Las Abejas of Acteal: Violence against Tzotzils continues 25 years after the massacre

Las Abejas (The Bees) demonstrates in front of Chenalhó government offices.

By: Sare Frabes

Last Thursday (10), days before the 25th anniversary of the Acteal Massacre, members of the Civil Society Organization Las Abejas de Acteal demonstrated peacefully to denounce the violence that different communities are currently experiencing in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the Chiapas Highlands.

It was in front of the Chenalhó municipal offices where the indigenous Tzotziles protested against the criminalization of and aggressions against their members. This is the case of families in towns such as Campo Los Toros and Bach’en, who, for the simple fact of belonging to their organization, at different times during 2022, have had their water and electricity services cut.

The Tzotzil organization pointed out that the aggressions come from partisan people from different communities within Chenalhó municipality who violate the rights of Las Abejas families due to their work of denouncing the Acteal Massacre as a State crime.

“We come here in the municipal seat of Chenalhó, to warn the municipal president Abraham Cruz Gómez and his entire city council, not to follow the example and path taken by his predecessor in 1997,” they said during the protest.

Las Abejas contextualized that in October 1997 a commission warned the then PRI municipal president of Chenalhó, Jacinto Arias Cruz, about the paramilitary aggressions against his organization, who ignored the complaints and accused the Indians of “being provocateurs and of being Zapatistas.”

Las Abejas of Acteal. Photo from La Jornada archives.

“This mayor of Chenalhó, instead of praying for peace and cooling violence, his paramilitaries were burning houses and firing their high-caliber weapons against Las Abejas whom he later massacred on December 22,” they said about the actions of the mayor who was arrested after the massacre and released in 2013.

Las Abejas de Acteal emphasized that, as in the past, the current events are cases of emergency and gravity, “which can constitute situations of forced displacement as have occurred in the Río Jordán neighborhood of the Miguel Utrilla Los Chorros neighborhood and in the Puebla neighborhood.”

At the same time, they blamed these actions on “PRI and Cardenista paramilitaries who have now switched to the Green Ecologist Party and remain unpunished. They are also bothered by our resistance and rejection of the bad government’s welfare programs.”

That’s why they demanded that the municipal president of Chenalhó and the municipal council authorities restore services to families who have been suffering from the deprivation of their basic rights for months. “The reasons for the cuts of water and electricity made by the partisans, have not only happened in the communities already mentioned, but it has become a recurrent practice to exert pressure and aggression to our peaceful struggle and resistance,” denounced the organization through a statement read at the demonstration.

Indigenous women push soldiers out of the X’oyep refugee camp in this famous 1997 photo by Pedro Valtierra.


One of the aggressions indicated is about the imprisonment, on October 14 in the Puebla neighborhood, of Francisco Arias Cruz, a member of Las Abejas who was deprived of his freedom for eight hours and was released after the imposition of a fine of 10 thousand pesos.

Another reported case is that of the Nuevo Yibeljoj community. This town was founded in 2000 after the relocation of families from Las Abejas who were displaced in Camp X’oyep, due to the counterinsurgency war in Chiapas.

According to Las Abejas, in 2008, a group of people from the community were co-opted by government officials to cause division among families. Derived from this situation, the dissident group resorted to procedures to modify the name of the community and currently “denies the recognition and respect of the rights of our comrades to make use of the space to build their meeting house and autonomous school exclusively for Las Abejas,” said the Tzotzil organization.

The indigenous Tzotzils pointed out that the municipal president, as well as his agents use strategies of wear and tear [intended to cause exhaustion in the communities in resistance]. “For example, they schedule a date and at the hour of the meeting they leave us in the lurch, and that has happened time after time. The last time the municipal president canceled an appointment for the case of Nuevo Yibeljoj, he argued that there was a problem in Santa Martha, but in reality, it’s that he has no will to bring peace to Chenalhó,” they said.

Las Abejas de Acteal detailed that since the 1997 Massacre, the people of Chenalhó were divided as a result of the counterinsurgency war of the Chiapas 94 Campaign Plan in the context of the Zapatista Uprising.

The indigenous Tzotzils pointed out that, from then on, the Chenalhó municipal council, “which previously served as authorities who watched over life and had the responsibility of maintaining the respect and balance of all its inhabitants, has now become the simple servant of the bad governments and delivers its people into the hands of Death.”

Originally Published in Spanish by Avispa Midia, Sunday, November 27, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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