If there is no reconciliation, the law should be applied against armed civilians, they urge in Chiapas

Bullet impact on the car that carried humanitarian aid in Chenalho. Photo: Fisanim.

The Dominican nun who was injured during an attack on the caravan that carried humanitarian aid to the displaced people of Aldama recuperates in the hospital. Paramilitary harassment in the region is on the rise.

By Ángeles Mariscal

CHIAPAS – Humanitarian organizations, academics, and members of the Catholic Church demanded that the state and federal governments apply the law against the armed civilians who, last November 18, shot at a humanitarian caravan that was carrying food to the displaced population of Aldama. It is important to remember that in these events a nun was wounded.

They pointed out that “if any problem is not resolved through reconciliation, the authority has the obligation to apply the law without the consent of the aggressors. This alludes to the fact that the initiatives to solve the dispute over the possession of 60 hectares of land between the inhabitants of Aldama and their neighbors in Chenalhó have not stopped the armed aggressions against the population of Aldama.

“We are concerned because the root problem has not been resolved, and the violence has escalated with daily attacks in different places and different communities of Aldama. Several times, either privately or publicly, we have denounced this situation before the state and federal entities, as well urging the disarmament of these paramilitary groups,” stated the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

For their part, the bishops of the Pastoral Mission of Original Peoples and Afro-Americans, of the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral, and Cáritas Mexicana, in a communiqué directed to the president of Mexico, asked for clarification of what happened, “since if they do not do so, they will favor the continuation of conditions that damage the community of peoples”; they asked the federal authorities “not to neglect the responsibility that corresponds to them.”

The National Union of Teachers of Scientific Research and Teaching of the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) also demanded that a stop be put to the forced displacements and the attacks on those who carry out humanitarian work.

The more than 300 organizations of the Red Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos (RedTDT) [All Rights for Everyone Network] demanded an immediate end to the armed aggressions against the Tsotsil Mayan people in the municipality of Aldama. 

They called on the Mexican State to stop the violence and impunity, “and to sanction, disarm and dismantle the paramilitary groups in Chenalhó, which are responsible for the violent aggressions that have caused forced displacement in the region of the Altos de Chiapas.

Also, residents of the municipality of Chalchuitán demanded the arrest of the groups of armed civilians. They explained that, like the indigenous people of Aldama, the inhabitants of Chalchiuitán have been displaced by the threat of these groups, who they they identify as the inhabitants of Chenalhó.

During the attack of November 18, the nun of the Dominican order, María Isabela Hernández Rea, was shot in the right leg, when she was carrying humanitarian aid for the displaced population of Aldama in the company of other members of Cáritas Mexicana and volunteers of the Fund for the Health of the Indigenous Children of Mexico. (A.C. Fisanim). She is still hospitalized.

Since mid-2018, armed civilians who would have been based in the town of Santa Marta, in Chenalhó, have maintained constant armed aggressions against inhabitants of the neighboring municipality of Aldama, to persuade them to abandon 60 hectares of land, which has left a dozen people dead and more than 3,000 displaced. 

To provide a way out of the conflict, the federal government proposed to divide the disputed land between the two municipalities. The inhabitants of Aldama accepted, even though this means that dozens of families will have to look for new land to live on.

For its part, just last November 12, the government of Chiapas said that it had received acceptance from the authorities of Chenalhó for the peaceful resolution of the conflict, in exchange for what they call “a compensation” of several million pesos. Nevertheless, the armed aggressions have not stopped.

This article was published in Spanish in Chiapas Paralelo and re-published by Pie de Página on November 20th, 2020. https://piedepagina.mx/si-no-hay-reconciliacion-que-se-aplique-la-ley-contra-civiles-armados-piden-en-chiapas/. This English interpretation has been republished by Schools for Chiapas.