In 1997, during the counterinsurgency movement organised against the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, 45 indigenous people, most of them women, elderly people and children from the pacifist group of “Las Abejas” were massacred while praying in their church in the village of Acteal, Chiapas. The perpetrator of this crime was a paramilitary group that had been trained and armed by the government.
The event has been documented by several Human Rights organisations and those of you who are familiar with Latin American politics (particularly the strategies used in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador) will know that this is unfortunately a very common way of dealing with dissent and social discontent.
A number of the paramilitaries were convicted immediately after the event, though none of the masterminds were brought to justice. On 13th August the Supreme Court granted an appeal to 26 of those jailed, and 20 of them have already been released..
The Supreme Court has acknowledged that they are not innocent, but that the case against them was weak. Most of the evidence from the scene had been destroyed by the state police the day after the massacre. I know this because one of my friends was one of the first journalists to get there, when all the bodies had been removed without a Forensic Team (ministerio public, in Mexico) being present.
This means not only that there is no justice for the relatives and survivors of the massacre; it might also mean the reactivation of paramilitary groups in the area (which have been present, but dormant until now).
If you want to know more, here are some links that you might want to check out:
London, August 13 2009
To the Supreme Court in Mexico
To the Mexican Ministry of the Interior
To the Mexican President’s Office
To the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas AC, Mexico
To the Indigenous Community of Las Abejas, Chiapas
To the Mexican Embassy in the United Kingdom
To the Americas Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom
Considering the news about the Supreme Court in Mexico’s endorsing once again the climate of impunity, violation to human rights and injustice that prevail in Mexico, now through the granting of appeal to 26 of the persons sentenced as perpetrators of the massacre of 45 members of the unarmed and pacifist Las Abejas Community in Acteal, Chiapas, on 22 December 1997, 20 of which were released last August the 12th under protection of this appeal, we signing this letter state that:
We support the members of the Las Abejas community, the survivors of the massacre and the victims’ relatives in their demands of justice and are in solidarity with their pain and indignation, on confirming that not only justice is still being denied to them, but that the Mexican authorities mock their suffering with this new sign of impunity.
We call the Mexican society and the international community to keep alert and vigilant in view of this intensification of the threats of violence and harassing against Las Abejas, as well as against the zapatista support communities in the region, since the release of these persons, who have been repeatedly identified as perpetrators of the crime, is a grave threat for the inhabitants of that area of Mexico, considering that the paramilitary groups are still active and armed.
We consider that the SCJN’s actions fit into the strategy of militarization and displacement of indigenous communities in the area that are required for implementing what is called the Mérida Initiative.
We reiterate that, as it has been amply documented, the Acteal massacre was a State crime that remains unpunished. In this respect, we find it offensive that ex President Ernesto Zedillo is now Director of Yale University’s Centre for the Study of Globalisation, while he should be prosecuted for his complicity in this crime, inscribed in the logics of his extensive counter-insurgency strategy.
We demand legal punishment for all the masterminds of the massacre and their accomplices, who are still at large.
We support Amnesty International’s demands in the sense that the massacre’s investigation case should be reopened.
We state that the communities affected by constant harassment and by the recent events, in particular Las Abejas, are not alone. The eyes of Mexico and the world are watching and on the alert, in spite of the smokescreen that some media and intellectuals at the service of power in Mexico have attempted to create.
Message can also be sent to:
The Americas Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom,