Following the arrest in the morning on 23 March of Manuel Díaz Heredia, an ejidatario of Mitzitón and adherent to the Other Campaign, by agents of the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR), a tense situation has developed in this community, municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Seeking Díaz’s release, adherents of the Other Campaign the same day detained two members of the State Preventive Police (PEP) and three officials from the Ministry for Social Development (SEDESOL, a federal institution) and also set up a roadblock on the Pan-American Highway between San Cristóbal and Comitán. On 24 March, the Fray Bartolomé Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC) mentioned the possibility of a confrontation between Mitzitón residents and people who, according to CDHFBC, were amassing in the neighboring community of Betania, possibly to prepare a break-up of the aforementioned road-block.
Manuel Díaz Heredia was detained in the morning of 23 March on the charge of migrant-trafficking (a federal crime) and taken to the Center for Social Re-Integration for the Sentenced (CERSS) No. 14, known as “El Amate.” According to CDHFBC, Díaz was beaten during the journey to the prison. The charges against Díaz were reportedly brought forth by Carmen Díaz Gómez, a former Mitzitón resident who was expelled from the community three years ago. Significantly, Díaz Gómez presented the same accusations made against him by Mitzitón ejidatarios who are adherents to the Other Campaign in the past.
Mitziton ejidatarios who adhere to the Other Campaign publicly denounced Díaz Heredia’s arrest, which they see as an act of criminalization of the defense of their territory, and announced the measures they had taken in response in the hopes of effecting Díaz Heredia’s release: the detainment of several governmental officials as well as the roadblock on the Pan-American Highway, which physically divides the community. They denounced the arrest as a ploy by the state government to force a return to negotiations and to “make us resign ourselves to the fact that our territory will be used for the construction of the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway and the widening of the road” to Comitán.
In CDHFBC’s view, it is “important to mention that as of yet no public servant has approached the Mitzitón ejidatarios to inform him/herself of the demands that led to the highway-roadblock. This is of course not the first time that indigenous groups associated with governmental projects are used to effect eviction, dispossession, control, and recovery–in this case, the raising of the roadblock.”
It should be mentioned that, on 18 March, the attorney Miguel Ángel de los Santos Cruz presented an invitation to dialogue from the state government, an appeal that was rejected by adherents to the Other Campaign. In their public communiqué released on 22 March, the adherents declared that “the government knows well the agreements we’ve made in our community. We have said many times that we don’t want paramilitary groups and delinquents to continue harming and kidnapping people, and that we want our rights as indigenous people to be respected. We don’t want the bad government’s violence directed against our community for religious reasons to be covered up. We aren’t a group of people; we are a people who deserve respect.”
For more information (in Spanish):
Risk of confrontation is reported due to indigenous roadblock in Mitzitón (La Jornada, 24 de marzo)
Federal agents arrest Other Campaign adherent in Mitzitón, Chiapas (La Jornada, 24 de marzo)
Mitzitón authorities declare De los Santos to be government palero (La Jornada, 23 de marzo)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):
Another confrontation in Mitzitón (9 March 2010)
Chiapas: Denunciation of Attempted Kidnapping in Mitzitón (26 February 2010)
Chiapas: Person dead after brutal attacks in Mitzitón (29 July 2009)