A procession of bicycles travels to the site where two men lost their lives. A procession of bicycles travels to the site where two men lost their lives.

Cyclists call for greater security after 2 deaths on Chiapas highway

Officials believe the cyclists lost control and fell but some suspect there was foul play

Cyclists in Chiapas protested yesterday to demand justice for the deaths of two European cyclists and to call for greater security on the highway that passes the ravine where their bodies were found.

Members of the Murciélagos de Ocosingo cycling club also placed a roadside memorial at the 158-kilometer mark on the Ocosingo-San Cristóbal de las Casas highway, where German national Holger Franz Hagenbusch and Polish citizen Krzysztof Chmielewski-Podróznik are believed to have fallen to their deaths last month.

The memorial — a white bicycle adorned with flowers — included a plaque with the names of the two men and their respective years of birth and death. A spokesperson for the group said that international cyclists will continue to be welcome in the region.

The cyclists charged that since a political conflict in the municipality of Oxchuc worsened at the end of 2015 there has been no police presence on federal highway 199, which connects the two cities. Oxchuc is located between the two.

They also placed signs on trucks traveling on the road, urging motorists to respect cyclists.

Assistant state prosecutor Arturo Liévano Flores said last Thursday that there appeared to be no foul play in the death of Chmielewski-Podróznik.

The cause of death was head trauma and the Pole had a wound on the palm of his hand that suggested he had tried to break his fall, Liévano said.

He added that the German’s bike did not show any signs of a collision with another vehicle.

Following the subsequent discovery of Hagenbusch’s body, Liévano explained that the road next to the ravine where the men’s bodies were found is very narrow and presents “a very high risk” to cyclists.

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“. . . The line of investigation is that [both cyclists] lost control and fell into the ravine,” he said.

That version of events has been accepted by some who have suggested that the cyclists were run off the road by a passing car or truck but others have charged that they were in fact victims of foul play.

The cycling advocacy group World Bike Forum issued a statement Saturday saying that there are “serious doubts” about whether the death of the two cyclists “was an accident or an act of violence.”

The memorial — a bicycle painted white — was placed placed yesterday for the two cyclists.
The memorial — a bicycle painted white — was placed placed yesterday for the two cyclists.

“The World Bike Forum demands that the Mexican government . . . make an official pronouncement to address this situation,” the statement said.

At yesterday’s protest in the central square of San Cristóbal de las Casas, cyclists also called for greater security on the highway and for authorities to clarify the facts in relation to the Europeans’ deaths.

Around 100 protesters also demanded justice for their deaths.

“There are many inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s arguments about the case. We believe that it wasn’t an accident but they were murdered, which is very serious and should be investigated better,” one protester told the newspaper La Jornada.

The protesters also said that they would establish a Citizens’ Truth Commission for the protection of traveling cyclists in Chiapas.

Source: El Universal (sp), Animal Político (sp), La Jornada (sp)

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