Indigenous communities in central Chiapas have been displaced due the presence of rival armed groups in their territories.

A territorial dispute between municipalities in Chiapas, southern Mexico, has displaced thousands of Indigenous people who now remain in precarious situations. In this attack, two people suffered gun shot wounds when an armed group prevented them from returning to their crops, a human rights organization reported.

The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba), denounced an illegal armed group from the Santa Martha community, in the town of Chenalho, who shot at about 20 residents from the neighboring town of Aldama as they were harvesting their coffee crops in the Xuxch’en community Wednesday, Nov. 7, injuring two of them.

A similar event took place on Oct. 19, when Indigenous people of the Tulantic, Cotzilnam, Tabak, Koko and Aldama tried to reach their crops, but an armed group from Santa Martha opened fire at them, according to Frayba’s reports.

The armed group has reportedly invaded the previously mentioned communities, forcing the displacement of entire families.

Frayba has demanded that authorities to intervene, to disarm the groups, to provide the necessary security measures for the communities, and to investigate the people responsible for the attacks. Up to now, they have not had much much success.

The United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner (UN-DH) Jan Jarab condemned the presence of the Chenalho armed groups in April, when three Tzotzil community members were killed, two of whom were under the age of 18.

"It is unacceptable for illegally armed groups to continue operating, and the death of these three Indigenous people as a result of this attack is lamentable," the UN representative said.

The territorial disputes between Chenalho and other municipalities apparently began in the 1970s when the now-defunct Land Reform Ministry gave communities overlapping land rights to territories that had their own forms of land tenure and organization.

Shots from weapons such as AK-47s and R-15s can still be heard across the disputed territories.

Several NGOs and associations have denounced the new mayor of Chenalho, the Indigenous Tzotzil Rosa Perez Perez from the Green Party, who has been supporting the armed groups. The state government of Chiapas, meanwhile, has done nothing to stop the violence and Governor Manuel Velasco has been accused of covering Perez’s actions up.

More than one community have been accused of using violence in the dispute, but the 2017 offensive by a Chenalho paramilitary group succeeded in driving thousands of people from their homes.

Photo: EFE

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