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Chiapas: Angry Crowd Threatens to Hang Candidate for Mayor of San Cristóbal

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“Yaqui” for Borderland Beat

Salvador Camacho, who is the son of Manuel Camacho Solís and cousin of the ex-governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velazco, for failure to carry out works when he was a local deputy.

A so-called mob in an indigenous community in Chiapas simulated the hanging of a mayoral candidate and demanded a ransom for his release on Sunday.

The Morena candidate for mayor of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Juan Salvador Camacho, was forcefully detained for eight hours along with his 20-strong entourage, who were made to pay 300,000 pesos (around US $15,000) to gain their freedom.

Indigenous Tzotziles in the community of Los Llanos, 22 kilometers from San Cristóbal, said the politician failed to fulfill promises for public works made in his previous campaign for deputy in the state Congress.

Tzotzil Indians literally put the noose around the neck of Salvador Camacho, who is the son of Manuel Camacho Solís and cousin of the ex-governor of Chiapas and Senator Manuel Velasco Coello, who was tangled in corruption scandals as governor of Chiapas from 2012 to 2018 for breach of works when he was a local deputy.

The Camacho family name is tied to a contentious history with indigenous communities. Camacho’s late father, Manuel Camacho Solís, was a key political figure in negotiations between the government and Zapatista (EZLN) insurrectionists in 1994.

In November 1993, Camacho Solís was appointed as Secretary of Foreign Relations, a position he held until 1994. During the last year of the Salinas de Gortari administration, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up in Chiapas, and Camacho Solís he was appointed as coordinator for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Chiapas. 

The conciliatory work of Manuel Camacho Solís paid off and he is now recognized as the person who managed to negotiate a ceasefire with the Zapatistas.

In the two videos which emerged yesterday, Camacho is heard saying he only has 100,000 pesos, which provoked one man to snatch the glasses from the candidate’s face and throw them to the ground, on which others forced him to walk barefoot.

One man can be heard shouting “Bring me a skirt, we are going to take his trousers off” as the captive candidate was led beneath a tree to face a noose.

The candidate looks uneasy as the noose is released from his neck amid shouts of “Are you going to get it [the money]?”

Camacho then puts a hand to his chest and says “It’s OK” to indicate agreement.

Con simulación de ahorcamiento, indigenas de Los Llanos en #SanCristobaldeLasCasas, #Chiapas, obligan al candidato de @PartidoMorenaMx a la presidencia municipal, Juan Salvador Camacho, a pagar 300 mil pesos por no haber gestionado obras prometidas de cuando fue diputado local

— Isaín Mandujano (@isain) May 19, 2021

Although the event occurred last Sunday, it was until this Wednesday, May 19, that the episode was made known through social networks through a video.

In a statement the Morena party said it “[condemns] any act of violence that destabilizes the political-electoral and social environment in the community … there is no pretext that justifies the physical, emotional and psychological instability of any citizen, much less harassment be it for ideological, political or personal beliefs,” it read.

Camacho said that the episode was the result of political failure. “Our communities in San Cristóbal are unhappy as a result of years of indifference on the part of the authorities, who have historically seen them as electoral spoils. We reconcile, we dialogue, we go ahead and we are stronger than ever … We are going to win, because we represent the authentic transformation of San Cristóbal,” he said.

Politics are complicated in Chiapas where the largely indigenous militant EZLN controls substantial swathes of the state. Their armed uprising began just days after Manuel Camacho Solís took office in 1994. He was charged with mediating an agreement with the militia on behalf of the government.

The EZLN rose in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and demanded the autonomy of indigenous communities be recognized in the constitution.

Juan Salvador Camacho is also the cousin of Senator Manuel Velasco Coello, who was tangled in corruption scandals as governor of Chiapas from 2012 to 2018.

On the appointed day, the candidate and 21 companions arrived for a scheduled appointment in the community of Los Llanos, about 20 minutes from San Cristóbal de Las Casas. According to sources consulted by EFE, the former local deputy arrived with the intention of publicizing his government proposal, but was held until supposedly paying a fine of 300,000 pesos, the amount which the residents set, “for breach of word.”

After what happened, at a press conference, Juan Salvador Camacho minimized what they did to him in Los Llanos, saying that he was released after an intense dialogue, denying that he had paid for his freedom.

“Although the images are very strong with the rope, I want to say that they did not hurt me, that there were not really direct blows towards me. Our adversaries want to decontextualize – to attack my image, to affect me and evidently there are proofs, nobody would be willing to make a montage of that nature “, he declared.

In addition, in an interview with Proceso, he assured that it was the first time he had visited the aforementioned community and that he had never made any kind of commitment.

“They complained to me that no one from the current government had stopped in that community to attend to their claims such as a deep well, lack of basic services and other lags that the community has.”

“(That the current municipal government) had forgotten about this community; but they also made mention of all the Municipal Presidents who have undergone this important responsibility, in the sense of that context,  this community has historically been abandoned, “ he said.


Over a quarter of a million Tzotzil live in the highlands of central Chiapas State, Mexico. They are the neighbors of their linguistic cousins, the Tzeltal. While their daily life has changed dramatically in the two thousand years since their ancestors came here it is also in many ways remarkably similar. In their language “tzotz” means wool. Indeed wool is a primary material from which they make clothes. But in the ancient Mayan language “tzotzil” connotes “bat people.” It is this latter interpretation that Spanish invaders used to distinguish the Tzotzil from other linguistic groups when they first arrived here. An early Spanish historian even reports their worship of a stone bat as one of their poly-gods. Today some Tzotzil call themselves “Sotz’leb” which means “bat people” in their dialect of the language.

Probably the largest change in the entire history of the Tzotzil is happening today as they are abandoning their traditional lands. To some extent this is the same global trend that we see among rural peoples everywhere and is driven by economic necessity. But in the case of the Tzotzil this response is not always voluntary. Indigenous groups in this area of Mexico are having their lands taken away from them, by force, and with the consent and active participation of the Mexican government. It is ironic that this abandonment is their reaction to present-day occupation and possession of the very land that was first stolen from them, then “granted” to them and then later again stolen from them by Spanish invaders.

Yet some Tzotzil have reacted differently than their peers. The Tzotzil are among the most ardent supporters of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army). The EZLN are commonly known as the Zapatistas. They are so named in recognition of the zapatismo social and political cause popularized by Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (1879 – 1919). A hundred years ago he too created an army of indigenous people fighting for their land rights.

It is no coincidence that the EZLN came to prominence — and world attention — on January 1, 1994. That is also the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) became effective. The EZLN feared (and recent history is validating their fear) that NAFTA would have great negative impact on Mexico’s indigenous people.

To some extent the Zapatistas have succeeded in their aim to gain autonomous self-rule — albeit unilaterally declared. Part of that self-rule is evident in the education of their children. The Zapatista Autonomous Rebellious Education System (SERAZ) is an alternative to the Mexican national education system. Tzotzil”Teachers” in schools run by SERAZ are volunteers and are more like facilitators of education than standard teachers. The curriculum is very similar to the national one except students are taught their indigenous language as well as aspects of their cultural history.

Tzotzil students should have no difficulty relating to these cultural history lessons. They are surrounded by their living culture in their daily lives. When I visited a Tzotzil SERAZ school the students interrupted their lesson and insisted on giving a demonstration of traditional Tzotzil dancing that is part of youth courtship.Tzotzil

In another Tzotzil village a woman cooked tortillas, from freshly ground maize, over an open fire. Her preparation and cooking techniques were no different from those of the ancient Maya. In the same village another woman demonstrated traditional weaving on a back-strap loom. Like some other mothers in this and other Tzotzil villages she has taught her female children to weave cloth and make clothes from it. Her raw materials come from the same sources her ancestors used.

Early Maya culture revolved around a complex world of science and religious beliefs. While their understanding of science — particularly astronomy — has only recently been recognized, their religion was confronted immediately by the Spanish. The result was the early assimilation of Catholicism into Maya religious practice. Today most Tzotzil follow a fusion of their religious heritage and Catholicism. Recently some Tzotzil communities have replaced Catholic influences with Protestant ones. Some have converted to Islam.

Many Tzotzil still maintain the religious practices of their ancestors. The lady pictured above right is the wife of an elected religious caretaker. She is blessing the Maya cross outside their house. She will do this at key times in the day, every day, for the year that her husband serves in his role. Caves and mountains are still among the sites where the Tzotzil perform ancient rituals. As we approached one such holy site we found women washing clothes in a stream. At the beginning of each 20-day cycle of the Maya calendar the clothes of the twenty saints are ceremonially brought to this same holy site, washed, dried in the sun and ceremonially taken back to the church where the saints are dressed again.

Observation of such religious tradition involves not only the living. The dead also play a role in Tzotzil spiritual belief. Death is accompanied by burial which includes artifacts for the deceased to take to the next world. The deceased’s soul is kept safe in the next world by ancestors until it is time for reincarnation. In a cemetery the color of the Maya cross on the grave tells the approximate age at which the person died. White crosses are on the graves of children while black indicates a middle-age death. Only the few grey crosses represent those who lived to full life expectancy.

New Era for Mexico’s Zapatista Army 25 Years After Uprising:

Mexico’s National Liberation Zapatista Army (EZLN) has declared it won’t allow the “death projects” of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in its territory, vowing to maintain autonomy based on Indigenous customs.

“We will fight, we will face, we won’t allow him to come here with his destructive projects,” said Subcomandante Moises, without naming Lopez Obrador directly, at the closing ceremony of the 25th anniversary celebrations. “We don’t fear his National Guard, a name chosen instead of army.”

“The Destruction of our Mother Earth Does not fly because we LIVE and will Die for it. NO to Highway Zapata, The Fight Stays Alive. “; so says this banner.
Supporters had been at Guadalupe Tepeyac, part of the autonomous territories, along with members and representatives of the EZLN and support bases discussing future steps in the anticapitalist revolutionary struggle.

They later moved to La Realidad, a meeting point for regional autonomous governments, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Zapatista armed uprising on January 1.

The government of Lopez Obrador proposed the creation of the National Guard, a 50,000-strong security force that will be trained and commanded by the military to carry out public security duties.

Detractors describe it as a move to perpetuate and legalize militarization in the country, while supporters argue it’s a necessary move.

Sources: MXPolitico / MDP / MND / Peoplesoftheworld / CulturaColectiva/ TeleSur


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