Brief chronology of paramilitary violence in Chiapas

Residents of Aldama municipality report that in October alone there were over 200 paramilitary attacks. Photo Cuartoscuro/ archivo See La Jornada

In the last several years, and escalating during 2021, paramilitary attacks on indigenous communities where civilian Zapatista supporters and sympathizers live have intensified and they have done so with impunity.

In September, the EZLN warned that the paramilitary violence was pushing Chiapas to the brink of civil war.

Here below is a snapshot of the 2021 counterinsurgency offensive taking place in Chiapas. This is a limited description because in some communities, the Aldama/Magdalena and Patria Nueva/Lucio Cabañas/Moisés Gandhi region, the paramilitary attacks are so frequent, almost a daily and nightly occurrence, that most are not being reported or documented outside the area.

Read more at the Chiapas Support Committee Blog.

1. Aldama Municipality – A paramilitary group in the Santa Martha sector of Chenalhó municipality shoots its weapons on a regular basis into the municipality of Aldama. The parallel autonomous Zapatista municipality is Magdalena de la Paz. In January 2021, the shooting that has continued for roughly three years, started up again. Gunfire has killed seven Aldama residents, injured others and, when the shooting starts, has caused hunger and the forcible displacement of many families, both Zapatista and non-Zapatista, in search of refuge. Residents of Aldama municipality reported that in October 2021 members of the “armed paramilitary group of Santa Martha, Chenalhó” committed at least “203 attacks against the communities of Xuxch’en, Coco’, Tabac, San Pedro Cotzilnam, Yeton, Chivit, Stzelejpotobtik, Juxton and the municipal seat.” Despite repeated complaints filed by Aldama municipality residents, the Mexican government has not done anything to stop the paramilitaries.

2. Pantelhó Municipality – On July 5, 2021, organized crime hit men (sicarios) on a motorcycle, murdered Simón Pedro Pérez López, the former president of Las Abejas of Acteal, a member organization of the National Indigenous Congress. Armed fighting erupted soon after in the municipal seat. Within a week, an armed and well-organized group of “indigenous soldiers” announced itself as the El Machete Self-Defense group, supported by the 86 communities and 18 neighborhoods in the municipality. El Machete’s goals are to remove the elected municipal government, which they say has been part of organized crime and to protect Pantelhó residents from the violence of organized crime and its sicarios.

 3. San Cristóbal de Las Casas – On August 8, 2021, sicarios on a motorcycle murdered Gregorio Pérez Gómez, the special prosecutor for the Pantelhó case (the murder of Simón Pedro). The murder occurred on the main avenue of the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

4. Patria Nueva – On September 11, 2021, members of the ORCAO kidnapped Sebastián Núñez and José Antonio Sánchez, members of the Good Government Junta located in Patria Nueva, Zapatista Caracol 10. The compañeros were robbed of a walkie-talkie and 6,000 pesos in cash belonging to the Junta. They were released after eight days due to the efforts of the Diocese, human rights defenders, as well as mobilizations and denunciations. Other Zapatista communities within the Caracol of Patria Nueva have suffered repeated attacks from ORCAO members as described below.     

5. Moisés Gandhi – The community of Moisés Gandhi, a Zapatista community within the Caracol of Patria Nueva, suffers nightly shooting from weapons the ORCAO purchases with money from government-sponsored social programs. According to the Good Government Junta located in Patria Nueva, the most recent attack they denounced occurred on the night of October 13, 2021 and again in the early hours of October 14, as well as in the afternoon of October 14. ORCAO fired their weapons into the middle school, and the proximity of the paramilitaries to the homes of some compañeros caused families to flee to seek refuge.

6. Cuxulcá Crossroads – The Zapatista commercial area at the Cuxulcá Crossroads is almost adjacent to Moisés Gandhi. Both are part of the autonomous municipality of Lucio Cabañas within Caracol10 (Patria Nueva). On August 22, 2020, ORCAO , a political-military organization of a paramilitary nature, looted and burned coffee warehouses, the Compañera Lucha Diner and the New Dawn of the Rainbow store, causing a huge loss to the regional Zapatista economy.

7. Nuevo San Gregorio – Nuevo San Gregorio is another Zapatista community in Lucio Cabañas autonomous municipality. In 2020, ORCAO members invaded the community and took over 145 of the 155 hectares of recuperated land the community held—dispossessing the Zapatistas of their means of economic support, the land. The invaders fenced off the Zapatista area with barbed wire and took control of the autonomous middle school. Now, ORCAO members who invaded are continuously harassing the Zapatista support bases, who report that attacks against homes, livestock, natural springs and rivers continue in 2021. In July 2021, the community reported that the invaders installed five guard posts near the center of the Zapatista community; the guards carry machetes, knives, slingshots, pointed sticks, cell phones, walkie-talkies and binoculars.

8. Lucio Cabañas Autonomous Municipality – ORCAO repeatedly attacks and harasses Zapatista communities within the Lucio Cabañas autonomous rebel municipality, destroying and stealing crops, animals, cutting water pipes and electricity, damaging or polluting water sources, shooting into homes and communities. ORCAO members have even kidnapped and tortured a civilian Zapatista and they do all of this with complete impunity.


Compiled by the Chiapas Support Committee for the “National Days of Action for Peace and In Solidarity with the Zapatista Communities.”

Take Action on November 17 to Demand Mexican Government Stop Paramilitary Attacks

Read and sign on here to the November 17 letter to the Mexican and U.S. governments demanding an end to the paramilitary attacks and to prevent civil war,

See the Chiapas Support Committee Blog.

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