Chiapas, from Paramilitaries to Organized Crime

By Luís Hernandez Navarro

In 2013, Antonio Laredo Donjuán, the successful businessman from Guerrero, and his wife Mercedes Barrios Hernández, moved to the modest municipality of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán, in Chiapas. They came from Cuernavaca. They acquired an enormous residence, established prosperous businesses and made friends with politicians and state police.

Solistahuacán means in the Náhuatl language: place of those who have weapons of steel. It is nestled in the mountains of northern Chiapas. Its terrain is rugged. There They worship Señor de Esquipulas 1 and Seventh Day Adventists abound. Some 30,000 people live there, almost half of them indigenous. More than 50 percent of the villagers live in extreme poverty.

In spite of that, Don Toño and Doña Meche started a luxury car business and acquired multiple ranches, without regard for their price. He became good friends with the region’s mayors. He financed electoral campaigns in the municipalities of Rayón, Tapilula, Jitotol, Solusuchiapa, Juárez, Pueblo Nuevo and Rincón Chamula, in exchange for letting him appoint the police commanders. Politicians and those responsible for municipal and state public security would stop by his home to “say hello” (https://bit.ly/3equCYL).

But, five years after they settled in that corner of Chiapas, they were arrested. Interpol had been looking for them since 2008. The request came from the United States. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department designated the Laredos’ as members of organized crime, dedicated to the production and distribution of heroine from Mexico to the United States. They placed it in batteries and vehicle bumpers, as well as in cans of fruits and vegetables, and transported it to Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Camden, New Jersey. Antonio, according to the Americans, was the main coordinator of the group. His wife Mercedes was accused of sending proceeds from the sales to Mexico.

Between 2013 and 2018, from a humble Chiapas municipality the Laredo Barrios couple operated a powerful drug trafficking network with impunity. Their wealth and power were inexplicable to the eyes of everyone. But that didn’t matter. They flourished under the protection of an extensive web of impunity and protection, and of agents who pillaged and subjugated the region’s indigenous communities. They were arrested at the request of the United States, which also called for their extradition (https://bit.ly/3hA398W).

One of Don Toño’s great friends was the mayor of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán when the couple came to live in the municipality: the then PRD member (and now a member of the Solidarity Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Solidario, PES) Enoc Díaz Pérez.

Enoc’s trajectory seems to be taken from a manual of exemplary lives. On two occasions he was held in El Amate, a Chiapas prison. In 2008, he was accused of being the leader of  Los Cacheros, a criminal gang, accused of murdering three state and one federal police agent. The uniformed officers had dared to capture the Díaz Pérez brothers, accusing them of raping a young woman from the town. Hours later, an armed group rescued them from the prison. The officers paid for their daring with their lives. Four years later, Los Cacheros became Los Diablos. They were dedicated to subduing rebel populations with firearms and bursting in on patron saint fesitivities (https://bit.ly/3hYd0Eq).

Despite his relationships, the state’s Congress disqualified Enoc in January 2015, when he and his men took several businessmen out of a restaurant and beat them up. To his misfortune, he fell afoul of the powerful Secretary of the Interior in those years. The mayor was accused of torture, illegal deprivation of freedom, abuse of authority and criminal association. By then, an enormous house had already been built.

The story of the apprehension of the businessmen could have been part of a horror story.  Enoc heard that the businessmen had accused him of dealing in “chocolate” vehicles. 2Angered, he ordered them to stop. Their captors announced to them that they would be executed and their bodies burned. Later, they were taken to an auditorium where, before 300 people, the mayor accused them of being “enemies of the people” and “hindering the development of the municipality.” (https://bit.ly/3wyoZ0A)

Along the way, Díaz Pérez created a paramilitary-style movement, which he named “Proyecto Amigo Revolucionario No. 7” (Revolutionary Friend Project No. 7) and tried to expand it into neighboring municipalities. He imposed control over the communities with executions and silent forced displacements. It happened like that, for example, in 2019, in the displacement of the residents of San Pedro Hidalgo, in the municipality of San Pedro Duraznal. The following day, the paramilitary group burned houses, looted belongings and occupied the lands of San Pedro Hidalgo and San Pedro la Grandeza communities. (https://bit.ly/3kbw30C). These cases are just a few of many more.

Although he remained in violent control of the communities, Enoc reappeared in the last election as a candidate for mayor with the PES. With just a few days to go, a commando murdered 5 members of the PRD who were transporting electoral packets. According to a witness, members of the armed group said that this had happened to them for not following orders from Díaz Pérez (https://bit.ly/3eaiLhf).

Curiously, the criminal group that violently controls the Pantelhó municipal government named Enoc as an advisor.

Stories like those of the Laredos and Enoc Díaz Pérez demonstrate the mutation and associations of paramilitaries and organized crime with governmental protection in Chiapas that advance against the organized peoples who defend their autonomy. Their weapons are made with much more than flint.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada onTuesday, July 13, 2021
https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/07/13/opinion/016a2pol
Re-Published by Schools for Chiapas with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee.

Footnotes

  1. The Señor of Esquipulas is also known as the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a large statue carved from wood depicting Christ on the cross. It is located in a basilica in Esquipulas, Guatemala.
  2. Typically, these are cars bought in the US, driven to Mexico but not registered there because it costs a lot of money to register such a vehicle in Mexico.