Zapatistas of Aldama and Chenalhó Denounce Armed Siege

Published February 7, 2019


The Zapatistas accuse the government of promoting armed groups and militarizing the region.

The dispute between inhabitants of the municipalities of Aldama and Chenalhó that began four decades ago for the possession of 60 hectares of land, erupted again just 11 months ago, with the presence of groups of armed civilians who besiege support bases of the Army Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) of the zone.

The Zapatistas, in videos, accused the three levels of government of promoting and financing these groups of armed people, who have murdered 25 people; the situation is aggravated -they point out- with the arrival of dozens of soldiers in the area.

A presidential resolution of José López Portillo that endowed 60 hectares of land to the community of Santa Martha, Chenalhó, was revoked years later, when it was recognized that the land belonged to what today make up 5 communities of the municipality of Aldama: Cotzilnam, Xuxch’ in, Tselej potobtik, Yeton and the municipal seat.

Support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) live in these communities. Since February 28, 2018 until today, they have suffered attacks by armed civilians that keep them practically besieged.

A Zapatista of Xuxch’en says: “They shoot the cars, the people on the road (…) you can not take the production, or the sick, you have to travel at night because they shoot (…) burned the reeds, it gives a lot of pain because it’s our job (…) We have suffered 11 months as support bases of the EZLN. It gives a lot of sadness, the children in the fast school come back crying, screaming, they do not want to go to school anymore “.

For the Zapatistas of this region, the autonomous municipality Magdalena de la Paz, what was an agrarian problem became a social conflict financed by the municipal, state and federal governments.

“It looks very clear: shootings, aggressions, bursts of fire and bullets. We do not believe that an indigenous person can buy thousands of bullets every day,” explained one of the Cotzilnam women.

Those affected by the actions of the groups of armed civilians are indigenous support bases of the EZLN, who live on the side of Chenalhó, from where up to now the aggressions have come. They show as proof dozens of caps of different calibers, which they have collected from the floor, after the attacks.

In the area, a river separates the disputed region. On one side are settlers of Chenalhó, who call themselves dispossessed and now claim the territory with fire. On the other side, the five villages of Aldama. On both sides, besides the river, there are now barricades formed with sacks of sand and stones.

The settlers of Aldama assure that the armed ones of Chenalhó constructed the barricades that are in the other end, with the purpose of to have a better angle of shot in his against. Those in your municipality, they say, were raised to protect themselves. One of them is in the Vicente Guerrero school, where children no longer go since their walls were shot.

In this dispute, 25 people have been murdered. The most recent homicides were on April 2, 2018 Sebastián López Velasco; on May 5 Domingo Hernández Pérez, Lucio Hernández Hernández, Víctor Hernández Hernández, Víctor Hernández Sántiz and Cecilia Hernández Hernández. On November 7, Raymundo Hernández Pérez, Julio López Álvarez, Miguel Álvarez Álvarez and Enrique Hernández Hernández. The most recent murders are those of Juan Pedro Gómez Sántiz and two others, on January 22.

Thousands of displaced people have left due to the precarious situation of the area, which led Alejandro Encinas, Undersecretary of Human Rights of the Ministry of the Interior, to publicly recognize the existence of groups of armed settlers. The reaction was to send dozens of military and police to the area.

On January 23, police and military detachments were installed in the region, who now occupy the trenches in the area.

“Instead of solving it (the government) puts the army in our communities. We are very clear, the only thing they are going to do is worsen it more and more,” explained one of the Zapatistas of Cotzilnam.

They say that the federal government forced those who are not Zapatistas to accept the military presence in exchange for economic support.

In a statement the “Good Government Junta, the Central Heart of the Zapatistas in Front of the World,” stated that in the region in dispute, “there are natural beauties and ceremonial centers where they intend to create reserves or private ecotourism centers.”

For them, the three levels of government are what are causing the current conflict that is affecting the Zapatista territory, a territory they say they are not willing to give up. “We of course tell you; They are provoking us and they are forcing us to defend ourselves.”

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