Questions About San Juan Chamula
La Jornada Editorial
24th July, 2016
If there is a place in the country where political engineering experiments are dangerous exercises, it’s in the municipality of Chamula, in the Highlands region of Chiapas. Because that, as a matter of fact, seems to be a component to consider in the events that took place yesterday in the municipal seat, where a confusing shooting ended with, as of last night, an undetermined number of victims, among them, the mayor and a local representative. In this context, what does political engineering mean? The expression refers to the deployment of a system whose purpose is to exploit (or possibly foster) the tensions and contradictions already present in a social group to gain political benefits foreign to the interests of that group.
It doesn’t take much to trigger an outbreak of violence in the Highlands region: the long series of clashes that have taken place there since the 1970s, where religious disputes, economic rivalries and bitter struggles for political power have woven a tight web, left that part of the country in a state of latent conflict and at risk of losing, at any time, its precarious social balance. As a result, the community life of the municipality’s indigenous population has been undergoing a gradual process of erosion that has damaged, in addition to mere coexistence, the dynamics of the habits and collective practices of that population. And as it usually happens, the winning fishermen in those troubled waters were the members of the political class that have been holding the main political posts in the region and state.
Yesterday’s events occurred after those on the 20th of this month when more than a hundred supposed residents of San Juan Chamula, carrying some improvised weapons and some not so improvised, atttacked a blockade that members of the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers maintained on the highway between Tuxtla Gutierrez and San Cristobal de las Casas. In the attack, which left several injured-at least one teacher with a firearm, they had the coverage (or in other words, protection) of members of the state police. After the violent eruption, it was said that the protagonists were farmers, merchants and craftsmen whose livelihoods were affected by the blockade. However, the group of indigenous people who carried out the action showed that to be untrue, as they were armed and maintained a hostile attitude towards the teachers. Officially, it was said there were some detainees, but no authority has taken the time to speak more about the subject.
And then, almost without interruption, one of the usual community protests ends in a bloody shooting, in which, in addition to handguns, R-15 and AK-47 rifles were used. It is difficult to venture a hypothesis to acceptably explain the sudden upsurge of violence in Chamula, although it’s not insignificant that it occurs as the actions of the teacher’s conflict reach Chiapas.
In any case, if the two acts of violence are linked and are due to the unfortunate calculations of a sector interested in ending the CNTE protests, it is expected that sanity will prevail over impatience, irritation and the temptation to push solutions based on force for problems that require, above all, a willingness to negotiate. Finally, we should remember that, from another angle, the Zapatista National Liberation Army had warned a few days before about the risks involved in irresponsibly taking advantage of the struggle between the government and the CNTE to rekindle any hostilities against its members.
Translated by Ruby Izar-Shea
Posted on 26/07/2016 by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity