by Carlos Soledad*
The state of Chiapas has become powder keg. On September 11, for example, members of the paramilitary organization ORCAO kidnapped the Zapatistas Sebastián Núñez Pérez and José Antonio Sánchez Juárez, autonomous authorities of the Good Government Council of Patria Nueva. The Zapatistas asserted in a communiqué that: If the conflict did not escalate into a tragedy, it was because of the intervention of progressive parish priests, human rights organizations and the mobilizations and denunciations that in Mexico and, especially, in Europe, were carried out.
The case of the communities in the municipality of Magdalena Aldama, in the center of the state, in the highlands of Chiapas, is dramatic and very delicate; the situation hangs from a thread. These communities are inhabited by Bats’i vinik-antsetik, an indigenous Tsotsil people. For years they have been besieged by paramilitarization. In the cables they send to civil society they report almost daily, several times: “They have surrounded us with high caliber gunfire […] the gunfire returns again […] high caliber gunfire fired by armed groups.
The conflict has been going on for a long time. In a presidential resolution of José López Portillo in the 1970s, the community of Santa Martha (Manuel Utrilla village) was given 60 hectares, which belonged to the municipality of Santa María Magdalena Aldama. Later it was recognized that the owners were those of Aldama and they agreed in an accord in 1977 to respect the right of possession. However, the agreements were not respected and Santa Martha in 1997 demanded the return of that land. In 2009, the Unitary Agrarian Tribunal resolved the possession in favor, again, of the 115 communal owners of Aldama.
However, in 2016, the Aldama communal landholders claim that the conflict intensified with the dispossession of the lands during the government of Manuel Velasco Coello, and now under the government of Rutilio Escandón Cadenas […]. “We were dispossessed by people from the town of Manuel Utrilla (Santa Martha sector) in the municipality of Chenalhó. The 60 hectares have ancestrally belonged to the people of Magdalena Aldama. On those 60 hectares lived seven families who in 2016 were dispossessed and threatened at gunpoint, and took refuge in the communities of the municipality of Aldama. In 2016, the paramilitary group operating in Chenalhó was mobilized.
The organization La Voz del Pueblo de Tan Joveltik, from the communities of Magdalena Aldama, for months, has been denouncing the paramilitarization with very violent aggressions. The state government acts as a guest of stone, not saying anything, and suspiciously negligent. “The rain of bullets allows them to go about ‘clearing’ the land, ripping it away from its legitimate inhabitants. To what end? The most widely mentioned version is that it would be a strategic stretch for the illegal transfer of weapons, drugs and people, which is very widespread lately,” it is hypothesized in Ojarasca (shorturl.at/fgiqM).
Dozens of unidentified armed men enter Santa Martha at all hours, intimidating the people. In their latest communiqué, the communities of Magdalena Aldama point out that, “since 2016 we are a town that lives under the hail of gunfire by the paramilitary-style armed groups of Santa Martha of the municipality of Chenalhó.” Recently there have been as many as 30 or 40 attacks in a single day. Since the beginning of 2020, armed aggressions have increased in intensity, affecting 12 communities and some 5,000 people. Last October, aggressions with gunshots began to be committed on a daily basis. Now in the communities one can see bullet impacts on cars, machines and metal siding. Some 3,000 people have been displaced taking refuge from the bullets and bombs this November.
In opposition to the situation of the communities of Magdalena Aldama, Europe from below and to the left has joined their demands. In a communiqué sent to the relevant state and federal authorities, supported by more than 40 European organizations such as Spain, Catalonia, Valencia, England, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Euskal Herria, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Portugal and Holland, they demand an end to the paramilitary aggressions, hold the three levels of the Mexican government responsible for the lives of the people of the communities of Aldama, demand justice for the region and the immediate and unconditional release of their comrade Cristóbal Santiz Jiménez (shorturl.at/nsyPS).
Solidarity has spread like wildfire. The case of the aggressions against the communities of Magdalena Aldama has touched their hearts, and put European organizations on alert to denounce the attacks and demand justice before their own governments, and those of Mexico and Chiapas, so that the violence ceases and the scourge of paramilitarism in the region is put to an end.
*Sociologist specialist in migration.
This article was published in La Jornada on January 4th, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/01/04/opinion/012a2pol English translation by Schools for Chiapas.