A three-year-old electoral and social conflict in Oxchuc, Chiapas, cost the lives of three people on Wednesday and left citizens fearing further violence.
The municipality is in the unique position of having two mayors, one duly elected and a second appointed on an interim basis after authorities invalidated the election of the first. Now the two mayors and their respective followers are set on “killing each other.”
Gunfire was reported in various communities Wednesday morning before the two groups clashed near the town of Cruztón where supporters of elected Mayor María Gloria Sánchez Gómez, armed with guns and fireworks-style rockets, faced off in a rather uneven match against their opponents, armed with just machetes, sticks and stones.
Three municipal officials — one was a police officer — whose affiliation remains unclear were killed in the clash; one was lynched by a mob in the town square.
Fourteen people were wounded, others were reported missing and vehicles and homes were set on fire.
The three bodies were left lying on a soccer field and were still there yesterday, more than 24 hours later. Followers of the appointed mayor, Óscar Gómez López, united in a group called the Permanent Commission for Peace and Dialogue, said they had requested that state authorities remove them.
Sánchez Gómez was elected in 2015 but faced instant opposition from some members of the community. The following year, electoral authorities declared her election invalid and named Gómez López as interim mayor, only to overturn their ruling a few months later.
Since then, both Gómez and Sánchez have declared themselves to be the lawful municipal authority of Oxchuc, and both continue to serve as mayors, Gómez from municipal headquarters but without official recognition or funding, and Sánchez 50 kilometers away in San Cristóbal de las Casas, managing municipal finances and administration.
The latter made an open call to Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco Coello and President Enrique Peña Nieto at a press conference yesterday, asking them to intervene in what she called an “electoral conflict.”
“We request dialogue, [because] it’s the only way to keep us from killing each other. Competent authorities must intervene because such a serious violation against human rights cannot be allowed,” she said.
Sánchez also accused her opponent of being linked to a paramilitary group that has kept tabs on her with the intention of kidnapping her.
The National Human Rights Commission echoed some of Sánchez’s demands, namely that the state government guarantee the safety of Oxchuc residents.
State officials said last night that state police and military personnel are policing the area.