The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has taken to the plane of the discursive war the recent samples of the crisis that crosses Chiapas, in the Mexican southeast, gateway of Central America and cradle of the Zapatista movement. The president has acknowledged that in that state, yes, there is a fight between organized crime groups; He has not mentioned them by name, but all indications point to a dispute between the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) cartels, the most powerful and bloodthirsty in Mexico. López Obrador has assured, however, that the propaganda around the criminal war is greater than the real domination of the narcos; that the spokesmen of the right magnify the matter. "We are going to respond to what has been widely disseminated by the right, the conservative bloc, which is a phenomenon, because it is about how a news spreads and above all it is reproduced by those who are against the transformation, the conservatives," López Obrador said Monday at his conference.
This weekend an image shook the press: a caravan of cars with heavily armed men passing in line along a road between villagers who applauded and thanked them. The men were, apparently, from the Sinaloa Cartel and arrived at Frontera Comalapa, as narcos say successively, to free the people from the yoke of the contras, the CJNG. The most disconcerting thing about the video was not so much the demonstration of armed force as of social support. It is unclear whether villagers voluntarily came out to support the criminals or were forced to do so, journalists have said on social media. Lopez Obrador said Monday that the criminals — "who are very good at propaganda" — took the video with the intention of showing "people apparently receiving them." "And they can be support bases, which exist in some parts of the country, because they give them groceries or out of fear, because they threaten them, but it is not a general matter, it is a matter very limited to a region and it is already being attended, there is already the National Guard, "he said.
Despite the president's attempt to downplay the images, the situation in the state is limiting, experts monitoring the region have long warned. The seams have been tightening for months and are about to jump. Every week, Chiapas occupies the pages of the national and local press with new events: loose pieces that together make up a complex puzzle, a mosaic of violence of different colors and signs: organized crime, massacres, femicides, kidnappings, sexual violence, disappearances, displacements, forced recruitment, militarization, paramilitarism, self-defense groups, guerrillas... The last 30 years have witnessed a latent armed conflict that only worsens with the entry on the scene of the Sinaloa Cartel, the CJNG and different local and regional mafias that dispute control of the area.
Sinaloa Cartel parades in Chiapas amid applause | THE COUNTRY
A caravan with armed men from the Sinaloa Cartel enters a Chiapas town to applause from neighbors.
The border with Guatemala is porous and three routes for drug trafficking emerge from it through the Lacandon jungle, Comalapa border and the Pacific coast. In addition, new megaprojects such as the Mayan Train, tourism, the exploitation of natural resources and real estate speculation make the region increasingly fertile for the outbreak of illicit businesses and mafias. The result, experts say, is the destruction of the social fabric, and especially its impact on women and indigenous communities. The Guatemalan government has also announced the deployment of troops on the border with Mexico to "provide the security that our population needs in the face of the threats they have received from Mexican cartels, which today are operating in the area of Motozintla, Chiapas."
Although authorities have not confirmed that the armed group parading in the weekend images is the Sinaloa Cartel, evidence of its penetration into the area is abundant. On September 6, a commando raided the community of Nueva Palestina in the Lacandon jungle, assaulted rural police and challenged authorities by surrounding the commissioner's house. He left behind a message: "From now on we take control of the people and the region." They were members of the Sinaloa Cartel, hitmen of Ismael El Mayo Zambada, the neighbors said in a public letter they sent to López Obrador requesting a military intervention.
The president has referred this morning to the dispute over the southern border, without mentioning the criminal groups that star in it, and has assured that the problem is not as serious as they paint it in terms of homicides. "It turns out that on the border with Guatemala, in Chiapas, [...] there are organized crime groups that are allegedly disputing territory to have spaces, to store drugs that enter from Central America, to have control of that territory. And they face each other. Fortunately, there have not been many murders in Chiapas in general, and that is where lately there have been these confrontations, but there has been a lot of propaganda," he said again.
The Church and Teachers Speak Up
Cries of alarm about the crisis of violence in Chiapas are coming from numerous sectors of society. The call for help has not only been joined by human rights organizations, NGOs or Zapatismo. The Catholic Church has also raised its voice against the armed maelstrom. In a statement of desperate tone, high voltage and strong critical load, the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas has maintained: "As a diocesan church and civil society, the social crisis, repression and the presence of criminal groups have been permanently denounced, however, there has been no response for the peoples, the silence of the authorities puts human integrity at risk and shows us a failed state and exceeded and / or colluded with criminal groups, from municipal and regional prosecutors, municipal presidents, the state and federal government [sic]."
The conflict is spreading and reaching all sectors of society. Road blocks are the most obvious and media examples, but the implications also reach health, food or education. According to the local press, on September 15, some 5,000 teachers in the Sierra Madre region announced that they were suspending their activity "in the face of the situation of insecurity": "We have the need and obligation to demonstrate in the face of the critical situation and wave of violence that is happening in our region," they said in a statement.
López Obrador has announced that, after the arrival of the criminal caravan this weekend, the armed men cut the electricity to the towns. He has affirmed that guarantees will be given to the workers of the Federal Electricity Commission with the National Guard to restore the service. López Obrador has asked people for patience for government intervention, but also not to be pressured by criminal groups. "We are working for the benefit of the people, it is where the welfare programs are applied the most. That is why I send you a greeting, and at the same time, the call so that they do not fall into illegal acts, that they do not allow themselves to be subdued, that they do not get hooked, on all young people, and that I have already ordered that there be more presence of the National Guard throughout that region and that we will continue to help, "he said.
The president has mentioned some names of analysts critical of his government and has accused them of being spokesmen for crime. "They don't even know Frontera Comalapa or Motozintla, but in a synchronized swim, as if narco dominates throughout Chiapas and throughout Mexico. This has a lot to do with the little content they have to attack us, so anything makes it viral, "he said. López Obrador has anticipated that the media struggle between the two political poles, his movement and the conservatives, will continue, more now, in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections of 2024: "We are going to have to be responding, because it is a whole network, not only of bots, but of the supporters of conservativeism who act in the networks and reproduce these messages," has warned.
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