Conflicts & War

Survivors, victims’ kin still awaiting justice 25 years after Mexico massacre

Chenalho, Mexico, Dec 22 (EFE).- A quarter century after Mexico’s Acteal massacre, when paramilitaries killed dozens of members of a Tzotzil indigenous community in a remote highland village of the southeastern state of Chiapas, survivors and relatives of the victims are continuing their search for justice.

“Our demand for justice continues. We’re still calling on the (Washington DC-based) Inter-American Commission (on Human Rights) to produce a complete report,” Guadalupe Vasquez Luna, a survivor who is pessimistic that those responsible will pay for their crimes, told Efe.

For her and the other survivors, the memory of that fateful Dec. 22, 1997, when 45 members of a predominantly Catholic pacifist group known as Las Abejas (The Bees) were killed and 26 others were seriously wounded, is as vivid as ever.

Most of those slain were women (four of whom were pregnant) and children.

“Every day that goes by we remember (the massacre), we live with those memories and it’s been very difficult. Every time they deny us that chance for justice, it’s as if the same (perpetrators) from 1997 were attacking us all over again,” Vasquez Luna said.

Survivors and the slain victims’ kin have waited since 2005 for the IACHR to issue an in-depth report on the case that holds the Mexican state responsible for the serious human rights violations.

They also are awaiting the identification of all those who masterminded and carried out the massacre and the implementation of actions that ensure a crime against humanity of this magnitude does not happen again.

Antonio Gutierrez, coordinator of Las Abejas in Acteal and a survivor of the massacre, told Efe that the struggle for justice continues.

“For us, that can’t be swept under the rug. Everything they did in 1997, on Dec. 22, we have to say it clearly, transparently,” he said. “We’re not going to keep our mouths shut, we’re going to keep denouncing them.”

Gutierrez is the founder of Las Abejas, a movement launched nearly 30 years ago following the 1993 arrest of five land defenders opposed to exploratory oil drilling.

Shortly thereafter, Las Abejas expressed sympathy for the principles and ideology of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a leftist militant group that staged a brief uprising in 1994.

That support put them in the crosshairs of the right-wing paramilitary group Mascara Roja.

On Dec. 22, 1997, a group of indigenous members of Las Abejas were praying in Acteal, a hamlet in the Chiapas municipality of Chenalho, when they were attacked by around 100 indigenous members of Mascara Roja.

Twenty-five years after the tragedy, Las Abejas is racked by division.

Some among their ranks decided to accept the public apologies and economic assistance offered on Sept. 3, 2020, by Alejandro Encinas, Mexico’s deputy interior minister responsible for human rights.

But others who believe senior government officials linked to the massacre have been shielded from accountability filed a request in August of this year with the IACHR demanding an in-depth report on the case.

That latter group says the Mexican government has not conducted a thorough investigation and that paramilitary groups continue to operate with impunity and under the protection of the authorities in Chenalho, Pantelho and other Chiapas municipalities. EFE


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