At least one person was killed and more than 2,000 people from the Tzotzil ethnic group were displaced from Chabajebal in the state of Chiapas following an attack by an unknown armed group that attempted to rescue three of their members who had been detained for the alleged murder of two people from said community, including the common land commissioner.

In a press release, the coordinator of the Social Pastoral in Chiapas, Marcelo Pérez Pérez , explained: “Last weekend we arrived in the village with the priest Helder López Velázquez because we were told that there had been an armed attack on Wednesday and a body was found headless, with one arm eaten away by wild animals.”

Given the absence of the Specialized Prosecutor Office of Chiapas , the Church took care of the body removal with the consent of the competent authorities, who also located two senior adults –one of them was 110 years old- who had been ill and malnourished for several days.

Conflict escalation

According to members of the Tzotzil community, located 46.5 miles away from San Cristóbal de las Casas , the conflict started on October , when a person identified as Vicente “N” made remarks on the dismantling of social organization during a town meeting, which deeply upset the village to the extent to which they decided to make him spend one day in prison. The common land commissioner, Miguel Pérez Hernández , notified Vicente of his sentence, which he willingly accepted, though he asked for time to do several activities at the local Health Center, where he worked as a nurse.

Shortly after surrendering and spending only two hours in prison, a group of approximately 30 people armed with rocks and clubs, led by a teacher that was identified as Raymundo “N,” rescued the detainee.

On October 24 of the present year, commissioner Miguel Pérez Hernández and the rural agent Manuel Ruiz Jiménez , accompanied by Andrés Méndez Hernández and Carmelino de Jesús Ruiz Álvarez , were ambushed as they returned from Tuxtla Gutiérrez , where they had gone to delivered a document requesting the removal of the school where Raymundo worked before the local Ministry of Education .

Both Miguel Pérez and Carmelino de Jesús were killed during the ambush

while Manuel Ruiz and Andrés Méndez were injured.

Having identified the perpetrators of the attack, the villagers managed to capture and imprison three suspects last Wednesday . Later in the day, however, a group of armed men wearing masks blocked the main road to prevent the suspects from being removed from the Tzotzil community . A few hours later, they came into the village to rescue their peers.

As yet, the State Attorney’s Office has not entered the village; only the catholic church has intervened to remove the body, which was then buried without an autopsy.

The priest López Velázquez informed that there are now around 1,500 indigenous people under church protection “and 400 more in the Tierra Caliente community . There are others who have spread to the Chenalhó, Chalchihuitán, Simojovel, and San Cristóbal communities .”

In the meantime, the catholic church has asked for food donations for the displaced people. Since October 24, there have been three deaths in the municipality.


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