Paramilitary violence escalates in Chiapas


Tensions are fast mounting in Mexico’s conflicted southern state of Chiapas following a new outbreak of paramilitary violence. Protests have been held in the state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez聽over the past weeks to demand the return alive of 21 residents of the highland village of聽Pantelh贸, who were abducted聽July 26 amid raids by a self-proclaimed “self-defense force” in which houses and vehicles were also set on fire. On Aug. 10, the state prosecutor who was assigned to investigate the case,聽Gregorio P茅rez G贸mez, was himself gunned down on a street in the highland city of San Crist贸bal de Las Casas. An anonymous defector from “El Machete”聽self-defense force told national TV news program En Punto on Oct. 7 that 18 of聽the 21 missing men were publicly beaten to death in the聽Pantelh贸 village square. He said their bodies were buried near聽San Jos茅 Tercero, the outlying hamlet that is the paramilitary group’s principal stronghold. Family members of the abductees have adopted the slogan from the infamous Ayotzinapa case, “They were taken alive, we want them back alive.”

El Machete reportedly accused the abducted聽men聽of being members of Los Herrera, a criminal gang that allegedly has links to the Pantelh贸聽municipal government.聽The paramilitary group is demanding the ouster of聽Pantelh贸’s mayor,聽Raquel Trujillo Morales of the center-left PRD, and instatement of a system based on聽usos y costumbres, a taditional indigenous model of government without elected leaders. (Mexico News Daily, La Jornada, Animal Politico, Proceso, Chiapas Support Committee)

Receiving far less coverage from Mexico’s national media, paramilitary violence is also escalating against followers of the Zapatista rebel movement, which continues to observe a truce with the government. The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) issued a communiqu茅 Sept. 19 listing a series of recent attacks on members of their support base. In the most serious, two members of the Zapatista base community of Patria Nueva (in the “official” municipality of Oxchuc) were said to have been abducted by gunmen from the local ORCAO聽paramilitary group on Sept. 11. The two men were freed eight days later following mediation by聽the parish priest聽of Oxchuc, but 6,000 pesos in cash belonging to the聽Patria Nueva聽autonomous administration was stolen. The EZLN聽communiqu茅聽warned that Chiapas is at “the brink of civil war.” (Enlace Zapatista, Radio Zapatista)

Photo: Chiapas Paralelo