Tseltales from San Jerónimo Bachajón reject the highway passing through their territory
By Isaín Mandujano
September 1, 2014
Two thousand representatives from nearly 200 communities deny having authorized the passage of the San Cristobal-Palenque highway through their territory. Photo: Enrique Carrasco SJ
About two thousand representatives from some 200 communities that make up the ejido San Jerónimo Bachajón, one of the most important in this jungle region of the state, gathered on Saturday to declare their unanimous rejection of the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway that President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Governor Manuel Velasco Coello announced as the most ambitious highway project in Chiapas in this administration.
From very early on dozens and dozens of trucks started coming to this small town full of indigenous Tzeltal campesinos who live on the 40 thousand hectares that form part of the only ejido in Chilón municipality, distributed among 206 communities.
Leaders of the 192 communities that make up the ejido San Jerónimo Bachajón and who were present voted against authorizing the highway to pass through their lands. Photo: Enrique Carrasco SJ
Few communities were not present through their representatives. People came from 192 of the 206 communities. Their sole purpose was to discuss whether the 150-kilometre highway linking San Cristóbal de las Casas with Palenque should pass through their territory.
If the super highway planned by the state and federal governments is built, it is inevitable that it would have to pass through San Jerónimo Bachajón, which is the largest ejido and territory in the northern zone of the state. The Tzeltal territory located in the municipality of Chilón is one of the six or seven municipalities that would be affected by the highway.
One by one the speakers went to the stage to present their position on the construction of the highway. The call was in unison to declare a resounding no to the super highway which, they claimed, would be of no benefit to their communities and would affect their lands, rivers and cornfields.
They argued that other collateral damage will come with the highway, such as deterioration of communities, drugs, prostitution, plundering of natural resources, creating more needs among the population, contaminating it with the cultural elements which come with a superhighway.
The Tseltales said that they were not consulted about whether that highway should be built and that they will not sell their lands which the government is seeking to buy. They denounced that their ejidal commissioner, Manuel Jiménez Gómez, has been harassed and pressurised to sign the authorization for the highway.
They denounced that the son of the ejidal commissioner was discharged from his job at a state government office on the grounds that he could only return to his post when his father signed the authorization for the highway to pass through San Jerónimo Bachajón.
They denounced that one of his daughters was threatened with being dismissed from an upper middle educational establishment where she works, and that the threat has to do with the position of her father.
But they clarified that this position is not just that of the commissioner, he only expresses the feelings of around six thousand ejidatarios, about two thousand of whom gathered this Saturday in Paxilá.
The protesters demanded that the government reinstate the son of the commissioner in his post and stop the threats against those who oppose the highway. They noted that on September 16 they will conduct a roadblock at the Temo intersection, which is on the road from Palenque to Ocosingo, to express their opposition to the highway.
They said from now onwards they will collect the signatures of all ejidatarios, men and women over 18 years, so they can join the opposition to the highway project.
On September 17, they will participate in another assembly in Candelaria, in the municipality of San Cristobal de las Casas, to keep adding voices against the highway with other ejidos and campesinos who will be affected by the highway project.
They also denounced that the mayor of Chilón, Leonardo Guirao Leonardo, does the dirty work of the state and federal governments, chasing, threatening and harassing the indigenous who are opposed to the highway.
The indigenous confirmed that they will be alert to any attack by the federal government so all the people can react and resist together.