At the close of last week, several contradictory accounts were presented regarding a new conflict in the fields of Bolón Ajaw, municipality of Tumbalá, in the north of Chiapas. Managed by the Zapatistas since 1994, these fields, which pertain to the autonomous muncipality of Comandanta Ramona, are located 4km from Agua Azul. They feature waterfalls that have yet to be exploited for touristic ends.
The first version of these events speaks of a confrontation on 6 February between members of support-bases of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and members of the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC) that left one dead, 12 injured, and 5 arrested among the Zapatistas.
In a subsequent communiqué, the Attorney General for State Justice (PGJE) confirmed that the conflict had left 1 dead, 5 detained, and 28 injured among members of OPDDIC, as the number of injured among the Zapatistas was said to be unknown. 13 of the 28 injured were hospitalized with injuries that seem to have resulted from firearms, knives and machetes, and fists. According to the PGJE, the conflict erupted in January when Zapatistas from Bolón Ajaw requested support from sympathetic communities in Oxchuc, Alan Sacjun, Salto del Tigre, and Bachajón in preventing OPDDIC members from cleaning the pathway from the Agua Azul waterfalls to those of Bolón Ajaw, a move that was considered by the Zapatistas to encourage tourism.
On 10 February, the Agustín PRO Center for Human Rights entitled one of the entries in its media synthesis “Confrontation in Chiapas spurs media campaign against indigenous communities–communication media from Mexico City emphasize ‘executions’ and ‘disappearances’ on the part of the Zapatistas on their front pages.” Other media pointed out the still-relevant judiciary findings against OPDDIC from February 2008 for the charges of aggression, assault, death-threats, murder attempts against non-governmental organizations and EZLN support-bases in Bolón Ajaw. Other media accounts alluded to the Morelia Good Government Council’s 23 January 2010 report on OPDDIC aggressivity in the same community. Adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle gathered in La Otra Jovel claimed that in the Bolón Ajaw ejido “the population has been now for many years harassed by other indigenous individuals organized and armed by the government as paramilitary groups.”
The Chiapas state government announced on 10 February that EZLN support-bases had released 5 OPDDIC members, thus confirming the PGJE statement.
In a communiqué released on 11 February, the Good Government Council (JBG) of Morelia clarified the recent events in Bolón Ajaw by referring to its previous communiqué: “15 days ago we released our statement; for us, this period of time was to represent a time of waiting to see if they wanted to dialogue, but they never approached us.” The JBG added that “this is the restarting of the types of tricks used by previous governments that would simply make up crimes so as to be able to justify their repressiveness.”
Regarding the conflict of 6 February, the JBG noted that “the OPDDIC lies claim that it to have been us that surprised the population at dawn, when in fact it was us who were thus surprised.” The communiqué further claimed that OPDDIC members “arrived with pistols and rifles in hand firing at our compañeros. We estimate that they expended some 250 cartridges of .22 ammunition (…). 40 OPDDIC members arrived in Bolón Ajaw with weapons at hand; they went to the village church, forcibly entering by destroying the door, and destroyed much inside (…). The indiscriminate firing that they engaged in while in Bolón Ajaw itself was the cause of the deaths among them.”
The JBG admitted that “of course we detained 7 of them, but we have respected them at all moments and indeed have given them to eat (although not high-quality food, since we ourselves do not have such) and water to drink as well as a room in which to sleep (although, again, not a terribly comfortable one, since this is how we live) and blankets. In sum, we have respected their rights as humans; even if they are animals, we know how to respect them (…). We proposed that they be released on condition that they promise not to occupy the land and that tranquility be restored. This was our proposal, which we have observed with honor and truth.”
The JBG also mentioned that “Pedro Raúl López, special prosecutor for matters pertaining to non-governmental organizations, shared the message of Juan Sabines Guerrero, who insinuated that the military could be ordered in, with the result that dialogue would collapse and hostilities be reinitiated if the problem were not resolved through dialogue.”
For more information (in Spanish):
The Morelia JBG clarifies recent events in Bolón Ajaw (11 February)
EZLN support-bases release 5 OPDDIC members previously detained in Agua Azul (La Jornada, 11 February)
Pending judicial findings against OPDDIC members (La Jornada, 10 February)
Confrontation in Chiapas spurs media campaign against indigenous communities (media synthesis from the Agustín Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights, 10 February)
Agua Azul residents call for justice after having been assaulted by Zapatistas (Milenio, 10 February)
EZLN group executes an indigenous individual and disappears 5 (Razón, 10 February)
Alleged Zapatistas detain indigenous individuals (El Universal, 10 February)
Confrontation at Bolón Ajaw field leaves 12 indigenous people injured (La Jornada, 8 February)
The JBG of Caracol IV in Morelia denounced aggression on part of OPDDIC (communiqué of 23 January)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):
Chiapas: aggression against members of CAPISE and SERPAJ (9 February 2008)