Chiapas: Memorial in Masojá Shucjá for the victims of the Peace and Justice paramilitary group

September 7, 2009
Masoja Shucjá @sipaz

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center was invited. The communities that have suffered the same situation of war were invited. Other organizations were invited. The press was invited.

In the northern region of Chiapas the community of Masojá Shucjá wants its dead to be remembered and continues to demand justice. But more than ten years later, justice has yet to be served.

This past August 30th members of the Civil Resistance Movement Against High Electricity Rates (also belonging to PUDEE – People United for the Defense of Electrical Energy) and followers of The Other Campaign built an altar with flowers, candles and photos in Masojá Shucjá. The altar was raised not only in memory of those from Masojá Shucjá who have been killed and disappeared, but also in honor of the one hundred victims of the Peace and Justice paramilitaries in the northern region of Chiapas.

The Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center’s 2008 Annual report reflected on the situation of human rights situation in Chiapas: “The internal armed conflict in Chiapas remains unresolved. As part of the Mexican government’s counterinsurgency strategy incentives were given to start paramilitary groups in specific regions of the conflict zone. Among these paramilitary groups the Peace and Justice is known for its cruelty and operative capacity in the Chol territory of the northern region, which includes the municipalities of Salto de Agua, Tila, Tumbala, Yajalon and Sabanilla. The counterinsurgency strategy, which has been documented by this Human Rights Center, has resulted in 122 cases of disappearances and executions from 1995 until 2001. Among the 122 dead, 37 were forced disappearances (32 men and 5 women) and 86 were executions (79 men and 7 women).”

Besides the imprisonment of five Peace and Justice leaders from 2001 to 2002, these crimes remain unpunished. On top of that it is feared that in the same way that perpetrators were released in the Acteal case, the few who have been sentenced in the northern region could be released as well.

By candlelight at dawn on Sunday August 30th, indigenous Choles from Masojá Shucjá began to pray for their dead relatives and for peace. After sharing tamales and coffee the church filled for a memorial mass. At the end of the mass survivors and relatives of the victims gave testimony and shared in their ever-present pain. In the words of the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, when justice doesn’t come from above, it has to be built from the bottom up. This implies always remembering, never forgetting.

For more information (in Spanish):

Indígenas de Chiapas exigen “justicia divina y terrenal” para sus muertos

Balance anual 2008, sobre la situación de Derechos Humanos en Chiapas (Capitulo 4. Memoria Histórica. Crímenes de lesa humanidad en Chiapas: una política de Estado)

For more information from SIPAZ:

Northern Region: a Powder Keg of violence (1999)

– The Tragedy of the Choles: a people torn apart by violence (1997)

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CHIAPAS: Frayba Denounces Criminalization of Human Rights Work

September 3, 2009

Director del CDHFBC

In an “Urgent Call to Action” declared on August 28th, Human Right Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas (Frayba) denounced new cases of harassment toward their workers as well as the communities and organizations they work alongside.

The Urgent Call to Action makes reference to events that have occurred since June, including harassment against Frayba’s director, Diego Cadenas Gordillo, the center’s president, Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia (who is the bishop emeritus of San Cristobal de Las Casas) as well as other employees of the Center. The Urgent Call to Action also refers to the criminal complaint made against Frayba by Esdras Alonso Gonzalez for “attacks to communication lines, attacks against the peace and security of the people, biodiversity and breaking and entering.” The accusations are linked to follow-up activities carried out by Frayba in Mitziton.

According to the Urgent Call to Action, during a protest on August 10th and 11th to denounce the liberation of prisoners accused of the Acteal massacre, a person taking pictures and asking Frayba workers about the event’s organization turned out to be a member of the military. On August 17th, after a ceremony and press conference with the Mexican representative of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Frayba’s workers were followed and under surveillance by people in a Ford Fiesta with no license plate. The car slowed down along with the workers, proving that their goal was to closely follow the workers movements.

The final complaint was made regarding an event that is documented in detail in the text of the Urgent Call to Action. A person who claimed to be a member of the “Campesina Organization of Independent Workers” and supposedly sent by the General Secretary of the State of Chiapas, Noe Castañón, asked to speak to the director of Frayba to “establish direct contact and communication with you (Frayba) and Las Abejas.” According to Frayba the person stated, “the Governor has failed to carry out his campaign promises, has deceived people, and has been a disaster for the state government.” The person went on to say that’s why the Government Secretary “wants to talk to Don Samuel and Gonzalo Ituarte as well as the president of Las Abejas as soon as possible, so that they can ask for what they want” and for this, he asked for Frayba’s help to make contact. He also indicated that “Juan Sabines will no longer be Governor after presenting his government report, and it’s certain that Noe Castañón will become Governor” and that “he will immediately respond to everything Frayba demands.” When Frayba contacted Noe Castañón about his supposed representative, Castañón said “he hadn’t sent anyone and he was certain that this person was an impostor.”

Given this situation, Frayba reports “the accumulation of acts of harassment, surveillance, threats, defamation, slander and intimidation against its workers constitutes an attack against the personal and psychological integrity of the Frayba team. Besides being a violation of human rights, these acts impede and put at risk the development of our work in favor of the indigenous and non-indigenous people and communities of Chiapas.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Acción Urgente: “En Chiapas se criminaliza la defensa de los Derechos Humanos”, CDHFBC (28/08/2009)

More information from SIPAZ:

Chiapas: concern regarding threats faced by human rights defenders (june 2009)