Unrest Continues in Oxchuc

Followers of the Self-Proclaimed Mayor of Oxchuc Attack Opponents

by Elio Henríquez

San Cristóbal De La Casas, Chiapas – Followers of the self-proclaimed mayor of Oxchuc, Hugo Gómez Sántiz, fired shots outside a school in the urban zone, at the end of a community assembly yesterday afternoon in which some 200 people participated.

There were no injuries, but some people leaving the school were beaten,  the president of the Community Front for the Defense of the Self-Determination of the People, Óscar Gómez López reported.

Meanwhile, unofficial sources indicated that both groups exchanged bullets and at least four houses were set on fire.

Gómez López pointed out that more than 100 people attending the event locked themselves in one of the classrooms of the Tierra y Libertad elementary school and threw themselves to the floor because the aggressors began to shoot “at a distance of 500 or 800 meters.” At press time they were still taking cover.

He stated that the meeting between authorities and community representatives began around 10 o’clock in the morning in order to reach agreements on the ruling of the State Electoral Tribunal of the State of Chiapas (Teech) which last week ordered the election in this municipality to be repeated, due to the fact that the one called on December 15 did not conclude.

On that occasion, the community electoral body of Oxchuc, the only locality in the municipality that elects its authorities by usos y costumbres, declared Enrique Gómez López as the winner, a result that was ignored by Hugo Gómez, whose followers unleashed violence and took over the mayor’s office.

Election in Oxchuc. February 2022

The local Congress appointed a municipal council presided over by Roberto Sántiz Gómez, who is based in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, on December 31.

Once yesterday’s meeting was over, those present were about to leave “when they began to shoot at them and thank God none of them were shot, but they began to hit several of them. They took them to the international highway; but the townspeople arrived to rescue them, and at the end came the shootings with high caliber bullets,” explained Óscar Gómez.

“The tired people began to respond because in the township we are there in our houses, and we had to defend ourselves with stones because they were aiming shots at the school,” he added.

He stated that when the community leaders were on their way to the assembly in the morning, some of them were beaten at the blockades set up by followers of Gómez Sántiz, in addition to “having their backpacks and backpacks taken away,” but they managed to get there.

He asserted that in yesterday’s meeting it was agreed to ratify Enrique Gómez as municipal president. “We have the majority and we are not going to accept the imposition of the government.”

The Teech ordered new elections to be held by show of hands “in a setting of civility, respect, certainty and legality,” and that the legislature appoint a new council.

This article was published in La Jornada on February 16th, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/02/16/estados/agreden-a-los-opositores-al-autoproclamado-edil-de-oxchuc/

One Wounded and Houses Burned in Clash Over Political Dispute in Oxchuc

by Elio Henríquez

The conflict that occured this Tuesday between two groups vying for political power left one wounded by gunshot and six houses burned, among them that of Belisario Méndez Gómez, president of the Community Electoral Body (OEC) of Oxchuc, responsible for organizing the municipal elections by uses and customs1.

They added that the wounded man, identified as Vicente Méndez Sántiz, allegedly a supporter of the self-proclaimed mayor of Oxchuc, Hugo Gómez Sántiz, was hospitalized at the Hospital de las Culturas, located in San Cristóbal.

The president of the OEC of Oxchuc, the only municipality in the state that elects its authorities by usos y costumbres, said in an interview that his house was set on fire on Tuesday at approximately 22:00 hours by followers of Hugo Gómez.

“At 10:00 p.m. neighbors told me that cars full of heavily armed people arrived with jerry cans of gasoline, broke into my house, ransacked it, sprayed gasoline on it and then set it on fire,” he added.

Tseltales of the 142 communities and the 25 neighborhoos of the municipality of Oxchuc, clashed with rocks, sticks and rockets after Hugo Gómez Santis, one of the nine candidates accepted the results of the OEC , which had declared Enrique Gómez López the winner.
Photo Víctor Camacho / Archive

He pointed out that his family managed to leave earlier “because there had already been threats and they detonated high caliber firearms near the house”, which is located in the municipal seat.

“My house is one-story, with some little wooden cabins on top, they destroyed it. Those who entered are led by Hugo Gómez Sántiz, self-proclaimed municipal president, and the same people as always did it. Those who directed the burning are Oscar Méndez Sántiz, Javier Sántiz Gómez, Sergio López Méndez and Javier Gómez Méndez”.

Méndez Gómez assured that “I am not a politician, I am serving my people. In March 2021 I was elected by the assembly of 133 communities and 25 neighborhoods; I am providing a service. I entered to serve and I did not imagine that this would happen”.

He commented that before December 15, when the plebiscite was held to elect the new authorities, “there were already death threats against me and my family, from Hugo Gómez’s armed group.”

He said that the house they burned is the only one he has, so he could not take out his belongings; “they stripped me of all my property”, and he said that “Hugo has kidnapped the municipality with a heavily armed group. All this is the work of him who wants to be president by means of violence and firearms”.

The sources consulted informed that the other houses set on fire are owned by followers of Hugo Gómez.

In the inconclusive municipal elections by show of hands on December 15, the OEC of Oxchuc declared Enrique Gómez the winner, a result that was ignored by Hugo Gómez, whose followers unleashed violence before the end of the meeting and took possession of the mayor’s office.

The local Congress appointed on December 31 a municipal council, presided by Roberto Sántiz Gómez, who works in an office located in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

The Electoral Tribunal of the State of Chiapas ruled last week that new elections must be held by show of hands “in a framework of civility, respect, certainty and legality, based on their uses and customs,” and that the legislature must appoint a new municipal council, since the current one did not comply with all the legal requirements.

This article was published in La Jornada on February 16, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/02/16/estados/un-herido-y-casas-quemadas-en-choque-por-disputa-politica-en-oxchuc/ English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

Footnotes

  1. Usos y costumbres refers to indigenous customary law in Latin America, and the various forms of self-governance practiced by different peoples.