Urgent Measures Demanded To Stop Armed Violence against Children

The Network for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in Chiapas (REDIAS) and the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico (REDIM) demanded protection for children and adolescents in Pantelhó and the Highlands region given the increase in armed violence and the presence of criminal groups.

REDIAS and REDIM received information about the armed attack on the “La Piedad” community in the municipality of Pantelho that occurred on March 11th.

The data points to the attack on a home where a 10-year-old boy and his 17-year-old brother were hit by bullets and lost their lives. In addition, a 10-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy suffered injuries. With these two homicides with firearms, the Melel Xojobal organization records that so far this year, seven girls, boys and adolescents have lost their lives due to armed violence in the state: four of them in the Highlands region.

In 2023, ten cases of girls, boys and adolescents killed by stray bullets were documented, which means a serious and accelerated increase in these 72 days of 2024. Likewise, during 2024, three cases of injuries to children and adolescents due to stray bullets have been recorded; while during 2023 four cases were documented.

The organizations considered that there has been a proliferation of armed groups and an increase in clashes throughout the Highlands region during the last decade. In this context, girls, boys and adolescents have been left in the crossfire in disputes over territorial control.

‘’Armed violence in Pantelho affects approximately 13 thousand girls, boys and adolescents in the municipality, who run the risk of being forcibly displaced, being injured by gunshots, or even losing their lives due to constant clashes between armed groups. It also violates other fundamental rights such as access to education, health and food,” they stated.

They recalled the wave of violence that occurred in Chenalhó in 2021, where more than two thousand people were displaced by violence by organized crime groups. Since June 2022, criminal violence has caused the forced displacement of 272 people from 68 families in the municipality of Chenalhó who are currently taking refuge in Polhó. Added to this figure are events such as the 105 families from Tzanembolom who had to take refuge in the primary school during the second week of February 2024 to protect themselves from bullets due to the clashes.

The tension between armed groups, they considered, that are disputing control of the territory in Pantelhó has increased since January of this year: information from different media outlets and bulletins issued by the State Attorney General’s Office attest to this.

Since October 2023, elements of the Mexican Army, the National Guard and the state Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection have maintained a permanent operation on roads and inside the municipality of Pantelhó, with the aim of guaranteeing security. Despite this, since January 2024, there have been shootings, detonations of firearms, confrontations and ambushes. By early February, the situation was compounded by road blockades and power outages in the communities of Pantelhó and Chenalhó. Due to all of the above, residents of the region have indicated that they have stopped going to work in their cornfields or coffee fields for fear of attacks.

On March 8th, the inter-institutional security group made up of the Mexican Army, the National Guard and the State Police carried out an operation in the municipality to arrest the alleged person responsible for the disappearance of 19 people in July 2021. The armed forces were attacked by criminal groups that prevented them from entering the communities of San José Tercero and El Roblar. However, they managed to enter Tzanembolom and Xokiluk’um where they detained one person and seized a large quantity of weapons, cartridges, bulletproof vests and portable radios. Since that date, air patrols have been carried out in the region. However, attacks like the one on March 11th continue to be recorded.

For all of the above, both networks denounced the State’s omission in the face of the increase in armed violence and the presence of criminal groups in Pantelhó and the Highlands region.

They demanded that none of these deaths goes unpunished, for which they urged the authorities of the three levels of government to implement urgent measures to stop armed violence in the entity and protect the life and integrity of girls, boys and adolescents. Likewise, they demanded attention to the causes of the armed conflict in the region as a basic need to prevent new forced displacements and avoid new humanitarian crises in the region.

Original article published in Chiapas Paralelo on March 13, 2024.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.

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