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Indigenous people at risk

A conflict stretching over 40 years has brought two indigenous communities to the breaking point; the government should help them find a solution before the situation deteriorates further
People of Chalchihuitán – Photo: COURTESY
28/11/2017
08:45
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Despite the structure of the State has systematically overlooked indigenous people, they continue expecting the minimum empathy which will allow them to be understood and included in the development of our country. At the very least, governments should be able to help them resolve their corresponding conflicts; it's not possible to keep ignoring their most pressing issues.

In one of the poorest states of Mexico, Chiapas, there are still ethnic groups with an ancient history and rich traditions, among which we can find the Tzotzil people. The cultural wealth they provide to Mexican diversity goes hand in hand – unfortunately – with a generalized lack of understanding of their needs. The towns of Chalchihuitán and Chenalhó are living a conflict that has been fought for over 40 years.

The dispute over 800 hectares of land – which the Chenalhó villagers aim to take over by force – has caused the displacement of 4,873 people. A little bit over a month ago, the people from the nine communities of Chalchihuitán found themselves living in extreme conditions, always under the threat of being killed by the armed groups of their neighboring town.

It's a regrettable reality for Mexico. The conflict has prevailed for a long time now; it has seen mayors, governors, and social and religious leaders come and go yet the problem still lingers. This situation has become unbearable for the people involved and the rest of Mexico should find it unacceptable, especially by those who have the authority to do something to resolve the conflict.

Why is this issue still alive after 40 years? Not only are thousands of people lacking basic resources to survive, they also have to fear for their lives, constantly endangered by armed groups which have made them their target. This is a situation which requires urgent actions from both, federal and local authorities.

The source of conflict between these two towns has been attributed to an ancient mistake of the federal government. Social policy in our country is based on the allocation of public funds to the poorest social groups; however, in this particular case, evidence shows institutions must first understand the needs and dynamics of local communities to take adequate actions.

The current situation in Chenalhó and Chalchihuitán can evolve into a greater social issue if not addressed immediately. There's no time to waste

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