Conflicts & War

Indigenous Mexicans denounce forced displacement, deaths in conflict

Chenalhó, Mexico, Oct 5 (EFE).- Some 200 Tzotzil indigenous people, mostly women and children, denounced on Wednesday that they have been forcibly displaced due to conflict between two armed groups in Chenalhó, Mexico’s Chiapas state, which have allegedly left several dead.

The conflict, which has lasted six days, has resulted in the burning of dozens of houses in the communities of Atzamilho, Bajoveltik and Manuel Utrilla, and the forced displacement of more than 32 families who are now hiding in the mountains. The same number is taking refuge with relatives in the surrounding municipalities.

The two groups dispute 22 hectares of land adjacent to the municipality of Chalchihuitán.

One of the groups does not accept the distribution of those hectares, which they were given after a peace agreement was reached on June 2022 and meant to solve a 40-year dispute with the municipality.

“The women victims of this confrontation fled with their children and parents through the mountains, taking the paths with the risk of being hit by projectiles,” said Margarita Velasco Velasco, who lives in the Santa Martha community, in Chenalhó.

The woman told EFE that she and her sister-in-law ran away, leaving all their belongings.

“I was afraid of dying, that’s why we left. Yesterday (Tuesday) they burned my house, they burned everything – my clothes, my corn and beans… that’s why we want justice, it is what we want for women and children,” she said.

She also said that the women in the area were alone, without their husbands, since they were expelled by order of the commissioner on June 25, 2022, the date on which the problem originated, but which worsened on Sep. 29.

Another Tzotzil inhabitant of Santa Martha, Agustín Pérez Álvarez, said that he and his wife “almost died.”

“One of the wounded came to my house, he was offered shelter. About 100 people came to kill me – the shooting lasted almost three days. Thank God we have seen the miracle, I am alive, I thought I was going to die in the shooting,” Agustín recounted.

He added that he witnessed the deaths of at least six people, including one he said was named Juan David.

“He died in my house. I witnessed four more there, and one there and also my father, I saw them personally.”

The Chiapas Prosecutor’s Office reported in a statement on the death of only one person named Alfredo “N”, as a result of the confrontation on Sep. 29.

Almost a week into the conflict, municipal, state and federal authorities have not been able to enter the community of Santa Martha, nor have they been able to officially quantify the damage.

José Vázquez, an indigenous human rights defender, said that since the first 25 displaced men were known, the government was aware and did not bring humanitarian aid.

“The only thing that was seen on September 30 is that the authorities arrived: the army, the National Guard and the prosecutor’s office, but they only stayed in the municipal seat – a town where the administrative authorities are concentrated,” he said.

The municipal authorities reported that the army, National Guard, prosecutor’s office and human rights officials will be touring the community of Santa Martha until Thursday. EFE


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