Chiapas: Abejas mark 1997 Acteal massacre

On Dec. 22, followers of the indigenous pacifist group Las Abejas (the Bees) held a ceremony at the hamlet of Acteal, in the highlands of Mexico’s southern Chiapas state, to remember the massacre there in 1997, and demand justice in the case. The group accused then-president Ernesto Zedillo and his Government secretary Emilio Chuayffet—today Secretary of Education—of being responsible for the attack, in which 45 unarmed Abejas were killed by a paramilitary group. The Abejas gathered at the “Pillar of Infamy,” a monument erected at the massacre site, joined by supporters and those displaced by the violence of the 1990s from throughout the Chiapas Highlands.

In a statement addressed to Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto of Zedillo’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco Coello of the Mexican Green Ecologist Party (PVEM), who came to power in alliance with the PRI, the Abejas noted the violence in Mexico City at the inauguration this month, and said: “How many crimes will Peña Nieto commit in his sexenio [six-year term]? How much blood of the Mexican people will be spilled at the orders of his political and economic mafia? Perhaps the corrupt politicians believe that our memory is short?”

Amnesty International also issued a statement recalling the massacre, saying that Mexican authorities still have a “debt of justice” to the massacre survivors. The statement noted that most of those arrested in connection with the massacre were freed in 2009 following a ruling of Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice, which found irregularities in the convictions; others have been released subsequently, and the case has been stalled since then. The investigation has never extended to the security forces or members of the political elite. (Milenio, Proceso, Terra Mexico, Terra MexicoADNPolitico, Amnesty International Mexico, Dec. 22)

The massacre commemoration comes as Chiapas’ Zapatista rebels are holding a rare public mobilization marking the turning of the Maya calendar. The Abejas’ share the Zapatistas’ aims of land reform and indigenous autonomy, but reject their ethic of armed struggle. The Zapatistas have observed a truce since their 10-day uprising in January 1994, but have not surrendered their arms.