Chiapas: update in the Agua Azul case

(@state-government of Chiapas)

On 5 February, the State Attorney General’s Office (PGJE) of Chiapas released 106 indigenous individuals from the municipality of Chilón adherents to the Other Campaign who had been detained on Thursday the 3rd following a confrontation with militants of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that took place the previous day regarding the control of a control point located at the entrance of the tourist center of the Agua Azul waterfalls.  In a communiqué, the PGJE added that it continues to hold 10 Tzeltal persons accused of homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, attacks on communication media, and damages.  Five are accused of having used firearms and the other five of being associated with the aggressor group, carrying machetes, sticks, and stones.  The PGJE indicated that in the confrontation were used weapons of .22, .213, and R15 caliber, all exclusively Army-grade.  The 116 indigenous individuals were arrested a day after the confrontation, when they supposedly blocked the road that connects the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas with Ocosingo and Palenque; they were taken to the latter city so that they could make their declarations before the ministry.

In a special bulletin that follows its visit to Agua Azul to document the happenings, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights denounced that those detained had indicated several irregularities in the legal process: they lacked a defense attorney and official translator and were moreover threatened by state police and harassed by local authorities charged with the administration of justice. The report assured that among the imprisoned is a minor and a youth with mental challenges. The CDHFBC affirmed that 117 adherents to the Other Campaign were “detained arbritarily,” that there were no foreigners on-site, and that there never was a road-block.

It indicated moreover that “[t]he state-government’s repressive action is clear, as it acts together with official authorities (PRI members) to arbitrarily indicate and detain the ejidatarios who are adherents to the Other Campaign, an action that has provoked violent acts in the interest of territory in the region. This Center of Human Rights condemns the actions of the state government to persecute and criminalize the ejidatarios adherents to the Other Campaign, given that it was these who were attacked and had their contro point taken by a numerous group of ejidatario PRI militants who violently occupied the control point on 2 February that it currently under the control of the state police.”

For its part, the Center of Indigenous Rights A.C., which has a strong presence in the area, denounced that “having had the possibility of avoiding the confrontation between the ejidatarios of San Sebastián and the ejidatarios who pertain to the Other Campaign, the government took no such action; being on-site to avoid the confrontation between the two groups and the death and severe injuries (of a person from the group of ejidatarios from San Sebastián), it adopted a delaying strategy.”

On 6 February, Juan Sabines Guerrero, governor of Chiapas, personally visited Agua Azul, where he said that “we came to listen and participate in the accords that you determine. What we want is that the control point stop being a reason for violence in Chiapas, that it generate common income for the indigenous ejidatarios of Bachajón, for their groups as well as for the residents of the community of Agua Azul.” He opened a “Table of Dialogue and Coordination to resolve this conflict in the Ecotourist Center of the Agua Azul Waterfalls.” The journalist accounts of the visit left unclear whether ejidatarios adherents to the Other Campaign were also in attendance.

For its part, Juan Carlos Cal and Mayor Franco, secretary of tourism in Chiapas, affirmed that the flow of visitants to the zone has now been normalized. The incumbent of the Ministry of Tourism (Sectur) added that the site continues to have the presence of units of the state police, toward the end of “protecting the integrity of tourists as well as avoiding new confrontations among the groups in dispute.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Urgent Action: Kidnapping of ejidatarios in Chiapas (Urgent Action of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights, 7 February 2011)

Sectur: Flow of tourists to Agua Azul has normalized (Cuarto Poder, 7 February 2011)

Table of dialogue to solve conflict of Agua Azul opens (La Jornada, 7 February 2011)

EZLN sympathizers are brought before authorities in Chiapas (El Universal, 6 February 2011)

106 indigenous individuals are released in Chiapas; another 10 are accused of several crimes (La Jornada, 6 February 2011)

Frayba accuses the government of criminalizing the Other Campaign (La Jornada, 6 February 2011)

Pro-Zapatista indigenous individuals denounce looting and torture in Chiapas (CNN México, 6 February 2011)

Bulletin: 117 ejidatarios from San Sebastián Bachajón are arbitrarily imprisoned (informational bulletin from the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights, 5 February 2011)

CEDIAC communiqué regarding the events (CEDIAC, 5 February 2011)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Chiapas: confrontation over control point at Agua Azul leaves one dead and several injured (7 February 2011)

Chiapas: Ejidatarios de Bachajón denounce governmental strategy and escalation of aggression by Opddic (25 November 2010)

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