Territorial dispute behind the forced exodus of residents of Chalchihuitán
It’s been 14 months since some 5,000 people in Chiapas were forced to flee their homes in Chalchihuitán. And although about 4,000 have since returned, 1,200 remain homeless, a situation for which they hold the municipal government responsible.
Representatives of the displaced people told a press conference this week that they have yet to recover their properties, which were occupied by armed civilians after the residents fled.
Municipal and state authorities have denied the existence of the displaced families, said a spokesman, on the grounds that they have abandoned the camps in which they had been staying.
But in fact, the conference was told, the displaced people have simply dispersed.
Those who remain in camps do not stay in one place for long because authorities put pressure on the owners of the land to limit the time they can stay.
The former Chalchihuitán residents accuse Mayor Hermelindo García Núñez of instigating the conflict and discriminating against the displaced.
They also accused him of attempting to incarcerate and lynch some of their number after they had attended a meeting with state and municipal authorities.
Things got worse after the disappearance of a 15-million-peso payment (US $750,000) by the state government to the displaced.
The latter demanded that the state government comply with the recommendations by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which urged municipal authorities to end the climate of violence and confrontation it has instigated.
The exodus from Chalchihuitán occurred in October last year when more than 5,000 people left everything behind and fled to the mountains after community leader Samuel Luna Girón was slain. Three months later, nearly 4,000 returned, but 1,237 have not been able to do so.
The conflict has its roots in a longstanding dispute over territorial boundaries.