Who makes up the self-defense group ‘El Machete’ in Chiapas and why is López Obrador opposed?

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Inhabitants of indigenous communities in Chiapas, in southern Mexico, joined efforts to create the armed civilian self-defense group called ‘El Machete’, in order to expel organized crime organizations from their territories.

With the support of thousands of indigenous people from the municipalities of Pantelhó and Chenalhó, this self-defense group announced its creation last Sunday, July 11, in the town of San José Buenavista Tercero.

Organized crime and politics

The members of ‘El Machete’ armed themselves in rejection of the violence perpetrated by organized crime groups, who have been subjecting the civilian population for years, with the alleged collusion of local authorities in Pantelhó, governed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). ).

One of the commanders of the collective he claimed in an interview with Chiapas Paralelo that his four-year-old daughter was kidnapped by people linked to the municipal presidency of Pantelhó.

The residents of these municipalities requested help from the local authorities in the face of crimes against regional leaders, such as Enrique Perez Perez, assassinated on May 7; and the human rights defender and activist Simon Pedro Pérez López, who passed away on July 5.

However, according to those affected, the government representatives did not respond to their requests to guarantee security in these communities of Los Altos de Chiapas.

“Some of our colleagues were murdered for denouncing the violence that we are experiencing,” they expressed in a video in which they publicly announced that their objective is “to expel the hit men, the drug traffickers, the organized crime.”

The group of vigilantes denounced that the interim municipal president of Pantelhó, Janeth Velasco Flores, of the PRD, is part of the “narcos”, like her husband, Rachel Trujillo, elected candidate to govern in the same city council.

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“We entered because we do not want more deaths for the poor Tzeltal and Tsotsil peasants,” said the members of ‘El Machete’.

Violence in communities

From the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) they warned on Thursday July 8 that close to 2,000 Tsotsil people from the Pantelhó and Chenalhó region have been displaced of their communities due to the “generalized violence of organized crime and the failure of the Mexican State to address the situation.”

On March 12, a criminal group associated with the municipal presidency of Pantelhó murdered 12 people, including a child, according to human rights groups in a joint statement after the murder of activist Pérez López.

In another incident recorded at the beginning of May, “the criminal group arrived in the San José Buenavista Tercero community, in the municipality of Pantelhó, assassinated a male person and displaced the community’s inhabitants,” the groups asserted.

Likewise, the group ‘El Machete’ denounced that some 200 people have been murdered in the last twenty years. For now, residents of the 86 communities that make up Pantelhó have expressed their support for the self-defense group.

Response from López Obrador

On the other hand, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, expressed his disagreement with the formation of this armed civil group.

“That should not be accepted, we do not agree with that because the State has the obligation to guarantee peace and tranquility,” declared the president during his morning conference on Tuesday.

“You cannot do justice by your own hand, nobody can do that, that is illegal and that should not be accepted. No one should arm themselves to face a supposed situation of insecurity“added López Obrador.

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