberto was arrested in 2019, but the violence didn’t end; his sons, Daly de los Santos Gutiérrez Herrera and Rubén Gutiérrez Herrera, continue with organized crime as of this date.”

“There’s no justice, that’s why we said: ‘ya basta’”

They said that: “for several years we have been witnesses to the murders that have been done to our grandparents, parents and children. We have seen how they rob us and dispossess us of our property. Given all that has happened, we don’t see any justice on the part of the federal and state governments. Because of these painful events we were talking and reflecting that we must defend the life of our communities. So, little by little in silence we were forming self-defense forces for our people and on July 7 we decided to enter into the town of Pantelhó, at 4 o’clock in the morning, not to attack the town, but to expel the hitmen, drug traffickers and organized crime.”

They affirmed that: “with Trujillo Morales, the mayor-elect of Pantelhó will bring many deaths; that’s why we said enough now. Enough of so much suffering and spilling of blood!

“Today, our people are dominated by the new Goliath that consists of drug traffickers, sicarios and organized crime, but we are the new David that defends the people, they concluded.

On the other hand, the priest Marcelo Pérez Pérez, parish priest of Simojovel, reported that there was difficulty in deactivating the explosive devices found in a house in ejido Nuevo Israelita, where Simón Pedro Pérez López was from. Simón Pedro was the former leader of the Las Abejas organization who was shot and killed on July 5. Members of the Mexican Army made the explosive devices explode using all the protocols, which caused the total destruction of three houses and the bathroom of a chapel.

He said that one of the houses destroyed belonged to the people who made the devices, who left the community, and the others that were neighbors of Juan López Cruz and Feliciano López Pérez.

[1] There has been misinformation in both the local and national media regarding events in Pantelhó on July 7 and on the following day, July 8, as to what group participated in what event. What has been clarified so far is that the El Machete Self-Defense group is considered the legitimate self-defense force supported by the people of Pantelhó. It remains unknown what group shot and wounded the soldiers, National Guard and state police agents on July 8.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, July 11, 2021


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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