Sugar cane producers in the state of Chiapas have formed a self-defense group in response to the alleged occupation of their plantations.
The farmers introduced their new organization yesterday by sending photos to media outlets of three men holding rifles, their faces covered, and standing before a large sign.
The new paramilitary group has emerged in response to “the non-existent support from [Governor] Manuel Velasco’s bad government, which has allowed the invasion of community lands and small private properties in the sugar cane region of Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas,” the sign read.
The producers accuse the Emiliano Zapata Farmers’ Organization (OCEZ), made up of Tzotzil and Tzeltal indigenous people from the municipality of Soyatián, of the ongoing occupation of their lands, which has allegedly worsened since last year.
Alexandro Díaz Gutiérrez, a representative of several sugar producers from the municipalities of Villa de las Rosas, Venustiano Carranza, Socoltenango and Tzimol, stated that the lands in question cover over 700 hectares, and that the invaders’ intention is to subdivide the terrain into lots and sell them.
Díaz estimated that producers have lost at least 70,000 tonnes of sugar cane, representing a monetary loss of 21 million pesos (US $1.2 million) since 2015.
Representatives of the Pujiltic sugar refinery travelled today to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, demanding a meeting with the state Interior Secretary, Juan Carlos Gómez Aranda.
At the same time, a 70-man strong delegation guarded the refinery premises.