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News > Latin America

Acteal Massacre Victims Demand Justice from The Mexican State

  • Citizens participate in a mass in memory of the victims of the Acteal massacre, Chiapas, Mexico, Dec. 22, 2021.

    Citizens participate in a mass in memory of the victims of the Acteal massacre, Chiapas, Mexico, Dec. 22, 2021. | Photo: EFE

Published 23 December 2021

On Dec. 22, 1997, members of the "Acteal Bees" were massacred by paramilitary forces at a prayer meeting in their village.

Twenty-four years after the killing of 45 Tzotziles Indigenous people carried out by paramilitaries, relatives and survivors of the attack marched to demand jail time for the intellectual and material authors of this tragedy.


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With songs, prayers, crosses, incense, and candles, the Acteal Bees (Las Abejas de Acteal), a Christian and anti-neoliberal organization, remembered the dead in a collective tomb where the bodies of the victims of State terrorism rest. Among the victims were 15 girls and boys, 9 men, and 21 women.

During the pilgrimage, the Acteal Bees also remembered Bishop Samuel Ruiz and others who helped them cope with this tragedy, especially at the time when they were persecuted and criminalized for seeking justice.

"It is a pain that cannot be overcome or forgotten because there is no justice. The government and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have not made progress in the investigation. There are no exhaustive reports on the case," said Guadalupe Vazquez, one of the survivors.

On Dec. 22, 1997, the Acteal Bees were attacked by a hundred paramilitaries while praying in the Chenalho municipality, in the state of Chiapas. At that time, they expressed their support for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

Their statements made them a target for paramilitary groups whose operation was tolerated by the Mexican state and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Because of this, soldiers at a nearby military outpost did not intervene during the attack, which lasted for hours.

Human rights defenders have generated several international and national judicial processes to find the culprits of the Acteal massacre. One of those had an ignominious outcome: in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a case filed against Connecticut resident and ex-President Ernesto Zedillo on grounds of "sovereign immunity" as a former head of state.

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