As a humanitarian crisis in Chiapas approaches its second month, the state government has appointed a special commissioner to mediate the conflict between the municipalities of Chenalhó and Chalchihuitán.
One of Fortino Vázquez Pérez main goals will be to bring about conditions that will allow some 5,000 refugees to return to whatever is left of their homes.
Vázquez received a mandate to maintain a permanent line of communication with the mayors of the two Tzotzil municipalities, as well as with community leaders.
The state interior secretary declared that “above all, he must coordinate the efforts of all players in order to streamline the aid the displaced families are receiving.”
The social handicaps in the region, added the secretary, must be addressed through a regional development program that addresses poverty and leads to a lasting solution to the territorial conflict.
Authorities might be looking for a long-term fix, but 5,000 or so Tzotzil people continue to live— and die — in the mountains and hills that surround their towns and villages.
It was under precarious conditions that the displaced residents observed Christmas. For example, 300 people from the town of Canalumtic partook of a simple meal of coffee and tortillas on Christmas Eve, or nochebuena.
The Christmas dinner came after the families prayed and chanted, beseeching God for his help in returning to their homes.
“We’re suffering. Look at this little tarp, are we to spend our lives like this? No. It’s too painful,” one of their number told the newspaper Reforma, pointing to a small tarpaulin.
“Children are getting very sick. During this cold season we’re all very sick with a cold, cough and many other things,” they continued.
A man working with the San Cristóbal de las Casas Catholic diocese remarked that the refugees “had no Christmas. There were no celebrations. It was just another day, another night for them.”
“They’re getting desperate. Many told me that they want to return [to their homes] and that the cold is unbearable. It’s too much,” added Marcelo Pérez.
Whatever food arrives in the scattered camps, he continued, has to be rationed before it is distributed.
Despite an agrarian court ruling earlier this month in favor of the people of Chenalhó in the territorial conflict, authorities from Chalchihuitán have warned that they will contest the decision.