Elected Officials of San Cristóbal Promote the Dispossession of the Zapatista Reserve of Huitepec, in SCLC

By Ángeles Máriscal

Last Sunday, a group of individuals that call themselves “Guardians of the Huitepec Alcanfores Reserve,” entered into the zone of Huitepec, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, where support bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) live. They intend to  take possession of the site, with the argument that it will protect the ecosystem, even though the Zapatista communities have had these as conservation areas for 15 years. 

From the Huitepec Reserve. Photo: Becca Titus

The person promoting this initiative is the mayor-elect Mariano Diaz Ochoa, who will occupy the municipal presidency for the third time, starting in October. He was mayor before from 1999 to 2001 and from 2008 to 2010.

Díaz Ochoa has been an vocal advocate of movements against the EZLN; in 1994, he headed the group called the the “Authentic Coletos1 that tried to expel the Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, who was a mediator in the armed conflict. 

The mayor-elect also participated in the expulsion of human rights activists that arrived in San Cristóbal de las Casas, and when he was mayor in 1990, he along with his council declared actress Ofelia Medina persona non grata, for carrying out activities in defense of indigenous peoples in Chiapas.

Now, Díaz Ochoa is pushing the creation of the association “Guardians of the Huitepec Alcanfores Reserve,” and last Sunday called upon the population to enter the Zapatista reserve. When they arrived, they destroyed a building that the indigenous people have on the site. 

A sign posted in Huitepec. “Protected Natural Area and Zapatista Community Ecological Reserve ‘Huitepec,’ supported by the Good Government Council of the Highlands Zone.”

“It is important to remember that the 102 hectares have been under the care of individuals from the EZLN that live there since 2006, who since then have taken actions to preserve the ecosystem.

The government wanted to declare this region a governmental protected natural area with the name “Huitepec-Los Alcanfores,” but the then UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, pointed out that this action violates the rights of indigenous peoples, which establishes that the creation of new ecological reserves in indigenous regions should only be done after consultation with the affected communities, and the government should respect and support the decision and the right of the indigenous peoples to establish community ecological reserves in their territories.

Now that he is back in office, Mariano Díaz Ochoa once again intends to initiate actions against the EZLN’s support base communities, the residents accuse.

This article was published in Chiapas Paralelo on July 12, 2021. https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/noticias/chiapas/2021/07/autoridades-electas-de-san-cristobal-promueven-despojo-de-reserva-zapatista-de-huitepec-en-sclc/
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

Footnotes

  1.  Coleto is an expression used to describe the families of status of San Cristóbal ie. It is an expression used with different connotations among those who “belong” and those who do not (ie the indigenous people).