Government link to Viejo Velasco massacre; Chiapas violence continues

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) in Chiapas reports that it has received a document prepared by the Mexican government for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) concerning the November 13, 2006 slaying of four peasants at the jungle community of Viejo Velasco Suárez. The document acknowledges that some 300 Chiapas state police were mobilized to Viejo Velasco on the day of the massacre. While the document fails to make clear whether the troops were dispatched before or after the attack, Frayba says this corroborates the claims of witnesses that the killers—a band of 40 masked men in civilian clothes—were backed up by hundreds of uniformed men with high-caliber rifles, some also wearing masks, who followed close behind. (Frayba, June 5)

Frayba continues to document attacks on the civil population in Chiapas by security forces. In one recent incident, a young Tzeltal Maya student, Roberto Encino López, 18, was arbitrarily detained by troops of the Mexican army's 11th Infantry Company of the 38th Military Zone at Altamirano, Chiapas on May 16, 2007. Taken to the local barracks, he was beaten, verbally threatened and accused of links to the Zapatista rebels. Altamirano is on the edge of the Chiapas rainforest which is the Zapatistas' principal stronghold. (Frayba, June 1)

Land conflicts continue to generate violence throughout Chiapas. On June 3, more than 100 masked men with machetes destroyed seven huts on land contested by the neighboring municipalities of Chenalhó and Chalchihuitán, in the Chiapas Highlands. The masked men were said to have come from Chenalhó, while the huts were used by peasants from Chalchihuitán for their work in the fields. (La Jornada, June 4)

Chenalhó, a Tzotzil Maya municipality, was the scene of the massacre of 45 residents at the hamlet of Acteal in December 1997. Now, Agustín Vázquez Ruiz, former leader of the group targeted in the massacre, Las Abejas, has been chosen as candidate for the Chenalhó municipal council on the ticket of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Chenalhó has long been dominated by the entrenched machine of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). (La Jornada, June 6)

In other news from Chiapas, Hurricane Barbara has destroyed thousands of hectares of banana, coffee, papaya and other crops, mostly in the coastal area of the state, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Stan in 2005. (APRO, June 5)

See our last posts on Mexico and the Zapatista struggle, Chiapas, and the Acteal massacre.