Death Threats Against National and International Observers and Obstruction of Frayba Human Rights Defense Work

The outside of the Frayba Observation quarters in Nuevo San Gregorio.

Bulletin No. 22

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, 
June 29 2022

The negligence of the Mexican State puts at risk the life and integrity of people who are defenders and autonomous communities who defend land and territory. 

Since November 2019, the Nuevo Poblado San Gregorio (Nuevo San Gregorio) community, territory recuperated in 1994 by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), has been constantly attacked by a group of people coming from communities surrounding the San Gregorio ejido, Ranchería San Andrés Puerto Rico, Ranchería Duraznal and Ranchería Rancho Alegre, who have dispossessed about 155 hectares belonging to the collective territory of the Lucio Cabañas Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Municipality, of Caracol 10 “Flowering the Rebel Seed,” of the Good Government Junta “New Dawn in Resistance and Rebellion for Life and Humanity” in Chiapas,  Mexico. The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) has documented and denounced the aggressions, and attempted forced displacement and territorial dispossession of the Zapatista autonomy process to the three levels of government.

On March 3, 2021, a Civilian Observation Brigades (BriCO, Brigadas Civiles de Observación) camp was installed in the community. So far this year, the brigades documented 21 attacks against 5 families (27 people) who live in Nuevo San Gregorio, which range from intimidations to death threats, sexual violence and torture, as well as physical attacks, stealing cattle and destruction of property; cutting off water, surveillance and obstruction, control of and extortion for free transportation, as well as kidnapping people. The territory has been fenced off with barbed wire, denying the right to a dignified life, food, health and education.

The threats, harassment and intimidation by the group of people adds to the Mexican State’s failure to address this situation despite having been informed of the events by Frayba. This fact aggravates the risk to life, security and integrity of the population, as well as of the BriCO observers, who have been the target of threats in recent weeks. 

For two weeks, the aggressor group has increased its acts of dispossession and has made serious threats against the BriCOs. On June 10, 15 and 19, 2022, the brigades again registered attacks that put at risk the life, security and personal integrity of the BAEZLN [1], as well as the risk of forced displacement of the entire community and grave violations against the right to free travel in the region. Like the kidnapping, mistreatment and extortion that occurred last June 19, of a crane and its personnel contracted by the El Puente organization for a period of 7 hours. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons have been informed of this situation, as well as the embassies whose citizens are in the community. Even so, the three levels of government keep a deathly silence in the face of the events. 

Faced with this situation in Frayba, we have made the decision to suspend the observation camp in Nuevo San Gregorio, seeking to protect the life and integrity of national and international observers. 

In 28 years of the BriCOs work, we have rarely had to suspend observation camps due to threats and the serious life-threatening situation of the observers. The Mexican State does not protect the right to defend human rights, despite having signed and ratified the United Nations Declaration on the right and duty of individuals, groups and institutions to promote and protect human rights and universally recognized fundamental freedoms. 

This context puts the Autonomy and Self-Determination of the Peoples at risk, as well as the work of the defense and promotion of human rights that we carry out from Frayba. However, we will continue pointing out these criminal acts that link to human rights violations, and also persist in meeting with the corresponding mechanisms for the defense of fundamental rights, so that the federal and state governments wake up and act effectively against aggressor groups who continue criminal acts in the face of what is now a permanent and deepening impunity.  

From the Frayba we will continue documenting and denouncing the situation of the BAEZLN in Nuevo San Gregorio and demanding that autonomous territories be respected, which is why we call on national and international civil society to a speak out for life, for the defense of territory, for the security and personal integrity of the community’s inhabitants and strongly demand that the Mexican State fulfill its obligation to guarantee and protect the work of defending human rights. 

[1] BAEZLN – the letters in Spanish for EZLN support bases (bases de apoyo del EZLN).

Originally Published in Spanish by Frayba, Wednesday, June 29, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee and reposted by Schools for Chiapas.

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