Day 10 – Palenque, Chiapas: First health, food and justice, not a train that is not Maya

The El Sur Resiste | The South Resists Caravan arrived at its last stop, Palenque, Chiapas, before the start of the “International Gathering El Sur Resiste 2023,” which will take place on May 6 and 7 in the Jacinto Canek Caracol. In Palenque, we held a march and rally against the discrimination, criminalization, and imposition of megaprojects on the Indigenous Peoples in Chiapas.

The march had the broad participation of compañeros and compañeras from several communities in the region, who carried banners and signs demanding respect for the right to land and territory of Indigenous Peoples, and denouncing the imposition of megaprojects in the region.

Upon arriving at the main esplanade of Palenque, the rally begins in which the organizations Coordinator of Indigenous Social Organizations CDLI-Xinich; Relatives of victims, survivors and disappeared of the Viejo Velasco massacre in the Lacandón Jungle; Toblej Yu’un Wokoltik; UCISECH; Maya Autonomous Villages “OPAM”; National Network of Civil Resistance POMACA; SADEC; CAM; CNI-Palenque; Pakal-Na National Network; IXIM Ansetik; among others, share their word and testimony about the violence and discrimination they suffer from the Mexican State, and about the resistance of their communities.

Complete impunity in the Viejo Velasco Massacre

The relatives and victims of the Viejo Velasco massacre, in the municipality of Ocosingo, which occurred in 2006, denounced that the investigations during these 16 years have been completely “inefficient and ineffective” and that two of their compañeros, Antonio Peñate López and Mariano Pérez Guzmán, remain missing to this day.

The massacre of Viejo Velasco ended in the murder of 6 people extrajudicially executed, one of them, María Núñez González was pregnant, plus 2 people disappeared and 36 forcibly displaced people.

To this day, the Government of Mexico has refused to acknowledge the massacre despite the fact that it was perpetrated by the paramilitary group Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC), accompanied by State Police and other public servants.

Currently, 36 people from the Viejo Velasco community are in forced displacement without any guarantee for their return and four members of the Committee for the Defense of Xinich Indigenous Freedoms have pending arrest warrants, unjustly accused of committing the massacre.

“They mercilessly killed our sisters and brothers; others took them away tied up and dragged them like animals in the middle of the night in the Lacandón Jungle.”

Photography: Gabriela Sanabria.

Resounding rejection of the Maya Train

During the rally, the organizations expressed their rejection of the works of the Maya Train that are planned in this region.

The Palenque station is part of Section 1, which will reach Escárcega, Campeche. The latest reports from the Mexican authorities in charge of construction, have announced 80% progress in this section, including the train station in Palenque and a center around it inspired by the mask of Pakal.


The complex will have an area of one thousand 112 meters of boulevard, which will have six lanes, a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path. It will have a new long-distance train, operated by Alstom Mexico with a capacity of 260 passengers.

During the rally, the Mayan and Zoque organizations present expressed the following reasons for rejecting the project, some of which include violations of their rights as Indigenous peoples:

  1. The Native Peoples were not consulted in accordance with the law, thus violating the law of consultation with Indigenous Peoples and international treaties.
  2. The real owners of the Maya Train are big foreign economic powers and transnational corporations.
  3. The Maya Train will bring poverty, dispossession of lands and territories, and when we defend our land, we end up in prison or dead.
  4. Because the project will make our children and grandchildren leave the villages to work in exploitive jobs, for a miserable wage and without social security.
  5. Because of the pollution and destruction of all living things, water, plants, forests and animals.
The sign reads: “The People united will never be defeated. It’s a time for struggle, It’s time to continue the path, it’s our time. Photo: Gabriela Sanabria.

The Maya and Zoque Peoples also mentioned the lack of health services, hospitals and other services in the region. They pointed out as hypocrisy and discrimination that trains are built for tourists before health services for communities.

Be a little ashamed Mr. President López Obrador, the only thing you could think of is a train and not a hospital for the peoples, which is a historical requirement.”

They demand Freedom for Political Prisoner of Manuel Gómez Vázquez

The Ajmaq Network of Resistances and Rebellion participated in the Palenque forum, with the reading of a statement on the situation of arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Manuel Gómez Vásquez, a young Maya-Tseltal peasant of 22 years, who was a support base of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional).

On December 4, 2020, Manuel was arrested by an armed civilian group, which tortured him physically and psychologically to deliver him the next day to the Prosecutor’s Office to incriminate him for a crime he did not commit, to date he has been deprived of his liberty for 2 years and 3 months, without a sentence or a fair process.

Manuel is originally from the Ricardo Flores Magón Autonomous Rebel Zapatista Municipality, Caracol IX, in Ocosingo, Chiapas. He is currently being held at the State Center for the Social Reintegration of Sentenced Persons No. 16.

The Good Government Junta and the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center have indicated that his imprisonment is due to his work as a Zapatista support base, since the Prosecutor’s Office lacks evidence to accuse him.

In a public complaint, the Good Government Junta stated the following:

“For bad governments, being Zapatista is a crime punishable by slander, persecution, jail and death.”

The call is for national and international solidarity to join the demand for freedom for Manuel Gómez Vázquez.

“Immediate liberty for Manuel Gómez Vázquez.” Photo: Gabriela Sanabria.

At the end of the day, we leave for San Cristóbal de las Casas to prepare the “International Gathering El Sur Resiste | The South Resists 2023”, where communities from all over the Mexican southeast and throughout the country, as well as independent media, civil society and human rights organizations, will take stock of all the testimonies, evidence and information obtained during the El Sur Resiste | The South Resists Caravan. The objective will be to articulate actions and strengthen networks to confront the policy of death and megaprojects of the bad Mexican government.

Originally Published in Spanish by El Sur Resiste, Friday, May 5, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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