Since the beginning of May, the number of gun attacks on communities in Aldama by their residents in Chenalhó has increased. The average number of shootings per day is 15. Although there are days in which more are recorded. On May 26, for example, there were more than 30, according to reports from the representatives of the Permanent Commission of the 115 comuneros and displaced persons from Magdalena, Aldama.
Since Friday, June 4, residents have reported that there are now also detonations of explosives on the banks of the river that separates the two municipalities.
Read: Communities under fire: suspected paramilitaries’ attacks on residents of Aldama, Chiapas, on the rise
Both the residents and the state government rule out that the increase in violence is caused by this Sunday’s elections. This is already an old agrarian conflict that has been escalating in level, due to the actions of alleged paramilitaries, without the authorities being able to stop the fire
But people in the communities under attack are concerned that election day will distract attention and that it will open a space for the shootings and detonations to escalate even more.
“Before sometimes they just shot into the air. Now if a person or a vehicle is on the roads, they are shot. And on Friday the detonations started, we don’t know what kind of artifact they’re using. They detonate them on their side, in Santa Martha, but the explosions are heard very loudly. They even make the earth shake. They want to intimidate us even more,” says one of the villagers, whom we will call Laura, to protect her identity and safety.
On May 8, bullets hit a 24-year-old boy, Pedro Lunes Pérez, from the community of Coco Aldama. “He was at home when they were attacked with high-caliber firearms. It was 2pm with four minutes. The shots came from the point of attack of Nech’en Saclum, Chenalhó,” says the report of the Permanent Commission of the 115 comuneros and displaced persons.
On 23 May, Julio César Pérez Pérez of the community of Xuxch’en was injured. “They attacked him near the community of Tabak, while they were on their way to work aboard a van,” the day’s report says.
In four years, from 2017 to date, six people have died and 23 have been injured (including two who were immobile) by gunfire from Santa Martha, Chenalhó to Aldama, reports the Permanent Commission of the comuneros.
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“The villagers live under terror, especially those who are further on the riverbank. When the shooting intensifies, you can’t go to work on the plots, you have to go to work in the coffee plantations at night, to avoid the bullets,” says Laura.
The people of Aldama have been living under bullets for four years. Although the conflict that led to the attacks is even older. It started with a land problem, which escalaled in 2017. Both municipalities, Aldama and Chenalhó claim as their own 60 hectares of the banks of the river that divides them.
Federal and state authorities have tried to resolve the dispute, but the shooting continues. Alejandro Encinas, undersecretary of Human Rights, Population and Migration, of the Federal Interior Secretariat, has come as a witness to several signatures of peace pacts. The next day or a few days later, the bullets return.
Encinas and other authorities have said in press conferences or in the same morning conference of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that the bullets not only come from weapons fired from Santa Martha, Chenalhó, but also from Aldama Chiapas, in a crossfire between neighbors.
Something that the inhabitants of Aldama and organizations such as the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) deny. The shots are fired only from Santa Martha, they have said, where, they say, there are paramilitary groups (heirs of those who perpetrated the Acteal massacre) interested in not ending the conflict.
On April 23, 2021, in its resolution 35/2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a precautionary measure in favor of 12 Tsotsil indigenous communities in the municipality of Aldama, Chiapas, Mexico, in which it requests the Mexican State to adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and integrity of the inhabitants, both within their communities and during their displacements.
The precautionary measure protects the communities Coco, Tabac, Xuxchen, San Pedro Cotzilnam, Chayomte, Juxton, Tselejpotobtic, Yeton, Chivit, Sepelton, Yoctontik and The Municipal Seat of Aldama.
The IACHR specifically states that “although various protection measures have been implemented in favor ofand the inhabitants of the area, they have not allowed to mitigate the situation of risk”. To this day, “the inhabitants of the identified communities cannot carry out their day-to-day activities with peace of mind, such as planting corn, beans, or harvesting coffee.”
The federal and state government’s most recent attempt to pacify the area includes resolving the land dispute. Of the 60 hectares in dispute, Aldama has already agreed to keep only 32.5, as compensation, they will also receive 180 hectares in Ixtapa, five or six hours from Aldama. “They are a long way off, yes, but it was accepted to be at peace,” laura says.
However, the process of delinqueting (measuring) the land, in order to proceed with the issuance of official land titles, has not been done. “The justification is that the aggressions do not stop and that is why the demarcation is not made, and, of course, they continue to say that the bullets come from both sides, when that is a lie. Even when the rondines of the National Guard and the police walk, those of Santa Martha shoot, but they do not make that public, “says Laura.
Animal Politico asked both the Undersecretariat for Human Rights, Population and Migration of the Federal Interior Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the Government of Chiapas, through their communication offices, to know how the process was going to pacify the area and what was the reason for the increase in attacks these days, but until the close of this edition the undersecretariat in charge of Alejandro Encinas did not issue any response.
That of the State Government Secretariat only pointed out that election day has nothing to do with the upsurge in violence in the area. “There are reports of detonations. But it is an agrarian problem that dates back more than 40 years in which incidents have been recorded.” With regard to the pending demarcation of land, they said that it is in process in the Agrarian Attorney’s Office.
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