The Chiapas Hell

By Luís Hernández Navarro

The Mexican southeast is key to the political-territorial project of the 4T.1 Three of its major megaprojects are located there: the Mayan Train, the Transisthmian Corridor and the Dos Bocas refinery. In addition, many resources of its social programs, such as Sembrando Vida, are concentrated there. Chiapas alone receives 20 percent of this tool for development.

It is no exaggeration to say that, for Obradorismo, this region of the country is comparable to what Sonora was for the triumphant faction of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17, Michoacán for Lázaro Cárdenas, the Bajío2 for the PAN or the State of Mexico for the Atlacomulco Group and Enrique Peña Nieto. There is no continuity of a political project apart from its territoriality. And the southeast is the space in which the 4T aspires to establish itself in a lasting way.

Two regional figures were indisputably key in forging the support of the Obrador project in that area: in Tabasco, the lawyer and notary public Payambé López Falconi; in Chiapas, the businessman Fernando Coello Pedrero.

Don Payambé notarized 20 boxes documenting the fraud perpetrated against Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 1994 Tabasco state elections. A close relationship between the two was solidified at that time. In 2019, his son Adán Augusto, took office as governor of his state and, last August 26, he was appointed Secretary of the Interior. And, his daughter Rosalinda, wife of Rutilo Escandón, chief executive in Chiapas, is general administrator of the Federal Tax Audit of the Tax Administration Service (SAT).

Don Fernando, who passed away in December 2020, said this of AMLO: I have a good relationship of many years with Mr. President, I love the President very much and I respect him. I was a friend of his parents and we have always had a good relationship. I have always accompanied him as his honorary advisor. Coello Pedrero was the grandfather of Senator Manuel Velasco Coello, former governor of Chiapas, a key figure of the Green Party.

On May 13, 2013, Rosalinda López, then local deputy for Tabasco, and Rutilio Escandón, president of the Superior Court of Justice of Chiapas, were married. The governor of Tabasco, Arturo Núñez Jiménez, was the bride’s witness. The governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello, was the groom’s witness (https://bit.ly/2Xwn68K).

The alliance bore fruit. Rutilio won the candidacy for governor of Chiapas, leaving in his wake figures of great importance in local politics, such as the current senator Óscar Eduardo Ramírez, head of the Comitán group, who conveniently switched from the Green Party to Morena.

The presence of Grupo Tabasco in Chiapas politics is outstanding. The influence of the general administrator of SAT in key positions of the local government is significant (https://bit.ly/3lEquHa).

As  time goes by, the relationship between Manuel Velasco and Rutilio Escandón deteriorates. In the 2021 elections, the Green Party won 35 of 123  municipalities contested. Morena triumphed in only 25, though many of its candidates actually come from the self-styled ecologists. Worse: some mayors who came through local parties are closer to the Velasco family than to Morenismo.

The situation has been further complicated by what seems to be the anticipated candidacy of Zoé Robledo, director of the IMSS, for the governorship of the state, boosted by his responsibility in the anti-Covid vaccination campaign in the state, ordered by President López Obrador. The move has not gone down well with other candidates such as Senator Ramírez.

Simultaneously with these conflicts above and below, the regional system of domination built after the armed uprising of the EZLN in January 1994 has entered into crisis. The alliance arrangements of the recycled Chiapan family (the surnames are the same ones that dominated land and men more than a century ago), with emerging indigenous chiefdoms, Pentecostal religious denominations, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, all part of the counterinsurgency strategy, are taking on water.

Violent conflicts are erupting everywhere. Some are not unrelated to the processes of co-optation and fragmentation of traditional indigenous chiefdoms, undertaken by the Green Party. Be it Ocosingo (https://bit.ly/3lDI2mW), Tila (https://bit.ly/3lEQHW5), Chenalhó and Aldama (https://bit.ly/39llEsA), Simojovel and Pantelhó (https://bit.ly/39rlEHr), Pueblo Nuevo Solitahuacán (https://bit.ly/2XxEM3P), Mitontic and a long etcetera, the model is rupturing. Narco-paramilitary violence is being inflicted on the peoples in resistance (often unsuccessfully), compliments of the state government.

To make matters worse, contrary to the instructions of President López Obrador to give the teachers’ conflict in the state a negotiated solution, the government of Rutilio Escandón has shut it down. It does not care that the teachers are the messengers expressing the deep discontent of Chiapas society (https://bit.ly/3hKL6ws). Nor does it care that the government has savagely repressed the rural normalistas of Mactumactzá (https://bit.ly/3nNn5IN).

It never ceases to be ironic that the 4T wants to promote its transformation project with the support of a political class so close to most rancid local oligarchy.

Despite its importance for the government, Chiapas is, as the EZLN points out, on the verge of civil war (https://bit.ly/2XxONyF). In the midst of the struggles above, the exacerbation of narco-paramilitary violence and the tenacious indigenous, peasant and teachers’ resistance against dispossession and for autonomy, in the southeast  the hour of hell, so feared by all, is approaching. Whoever doubts it should take a look at the experience of the indigenous self-defense group El Machete of the inhabitants of Pantelhó.

Footnotes

  1. The López Obrador campaign deemed its governing project the “Fourth Transformation” (4T), supposedly on par with historic events such as Mexican Independence (1810), a period of reform in the mid-19th century, and the Mexican Revolution (1910).
  2. The Bajío (lowlands) is a region of Central Mexico that includes parts of the states of Aguascalientes, Jalisco (Centro-Los Altos de Jalisco), Guanajuato, and Querétaro.