Press conference (@Fray Bartolome de Las Casas)
At a press conference held at its offices on March 21st, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (Fryba) and indigenous representatives of 120 communities and Tseltal ejidos, Choles, Tsostiles, Zoques and Mestizos reported that they documented acts of spying and harassment by the military against indigenous peoples in recent times.
They argued that “under the pretext of the application of the Internal Security Law and the “fight against crime”, communities living on the so-called southern border road in the municipalities of Palenque, Ocosingo, Chilon and La Libertad, Chiapas, have been violated in their right to security and personal integrity by elements of the 18th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army, based in Tenosique, Tabasco.” They detailed that the acts of “surveillance, harassment, intimidation, threats and criminalization by the Mexican Army (…) put at risk the life and freedom of those who make up the Organization of Autonomous Peoples in Defense of Uses and Customs.”
For the same reason and since February 21st, by community agreement, the Autonomous Peoples Organization began to hold peaceful demonstrations with the distribution of flyers in the stretches of El Tulipan, Tabasco, and Chancala, Chiapas, to request the return of livestock confiscated in a protest on February 16th and the cessation of harassment.
In the framework of these actions they retained a person who took photos of them, who identified himself as Ezequiel Lopez Lopez, originally from Puebla and who, they discovered, was a soldier in civilian clothing, spying on them. Several soldiers went to the place where he was being held to negotiate his release. However, “while a negotiating table was being set up, the SEDENA besieged the community: some 200 soldiers from Tenosique arrived in the vicinity, cut off access, as well as communication to the outside and electricity and were stationed in attack position, while deploying a media campaign to discredit the organization. On February 24th, government authorities released the confiscated livestock and signed an agreement, which established that there would be no reprisals against members of the Organization. In addition, Ezekiel was handed over without harm.”
However, after these events, the communities and ejidos of the Organization of Autonomous Peoples in Defense of the Uses and Customs of Palenque have reported “greater vigilance and military patrols in the region, as well as an increase in intermittent lockdowns of elements of the Mexican Army, who have shown hostile, threatening and discriminatory behavior.”
When their behavior was questioned, they argued aggressively that “they are powers that the Internal Security Law gives them and that, as indigenous people, they have to abide by the new rules.”
For all the above, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (Fryba) urged the Ministry of National Defense to cease acts of harassment, intimidation, threats and criminalization against those who are organized peacefully in the construction of alternative of ways of life, and also respect for the collective rights of indigenous peoples.
For more information in Spanish:
Ejército mexicano realiza espionaje a pueblos originarios en Chiapas (Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, 21 de marzo de 2018)
El Frayba denuncia espionaje y hostigamiento militar contra indígenas en Chiapas (Proceso, 21 de marzo de 2018)
Municipios de Chiapas, prisioneros del ejército: Frayba (Juicio Político, 22 de marzo de 2018)
For more information from SIPAZ:
Nacional : EPN promulga Ley de Seguridad Interior. CNDH promoverá acciones de inconstitucionalidad. (29 de diciembre de 2017)
Nacional: Más aprobaciones controvertidas de Leyes Mexicanas (20 de diciembre de 2017)
Nacional: Senado aprueba Ley de seguridad interior (16 de diciembre de 2017)
Nacional: Entre protestas se aprueba Ley de seguridad interior (1 de diciembre de 2017)