Chiapas experiences a social storm with three days to go before the elections

Eduardo Ramirez accompanies Claudia Sheinbaum in the close of the Morena coalition campaign in Chiapas. Photo: Facebook

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.

Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar’s crystal ball anticipated: “There are going to be some stormy moments as president of Mexico.”

It was last Sunday 26, at the closing of the state campaign, where candidate Claudia Sheinbaum listened to the omen without losing her smile.

Ramírez, who called himself a “jaguar” in his proselytizing campaign, uttered the stormy warning perhaps as a rhetorical device, as he completed thus: “Know that the people of Chiapas will always be attentive to your call, supportive, fraternal and loving, to close ranks with the president of Mexico.”

In a sort of implicit recognition of the situation of violence in the state, Ramírez said he was sure that they will have Sheinbaum’s support, now as president, “so that our families can live in safety and social tranquility.”

According to press accounts, 14 people have been murdered in Chiapas who aspired to different positions, although some had not yet formalized their candidacies. The local electoral authority has also reported that 515 candidates resigned, although only 29 admitted that the reason was insecurity.

So it was at the very least odd that Ramírez spoke of stormy moments in the capital of a state that the National Electoral Institute (INE) considers a red hot spot: on Monday, the electoral authority informed, after a meeting with the security cabinet, that in Chiapas there is a greater deployment due to the risk that 500 of the almost 7 thousand polling stations may not be installed on Sunday.

Chiapas has experienced stormy times in the last few weeks: teachers’ strikes and mobilizations, assassinations of candidates to various posts, threats of boycott (some of them carried out, as in the case of Pantelhó, where, according to versions, vehicles carrying electoral material were not allowed to enter).

The teachers of Section 7 of the SNTE-CNTE are on strike and maintain a sit-in in the state capital, where they have also carried out blockades, blockades of toll booths and gas stations.

The blockade of a Pemex distribution center has led to long lines at gas stations, both because of the difficulties in supplying gas and because of panic buying.

In addition to the long lines to fill up with fuel, there are rumors that seem to be aimed at discouraging participation.

On the morning of Tuesday 28, for example, many businesses in San Cristobal de las Casas did not open their doors early. Something is going to happen, they say, was the response of some who had been willing to work.

Ay, Andresito

Carla Zamora Lomelí, a researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, has taken on the task of sorting out the complexity of the situation in Chiapas.

Regarding the border region, she describes the situation in municipalities such as Frontera Comalapa, Chicomuselo and La Trinitaria, where up to the end of 2023 there were 7,500 people displaced by violence.

In that region, she points out, there have been property thefts, disappearances, forced recruitment, persecution and murder of activists and threats to go and celebrate the entry of the Sinaloa cartel.

In Comitán, a displaced family agrees to a brief exchange, without names, of course. The voice is carried by the one who is presented as the uncle: “We can’t tell you much because, the truth is, nothing has happened to us directly, but it has happened close to us, and we are afraid.”

The parents made the decision to leave because there are young men in the family and they feared that they would be recruited by the gangs.

The fear grew with the approaching elections. We were told that we had to vote and that the voting had to be open (without partitions, in full view of everyone).

Lilia (not her real name) has been living near the capital of Chiapas for two years. She left her community, located in a bordering municipality, for fear of the constant attacks between organized crime groups that fight over the territory.

In her town she had land and a small business that allowed her to support her family. In her place of refuge she shows her damaged hands from hard work that just barely allows her to survive.

She says that everything “got uglier” two years ago, when the clashes between the groups in dispute intensified, when they shot at each other wherever they met, even in the middle of the day.

“Teachers had to stay locked up with the children in school.”

Then came the drone attacks. “Some of my neighbors were hit by a bomb; three children were burned… I went to see them in the hospital.”

Lilia has not completely abandoned her community. She returns from time to time because she does not want to lose her property.

Researcher Zamora has collected testimonies of people who chose to sell off their properties: as soon as the criminal group found out, “because they always find out,” they demanded a fee for the sale.

To maintain her right, Lilia pays her neighbors the protection that the criminal group forces her to pay.

-How much does she pay?

-From 300 to 500 pesos, depending on who takes it out, some are considerate. But when they give an order, you have to pay.

-What happens if they don’t comply with the vigilance?

-They have threatened us that they are going to take us out of the neighborhood, they are going to remove us, and we will never be able to return, we will lose our property.

In her community, a dozen families can no longer return: “The Jehovah’s Witness brothers and sisters left because they did not want to support the elections. They don’t vote. They took what they could, because they were given five days to remove their things.”

-What do they avoid with the vigilance?

-Sometimes we really don’t understand what it is they are avoiding, because they also get rowdy when the army comes. We don’t know if it is from the armies or from some enemy they have.

-Do you ask them to keep the army from coming in?

-Yes, the army cannot enter. They show us that everything is going well, that there are no problems, but many people have already died in the community and we are afraid. It is a lie that nothing is happening, that everything is going well.

Lilia voted for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “Always, ever since he was defrauded.”

To close the conversation she says, as if to herself: “Oh, my Andresito, how can you say that nothing is happening?”

The omnipresence of the jaguar

If there were only the propaganda on streets and highways, it would be difficult to know who are the adversaries of Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar, whom Chiapanecos of all stripes consider a sure winner.

In tours around Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Comitán, and on the highways connecting those cities, not a single advertisement of the PRI and PAN candidate, the PRD candidate Olga Luz Espinosa, could be seen.

The only opponent with billboards is the PRI candidate Willy Ochoa, candidate for the Senate (a “fifí” from Tapachula, say the Morenistas). His slogan is a criticism to the government of Rutilio Escandón, which at the same time takes care to no lose voters: Yesterday’s peace with today’s programs.

In the discursive counterattack, Ramírez, who was Secretary of Government under Manuel Velasco, has decided to honor the figure of Bishop Samuel Ruiz. In the middle of the campaign he presented a book with his proposals in the museum dedicated to the memory of the famous religious figure. And in campaign acts he has said that he will follow in the footsteps of the bishop of the poor and that he will form a “government that walks.”

Meanwhile, in stormy moments, local radio and television hosts comment with the audience on the lack of gasoline due to the teachers’ blockades. As a solution, they ask the citizens to return to a healthy life and to walk.

Original article by Arturo Cano published in La Jornada on May 30th, 2024.
Translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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