Chiapas: municipal uprising against PRI ‘satellite’

Mayor Rosa Pérez Pérez of Chenalhó, Chiapas, stepped down May 26—after days of violence in the indigenous Maya municipality that even turned deadly. Pérez finally resigned after two state lawmakers from her Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM) were taken captive by opponents at a meeting called to negotiate an end to the dispute at the offices of the Catholic diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The lawmakers were forcibly removed from the premises by masked men who invaded the meeting and drove them to Chenalhó, where they were held to demand Pérez's resignation. By then, some 250 residents of outlying hamlets had fled inter-factional violence and taken refuge in government offices in Chenalhó's municipal center. A 56-year-old man was killed in fighting at the hamlet of Puebla. Violence has continued even after the resignation, with a 14-year-old girl shot in Puebla, where several homes were put to the torch. Opponents charged Pérez with diverting funds for development projects to her personal account, and say she represents the traditional ruling families of Chenalhó, who for the past generation have terrorized opposition with paramilitary groups to maintain power. The PVEM, now the ruling party in Chiapas, is assailed by critics as a "satellite party" of Mexico's ruling machine, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

In her defense, Pérez accused her detractors of not "tolerating that a woman would govern in a traditionalist town where by practice and custom men are usually in command." Her leading opponent, Miguel Sántiz Alvarez, was appointed interim mayor by a special session of the Chiapas state legislature.

Chenalhó was the site of the 1997 Acteal massacre, in which a PRI-aligned paramilitary group killed 45 unarmed campesinos who belonged to a dissident group of Catholic pacific inclination, Las Abejas (the Bees). Las Abejas released a statement on the new violence, noting similar conflicts in other Chiapas municipalities, especially naming Chicomuselo, Oxchuc and Simojovel. The statement took a dim view of the violence: "It is not a struggle to defend the true rights of the people; it is only a party struggle for power and municipal monies." (El Universal, APRO,, May 30; Mexico News Daily, May 27; Mexico News Daily, AP, May 26; Radio Macondo, Colombia, May 23)