Translated by Scott Campbell
Las Abejas [The Bees] 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 Chenalhó municipality, Chiapas, and based in the Sacred Land of Acteal in the same municipality.
Our organization formed in 1992 to confront the repression that then-governor of Chiapas, Patrocinio González Garrido, launched against indigenous communities, among them our own community of Chenalhó 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 that.
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 Andrés Dialogues.
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 Chenalhó. 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 Bartolomé Human Rights Center, whose president is our bishop, Father Samuel.
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 Chenalhó, 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 Chenalhó 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 following:
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 impunity.
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 free.
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 Chenalhó 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 Camín, the CIDE lawyers and the government of Felipe Calderón 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 oppressed.
The Voice of Las Abejas Civil Society
For the Board of Directors:
Sebastián Pérez Vázquez, President
Pedro Jiménez Arias, Vice President
Francisco Gómez Pérez, Treasurer
Francisco Pérez Gómez, Deputy Treasurer
This post is also available in: Spanish