They deny return to those displaced from Santa Martha, and accuse them of killing 6

Camp of Displaced Persons in Polhó. Photo: Ángeles Mariscal.

By: Ángeles Mariscal

Residents of Santa Martha, Chenalhó [those who remain there), accused the group of more than 30 families that were displaced from that community of breaking an agreement for the distribution of lands and murdering six of their opponents. In this place, both groups are pointed to as making use of arms to seize the lands that were previously in the hands of their neighbors of Chalchiuitán and Aldama, and now dispute between them.

Meanwhile more families continue fleeing from Santa Martha across the mountains, the people who remain in the Santa Martha ejido, made up of 22 communities, announced their version of the events.

In a communication they relate that the communal property assembly had determined since last June, that the hectares that used to be in the possession of Chalchiuitán and Aldama were going to be distributed among 195 communal members. However, “60 heavily armed people were dissatisfied and began to take up arms … They ambushed members of the commission.”

Faced with that, the communal members (comuneros) detained 10 people, delivered them to the Prosecutor’s office, “but they went free and that same month they murdered a campesino by the name of Santos Sántiz Álvarez.”

They accuse Juan Ruiz Ruiz of that, “the leader of the dissident armed group.” It’s important to remember that this person and those who refused to distribute the land were expelled from the community since June, but not their families, who remained in Santa Martha until they began to flee through the mountains after their homes were burned, last September 29.

The comuneros of Santa Martha say that three days before the families left, they held a new assembly in which the men’s return was accepted, as long as they would pay for some damages that the community adjudicated.

But on the 29th, “the armed group tried to poison the spring from which all the inhabitants of Santa Martha drink; when they were caught, they fired their weapons and in their flight they killed Julio Díaz Gómez and Alfredo Díaz Díaz.”

According to this version, upon seeing this, the comuneros, “armed with sticks and stones,” chased the armed ones and in the confrontation, the now displaced group murdered Felipe Hernández Gómez and Juan Ruíz López; later they also murdered Juan Ruiz Morales and Juan Sántiz Álvarez. In total, they accuse them that in the most recent onslaught they killed 6 community members.

Because of the events described, the community members of Santa Martha asked that the displaced and their families not return. “Since the departure of the armed group there is an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, so far no other incident has been recorded,” they said.

They added that “peace is being constructed so that the inhabitants go out to work their lands without fear of the group that took care of the 22 hectares adjacent to Chalchiuitán and the 27 hectares that border on Aldama.”

The displacements continue

Those displaced from Santa Martha are outdoors in precarious conditions.

This Monday (October 10), while the comuneros were giving their version of events, more expelled families from Santa Martha fled across the mountains, until arriving at the camp of displaced persons located in the town of Polhó. [1]

The displaced families and the men accuse the Santa Martha comuneros of being the ones who are armed, and of having murdered several of their compañeros, in the framework of the recent confrontation.

Juan Ruiz Ruiz, alleged “leader of the armed group,” who is now in the camp for displaced persons located in the town of Polhó, in an interview held shortly after the displacements, he identified as a “defender of the land” and acknowledged that he had fought for it against his neighbors in Chalchiuitán and Aldama.

On these facts, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) said that: “in several areas of Chiapas there is a crisis of violence, diverse civilian actors use firearms as a mechanism of political, territorial and economic control,” and Chenalhó is one of them.

[1] El Heraldo de Chiapas reports that there are now 52 displaced families (212 people).

Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, October 11, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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