Indigenous leader murdered in San Cristobal de Las Casas
Commemoration in Peace Square. Photo: @El Universal
On March 24, Juan Carlos Jimenez Velasco, leader of the Independent Confederation of Organizations of Civil Association (Confederación Independiente de Organizaciones Asociación Civil – CIO-AC) and member of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE), was found dead in San Cristobal de Las Casas. According to a CNTE report, the 35-year-old teacher was murdered by a group of hooded persons while in his vehicle. Jimenez Velasco “led the struggle of 50 families expelled from the Santa Catarina Colony in San Cristobal de Las Casas, by members of the Association of Leaseholders of the Traditional Market of that city (ALMETRACH) and the Coordination of Organizations for the Environment for a Better Chiapas (COMACH).” The CNTE indicated that the expulsion of the families was the result of an order from the Town Hall. Jimenez Velasco took part in the takeover of some 20 hectares of land of the former Indigenous National Institute (INI) more than three years ago. This resulted in a dispute over these lands and some months ago the victim and his family received various death threats. According to official sources, “the authorities had set up a negotiating table to try to find a solution to the dispute over the lands, but the groups against Jimenez Velasco broke [the dialogue] and threatened him with death, so they had him in their sights until they killed him.”
The Attorney General for Justice for the State has made no arrests nor identified the killers to date. Teachers from Chiapas blamed ALMETRACH along with the Town Hall of San Cristobal and the state and federal governments for the events. Rebeca Silvia Perez Lopez, widow of Jimenez Velasco and who is seven months pregnant, blamed the crime on members of COMACH. While demanding justice, she said that she feared for her safety. On March 26 last, social organizations, democratic teachers from the region, and the family of Jimenez Velasco said their last goodbyes to a teacher who demanded justice and protested against all types of violence.