Paramilitaries in Mexico Silencing Indigenous Community
Hundreds of Indigenous people demonstrate to mark the anniversary of the 1997 massacre. Experts say the same climate of fear exists in Tila today. | Photo: Reuters
Paramilitary groups have long been used by the state in Chiapas to deal with social conflicts in the region, specialists say.
The Indigenous population near the town of Tila in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas say they will not stop fighting for their land to be returned to them, even when faced with violence and intimidation from paramilitary groups.
teleSUR correspondent Fernando Camacho reported Thursday that tension was mounting in the town of Tila as the Chol Indigenous community continue to fight for their land in the face of the growing presence of paramilitary groups.
“We live in fear because many masked paramilitaries entered here and the population could not go out into the streets because we had to be careful,” one Chol community member told teleSUR.
According to the Chol community, some 130 hectares of land was illegally taken from them three decades ago in order to create the municipality of Tila. They argue this is a violation of their rights.
When the community “started to raise their voices for the return of their land, irregular armed groups began to appear,” reported Camacho, adding that paramilitaries have acted in violent ways to fix problems in the community that local authorities failed to resolve.
“Historically in Chiapas, paramilitary groups have been the means of counterinsurgency used by the state government, with the endorsement of the federal government obviously, to deal with conflicts in the region and to support the argument that they are conflicts between communities,” Magdalena Gomez, a specialist on indigenous issues in the region, told teleSUR.
The latter, added Gomez, was one tactic used by the government to explain the massacre in 1997 in the nearby town of Acteal. Paramilitaries entered the town and killed 45 men, women and children, in what authorities said was a conflict between communities.
The same climate of confrontation and threats exists in Tila today, said the academic.
Mexican authorities have denied the existence of paramilitaries in the region.
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