Bishops warn about an increase of narco-violence in Chiapas

A burnt pick-up truck blocks highway in the Chiapas Highlands (Los Altos).

By: Isaín Mandujano

Bishops of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas warned today of an increase in narco-violence in Chiapas and the social decomposition that is being experienced in at least 28 municipalities in the state. In view of that, they asked for the immediate intervention of state and federal authorities to stop the persecution and threats against the civilian population belonging to this struggle for territory, but above all, they demanded that the persecution of human rights defenders stop!

In a press conference, Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez, auxiliary Bishop, Luis Manuel López Alfaro and his pastoral team of this Diocese [1], pointed out today that: “the situation of structural and institutionalized violence with the presence of organized crime, the proliferation of armed groups, some doing the work of shock groups in Chiapas” has been heard strongly as a cry in the desert.

They indicated that “the dispute over territory in Chiapas is deteriorating the social fabric more and more every day, as is excessive exploitation – like the reactivation of mining extraction, illegal sale of wood, stone material and gasoline, as well as the manipulation and dispossession of indigenous peoples’ dignity.

They mentioned that in Chiapas a psychological war, a wave of femicides and other kinds of violence exist that are detrimental to community strength, which increases the criminalization of the struggles and peaceful resistances, as well as of pastoral activities of the Diocese that invite a full conscience about the dignity of the children of God, subjects of law.

The bishops said that it is the role of the Diocese and its pastoral team to do the work of accompaniment in the suffering of the peoples and to seek the true life for them, and that affects the interests of individuals and groups that only look for the maximum profit at any cost, without giving importance to the suffering of the poorest.

Screen shot of the 3 new armed groups that appeared in Pantelhó during March.

“The implementation of the strategies of the political-economic system that governs us has been very clear, when a community organizes to defend its land and territory, to taken care of its community government through its customs and traditions (usos y costumbres), and when, at times, they denounce the injustices that the very same authorities of the communities and municipalities commit,” the bishops indicated.

And the struggles of the peoples in resistance are reacted to with persecution, intimidation, threats and incarceration.

“We worry about the social decomposition that is on the rise due to the generalized violence in towns of the following municipalities: Chicomuselo, Comalapa, Trinitaria, Comitán, Margaritas, Maravilla Tenejapa, Zamora Pico de Oro, Palenque, Salto de Agua, Tila, Yajalón, Chilón, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Tenejapa, Chamula, Chenalhó, Pantelhó, Simojovel, Chalchihuitan, San Cristóbal, Teopisca, Carranza, Las Rosas, Socoltenango, among other municipalities in the Province of Chiapas,” the bishops said. [2]

They added that this reality of insecurity sharpens in some sectors of the population threatened by organized crime groups to enter into the management and commercialization of firearms that are for the exclusive use of the Mexican Army. “A situation that puts the inhabitants at high risk since these groups confront each other in the dispute for territorial control,” they added.

They also denounced the strong impunity that prevails in the state of Chiapas, the increase in insecurity and violence overwhelmed by crime cells, the political-legal system that criminalizes human rights defenders, the lack of access to full justice, the infiltration of people in acts of worship and in meetings of people of faith, the fabrication of crimes, the lack of interest in reconstruction of the social fabric on the part of the competent authorities.

“We demand that the Mexican Government guarantee the lives of the people who live and travel through the State of Chiapas. It is the responsibility of the State to ensure the security and protection of human rights defenders, to respect and take care of Mother Earth, the Territory, to ensure the life and integrity of religious people, priests and pastoral agents of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, because the ministerial exercise of our work within a context of violence makes us vulnerable in the state of Chiapas,” they said in their letter.

And given all this, they asked to stop the threats, persecution and incarceration of those who struggle in defense of land and territory, of those who struggle in defense of water and forests, of those who struggle in defense of the human rights of collectivity.

Translator’s Notes

[1] In order to give proper weight to this statement, it’s important to understand the role that the Diocese of San Cristóbal has played and continues to play within its jurisdiction. Starting with the arrival of Bishop Samuel Ruíz García (1960-2000), an important practitioner of liberation theology and an “option for the poor,” the Diocese has accompanied indigenous peoples in their struggles for land, justice, autonomy and a dignified life, thereby placing their pastoral agents into conflict situations. Bishop Ruíz founded the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), which represents indigenous communities and is an adherent to the EZLN’s Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. Many grassroots indigenous members of the Diocese are highly organized in Pueblo Creyente, an organization experienced in protesting against injustice and demanding peace. In short, a statement from the Diocese of San Cristóbal is highly regarded in Chiapas and provides a counterweight to the government.

[2] The Mexican state of Chiapas has 124 municipalities. The municipalities enumerated herein appear to all be within the geographical limits of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, which is in the eastern part of the state. Chiapas also has the Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutiérrez and the Diocese of Tapachula.

Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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