On February 17, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) released a report on events that took place February 6 in the community of Bolom Ajaw, in the official municipality of Tumbala and the autonomous municipality Comandante Ramona. The report points to the manipulation of events in the media and expresses worry over the poor attitude of the government, who’s involvement dates back to 2006. The human rights center states that the root of the conflict has to do with economic interests over land because of government plans to develop the area for tourism.
According to Frayba’s report “Armed attack on the Zapatista village Bolom Ajaw by PRI residents of Agua Azul,” Support Troops of the National Freedom Zapatista Army (BAEZLN) from Bolom Ajaw gathered on land that had been invaded on January 20 by residents of Agua Azul affiliated with the PRI political party and linked to the paramilitary group OPDDIC. The BAEZLN claims the land as their own, and wanted to remove the Agua Azul residents from it in a peaceful way. When they noticed the arrival of the BAEZLN, one of the PRI members shot his gun into the air, which escalated into both parties physically fighting each other. The PRI members then retreated and set up an ambush on the road toward Bolom Ajaw, which the Zapatistas broke up. The PRI members then made their way toward Bolom Ajaw. At the same time, two groups of Agua Azul residents attacked Bolom Ajaw with firearms, shooting at houses, destroying the church, and insulting the villagers. The villagers – mostly women and children – barricaded themselves inside a house finding themselves under attack by two groups from Agua Azul, as well as a group of PRI members who came from the direction of the disputed land.
Someone from his own group killed one PRI member in the crossfire. The men in the BAEZLN were able to surround Bolom Ajaw and force the attackers to retreat. Five of the PRI attackers were detained by the Zapatistas and handed over to state authorities on February 10. According to Frayba, the region of Agua Azul and Bolom Ajaw is known for its natural beauty and “has become a point of interest for tourism investment, plans and projects – a situation that has led to its position as an area to be controlled.” Frayba explains that there are “two types of plans and projects for the region on the part of federal and state applications.” On one hand there are “projects proposed by the Tzeltal Indigenous Ecoturism Cooperative of the Agua Azul Waterfalls S.C. de R.L (…), the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and from the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP).” On the other hand, there is a “tourism strategy within the framework of the Centro Integralmente Planeado Palenque (CIPP.)” In this context, the conflict over land and between indigenous groups from Agua Azul and Bolom Ajaw has to do with opposing interests: the Zapatistas want to defend the land because they live off it, and the residents of Agua Azul want to “benefit from the tourism projects planned for the region.”
For more information:
For more information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: statement from the Fray Bartolomé Center for Human Rights on Bolón Ajaw (February 15, 2010)
Chiapas: contradictory stories on new conflict in Bolón Ajaw (February 15, 2010)