dorset chiapas solidarity

February 7, 2015

Indigenous Resistance at Bachajón against a tourist megaproject


Indigenous Resistance against a tourist megaproject at Bachajón 



Ricardo Lagunes and Jessica Davies

La Jornada, 7th February, 2015

The dignified struggle of the indigenous Tseltal peoples of the ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, in defence of their ancestral lands, culture, tradition and identity has become almost legendary. They have suffered the assassination of two of their community leaders –Juan Vázquez Guzmán, on 24th April, 2013, and Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, 21st March, 2014–, along with violence, torture, unjust imprisonment, forced disappearance, attacks, threats, harassment, intimidation and a continual police presence, but their determined resistance against the dispossession of their territory for the construction of a tourist megaproject continues.

On 21st December, 2014, more than 400 ejidatarios peacefully recuperated their common lands which had been illegally stolen from them on 2nd February, 2011 by the three levels of government and their local supporters. The date of the recuperation was highly symbolic: the second anniversary of the Silent March of the Zapatistas, and the day of the inauguration of the World Festival of Resistances and Rebellions, convoked by the CNI and the EZLN.

The lands dispossessed by the government are crossed by the access road to the ecotourism centre at the spectacular Agua Azul waterfalls, located in the Tumbalá municipality, which are surrounded by beautiful jungle rich in wildlife and natural resources. For this reason, the governments and corporations are desperate to get their hands on these lands, so that they can create an elite tourist development with luxury hotels, golf courses, and a superhighway. But the lands legally and legitimately belong to the ejidatarios as indigenous peoples who work them communally.

The lands of Bachajón are legally protected by the suspension of the plan granted under amparo 274/2011. The legal resolution of this amparo is to be decreed in the coming weeks, and is very likely that a judgement will be issued which is favorable to the protection of the collective rights of the indigenous. It is important to emphasise that the ejidatarios have chosen to take the legal and peaceful route, and that they have always sought dialogue within the local communities.

For 18 days and nights, in rotation, 500 women, men, young and old people, formed cordons guarding their recuperated territory. They faced threats and intimidation, and a continual fear of attack and eviction by the security forces and paramilitary groups organised by the ejidal commissioner Alejandro Moreno Gómez and the vigilance councillor Samuel Díaz Guzmán.

In the early morning of 9th January, 2015, more than 900 members of the state and federal forces violently evicted the ejidatarios from their lands, forcing many to flee to the hills and forests. Denouncing the attack, the ejidatarios confirmed that it would only strengthen their resistance.

On 11th January, 2015, the indigenous from San Sebastián Bachajón, as a sign of protest and peaceful resistance, blocked the road from Ocosingo to Palenque  at the Agua Azul turning. The Chiapas state police fired shots at the ejidatarios for twenty minutes with rubber and heavy calibre bullets. Three people were wounded. In spite of this, after an hour of resistance, the ejidatarios succeeded in driving back the government forces, and have maintained their presence up to now.

The ejidatarios and their compañeros throughout the world have stated that they hold the three levels of government responsible for any aggression against their lives or personal integrity as a result of their actions in defence of the mother earth. They are currently standing firm in their dignified struggle, and are calling for national and international solidarity and actions of support. An example of these actions is the Worldwide Forum held on 18th January at Cideci Unitierra, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

In a communique of 10th January 2015, the ejidatarios explained clearly what drives their struggle: “We want to tell the bad government (…) that our lands are not for sale; they will not conduct their great ecotourism businesses and super highways on our territory, we will not allow them to displace communities and increase poverty just so they can become richer at the expense of our suffering.”





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