by Jacob Garcia | Reuters
CHENALHO, Mexico — Like the Zapatista rebels before them, the indigenous people of the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico have taken up arms, though this time they said it was to defeat the organized crime gangs that were plaguing their communities.
Dozens of armed, hooded men belonging to a group called ‘El Machete’ marched the streets of Pantelho in the mountains of Chiapas over the weekend – a first public act.
Visually, the group resembles the hooded Zapatistas, who made world headlines when they emerged from the wilderness in 1994, taking over towns and fighting with security forces to demand indigenous rights.
But according to a manifesto circulating online, which claims to have been written by the group, El Machete defines himself as a ‘David’ who defeats the ‘Goliaths’ represented by drug smugglers and hit men. tries to. Reuters could not independently verify the document’s authenticity and was unable to reach the group for further comment.
“We want peace, democracy and justice,” the manifesto said.
Several tens of thousands of people have died or disappeared in Mexico since the government launched the ‘War on Drugs’ in 2006, and fighting has intensified between drug cartels vying for control of smuggling routes profitable to the United States. Has been.
Faced with increasing violence and crime and tired of waiting for government help, which they say often never arrives, Mexicans have formed self-defense militias in various parts of the country.
When asked about the origins of El Machete, Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said he was against groups that “take justice into their own hands.”
Twelve people, including a minor, have been killed, and another person has gone missing between March and the first week of July, according to local human rights organizations, while violence in that area of Chiapas has displaced another 3,000 people.
“We are not afraid of them,” said Jose Ruiz, referring to El Machete, after fleeing violence in the neighboring Chenlaho municipality with his father and siblings. “It’s good that someone has the courage to protect people,” Ruiz said.