In March 2014 the government of Chiapas spent more than 3.9 million pesos to support displaced persons moved away from their land, but failed to attend three urgent cases made visible by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba). 110 displaced families of the Communities of Viejo Velasco, Banavil, and San Marcos Avilés remain currently in total vulnerability, despite being part of the civil campaign Faces of the Dispossession (Rostros del Despojo), which seeks to return pacifically to their lands. Far from slowing down, the issue could be getting worse in the months coming: the so-called structural reforms encourage further dispossession, warns the Frayba. In 4 years 281,000 persons have been displaced by the violence.
Four dependencies of the Government of Chiapas spent together 3,963,372 pesos during the fiscal year 2014 in support of the displaced persons of their places of origin. However they didn’t take into account those families that were expelled violently of the Communities of Viejo Velasco, Banavil and San Marcos Avilés.
These 110 families not only have lost their homes, their land to cultivate, they lost family members and friends. In all three evictions murders and disappearances were registered.
As for the gravity of these events, the three of them have been made visible by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba Center), throughout the Faces of the Dispossession Campaign. Thereby its members seek the pacific return of the dispossessed indigenous people to their land.
In an interview with Contralínea the defender of the area of Systemization and Incidences of the Frayba Center, Pedro Faro explains that the campaign was launched on the 13th of November 2014. This campaign, he details, “is aimed at highlighting on how historically the original territory of indigenous people has been persistently and systematically deprived.”
According to Faro the forced displacement happening in Chiapas constitutes a serious violation of Human Rights related with an internal armed conflict, but not only: there are also other forced displacements for religious, economic motivations or because of infrastructure projects.
Concerning the specific cases which feature in the first phase of the Faces of the Dispossession Campaign-Viejo Velasco, Banavil and San Marcos Avilés- he states that they are related with an armed conflict.
He adds that the victims are currently in very serious conditions of insecurity, both for their physical integrity-due to the risks involved by the death threats and disappearances- as well as for the food, education, health and housing issues.
One of the cases of concern for the Frayba Center are the families of the community which were violently expelled. This issue started on the 13th of November 2006: it was a massacre that in that moment had as a result four cases of extrajudicial execution and four disappearances. Five years after family members found the remains of two out of four missing persons. Therefore there were six executions, two enforced disappearances and 36 displaced families.
The Human Rights Defender points out that due to its biodiversity the community is located in a strategic area, additionally there is a political nature involved: the population is part of the civil defense organization Xi’Nich, conformed by indigenous communities of the northern Lacandona Jungle.
Previously this place also served as a support base of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN). Pedro Faro says that we are dealing with “an occupied territory since the armed uprising [in 1994]. It is a territory that the people that were living on had earned in the issue of the struggle for land. Besides that this is part of the Mayan territory”.
With regards to this case, the Frayba Center has documented “a paramilitary type of action, where the Opdic (Organización para la defense de los Derechos Indígenas y Campesinos, Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Peasantry Rights), which at the time was an organization of paramilitary type with 300 members of the Public Security, attorneys and (public servants of the) Sedesol [Secretaría del Desarrollo Social, Secretariat for Social Development]”.
According to Pedro Faro, the state and federal government representatives witnessed the displacement actions, the enforced disappearances and the executions.
-The participation of the public servants of the Sedesol has been documented?
-Yes. They joined us too.
Pedro Faro explains that because of that very case the campaign of the 13th of November 2014. “There have been 8 years of impunity of the massacre of Viejo Velasco. Thereby we place the faces of the dispossession in this sense: not only is it exterminating the population, but as well to take away the territories which for the capitalism and for the enterprises, for the governmental projects have a special interest, hence the indigenous population, the original peoples hinder”.
According to the official website -www.rostrosdeldespojo.org, the official website of the campaign led by the Frayba Center- the 4th of December 2011 inside the community of Banavil, Municipality of Tenejapa, members of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (Partido Revolucioario Institucional, PRI) assaulted with firearms families sympathizing with the EZLN. This event caused the forced displacement of 13 people who lost their homes and belongings.
Furthermore during the attack Pedro Méndez López was murdered, other six persons were injured and the enforced disappearance of Alfonso López Luna was registered.
Also two persons were arrested arbitrarily as indicate the visibility campaign: Lorenzo López Girón, who was hurt with a firearm and accused of qualified injuries, and Francisco Santiz López, the supporting base of the EZLN who was not present at the premises at the moment of the events. Subsequently both men were released.
However those families, four in total still cannot return because they have received threats by those who dispossessed them. Even further, a girl of 11 years that was part of the 13 missing persons, died the past 21st February of cerebral edema.
San Marcos Avilés
In the third case of San Marcos Avilés, Pedro Faro indicates that this has also to do with the internal conflict: there all are a support base of the EZLN and they are being dispossessed of their land.
In a first moment-in September 2010- they had been expelled also of their houses but could return with the pressure of the Good Government Council (Junta de Buen Gobierno): they occupied their homes again, but the lands remain beyond their reach.
He adds that in the dispossession participated affiliates of the PRI, of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) and of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), who are in possession of this arable land.
The defender of the Human Rights Pedro Faro explains that until now and despite being known the authors of the three displacements, no one is currently in jail. “In all three cases there are complaints, there are pretrial investigations and yet there is no one arrested. Those who were arrested at some moment for the case of Banavil were released at the beginning of 2014”.
-And were they responsible?
-And in relation with the other cases, have there been any arrests?
-No, but those who have taken or took part have been identified.
-Are also identified with name and surname those who were the representatives of Sedesol?
-Yes, because they testified before the (Chiapas State) Attorney-General’s Office. The justification was that they entered to aid. But we have always sustained that no government representative acts that quickly, not to mention representatives of the Sedesol. Thereby there was a planned action of dispossession with different levels of participation, of displacement to that group of the community of Viejo Velasco.
-Currently how many victims are there?
-In San Marcos Avilés there are 70 families, in Viejo Velasco there are 36 and in Banavil six. Besides there are other displacements also related with the armed conflict; for example, in Palenque there are 800 displaced families that left Tila, but there was has been missing is an organic process; many decided not to return anymore. In other cases they have been returning gradually, without justice, without any compensations or security, both in the High Zones (Zona Altos) as in the northern area.
The destiny of families
Once they are dispossessed of their land, the victims disperse themselves or accept to live in unsuitable and unworthy places. Pedro Faro explains that the families of Banavil are in a camping site in San Cristobal de las Casas. “It is a camping site they mounted by themselves on borrowed land”.
In the case of San Marcos Avilés, even though the displaced persons live in their homes, they cannot leave it to work on their land, meanwhile in Viejo Velasco the 36 families are dispersed with family members in Palenque and Ocosingo. “They are working on borrowed land under adverse conditions”.
Therefore, the activist says that the first goal of the Faces of Dispossession Campaign is the return. “That is the main claim, because when someone is a victim of dispossession all his rights are breached, and that is a situation of permanent vulnerability and a systematic violation of human rights. This return has to be accompanied with justice, as well as compensation and no-repetition measures. These are the main petitions of the campaign”.
Pedro Faro considers that in the three cases the lack of attention of the government has been put in evidence, same as they have kept the crimes within impunity. “With this campaign what we aim is to that through solidarity pressure can be built before the government authorities for the return to their lands and to promote the issue of justice and the compensation measures”.
The dispossessions upcoming
Considered as one of the states with the most biodiversity in the country and worldwide, Chiapas could be living a new wave of dispossession. Pedro Faro warns that the new law reforms only promise the continuity and deepening of land dispossession of original people.
“The reforms made are clearly aimed in this sense. They have come a long way with these projects: now they have put a set of laws with which they warrantied the territorial dispossession. And they said: they will put aside everything that had not allowed the development of investments in the years before. Thus this is the deepening of the territorial dispossession of the original people through forced displacement. And it is important to implement an organizational process that prevents this, as in the territory of the indigenous people stems life, the construction of alternatives of lifestyles different than the capitalism, there are the sacred places, the spirituality of a humanity that for a long time has questioned the Western world and the neoliberalism, that is a system of death that has no place for diversity and that is crushing other forms of more human systems and more sensitive life projects”.
Consequently the defenders seek to make other issues visible throughout the Faces of Dispossession Campaign, as the one stemming from the San Cristobal-Palenque Highway, of the Proyecto Mesoamérica,”where different violations on human rights, as the right to be consulted, as well as to go recognizing other faces of the dispossession, promoting with specific cases where the Mexican State is breaching the collective rights of indigenous people and by disrespecting its territories”, details Faro.
He adds that “the territory is the base material, the backbone on which the indigenous people enjoy their collective rights the Mexican State has been failing to respect, despite having signed the Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the San Andres Agreements themselves, which is a legitimate law, where the peoples are building their own way to organize themselves, [but] which the State failed to acknowledge.”
Mexico: 281 thousand displaced persons in 4 year
Human Rights Defenders have pointed out that between 2011 until the time being in 2015, 281,418 persons have been displaced by force in several state entities of the Mexican Republic in the context of a generalized violence that sweeps through the country.
The past 23rd of April in an open letter the defenders requested the Senate to include the internal enforced disappearances and the arbitrary execution as a priority topic in the legislative agenda.
The letter was addressed to the Senators Enrique Burgos, President of the Committee on Constitutional Matters; Angélica de la Peña, President of the Committee on Human Rights, Roberto Gil Zuarth, President of the Committee of Justice; Graciela Ortiz, President of the Committee on Legislative Studies, Alejandro Encinas, President of the Committee on Legislative Studies, Second; Gabriela Cuevas, President of the committee of Foreign Affairs and Raúl Gracia, President of the Committee on Legislative Studies, First.
In that letter they point out that the enforced displacement is being considered one of the most important humanitarian crisis of our times: the displaced persons are one of the most unshielded population groups, by being exposed to multiple violations of human rights and to suffer a progressive degradation of their social, economic, civil, political and cultural rights.
The defenders expressed their deepest concern when noticing that in the draft order to reform Article Nr 73, section XII, subsection a) of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, the internal enforced displacements and the arbitrary execution are not being considered a priority topic in the legislative agenda of this period.
“Notwithstanding the devastating impact this phenomenon has had, not only to those who suffered it, but rather upon the society, and upon the expelling and receiving territory. Mexico still lacks of a legal and institutional framework required to protect and assist the issue of the internal displacements”, they condemned.
The defenders –members of the Diocesan Center for Human Rights Fray Juan de Larios, of the Mexican Committee for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights; of Freedom House Mexico; of Fuerzas Unidas por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México (United Forced for Our Missing People in Mexico); Foundation for Justice and the Democratic Rule of Law (Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho), of Fundar, Center for Analysis and Research (Centro de Análsis e Investigación); of ID(H)EAS Strategic Litigation on Human Rights (Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos), of Services and Assessment for Peace (Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz) and of Carlos Ríos Espinosa- requested the federal authorities to recognize as soon as possible this phenomenon of displacement as an issue, that is extending to several states of the country and to avoid relegating the responsibility of promoting, defending and warrantying the Human Rights of displaced Persons to the federal states.
Nancy Flores, @nancy_contra
(Translated by: Axel Plasa)
Contralínea 436 / del 11 al 17 de Mayo 2015