On December 22, 1997, 45 Tzotzil Indigenous people from Acteal in the munipality of Chenalho, in the State of Chiapas, Mexico were massacred by paramilitary forces. The indigenous people belonged to a pacifist group, Las Abejas (The Bees), and had gathered in a small chapel and were fasting and praying when the paramilitary forces shot and killed in cold blood, 15 children, 21 women (4 of them were pregnant) and 9 men.
The Las Abejas members were targetted because they supported the goals of the Zapatistas and stayed true to their pacifist beliefs. Last year, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice released 40 paramilitaries responsible for the Acteal massacre. The Supreme Court alleged that there was no true evidence in the paramilitaries guilt. I am including The Las Abejas statement from last year below. This year the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report on the admissibility of the case and found that 13 years, “is a long enough period to apply the exception to the exhaustion of domestic resources. ” IACHR went on to say that the report “have not yet been identified and prosecuted all perpetrators and masterminds of the slaughter, or have repaired fairly and equitably to the alleged victims.” What we see here is that the Mexican government is still trying to find ways to justify this massacre.
Here is the statement that Las Abejas made on August 9, 2009 after the decision by the Supreme Court to release 40 paramilitaries involved in the massacre. The text was translated by Scott Campbell.
Statement from Las Abejas Community on the release of paramilitaries:
…In 1997, [Mexican government] armed paramilitary groups appeared in Chenalhó. Through force they demanded that all the communities help them buy weapons and attack the Zapatistas. If we didn’t accept taking up arms against the government would we possibly accept taking them up against our own indigenous brothers and sisters? We refused to support the armed paramilitary groups that we saw clearly had the support of the government to get weapons, to be trained and to take violent actions. We were loyal to our principles in spite of the threats and when we refused to support them, the paramilitaries kidnapped us, ran us out of our communities, robbed our harvests, took our belongings and burned our houses. Because of this we became displaced, but we remained loyal to our principles of peace and non-violence.
It was while we were displaced that the paramilitary attacked on December 22, 1997 and the Acteal Massacre occurred, where 45 of our brothers and sisters died while praying and fasting for peace…
Today, five months from the twelfth anniversary of the murder of our brothers and sisters we were informed with great sadness and indignation that the government is going to free 40 of these paramilitaries through a Supreme Court of Justice decree, that more appropriately should be called the Supreme Court of Injustice. Faced with this news we declare the following:
1) It’s not true, as many media outlets are saying, that the Supreme Court decree is a step towards achieving justice for Acteal. Rather it’s a step back from the little that has been achieved. It’s a step forward for impunity.
2) They are saying that the PGR [Federal Attorney General’s Office] fabricated evidence against the prisoners and that what the Supreme Court is doing is just because there is no true evidence of the paramilitaries’ guilt. This is not true either. There is and there has always been real evidence which is our testimony of who we saw do the killing and we know the paramilitaries. But the government (the Attorney General and the judges) has weakened our evidence. They created holes in the case so that when this moment arrived the paramilitaries would be able to get out through these holes with the help of their lawyers and Supreme Court judges. It’s the same thing they do so that the narcos go free. The Supreme Court is not correcting the work of the PGR as they say. It is completing the work they started so that the accomplices of the government can remain free.
3) They say that we haven’t presented proof of the guilt of the paramilitaries. This is not true either. We’ve presented proof not once but many times. And 11 years after the murders in Acteal they continue calling on us to present our statements, because they tell the judge or the public ministry that something is missing from the previous time. To the lawyers from CIDE we say that their clients are not the only victims of corruption in the justice system. They have had those witnesses who saw their loved ones die repeat time and again the terrible story with all the pain it causes their hearts. And in the end they say: “we need you to tell us again because the judge ordered a renewal of the proceedings.” We know that this is called “psychological torture.”
4) The communities of Chenalhó are ill at ease because for days rumors have been circulating that when their friends get out the paramilitaries who have been free this whole time are going to get those who sent their friends to jail. We hold the Supreme Court and all their accomplices, from Mr. Aguilar Camín, the CIDE lawyers and the government of Felipe Calderón responsible if the return of these 40 paramilitaries brings violence back to our municipality. We hold them responsible for the lives of the witnesses and any criminal act that these paramilitaries who they say are innocent commit.
5) We call on the country’s highest authorities to reflect on what they are doing. If organizations such as Las Abejas Civil Society, who reject violence as a means to defend our rights, tell them that the justice system and state institutions are completely on the side of the government accomplices, then, what path does that leave us? What hope do the Mexican people have? The government says that it is against violence but daily we see how it is the first to promote it.
6) In spite of this, we, the members of Las Abejas Civil Society declare that we are not going to take down our flag of peace and justice. We are going to continue fighting in a non-violent way. But we don’t have any faith in the government. Our faith is in the solidarity of civil society, in the blood of our martyrs which gives us strength to not abandon the struggle and in our god who is not deaf to the clamor of the poor and oppressed.
The Voice of Las Abejas Civil Society
For the Board of Directors:
Sebastián Pérez Vázquez, President
Pedro Jiménez Arias, Vice President
Francisco Gómez Pérez, Treasurer
Francisco Pérez Gómez, Deputy Treasurer
Let us remember all of those who passed away in Acteal:
1. María Pérez Oyalte, 43, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
2. Martha Capote Pérez, 12, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
3. Rosa Vázquez Luna, 24, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
4. Marcela Capote Ruiz, 29, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
5. Marcela Pucuj Luna, 67, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
6. Loida Ruiz Gómez, 6, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
7. Catalina Luna Pérez, 21, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
8. Manuela Pérez Moreno, 50, PRESENTE…AHORA..Y..SIEMPRE!!!
9. Manuel Santiz Culebra, 57, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
10. Margarita Méndez Paciencia, 23, PRESENTE..AHORA..Y..SIEMPRE!!!
11. Marcela Luna Ruiz, 35, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
12. Micaela Vázquez Pérez, 9, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
13. Josefa Vázquez Pérez, 5, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
14. Daniel Gomez Perez, 24, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
15. Seabastian Gómez Pérez, 9, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
16. Juana Pérez Pérez, 33, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
17. Maria Gómez Ruiz, 23, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
18. Victorio Vázquez Gómez, 22, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
19. Veronica Vázquez Luna, 22, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
20. Paulina Hernandez Vázquez, 22, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
21. Juana Pérez Luna, 9, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
22. Rosalina Gómez Hernández, 4, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
23. Lucia Méndez Capote, 7, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
24. Graciela Gómez Hernández, 3, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
25. Marcela Capote Vázquez, 15, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
26. Miguel Pérez Jiménez, 40, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
27. Susana Jiménez Luna, 17, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
28. Rosa Pérez Pérez, 33, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
29. Ignacio Pucuj Luna, 62, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
30. Maria Luna Méndez, 44, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
31. Alonso Vázquez Gómez, 46, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
32. Lorenzo Gómez Pérez, 46, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
33. María Capote Pérez, 16, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
34. Antonio Vázquez Luna, 17, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
35. Antonia Vázquez Pérez, 21, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
36. Marcela Vázquez Pérez, 26, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
37. Silvia Pérez Luna, 6, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
38. Vicente Méndez Capote, 5, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
39. Guadalupe Gómez Hernandez, 2, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
40. Micaela Vázquez Luna, 3, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
41. Juana Vázquez Luna, 1, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
42. Alejandro Pérez Luna, 15, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
43. Juana Luna Vázquez, 45, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
44. Juana Gómez Pérez, 51, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
45. Juan Carlos Luna Pérez, 2, PRESENTE…AHORA…Y…SIEMPRE!!!
*** 58 children in 21 families left orphaned.
***10 children and 5 adults seriously wounded.