State Racism and War Against the People in Chiapas

Photo: Frayba

by Gilberto López y Rivas

This past November 4th, the Fray Bartolomé Center for Human Rights (Frayba) published on their page Urgent Action No. 10, which reports the forced displacement of more than 3 thousand inhabitants of the municipality of Aldama, whose recorded population is not greater than 5 thousand inhabitants. In the note they counted 47 recent attacks with high powered firearms against 10 communities, by a paramilitary group that operates out of Santa Martha, in the municipality of Chenalhó and denounced the ongoing absence and complicity of the Mexican government in attending to the serious situation and extreme violence, also revealed for several months by other social organizations, the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas and the EZLN itself, which, in its communiqué from the 19th of September, “Chiapas on the Brink of Civil War” confirms that the alliances of the government of Rutilio Escandón with narcotrafficking are forcing the indigenous communities to form self-defense groups, because the government does nothing to protect life, liberty and the property of the inhabitants. The government of  Chiapas not only gives shelter to the gangs of narcotraffickers, it supports, promotes and finances paramilitary groups such as those that continuously attack the communities in Aldama and Santa Martha.

Frayba has repeatedly made it clear that the inefficiency and simulation of the actions of the Mexican state continue to foster an environment of violence and terror against the communities of Aldama, which since March 28th, 2018 had presented before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, a plea for cautionary measures “in the face of risk to life and physical and psychological integrity, by the constant attacks by firearms that they were — and continue to receive—  by armed paramilitary groups acting from the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas, who are causing the displacement of people.” Three years after this request and after multiple communications sent by Frayba and the Mexican State, finally on the 23rd of April in 2021, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR), under resolution 35/2021, decided to grant cautionary measures, registered with the number MC-282-18.” Despite the adoption of these measures, there have been more than a hundred aggressions counted that have cost seven people their lives, and left another 22 wounded, provoking an environment of total insecurity that has disrupted community life. 

The EZLN in its communiqué pointed to the actions of ORCAO, which it characterizes as a paramilitary style political-military organization that has uniforms, gear, weapons and a fleet obtained with the money that they receive from social programs. They keep some (for the organization) and give the rest to officials so that they could report that they were complying with social assistance.  With those weapons, they fire every night against the Zapatista community of Moisés y Gandhi.

In this context, it very concerning that the Zapatistas warn: “Given the action and negligence of the state and federal authorities, in the face of the current and previous crimes, we will take the necessary measures so that justice is applied to the criminals of ORCAO and the officials that sponsor them… On another occasion there will be no communiqué. That is, there will be no words, but actions.”

Doesn’t it seem evident that we are facing a scenario similar to the one which preceded the massacre of Acteal? With recommendations from an international agency, like the IAHCR, to the Mexican state, its representatives are not aware of the seriousness of the actions in the state that concentrates the greatest number of military personnel in the entire national territory. Could it be that those in the high command of the SEDENA are not informed by their second division of the existence of paramilitary groups that have ravaged Chiapas from 1994 to this day? Is their commander in chief, busy as he is granting considerable increases in budget, mission, tasks, duties, responsibilities and perks to the armed forces, outside of the Constitution, going to continue to maintain the old theory of community conflicts, to avoid his responsibility for a situation that is reaching its limits?

The historical racism of the Mexican state, which despises the indigenous peoples, and considers them passive targets of government policies and actions, continues in Chiapas in the many forms of  violence of tcounterinsurgency strategies being followed with the complicity of the local political class, and by means of the saturation of the theater of war with soldiers, barriers, paramilitary groups and organized crime, despite the evident political and social risks and costs. 

Whether it be by omission or commission, it will be the Mexican state that will have to answer for another humanitarian tragedy foretold. 

This article was published on November 12, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/11/12/opinion/022a2pol
English translation posted by Schools for Chiapas.