Chiapas Support Committee

The San Mateo del Mar Massacre

Ambulances arrive at the scene of the massacre in San Mateo del Mar.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

San Mateo del Mar is in mourning. On Sunday, June 21, a criminal group killed 17 residents, including two women, together in the municipal agency of Huazantlán del Río to hold an assembly. The masked killers ambushed them in the Reforma District, using machetes, gasoline, sticks, stones and firearms. Not content with the attack, they burned several of their victims. Although people called the National Guard and it came, it withdrew when the attack began.

It’s not the first violent attack that defenders from the assembly suffer. Filemón Villalobos, a Huazantlán substitute municipal agent, was just murdered on May 3, without the crime being clarified or justice being done.

San Mateo del Mar is an Ikoot (Huave) municipality with high marginalization, in which live 15,000 inhabitants (6,000 of them in the municipal capital), surrounded with lagoons and seas. It’s located on a narrow bar that separates Lower Lagoon from the Gulf of Tehuantepec, with only a single dirt road for communication. Strong winds hit the region and the entire municipality between October and March. Most of its population is dedicated to fishing (

The municipality has suffered agrarian conflicts for more than 60 years. They were accentuated during the previous decade. Large wind companies want to take over that territory. Unlike other communities, in 2008 San Mateo rejected the installation of wind turbines, which individualize possession of land. It opposed the entry of the Preneal wind megaproject. And, together with San Dionisio, it impelled the expulsion of Mareña Renovables, which sought to install more than 100 windmills on the ecologically fragile Barra de Santa Teresa, sacred Ikoot territory (

San Mateo del Mar is located on the bar that separates the Lagoon from the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

Since 2017, San Mateo has suffered an electoral political conflict that threatens its internal normative system. The nuclei of residents who head the resistance characterize the aggression they suffer as “a war against the people and their maximum decision-making body, the assembly of the municipal capital and the municipal agencies, presided over by their civic-religious traditional authorities.”

Until that year, municipal authorities were elected by rotation, according to the territorial division of the town and its agencies. However, starting then, as a result of pressure from a citizen who demanded his right to be elected an authority despite not having served in the system of responsibilities, the State Electoral Institute and Citizen Participation of Oaxaca ordered holding elections through a list of candidates. A candidate was imposed with support from business by means of an enormous electoral fraud against the assembly, buying votes. However, the spurious municipal president could not carry the staff of command, nor carry out the duties in city hall, although he disposed of the budget.

In 2019, the de facto powers headed by the impresario Jorge Leoncio Arroyo Rodríguez, repeated the fraud. Now in the administration, they quickly dealt out large public works contracts and the administration of municipal funds. Like his predecessor, Bernardino Ponce, the new municipal president also cannot attend to the responsibilities of his position in the municipal palace.

As victims of the attack report, the builder Camerino Dávalos, Sofía Castro Ríos, Anabel Sánchez Hernández, Emanuel Bustillo (commander of the Only Front of Agencies) and Roberto Rueda Velázquez, among others, make up part of the power group embarked on the war against the assembly,

Additionally, organized crime has encamped in some municipal agencies. They began their activities with the theft of copper cable from the high voltage power line in Santa Cruz. The local bad guys are merely one island of a larger criminal archipelago, which was established and expanded in Juchitán and Salina Cruz with the arrival of Gabino Cué in the governorship of Oaxaca. Drugs, kidnapping, piracy, migrant trafficking and extortion are some of the businesses to which they are dedicated.

On June 23, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made a diagnosis about the massacre’s origin. “It is –he said– a confrontation over the municipal government; on the one hand there are residents of the municipal capital and residents of communities. It usually happens that in the city halls when there are elections and someone from the municipal capital remains the municipal president; there is discontent in the communities because it is felt that what support arrives in public works or the budget is only applied in the capital and is not distributed in the rural communities.”

In this case, however, the nature of the conflict is different. Those attacked, besides belonging to the municipal capital, also represent other agencies. The massacre is part of the offensive of the behind-the-scenes regional powers, functional to the wind power industry, to dismantle or weaken the organized nuclei that are opposed to the megaprojects and articulate the defense of their territory, natural resources and worldview, and that have advanced in an alliance with their neighbor Santa María. The issue is aggravated due to the construction of the inter-oceanic corridor.

The San Mateo del Mar Massacre must not remain unpunished. There is an urgent need to provide precautionary measures to the community. The town’s mourning must find truth, justice and reparation of the damage.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


Pedro Uc, language and territory

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Pedro Uc Be is by far one of the most important indigenous intellectuals in Mexico. Maya born in the community of Buctzotz, Yucatan, 90 kilometers northeast of Merida, he is, simultaneously, poet, educator, theologian, translator of the Bible and popular organizer. He has won three awards for poetry and one for narrative.

Last December 16, he and his son were threatened with death. “Now we’re fed up with you, get out of here in 48 hours or we kill you and your old lady together with the pigs of your honorary children,” they told them in WhatsApp messages. “Now you’re going to stop sucking or your people are dying, you are affecting a lot of local people with your blowjobs and your defense of territory.”

Pedro was born in 1963 in the bosom of a campesino family, monolingual in Maya. His grandparents were slaves on a cattle-ranching estate in Buctzotz. He learned Spanish in his community’s public primary school. He continued his instruction in a Presbyterian seminary in Merida, where he trained in theology. Upon finishing, he traveled to San José, Costa Rica, where he took more theology courses and a bachelor’s degree in education in the area of social sciences. He continued studying literary creation in Mayan language at the State Center for Fine Arts in Merida.

In Costa Rica “the scales fell from his eyes,” upon entering into contact with a different church than the one he knew, and with liberation theology. Later on, upon collaborating with Samuel Ruiz and the Diocese of San Cristóbal, he approached Indian theology and became its promoter on the Yucatan Peninsula. In this way, he rediscovered his history, his language and his values. That caused them to run him out of the church.

Starting in 1985, he visited communities on the Yucatan Peninsula; first, to teach workshops on Indian theology and on Liberation theology. Following his expulsion from the church, he gave workshops on human rights with a focus on indigenous law on identity and territory. Since then, more than 35 years have passed in which Pedro has toured the majority of the region’s communities. He has firsthand knowledge of them, from top to bottom.

The teacher Uc Be was initiated into poetry and narrative in Mayan out of necessity and impotence. Reading books about philosophy and economics led him to discover the reasons for marginalization, poverty and the flattening that the poor suffer. The finding caused him a pain that obliged him to name things with the written word in Mayan, narrating what he experienced from work with the communities.

Pedro speaks Mayan. He always has, just like his family. At the end of the seminar he joined a team of specialists that was working on the translation of the Old Testament into Mayan. He participated in the project for two years. The experience allowed him to understand very important things inside the language. He began to translate other texts and write his own. From there, he discovered the philosophical thought that exists in the Mayan language and he realized the enormous wealth that it has.

In 1992, the so-called celebration of the 500 years since the discovery shook him. He responded by turning to the communities to denounce the event. He participated actively in the big national march on October 12 of that year in Mexico City. The experience marked him. Two years later, the Zapatista insurrection impacted him again. His closeness with Samuel Ruiz allowed him to be informed about the uprising and to comprehend its nature. At the beginning of 1996 h became involved in the National Indigenous Congress (CNI, its initials in Spanish). He then turned to constructing autonomy and self-determination in the region, and to building a peninsular organization capable of becoming the backbone of the resistance and reconstitution of the peoples as peoples.

Since 13 years ago, with the arrival of the Mennonites to the region and the cutting down of thousands of acres miles of jungle and planting of transgenic soybeans, Pedro has been committed to the defense of land and territory. The “modernizing” offensive in the region, sponsored by the governments, walked hand in hand with the devastation and dispossession caused by photovoltaic wind farms, pig farms and “green” tourism.

To confront the entrepreneurial invasion, in 2918 Pedro and his compañeros founded the Assembly of Defenders of Maya Territory Múuch Xíinbal. The organization, born of decades of community work, has deep roots, possesses an indisputable regional authority and representativeness, and has harvested important victories against different megaprojects.

The construction of the Maya Train is, according to the poet, a continuation of the assault against the indigenous lands and territories of previous projects. For him, it is an imposition not consulted with the communities. It’s a big grab, in the sense that it dispossesses the peoples of many thousands of acres of land and also of their language and ways of life. The death threat against Uc and his son is a direct result of his active opposition to this colonizing project (

In talking about his struggle against the Maya Train, Pedro Uc says: “Yes, as Monsiváis says, we are about lost causes. We are accustomed to losing. But it’s not about wining; it’s about struggling. We don’t want to collaborate in our own murder. We want to struggle to avoid it. That is what is in our hearts.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Campaign for Las Abejas: End the Famine

Displaced women and children of Las Abejas of Acteal.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

There is a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Highlands of Chiapas; it involves 3,304 members of Las Abejas of Acteal. We are asking you to join the Chiapas Support Committee in supporting the indigenous people under attack.

For several years, “armed civilian groups” (read: paramilitary groups) have mounted armed attacks against Tsotsil Maya people in the Highlands. These attacks have forcibly displaced members of Las Abejas. They live in crowded conditions in borrowed houses and have been subjected to relentless violence from these paramilitaries.

When armed violence occurs these displaced families flee for safety in the mountains, living outdoors or in caves. Paramilitaries have burned, destroyed and/or shot-up the homes of several families. Living in desolation, the Tsotsil are now facing starvation.

The displaced Tsotsiles are without access to their lands. As a result they cannot plant and harvest their corn, beans, fruits and vegetables. As of today, they have no ability to go out to work anywhere and cannot harvest their coffee, which is one of their main sources of income during the year. And thus, according to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), in the midst of a global pandemic, these displaced persons are on the verge of a famine. These indigenous families belong to Las Abejas in Chenalhó, Chalchihuitán and Aldama municipalities.

The Frayba is asking those of us in international civil society to make a donation to purchase food for the women, children and men of Las Abejas (The Bees, in English) who are displaced from their homes and fields and risk famine.

About Las Abejas | The Bees

Las Abejas of Acteal is an indigenous and Catholic campesino organization in the Highlands of Chiapas belonging to the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council (CNI-CIG).

In an incident so horrific that it shocked the conscience of the world, a paramilitary group called Red Mask (Máscara Roja) attacked Las Abejas members on December 22, 1997 in the community of Acteal while they were praying for peace in a chapel. The Red Mask paramilitaries massacred 45 women, children and men in a murderous episode so depraved that it reminded many of the prolonged civil war in Guatemala, right across the border from Chiapas. The alleged motive for the massacre was retaliation for the refusal of Las Abejas to contribute money for the purchase of weapons to use in an attack against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN).

Survivors of the Acteal Massacre were able to identify the killers and, consequently, 81 members of the paramilitary group were sentenced to long prison terms. The evangelical churches to which many of the killers belonged were determined to obtain their release in order to clear the names of their church members and, one supposes, the names of the churches involved. These churches were ultimately successful and the killers were released after serving approximately 10 years of their sentences.

End the famine: dismantle the paramilitaries

Members of the “civilian armed group” currently shooting at La Abejas are thought to be some former members of Máscara Roja who were not identified and sentenced to prison, their children, the children of those who were sentenced and, perhaps, even some of those released. Human rights organizations are demanding that the Mexican government dismantle the current armed group. To date, both the Chiapas state government and the Mexican federal government have failed to take action.

Meanwhile, Frayba says that the current situation of forced displacement poses a grave risk to both the life and health of the displaced, who are struggling to survive with a constant lack of food, no medical attention and the emotional damage caused by the permanent fear and despair of being under attack. Children, women and the elderly are the most vulnerable.

For more information, please see the article by Chiapas journalist Isaín Mandujano on our blog.

Join us in supporting Las Abejas of Acteal! 

Please join the Chiapas Support Committee in making a generous donation to purchase food and address the health needs of displaced members of Las Abejas. To make a donation via PayPal, just click on the donate button on our website. (Monthly PayPal donations are also appreciated.) Venmo: @Enapoyo1994. You can also send a check or money order payable to the Chiapas Support Committee to:

Chiapas Support Committee

PO Box 3421

Oakland, CA 94609

Las Abejas of Acteal is a critical organization in the struggle for Indigenous Rights in Chiapas and in the CNI-CIG nationally. Chiapas Support Committee members and the folks we work with in Chiapas will thank each donor from the bottom of our hearts.

In solidarity, peace and justice,

Chiapas Support Committee

Arnoldo Garcia

Carolina Dutton

Roberto Martinez

Jose Plascencia

Evette Padilla

Caitlin Manning

Jason Bayless

Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez



Federal judge suspends work on Section 1 of the Maya Train


The Maya Train as new infrastructure for connecting the agro-industrial and tourist-real estate capitals on the peninsula. Courtesy: Gasparello and Quintana

 By: Isaín Mandujano

A federal judge in Chiapas today granted the definitive suspension to indigenous Ch’ol facing the Maya Train project, for the Palenque-Escárcega section, and therefore the National Fund for Promotion of Tourism will have to stop any work relative to that first section, as long as the pandemic lasts.

The non-governmental organization Indignation, Promotion and Defense of Human Rights A.C (hereafter, Indignation AC), which in legal matters represents diverse indigenous Ch’ol communities in Palenque, Salto de Agua and Ocosingo, announced that with this decision the federal government is ordered to abstain from carrying out acts tending to execute the project called the “Maya Train” on Section 1, which runs from Palenque to Escárcega.

The amparo suit filed before the Second District Judge for Amparo and Federal Criminal Trials in the state of Chiapas was resolved last Monday, June 22, when the court granted a definitive suspension to a group of people belonging to the Ch’ol people from the communities of Palenque, Salto de Agua and Ocosingo municipalities, who found protection against said project.

That civilian body said that on May 7 members of several Ch’ol communities presented a request for amparo against the President of the Republic, the Secretary of Federal Health and the Director General of the National Fund for Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR) because of the issuance of both the Secretary of Health’s April 6 agreement and the April 23rd Decree signed by the President of the Republic.

The continuation of the project called the “Maya Train,” as well as other administration projects, was decided in that agreement, despite the pandemic derived from Covid-19.  Therefore, in the request for amparo they argued violations of their right to health, as well as effects on the environment and to their rights as indigenous communities.

That very same May 7, the Second District Judge for Amparo and Federal Criminal Trials in the state of Chiapas decided to grant the provisional suspension, pointing out, among other things, that continuing with work on the so-called Maya Train put the health of the Ch’ol communities of those municipalities at risk, as well as their rights to a healthy environment.

Next, magistrates of the Collegiate Court in Administrative Matters located in Tuxtla Gutiérrez revoked said provisional suspension, “with the implausible argument that the risk of Covid-19 infection to the Ch’ol Maya community derived from work on the train constituted a future act of uncertain realization.”

However, on June 22, “after having deferred the incidental hearing five times because of FONATUR’s refusal to provide information that the Court requested, the Second District Judge for Amparo and Federal Criminal Trials in the state of Chiapas decided to grant a definitive suspension to members of the Ch’ol communities.”

After this judicial decision, the non-governmental organization Indignation AC said, there is now an obligation both for FONATUR and for the companies that won the bidding on that section “to stop all work corresponding to any work that other than maintenance of the existing tracks, until the amparo lawsuit is not resolved.”

Indignation AC explained in a letter that the judge, in order to justify said suspension, reasoned that members of the “self-recognized indigenous communities, inhabitants of the community where the project called the Maya Train will have impact, specifically in the municipality of Palenque, could suffer an affectation to its legal sphere, concretely in its right to health.”

Since the execution of the Maya Train project currently collides with the national health phenomenon caused by the Covid-19 virus, whose existence and dynamic spread is recognized by the “Agreement establishing extraordinary actions to address the health emergency generated by the SARS-CoV2,” which establishes, among many measures, social distancing of at least one and a half meters, and in which it recognizes that its spread is closely related to social interaction”

The judge pointed out that if the Maya Train project were carried out, the fundamental right to health could be exposed, because “it collides with the right to the health of the complainants -and also with the collective-“ given the prevailing health phenomenon in the country, recognized at the national, state and municipal levels, which constitutes a notorious fact, insofar as the diverse General Agreement of March 31, 2020 recognizes the existence of the pandemic and the need to establish social distancing measures.”

Indignation AC indicated that the definitive suspension has the effect of “stopping any activity relative to the implementation of the project, except that related to maintenance of the tracks, until the amparo lawsuit is definitively resolved.”

It said that this suit for amparo has derived information that shows that the project named the Maya Train “is illegal and lacks legal support, as for example the absence of an environmental impact statement on the project, as well as irregularity in the bidding process, in addition to violations of the rights of the Native peoples.”

For this reason, members of the communities warned that they have decided to expand the demand for amparo (protection and suspension) pointing out these violations, which will oblige the Federal Judicial Power to analyze the essence of the project starting with what said communities claim.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



The anticapitalist left, neither liberal nor conservative

[Admin’s intro: Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has consistently referred to the Zapatistas, indigenous territory defenders, as well as supporters of the EZLN and the CNI-CIG as “conservatives” for opposing the Maya Train and the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, claiming that these anti-capitalists are conservative because they oppose progress and development.]

Autonomy, dignity and happy rebellion!

By: Gilberto López Y Rivas

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador seeks to impose a dichotomous perspective in the political debate about the complex reality that the country is experiencing. He limits that: “there’s nowhere to do it,” calls for “no half measures” and demands definitions: “either we are conservatives or we are liberals,” “or you’re with the 4T or against it.” This disjunctive, in addition to the equivocally overlapping terms that defined the oligarchic groups confronted in the 19th century by divergent nation-State projects, leaves out political forces and worldviews that have resisted the exploitation and domination of capitalism, in its different stages of accumulation.

The governing group attempts to deny the existence of various leftist currents in national life that, for more than a century, have boldly contributed to seeking structural transformations, beyond the mere rotation of political elites, with a cost of innumerable deaths, forced disappearances, torture, prison and the exile of men and women who were committed to the cause of “national liberation” and “socialist revolution,” regardless of their meanings to each group.

Also, the complaints, denunciations and statements of the broad and representative strip that below and to the left converge with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the National Indigenous Congress and the Indigenous Government Council are ignored. Also, critical positions of movements and organizations anchored in community territories in which megaprojects are implanted are not taken into account; nor are the protests of civil society in the face of ongoing militarization, the daily organized crime violence, femicides and police brutality, or in the face of unjustifiable cuts in the ambit of culture and defense of cultural heritage, which have been seriously affected in their substantive functions.

The effort to make the lefts invisible or publicly defame them reaches the presidential cabinet. The Secretary of the Semarnat, Víctor Toledo, classifies the EZLN’s political positions as “extreme and outdated” and “a set of vulgar expressions, offenses that reveal the intolerance of the 4T’s spokespersons in the face of criticism and, in particular, the derogatory treatment towards a movement of historical significance and scope, such as that of the Zapatista Mayas, who, for some years, had warned about the “storm” that was coming, and who, in their last communiqué, on March 16 of this year, announced the closure of the Caracoles and Centers of Resistance and Rebellion because of Covid-19, and called to: “not drop the fight against femicidal violence, continue the fight in defense of territory and Mother Earth, keep up the fight for [email protected] [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], and raise the banner of the fight for humanity high (…) We call to not lose human contact, but rather to temporarily change the ways of knowing our compañeras, compañeros, sisters and brothers. The word and the ear, with the heart, have many ways, paths, calendars and geographies for meeting with each other. And this struggle for life can be one of them.”

The movements of indigenous peoples in particular, which originate in the depths of the earth, refuse to accept and support a transformation based on megaprojects that, in the midst of a health emergency, are underway in spite of numerous denunciations, statements, calls, open letters, research studies, expert opinions, recommendations from international organisms, legal filings, protest demonstrations, etcetera, unnoticed by the 4T government.

From ethnocentric concepts of “progress and development“ the megaprojects are forced on subjects considered, as in the past, passive agents of State action, without recognizing their contributions to a project of nation and society that arises from a constituent power of the peoples. If we’re dealing with transformations, the original peoples contribute the collectivist sense of their socio-political and cultural structures; they have a strategy as a socio-political subject, autonomy, for resisting capitalist re-colonization, from a class and gender perspective, egalitarian and emancipatory, which is expressed in “govern obeying” (“mandar obedeciendo“), the seven principles and the EZLN’s Women’s Revolutionary Law. It’s a strategy that establishes a relationship of respect for Mother Earth and one of collective responsibility towards the coming generations. The autonomic processes pose a step towards a post-pandemic world that avoids the disappearance of the human species and, even of life on Earth.

But these don’t seem to be themes that interest either “liberals“ or “conservatives.“


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, June 12, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee















The Maya Train doesn’t respond to the material and cultural needs of the Palenque population

The Maya Train as a new connective infrastructure for the agro-industrial and tourist-real estate capitals on the peninsula. Courtesy: Gasparello and Quintana

By: Yessica Morales

*In the months following the election of López Obrador, they announced data on the megaproject promoted from the Executive; it was the subject of a National Consultation on November 24 and 25, 2018. Of the 946, 081 participants, 89.9 % voted in favor of the project, although before said Consultation, the president came forward to affirm that construction of the Maya Train would begin December 16, 2018. A year and a half later, the Master Plan and the executive projects are still not known and no environmental and social impact evaluations have been released.

Giovanna Gasparello, a Doctor of Anthropology who carried out a research investigation that is ongoing, identifies the possible social impacts of the Maya Train megaproject in three indigenous regions: Northern Chiapas, the east of Bacalar in Quintana Roo and the Maya Jungle in Calakmul, Campeche.

The investigation centers on a diagnosis of the current situation in the territory studied, focusing on the situation of inequality and social segregation, the product of neglect of the population’s fundamental rights. As well as the forms of territorial use and productive activities in the zone; dispossession of land and culture; insecurity and violence determined by the criminal economy; the development of tourist activities; organizational processes, social and cultural structures.

Gasparello reminds us that the megaproject is one of the Executive Priority Projects and Programs led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador. It foresees the construction of a 1525 km-railway line across the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, and the operation of a train powered by biodiesel to transport both cargo and passengers.

Therefore, according to official documents and declarations, the line will promote the transportation of gasoline and products consumed in the tourist zone called the Riviera Maya in northern Quintana Roo. Additionally, it will detonate tourist development by facilitating access to poorly connected areas and enhancing the connection between different mass tourist attraction sites with others in development.

The focus of the investigation is on social, cultural and economic processes that interest the municipality of Palenque and the regional space in which it is included.

About 40% of the region’s territory is considered natural area, mostly primary and secondary rainforest; bodies of surface water abound, the result of seasonal flooding from the Usumacinta River, creating particular and delicate ecosystems.

In addition, two of them are protected as Ecological Conservation Zones and under the RAMSAR category: the “Catazajá Lake System” and the “La Libertad Wetlands.” The Palenque National Park is located in connection with the archaeological zone; the Agua Azul Cascades Flora and Fauna Protection Area encompass 2,580 hectares of Tumbalá municipality.

Most of the active economic population is occupied with primary activities. The tertiary activities carried out in the city of Palenque are becoming increasingly important. Among the primary activities, livestock dedicated to the production of milk and beef stands out, and Chiapas is the third largest producer of beef nationwide.

The eastern part of the municipality is inhabited to a great extent by indigenous peoples and land tenancy is ejido. The main productive activity is agriculture for self-consumption in the milpa and parcel rotation system.

At the same time, regarding commercial crops, the main crop is corn, followed by African palm, whose oil is used in the food and cosmetics industry, although the justification for promoting this crop is due to the fact that it was related to the possible conversion of the paste to biodiesel.

The National Council for the Evaluation of Public Policies (CONEVAL) revealed in 2010 that 33.5% of the population is in a situation of extreme poverty, which means a high degree of marginalization.

Gasparello finds that the drug trafficking routes show a daily panorama of assaults, kidnappings, femicides, executions and forced displacement, elements of reflection in the analysis of the reality of several states.

Additionally, the routes of the illegal economy, the mafia control of territory and violent acts draw invisible maps. Palenque has the peculiar characteristic of being a geographic border; it is a short distance from the state border with Tabasco and a just a few miles separate it from the southern border with Guatemala.

The migration route from the Petén in Guatemala is the oldest; migrants cross through Marqués de Comillas, Benemérito de las Américas, Palenque and Playas de Catazajá, to climb on and move with The Beast, the cargo train that arrives in Veracruz passing through Tabasco.

Also, the Salvadoran criminal group Mara Salvatrucha was controlling human trafficking in Palenque, charging migrants for access to the roof of the cargo train and controlling the migratory route stretch from Pakal Na to Arriaga, according to the research study.

The migrants that travel through this route are Africans, Arabs, Chinese, Haitians and Cubans. The corruption of the police and immigration agents who extort them is notorious, as is the practice of community members who charge a fee to let them pass through the community.

In 2014, the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime registered that Chiapas is one of the states most vulnerable to human trafficking, in particular women, for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Members of the Casa de la Mujer in Palenque report that local women or migrant women come to their offices beaten and tortured, with documents showing the complaint to Mexican legal authorities, with the promise of follow up and justice, which never comes. A constant in these cases is that the aggressor is involved in drug themes.

Regarding the incidence of intentional homicides, in 2016 the Chiapas Citizen Observatory denounced 24 homicides corresponding to indices of 20 intentional homicides per each 100,000 inhabitants. Starting that year and for the three successive years the indices has remained stable.

The author says that kilometer 0 of the megaproject is located in the Pakal Na district, near the Palenque International Airport. The land is federal and that’s why it has been designated as an urban development nucleus projected for the train.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador headed an official act on December 16, 2018 that he called the “Ritual of the Original Peoples to Mother Earth for the Maya Train’s Consent” and laid the first stone, officially starting the megaproject.

Currently, around 7,000 people live in the district, it develops along the highway and the train tracks. The old central park strip for small planes is located just at the crossroads between the two roads and next to the railroad station, operated by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Railroad Company.

Those interviewed in Pakal Na said that each house used to have a well, starting with the connection aqueduct’s water network and they denounced problems in the water supply. The drainage network is not connected, no section is connected to the others and all discharge into vacant ground, canyons, streams and onto public roads.”

On the other hand, regarding electricity those interviewed denounce frequent cuts, perhaps due to the low power of the transformers in the face of an increase in consumption, they affirm that the Maya Train engineer promised the remodeling of the supply system for water and electric power. Finally, a good part of the streets are not paved.

Gasparello points out that during the Covid-19 emergency the Nacional Fund for Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR) announced the start of the construction on the first section of the train, which goes from Palenque to Escárcega [Campeche].

In this stage, FONATUR declared, 850 people would be employed in setting up work camps along with the expected number of indirect jobs; it anticipated 2975 people mobilizing in the middle of phase 3 of the pandemic, “which evidently… increases the risk of accelerated infection in our municipality and thus the probabilities of death,” reads the text of a court filing against this action.

On May 8, 2020 the response to the demand for a suspension filed by members of the indigenous Maya Ch’ol people in the municipalities of Palenque, Salto de Agua and Ocosingo was made public. It pointed out the violation of the rights to health and life that the start of construction work on the megaproject implies.

On November 15, 2019, almost a year after the start of the project, they announced the call for the consultation process with indigenous peoples who are within the project’s area of influence, regarding participation in the implementation of the project, as well as in the just and equitable distribution of the benefits.

The process resulted in approval of the Maya Train; the percentage in favor was 92.3 % of the total of 100, 940 voters; those who voted YES correspond to 2.78 % of the 3,344,522 persons who inhabit the 84 municipalities where the consultation was held. Sources interviewed said that the traditional authorities and the instances of indigenous collective representation were not invited or recognized.

The researchers say that the analysis they carried out evidenced the continuity of the Maya Train project in the region with the project of the Palenque-Agua Azul Integrally Planned Center (CIPP), also directed by FONATUR. This tourist project includes the construction of a complex regional system of infrastructure for connectivity and lodging for the purpose of developing tourist activity in the region and exploiting the economy tied to the sector.

The Maya Train project proposes reactivation of the CIPP, although it has not explicitly been mentioned yet, the study’s author said. The decree authorizing construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway axis makes clear the connection to the railway project.

Lastly, Gasparello states that Chiapas has shown conflicts and violence in the implementation of any megaproject that doesn’t respond to the material and cultural needs of the local population.


Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo

Monday, June 8, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


Tzeltal families displaced for two years demand returning to their communities

Those displaced in Chilón demand justice!

 By: Isaín Mandujano

TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, Chiapas (apro)

Two years after the forced displacement of which they were victims, some 59 indigenous Tzeltal families from two communities in the municipio de Chilón, demanded that the state and federal governments intervene immediately to put an end to the precarious conditions in which they have lived after being dispossessed of their houses and their inherited wealth.

By means of a letter, leaders of those displaced from Carmen San José and San Antonio Patbaxil communities in the municipality of Chilón, denounced that they have been victims of the injustice and ineptitude of local, state and federal authorities, who have not been able to give adequate attention or provide concrete solutions in actions that contribute to the safe return of the displaced families.

The remembered that as of this Monday (June 8) they have been dispossessed from their homes and lands because of the armed group called “Pechtoneros,” a criminal group from the Pechtón Ic’osilja community in Chilón.

This is a group, they said, which to date has not been dismantled, despite the denunciations made and the initiation of investigative notebooks in the local district attorney general’s office, as of today no advances in this work have been presented to the victims.

And, local authorities have not executed the precautionary measures issued, although we know that they continue sending their reports as if everything is in order.

They denounced the lack of commitment of the different levels of local, state and federal government to resolve the problems of the forced displacement of the 34 families from the community of Carmen San José, as well as the 25 families from San Antonio Patbaxil, municipality of Chilón, Chiapas.


They warned about the vulnerability of displacement in which the communities of Juan Sabines and Tsubute’el in the municipality of Chilón and the community of Santa Cruz in the municipality of Sitala are found, due to the harassment and threats from armed groups.

They also denounced the lack of responsibility on the part of the Attorney General of Justice to give timely follow-up to the investigative case records and the execution of the orders of apprehension, as well as informing the victims about this follow-up and the non-implementation of the precautionary measures issued to the displaced families.

They stated their concern for the displaced families who are living in inhumane conditions due to the lack of a dignified place to live, the lack of economic resources to acquire food and necessary products, as well as those needed to care for their illnesses.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic that today afflicts the country, the displaced are groups vulnerable to the lack of spaces to respect a healthy distance,” they said.

They demanded that the state and local government authorities intervene and facilitate the prompt return of the families displaced from the communities of Carmen San José and San Antonio Patbaxil.

They asked that they effectuate the execution of the arrest warrants against the aggressors and the effective implementation of the precautionary measures that the CNDH and the CEDH issued to those displaced since they are vulnerable due to the denunciations they have made.

As well as the restitution of the damages caused by this forced displacement and of which they have been victims for two years and practically forgotten by the local government, but above all they demanded justice, health, food and education for the displaced families.

Those displaced announced this Monday that the peoples and groups in situations of forced displacement should not be victims of the State’s justice system, which prevent advancing in the search for solutions and not achieving justice with strict adherence to collective rights.

They pointed out again that Chilón has been the scene of great Collective Rights violations, of which the Community Government has been both a witness and a victim.


Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee







The invasion of African palm into the Lacandón Jungle

Photo of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, Chiapas..

By: Mongabay Latam

In Boca de Chajul, a small community of Marqués de Comillas municipality, in Chiapas, Rafael Lombera has seen large expanses of the Lacandón Jungle disappear and it has been principally —he says— due to the custom of exploiting natural resources and because of cattle ranching. Today one of the causes is the cultivation of African palm.

When you travel to Chajul, and to the entrance of this small town, you observe signs at the sides of the road that read: “Environmental Services Payment,” a Mexican government program that promotes conservation on private properties or on ejidos. That’s how sections of the jungle dispute the landscape with the parcels planted with African palm.

In the municipality of Marqués de Comillas, according to a study of the National Institute of Ecology, are the only stretches of land in Mexico with flood forests because in the other states, like Tabasco, they have disappeared.

Rafael Lombera’s huts are raised by large wooden supports that allow the passage of waters from the Lacantún River when it comes out to flood its surroundings. This jungle corner is the gateway to the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve; flora and fauna researchers come there all year. It’s also the region where palm planting began in Mexico, in the middle of the last century.

Changes in the jungle

 Most of the area conducive to palm-culture is in southeastern Mexico (two million hectares, according to the federal government), a region to which Chiapas belongs, which has the agricultural and climatic conditions to extend up to 400,000 hectares of palm plantations, a crop destined to satiate the needs of foreign and national markets that demand biodiesel and oils for the food industry.

Rafael Lombera, who has lived in this region since he was a child, just over four decades ago, notices changes in the dynamics of the jungle. He has a clear opinion about what is the biggest threat to one of Mexico’s largest natural reserves: “the jungle is being cut down to sow African palm.”

The cultivation of African palm has been driven by both the state and federal governments. State officials say they do it on land where there is no longer any jungle, land that had already been used for cattle ranching.

In 2017, estimates from the Chiapas Secretariat of the Countryside were that there were around 64,000 hectares planted in the state; the goal is to reach 100,000. For this, the Chiapas government promoted the creation of four palm nurseries that, according to the Institute for the Promotion of Tropical Agriculture, are the largest in Latin America.

Until 2013, the Agro-food and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP, its initials in Spanish) calculated that 44 % of the palm planted in Chiapas was in jungle areas.

Fields without life

 The researcher León Enrique Ávila, a specialist in African palm and a professor at the Intercultural University of Chiapas, said that the planting of palm in the state does not include an effective environmental control.

Antonio Castellanos, a researcher at the Multidisciplinary Research Center on Chiapas and the Southern Border, with six years of work with palm producers in the ejidos, said that one of the conditions for receiving support (financial aid) from the Mexican government “is to commit to planting it only as a mono-crop.” Where there is African Palm, there is no more flora.

For Leon Avila the sensation he gets when traveling palm areas is like being in a “desert of silence where there is no longer noise at dawn.” He has walked the region for years and says he has seen how that plant has changed the dynamics of the flora, fauna and communities.

The people who used to live from their crops and the products that the jungle offered them —explained the specialist— now anxiously await the date on which the owners of the factories pay the palm growers and they, in turn, distribute paychecks to their day laborer employees.

The researcher agrees with Antonio Castellanos: the principal flaw is in the fact that the crop has been introduced as a mono-crop. And according to the specialized publication Gloobal, “the thousands of hectares of African palm imply not only maintaining deforestation but also increasing the CO2 and increasing water pollution with agro-chemicals in regions of high biodiversity, such as the biosphere regions (Montes Azules) and the Lacandón Jungle.”

The reality that contradicts the speech

 According to the Bank of Mexico, the country imports around 462,000 tons of palm oil per year, which is equivalent to 82 % of the quantity that its industries consume. Therefore, 200,850 hectares are required to produce the supply of oil for the internal market.

The conditions are set for the crop to advance because there are programs that promote the planting of de African palm in the state governments, in the federal government and in foreign funds.

Bárbara Linares Bravo, a researcher at the College of the Southern Border (Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Ecosur), learned about productive reconversion with the arrival of African palm in the Tulijá Valley in northern Chiapas. She observes a strong change that is eradicating productive and self-consumption customs with the arrival of international and national support for propagating palm cultivation.

“The expansion of this crop, paradoxically, in contrast to the discourse of sustainable development that justifies it, increases the social and environmental contradictions,” Linares Bravo pointed out.

The advance of African palm crops in the Chiapas jungle is developed under three commitments the country made with international actors. One of them is the Mesoamerica Project, with 10 adhering nations (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama and Mexico) and its Mesoamerican Biofuels Program, within which Mexico established its productive reconversion program.

Additionally, Mexico has 10 palm oil extraction plants; seven are in Chiapas and all are private. Producers organize around them and do what’s necessary to “clean” their lands and earn money —for example— 5,000 pesos ($277 dollars) per month for the all of the corn crop they planted for sale and for consumption, in order to receive up to 35, 000 pesos ($1,862 dollars) each month for the mono-crop, according to the testimony of José Baldovinos, palm grower of Boca de Chajul.

Ant deforestation

 Baldovinos has planted 27 hectares with African palm near Boca de Chajul and is ready to add another six. This cultivation permitted facing the medical expenses that he had when his two parents were gravely ill.

Like thousands of residents miles of Marqués de Comillas and the jungle region, Baldovinos came from Michoacán in 1972 in a small plane that landed on a rural road or simply in a clearing among the vegetation. “It was pure jungle then, but has been changing drastically,” he remembers.

The indiscriminate practice of cattle ranching and African palm cultivation began within the ejidos in the 1970s. Fallow lands (“acahuales”) proliferated. They are some spaces of jungle where the ejido owners cut, wait a couple of years and then enroll those lands in financing programs for African palm, thus dodging the “obstacle” that there is jungle. They cut to pave the way to the crop that is profitable for them.

A source from the Chiapas government requested anonymity told Mongabay Latam that currently the main cause of deforestation in the jungle is the logging of “clandestine companies” that work at night.

It is the ant advance of palm in the tropical region that covers most of southern Mexico. According to the testimonies collected by Mongabay Latam, this is how palm crops have grown in Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas (the states with soils suitable for growing palm) on lands for cattle ranching, pasture lands, “acahuales” or clandestinely deforested jungle sites.

Exit for residents

The Africana Palm plantation in Boca Chajul, located on the border with Guatemala, Lacandón Jungle, Chiapas. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago.

 African palm, according to the testimony of Rafael Lombera and José Baldovinos, is the crop that offers the opportunity to get out of poverty to all the campesinos who own small portions of land that are increasing their profits exponentially.

Baldovinos has been a farmer for more than 65 years and only now achieved economic peace of mind. He earns 30,000 pesos per month without major efforts when the rest of his life, working other crops like beans, corn or chili, achieved a minimum part with maximum effort.

The equation is simple: in the Environmental Services Payment program the Mexican Government pays 300 pesos per year per hectare of jungle (in 2017) and one hectare planted with palm in the productive age generates a profit of 100,000 pesos per year.

Rafael Lombera, who is an ejido owner in a jungle section that more people manage, assures that: “the people are getting desperate and are cutting down the jungle to plant palm.”

It’s a logic that runs through the jungle region of Chiapas that stretches along the border with Guatemala, where there are parcels of land that add up to 4,000 hectares, and that supply the factory of the Sustainable Oils Company, according to researchers calculations.

And in Mexican territory there are also producers who monopolize up to 1,000 hectares or small property owners who just begin —like don José in the beginning— to accumulate their first extensions of land. “This is how it’s changing from jungle to palm,” said don José Baldovinos, owner of one of the town’s largest houses.

“The future is palm,” lamented Rafael Lombera, with a lottery game in his hands in which figure photos of animals and vegetables he took inside that jungle thicket that raised up in front of him on the other side of the Lacantún River.


Originally Published in Spanish by Mongabay Latam

Thursday, February 13, 2020

México: la invasión de la palma africana en la Selva Lacandona

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

Immediate freedom for the Chiapas prisoners in struggle!

PRISON #10 in Comitán de Domínguez (CERRS 10)

Since last May 21 of this year, fellow adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle: from the following organizations: La Voz de Indígenas en Resistencia, La Voz Verdadera del Amate and Vineketik en Resistencia; maintain a hunger strike from different Chiapas prisons.

Their demand and their struggle are one and only one: IMMEDIATE FREEDOM!

With this action, our compañeros make visible the negligent and corrupt work on the part of Chiapas prison authorities, who refuse to guarantee the integrity of people who are their legal responsibility; thus underestimating and neglecting, the state of health of hundreds of people in prison; some of which have tested positive for COVID-19 and many others who present symptoms of having it, but without having security and certainty about it.

As an elementary act of justice the compañeros on a hunger strike must be released from prison now, their place is together with their families, in their communities with their loved ones; their stay in prison puts their lives and the lives of the rest of the prisoners and prison personnel at high risk.

The names of our compañeros are:

In Prison #5, (San Cristóbal de las Casas)

1. Adrián Gómez Jiménez

Organization: La Voz de Indígenas en Resistencia (The Voice of Indigenous in Resistance)


2. Abraham López Montejo

3. Germán López Montejo

Organization: La Voz Verdadera del Amate (The True Voice of El Amate)


In prison #10, (Comitán de Domínguez)

4. Marcelino Ruíz Gómez

Organization: Vineketik en Resistencia (Indigenous Men in Resistance)


In their communiqués, the prisoners in struggle point to the responsibility that the state authorities have and their omission in the face of the delicate situation that hundreds of people face who don’t have the sanitation measures necessary for confronting this health contingency. For its part, the response from Chiapas government authorities has been oblivion, corruption and racism, a government headed by Rutilio Escandón Cadenas, who displays his position under the initials of MORENA, which with promises of “change” continues governing in the same way as his predecessors; such “change” is only a lie and a simulation.

From the Network against Repression and Solidarity, we embrace the dignified struggle of our compañeros Abraham, Germán, Adrián and Marcelino. We add our voice and our actions to the demand for immediate freedom.

Prisons continue being those centers of extermination that show the most cruel and atrocious side of the capitalist system. Their objective is not the exercise of justice, they seek to break human dignity, corrupt the social fabric even further and leave in humiliation people who have been shoved aside in marginality and poverty generated by an economic model that enriches itself at the expense of life.

Therefore, we invite the compañer@s of the International and National Sixth, of the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion, of the Support Networks and those who feel called, to denounce the bad Chiapas government’s negligent behavior, to be in solidarity and speak out in favor of the of the struggle for freedom of our political prisoner compañeros.

We call on our compañeras and compañeros who are members of the RvsR so that according to their times, forms and modes, they support the struggle for the freedom of our compañeros.

Let’s not allow this gloomy normality to be perpetuated; respect for our rights and freedoms will not come from above. Only with organization can we all be free. The world is now one big prison. Let’s organize ourselves from below and to the left to stop barbarism.

 Freedom for Abraham López Montejo!

Freedom for Germán López Montejo!

Freedom for Adrián Gómez Jiménez!

Freedom for Marcelino Ruíz Gómez!

Freedom for all political prisoners!


Against the dispossession and repression: Solidarity!

Red against Repression and for Solidarity (RvsR)


Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista

Friday, June 5, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee