Acteal, Chiapas: Statement from the Las Abejas Community on the release of paramilitaries

Translated by Scott Campbell

Las Abejas Civil Society Organization
Sacred Land of the Acteal Martyrs, Chiapas, Mexico
August 9, 2009

To the Inter-American Human Rights Commission
To all Social and Political Organizations
To all Human Rights defenders
To all the people of Mexico and the World
To the National and International press
To the Other Campaign
To public opinion

In response to reports that have been spread by some media outlets that the
Supreme Court is about to make a ruling that would allow the freedom of 40
of the paramilitaries responsible for the massacre in Acteal on December
22, 1997, we want to state the following:

We are the members of Las Abejas Civil Society, from the San Pedro Chenalho
municipality, Chiapas, and based in the Sacred Land of Acteal in the same

Our organization formed in 1992 to confront the repression that
then-governor of Chiapas, Patrocinio Gonzalez Garrido, launched against
indigenous communities, among them our own community of Chenalh0 that saw
several of their founding members, among them the current President of the
Board of Directors of Las Abejas, unjustly imprisoned for crimes they
didn’t commit.

Since our founding we have been dedicated to the defense of indigenous
rights and to searching for a society where peace and justice reign. We
have always said that our struggle would be peaceful and we have practiced

When the EZLN uprising occurred on January 1, 1994, we saw what their
demands were and took note that they were the same as ours. As a result we
decided to support their demands but we did not accept taking up arms and
maintained our non-violent stance. We joined forces with national and
international civil society to demand that the Mexican government stop its
war against our indigenous brothers and sisters. We participated in the
peace lines when the first talks took place between the Zapatistas and the
government and later we participated with our delegates in the San Andreas

Later we discovered that in reality the government did not want a dialogue
and while it spoke of peace, with its actions it promoted war through
paramilitary groups.

In 1997, armed paramilitary groups appeared in Chenalho. Through force they
demanded that all the communities help them buy weapons and attack the
Zapatistas. If we didn’t accept taking up arms against the government would
we possibly accept taking them up against our own indigenous brothers and
sisters? We refused to support the armed paramilitary groups that we saw
clearly had the support of the government to get weapons, to be trained and
to take violent actions. We were loyal to our principles in spite of the
threats and when we refused to support them, the paramilitaries kidnapped
us, ran us out of our communities, robbed our harvests, took our belongings
and burned our houses. Because of this we became displaced, but we remained
loyal to our principles of peace and non-violence.

It was while we were displaced that the paramilitary attacked on December
22, 1997 and the Acteal Massacre occurred, where 45 of our brothers and
sisters died while praying and fasting for peace.

After the massacre of our brothers and sisters we kept our peaceful stance.
We refused to seek vengeance. We continued to reject weapons. We decided to
seek justice through peaceful and legal means with the help of the Fray
Bartolome Human Rights Center, whose president is our bishop, Father

With the support of national and international civil society we pressured
the government to punish those responsible for the massacre of our brothers
and sisters. The first arrests of a group of material authors occurred the
same day we laid our loved ones to rest before the eyes of thousands of
witnesses. As a provocation, the murderers passed by the survivors in a
truck belonging to the municipal president of Chenalho, when the blood of
the martyrs was still fresh. Now the prisoners’ defense lawyers say that
these paramilitaries should remain free because when we got the authorities
to detain them there wasn’t an arrest warrant. And such are their arguments
to free them.

We got around 80 of the material authors of the massacre detained, along
with the municipal president of Chenalho who was one of their leaders. But
we weren’t able to get the intellectual authors either detained or
investigated, as it wasn’t just the municipal authorities who supported the
paramilitaries. It was also the state and federal authorities. We say that
because we have seen it with our eyes and we know that it is true and as
such we declare it. Since then we have tirelessly publicly declared that
there is not justice in the Acteal case and impunity continues.

Today, five months from the twelfth anniversary of the murder of our
brothers and sisters we were informed with great sadness and indignation
that the government is going to free 40 of these paramilitaries through a
Supreme Court of Justice decree, that more appropriately should be called
the Supreme Court of Injustice. Faced with this news we declare the

1) It’s not true, as many media outlets are saying, that the Supreme Court
decree is a step towards achieving justice for Acteal. Rather it’s a step
back from the little that has been achieved. It’s a step forward for

2) They are saying that the PGR [Federal Attorney General’s Office]
fabricated evidence against the prisoners and that what the Supreme Court
is doing is just because there is no true evidence of the paramilitaries’
guilt. This is not true either. There is and there has always been real
evidence which is our testimony of who we saw do the killing and we know
the paramilitaries. But the government (the Attorney General and the
judges) has weakened our evidence. They created holes in the case so that
when this moment arrived the paramilitaries would be able to get out
through these holes with the help of their lawyers and Supreme Court
judges. It’s the same thing they do so that the narcos go free. The Supreme
Court is not correcting the work of the PGR as they say. It is completing
the work they started so that the accomplices of the government can remain

3) They say that we haven’t presented proof of the guilt of the
paramilitaries. This is not true either. We’ve presented proof not once but
many times. And 11 years after the murders in Acteal they continue calling
on us to present our statements, because they tell the judge or the public
ministry that something is missing from the previous time. To the lawyers
from CIDE we say that their clients are not the only victims of corruption
in the justice system. They have had those witnesses who saw their loved
ones die repeat time and again the terrible story with all the pain it
causes their hearts. And in the end they say: “we need you to tell us again
because the judge ordered a renewal of the proceedings.” We know that this
is called “psychological torture.”

4) The communities of Chenalho are ill at ease because for days rumors have
been circulating that when their friends get out the paramilitaries who
have been free this whole time are going to get those who sent their
friends to jail. We hold the Supreme Court and all their accomplices, from
Mr. Aguilar Camin, the CIDE lawyers and the government of Felipe Calderon
responsible if the return of these 40 paramilitaries brings violence back
to our municipality. We hold them responsible for the lives of the
witnesses and any criminal act that these paramilitaries who they say are
innocent commit.

5) We call on the country’s highest authorities to reflect on what they are
doing. If organizations such as Las Abejas Civil Society, who reject
violence as a means to defend our rights, tell them that the justice system
and state institutions are completely on the side of the government
accomplices, then, what path does that leave us? What hope do the Mexican
people have? The government says that it is against violence but daily we
see how it is the first to promote it.

6) In spite of this, we, the members of Las Abejas Civil Society declare
that we are not going to take down our flag of peace and justice. We are
going to continue fighting in a non-violent way. But we don’t have any
faith in the government. Our faith is in the solidarity of civil society,
in the blood of our martyrs which gives us strength to not abandon the
struggle and in our god who is not deaf to the clamor of the poor and

Yours faithfully,

The Voice of Las Abejas Civil Society
For the Board of Directors:
Sebastian Perez Vazquez, President
Pedro Jimenez Arias, Vice President
Francisco Gomez Perez, Treasurer
Francisco Perez Gomez, Deputy Treasurer


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