By: Elio Henríquez
San Cristóbal De Las Casas, Chiapas
In an assembly this Monday (August 9) inhabitants of the 86 indigenous communities and 18 barrios (neighborhoods) in Pantelhó elected members of a municipal council that will relieve the municipal council that the substitute mayor, Delia Janet Velasco Flores of the PRD, heads. Last week, she presented her request to leave office to the local Congress.
The election of new authorities, which was held in a wooded area known as rancho El Progreso, is one of the agreements made last week in two months of dialogue to try to resolve the conflict that worsened on July 7 with the irruption El Machete Self-Defense group in the municipal seat (the town of Pantelhó), which caused members of the municipal council to leave the municipality.
By raised hand, those who attended the assembly elected Pedro Cortez López as president of the municipal council; he was named days ago as the coordinator of the Commission of 20 representatives (municipal agents, presidents of ejido commissions and representatives of Catholic and Evangelical churches) in charge of seeking, together with federal and state authorities, a solution to the crisis in the municipality. The other two council members are Miguel Hernández Pérez and Sandra Gutiérrez Cruz.
The municipal council will be in charge until September 30, when the current 3-year term will conclude, replacing Velasco Flores, who in turn replaced the constitutional municipal president Santos López Hernández, a prisoner in El Amate, accused of sexual harassment.
Pedro Cortez said he didn’t know the date of the swearing in before the state Congress, because “I don’t even have my papers ready. Maybe they (the deputies) will tell me when. I really can’t tell you, [only] they know.”
The Tsotsil leader is confident that dialogue and understanding will prevail to reach a solution to the conflict. “I ask God to help the people and to help me, because we are really in God’s hands,” he said in an interview with reporters.
“People already knew who the municipal council members would be; I’m not lying, not am I denying, because when they spoke to me it was a surprise; I had not thought about” being president of the council, he added.
The 86 indigenous communities and 18 barrios in the municipal seat have had control of the town, including the mayor’s office, since July 26. On that day they burned houses, looted stores and retained 20 residents allegedly linked to Los Herrera, the opposing group. The whereabouts of those who were retained has not been reported.
In the two dialogue tables that were held last week with the assistance of federal and state representatives and the “Commission of 20.” A commission named by the Diocese of San Cristóbal participated as mediator, headed by the parish priest of Simojovel, Marcelo Pérez Pérez.
 The town of Pantelhó serves as the municipal seat (cabecera) for the municipality of Pantelhó.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee