Of Violence and Government Inaction

Delegations Denounce Grave Human Rights Violations in Moisés Gandhi and Nuevo San Gregorio

A woman in Nuevo San Gregorio wipes her tears and adjusts her mask.
Photo: Red de Resistencia y Rebeldia Ajmaq Facebook

“We can’t go out to play,” the young girl tells the Caravan visiting her besieged community. “We can’t study.” Over the course of the last year, intensification of paramilitary aggressions against the Zapatista support base communities of Nuevo San Gregorio and Moíses Gandhi has grown dire. In late October, a solidarity caravan1 of organizations and adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona2 left San Cristobal de las Casas to bring critical food and other supplies, and to bear witness to their accounts of the attacks.

Violence in the region received widespread attention when on August 22nd, members of the Regional Organization of Coffee Growers of Ocosingo (ORCAO) looted the Zapatista New Dawn of the Rainbow Center of Commerce, a cooperative coffee warehouse. The paramilitaries poured gas on it and set it ablaze. But as many have pointed out, this highly visible attack at the Cuxuljá3 crossroads is but one act in an escalating state of tension and violence against Zapatista communities45. This campaign of intimidation started more than a year ago, and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The confusion, insecurity, and isolation of these times seem to nurture conditions in which malignant forces thrive. In Chiapas, negligence and manipulation at all three levels of government foster division and rancor in the rural areas, continuing a tradition of political clientelism/counterinsurgency designed to shred the social fabric and usurp territory. Aided and abetted by policies of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s so-called Fourth Transformation, paramilitary forces are once again on the rise, not surprisingly, in the territories where Zapatista bases of support hold collective land. 

Woman in Moisés Gandhi describing government programs as “pure seeds of bullets.”
Photo taken from this video from: Red de Resistencia y Rebeldía Ajmaq Faceboook

Given the ongoing aggressions in the Highlands, and following reports from the civil society caravan in October6, delegates from Red TDT7and three international organizations formed a Civil Observation Mission to visit the communities of Acteal, Aldama, Chalchihuitán, Chilón, Tonalá, Moíses Gandhi, and Nuevo San Gregorio. The Mission’s report denounced the lack of will and empathy on the part of the authorities that allows the serious violations of human rights to continue. They recorded testimonies of forced displacement, land grabs, arbitrary detention, torture, harassment, threats, and criminalization among others8. The Observation Mission also denounced the alarming lack of food and medical treatment created by these situations of insecurity. 

A man in Nuevo San Gregorio talks of the pain that the two communities are suffering.
Photo taken from the video of: Red de Resistencia y Rebeldía Ajmaq Facebook.

A resident of Nuevo San Gregorio points to the barbed wire strung around collective work spaces—wire that also prevents the residents from accessing water for their homes and their livestock. “We say that we are hostages,” he told the observers, “but we are not going to give up, even though they want to kill us. Let them. We aren’t stealing.”

Despite his resolve, he admits that they are suffering and hungry.

Friends, we encourage you to watch this very short video of the solidarity caravan to Nuevo San Gregorio and Moíses Gandhi made by organizations and comrades from San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Images from the communities of Moisés Gandhi and Nuevo San Gregorio with the testimony of residents about recent agressions committed by ORCAO invaders.

We are humbled before the courageous testimonies of these communities in their struggle for life. In response to this crisis, we have created a specific fund to deliver a TON of corn and beans, and other necessities, including medicinal plants, grafted trees, and other food/medicine sources to deliver in the first weeks of this new year! Your contribution helps to feed these communities in a time of greatest distress. Donations are being doubled until the 6th of January, so please consider giving now! www.GiftsofChange.org

Thank you to Red de Resistencia y Rebeldía Ajmaq for the excellent documentation of this crisis.

Footnotes

  1. https://schoolsforchiapas.org/caravan-heads-out-to-deliver-support-to-zapatista-communities/
  2. https://schoolsforchiapas.org/library/sixth-declaration-lacandona-jungle/
  3. Cuxuljá sits at the crossroads of the road between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Ocosingo.
  4. https://schoolsforchiapas.org/chiapas-burns/
  5. https://schoolsforchiapas.org/stop-the-war-on-the-ezln/
  6. https://redajmaq.espora.org/informecaravana2020
  7. Network “All Rights for Everyone” is a National Organization of 86 Human Rights Organizations from 23 Mexican states.
  8. https://frayba.org.mx/mision-civil-de-observacion-a-chiapas-denuncia-una-situacion-sistematica-y-estructural-de-violaciones-a-derechos-humanos/