Indigenous groups and activists in the small district of Rio Jordan in the Chenalho municipality of Chiapas have been persecuted for years.
Nine members of a Mexican Indigenous group were freed Wednesday from a prison in a small district in Chiapas state after being arbitrarily detained by local community authorities few days earlier while visiting their colleague Jose Vazquez Entzin in jail who had been arrested over failing to “comply with communitary duties.”
Vazquez Entzin, was imprisoned by the Rio Jordan authorities in Chenalho on Jan. 5 just days before members of Las Abejas de Acteal, a Mayan-Tzotzil Christian civil organization focused on promoting peace and fighting capitalism, went to visit him in order to give him medical attention and praying with him.
At the same time of their visit, a municipality official held a local assembly meeting with Rio Jordan community leaders to decide on Entzin’s fate. Instead of hearing of releasing the activist, the assembly decided to arrest the group’s members visiting him on the grounds that they were trying to free him. Eight people were detained.
In a handwritten letter, the imprisoned members of Las Abejas said they were being held without reason, that they were forbidden from using the bathroom and left without food. They also claimed they were suffering from health problems.
The Rio Jordan authorities asked for a 9,000 mexican pesos, about US$466, bail for each one of them, the said in the letter. The detainees included a Catechist, health professionals, and survivors of the Acteal massacre, in 1997, in which 45 Tzotzil people from the Las Abejas de Acteal were shot and killed by an armed paramilitary group while praying.
The government claimed this was part of an ethnic-religious conflict, but survivors say it was rather part of a political strategy to put an end to dissident social organizations in Acteal. Acteal is a small Tzotzil community within the Municipality of Chenalho.
Meanwhile women from the Las Abejas had mobilized Tuesday in order to demand the release of all the nine people that had been arrested by the community’s local authorities.
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A day later The Las Abejas members were released after the government of Chiapas intervened and promoted reconciliation talks between the local authorities, the municipality and the Indigenous organization.
The now-freed activists thanked other Las Abejas members, civil society and organizations, the National Indigenous Congress for their solidarity and support.
Las Abejas group was founded there in 1992 after a member of their community was shot in a territorial dispute. Members of the community then carried him to a clinic in a nearby city, just to be imprisoned afterwards.
Pressure against the group grew after they declared their support for the Zapatista National Liberation Army, based in Chiapas. They see this action as a continuing aggression from government sympathizers.