By: Elio Henríquez
San Cristóbal De Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
Municipal agents from 69 of the 85 communities in Pantelhó, the presidents of four ejidal commissions, representatives of different religious denominations and 3,000 inhabitants, according to the promoters, demanded the resignation of the interim mayor, Delia Yaneth Flores Velasco, and of the mayor-elect, Raquel Trujillo Morales, both belonging to the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).
In a document signed after an assembly held on Saturday in San José Tercero community, they reported that they agreed to elect their authorities through the system of usos y costumbres1 and not to recognize the mayor-elect.
“The emergence of self-defense forces is true in Pantelhó due to the presence of organized crime, the total absence of the federal and state governments and because of the threats and murders,” they stated.
The El Machete Peoples’ Self-defense group erupted on July 7 in the municipal seat of Pantelhó, arguing that it seeks to “expel sicarios (hitmen), drug traffickers and organized crime” in order to prevent more deaths of Tseltal and Tsotsil campesinos.
A day later, armed men ambushed soldiers and police agents who tried to unblock the Pantelhó-San Cristóbal highway, at a point located four kilometers from the municipal seat, resulting in nine uniformed men shot and wounded.
Those who signed the document don’t specify when they might elect municipal authorities (the change of municipal governments in the state will take place on September 30), but they demanded that the federal and state governments recognize them in Congress.
Yesterday, the police searched two houses in the municipal seat in search of weapons, without finding any, government sources reported.
At the same time, employees of the Federal Electricity Commission arrived in Pantelhó to reinstate electricity that was cut off on July 7, allegedly by the armed men who burst into the municipal headquarters, which remains incommunicado via telephone.
The violent events that occurred in Pantelhó, a municipality of more than 20,000 inhabitants, have caused the displacement of hundreds of residents of that locality and communities of the neighboring Chenalhó municipality.
The Civil Society Organization Las Abejas reported that 225 people from Quextic Centro and Quextic Poblado, Chenalhó, close to the municipal seat of Pantelhó, are sheltered in Acteal. It added that close to 400 more residents, the majority from Pantelhó, are in Yabteclum, Chenalhó.
Manuel Pérez Pérez, of Quextic Poblado, who together with his wife and sons are in Acteal, said that they left their home on Thursday because: “I live near the border with Pantelhó and bullets were heard very close to my house.”
Crying, the 83-year old man recalled the massacre of 45 indigenous people perpetrated on December 22, 1997 in Acteal, where his son, Pedro Pérez López, then just seven years old, was shot and wounded. He affirmed that that wave of violence began in the same way.
Meanwhile, the State Secretary of Civil Protection reported that the three levels of government are coordinating to deliver humanitarian aid to people affected by this conflict in Pantelhó.
The Secretary specified that it has supported displaced persons in Acteal Alto, Jobaltón, La Esperanza and Quextik, Chenalhó, with food supplies, mats, blankets, water and hygiene products.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada on Monday, July 12, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee and re-posted by Schools for Chiapas.