Chiapas: An Assembly of Tzeltal communities from Chilón municipality reject the SCLC-Palenque highway

September 9, 2014
Assembly in San Jeronimo Bachajón (@SIPAZ)

Assembly in San Jeronimo Bachajón (@SIPAZ)

On August 30, a special meeting was held in the community of Guadalupe Paxilá which belongs to the ejido San Jerónimo Bachajón, municipality of Chilón. About 1,800 members of this Tzeltal ejido, representing 192 of the 206 communities that belongs to it, rejected the construction of the San Cristobal-Palenque highway, the most ambitious project that President Enrique Peña Nieto and the governor Manuel Velasco Coello have announced for Chiapas.

The communal landowners said that they were not consulted for the construction of the highway and that they will not sell their lands. They informed that the ejido has been harassed and pressured to sign the authorization for the highway: the Commisioner of Communal Lands’ son was fired from his job at a state government office arguing that he could return to his post until his father signs a document permiting the highway to pass by San Jerónimo Bachajón. One of his daughters was also threatened with being fired from a high school where she works and they affirmed that the threat have to do with the position of his father.

The communal landowners demanded the end of harassments, persecutions and threats against our ejido authorities by federal, state and municipal governments that are acting in a repressive way.” They demanded that the son of the commissioner might be “reinstalled in his post”. They also reported that the mayor of Chilón, Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, does the dirty work for the state and federal governments, persecuting, threatening and harassing indigenous people opposed to the highway.

For more information (in Spanish):

Se oponen comunidades tseltales de Chiapas a súper autopista (Proceso, 31 de agosto de 2014)

Indígenas tzeltales se oponen a la construcción de la autopista San Cristóbal-Palenque (De Facto, 1 de septiembre de 2014)

Chiapas: ejidatarios rechazan construcción de autopista (La Jornada, 31 de agosto de 2014)

Rechazan indígenas de municipio de Chilón, Chiapas, construcción de carretera (La Jornada, 11 de agosto de 2014)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Chiapas: Los Llanos and San José El Porvenir reject passage of highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque through their communities (February 14, 2014)

Chiapas: Los Llanos and San José El Porvenir reject passage of highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque through their communities

February 14, 2014

Foto @ Frontera Sur México

Photo @ Frontera Sur México

On 7 February, representatives from the Los Llanos ejido, San Cristóbal de Las Casas municipality, and the San José El Porvenir community, Huixtán municipality, reported their opposition to the passage of the planned highway between San Cristóbal and Palenque through their communities.  They indicated having knowledge “that they desire to pass the highway from San Cristóbal to Palenque through our community and so expropriate from us land that is most productive and gives us all to eat.”  They stressed that two roads had already been built on their lands, “and now they want to build a highway.  This is not fair for us, because it puts at risk many of our children and elders who walk through the communities, as well as our animals.  From those lands we feed ourselves; we survive from them, because we have no salaries or wages; we earn our bread day by day by working our mother earth.  We are not opposed to the highway, but we are opposed to the idea that they will take away our lands, which are of fundamental value for the life of our community.”  Similarly, they denounced that the government “has not come to ask us for our permission or not; they simply are saying that the highway will pass through [here], but we are concerned precisely because this land is what gives us to eat; with what will we eat if they take it from us?”

In the case of the Los Llanos ejido, they explained that the construction would imply the displacement of more than 860 persons in that community.  “They have offered us other lands in Rancho Nuevo, supposedly so as to resettle us, but regardless these lands are under litigation because they pertain to Mitzitón.  We do not accept this because it would imply being in conflict with our indigenous brothers who own these lands,” explained the ejidatarios of Los Llanos.  “They have told us that the highway will pass by force, whether we like it or not.  They are seeking to buy off communal leaders by threatening to refuse them infrastructure projects, such as asphalt projects,” they explained in a public denunciation.

The bishop of the San Cristóbal diocese, Felipe Arizmendi, said that “many campesino and indigenous peoples are not seeing this as a benefit for them, but rather as irreversible damage to their lands, which is like a mother that gives them life.  They say that, although they be paid well for their lands, they will lose them forever and they would have no where to sow maize, beans, and coffee–their source of life.  For this reason, many are expressing total opposition to this proposed project.”  Arizmendi explained that a highway is welcomed when it brings benefits to all, not only for touristic agencies and the rich.

For his part, Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar, secretary of governance of Chiapas, noted that there will be “no retreat” for the project of constructing the highway between San Cristóbal and Palenque.  At a press conference he said that “all the rights of free transit” have been established in the Palenque municipality, this following dialogues taken with residents of all the localities through which the highway would pass.  He added that in Ocosingo there also “have been negotiations and only in two communities is there resistance, but we have now progressed through more than 60 percent of the pathway.”  He observed that in Tenejapa, through where a large part of the highway would pass, “we are building consensus so that people authorize the permits through dialogue.”  With regard to the case of San Cristóbal, he mentioned that “we have a problem with a kilometer in Los Llanos and 14 in Huixtán; that is where we see the most resistance.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Conferencia de Prensa de la Comunidad Indígena Tsotsil de Los Llanos por la Defensa de su territorio (Frontera Sur México, 7 de febrero de 2014)

Tzotziles rechazan autopista entre San Cristóbal de las Casas y Palenque(La Jornada, 9 de febrero de 2014)

Una comunidad tzotzil contra la carretera San Cristóbal-Palenque(Desinformémonos, 10 de febrero de 2014)

En riesgo la paz social por la autopista San Cristóbal-Palenque (Chiapas Paralelo, 3 de diciembre de 2013)

Ejidatarios se oponen a entregar sus tierras para autopista San Cristóbal-Palenque (Chiapas Paralelo,22 de noviembre de 2013)

“No habrá marcha atrás” en proyecto de autopista San Cristóbal-Palenque: gobierno de Chiapas (La Jornada, 26 de noviembre de 2013)


Conferencia prensa de la Comunidad de Los Llanos (Los Tejemedios, 7 de febrero de 2014)

Chiapas: Mitzitón ejidatarios demand relocation of members of the “Army of God”

July 12, 2010

For five days, ejidatarios (collective land holders) of Mitzitón adhering to the Other Campaign blocked the Pan American Highway in the section that connects  San Cristóbal de Las Casas with Comitán, demanding the relocation of a group of “non-cooperatives” from the group “Army of God” who are connected with the evangelical church “Eagle Wings” outside of the community. The blockade was lifted on the night of July 5 after a meeting with representatives of the state government who committed themselves to resolve the demands of the ejiditarios from the Other Campaign.

The ejidatarios stated: “For 13 years we have denounced the criminal acts of these people and we are no longer willing to continue waiting. These neighbors of ours came to live in our community and now they want to take advantage of our forests and our land, but they do not cooperate or comply with community agreements; they do not participate in collective works or meet in our assemblies. Instead, they traffic in people and harass and threaten. They are armed and they killed our compañero Aurelio, kidnapped our agent and police along with another compañero, the three were tortured severely, and threatened with being burnt. “ Finally, an agreement was reached on July 5, in which the state government promised to resettle members of the Army of God; subsequently, the blockade was lifted. However, the next day, adherents to the Other Campaign publicly expressed their discontent, given that the time-table of one month, a condition granted to the ejidatarios orally, does not appear in the written agreement.

The blockade of the Pan American Highway had begun on July 1st and recently, the group of “non-cooperatives” had cut down trees without permission from the authorities of the ejido and had also made threats against the adherents to the Other Campaign. Faced with the demands of the Mitzitón ejidatarios, state administrators proposed a meeting at the negotiating table in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a proposal rejected by adherents to the Other Campaign, who suggested that an eventual negotiation should take place in the community itself so that all voices could be heard in assembly. Then the state government proposed the relocation of the entire community and the concurrent transformation of the land into a forest reserve while also threatening to forcibly remove the blockade. In response, the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas issued an Urgent Action on that day. Different media sources indicated that the the general secretary of Government, Noe Castañón, insisted that the ejidatarios lift the blockade and denied that the state government was aware of the aformentioned allegations.  Finally, on July 4, the ejidatarios accepted the proposal for negotiations, under the conditions that representatives of various bodies of state administration be present and that they be held in the community of Mitzitón.

According to previous public denunciations of the ejidatarios, the alleged “non-cooperatives” have in previous years engaged in the smuggling of undocumented persons, with the result that several occasions, the group now belonging to the Other Campaign had made these traffickers available to the authorities, though these cases were never pursued.  The conflict worsened in 2009 when ejidatarios publicly rallied against the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway project that would, if carried out, affect their community. There were on several occasions thereafter situations of confrontation; during one of them, a group of “non-cooperatives” killed Aurelio Díaz Hernández, this on July 21, 2009. The most recent conflict regarded the felling of trees without permission of the ejido authorities, which last February 28 resulted in both groups detaining three of the opposing group, respectively, who were all released the following day.

Communiques of the Mitzitón ejidatarios (in Spanish):

We give the Chiapas government a month to comply with the Mitzitón ejidatarios (6/07/2010)

Second response of ejidatarios of Mitzitón to the state government (4/07/2010)

Response of Mitzitón ejidatarios to the governor of Chiapas (2/07/2010)

Urgent Action (in Spanish):

Urgent Action: Imminent risk of repression against the indigenous of Mitzitón (Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights, 1/07/2010)

For more information (in Spanish):

Mitzitón Tzotziles who demand withdrawal of paramilitaries lift road-block (La Jornada, 7/07/2010)

Chiapan indigenous individuals lift road-block (El Milenio, 6/07/2010)

Dialogue between ejidal assembly of Mitzitón and government of Chiapas begins (La Jornada, 6/07/2010)

Ejidal assembly of Mitziton accepts dialogue with Chiapas government (La Jornada, 5/07/2010)

Chiapas government offers dialogue, not the investigation of denunciations, to Tzotzil group (La Jornada, 4/07/2010)

Chiapas: indigenous of Mitzitón continue road-block on the Pan-American Highway (La Jornada, 3/07/2010)

Tzotziles of Mitzitón denounce aggression and abuse by part of evangelicals from Army of God (La Jornada, 3/07/2010)

Indigenous block road in Chiapas (El Universal, 3/07/2010)

Indigenous block road in Chiapas, request relocation of Protestants (La Jornada, 1/07/2010)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Chiapas: road-block lifted and prisoners released in Mitzitón (26 March 2010)

Chiapas: Risk of confrontation in Mitzitón following arrest of ejidatario (25 March 2010)

Chiapas: Another confrontation in Mitzitón (9 March 2010)

Chiapas: Denunciation of Attempted Kidnapping in Mitzitón (26 February 2010)

Chiapas: Indigenous Communities demand a stop to repression for defending their territory (28 August 2009)

Chiapas: Person dead after brutal attacks in Mitzitón (29 July 2009)