Group Accused of Links to Crime Attempts to Take Back Pantelhó, Chiapas

The Herrera Abarca group arrived in the municipal seat of Pantelhó in trucks.

By: Ángeles Mariscal

For 6 days they have attempted to ambush members of the El Machete self-defense forces. The municipal seat is partially abandoned.

They say that they entered to liberate the people, that there are about 300 people and that they are all armed; they accuse the vEl Machete Self-Defense Forces of being the oppressors. In videos that were disseminated, a group of about 20 armed people is seen walking the streets of the municipal capital, and others in the central kiosk asking the population to join them.

According to testimonies of those who support this armed incursion with which they try to wrest Pantelhó from the self-defense groups, this group is headed by José Herrera, the uncle of Dayli de los Santos Herrera Gutiérrez, currently imprisoned accused of being the alleged intellectual author of the execution of the indigenous justice prosecutor, Gregorio Pérez Gómez. José is the brother of Austreberto Herrera, who was a municipal judge of Pantelhó and is also in prison for homicide.

These events come two years after the self-defense group El Machete came to light, to expel what they call “the Herrera group,” whom they accused of having links to organized crime and of having murdered and disappeared dozens of people.

The Machetes emerged on July 7, 2021, after the murder of Simón Pedro Pérez, leader of the Las Abejas de Acteal organization, which occurred two days earlier. Inhabitants of Pantelhó had asked Simón Pedro to help them with a complaint to Chiapas government authorities, to request the arrest of organized crime groups that sold weapons and drugs in the region. After Simón Pedro’s murder, they decided to take control of the municipality.

In the context of these actions that occurred in 2021, Los Machetes arrested and disappeared 21 people, allegedly linked to organized crime, 19 according to the criminal file for these events.

Then, they formed a municipal government council that was recognized by the local Congress, and agreed to the permanent presence of elements of the Mexican Army in the municipality.

Police and military patrol Pantelhó, faced with a confrontation between an armed group and El Machete self-defense forces (autodefensas). Photo: Chiapas Paralelo

But in the two years that have passed, the dispute for control of Pantelhó has continued with ambushes against members of the self-defense groups, assassinations between the groups in conflict and, since June 30, a group of armed people allegedly under the command of José Herrera, entered the municipal capital and then left the place that is now patrolled by elements of the Mexican Army.

In the municipal seat, most houses are closed, only some shops are open.

This Wednesday, July 5, Los Machetes sent a video where they assure that they remain “with a firm step,” they denounce that the San José Tercera community, where they have one of their strongholds, was attacked.

“But we don’t respond so quickly, we don’t attack people so quickly, we always wait for the government to act … We are just on hold; If I still feel attacked, then the self-defense groups will start moving again.”

They ask in the video that the National Guard and the government act by arresting José Herrera, they warned that they will defend the town of San José Tercera and the municipal capital.

For their part, members of the Mexican Army carried out patrols and arrived at the municipal capital of Pantelhó, where they maintain a detachment.  Lieutenant Colonel Alfonso Nava Bustamante said that it is part of the operation called “Operation Union,” through which patrols are carried out in the region that includes Chenalhó and Pantelhó.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Chiapas, the families of the 21 disappeared demonstrated. They said that “the Machetes continue with their noise; They do not want to respect. People are fleeing, Pantelhó looks like a ghost town again,” they said.

Originally published in Chiapas Paralelo, Thursday, July 6, 2023, Thanks to Chiapas Support Committee for the translation.

Pantelhó Communities Ask Government To Stop Armed Group that Entered the Town Last Weekend

Representatives of 86 communities and 18 neighborhoods of the municipality of Pantelhó, located in the indigenous zone of Los Altos de Chiapas, held an assembly in the town of El Roblar, where they called on the Mexican government to stop the armed group that took over the municipal capital on July 1 and, according to them, killed a policeman and three civilians.

The residents explained that this group is linked to organized crime, and is headed by José Herrera, uncle of Dayli de los Santos Herrera Gutiérrez, currently in prison accused of being the alleged mastermind of the execution of the indigenous justice prosecutor, Gregorio Pérez Gómez; José is the brother of Austreberto Herrera, who was a municipal judge in Pantelhó and is also in prison on a murder charge.

Thousands of men and women arrived in El Roblar, dodging the incursions of the armed group, who have attacked -they explained in the meeting- the town of San José Tercera and other communities, with the intention of assassinating those who make up the self-defense group El Machete, who expelled the Herrera family from the municipality on July 7, 2021, and then formed a municipal government council.

On this occasion, two years later, the people of Pantelhó gathered again to assert their demand to not allow the return to the municipality of people they consider to be part of the organized crime that has kept them under subjugation in the region.

“We make known to the three levels of government that a conflict is occurring due to an armed group of hired killers from Pantelhó headed by José Daniel Herrera, who is the head of organized crime in Pantelhó.”

In the communiqué that they read at the end of the assembly that lasted more than four hours, they explained that on July 1 this person led the incursion of an armed group that arrived at the municipal seat, attacked the police and the members of the government council, causing the death of four people.

“He attacked the town hall, and a patrol car and a white van belonging to the councilman president, and also the municipal judge’s van, where there were several shots fired at the town hall with high caliber firearms.”

“We demand from the government, we ask that an arrest warrant be issued against this new armed group of hired killers (…) we do not want more conflict,” they explain, and give details of who is funding this group which also – they explain – was joined by armed people from the town of Tzanembolom, in the neighboring municipality of Chenalhó.

They explain that the people of Pantelhó are not against the governments of Chiapas and Mexico, but are asking the authorities to intervene.


For their part, members of the armed group referred to by the population of Pantelhó released a video showing them inside a room. They say that they are in the municipal seat of Pantelhó, “guarding the population from Los Machetes,” whom they accuse of being hired killers and assassins.

Dressed in black t-shirts, jeans or camouflage pants, and carrying heavy caliber weapons, in their message they say that they are protecting the town “with the support of the other dispersed groups.”

He assures that they have gone “peacefully, seeking peace and justice, without pretext or inventing drug traffickers as Los Machetes did. We are united, organized and armed only to get Los Machetes out of our municipality.”

The Mexican army and elements of the National Guard maintain patrols in the municipal capital and some communities of Pantelhó and Chenalhó. However, fearing a confrontation between the armed group and the self-defense groups El Machete, a large part of the population abandoned the municipal seat.

Originally published in Chiapas Paralelo on July 7th, 2023. English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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