Following the assassination of the indigenous leader Simon Pedro Perez, former president of the Las Abejas de Acteal organization, which occurred on July 5th, the residents of Pantelho and Chenalho, indigenous municipalities located in the Chiapas Highlands, decided to expel members of criminal groups.
Simon Pedro, who was a catechist in the Pantelho parish, accompanied indigenous communities in denouncing the ongoing and structural violence in the Chiapas Highlands region, where strong activity by armed groups has beennoted.
This context has resulted in the murder of at least 12 people in the Pantelho region since March of this year. Faced with this situation and the neglect of the authorities, the community decided to form a self-appointed group as the “United People of Pantelho in Defense of Territory”. This union of residents has been stationed for two days on the roads outside the municipal seat of Pantelho, where armed attacks by criminal groups have occurred.
On .another note, on July 7th, when trying to unblock the road in Majomut to enable the entrance to the municipal seat of Pantelho, six agents of the state Public Security Secretariat and three elements of the Mexican Army were wounded with firearms.
In a statement issued by a group of NGOs (among them the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Center for Human Rights, SERAPAZ and the RedTdT) they stated that, “We know that residents of at least 19 communities in the municipalities of Pantelho, Simojovel and Chenalho are at maximum risk level. Men, women, girls, boys, adolescents and older adults live in fear and terror due to the threat they have received from people linked to crime. The lives of those who denounce are at risk.”
As a result of this context of generalized violence and lack of action by the authorities, at the moment at least 2,000 Tsotsil indigenous people from the Pantelho and Chenalho municipalities have been displaced from their communities. Frayba added that “six families, some 27 people from Las Abejas, decided to stay in the municipality of Pantelho.” At the moment the municipalities of Pantelho and Chenalo are without electricity or telephone network.
Furthermore, on July 6th, residents of Pantelho located explosives in two of the houses that were occupied by people they identify as members of organized crime groups. The priest Marcelo Perez Perez, parish priest of Simojovel and director of the Social Ministry of the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, explained that the inhabitants of the community where the explosives were found notified him of the discovery and asked him to notify the Attorney General’s Office . This agency indicated that he was not in a position to take charge of the material, and requested the intervention of the Mexican Army.
For its part, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights – IFHR, recalled that the Civil Observation Mission to Chiapas, from December 2020 “documented the situation of forced displacement, land dispossession, threats and harassment experienced by the communities in this region, due to the presence of armed groups in the area.”
For more in Spanish:
Alerta: Alrededor de 2 mil personas desplazadas de la región tsotsil Pantelhó-Chenalhó (08 de julio de 2021)
Terror por emboscada en Pantelhó, Chiapas (09 de julio de 2021)
Grupo armado ataca municipio indígena de Pantelhó, Chiapas (08 de julio de 2021)
For more information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: HR Defender Simon Pedro Perez Lopez Murdered (July 6, 2021)
Chiapas : A tres años del desplazamiento forzado masivo de Chalchihuitán (30 de octubre de 2020)