Indigenous people: Impunity and social decomposition

The City of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

By: Magdalena Gómez

On April 4, 2023, the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas issued a very strong communication directed at the three levels of government. Unfortunately, its central thesis coincides with what happens in other regions of the country: We are worried about the social decomposition that is increasing due to generalized violence in the towns and municipalities. During this time, we have heard loudly like a cry in the desert the situation of structural and institutionalized violence with the presence of organized crime, the proliferation of armed groups, some doing the task of shock groups. The territorial dispute that is increasingly deteriorating the social fabric, the excessive exploitation of natural resources (reactivation of mining extraction; illegal sale of wood, stone material, gasoline, etc.) the manipulation and the stripping of the dignity of our peoples, psychological warfare, femicides, the detriment of community strength, the criminalization of peaceful struggles and resistance. Four days later, a shootout broke out in San Cristóbal de las Casas, presumably by one of the criminal groups, and the SEDENA and the National Guard responded with an operation that they called détente while the authorities have remained silent.

Let’s just put, for example, two recent cases. One in the country’s north and others on the coast of Michoacán. Regarding the murders in June 2022 in Cerocahui, municipality of Urique in the Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua, of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos and Joaquín Mora, in addition to Pedro Palma and Paul Berrelleza, the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus has expressed its concern because the investigations have not made relevant progress and impunity continues.

The case has transcended our borders. On February 1, when granting precautionary measures in favor of 11 Jesuits from Cerocahui, Chihuahua, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the Mexican government to protect the lives of the religious, considering that they are in a serious and urgency. In June 2022, it pointed out, two Jesuit priests were murdered in a church in Cerocahui, Urique municipality, and their bodies were taken by armed individuals. The attack and the theft of the corpses was attributed to the criminal leader José Noriel Portillo, El Chueco.

Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora.

The Jesuits have suffered threats and aggressions on the part of organized crime groups, which prevents them from developing normal pastoral activities and activities of support to the communities in the zone. Recent news officially confirmed the death of the one who executed the crimes, José Noriel Portillo Gil, El Chueco, does not mean justice. Rather, it appears as a probable adjusting of accounts between criminal gangs, the Company of Jesus and the Diocese of Tarahumara pointed out. The case remains open.

Let’s go to Michoacán and without stopping in Guerrero, which also calls for attention. On January 12, the community guards of Santa María Ostula Isaul Nemecio Zambrano, Miguel Estrada Reyes, and Rolando Mauno Zambrano were murdered; three days later, on January 15, the human rights defender Ricardo Lagunes, lawyer for the Nahua community of Aquila, and the community leader of Aquila, Antonio Díaz went missing. Their truck was found with traces of violence and to date there is no further news.

The murdered community guards of Santa María Ostula: Rolando, Isaul and Miguel.

The case of Eustacio Alcalá Díaz was the most recent assassination in the same area where he was a Nahua defender of the territory and the environment. Through his leadership, the community of San Juan Huitzontla, in the municipality of Chinicuila, Michoacán, managed to obtain the suspension of various mining concession titles delivered without respecting the right of their community to give their free, prior and informed consent. He was kidnapped by an armed group on April 1 and his body was found three days later.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, April 11, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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