dorset chiapas solidarity

December 21, 2014

30 Mirrors towards the World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism Where those above destroy, those below reconstruct!



30 Mirrors towards the World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion against Capitalism

Where those above destroy, those below reconstruct!

24. Bachajón, Chiapas



The Tzeltal people are being dispossessed of their land, water and culture through paramilitary repression, for the construction of tourist complexes, as well as roads and hotels, at the waterfalls of Agua Azul.




Dispossession, the other violence against the peoples

Here are 19 stories, 19 dispossessions, 19 resistances which cross Mexican territory against the megaprojects which are imposed on indigenous territories, invading not only their lands, but also their culture, their sacred centres and their survival as peoples.




Bachajón, Chiapas, defending their lands and waters in the courts

Government and business interests have used all possible means to seize these lands, where the famous Agua Azul waterfalls are situated, including the imposition of ejidal authorities. The highest court of justice in Mexico must judge the case.

Ricardo Lagunes and Jessica Davies

Mexico. The ejidatarios from Bachajón who oppose giving up their lands for a tourism project are fighting in court for the right to the representation of their people against the communal authorities who, they accuse, do not defend the interests of the indigenous people. In the course of their resistance, launched in 2007, they have already had two leaders murdered and well over a hundred indigenous imprisoned. There are now three new prisoners in what they describe as an act of revenge by the governmental authorities.




Juan Antonio Gómez Silvano, Mario Aguilar Silvano and Roberto Gómez Hernández are held in the prison at Yajalón, accused -with no more evidence than the word of the police- of the attempted murder of uniformed officers. They were arrested on 16th September, as they walked towards their community, by the municipal police of Chilón. According to the public denunciation by the ejidatarios of Bachajón, adherents to the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, the Tseltales were tortured by Rodolfo Gómez Gutiérrez, officer from the Public Ministry assigned to the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Justice based in Ocosingo, to make them sign an incriminating confession.

Inhabitants of Bachajón pointed out that the detention may be in revenge for the imprisonment of Sebastián Méndez Hernández, an officer of the aforementioned police, who is accused of killing Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano (a regional coordinator of the Sixth in Bachajón) on 21 March 2014. The murder suspect was handed over to the authorities by a group of ejidatarios from Bachajón, and a friend and neighbour of his was recognized by detainees as part of the group that attacked them.

The struggle for the land

Founded in 1980 by the original Tzeltal inhabitants, the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón is situated in the municipality of Chilón, in Chiapas, south-east Mexico. It is, at 70,000 hectares, one of the largest ejidos in the country, in an area of great biodiversity and natural beauty. The land is rich in natural resources, verdant jungle, wildlife and water. The spectacular waterfalls of Agua Azul, renowned for the turquoise colour of their water at certain times of year, crash and thunder in the neighbouring municipality of Tumbalá, but to gain access to the “Ecotourism Centre” there it is necessary to cross through the ejido of Bachajón. This became the source of an intense conflict.

As part of the Plan Mesoamerica, the Mexican government, in consultation with transnational corporations and through the National Tourism Foundation (FONATUR), has drawn up plans for the Palenque Integrally Planned Centre (CIPP), a network of infrastructure and services through which the natural and archaeological attractions will be used to promote an elite tourism, resulting in the displacement of the indigenous population.

Agua Azul is the focus of this development, with very expensive luxury hotels accessed by helicopter, which the ejidatarios describe as: “neoliberal tourism projects which are only for the rich, and for which we will only carry the luggage and clean the toilets.” This plan also involves a highway from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque, and the new international airport at Palenque, which was opened on February 12, 2014 by Manuel Velasco Coello, governor of Chiapas, and Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico.

The ejidatarios described their situation in a communiqué on 17 August, 2013: “The struggle of our people from San Sebastian Bachajón is to keep our indigenous territory which we inherited from our ancestors, it is where we live, it gives us life and identity. We are defending our land with our lives if necessary, against the ambition of the government and of the lords of money who want to build luxury hotels, golf courses and runways for rich tourists, at the cost of the exploitation, marginalization and discrimination of our people; faced with the defence we have mounted against these projects the government has had only one answer: repression, imprisonment and death.”

History of Resistance

“The Tzeltales are a historically combative people”, says their lawyer Ricardo Lagunes Gasca in the film ‘Bachajón – Dispossession is death. Life is resistance,’ “they have always defended and sought to keep control of their territory.” On March 19, 2007, many of the ejidatarios of San Sebastian Bachajón declared themselves adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, an initiative promoted by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). They marked this action by appointing their own authorities, since the ejidal officials were very close to the government. As they put it in a communique: “Since 2007 the bad government has intervened in the internal life of our community to impose ejidal representatives as they please, who serve them as if they were their minions to defend the interests of the capitalists and not those of the indigenous people.”

Following this decision in 2007, the adherents decided to exert their right as original peoples to free determination over their land and its resources, and constructed a tollbooth in their territory where tourists would pay to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls. It was decided in their assembly what to do with the money taken. Mainly, they say, it was used for the sick, and to support families in need, but this money was not just used for the adherents to the Sixth Declaration, it was available to every member of the community who was experiencing hard times, including the government supporters.

The tollbooth became a focal point for the conflict. There was a violent eviction in 2009. The booth was reclaimed, but on February 2, 2011, in a huge operation, police and shock groups again evicted the ejidatarios and 117 people were arrested. At this time, the authorities not only took over control of the tollbooth, they also illegally seized 2,590 square metres of communally owned lands.

The adherents to the Sixth Declaration began the legal defence of their lands in March 2011, against the violent dispossession of their territory carried out by the then Government Secretary, Noé Castañón León, in coordination with Leonardo Rafael Guirao Aguilar (president of the Green Chiapas Foundation and now the municipal president of Chilón), along with the former ejidal commissioner, Francisco Guzmán Jiménez, and government supporting groups from the communities of Xanil and Pamalha, both in the municipality of Chilón.

Since March 2011 the adherents have faced a series of arbitrary judicial decisions which have denied them justice and a prompt and effective means of protecting their lands; despite these serious violations of their rights, and in spite of the racist and discriminatory prejudice towards indigenous people that pervades the justice system, they have continued to resist and have chosen to challenge the illegal judgements made by the Seventh District Judge in Tuxtla Gutierrez. They have also appealed to public opinion over the lack of ethics of certain federal judges who kneel before economic and political interests.

On 5th February, 2014, the ejidatarios adherent to the Sixth Declaration sued before the Agrarian Tribunal in Comitan for the annulment of the election of the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and other officialist (government-supporting) ejidal authorities, for not acting in accordance with the Agrarian Law and the customs and traditions of the community. In January and March 2014, the ejidatarios denounced that the officialist authorities tried, through deception, to seek the annulment of their amparo (order for legal protection) 274/2011.

During the processing of the case for amparo, the Third Collegiate Tribunal in Tuxtla Gutierrez on two occasions warned of violations of due process of law committed by the Seventh District Judge, since he failed to make known to the general assembly of ejidatarios of San Sebastián Bachajón the existence of the petition for amparo filed by Mariano Moreno Guzmán, as a substitute representative, in defence of the collective rights of the indigenous Tzeltal people of Bachajón. Now the general assembly has been notified of the case, and the Third Appellate Court, in their session on 29th September, 2014, ordered the case to be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to exercise its power of attraction in view of the relevance and significance of the subject in relation to the International Law of Indigenous Peoples.

It is in this context that the political murder of Juan Vázquez Guzmán must be set. Active in the defence of the land and territory of Bachajón since 2006, on April 18, 2010, he was appointed Secretary General of the three centres of the ejido. “People sought him out a lot for his skills and abilities to relate to the world of the Caxlanes (mestizos),” said Lagunes Gasca, “to defend and translate the problems of the indigenous communities and to put them on the table of the authorities”.

On March 21st, 2014, Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, a regional coordinator for the Sixth in Bachajón, was ambushed and killed with over twenty gunshots. At the time of his death he was travelling to his community of Virgen de Dolores, which, along with the community of Nah Choj, was founded by the adherents to the Sixth Declaration in 2010.

The ejidatarios accuse: “The bad government wants to finish us off completely by assassinating our compañeros, using their paramilitary gunmen, who with complete impunity, whether by night or in the full light of day, are able to vilely murder our compañeros who are working and struggling to construct a world in which other worlds fit.”


Dorset Chiapas Solidarity  pp 20-24




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