Joint Statement. 17 Years of Impunity for Viejo Velasco Massacre

Photo: Frayba

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, November 13, 2023

Joint Statement

17 Years of Impunity for the Viejo Velasco Massacre, municipality of Ocosingo,

Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas

• 17 years after the Viejo Velasco massacre, the Mexican government maintains in total impunity the forced displacement of 36 people, most of them women and children; the extrajudicial execution of six of them (including a pregnant woman); the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and torture of a Tseltal compañero that resulted in her subsequent death, as well as the forced disappearances of two older people.

• Far from justice, this crime is yet another case of serious violation of the most basic individual and collective human rights, fueled by the lack of institutional response.

The massacre occurred in the Tseltal and Ch’ol indigenous community of Viejo Velasco, municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas, Lacandon Jungle, when, in a paramilitary-style operation, around 40 people from the community Nueva Palestina, Frontera Corozal and Lacanjá Chansayab (all from the so-called “Lacandon Community”), armed with machetes, sticks, shotguns and rifles, some wearing military and public security uniforms, violently entered the community.

According to investigations carried out by the Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Freedom (CDLI-XI’NICH’), supported by the group of civil society organizations that then made up the CIVIL OBSERVATION MISSION, the aggressors were accompanied and protected by 300 elements of the then Sectoral Police of Chiapas, carrying high-powered weapons known as ‘’cuerno de chivo’’: Ar-15 and AK-47. Likewise, the presence of five Prosecutors from the Public Ministry, two experts, the Regional Commander of the Jungle Zone of the then State Investigation Agency, with seven elements under his command, and a representative of the previous Secretariat of Social Development, were documented.

These violent acts caused the forced displacement of 36 people, most of them women and children; the extrajudicial execution of six of them (including a pregnant woman, María Núñez González); the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and torture of a young Tseltal woman, Petrona Núñez González, who died in 2010 due to the physical and emotional torture to which she was subjected; likewise, four forced disappearances, of which, a year later, at the initiative of relatives and members of the Civil Mission, the remains of two people, identified as two of the disappeared elderly, Miguel Moreno Montejo and Pedro Núñez Pérez, were found buried in an area near Viejo Velasco, and were handed over to their relatives four years later.

17 years after this massacre, our Tseltal and Ch’ol sisters and brothers have not found justice. The survivors and relatives of the victims continue without guarantees for return and without reparation for damages.

After all this time, the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Chiapas (FGE) has still not carried out a complete and effective investigation of these events; while the federal government and the National Human Rights Commission remain totally silent on the matter, so the intellectuals responsible, the political operators and the material authors remain in impunity.

The FGE never had an investigation plan and, for years, search actions for Antonio Peñate López and Mariano Pérez Guzmán, elderly people who disappeared in these events, have ceased. After the release of our indigenous comapñero Diego Arcos, a health promoter, the criminalization continues against five other indigenous comapñeros who, at that time, gave aid to the victims of the massacre and who, to this day, continue to have arrest warrants, accused of murdering their own comapñeros.

It is worth remembering that this bloody and unpunished massacre occurred in a context of intense struggle and resistance demanding the right to territory, the protection and management of natural assets, of more than 45 indigenous communities, settled in the heart of the Lacandon Jungle; resistance of which the Assembly and residents of Viejo Velasco were a worthy example, faced with an aggressive policy of territorial clearance, social dispossession and privatization of nature, by the Mexican State, exercised on said towns, located within and on the limits of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, one of the richest areas in biodiversity; water, forest cover, with a strong scenic and tourist attraction, which has made it the coveted loot of companies in the context of so-called “green capitalism.”

On this 17th anniversary of the unpunished Viejo Velasco massacre, the signatory organizations, in open support and solidarity with the families of the victims and with the CDLI – Xi’inich, remember and commemorate the companions who were victims: the extrajudicial execution of Filemón Benítez Pérez, Antonio Mayor Benítez Pérez, María Núñez Gonzales, Vicente Pérez Díaz, Miguel Moreno Montejo and Pedro Núñez Pérez; the forced disappearance of Mariano Pérez Guzmán and Antonio PéñateLópez, the kidnapping and torture of Petrona Núñez González. We reaffirm that they are alive in our memory and in the collective memory of the peoples who resist and fight. They are the ones who, day after day, encourage us to continue fighting for autonomy, the defense of the territory, our Mother Earth and the Other Justice.

No to the dispossession of our territory or Mother Earth!

They were taken alive, we want them alive!

Viejo Velasco, neither forgiven nor forgotten! 

Signatories in solidarity:

– Mujer Ixim Antsetic Women’s Support Center

– Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (Frayba)

– Center for Indigenous Rights (CEDIAC)

– National Committee for Defense and Conservation of Los Chimalapas

– Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans (DESMI)

– Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, A.C. (MPS)

– Community Health and Development (SADEC)

– National Network of Civil Organisms of Human Rights ‘’All Rights for All Network’’ (Red TDT)

Original statement at
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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