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)