The judicial system in Chiapas fabricates crimes as a method of repression. Authorities are currently fabricating charges against Tzeltal human rights and environment defenders because of their opposition to the militarization of their territory and construction of infrastructure for mega-tourism projects.
Manuel Santiz Cruz, president of the Human Rights Committee of San Juan Evangelista Catholic parish in San Juan Cancuc, was falsely arrested on May 29 for drug possession. He was released and re-arrested a day later for aggravated homicide. By June 4, a total of eight Tzeltal defenders had been arrested: Manuel Santiz Cruz, Agustín Pérez Velasco, Martin Pérez Domínguez, Juan Velasco Aguilar, Agustín Pérez Domínguez, and three more persons (names withheld for their personal security).
These arbitrary detentions take place in a context in which inhabitants of San Juan Cancuc have opposed the military presence in their territory and the construction of a highway project that would connect San Cristóbal de las Casas with the region of Palenque. The highway is part of the development of mega-tourism projects in the region that have been promoted by the government without free, prior informed and culturally appropriate consultation with impacted Indigenous communities.
We are deeply concerned about the ability of Indigenous communities and leaders to carry out their legitimate activities in defense of their peoples’ territories and waterways. Last year we wrote to authorities about the about the assassination of Tzeltal human rights defender Simón Pedro Pérez López, age 35, in the Los Bosques de Chiapas region of Chiapas State (cf our letter July 6, 2021).