San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico | April 25, 2013
On 21 and 22 April 2013, members of the Network for Peace in Chiapas conducted a Civil Mission of Observation and Documentation to the community of San Marcos Avilés, in the municipality of Chilón; as a result of this we state, from the evidence collected, that the community are still receiving death threats, threats of rape, assaults, robberies, and the main source of aggression, dispossession of their arable land, and threats of forced displacement, prompted by the political party supporters in disagreement with the advances of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)’s project of autonomy.
The situation of escalating violence has intensified into actions during daylight. The women reported that party supporters are now not afraid to threaten and harass them on a daily basis. This results in the women not doing their work outside their home and the men, for reasons of safety, not going out alone to work their land. “…we cannot go out alone due to the threats. Our husbands go to work in groups of three, even though threats to kill them, and rape us continue.”
Likewise women from Support Bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (BAEZLN) reported a situation of constant threats of rape, which significantly affects the lives of the women. A woman from BAEZLN describes her current life.
“We are all suffering from this conflict, we harvest coffee with fear. One day when I returned to the house, they had stolen chickens, poisoned pigs, and robbed other things. They also said that if women were out alone they would rape us. Two years ago, my daughter died at the age of 10. The girl died of sadness because they told her many times they were going to rape her. The women´s suffering comes from their concerns that the men will assault them.”
Another woman BAEZLN mentions: “My concern is that I have two children who go to collect firewood, but there are many death threats, and now I do not let my children go out, I don’t feel in peace.”
The children of the BAEZLN are constantly asking why they cannot go out to play; why they are kept locked up; they feel the anxiety of their mothers and fathers and this affects their emotional development; they have difficulty sleeping, they worry about the pain and stress suffered by their families due to the violence in which they live.
The psychological consequences are very serious, and have led to a loss of sleep, as a BAEZLN woman said: “there is a lot of anxiety because of the insecurity, and now none of us sleep due to the risk to the community….”
The testimonies show that the discrimination and exclusion are a result from belonging to BAEZLN, which leads to constant aggressions and humiliations which they are not willing to tolerate any longer.
Statements also show a situation of constant thefts from their own homes and places of work, which according to the victims have intensified, because these acts are now taking place in daylight. Below is one of the statements from a male member of the BAEZLN:
“On March 13, 2013, I had 800 selected little coffee plants (in a bag), then I realised they had stolen seven little coffee plants, which had involved loads of effort to put in the bag, a practice which happens regularly and normally agreed amongst the ejidatarios, who are linked to the authorities and we do nothing, so to avoid consistent provocations
To sum up, we documented many death threats which have been happening in recent months, like on March 27, 2013 when the ejidal and municipal authorities met together in a private place to share information about a BAEZLN man, to decide whether to kill him. They agreed that once they had executed this person, they would do the same with the other BAEZLN. The person who gave this statement asked not to be named, because they would burn him alive or he would have to pack his bags.
It should be noted that during the stay of the caravan, while we were gathering statements from the BAEZLN, we, the participating organizations, were living in a hostile environment. We received information that the party supporters were meeting, calling all men and women, and said that outsiders should not be coming in to solve their problems, that the caravan does not have the right to measure the land, (the party supporters thought that this was the function of the caravan, as we visited a site where BAEZLN denounce dispossession). Subsequently, we reported that the party supporters threatened the caravan with taking away our vehicles, saying “if you do not give them up, the good will become bad, and if blood flows, then blood will really flow”.
Meeting with municipal authorities from Chilón
As part of the Mission of Observation, we requested a meeting with the municipal president of Chilón, Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar, who was unable to attend, but we met with the government delegate in the area, Nabor Orosco Ferrer, and the Municipal Receiver, Francisco Guzmán Aguilar, among other municipal officials.
We shared the documentation of violations to human rights that are being experienced in San Marcos Avilés currently, and expressed our great concern about the situation of constant threats, robbery and risk of forced displacement. We emphasized the obligation of the state to guarantee security amidst a situation of threats, and it is an urgent matter, because the violence is escalating to irreparable levels. We also asked them to provide the necessary conditions for the BAEZLN to return to their land and the right to and respect for their autonomy and self-determination.
For his part, the Municipal Receiver of Chilón, Francisco Guzmán Aguilar, acknowledged the displacement and dispossession of land from the bases of the EZLN since 2010, commenting that “what is certain is that the Zapatistas bought the land, but it was taken from them because they do not pay property taxes, or pay for their light and water”, but he denied the existence of a situation of violence today.
At the same time, the government delegate in the area, Nabor Orosco Ferrer, admitted that there are people with political interests behind these events, who could be provoking the situation of conflict.
Regarding the recent acts of plunder on April 18, 2013, when machines came to work carrying gravel to fill in a lagoon in a plot of land belonging to a BAEZLN, acts organized from the Chilón municipal government, municipal officials told us that: “the filling in of the plot of land is necessary because it has a lagoon which attracts many mosquitoes which transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, but we had no knowledge that part of the land belongs to a BAEZLN”.
Hopes of the BAEZLN
The BAEZLN told us that they hope this conflict will soon be resolved peacefully and with justice, as they are suffering very much. They want to have peace, because they want to see their children playing happily. They are waiting for the return of their lands, which have been taken by the people responsible for the violence, so that peace can return to the community.
Conclusions of the Civil Mission of Observation
The organizations of the Network for Peace have verified that as a result of repeated threats and attacks, there is food shortage among the EZLN families. This does not allow them to live a full life, among other situations that might constitute acts of torture due to the constant and widespread violence committed against them by the party supporters of San Marcos Avilés.
We wish to express our great concerns about the continuing violations of the personal and psychological integrity of the BAEZLN. We regret the lack of action from the government of Chiapas, which has allowed and tolerated the fact that the situation is based on constant human rights violations.
We ask the government to foster actions from the party supporters which involve respect for the autonomy of the BAEZLN, within the framework of the rights of indigenous peoples contained in ILO Convention 169, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the San Andrés Accords, in accordance with Article 1 of the Constitution of the United Mexican States.
In this way the fundamental rights to health, education, housing, residence, freedom of movement and other rights of the BAEZLN families of the community of San Marcos Avilés, which are being violated, can be ensured, respected and protected.
According to the information documented, there is an imminent risk that, for a second time[i], a forced displacement may be carried out by people from the same ejido who are affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Mexican Green Ecological Perty (PVEM).
We make clear to the government the seriousness and urgency[ii] of the situation, and ask them to take immediate action to prevent irreparable harm to the life and personal integrity of the indigenous Tzeltales belonging to the BAEZLN in the community of San Marcos Avilés.
The members of the Network for Peace:
- Fray Pedro Lorenzo de Nada Human Rights Committee (CDHFP),
- Centre for Indigenous Rights, A.C. (CEDIAC),
- Services and Consultancy for Peace, A.C. (SERAPAZ)
- Support Committee for Community Reconciliation and Unity, A.C. (CORECO)
- Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans, A.C. (DESMI)
- Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba)
- Education for Peace, A.C. (EDUPAZ), LINK, Communication and Training, A.C. (ENLACE CC)
- International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)
- Chiapas Centre for Women’s Rights, A.C. (CDMCH)
[i] Background: On September 9, 2010, the Good Government Junta Central Heart of the Zapatistas Before the World, Caracol 2 Resistance and Rebellion for Humanity, based in the community of Oventic, San Andrés Sakamch’en de Los Pobres, Chiapas, made a denouncement about the threats, harassment and forced displacement which had been suffered by the 170 men, women and children of the BAEZLN in the ejido San Marcos Avilés, municipality of Chilón, Chiapas; this was following, in August 2010, the BAEZLN building the first autonomous primary school in the ejido, for the start of the planned activities of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Education System.
That day, 30 people from the ejido San Marcos Avilés, affiliated with the political parties the PRI, the PRD and the PVEM, headed by Lorenzo Ruiz Gómez and Vicente Ruiz López, entered violently, with sticks, machetes and firearms into the homes of the members of the BAEZLN, and tried to rape two women, who escaped. So as not to respond to this aggression, the BAEZLN left their homes seeking refuge in the bush. After 33 days of forced displacement without food or any protection, on October 12, 2010, 27 families of BAEZLN (women, men, boys and girls, in total 170 individuals) returned to their community. They are still living in a precarious situation, still displaced from their work and under constant threats to their integrity and personal safety.
[ii] Increase in acts of repression and tension against the BAEZLN in San Marcos Avilés; downloadable here: