Tseltal march demands the freedom of imprisoned and persecuted leaders

César and José Luis face trial on September 27, when their sentence will be determined. Photo: Chiapas Paralelo.

By: Isaín Mandujano

More than a thousand Catholic men and women from the Tseltal region of Chilón held a march-procession to demand the freedom of nine community leaders, two from that region, five from San Juan Cancuc and two from Pantelhó, as well as the parish priest Marcelo Pérez Pérez.

Convinced, they said that they were marching for peace and the construction of justice, as the Mexican Episcopate, the Conference of Major Superiors of the Religious of Mexico, the National Council of the Laity and the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus have called on them to do; that’s why they took to the streets in Bachajón, municipality of Chilón, to demand justice for the imprisoned and persecuted community leaders.

On September 27, a judge at the Ocosingo prison will sentence two community leaders, José Luis Gutiérrez Hernández and César Hernández Feliciano, who were arrested on October 15, 2020 for participating in a protest.

They also marched and demanded justice for the prisoners from San Juan Cancuc and Pantelhó, as well as for the cancellation of the arrest warrant against Father Marcelo.

Although José Luis and César were conditionally released after being indicted, they face criminal proceedings and trial, but they are afraid that the sentence will harm them: “On October 15, 2020, these brothers, legitimately and in full exercise of their right to demonstrate, went out to protest peacefully, along with other residents, finding as a response, a brutal repression and the loss of their freedom.”

César Hernández Feliciano and José Luis Gutiérrez Hernández. Photo: Frayba.

On that occasion, thanks to the solidarity of the human rights defense organizations that intervened, they were released from prison on November 1, 2020, but with the condition of continuing their criminal case and presenting themselves periodically to the Ocosingo Control Court. They face so much injustice. That’s why they demonstrated today to demand their absolute freedom.

Similarly, as Believing People of the Chab team from the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, five more community leaders from San Juan Cancuc denounced the arbitrary deprivation of freedom. They are: Manuel Santis Cruz, Agustín Pérrez Domínguez, Juan Velasco Aguilar, Agustín Pérez Velasco and Martín Pérez Domínguez.

They also demanded a just review of the case of two other community leaders from Pantelhó being held in El Amate Prison: Pedro Cortés López and Diego Mendoza Cruz. They also demanded the definitive cancellation of the arrest warrant for the parish priest Marcelo Pérez Pérez, “whose innocence is evident,” they alleged.

Pedro Cortés López (forefront) reads a communiqué from the municipal council of Pantelhó. Photo: Proceso.

“These arrests try to repress the just complaints of our peoples and place obstacles in the way of peace in our territories. The criminalization of these brothers of ours has been due to defending the rights of the Native peoples, as well as their territory and their customs, a vital sustenance of our communities,” the indigenous people said at a rally at the end of the march.

They called on all the national and international human rights organizations to be attentive and be actively in solidarity with these cases of criminalization, “which add to the persecution of those who seek peaceful paths with justice and dignity for the Native peoples.”

Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Wednesday, September 21, 2022, https://chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2022/09/march-procesion-de-tseltales-para-exigir-la-libertad-de-lideres-comunitarios-presos-y-perseguidos/ and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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