There is a Pattern of Criminalization Against Indigenous Defenders in Chiapas: International Organizations

Avispa Midia


In Chiapas, there is a trend of criminalization against indigenous defenders involved in the defense of their territories, the environment, autonomy and self-determination of their communities.

This is what was identified by international human rights organizations, who during the last days of March visited the state, located in southern Mexico, to document the situation of risk and violence experienced by indigenous defenders, organizations and communities.

“This pattern is evidenced in the growing number of cases of fabricated crimes and in violations of due process that have a strong impact on community organization and the struggle for collective rights,” say the organizations Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) and Front Line Defenders (FLD).

The organizations highlight the use of the criminal justice system against defenders and communities that have opposed the militarization of their territories. This is the case of Manuel Santiz Cruz from the community of San Juan Cancuc; of César Hernández and José Luis Gutiérrez from the ejido of San Sebastián Bachajón in Chilón (who are awaiting their next hearing on April 24), of Cristóbal Santiz from Aldama, and in the case of the recent investigations against defenders in the community of Taniperla in Ocosingo.

They also point out the high risk posed to defenders by agrarian and territorial conflicts not addressed by the authorities, which continue to perpetuate the decomposition of the social fabric of the communities. “This has been aggravated by the current situation of land dispossession in the context of militarization of the region and the dispute for territorial control and the imposition of economic activities by organized crime groups,” they said in a joint statement.

They also emphasize that, despite the fact that the defenders have denounced serious threats and attacks due to their work, the omission of the different levels of government has led to an escalation of aggression and an increase in violence. This is the case of the murder of the defender Simón Pedro Pérez, former president of the board of directors of the Civil Society Las Abejas de Acteal; as well as the violence that resulted in the displacement of 25 people from the community of Nueva Palestina in Ocosingo.

According to the organizations, this is happening in a context of proliferation and diversification of armed groups, which has worsened a complex situation inherited from the paramilitary context of the 1990s and the continued impunity connected to this phenomenon.

The organizations compiled testimonies evidencing the link between state and municipal authorities and organized crime, which generates favorable conditions for impunity to prevail.

“Adding to this crisis is what we identify as a pattern in the delay and postponement of hearings in cases linked to human rights defenders, both in the process of seeking justice, such as the case of the murder of the defender Simón Pedro Pérez López, or in the process of criminalization of human rights defenders, as in the case of Manuel Santiz Cruz from the community of San Juan Cancuc.”

Finally, they point out their concern about the context of stigmatization and campaigns of delegitimization against the human rights work of indigenous human rights defenders, a situation that increases the risk of violence given that state government institutions do not recognize their work. “This is particularly evident in the sentence handed down on March 31 in the murder of human rights defender Simón Pedro, in which his work in defense of human rights was never included in the investigation or in the resolution as part of the motive for the homicide,” the organizations indicate.

Original text:
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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