By Ñaní Pinto
Translated by Scott Campbell
For the indigenous peoples of Mexico, the winds of war today seem to be the same as those of previous governments. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) government has been in power just four months and the imposition of development projects, dispossession, persecution, harassment, forced disappearances, and murders continue as before.
On May 4, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, indigenous Nahuas belonging to the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero – Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ), held a meeting to coordinate actions at state and federal agencies to pressure them into meeting their social and political demands that had been rejected by the three levels of government. At the end of the meeting, at approximately 6pm, an armed group in Chilapa, Guerrero, kidnapped and later murdered José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián, both members of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).
On more than one occasion, members of CIPOG-EZ informed the Mexican president that they had been under “siege by criminal organizations tolerated by the three levels of government,” reported members of the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG). The indigenous groups are unequivocal in asserting that AMLO had information about the situation in these communities and therefore cannot say that “he did not know.”
For their part, in a joint statement, the CNI-CIG and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) said that the indigenous men were killed by narco-paramilitaries who receive government backing. “It is important to mention that our murdered compañeros and their communities have for years been organizing their own Community Police in order to resist the violence, extortion, and poppy cultivation imposed by two criminal groups in the area, Los Ardillos and Los Rojos. These two groups control municipal presidencies across the region and are protected by the Mexican army and the municipal and state police. At one point they even managed to get one of their leaders named president of the Guerrero State Congress,” the statement asserted.
The creation of Los Ardillos criminal group dates back to the 1980s, when it was founded by former rural police officer Celso Ortega Rosas, nicknamed La Ardilla (The Squirrel), who used to grow poppy in the area of Quechultenango, Guerrero. In 2008, he was detained for the kidnapping of a woman and for the murder of two agents of the now-defunct Deputy Attorney General’s Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SEIDO). He was released in 2011.
Los Rojos criminal organization is in a territorial dispute with Los Ardillos in the municipalities of Chilapa and Chilpancingo. According to authorities in the area, Los Rojos is led by Zenén Nava Sánchez, who operates a kidnapping and extortion ring and is responsible for getting drugs into Chilpancingo prison.
Members of the CNI-CIG and EZLN blame the three levels of government for this crime, “for being complicit in the repression of the peoples’ organizing in defense of their territories. We also hold them responsible for the safety and security of our brothers and sisters of the CIPOG-EZ.”
Additionally, members of the CIPOG-EZ have 67 outstanding arrest warrants against them, including against the two who were murdered. Even so, they insist they will continue “walking from below with the indigenous peoples and against the capitalist system that dispossesses, exploits, loathes and murders us. As indigenous people, we walk with the principles that we inherited from the struggles of our people, those who walked with Vicente Guerrero and with Emiliano Zapata.”
From the first day of this new government, baptized by AMLO as the “Fourth Transformation,” the CNI-CIG has documented the following: increased harassment by the Navy against the autonomous process in the community of Santa María Ostula in the Aquila municipality of Michoacán; harassment of the Community Assembly of the indigenous Binniza community of Gui’ Xhi’ Ro’ in Álvaro Obregón, Oaxaca; persecution and arrest warrants against Mateo López Cruz and Juan Sánchez Torres from the community of Suclumpa in the Salto de Agua municipality in Chiapas; threats of displacement from lands reclaimed by the Chol people in 1994 in the community of San José El Bascan in the Salto de Agua municipality in Chiapas; forced disappearances of five members of the Guzmán Cruz family, P’urhépechas from Tarejero, Michoacán; disappearances and murders of members of the Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (CODEDI) in Oaxaca, among many others.
One of the events that inaugurated this new government was the murder of Samir Flores Soberanes, a community leader from Amilcingo, Morelos, and one of the main opponents of the neoliberal Integral Project for Morelos.
“We denounce the intensification of neoliberal repression against the indigenous peoples, nations, and tribes who do not consent to these projects of death in Guerrero and in all of Mexico, nor to the violence which is used to impose these projects and to repress, kidnap, disappear, and murder those of us who have decided to sow a new world from the indigenous geographies that we are,” said the CNI-CIG.
The indigenous peoples who make up the CNI-CIG continue their organizing processes throughout the country to resist new neoliberal policies being put forward with new arguments, such as the Trans-Isthmus Corridor and the Maya Train, among others. They assert they will not recognize any kind of consultation and “we reject any form of simulation aimed at the dispossession of territories,” they said.
Communiqué From CIPOG-EZ After the Assassination of Two Members of the Organization (Guerrero, Mexico)
Translated by Voices in Movement
Around 6:00 pm on May 4th, 2019, our brothers Modesto Verales Sebastián and José Lucio Bartolo Faustino were assassinated. They were both organizers in the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero-Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ). They were active members in our organization, defenders of territory and culture, and above all, autonomous organizers in their communities. They both actively participated in innumerable events of the CNI, in the processes of conformation of the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG). They helped coordinate the collection of signatures for Marichuy in their region and they recently participated in the national mobilization on April 10th.
José Lucio Bartolo Faustino was a state organizer for the CIPOG-EZ and Modesto Verales Sebastián was a regional organizer. On May 4th, 2019, they held a meeting with other members of the organization at 4:00 pm in the city of Chilpancingo, Guerrero. They were organizing for upcoming mobilizations, as various state and federal agencies have refused to address our social and political demands. While returning to their community, they were intercepted by an armed group that followed and executed them in the city of Chilapa.
We, the communities that elected them as councilmen of the CIG-CNI and as delegates of the CNI, have been under siege by criminal organizations tolerated by the three levels of government. We have raised our voices for years, yet the impunity continues. AMLO is fully informed of the grave problem of violence generated by a criminal group in the municipality of Chilapa de Álvarez. He cannot say he did not know. We reiterated the situation of violence again and again to his officials, who only treat us with contempt. It is a lie that impunity is over in Mexico. It is a lie that the poor come first. It is a lie that the country has been transformed. AMLO and his officials are repeating the same treatment of the Indigenous peoples as past administrations. If you are not part of his group, and you do not give them votes, you are out.
By mere technicalities, they have failed to dismiss the unjust arrest warrants against compañer@s of our organization. Our assassinated compañeros struggled for justice for those with arrest warrants, and the bad government closed the doors and shunned us as always.
The CIPOG-EZ will continue walking from below with the Indigenous peoples and against the capitalist system that dispossesses, exploits, loathes and murders us. As Indigenous people, we walk with the principles that we inherited from the struggles of our people, those who walked with Vicente Guerrero and with Emiliano Zapata.
We hold the federal, state and municipal authorities responsible. They know perfectly well of the criminal activities of Celso Ortega, yet they allow impunity for his criminal organization. Furthermore, they allow will allow impunity in the case of the assassination of our brothers, José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián.
We also hold the municipal president of Chilapa de Álvarez, Jesús Parra García, and the state and federal government responsible for the well being of all of the members of CIPOG-EZ.
Punishment to the murderers of José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián!
Immediate justice in the case of the 67 unjust arrest warrants against us!
Enough of the impunity and protection of criminal groups in Guerrero!
Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero-Emiliano Zapata
Radio Zapata 94.1 FM