Urgent Action
Urgent Action - Chiapas, Mexico

Polho, Chenalho - Zapatista Autonomous Municipality
Chiapas, Mexico

"I have an older sister who was shot in Acteal. She was pregnant. When she died, I personally saw how they opened her stomach to cut out the baby. They also shot my sister-in-law and took her body into the ravine. I am worried and very sad because my sister and sister-in-law died. They weren't doing anything. They were innocent. I also have other family members among the 45 who were killed. The killers are PRI-ista groups who were armed and all of them, the paramilitaries, got away."

Woman survivor of Acteal
We are the "Bridge to Hope" caravan. We left Mexico City on December 27. 149 people from four countries and three continents arrived in Oventic to help in the construction of the first autonomous indiginous junior high school in Chiapas. Like the rest of the world, we heard about the massacre in Chenalho and decided to help the survivors, who are now in this community together with many other refugees (in total there are more than 8,800). We recorded testimonies from the displaced men and women. We have no doubts about the truth of their statements.

Leticia Jimenez (619) 233-4114
Chiapas School Construction Teams
3909 Centre Street
San Diego, CA, 92102.
(619) 232-2841
fax: (619) 232-0500

TESTIMONIES (Translated from Tzotzil)

"When the authorities saw the people from the Zapatista base communities leaving, the community land authority started to sell the belongings of each person, our land, and they burned our houses. They sold everything amongst themselves. They say that if we return to the community they will kill us. We fled because we heard the PRI-istas say "We're not afraid because the governor of Chiapas has sent us. He bought us lots of Goat Horns (AK-47's). We have enough bullets to kill all the Zapatistas." We are displaced and thank you for the aid you have brought"

Displaced Woman
"Since May 24th, they began to run us out of town, men and women. They started with Xochjeme, Zanembolom, Los Chorros, Vajoventic, Aurora Chica, Chimich, Yvenjo, Yabteclum. Many people have been suffering from hunger, there is no food or medicine. In the community of Scumunu, they have been here two days already. Three babies have died from the cold. They have killed many people from the Zapatista base communities. December 22 in Acteal, they were in the mountians praying to God. They had no weapons. We are not an army. We have no troops, but we are a Zapatista base community. Here, our towns need more support. We receive nothing from the government because we have seen that they give a little bit, they publish something in the newspaper, put something on the TV, and then they don't give anymore. So we don't take any of that support. The paramilitary, PRI-ista groups and the municipal president are, everyday, organizing help to run people out. I thank you a lot. You have heard the displaced people say they are not the only ones. There are people displaced in other communities. Thank you that we are not alone and for bringing us help."

Representative of the Autnomous Municipality of Polho
"When the shooting started, we didn't know where it was coming from until we traced the trail of bullets. They were like rain coming from the sky. The paramilitary groups followed us. I had a daughter and I lost her while I was escaping. The paramilitaries went into the coffee fields. They robbed us of all our belongings. Since we know how to work, we have cows and pigs but we had to leave that all behind. My "nuhua" (slip for a skirt) came off in the coffee fields and I came out naked."

Displaced woman
"They started to shoot in Bajoventic and we fled to communities like Comumal. Since we escaped and went into hiding a week ago, we have been safe. But the state police arrived with many paramilitaries and have been shooting nearby. For a week we haven't eaten for fear of being shot. For one week we have gone without food."

Displaced woman
"There is much need. They have nothing to sleep under and no houses where they can stay, and that's why the children die in the cold. They have no means to make tortillas and tamales. The displaced need help to build houses. They need corn, beans, rice, cooking oil and many other things. They have many grinding mills, but only one motor. Some days they eat nothing because there is no place to prepare the food. They need medicine: ampicillin, erythromycin, antibiotics and tranquilizers. There is much fever and sickness and we have run out of medicine. Some medicine has arrived, but not the kind we need. We need medicine for rheumatism, skin infections, intestinal infections and bronchitis. There is much danger in the communities for everybody. Even for some of the PRI-istas that don't want to participate with the paramilitary groups. They are threatened with death if they don't participate or they don't give money to buy weapons for these death squads. They are in a bind."

President of the Autonomous Municipality of Polho
"I have had a disease in my leg for three years. When the paramilitaries arrived, my husband carried me up the mountain. But when they were about to catch us, I began to run, bearing the pain. When we arrived in Polho, the doctor had to cut my foot off because it had gotten worse during the escape."

Displaced woman
"We are afraid of the bullets. One of my babies died recently because of the cold and an illness caused by going to the mountain. We had to cover the mouths of the children with cloths so the paramilitary couldn't track us. One man hid himself in a cave in the mountain and fell asleep. They took him out, half paralyzed; he looked drunk. Every time he saw people, he began yelling out of fear."

Displaced woman
"When we left our houses, the shooting started. We fled into the mountains. I show you here the skin of my little boy, which is burned from the bullets. I had another boy that died today from the cold and the illnesses that are common here in the mountains. We covered the mouths of our children with cloth so that the soldiers, State Police and paramilitary groups couldn't hear us. I had my coffee field, my barn, my animals. I had everything, but what happened? They stole everything. Who took my belongings? The State Police and all the armed groups. I had just taken my belongings out. I have a big store with many valuable things and they took everything out and burned my house. Thanks for your presence here and please take all this information to the national and international press."

Displaced woman
"I am a woman from the community of La Esperanza. I was in a church asking forgiveness from God and for peace in the world when I saw three trucks of PRI-istas pulling up that were cooperating with the State Police.
All of the people who were in the church escaped to the coffee fields and streams. We dispersed. When we escaped, I already had harvested 10-15 sacks of coffee beans because this is the coffee season. All of the paramilitary PRI-ista groups managed to take everything out of our houses, with the help of the State Police. When the shooting finished we started walking slowly, covering the children's mouths with cloth so they would not hear us. In the road many companeros and companeras died. They managed to kill six people from La Esperanza - the ones who couldn't escape."

Displaced woman
"I come from the community of Pichiquil. On November 19th we saw the PRI-istas arrive and shoot at the community and with all those bullets they destroyed our houses. I was escaping, but I didn't make it. You can see here where they shot my tooth off. Look, my tooth is gone. But thank God they didn't kill me. This is the truth that I show you, that doesn't need witnesses, because you are looking at it. I had my house. I had my valuables. They stole everything and burned my house. That is all I want to state. I was there. We can't make statements because they ask us to write down what we say. They ask us for witnesses. I can not present my complaints because I can't speak Spanish. If I state this to the Office of the Public Minister, they don't believe that these things are happening. They need proof and witnesses. As I don't speak Spanish, I can't argue."

Displaced woman
"The PRI-istas are happy thinking that they have our things. They are laughing already. They think that they have won, now that we have all left. They think that our things, our coffee is theirs. I think not, my friends. You are going to return, we are going to return to our community.
But we have no houses - many houses were burned and many things were stolen from us. Now the PRI-istas are rich, they are millionaires with the things they have taken. Their houses are full of our things. Why? Because they have taken it all by force, even the coffee lands they took by force. It's true, my friends, but what are you going to do, what are we going to do if we stay here? Because of this we left our community.
We have no solution as to how we are going to live, how we are going to return because we have no houses. We are without homes, without blankets, without everything, but we want to live. We cover ourselves with small pieces of nylon or anything because all of us are suffering and we have nothing. What we want is help to return to our homes, that the PRI-istas aren't left laughing. Now they are happy because they are left alone. They think that we aren't going to return. They think that they are going to be left alone and we are far away. I think not, my friends. Try to help us to solve our problem because we are not to blame. Our only fault is our organization, our party, that we are Zapatistas.
All we want is a little help from you who can give aid in each nation and in each state. You who are here are helping us now. Together, we are not just two or three, we are a mountain of people , we are many. There are many men, women and children here, my friends. What we want: we want more help because we are displaced - we have no houses, we have nothing. Thank you all for coming here to visit us. It has done us good to be here together in the new municipality that is autonomous, here in Polho, Chenalho, Chiapas. Thank you my friends."

Displaced man
"They killed these people in Acteal, and the following day, the 23rd, when they went to recover the bodies, they took them directly into San Cristobal without letting us, the autonomous municipalities, know what had happened. The municipal judge was going around on a tour all day on the 22nd. The same judge went to get the dead bodies without letting anyone know, until the rebel municipal council found out, so they told us to wait. When the families started making their accusations, when the dead arrived, we, as an EZLN base, received them right here. The following day, the 24th, we moved the bodies and burned them there in Acteal. The paramilitary groups are in their communities, but they want to keep after the displaced that are here now. Here beside us they came shooting in Acteal, also there were explosions.
But what happened is that the state police is involved with the paramilitary. We have always seen it, the proof of the problem that the displaced have in Yaxemal. Three times they were run out of their houses by the state police and the indigenous paramilitary groups that they are creating and arming heavily. We just got information that there are 245 people in the paramilitary groups that are from the town of Miguel Utrella Los Chorros, from the town of Puebla, from Yaxemal, Pichiquil, Ixaxal, Xahalukan, Kanali, and the community of La Esperanza, and some right here in Polho, and others in the community of Takioka. But the most important ones are in the county seat of Chenalho, where the headquarters are, those who started organizing paramilitaries are there in Chenalho. The municipal president is in with the paramilitaries and the caciques who are, Victorio Cruz Velazquez, Cristobal Vasquez Perez, Alberto Ruiz Garcia, Luis Augilar Gomez and Edy Yakteklub. So, the municipal president told them to buy arms and ammunitions, and he gave them out like food in boxes, saying it was food for the Zapatistas. But what is going on? It is not food but bullets to finish off the Zapatistas. This is the information that people from the community have given.
That was how they killed these 45 people, with high caliber ammunitions. The proof that we have is that they brought us a lot of shells here that are from the soldiers and the state police. The day before yesterday, other movements of people began because a lot of people had stayed behind in Los Chorros. They are surrounded by the PRI paramilitary groups. The day before yesterday the PRG (the department of justice) went to rescue them. They brought out 337 people and left them in the hands of the autonomous municipal council. Now the displaced people are here and we formed a caravan to go find the people displaced from Xhumumal. We went and brought them back here, but they are very sick, looking very palid. Yesterday a baby died from the cold and today at 6am. another baby died.
We have many problems here, we are beset by many health problems. The refugees are very afraid of the soldiers. The day before yesterday some people arrived from the Human Rights Commission. They brought food but the people didn't want it. Why? Because suddenly the government will send something that isn't food, so the refugees fled again. When the Human Rights Commision arrived, the soldiers and the state police weren't yet here, but everybody is very afraid. We hope no more people die.
Yesterday they went to rescue the refugees from Colonia Puebla, Yaxemal. Now, those who were kidnapped are here now, but they are very afraid because the soldiers and the police are here. For all of us here in Polho, we are afraid of the presence of the federal soldiers because we have seen what happens. The police don't protect us; together with the paramilitaries and the white guards, they are killing us. If the people see the soldiers or police, they run because they know they can start firing like in Yaxemal. Three times the people had to hide there, men and woman had to run to Poconichil, and the next day they returned to their houses and were shot at again. The paramilitary groups attack like that. A comrade died the 2nd of November, and that's why they don't want to see the soldiers or police."

Genaro, Autonomous Authority of Polho

"I am from the first neighborhood, Migual Utria Los Chorros. I saw how the shooting started. The people who were part of the EZLN - all of the men and women - fled. They were killing the women, the boys, the girls and the men. We escaped into the mountains and when they saw us leaving the EZLN bases, the authorities, the police department assigned to the ejido (communal land), started to sell everyone's belongings and they sold our land. Where I was building my house, first they burned the house and then they sold the land. They sold it among themselves. They said that if we return to our community that they will kill us. I heard what the PRI-istas said: "We have no fear; we have orders from the governor and he has bought plenty of AK-47's." That is what the PRI-istas said, "We have plenty of guns to kill Zapatistas. We are not afraid; if they return we will kill them." That's what we were able to hear. Now, we are displaced from our community. We have nothing to eat and no clothes. Thank you for bringing clothes and for coming to visit us.
The municipal president ordered the bullets and bought the arms. I want to mention that I am very scared because if I say this they are going to punish me; they are going to kill us. I want to say the names of the people who have guns, who are murderers, but I am very afraid. That's all."

Displaced man
"I work with medical plants. I am a midwife. The women formed a cooperative store. During the shooting here in Majomut, they robbed the cooperative store and all of the medicinal plants were stolen. The soldiers, the PRI-istas, and the public security took everything from all of the small stores near the road. We had plenty of medicine to treat all of the women in Majomut. Thank you very much for your presence."

Midwife of Majomut
"I am not afraid to say my name. I have gone to make my statement in many offices so that all nations will hear what is happening here. My name is Yolanda Tortuj Jimenez. They killed eight members of my family. First my father died, then my brother, my little brother and then the rest of my family. I am not afraid. I came to this land. I didn't come to live, I came to die. These are my complaints: my little brother, Alejandro, was innocent. He used to work in the store. We had a store that supported us. We earned 50 thousand pesos. We had all kinds of things for sale, and they took everything. I am not afraid to expose them. This is my anger: listen to the damned lies of the government. It is a bad government that ordered them to rob my store, that ordered them to kill my father. The public security police came to make sure that they had stolen everything from our store. This same government and the municipal president sent the public security. This is what I want to tell the public and the world."

Woman from Tzajalukum,   a man adds:
"Everything she says is true. They had a truck to supply their store. Who burned it? The public security police. They took everything from the store. I was able to escape but my wife remained. Fifteen days ago, I was able to rescue my wife, but when they found out they tried to kill me. I'm not scared to tell everyone what I saw. I'm not scared to speak before the government, before the offices. The government's attorney's office would not accept my complaint. They didn't believe me. They asked for my statement and I gave it completely, but the public minister does not believe it. The public minister says it's a lie. They asked me for witnesses but what other witnesses are there? I saw it, I am the witness of what I saw. The public minister said, "No, I want another witness."

Displaced man
Chenalho, Chiapas.
As of yesturday, there were about 8,800 displaced people in Polho, a municipality of Chenalho. Of these, 7,100 are from bases of Zapatista support and 1,700 of them are members of the organization, Las Abejas. Members of this organization were among the 48 victims massacred at Acteal.
In the area surrounding Polho there are three camps of displaced people; two camps of civilian Zapatistas and one in Xobeb of Las Abejas members, all living outdoors in subhuman conditions. Their only shelters are made of sticks and plastic. They have no food, blankets or medicine. They have dug wells but already they are running dry. They are running out of wood to make fires. The hills are starting to look bare, yet still more wood is needed.
As of yesturday, two babies had died of pneumonia and people wounded by bullets are still arriving. Respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, vomitting, rhuematism, arthritis, fever and infections of all types are increasing. Scabies in particular is very worrisome because it could become an epidemic.
There are fourteen displaced communities in all, among them Yactelum, Aurora Chica, San Luis, Chanonbolom, Botiqui, Biteljo, Yajalucum, La Esperanza, Pichiquil and Chinich. The displacements began the 24th of May. More than three quarters of the displaced are women and children. Approximately 2,400 of the harrassed indigenous people have not been able to leave their communities, including the community of Los Chorros. There have been several attempts by the civilian society rescue them. The last attempt, on December 29th, was stopped when paramilitary groups cocked their weapons.

contact and detailed info:   SIDCA-Aprendamos A.C.
Leticia Jimenez, Chiapas School Construction Teams
3909 Centre Street
San Diego, CA, 92102.
tel: (619) 232-2841
fax: (619) 232-0500 Urgent Action
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