Different Faces of Dispossession: the case of Viejo Velasco
The Campaign was launched on the anniversary of the massacre
In 1954, the Lacandon Jungle in the state of Chiapas was first settled by indigenous families (of Tseltal, Tsotsil, Chol, and Tojolabal communities, among others), who arrived looking for land on which to survive. In 1972, then-President Echeverría granted to 66 indigenous “Lacandon” families 614,321 hectares of land in the Lacandon Jungle. The Decree in favour of the Lacandon people affected the different communities that had been claiming their rights to the land. Since then, the communities have suffered forced displacements, losing their homes as well as their material and cultural possessions. The violence sharply increased with the implementation of the Chiapas ’94 Campaign Plan, based on the military strategy of the federal and state governments that had the goal of furthering their interests of territorial plunder and national and international investment. In spite of the negotiations between the communities and the government, the dialogue broke down due to the government’s refusal to recognize the communities’ agrarian and collective rights, causing the forced relocations and violent evictions in the region.
What happened in Viejo Velasco?
On November 13th, 2006, in the community of Viejo Velasco, in the municipality of Ocosingo, Chiapas, at 6 am, 40 civilians from the community of Nueva Palestina, Frontera Corozal, and Lacanjá Chansayab (from the Lacandon Community), violently entered Viejo Velasco. They were armed with machetes, sticks, shotguns, and .22-caliber rifles, some dressed in police and military-type uniforms. These individuals were accompanied by 300 officers of the State Police of Chiapas, and were carrying high-calibre weapons: AK-47s and R-15s. They were also accompanied by 5 attorneys from the office of the Public Prosecutor, 2 specialist investigators, the Regional Commander for the Jungle Zone from the State Investigative Agency and 7 of his officers, and a representative from the Secretary of Social Development. Immediately, they all surrounded the community to later raid the houses and take the residents’ belongings, causing the forced displacement of 36 people, the extrajudicial executions of 4 people, and the forced disappearances of another 4 people.
As a result of the serious events that transpired in the community of Viejo Velasco, in the municipality of Ocosingo, the following individuals were extrajudicially executed: Filemón Benítez Pérez, Antonio Mayor Benítez Pérez, María Núñez González, Miguel Moreno Montejo Pedro Núñez Pérez and Vicente Pérez Díaz (the latter a member of the attacking group).
The forced disappearances of Mariano Pérez Guzmán and Antonio Peñate López continues without any clarification. 36 people (20 men, 8 women, 5 boys and 3 girls), survivors of the attack are remain forcibly displaced. Diego Arcos Meneses, from the community of Nuevo Tila, was arbitrarily deprived of his liberty and imprisoned for a year.
Currently, the following individuals have active arrest warrants: Alejandro Álvaro Álvaro, Domingo Álvaro López, Antonio Álvarez López, Juan Peñate Díaz, from the community of Nuevo Tila, as well as Roberto Núnez González (son of Pedro Núñez Pérez – who was executed – and brother of Petrona Núñez González – who was deprived of her liberty by the attacking group on the day of the aforementioned events, tortured, with an arrest warrant, and who later passed away from post-traumatic stress in April of 2010).
Current situation of the case:
The investigations begun by the Mexican State have turned out to be ineffective in clarifying these human rights violations. According the Chiapas State Attorney General, those responsible for this crime were the victims themselves and their families. As a result, members of the Xinich Organization (to which the victims belong) and the Zapatista National Liberation Army now have arrest warrants issued against them. However, none of the 40 civilians, 300 police officers, or other officials or public servants involved in these events has been investigated. Those responsible for the extrajudicial executions have not been determined, nor have the whereabouts of those forcibly disappeared. The displacement continues, leaving the affected persons in situations of vulnerability. Faced with this lack of access to justice in Mexico, the families involved have appealed to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights demanding justice.
Impunity in the Viejo Velasco Case
We demand the following from the Mexican Government:
- Adopt all of the necessary measures that can guarantee the return of the members of the Viejo Velasco community – as they have the right to property, free circulation and residence, to the enjoyment of their lands and the natural resources found on them. They must guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all of these inhabitants.
- Carry out a complete, impartial, effective, and swift investigation with the goal of identifying and punishing the intellectual and material perpetrators of the events that occurred in Viejo Velasco.
- Provide material and immaterial restitution to all of the victims who have suffered due to these serious incidents.
- Carry out all necessary measures to ensure that these serious human rights violations are not repeated.