Chiapas Support Committee

Tila, political bosses, paramilitaries and autonomy

A view of Tila, Chiapas, Mexico. The church of the Black Christ rises in the background.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

For centuries, the Lord of Tila has been venerated with fervor. On the Feasts of Corpus Christi, the Holy Cross, in Holy Week and the miraculous renewal of January 15, thousands of devoted faithful celebrate him. Their devotion to him goes beyond borders. Each year, they travel from Central America, Tabasco, Campeche and Veracruz to worship him.

Singers like Chico Che, Joan Sebastian and José Manuel Figueroa revered him.

Tila, the place where the ebony image is found, known as the land of miracles, is simultaneously an ejido, a town and a municipality in the state of Chiapas. Unfortunately, it’s a place of passage not only for religious pilgrimages, but also a route through which undocumented migrants, arms and drugs coming from Central America travel.

Since the end of 1994, northern Chiapas is known not only for being the ceremonial site of the Black Christ, but also for the bloody violence unleashed in its municipalities and communities by the paramilitary group Desarrollo, Paz y Justicia (Development, Peace and Justice). Although the organization born of Solidaridad Campesino-Magisterial (Peasant-Teacher Solidarity) formally split, and gave rise to two different groupings, which they baptized as the Union of Indigenous, Agricultural and Forest Communities (Uciaf, its initials in Spanish) and the Organization of Peasant Agricultural Producers (Opac), they continue acting with official protection as armed civilians.

The church of the Black Christ, el Señor de Tila.

Despite the years that have passed since then, attacks on the rebel Chols don’t stop. Just last September 11, paramilitaries attacked a demonstration of Tila ejido owners with firearms. At least two people died.

The conflict is not in essence a problem between poor people or between indigenous people; nor is it a religious or inter-community problem. Its matrix is different. In Tila there is a terrible fiefdom (cacicazgo) [1], linked, among other forces, to the Chiapas family that, with different party initials, governs the state and the counterinsurgency policy against autonomic processes of the Zapatistas and of the peoples who belong to the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI).

The Petalcingo architect and builder Límberg Gregorio Gutiérrez Gómez and his wife, Sandra Luz Cruz Espinosa, originally from Pijijiapan, head the cacicazgo in Tila. With the initials of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM, its initials in Spanish) they have held the municipal presidency, directly or through their family members, without interruption since the 2008-2010 period (https://bit.ly/2ZS7A5K).

Before that date, Límberg –then a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)– served as director Public Works during the mayoralty of Juan José Díaz Solórzano (2005-07), involved with Paz y Justicia. They accused him of using the budget to finance his political campaign for mayor, leaving various projects in bad condition and others unfinished.

He concluded his first period as municipal president with “ranches, registered cattle, quarter horses, residences, luxury vehicles and public transportation concessions for the Salto de Agua-to-Palenque routes.” His wife Sandra replaced him between 2011 and 2012 (https://bit.ly/3mxvw7Y). The Good Government Junta of the Zapatista Caracol That Speaks for All denounced death threats, robberies, damage to private property and dispossessions against the San Patricio community, on the part of paramilitaries of Paz y Justicia and its derivatives.

Límberg was elected mayor again for the period 2012-15, in the midst of accusations of vote buying, fraud and violence (with several injured and one dead among supporters of the Greens and the PRIístas).

For the 2015-18 administration, the architect puts his cousin, Professor Edgar Leopoldo Gómez Gutiérrez, as mayor and his wife Sandra Luz Cruz Espinosa as local deputy, both for the Green Party. Finally, arguing gender parity, the Greens nominated as its candidate Juanita Fabiola Velázquez, who, after winning, asked for an indefinite leave of absence so that her cousin Límberg would become the municipal president, later accused by various communities of robbery (https://bit.ly/2Hc93x2).

To reinforce his dominance, Límberg again became the municipal president of Tila for the period 2018-21. For this, he has the support of builders (he himself is accused of being one), transporters, merchants, ranchers, paramilitaries of Paz y Justicia and its derivatives, the Chiapas family and the forces of order.

The cacique has confronted with everything, paramilitaries and terror included, the Ch’ol ejido owners of Tila, the Zapatista support bases and the pastoral agents that recuperated the Tila ejido, expelled the municipality from its territory on December 16, 2015 and began to govern itself without asking permission.

Besides refusing to enter the Program of Certification of Ejido Rights and Titling of Urban Parcels (Procede), the Tila ejido owners have won, one after the other, the legal battles that they have undertaken in order to return to their hands the 130 hectares of the Legal Fund, which the municipal council has sought to take away from them.

The agrarian controversy in Tila is not only an issue of land; it’s also a dispute to confront the power of the caciques, to stop privatization of the land, reconstitute the Ch’ol people, construct autonomy and resist the counterinsurgency policy.

[1] Cazicazgo – A group of political and economic bosses (caciques) that dominate political and economic power in a region; in Chiapas, that could be a municipality or a micro-region.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/22/opinion/017a1pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

Chiapas: the law of déjà vu

Kitchen of the displaced Tsotsil Mayas in Aldama, Chiapas, 2020. Photo: Luis Enrique Aguilar

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

Governments may change, but the counterinsurgency war against the people in Chiapas is ongoing; and judging by the events of recent months in the mountains of Maya territories, in 2020 it worsened on a scale not seen for years. Since 1994, five presidents and three political parties have filed through the federal government, and in the state, eight official governors from five parties. The great militarization continues around and within the indigenous communities, as the profound demands for self-determination that gave rise to the Zapatista uprising that year remain unfulfilled. The legitimate autonomy of the autonomous Zapatista municipalities is neither recognized nor respected; in the same vein, extractive activities, agro-industry, infrastructure and tourism projects move forward in spite of the indigenous communities, rebellious or not, in the Highlands, the northern zone, the Lacandón Jungle and the border region of the Jungle.

What has been seen in recent months, particularly during July and August, confirms that the same counterinsurgency manuals of a quarter a century ago are still being applied (with some adjustments for the local context) that the Pentagon generated for its war in Vietnam and against the Guatemalan revolution: “winning hearts and minds” and establishing local armed groups that erode and combat popular resistance.

Given the rhetoric of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government, the concept of resistance of the people must seem unwieldy. If things have “changed,” what need do the Native peoples have to resist? But neither centralist voluntarism nor magical-ideological thinking are enough. Nothing beats out reality, and the facts speak for themselves. In these weeks of 2020, the feeling that we have already seen the succession of events that are unfolding in indigenous Chiapas is inevitable.

New-old forms of co-optation, divisionism, control and chaos are deployed across the territory by the centralism of the Secretariats of Welfare and Agriculture, operated by the same local political class as always, and oiled by the shameful neo-indigenism of the new-old National Institute for the Development of Indigenous Peoples.

Meanwhile, we are witnessing the intensification of conflicts, or rather, of aggressive actors who take advantage of new and old territorial disputes between peoples, propelled by the paramilitary groups born during the Zedillo administration in Chenalhó, Tila, Chilón and Ocosingo. The perpetrators of the Acteal massacre are in force among the new armed forces, now publicly presented and televised, which are relentlessly attacking a dozen and a half communities in the neighboring municipality of Aldama, in the Tsotsil Highlands.

Similarly, in the Chol region, a group that never died has been recycled, only changing in its acronym and partisan contributions, colloquially known as Peace and Justice. In Tseltal lands, those Chinchulines of Chilón, as well as the failed “guerrilla group” called MIRA in the jungle of Ocosingo, rise again from their ashes, today through an alleged quesque revolutionary indigenous “army,” which up to now is known only to the media.

Add to this the renewed raids by organizations long ago absorbed by the government. In military terms, in Chiapas the same powers of the supreme government continue, be it the PRI, PAN, PRD or Morena. We see this in the aggressiveness of an organization once in resistance, a decomposed Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO) that operates between Oxchuc and Ocosingo against the support bases of the EZLN and other independent organizations. With repeated violence, particularly by ORCAO truck drivers, they gained visibility with the burning and looting of a grain (coffee bean) warehouse in the autonomous municipality of Lucio Cabañas at the Cuxuljá crossroads on August 22. This organization disputes land recovered after the 1994 uprising; even though it abandoned the resistance years ago, it has endorsed successive governments and linked itself to criminals in the region.

Of all these events and their ramifications, the most disconcerting is that which concerns San Pedro Chenalhó and its explicit paramilitary groups, the only side to which the Mexican State and its civilian satellite organizations give credit in the revived territorial conflicts with the municipalities of Chalchihuitán and Aldama which have resulted in deaths, wounded people, the looting of villages and crops, robberies, terrorism, dispossession, and finally, the forced displacement of hundreds of indigenous people in these two municipalities (and sometimes within Chenalhó, since in the region of Los Chorros and Ejido Puebla, hostility against Las Abejas de Acteal is manifest, although under the guise of “religious differences”).

In the same vein we find the forced but much publicized “amicable agreement” of the government, in relation for the Acteal Massacre that took place in 1997, signed with a minority split-off from the original group of survivors of Las Abejas de Acteal, put in place by the regime.

The paramilitary structures of that time remain intact, without ever having seized a single weapon from the paramilitaries (whose weapons are growing). The intellectual perpetrators remain unpunished, as does the federal army, which encouraged, financed and trained these “armed civilians.” The September 3 agreement with the Secretary of Governance, as in the case of the 43 disappeared and murdered students of Ayotzinapa, which “will get to the bottom [of the case]” without touching the armed forces, that is, without touching the bottom.

The growing danger of the violence exerted from the community of Santa Martha against the inhabitants of the region traditionally known as Magdalena (formerly part of San Andrés Larráinzar, and since 1999 the official municipality of Aldama, to limit Zapatista autonomy in the heart of the most traditional Tsotsil world; it should be remembered that the municipal seat of San Andrés has been occupied since the 1990s by the autonomous Zapatista civilian government, and in response the paramilitary government of Roberto Albores Guillén split San Andrés Sakamch’en de Los Pobres, as the Zapatistas call it, in three by creating Aldama and Santiago El Pinar).

Additionally, making the necessary changes, the Lopez Obrador regime repeats and even escalates the discursive hostility against the civil and human rights organizations that take evidence from the people who are persecuted, violated or in resistance. At this point in the century we are also talking about defenders of territory and the environment, of the political rights of the original peoples to be guardians of their own security and to exercise community self-government.

With a devious logic, the president tried to expose human rights centers, media and civil organizations as destabilizing entities, financed by the “Gold of the Foreigners,” whose avid purpose is to oppose the great mega-projects of his government. With this, he “puts them,” as we saw in the painful case of Samir Flores murdered in Amilcingo, Morelos. He already criminalized them with a white glove on the mouth of his acting commissioner Jesús Ramírez Cuevas on August 28, when he “exposed ” the team at Indignation, the Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil, and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law. These organizations legitimately participate in the peaceful opposition to the so-called “Maya Train” (which, by the way, would also pass through the northern strip of Chiapas, a very attractive tourist area, rich in unique natural resources and spoils from the cutting-edge agro-industries that “Vice President” Alfonso Romo likes so much; his business interest has no qualms about attracting and taking advantage of foreign and transnational capital, more affiliated indeed with the power of Washington than the foundations demonized by the president).

In this vein, independent civil organizations, of an “inconvenient” nature, are today as much or more undesirable than in the times of Zedillo and Albores. As has been the case for decades in Chiapas for the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center, they are targets of military intelligence, susceptible to threats and smear campaigns.

Chenalhó’s escalation against Aldama follows a disturbingly similar pattern to that of the 1997 crisis of paramilitary violence. Displacements of families left in conditions of helplessness and fear, forced by gunfire to leave their homes and plots of land. They survive in precariousness, hunger and cold. The State does not take care of their health, security or food, except for the supply of processed food and flour which has little nutritional value but is profitable in terms of propaganda.

Armed men dressed in black concentrate at strategic points, shoot down the slopes, they hole up and cross the border river without the state police or the National Guard (that is, the federal army) doing anything to stop them. (Ah, but one day they dismantled the barricades of the attackers, and so on.) Instead, it is the paramilitaries who disarm the police, withdraw the docile National Guard, and take over the disputed territory. They shoot, wound, slander, and persecute “the others” (people like the ones the reader can see here in Luis Enrique Aguilar’s photographs). It is not a macabre fantasy to fear a new massacre like those that took place in Los Altos and the northern part of Chiapas between 1996 and 1998. We have already seen the scenario.

Meanwhile, the federal government establishes friendly agreements with some victims of the past and presents them as the core of its policy of détente, without the Armed Forces assuming any historical responsibility. Meanwhile, violence is repeated, and their alliance with the caciques (political-economic bosses) of Chenalhó is not very different from the one famously maintained by Zedillo and General Mario Renán Castillo, insofar as militarization is maintained. For the displaced Indigenous people, the political parties just change their names.

BY WAY OF A CODA

 To the indigenous people things are given, granted, and “fulfilled” (as long as they are not the San Andres Accords, of course). Nothing is expected of them except their gratitude. They are never considered worthy of governing themselves, or deciding about their territories and their world. They are recruited electorally, they are not listened to. And if they don’t conform to the State, they are repressed, denied, maligned and criminalized.

Resistance, legitimate as it is, continues to be illegitimate for the Mexican State, which consequently does not accept any real autonomy, despite the fact that there are even international standards. Self-determination, appropriate forms of justice, government, education and health are anathema to the imaginary Mexico (as Guillermo Bonfil said), today represented by the dominant capitalist classes and a personalist and centralist government.

Indigenous resistances will not cease to emerge beyond the erosion and permanent negation on the part of the State. We see this in the Chimalapas, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Yucatan peninsula, Morelos, the Purepecha Plateau, Atenco, the mountains of Guerrero. Not only in Chiapas. As in all wars, even the “soft” ones, the State only thinks about the defeat of its enemy. That here would be internal, but it is not even recognized as an enemy. The Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress have spoken of a prolonged “war of extermination,” which happens, as revealed by the management of mining and tourism concessions, and of the six-year mega-projects that the government imposes, presenting them as virtuous by exposing them to real or media violence. Yes, they are good business for the investors and would create “sources of work” that would de-populate the land; that is, they would be instrumental in the dispossession and at the expense of the original peoples, the owners of these lands.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, September 12, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/ultimas/estados/2020/09/12/ojarasca-chiapas-la-ley-del-deja-vu-9270.html

Re-Published with English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas and

Republished with permission by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

 

 

 

Chiapas, the return of Paz y Justicia

Tila-Chiapas

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Terror returned to Tila, Chiapas, hand in hand with the resurgence of the paramilitary group named Desarrollo, Paz y Justicia (Development, Peace and Justice). One after another, armed attacks, assassinations, sieges and all kinds of aggressions take place against the 836 ejido owners who reclaimed their territorial rights.

In the Northern Zone of Chiapas, between 1995 and 2000, Paz y Justicia assassinated more than 100 indigenous Chols, expelled at least 2,000 campesinos and their families from their communities, closed 45 Catholic churches, attacked Bishops Samuel Ruiz and Raúl Vera, stole more than 3,000 heads of cattle and raped 30 women. Equipped with high-power weapons, the paramilitaries controlled roads, administered public resources and occupied seats.

The civilian armed group counted on the support of General Mario Renán Castillo, head of the Seventh Military Region. The military spokesperson confessed –according to what Jesús Ramírez Cuevas wrote: “that organization is a pride of the general” (https://bit.ly/3mik0gy). Days before the military man left his position, the leaders of Paz y Justicia said goodbye to him with words of complicit thanks. “We will never forget you, sir. Everything that you did for us requires gratitude,” they told him.

Paz y Justicia was a central actor in the low-intensity war that the government of Ernesto Zedillo orchestrated against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). It sought to territorially control the strategic corridor that connects the Chiapas Cañadas with Tabasco and to derail, by means of violence, the autonomic Chol process.

On July 2, 1997, the Chiapas government agreed to give $4,600,000.00 pesos to Desarrollo, Paz y Justicia, “to promote agro-ecology and productive projects.” Paramilitary leaders, then Governor Julio César Ruiz Ferro and Uriel Jarquín, the state’s undersecretary of Government signed the document. General Mario Renán Castillo signed it as an honorary witness (Masiosare, 21/12/1997).

Beyond its military ties, the initiative to form Paz y Justicia came from the Salto de Agua cattle ranchers associations. It was founded in March 1995. Its political operators were the PRI leaders of Tila. According to a report from the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) (https://bit.ly/3mhvTn9), Salto de Agua, Palenque and Playas de Catazajá are, in the Northern Zone of Chiapas, the municipalities in which there are more private properties and in which ejidos and agrarian communities represent the smallest percentage of land ownership.

Its principal leader, now a prisoner but before a PRI deputy, Samuel Sánchez Sánchez, explained that the creation of Paz y Justicia was due to the “radicalization in orientation of those who sympathized with the Zapatistas and the PRD in the ejidos and communities (of Tila, Sabanilla, Salto de Agua and Tumbalá).”

Its members were part of Solidaridad Campesino-Magisterial (Socama), an organization originally formed by parte of the leadership team of Section 7 of the SNTE coming from the Pueblo group, headed by Manuel Hernández, Jacobo Nasar and Pedro Fuentes, and a dissident CNC group led by Germán Jiménez. The group, which took its name from the Polish union Solidarity, was closely linked to campesino struggles in the state. However, it started its pro-government drift as a result of the arrest of its main leaders in 1986. With the arrival of Carlos Salinas to the Presidency it was converted into the replacement for the officialist campesino organizations and, starting with the 1994 Zapatista Uprising, into an incubator of the paramilitary groups (https://bit.ly/3hvViWq).

The reconstitution of the Chols as a people and the construction of their autonomy have a long history behind it. It’s a history that, in its “modern” phase, encompasses the struggle for the end of the mosojüntel (“the time in which we were mozos”), [1] against Kaxlan oppression and that of the large coffee producing companies, the Cardenista agrarian reform that permitted the recuperation of land, the return to campesino production of basics, the formation of an indigenous church, the organization of coffee cooperatives to appropriate the productive process, the Zapatista Uprising, the electoral struggle (1994 and 1995), the re-conquest of the ejidos and the formation of autonomous governments.

At the beginning of the new century, Paz y Justicia temporarily fell out of favor. First, they fought each other over economic resources. Then, some of its leaders were arrested. Nevertheless, they were able to rebuild in the region with the cover of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM).

In fact, those who have attacked the Tila ejido are the former municipal president Arturo Sánchez Sánchez and his son Francisco Arturo Sánchez Martínez, brother and nephew respectively of Samuel Sánchez Sánchez, who remains in prison. Also, the current mayor, Limbert Gutiérrez Gómez, of the PVEM, as well as the regional delegate of Paz y Justicia, and the technical secretary of the Chiapas Institute of Education for Youths and Adults, Óscar Sánchez Alpuche, associated with Ismael Brito Mazariegos, the state’s Secretary of Government (https://bit.ly/3mjT93S).

The reactivation of Paz y Justicia in northern Chiapas and its politics of terror are not an isolated act. Other paramilitary groups have re-emerged in Chenalhó, Chilón, Oxchuc and Ocosingo immediately after the Zapatista announcement of the expansion of their autonomous governments and their rejection of the Maya Train’s construction. The counterinsurgency war continues.

[1] Mozos – Serfs on the large estates of land in Chiapas

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/15/opinion/017a2pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

The paramilitary group Paz y Justicia perpetrated the attack, the autonomous ejido says

TILA-CHIAPAS Photo from Pozol.org

By: Hermann Bellinghausen and Elio Henríquez, Reporter and Correspondent

The violence in Tila, Chiapas, continues to grow, and cross reports are alarming. On the one hand the ejido, declared autonomous, maintains that the march that they carried out on September 11th to remove the blockades that besieged the town was attacked by followers of the group headed by Francisco Arturo Sánchez Martínez, linked to the Paz y Justicia paramilitary group. Pedro Alejandro Jiménez Pérez lost his life due to a bullet wound in the abdomen in the clash that occurred this Friday, and Ángel Darinel Vázquez Ramírez, Medardo Pérez Jiménez and Jaime Lugo Pérez were injured.

In the group that follows Sánchez Martínez, Elmar Martínez Pérez and Juan Pablo Pérez Vázquez died as a result of bullet wounds, and Carlos Daniel Parcero Gutiérrez, Fredy Pérez Ramírez, Mateo Pérez Álvarez and Isaías López Gómez were injured.

For its part, the Digna Ochoa Human Rights Committee made a serious denunciation today, after the appearance of two dead bodies with signs of torture, for which they blame the “autonomous,” incorrectly characterized as members of the EZLN who, as is well known, are not members of the EZLN. [They are affiliated with the CNI].

The Committee condemned “the acts of armed violence,” for which it blamed “the self-proclaimed autonomous group,” who, according to its version, had initiated the attack, and not the followers of the City Council. However, the Digna Ochoa Committee admits that this second group “is responsible for breaking down the gate at the entrance to Tila on August 25, maintaining a blockade to control access to the town,” and carrying out “previous acts of provocation with firearms, as we denounced on August 30.”

The Committee records that: “two people who the autonomous group considered as disappeared from the Sañoja annex of the Tila ejido, lamentably appeared dead today with signs of being brutally tortured alive, with signs of burns and cuts on his skin; their names were Luis Aparicio Parcero Martínez, whose face was skinned, and Elidio Zenteno Trujillo who they say was a native of Moyos in the municipality of Sabanilla, had nothing to do with the conflict and was just returning from working with his motorcycle.”

The general assembly of ejido owners also reports disappeared after the attack, which Eliasin Bárcenas would have led, “firing with high-caliber weapons as well as with small arms” because of which “they retreated into the mountains while they continued shooting at them and as of this moment there are many disappeared ejido owners.” Unofficially, the ejido owners distanced themselves from the new deaths.

The Digna Ochoa Committee also blamed the government of Rutilio Escandón Cárdenas for being “remiss and negligent” and also talks about “six people executed” (sic) in the confrontation. It also censures the position of the Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, arguing that the la Tila parish would favor the autonomous, who are the guilty ones in the eyes of the Digna Ochoa Committee. It also records that: “the tense climate continued during the early morning with threats that the electricity would be cut off and the houses of the avecindados, [1] and at 1:30 am the lifeless body of Pablo Vásquez Álvarez continued lying in the streets of the town, and that the access road to Tila is totally closed.”

[1]Avecindados” are people who are not from the Tila ejido but have moved into the urban part of the ejido, in other words, the town of Tila. They do not have rights of ownership or participation in the ejido general assembly.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, September 13, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/13/politica/011n1pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

 

 

 

Paramilitaries ambush march in Tila, Chiapas; at least two dead

Arch at the entrance to the Tila ejido in Chiapas, Mexico.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen and Elio Henríquez

Violence broke out this Friday in the Chol municipality of Tila, in the northern zone of Chiapas, with at least two dead (other sources talk about three) and an undetermined number of injured. The events were unleashed when an apparently large march was ambushed. In the march were ejido owners from the municipal seat of Tila and sympathizers of neighboring populations that sought to open the fence that followers of the City Council, opposed to the autonomy of the urban and rural Tila ejido, established in mid-August.

Through several blockades on the access road, workers and sympathizers of the City Council and of the Paz y Justicia [1] group prevented the ejido owners from leaving. The first, located at the exit to El Limar, and the last at the first entrance to the urban area. They also requested the presence of the National Guard to evict the ejido owners and re-establish the City Council in the old seat, which has been in El Limar since 2015. In the last two weeks, shootings from these blockades were recurrent to intimidate the ejido owners.

The ejido owners’ march was attacked this morning after liberating the blockade at the site of the hospital on the exit for El Limar and a second blockade at the Tila entrance. According to sources from the general assembly of ejido owners, before the third entrance the march was attacked with shots from a curve by what turned out to be a small group of City Council supporters. The march unexpectedly responded to the shots, a point on which the assembly has not commented. According to the version of those who sympathize with the City Council, the march was what initiated the aggression.

However, the first to fall was one of the marchers. It was his death that inflamed the ejido owners’ march and sparked a confrontation in which the initial aggressors got the worst of it. At the close, the situation is tense.

The events are the new outcome of a legitimacy problem in the Tila ejido, which also served as the seat of the constitutional city hall until the ejido assembly won recognition from the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) about ownership of the lands in 2015, including the political seat. That has caused various differences among ejido owners of the vast ejido and those who have moved into the urban area but don’t own lands or plots.

Problems of legitimacy in the ejido

The city council, headed for the third time by Limberg Gregorio Gutiérrez, of the PVEM (and his wife held the mayor’s office for another period), is historically supported through the strength of the group formerly known as Paz y Justicia. Francisco Arturo Sánchez, nephew and son of the founders of Paz y Justicia, heads the opposition to the ejido.

Another factor that made the problem tenser was the attempt, on the municipal government’s part, to carry out public works inside the ejido without its authorization.

In a prudent communiqué, the official City Council of Tila reproached “confrontation as a way to resolve differences or demand a solution to social problems,” and called to the groups involved for “prudence in the events that occurred in recent hours.” It referred to the “longstanding agrarian dispute whose solution depends solely on the SCJN,” and committed to respecting indigenous rights and realizing “a policy of conciliation and zero provocation.”

Today, residents of Tila told the La Jornada correspondent: “A group of ejido owners went to remove the blockade and were received with bullets. We have one compañero dead and several injured. The compañero ejido owners defended themselves. That’s what the city council and that damn family of paramilitaries provoke.”

State government sources reported three deaths, although they did not provide names, as well as six injured from bullets who are being cared for in Yajalón and Palenque hospitals and several beaten.

The State’s Attorney General reported that according to the investigation folder, “the events were recorded at approximately 12 noon this Friday at the Tila entrance arch, where residents and autonomous ejido owners attacked each other.” He added that: “a special group from this Prosecutor’s office, made up of police, experts and specialized employees from the Ministerio Pública (district attorney), was sent to the place for the purpose of initiating the investigative work, whose results will be announced in the next few hours.”

The Vicarage for Justice and Peace of the Diocese of San Cristóbal said that: “we are aware that almost three weeks ago a group of Tila ejido residents carried out blockades at the main entrance and at other stretches near the town. We know that there was the intention of a dialogue and negotiation process to seek a solution to the conflict, but apparently the situation got out of control and therefore it is suggested investigating the true causes of the events.”

[1] For more about the Paz y Justicia paramilitary group see: https://chiapas-support.org/2020/09/12/vandalism-and-the-return-of-paz-y-justicia-in-the-tila-ejido-in-chiapas/

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, September 12, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/12/politica/010n1pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

Vandalism and the return of Paz y Justicia in the Tila ejido, Chiapas

Members of the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena, CNI)  in Tila.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

The Tila ejido, in the northern zone of Chiapas, denounced acts that have altered the fragile stability of its urban core and mark the return of the Paz y Justicia [1] organization (that never really went away), for “acts of vandalism of disgruntled neighbors, not in their entirety,” this Tuesday, August 25. “Between six and seven am they started to tear down the security gates that the general assembly of ejido owners agreed to construct for the population’s security and as a Covid-19 health filter.”

The ejido representation argues being in compliance with the agrarian legislation in effect, and points out as the ones responsible the former municipal president Arturo Sánchez Sánchez and his son Francisco Arturo Sánchez Martínez, “paramilitary intellectual leaders in northern Chiapas,” linked to “the killings in the low zone between 1997 and 1998.” They are the brother and nephew respectively of Samuel Sánchez Sánchez, currently a prisoner in el Amate.

The fight, which isn’t new, between two groups of residents in the municipal seat, is intertwined with conflicting political positions dating back Ernesto Zedillo’s counterinsurgency war in the Chol region, when the Army and the PRI paramilitary group Development, Peace and Justice (Desarrollo Paz y Justicia) generated an armed violence against the resistance of the Zapatista peoples and their allies that cost hundreds of deaths and displaced families, rapes and disappearances stil unresolved today.

By legal means, in recent years the original ejido owners of Tila recuperated their territorial rights, which had been eroded and even alienated by the “avecindados,” in other words residents who are not from the ejido or do not belong to the ejido assembly, but that given the urban condition of the ejido installed themselves over time, coming to control the municipal government and an important part of central Tila, a town with a lot of commerce. This has occurred without legal possession, because the town’s village is settled on ejido lands, the patrimony of 836 ejido owners.

At the end of the last century, Paz y Justicia took over the entire northern zone and with the government’s support controlled Tumbalá, Sabanilla, Salto de Agua and Tila municipalities. When their principal ringleaders fell out of favor and paid with prison for various crimes (but not for the murders that they committed directly or indirectly) the region was pacified to a certain point. Then the ejido legally recuperated its ejido rights and installed a certain autonomy inspired in Zapatismo.

The ejido owners have denounced aggressions and falsifications of the ejido register in order to impose authorities, and blame Miguel Vázquez Gutiérrez and Luciano Pérez López, members of an “alleged legal commission,” who “violate the agreements of the highest authority” and participate in “the groups that destroyed the gate.”

The ejido authority maintains that the aggressors rely on “gang members and drug addicts previously hired.” We would be talking about “young people brought in cars who are unaware of the ejido’s legalization.” They warn about “threats of kidnappings by these armed rioters.”

Civil organizations in the Tzeltal-Chol region have documented that those who “carry out damage and harm” against the ejido are advised and financed by the current municipal president Limbert Gutiérrez Gómez, of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, and the “regional delegate” of Paz y Justicia, and civil servant, Óscar Sánchez Alpuche.

[1] Paz y Justicia is the name of a notorious paramilitary group in the northern part of Chiapas. In an effort to cleanse its bloody reputation, it later took the name of Desarrollo Paz y Justicia (Development Peace and Justice).

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Thursday, August 27, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/08/27/politica/015n1pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

Stop the war against the EZLN

Corn comes in all colors, like everyone.

By Gilberto López y Rivas

One of the characteristics of the current government of the 4T is to neither listen to, much less attend to the serious allegations related to the reactivation of paramilitary groups in Chiapas, like those that belong to the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (Orcao), who, on August 22nd looted and burned the facilities of the New Dawn of the Rainbow Commercial Center in the autonomous municipality of Lucio Cabañas (Ocosingo). In addition to this provocation, several groups, also identified as paramilitary since the 90’s, like Paz y Justicia [Peace and Justice] and Chinchulines, that once again have carried out all kinds of aggression in various regions of Chiapas, and in particular, in the municipalities of Tila and Aldama. In recent weeks, through networks and various local and national media, statements of support for the EZLN have been circulated, one of which, Stop the War against the Zapatistas, has been signed by hundreds of organizations, academics, artists, and solidarity networks from 22 countries. (https://alto-a-la-guerra-contra -lxs-zapatistas.webnode.mx/). [1]

The attack of August 22nd against the Zapatista support bases forms part of a continuous strategy of counterinsurgency carried out by previous governments against the Zapatista Mayas, one that the Miguel Augustín Pro Juárez Community Action Group and Human Rights Center, two decades ago qualified as a “wholesale war of attrition,” conceived in the U.S. counterinsurgency manuals as a succession of small operations that suffocate the enemy in political, economic and military spheres, avoiding to the extent possible, spectacular actions that would draw the attention of the press and international public opinion. (Now they bet on exhaustion. Chiapas: Psychological foundations of a contemporary war, 2002.) In this type of war, the role of paramilitary groups is fundamental.

According to one of the Sedena manuals of irregular warfare, this not only has to do with taking water from the fish (support bases of the insurgency), but also to introduce more aggressive fish to the water, that is, those paramilitary groups with military organization, equipment and training, to which the State delegates the fulfillment of missions that the armed forces cannot openly carry out without implying a recognition of their existence as part of the monopoly of state violence. Paramilitary groups are illegal and unpunishable because it is convenient for the interests of the State. That which is paramilitary consists, then, of the illegal and unpunishable exercise of State violence, and the covering up of the origins of this violence. As in previous governments, which were openly neoliberal and counter-insurgent, the Fourth Transformation continues saturating the so-called “theater of war.” Zósimo Camacho maintains that today the greatest number of active military personnel can be found in Chiapas, which are, to use a metaphor, the anvil that maintains the security fence around the zone of conflict, with its barracks, garrisons, convoys, intelligence agents, aerial and terrestrial surveillance, etc. while the paramilitary groups, continuing the metaphor, are the hammer that strikes the people with actions like those of August 22nd, trying to introduce terror, creating conditions of expulsion and displacement of indigenous communities, joining up with civil authorities, both military and police, to pinpoint the internal enemy that refuses to follow the logic of capital, with its little mirrors of progress, development and precarious employment.

Jointly with the actions of the paramilitary groups, the campaign on social networks and communication media has intensified against the Zapatista Mayas, with grotesque infusions, like that the territory of the EZLN is controlled by a drug trafficking cartel, that supplies high-powered weapons to the insurgent group, the same that are rigorously analyzed with information and refuted in depth by Luis Hernández Navarro in an interview that Ernesto Ledesma Arronte carried out on his program RompeVientoTv (https://wwwyoutube.com/ watch?v=gdDNI9m_8).

Unfortunately, and in unison with this campaign, a very worrisome statement from the head of the federal executive branch, took place in his morning conference on August 28th, in which he tried to stigmatize and criminalize the work of advocates and defenders of human rights, journalists, academics and representatives of the indigenous communities in opposition to the so-called Maya Train, one of the signature megaprojects of the developmentalist territorial reorganization, which the Zapatista Mayas also confront. With this declaration, the government of the Fourth Transformation jumped aboard the old counterinsurgency train of its predecessors.

This piece was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada on September 4, 2020. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/04/opinion/017a2pol This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas. Re-Published with permission by the Chiapas Support Committee.

[1] The Chiapas Support Committee is collecting signatures on a letter to the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, as well as the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC, the presidency of Mexico and the governor of Chiapas, demanding a stop to the paramilitary violence. We urge our readers to sign the letter, which can be read here. You can send your approval to sign the letter to enapoyo1994@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

Two campesinos with bullet wounds in the town of Aldama, Chiapas

Paramilitary-style group shoots at Aldama communities from Chenalhó

The shooting continues and the National Guard doesn’t intervene [1]

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

After several days of incessant shooting with high-caliber weapons from different points located in the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, according to reports received by La Jornada, two indigenous men in San Pedro Cotzilnam, Aldama municipality, were wounded in the back yesterday (Friday) morning while working in their parcels. The two men are Mario and Juan Pérez Gutiérrez, 22 and 27 respectively. The shooting came from T’elemax in Santa Martha, while groups of armed men “went down to the river.”

Hostilities of the civilian armed groups in Santa Martha started early against Tabak, Cotzilnam and Coco’ communities. A group of the attackers was sighted when it was crossing the river that separates Chenalhó from the lands in dispute between the two Tzotzil municipalities in the Highlands (Los Altos).

Just a day earlier, those displaced from Aldama detected “a lot of armed men dressed in black, shouting” at the Tontik Curve. Meanwhile, more armed people arrived and fired countless shots at the aforementioned communities.

The shooting coming from Chenalhó territory has been almost continuous for weeks. Just from Tuesday to yesterday armed attacks had been registered from Tijera Caridad, Vale’tik and Tontik Saclum (all near Santa Marta, Chenalhó) against the towns of Stzelejpotobtik, Yeton, Tabak, Coco’ and Cotzilnam, in Aldama, where dozens of families have been victims of forced displacement for months.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, a dissident group of Las Abejas and an Undersecretary of the Interior, Alejandro Encinas, signed a “friendly agreement” to allegedly pay off the Mexican State’s material and moral debt for the Acteal Massacre perpetrated by Chenalhó paramilitaries in 1997. Simultaneously, since reality doesn’t know about speeches, “many armed men dressed in black” gathered on Thursday at Tontik Curve to immediately shoot at the aforementioned towns in Aldama.

As has been denounced for years, as of this date the civilian groups in Chenalhó have not been disarmed, and their aggressiveness increased when they acted against the state police in the communities of Tabak and in Santa Martha itself. The inaction of the National Guard deployed in the area stands out. The federal and state governments insist on talking about hostility between both municipalities, although the fact is that the shooting comes from only one side. Besides, the only story that the authorities seem to hear is that of the Chenalhó municipal government and the armed groups that, unsustainably, present themselves as “victims.”

Finally, after noon yesterday, the unilateral fire from Chenalhó, coming from Tijera Caridad was aimed at Ch’ayomte’ community (Aldama).

Aldama municipal authorities indicated that despite agreements signed with the three levels of government, the armed groups in Chenalhó continue attacking their communities. According to the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba): “the government continues giving contradictory messages and messages of impunity that encourage violence in the Highlands (Los Altos).”

[1] The Chiapas Support Committee is collecting signatures on a letter to the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, demanding a stop to the paramilitary violence. The letter will also be sent to the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC, the presidency of Mexico and the governor of Chiapas. We urge our readers to sign the letter, which can be read here. You can send your approval to sign the letter to enapoyo1994@yahoo.com.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, September 5, 2020

https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/09/05/politica/012n1pol

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

 

 

Stop the paramilitary violence in Chiapas!

Recent events in Chiapas require an international solidarity response. Armed attacks are being directed at unarmed forcibly displaced persons in the Highlands (los Altos) of Chiapas. Those doing the shooting are a group of paramilitaries in Chenalhó municipality that also patrol and block access to crops and fields. The “targets” of the shooting and roadblocks are a mix of Civil Society Las Abejas members, civilian Zapatistas and non-Zapatistas that are members of various political parties. The attacks against Aldama municipality are especially frequent and dangerous. The paramilitaries use a dispute over a piece of land that was officially granted to Aldama as their excuse for the armed attacks. These attacks and patrols have resulted in deaths, injuries and hunger in Aldama.

The Chiapas Support Committee is urging our friends and supporters to join us in signing the letter below, which will be delivered to the Mexican consulate in San Francisco and mailed to the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC. We will also email it to the president of Mexico and the governor of Chiapas.

Please read the letter below and send an email to the Chiapas Support Committee’s email: enapoyo1994@yahoo.com saying that you agree to sign on by close of business (5pm) on Friday, September 11, 2020. Thank you!

Stop the war against the Zapatista peoples!

Dear Consul General Gómez Arnau,

We write to express our alarm over the growing violence in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico; specifically, in the municipalities of Aldama, Chenalhó and Chalchihuitán, where paramilitaries have violently attacked and forcibly displaced thousands of indigenous people from their homes, fields and communities. We are demanding that the Mexican government stop the paramilitary violence, stop any support being given to the paramilitaries and dismantle them.

According to the internationally respected Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), paramilitary-style civilian armed groups in Chenalhó municipality perpetrate the violence, shooting indiscriminately into the civilian communities where displaced persons are sheltered, often causing them to flee for safety in the mountains, thus leaving them outdoors without shelter and food. In Aldama, for example, bullets fired from Chenalhó injured13-year-old María Luciana Lunes Pérez in the face and shoulder while she was working on her loom inside her home in Koko’, Aldama.

These paramilitary groups also patrol roads and block access to fields so that those displaced cannot grow or harvest their food, creating hunger and the threat of famine in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as preventing the harvesting and sale of cash crops that provide the only income these subsistence farmers have. Meanwhile, deaths and injuries are claimed on both sides.

A troubling photo apparently taken from a video in the local press shows heavily armed men in Chenalhó, dressed in camouflage uniforms, wearing ski masks and sporting high-powered rifles. The video’s release, in which the paramilitaries introduce themselves to society, would seem to assert: “We have impunity!” Further evidence of impunity appeared on social media with the news that 80 residents of Santa Martha (Chenalhó) took weapons and munitions away from a detachment of police in that town and continued to retain the weapons.

Another report from those displaced in Aldama indicated that there have been 30 armed attacks in three days against the people of Aldama, with the gunfire coming from Chenalhó. This shocked readers in Mexico and abroad. These egregious human rights violations must be stopped now to avoid further loss of life and serious bodily injury. Human rights defenders and those displaced are seeking such intervention.

This is a crisis situation that requires the Mexican government’s immediate intervention to dismantle these paramilitaries and repair the damage done to all victims. Mexico’s federal and state governments failed to do this before and after the December 22, 1997 Acteal Massacre in which paramilitaries attacked and murdered 45 women, men and children. Paramilitary violence forcibly displaced thousands in the months before that massacre, as is happening now. Additionally, there is evidence that the current paramilitary group is related to the one involved in that massacre.

The growing paramilitary attacks on Aldama feel eerily reminiscent of the conditions that preceded the Acteal Massacre. And the present reminds us all too painfully of the past. The Mexican government can prevent a greater calamity from taking place by stopping and dismantling the paramilitary violence now.

We, therefore, urge Mexico’s federal and state governments to stop the paramilitary attacks, dismantle the paramilitary group(s) in Chenalhó and begin repairing the damage done to all the victims.

Sincerely,

[We’ll add the signatures as they come in and then send to the Consulate]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CNI-CIG Condemns aggression against Zapatista community and calls for solidarity

To the people of Mexico and the world.

The Indigenous Government Council-National Indigenous Congress condemns the cowardly attack by members of the paramilitary group called the Regional Organization of Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO), who last Saturday, August 22, around 11:00 a.m., robbed and burned facilities of the New Dawn of the Rainbow Commercial Center, which is located at the site known as the Cuxuljá crossroads, in Lucio Cabañas Autonomous Municipality, within the official municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas.

The paramilitary organization ORCAO has maintained constant pressure and violence on Zapatista communities for years, as is the case with the Autonomous Municipality of Moisés Gandhi, to prevent autonomous organization, to privatize the lands that have required the struggle and organization of the original Zapatista support bases, to intimidate and threaten the comrades who from below continue betting on hope, such as the various aggressions against comrades of the National Indigenous Congress, who were raped and kidnapped by ORCAO paramilitaries, the Chinchulines and people from the MORENA party.

We denounce the war that, from above, is being deployed against the organization of the Zapatista communities, at the same time that the bad governments seek to impose from above, throughout the country, megaprojects of death which we oppose and will oppose, because we are not willing to give up our territories and allow the destruction promised by the powerful.

We hold responsible for these events the paramilitary organization ORCAO, the MORENA party and the state and federal governments, as they have not stopped sowing violence in the region with the aim of striking not only at our sister and brother EZLN support bases in the communities, but at all the peoples who dream of the struggle for life, of healing our Mother Earth and not letting it be privatized, that the capitalist bosses and bad governments never return to the Zapatista autonomous territories, and that this light continues to flourish in the territories of the original peoples of the CNI-CIG and all of humanity.

We call on our comrades in support networks and networks of resistance and rebellion to speak out and mobilize against the war of extermination, which is dangerously intensifying against our sisters and brothers of the Zapatista communities, who teach us to never stop sowing rebellion and hope.

Sincerely,

For the complete restoration of our communities,

Never Again A Mexico Without Us

National Indigenous Congress – Indigenous Council of Government

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Originally Published in Spanish by the Congreso Nacional Indígena

Monday, August 24, 2020

http://www.congresonacionalindigena.org/2020/08/24/cni-cig-repudia-la-agresion-en-contra-de-las-comunidades-bases-zapatistas-y-llama-a-la-solidaridad/

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee