By: Angeles Mariscal
An increase in drug trafficking and consumption, an increase in homicides and disappearances, regions with curfews imposed by armed people, constant armed attacks on entire communities; in Chiapas, the presence of organized crime skyrocketed, a situation that has set off alarms in organizations and citizens who demand action from State institutions.
The National Citizen Observatory reported that according to the investigation folders registered by the State’s Attorney General and compiled by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, the crime of [local] drug dealing has continued in 2022, “with a pattern of sustained and generalized growth in Chiapas.”
In the month of April alone, the Observatory points out in its most recent report, where it analyzes security and justice statistics, that in Chiapas denunciations of the crime of drug dealing are reported every day, which represents, according to the Observatory, a 400 percent increase in just one month. It adds that there are municipalities with a 2000 percent increase in this crime in the same period of time.
The Network for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in Chiapas (REDIAS), which works to improve conditions for children, provides other data. It refers to San Cristóbal de Las Casas as one of the epicenters of organized crime actions. in that ciudad, on August 11, 2021, the Indigenous Justice prosecutor, Gregorio Pérez Gómez, was murdered; and several more people have died as a result of gunshots fired by members of criminal groups.
REDIAS, also with data con from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, details that in 2021 there were 14 homicides with firearms towards children and adolescents in Chiapas, and five in which so far this year: last February 26, a 15-year old adolescent was murdered with a firearm from a motorcycle in San Cristóbal de las Casas, on February 28, an 8-year old girl died in Ocozocuautla, the victim of crossfire, on May 22, the homicide of a 14-year old occurred in Marqués de Comillas. Added to this is the fact that in the first four months of this year 112 minors under the age of 18 disappeared in Chiapas.
REDIAS refers to the situation in the indigenous zone of Los Altos, where armed violence has impacted community life; just from January to April 2022 there were 1,113 armed attacks on communities in Aldama; on March 26, a 9-year-old girl was hit by bullets in that municipality.
Another case is that of girls and boys who are left orphaned when their parents die doe to armed actions, as happened on February 19, 2022, when a mother of four children was murdered in the center of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
An additional event that is added in the region is that last June 8, Rubén Valdez Díaz, then mayor of Teopisca, a municipality located 30 kilometers from the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, was executed by armed men who shot him in the head, when he was getting into his car outside of his house; the trafficking of persons and arms has increased in this region.
Campesinos, human rights organizations and religious groups are on alert
The National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS, Frente Nacional de Lucha por el Socialismo) rural organization, in a communiqué that it issued this month of June, says: organized crime, drug trafficking and social decomposition are putting the physical and psychological integrity of members of the popular movement and of people in general at risk, especially in the region of Venustiano Carranza, Teopisca, Socoltenango, Comitán de Domínguez and the municipalities on the México-Guatemala border, where the drug trafficking business grows openly, seeks to expand and take root in these regions.
They explain that: “the presence of agents, foreign to the immediate environment, armored cars, intimidating checkpoints and recruitment proposals with payments that exceed the weekly minimum wage by four times (…) sow terror on the towns.”
Inside the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, priests and faithful have added on to the denunciation of the impact that the advance of organized crime is having on the state of Chiapas. In a communiqué, Pueblo Creyente (Believing People) of the Diocese denounced that: “insecurity, violence and territorial dispute provoked by organized crime (…) bring very strong consequences for our municipalities and our peoples, such as narco-politics, drug addiction in the ejidos, the increase of cantinas (bars), car and motorcycle theft and murders.”
In Chicomuselo, one of the municipalities in the border zone with Guatemala, where armed groups have confronted each other, they (the criminals) put up checkpoints where they search people in transit, and impose curfews. Matías Rodríguez Jiménez, the parish priest of Chicomuselo, denounced the criminal groups’ harassment: “five motorcyclists followed me, ambushed the vehicle in which I was traveling and told me: “we know who you are and what you do. Be careful.”
The kidnapping and disappearance of people has become constant in that region; however, family members have not made denunciations in the majority of situations. Matilde (N), of the Pueblo Creyente, denounced in a people of faith meeting that last April when she was riding in a public transport van, “some armed men stopped us, they took the women out, not me, I believe because I am an elderly person. They took them away (three women), their families didn’t find them, we haven’t heard from them again, but there is fear of denouncing.”
The situation, and the calls for help from the population to civil society organizations, summoned human rights defenders, who met in this state last June 1 and 2.
In a statement at the end of the meeting, they pointed out: “the grave panorama of insecurity and violence that exists in the state of Chiapas, in the face of a complex context in which organized crime and armed groups linked to political, agrarian and economic cacicazgo (a chiefdom or group of bosses) act against the civilian population with the acquiescence of authorities of the three levels of government.”
After several days of analysis, the Civil Service for Peace (Ziviler Friedensdienst) of Bread for the World (Brot für die Welt) from Germany, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, Aluna Psychosocial Accompaniment, the University of the Earth Oaxaca, Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Oaxaca Equity, CODIGO DH, as well as Serapaz, argued that it is “impunity that protects and encourages the behavior of criminal and business groups that dispute control of territories, resources and markets.”
Community organization is activated
The organizations that met emphasized that: “despite the widespread violence, the communities continue to stand up, building paths of peace and alternatives to strengthen their autonomy and defend their territory.”
For their part, religious organizations linked to the Diocese of San Cristóbal also made a statement in which they pointed out: as Believing People (Pueblo Creyente) we commit to co-responsibility in the search for community security. Therefore, we will also urgently try to articulate more between areas, instances, groups and organizations, in the search for the Common Good.
In the State’s northern zone, peoples of indigenous origin also decided to reinforce measures that could stop the advance of organized crime groups. In May, people from the municipalities of Jitotol, Pueblo Nuevo, Rincón Chamula, Tapilula, Ixhuatán, Solosuchiapa, Ixtacomitán and Chapultenango protested openly in a peaceful march. Residents of the indigenous part of the jungle zone did the same thing.
During the meetings, their statements have called: “to the municipal authorities we ask that you reflect on the role you are playing in the struggle against violence; because the pact must be with the people and not with organized crime.”
However, the organizations that met June 1 and 2 maintained: “we emphasize the responsibility of the Mexican State in these offenses, whether by commission, omission or acquiescence (…) we urge the Mexican State to guaranty access to justice and truth and to combat the co-optation of authorities in the different levels of government by networks of criminal-political-economic interests. It is essential that you make explicit, beyond discourse, actions aimed at the construction of peace.”
For their part, authorities of the federal and state governments, who hold “security tables” every week, have not issued specific statements about the crisis of which organizations and citizens are warning.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Thursday, June 9, 2022, https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/2022/06/crimen-organizado-crece-en-chiapas-organizaciones-acusan-aquiescencia-de-autoridades/ and Re-Published with English translation by the Chiapas Support Committee