Incessant Violence

Luis Hernández Navarro

Narco banners were hung on four pedestrian bridges of the municipality of Frontera Comalapa, this past June 1st. Ten days later, the notices reappeared on public thoroughfares signaling that the Army was taking journalists to report on high-risk zones. 

The local press documented the news and published photographs. In one of the narcomantas, painted on a red and yellow background and with letters in three colors: “General Arturo Gonzalez Jimenez. How much is your pal Mosh paying you and your narco-militaries Felix Moreno Ibarra and Andrei Calderon Muños to clean out the Jalisco cartel and the Huistlas. You come to our towns where we live in calm knowing that the conflict is not here but in the towns of your friends — to divert attention, you even brought reporters with you. Why don’t you go to Sabinalito, Paso Hondo, Potrerillos, Frontera Comalapa and Chicomuselo [sic]” (

The border region of Frontera Comalapa, on the border with Guatemala, experienced days of terror at the end of May and beginning of June. Videos documenting shootings, blockades, burned cars, displacement of armored vehicles known as monsters, and reports of forced disappearances circulated profusely on the networks. Thousands of residents had to leave their homes and animals to protect themselves from uprisings and violence. On May 31, hundreds of military and National Guardsmen carried out an operation in the region and set up checkpoints.

On June 2, 222 kilometers from Frontera Comalapa, in the town of Polhó, municipality of Chenalhó, very close to where the Acteal massacre took place, seven people were killed in an ambush. In a warehouse in the community, 200 displaced people from the Santa Martha ejido were taking refuge. While passing by, Gilberto Pérez Gómez, his family and two members of his personal guard, belonging to the group Los Ratones, were ambushed and killed. The other dead is Fernando Ruiz, son of the owner of the place where the refugees live.

Although there are versions that Los Ratones were responsible for the crime, authorized sources indicate that they were traveling in a pickup truck behind Pérez Gómez’s, but many of the gunshots hit Gilberto’s truck in the front.

The story goes back a ways. On March 3, armed men murdered Petrona López Pérez, wife of Daniel López Méndez, commander of the group called Autodefensas del Pueblo El Machete, from Pantelhó. Various sources indicate that doña Petrona was killed by the now deceased Gilberto Pérez, originally a member of the self-defense group, who ended up allying with the Herrera clan, a rival group of El Machete. Those displaced from Santa Martha were said to have been protected by the armed civilian group.

For years, the Herrera family controlled the municipality of Pantelhó with blood and fire. With the support of gunmen from Campeche, Veracruz and Sinaloa, this group conquered territorial control through terror, assassinations, disappearances, robberies, dispossessions and forced displacements, carrying weapons and explosives used exclusively by the Mexican Army. Electorally it used the acronym of the PRD ( The patriarch of the clan, Austreberto, is in jail for killing two people in the municipality in April 2015. In July 2021 in Simojovel, they killed the catechist Simón Pedro Pérez, who had presided over the board of directors of the Civil Society Las Abejas de Acteal.

In their heyday, the Herreras hired as an “advisor” Enoc Diaz Perez (from Social Encounter), head of the criminal gang Los Cacheros, later renamed Los Diablos, and of the paramilitary movement known as Proyecto Amigo Revolucionario No. 7 (Revolutionary Friend Project No. 7). Enoc had been municipal president of Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacán, when the town hall (and the region) was controlled by heroin traffickers, Antonio Laredo Donjuán and his wife Mercedes Barrios Hernández, who were arrested in 2018 at the request of the US government, which sought their extradition (

On June 7, 2021, the Autodefensas del Pueblo (People’s Self Defense) El Machete violently burst into the town of Pantelhó “to expel the hired killers, drug traffickers and organized crime,” because “we do not want more deaths for the poor Tseltal and Tsotsil peasants.” They successfully confronted the Herrera group with weapons. Since then they control the region. However, their self-declared vocation for justice faded very quickly.

Just this past June 19, the paramilitary group Regional Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (Orcao), attacked in a coordinated manner three Zapatista support base towns in the community of Moises Gandhi. They set fire to plots of land and fired weapons for three consecutive days. This is the eleventh armed attack by this group against the rebels so far in the current administration. All have been perpetrated with absolute impunity. Not a single person has been arrested for the attacks.

This brief account leaves aside, for reasons of space, many other acts of violence against different communities in resistance in Chiapas or in cities such as San Cristóbal. They also include disputes between organized crime gangs that fight over squares, markets, territories and routes; old and new paramilitary groups (which have been linked to drug cartels and polleros); gunmen or gangs that have diversified their activities, such as Los Ratones or Los Vatos Locos ( and self-defense groups. This, despite the enormous deployment of the Army and the National Guard in the state.

Originally published in La Jornada on June 27th, 2023.
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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