Chiapas: Police operation provokes confrontation and death of six indigenous persons

["Massacre in Chincultik" produced by Meridiano90-Noticias Sin Fronteras]

Last Friday, October 3, 2008, a violent operation carried out by federal and state police left six people dead, 17 people injured, and 36 detained, almost all of whom were habitants of the ejido (communally held land) of Miguel Hidalgo, which is located in the municipality of La Trinitaria, Chiapas.

SIPAZ expresses grave concern over the events.

Earlier on September 7th, the members of the ejido had taken the ruins of Chincultik, which are located in front of their community, with the intention of taking over administration of the Mayan archeological site located near the city of Comitán and the lakes of Montebello. In response, the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia y Historía (INAH): National Institue of Anthropology and History, which had previously been responsible for administration of this site, filed a suit against those responsible for the occupation (investigation PGR/CHIS/COM/156/2008). A series of negotiations with the authorities had begun and the last meeting of these negotiations had taken place on October 2nd.

On October 3rd, approximately at 11:00 AM, the first police operation began with the arrival of 40 members of the State Preventive Police (PEP) and the Judicial Police (Policia Ministerial), who entered the community in vehicles, horses, and on foot and began throwing tear gas and breaking into a number of houses. The members of the community blocked their entrance with rocks, shovels, and machetes, provoking the first confrontation.

Around 5:30 PM, 300 agents of the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), the Judicial Police, the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), and the State Preventive Police began to enter the community again, provoking another confrontation. According to testimonies, police agents used firearms which injured a number of people.

According to information made public by Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, Agustin Alfaro Alfaro, who lives in a nearby town, together with his wife and one of his sons in his arms, came with his truck to help move the injured persons to a nearby hospital. On the road, they were intercepted by a truck of the State Preventative Police which began to shoot at them. After getting out of their truck, the police shot Mr. Alfaro in the chest and executed three more people on the spot (Rigoberto López, Alfredo Hernández, and Miguel Antonio Martínez). The wife of Mr. Alfaro, Eloisa Margarita Espinoza Morales, and her son escaped unharmed, they witnessed these events.

Two other people (Ingacio Hernández López and Ricardo Ramírez Ramírez), wounded by gunshots, died on the way to the Hospital of Amparo Agua Tinta, which is in the municipality of Las Margaritas.

The 36 detained campesinos, who were transferred to San Cristóbal de las Casas and to La Trinitaria, were liberated on October 5th in exchange for the guns that people of the community had taken from the police on the morning of October 3rd.

According to Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, of the 17 campesinos who were wounded, 6 of which received gunshot wounds, 2 are still in critical condition. The authorities have stated that 22 were wounded: 16 police and 6 farmers.

So far, state and federal authorities have decided do pay 35.000 pesos (approximately 2800 USD) to cover funeral expenses and 75.000 pesos (approximately 6000 USD) to support the families of the victims. The Government of Chiapas is currently investigating five policemen deemed guilty of the massacre and has declared that public officials found to have committed abuses will be punished.

The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center “strongly criticized the crimes committed by state and federal agents against the people of the community of Miguel Hidalgo” and demanded that “the federal and Chiapas state government conduct an impartial and efficient investigation of the facts, punish the people responsible for those actions, provide compensation for material and moral damages, implement measures to repair the damage done to the social fabric of the community, and ensure the non repetition of the abuses and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials”.

It is also important to mention that, on the same day, another policing operation took place in the communities of Antelá, Nueva Rosita y Nuevo Hidalgo, where last September groups of indigenous people had blocked the Lagunas de Montebello National Park. Up until then, the park had been administered by the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP).

For More Information (In Spanish):

Article from La Jornada from the 4th and 5th of October: “Three-hour confrontation between police and campesinos in an archeological zone in Chiapas”

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/10/04/index.php?section=politica&article=018n1pol

and

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/10/05/index.php?section=politica&article=003n1pol

Various articles related to the killings: http://diariomeridiano90.blogspot.com/

Preliminary report from Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center http://www.frayba.org.mx/archivo/boletines/081006_ejecuciones_en_chinkultic.pdf

Article: The government of Chiapas accuses 5 police officers in the killings in Chinkultic http://www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?id_nota=389359#

Urgent Action by the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT, Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura)

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