Violence against civil rights defenders in Chiapas worries the Frayba

Simón Pedro Pérez López.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen, Envoy

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas

In the midst of the marked increase of violence and activities of criminal groups that afflict Chiapas, threats and attacks against defenders of human rights and territory are a worrisome aspect.

In the first place, in recent days, one year has passed since the executionby sicarios (hired killers) in the middle of a street in Simojovel of the leader of Las Abejas of Acteal, Simón Pedro. His murder took place in a context of criminality unleashed on Chenalhó and Pantelhó, municipalities of Los Altos (the Highlands) where conflicts between armed groups, and their attacks on the civilian and peaceful population are recurrent.

In another case, the unusual threats and attacks on international observation brigades led the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) to close, for the first time in 28 years, a camp in which to protect national and international observers.

Since November 2019, New Town San Gregorio, on territory recuperated in 1994 by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), has been constantly attacked by a group from the nearby San Andrés Puerto Rico, Duraznal y Rancho Alegre villages, who invaded 155 hectares (382 acres) of collective territory in Lucio Cabañas autonomous municipality.

Nuevo Poblado San Gregorio.

A little more than a year ago, one of the Civilian Observation Brigades (Bricos, their Spanish acronym) was installed there, and, so far this year, has already documented 21 aggressions against the Zapatista families of Nuevo San Gregorio: “Intimidations, threats of death, sexual violence and torture; physical assaults, theft of cattle and destruction of property; water cuts, surveillance; obstruction, control and charging for free transit, as well as kidnapping people. The territory has been fenced off with barbed wire, thereby denying the right to a dignified life, food, health and education.”

In the middle of June, the aggressor group increased its actions and also issued “serious threats against the Bricos.” Frayba points out that the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons, both from the United Nations, have already been informed, as well as the embassies in Mexico whose citizens were in the community.

The omission of the State aggravates the risks

Even so, it points out that: “the three levels of government maintain a deadly silence.” The “omission” of the State to attend to this situation “aggravates the risk to life, safety and integrity of the population, as well as of the members of the Bricos.”

A man in Aldama looks over protective barriers towards Santa Martha, where the paramilitary group operates in Chenalhó.

Frayba also lists the cases of police and judicial persecution of defenders, which in the current conditions of violence and impunity in the region have deepened. “The justice system in Chiapas intimidates and criminalizes defenders,” as happened with five social fighters from San Juan Cancuc, who oppose the militarization of their territory and the imposition of megaprojects, and with the recent request for an arrest warrant against the Catholic priest Marcelo Pérez Pérez, “issued by the Attorney General’s Office on June 21,” in direct relation “to his actions of walking peace and taking care of the house in the region of Los Altos. “

The environment of judicial harassment and criminalization, “in which the state government is complicit, it does nothing but fuel the desire for a good, dignified life and to continue building paths for peace.” It’s appropriate to add Cristóbal Santiz, defender of Aldama, where the paramilitaries of Chenalhó do not stop shooting; after being imprisoned, he remains under house arrest on unproven charges.

Another case of criminalization of defenders occurred on October 15, 2020, when Tseltals from Chilón peacefully demonstrated against the construction of a National Guard barracks in their territory. “During the operation, community activists César and José Luis were arrested, and they were victims of torture and mistreatment.” On October 17, César and José Luis were transferred expressly from the regional prison of Ocosingo to El Amate de Cintalapa, without prior notification to the defense. “

Pueblo Creyente makes a pilgrimage (marches) to the Chiapas prison to demand the release of the community defenders from San Juan CANCUC, who are unjustly imprisoned.

In the aforementioned case of Cancuc, where community fighters were accused of murder, the Frayba demands “a real, effective, scientific investigation that exhausts all lines of investigation to clarify the death of Antonio Aguilar Pérez. “

Likewise, “that this unfortunate event is not used to criminalize defenders of whose innocence there are multiple witnesses,” and that “the authorities do not take advantage of this event to polarize the population.”

Taken together, the documented facts lead the Frayba to declare that: “there is a systematic practice by which prosecutors fabricate versions of the facts beyond an exhaustion of possible lines of investigation, and evidence is invented to force their theory of each case. This malpractice usually includes the indictment of innocent people, a pattern that in turn is endorsed by the State’s Judicial Power.”

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, August 9, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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