From El Universal, Nov. 14 (our translation, links added):
OCOSINGO, Chiapas — The organization Maderas del Pueblo [Timber for the People], which has a presence in the Selva Lacandona, confirmed that up to nine campesinos were assassinated in the comunity of Viejo Velasco.
In an interview, Miguel Garcia Aguirre said that according to reports from indigenous who abandoned the community, the following residents were killed in an attempted eviction: Marta Perez Perez, Maria Perez Hernandez, Maria Nunez Gonzalez, Pedro Nunez Perez, Oliver Benitez Perez, Antonio Perez Lopez, Dominga Perez Lopez and Felicitas Perez Parecero. Also killed were two children: Noile Benitez, eight years old, and a recently born boy, who “still had not been baptized,” explained Garcia Aguirre.
The groups confronted them with firearms, clubs and machetes in the community of Viejo Velasco, some 400 kilometers north of Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of Chiapas state, the state police said Monday in a statement.
The Lacandon indigenous, who have lived for centuries in the jungle near the border with Guatemala, oppose groups supported by the Zapatistas who have arrived in the zone from higher lands to colonize farmland.
The Zapatista rebels support the new colonists because they consider the small farmers the best protectors of the tropical forest.
An indetermined number of wounded were able to escape into the jungle, and Maderas del Pueblo is calling for aid from the Red Cross.
The situation in Viejo Velasco remains tense and uncertain this morning.
From the AP, Nov. 14:
TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico: At least three people were killed in fighting between two Indian groups, one of them backed by Zapatista rebels, in a land dispute in the Lacandon jungle in southern Mexico, authorities said.
But peasants’ and human rights groups on Tuesday put the toll at 14 dead from the previous day’s clash in the village of Viejo Velasco, 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez.
The Chiapas state government said in a news release that “a group of Lacandon (Indians) entered the land at Viejo Velasco with the aim of evicting a group of squatters, who resisted, and they clashed with fists, stones and some firearms.”
Maderas del Pueblo, a peasant farmer group allied with the Zapatista rebels, said in a statement that six men, six women and two children were killed in Monday’s clash. Ten victims were recent settlers backed by Maderas del Pueblo and the other four were Lacandon Indians, the group said.
Chiapas human rights group Fray Bartolome de las Casas also released a statement saying 14 people had been killed.
But Chiapas state police spokesman Jose Domingo Perez said two were killed at the scene on Monday and a third died Tuesday in a hospital.
It seems the government’s divide-and-rule strategy—to pit the Lacandon Maya against the Highland Maya colonists in the rainforest who support the Zapatistas—is bearing grim fruit. We are not yet ready to line up with those (e.g. Narco News) who are calling this a “massacre” by “paramilitary” forces. If, as early news accounts indicate, Viejo Velasco was attacked by Lacandones, this is on a very different model from the paramilitary violence which has long been endemic in the Chiapas Highlands. Agrarian conflict in the Highlands is largely between small peasant communities and the big ranchers of the oligarchy or the caciques (regional bosses) that control indigenous lands through patronage and terror. In the Selva, the conflict is between indigenous groups who have overlapping land titles due to the government’s policy of settling landless peasants from the Highlands in the rainforest—then granting title to their new lands to the Lacandones when the colonists turned pro-Zapatista. (See, e.g. Fray Bartoleme de Las Casas Human Rights Center press release, June 11, 2005)
See also: “Biodiversity Inc.: Mexico tries a new tactic against Chiapas rebels: conservation,” by this reporter, In These Times, Aug. 21, 2003