In Chiapas, paramilitaries expel Tseltals for refusing to buy weapons

Differences over the use of 20 million pesos that they won in the presidential plane raffle derived into the expulsion of 28 Tseltal families from the community of Nacimiento, [1] in Ocosingo Municipality, who allegedly refused to buy firearms.Comunidad-Ocosingo-amenazadaPhoto: Displaced families from the Nacimiento ejido protest in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

By: Elio Henríquez

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

According to what one of the representatives of those affected denounced, community leaders belonging to the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO, its initials in Spanish) expelled around 250 people last October 18, causing their displacement. The representative requested anonymity. He said that among those displaced are Jacinto Sántiz López, who served as treasurer of the community and Armando Gómez Sántiz, who served as president of the vigilance council.

He explained that by community agreement, Jacinto withdrew six million pesos last year to build a dome and a temple, but the leaders of the opposing group, known as Los Petules, headed by Pedro López Sántiz and his brother Marcos López Sántiz, who is the community’s rural agent, “wanted to force us to buy weapons.”

He pointed out that the 20 million pesos from the raffle were won by the José María Morelos y Pavón kindergarten, located in said community, and deposited in the bank account, whose card Jacinto managed in his capacity as treasurer.

He denounced that after the 28 families were expelled at gunpoint, “38 heads of household of the aggressor group remained. They obliged us to buy weapons, but as we didn’t want to, they expelled us.

“We are not in agreement because we are campesinos. They displaced us on October 18 for not agreeing to buy weapons with the paramilitaries; they kicked us out.” He assured that of the six million pesos: “Los Petules apportioned $1,800,000 pesos for the purchase of weapons; they forced us to give them that amount.”

The representative explained that they left all their belongings, including 250 head of cattle of the 28 families. “We are the sons of ejido owners and now we are suffering and struggling to see where we can get something to eat. We don’t have any kind of attention from the government.”

He affirmed that the leaders of Los Petules forced Jacinto Sántiz to hand over the card, because of which the 14 million pesos that had not been withdrawn from the bank remained.

The indigenous man emphasized that they were still in Nacimiento “when they bought the weapons. They said that each one of the 66 families acquired one, but we didn’t accept them, only 38 members of the paramilitary gang did.”

He said that: “they are high-caliber weapons, like those that the Army uses. They have contacts because they are part of the ORCAO and they know where to buy them. They use them to attack the inhabitants of El Carrizal (near Nacimiento), belonging to the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS, its initials in Spanish). And they also continue attacking the Zapatistas” in the Moisés Gandhi autonomous zone, located in the area.

He recalled that even before they won the prize “there were already differences between the two groups because we’re not in agreement with what they do.” He pointed out that the 28 displaced families are sheltered “in a safe place (in Ocosingo) because they are looking for us and we can no longer leave the municipal seat.”

He stated that: “if we had not won that raffle, they would not have displaced us because the conflict would have been avoided. We had the bad luck to win that money.”

[1] The Nacimiento ejido is located a few miles south of the Cuxuljá Crossroads, where ORCAO paramilitaries burned and robbed Zapatista coffee warehouses and burned a Zapatista diner in 2020.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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