Chiapas: Mexican government hides remains of Viejo Velasco massacre

(Viejo Velasco

In a joint press-release issued on 14 March, several civil organizations that work in the defense of human rights denounced serious irregularities in the judicial investigation into the death of three indigenous individuals and the forced disappearance of another four persons during the violent incursion of civilians into the community Nueva Palestina and of 300 police officers to the community Viejo Velasco, municipality of Ocosingo, on 13 November 2006. These organizations accuse the government of Chiapas of “committing grave irregularities, in addition to reiterating its lack of interest in clarifying the acts, doing justice, putting an end to impunity, and present the whereabouts of the four persons disappeared during the Viejo Velasco massacre.”

The organizations noted that “This massacre occurred within a context of intense struggle and resistance that attempted to assert the locals’ rights to territory and the management of the natural resources located in the heart of the Lacandon Jungle, as set forth in accounts of the rights of indigenous peoples. During the time of the massacre there was experienced a situation of social tension and juridical uncertainty with regard to the land-tenancy of more than forty communities, as promised by the State, in an area rich in biodiversity, water, forest-cover, and with a strong scenic-touristic attractiveness, as found within the Montes Azul Biosphere Reserve.”

The organizations reported that the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology (EAAF)—a world-renown group—analyzed the human remains made available by the judicial authority of Chiapas, finding that these were different than those discovered in the place in question. The group of forensic investigators affirmed moreover that “Grave deficiencies were found during the exhumation of the remains,” which points up “the negligence of the public ministry with regard to the process for exhumation.” According to the forensic report, “the biological and non-biological evidence, together with the documentation of such, was carried out in a precarious and incomplete fashion.”

Human-rights organizations demanded the recovery of the remains discovered by the committees who have followed the case; these were promised by the Public Ministry in July 2007 and were presumably hidden by authorities. Similarly, these organizations demand that the location of the remains be investigated and clarified, that the personnel who intervened to manipulate these be investigated, and that the officials who “arbitrarily replaced the remains” be sanctioned, together with “those who gave the orders to so do.”

In light of the denounced, the Chiapas State Attorney General’s Office announced that the case would be re-opened, noting that “it will be the Special Prosecutorial Office for the Investigation of the Crime of Homicide that will handle the penal investigation, while for its part the Special Prosecutorial Office for Attention to Crimes Related to Public Servants will initiate an exhaustive investigation toward the end of observing the behavior of all those public servants and authorities who ordered and executed the investigations previously carried out.” In its communiqué, the Office stressed that “in November 2006, the investigations were realized by the now-extinct Special Prosecutorial Office of State, with Mariano Francisco Herr<!–án Salvatti in charge, who has been incarcerated since January 2009 and who now faces new processes against his person.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Obstaculizan investigación en masacre de Viejo Velasco: ONG(InfoChiapas, 15 March)

Boletín de prensa conjunto de Organizaciones civiles (14 March)

Boletín de prensa de la Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado (PGJE) (17 March)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Chiapas: The Viejo Velasco massacre three years later (19 November 2009)

Chiapas: Viejo Velasco, a year after the unjust detention of Diego Arcos Meneses (24 November 2007)

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