Chiapas: Vigilante Group Violently Removes Dissident Teacher Blockade of Highway

Chiapas: Vigilante Group Violently Removes Dissident Teacher Blockade of Highway

by dorsetchiapassolidarity

.

Chiapas: Vigilante Group Violently Removes Dissident Teacher Blockade of Highway

005n1pol-1
About 200 masked men attacked teachers and parents with stones, sticks and pistols, removing their blockade on the toll road between San Cristobal de Las Casas
and Tuxtla Gutierrez Photos: Colectivo Tragameluz and Elio Henriquez
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

La Jornada: Elio Henríquez and Hermann Bellinghausen

On Wednesday afternoon, about 200 people carrying sticks, machetes and guns attacked the blockade being maintained by teachers, students, parents, representatives of more than fifty neighbourhoods of the city of San Cristóbal and members of various organizations on the toll road between San Cristóbal and Tuxtla Gutierrez. They have maintained the blockade since June 27 to demand the repeal of the education reform.

Accompanied by municipal and state police, the attackers attacked the blockade’s tarpaulins and tents, kicking them and destroying them with machetes, and setting them on fire, while the police surrounded them to allow them to carry out their action.

During the attack, a bullet wounded the elementary school teacher, Romualdo Guadalupe Urbina, who received a 22 calibre bullet wound in the collarbone. Another participant of the blockade was run over and suffered a fractured tibia and fibula. Both were admitted to the clinic of Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers, while residents of the neighbourhood where the clinic is located blockaded the Santa Martha bridge and the clinic access roads "to protect the wounded".

The attack was perpetrated by several dozen people who are officials of San Juan Chamula and involved over a hundred indigenous men from San Cristobal. The teachers identified them as part of the Association of Tenants of Traditional Markets of Chiapas (Almetrach), headed by Narciso Ruiz Sántiz, who, in previous days had threatened to attack the blockade. These groups are identified with the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), which governs both municipalities [and the state government].

The teachers of Section 7 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), who belong to the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers (CNTE), and parents supporting them did not respond to aggression and were forced to retreat and regroup in the central park of the San Cristóbal.

The violent eviction began at 12:30pm. Carrying a few small banners and brandishing sticks, machetes and stones, the attackers arrived assuring it was "in peace", but immediately they began to lash out against the installations of the blockade and remove logs, tyres, rocks and other obstacles.

Behind them came a heavy truck and several pickup trucks sounding their sirens and carrying state and municipal police. The police did not directly involve themselves in the eviction; they only protected the indigenous men who destroyed and burned the tarps and tents.

Some attackers assaulted Dolores Rodriguez, a reporter for Noticiero Networks, for taking photographs. One of the assailants pointed a gun at her head. Others shot firecracker rockets [used to announce neighbourhood fiestas] in horizontal paths into the woods.

Shortly after, the police left and the place was under the control of the attackers. Adalberto Hernandez Rabanales, leader of Section 7 in the Highlands Region [of Chiapas], described them as a "shock group" and blamed the government at all three levels [municipal, state and federal].

When the local police withdrew, the teachers and members of civic organizations regrouped a hundred meters away, near the Hospital of Cultures. When they returned to try to rescue vehicles, the masked men fired at them. It was then that Urbina Estrada was wounded.

Later, six Federal Police (PF) patrol cars arrived. The burning and destruction of the encampment continued under the surveillance of the police. The action ended at 3pm, when the masked indigenous men left the place. The group from San Juan Chamula boarded a bus belonging to the Christopher Columbus bus line and the largest group marched in formation back to San Cristobal. The place remained under the charge of the three Federal Police patrol units until 4pm, when dozens of residents from the south side of San Cristobal returned with sticks and stones which they threw at the patrol cars.

The police then left in their vehicles and stopped a kilometre away. Within minutes, the blockade was restored. During the evening, more people kept arriving, and they extended the obstruction of the roads with bonfires, logs and pieces of iron. Again, there were several hundred parents, teachers and residents of different neighbourhoods, all in an atmosphere of excited tension.

During the afternoon, in Central Park, Hernandez Rabanales said that earlier "there were rumours that people from Chamula would evict us, but supporters from social organizations told us that they had communication with government agencies who told them that the indigenous would only pass through on their way to an activity in Tuxtla Gutierrez."

In an interview with La Jornada, the teacher leader added: "It seems that the idea was to provoke a breakdown in the negotiations [with the federal government in Mexico City], because yesterday the unified negotiating committee said there was no point in talking because the government was only trying to impose [its position]."

In the afternoon, the teachers marched in the streets of the centre [of San Cristóbal], while in the park a group of hooded youths set fire to the wooden doors of the old city hall (which is being turned into a museum) and entered the building, breaking all the windows. Smoke came out of some windows.

Meanwhile, unidentified indigenous masked men, unrelated to the organizations that support the teachers, ransacked an Oxxo [convenience store] located half a block from the former city hall. They handed out cigarettes, drinks and other products to children and youths, creating a commotion.

According to the state government, the police rushed to the eviction as a deterrent to avoid a confrontation between residents of San Juan Chamula and CNTE demonstrators. In a statement, it claimed that "in response to an alert issued by the State Centre for Control, Command, Communication, Computation and Intelligence (C4I), which reported the presence of people from Chamula on the highway near the CNTE blockade, 200 agents were sent to protect the integrity of citizens, avoiding any reason for confrontation."

In fact, police and attackers arrived together. According to the government version, the indigenous men came "to dialogue peacefully and request the free movement of citizens, merchants and transportation workers, such that the protesters chose to leave the area voluntarily and the road was freed."

The mayor of Chamula, Marco Antonio Gonzalez Cancino, disavowed any responsibility in the eviction.

Posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity 22/07/2016

Translated by Reed Brundage

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/07/21/politica/005n1pol

.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: