Drug violence collapses Chiapas. Let the military come in?

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The situation in Chiapas, in the Mexican southeast, is one of collapse. Blockades by organized crime that isolate populations, control of migratory flows and the prices of basic products, raids on already marginalized homes to use them as safe houses, forcing people to join gangs, extortion, right of floor, daily shootings, murders, beheadings, thousands of displaced people, food shortages and paralysis of schools, transportation and businesses. All this despite the recent deployment of at least 2,300 soldiers on the Chiapas border with Guatemala.

“The ‘corn growers’ are entering homes and forcing people to join them, and those who do not accept go out. Yesterday they evicted my niece and her children from her houses, they fled to Guatemala and others went to the Coast,” a relative of those affected reported to journalist Mariana Morales for the newspaper Reforma. The occupations are carried out by members of the “El Maíz” group, an arm of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). “Now people say that they (the military) were the last hope we had, but they didn’t get these criminals out and when they leave, things will be worse, because (the armed groups) are going to feel untouchable.”

More than three years ago, in June 2020, the newspaper El Universal, based on an intelligence report from the federal government, revealed that the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels were fighting for control of the municipalities near the coast of the Pacific Ocean and border with Guatemala, strategic for their illicit activities. In addition, it evidenced the presence of the Los Zetas cartel that dominates the metropolitan area and the center of the Chiapas territory. With less force, they pointed out the presence of the Los Beltrán Leyva, del Golfo and San Juan Chamula cartels, dispersed in some of the 15 regions into which the State is divided. In addition, the presence of the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Barrio 18 gangs, dedicated mainly to drug dealing and homicides in 12 locations, was identified.

In an interview by Julio Hernández López “El Astillero” with journalist Isaín Mandujano, correspondent of the magazine Proceso in Chiapas, he currently highlighted the existence of several red zones in the State of Chiapas. The most serious of all is the region along the border with Guatemala. “The drug trade was advancing like a metastasis, corrupting the structure of the towns,” this is about the dispute between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Floor charges and thousands of displaced people are reported in entities such as Comalapa, Amatenango de la Frontera and Motozintla. “It’s the most terrible thing. Distress, panic, gas and gasoline are in short supply. “People come out every day wanting to escape.”

In September 2021, the Zapatista National Liberation Army pointed out the alliances of the Chiapas government with organized crime, already announcing that “Chiapas was on the brink of the Civil War.”

In addition to this area, the most serious, the journalist documented three more hot areas in the territory, there are others, however, in his opinion these are the most important. The first, further down the Suchiate border: “The bodies are appearing dismembered, the rafters have recorded them.” The second is the Lacandona Jungle region, further north from the Zapatista core, in the Petén jungle region. Two communities much larger than Ocosingo, called Nueva Palestine, and Frontera Corosal, marched recently. This is a strategic area, the Gulf of Mexico route. “For example, four indigenous leaders from the Lacandón Vigilance Council had to escape by helicopter; there are no conditions to do so by road.” Finally, the third is located to the north of the entity, on the border with Tabasco, in the city of Reforma, there is a presence of the Delta group of the CJNG. “There have been arrests, disappearances, dismemberments, a very critical situation.”

In September 2021, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) released a harsh statement, making visible the paramilitary practices of the ORCAO and pointing out the alliances of the Chiapas government with organized crime, already announcing that “Chiapas was on the brink of the civil War”. However, the position of the president, López Obrador, has since then been one of nonchalance: “Nothing is happening in Chiapas, it is the media and journalists who are magnifying this,” denounced Maldujano. It is not until now that he decided to send a detachment to the border. However, he hastily declared: “everything is now normal, all the blockades have been removed, the students have returned to classes,” several media outlets reported.

In the report “Chiapas, a disaster” published by the Frayba Human Rights Center, whose objective was to analyze the current situation in Chiapas from 2020 to 2022, the role of the Mexican army as an actor in the construction of peace was questioned. “We find ourselves in the midst of a diversification and opacity of armed groups that use violence for social, political, economic and territorial control marked by the continuity of a counterinsurgency strategy (against the EZLN); as well as impunity promoted by state actors that contributes to dispossession, exploitation and social marginalization.” The increase in this violence, says Frayba, “has left serious human rights violations, among which situations of massive and intermittent forced displacement, disappearances, land dispossession, murders and torture, among others, stand out.” To this analysis we must add remilitarization and proven espionage by the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) in Chiapas, documented by the organization.

People who defend the territory have pointed out that calling for the intervention of the security forces in the areas disputed by the cartels is a trap.

The situation of collapse caused by drug violence has led the general population to cry out for the presence of the National Guard and the Mexican Army. In videos and the written press, you can see how the populations can no longer tolerate the situation and demand the presence of federal law enforcement forces to return to normality. However, defenders of the territory, who have preferred to remain anonymous, have indicated that this demand is a trap. In fact, there is already a military presence, as in the case of Chicomuselo, near the Border where the 101st Infantry Battalion was built, very large, with rooms and bases for the National Guard, in the middle of Peña Nieto’s six-year term. “It was supposed to guarantee security and the opposite happened,” says Maldujano. Or the recent deployment of more than 2,000 soldiers to the border region, which, however, has not stopped human rights violations by organized crime, as Morales reported.

A defender of the territory explains that the population “is forced to demonstrate in favor of the entry of soldiers to strengthen one of the cartels in the border strip.” She points out that according to her investigations there is historical corruption of the armed forces with organized crime. “For us the position has always been: No to militarization.” The activist points out that this practice has always brought with it “a worsening of human rights violations. It is an immediate response, but the causes of inequality and marginalization are not attacked, much less the actions of these groups.”

Another defender points out that the presence of the military generates “that they are fighting for control of the territory, linked to one of those groups.” For both defenders, the most urgent thing is for the executive to recognize the violence, “it has been denying it, making human rights organizations invisible and defaming it, this violates us because it puts us at risk from organized crime groups.” For the people interviewed, it is important to recognize reality in order to undertake actions “that attack the structural conditions, which are the breeding ground for organized crime.” They affirm that they are committed to organization and intra-community dialogue “that allows generating strategies against marginality.”

Finally, another defender of the territory pointed out the damage that social programs are generating “because they are being used to coapt people, to get them to join organized crime groups, we see that it is an economy of war, “which generates more tensions and more divisions in the communities.” At the same time, she assures, the rights of indigenous peoples and peoples in general remain in the background “after cataloging development projects or the construction of military infrastructure in the territories as national security”; At the same time, he denounces, the Mexican Army is consolidated as the main perpetrator of various crimes against humanity in the recent history of Mexico, “as a superpower with the possibility of controlling all spheres of life and leaving the doors open for the exercise of a neo-developmental and authoritarian government.”

Source: El Salto Diario